Front Page Titles (by Subject) VIII: The Soul and the World of Nature - The Ethical Treatises, being the Treatises of the First Ennead
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VIII: The Soul and the World of Nature - Plotinus, The Ethical Treatises, being the Treatises of the First Ennead [253 AD]
The Ethical Treatises, being the Treatises of the First Ennead, with Porphry’s Life of Plotinus, and the Preller-Ritter Extracts forming a Conspectus of the Plotinian System, translated from Greek by Stephen Mackenna (Boston: Charles T. Branford, 1918).
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The Soul and the World of Nature
IV. 4, 13. How does this Wisdom (n) differ from what we know as Nature?
The distinction is that the Wisdom is an earlier, a more divine form of the Soul; for Nature, too, is an image of the Divine Wisdom, but, as the last emanation of the Soul, possesses only the lowest degree of the Reason illuminating it. . . . Nature, then, has not consciousness (n): it has merely productivity which consists in its transmitting, without choice or knowledge, to what follows upon itself, to the body-kinds and Matter-kinds, the Form which it has received from Soul.
III. 2, 2. From that Divine Kosmos, authentic and One, this lower Kosmos derives its existence: it is not a true Unity; it is manifold, subdivided into multiplicity, thing standing apart from thing in spatial differentiation; discord takes the place of harmony; where all is something less than perfect, item clashes with item; no member suffices to itself; each to complete its own function demands the aid of another and so there is general strife.
This lower Kosmos has been engendered not because the Divinity saw need for it, but from the sheer necessity there was for a secondary or derivative kind, since it was not in the constitution of existence that The Divine should be the latest and lowest of things.
The Divine is The First; it possessed, also, a multiform power, an all-power, fitted to produce other forms of being; but Its action could not be the result of seeking and planning; if there were planning, It would not possess the Kosmos as something quite Its own, something emanating from Its own Essence: It would be like a craftsman in whom creation is not an inborn personal power but an acquirement, as of a trade learned. But the Universe is the work of the undisturbed, unmoved Divine Mind giving something from Itself to Matter (n): this Gift is the Reason-Principle which flows from It.
“This Wisdom” is that Soul which verges on The Intellectual-Principle, that is the superior Soul above that which deals directly with Nature and with bodily forms:—
III. 8, 4. “What we call Nature is a Soul, the offspring of a prior Soul, of a Soul living with more power.”
This prior Soul is compared elsewhere to the Celestial Aphrodite, the inferior Soul, that which is Nature, to the Earthly Aphrodite. This inferior or later soul is described as bringing Nature into being by the process by which Contemplation or Mental Purposing passes into action.
In other places Sensation in animals and the principle of growth in plants are said to be produced by an outwending or procession of the Soul:—
V. 2, 1. “The Soul, as looking to the Divine order, is perfect; going outside of itself into a movement foreign to its essence, it engenders an image which is sensitive and vegetative Nature.”
Speaking rather loosely Plotinus says, IV. 9, 4, that the multiplicity of Souls all proceed from the one Soul-of-the-All: in IV. 8, 4 we have the conception, truer to the system, that they are, rather, a multiplicity within the one Soul.
“Something of Itself to Matter”:—VI. 4, 16. “This is no coming-down as into a place; the Soul’s Descent consists in its being with body; when we say that the Soul is in the body, we mean that it communicates something of its own to the body.”
The Soul “entering” the multiplicity of the sense-known world suffers, as it were, a loss of its unity, a part, a lower part, visiting the lower sphere:—
II. 9, 2. “The less exalted part of the Soul is dragged down . . . the eternal law could never allow it to descend entire.”
In joining the body it loses something of its liberty, for in all that it now does, even though the life be mainly lived in Reason, there is a certain admixture:—
VI. 8, 2. “All that has to do with action, even where Reason rules, is of mixed quality, and entire freedom cannot exist.”