Front Page Titles (by Subject) XI: The Soul in Man - The Ethical Treatises, being the Treatises of the First Ennead
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XI: The Soul in Man - 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 in Man
IV. 3, 15. “The Souls, in proceeding from the Intellectual Sphere, pass first to the heavens and there take a body: by means of this celestial body, as they acquire more and more of spatial extension they descend to bodies of a more earthly nature; some of the souls will have entered into a first and only body, others will have passed down from body to body; these last have not the strength to lift themselves aloft again; they are heavily burdened and numbed into forgetfulness; they carry a great weight that bears them down (n).”
IV. 3, 17. “That this is the order of descent is a matter of simple sense. The heavenly region is the most exalted of sensible space and touches the borders of the Intellectual Sphere; the sky-things are, therefore, the first to receive Soul, fitter as they are for participation in the Divine. The earthy is of later origin, is further removed from the bodiless kind and is of a nature to receive only a lesser and later soul. All the Souls, then, illuminate the heavens, shedding there the first and most powerful effulgence of their splendour (n) the lower world receives only the later rays. Those Souls that plunge deepest in the descent irradiate the lowest bodies but they themselves take no gain from that service.”
VI. 4, 14. “But we, what are we? Before our birth to the world we were in the Divine, men of another rank than now, of the order of the Gods, souls unmingled with Matter, Intellectual-Principle inbound into the entirety of Authentic-Existence; we were members of the Divine Mind, not then under limit, not cast out but wholly of the All.
“Even now we are not cast out; but upon that Primal-Man which we were, another man has been intruded . . . we are become a double person . . . and our first and loftier nature lies torpid.”
“The Descent of the Souls”:—Sometimes the Descent is explained by the consideration that the Soul has need of Matter, and Matter need of Soul: cf. I. 8, 11, page 106 of this work. Sometimes it appears that a law of eternal necessity leads the Souls to follow their own temper and will, and enter a body, choosing one suited to the distinctive character of each. After this arise the forgetfulness and self-will mentioned in the first Extract as causing the fall.
“First Effulgence etc.”:—Compare Extract X. page 148 of this work. The firmanent is, to Plotinus, a God; so, too, the sun and stars, Gods of the second order; for, besides the Supreme God, The One, Plotinus admits three orders of Gods: I. The Intellectual-Puissances, constituting the Divine Mind: cf. notes on Extract VII. page 144 of this volume; 2. The heavenly bodies; 3. The Daimones or “Blessed Spirits,” midway between earth and moon and between the Gods and men.
Plotinus impugns the theory of Astrology but concedes that the stars signify what is to be; this doctrine he bases on the intimate connection of all things great and small in the Universe:—
II. 3, 7. “We may think of the stars as letters being ceaselessly traced upon the sky, or traced once for all but being constantly rearranged in such a way that while they do their own work in the universe they also signify to us. The unity of an organic body enables us to reason from part to other part; from the eyes or some other organ one can judge of a man’s character, perils, resources. . . . So the Universe is full of signs, and the wise man is the man that reads the reality from the symbols.”
“What are We?”:—Compare—
IV. 3, 12. “The human Souls, which can see their own image in the world as in a Dionysos’ mirror, have not abandoned their place in the Divine; for all their descent, they are not cut off from their Principle, from Divine Mind. The Intellectual-Principle does not descend with them but while they walk the earth their Summit is above the heavens.”