Front Page Titles (by Subject) XII: The Soul after Death - The Ethical Treatises, being the Treatises of the First Ennead
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XII: The Soul after Death - 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 after Death
I. 1, 10. Page 38 of this volume.
The Soul liberated by death goes whither it has tended and as it has deserved—up to the heavens and among the stars, or in the Divine Mind itself, or into other human bodies, or yet deeper into Matter as into animals or plants. Cf. I. 8, 13, page 105 of this volume.
Plotinus does not allow that the authentic, the separable Soul, is in the body: the body is in the Soul: see I. 1, 7, page 35 of this work; and
IV. 3, 20. “The body is visible; the Soul is not: we observe that the body is possessed of Soul since it moves and feels . . . hence we are led to say that there is a Soul in it. If the Soul were an object of sight or of any sense, we should perceive that it is wrapped about the entire living being, equally covering it from extremity to extremity; we should judge that the Soul is in no way within the body but that the secondary is within its principal, the content within the container, the passing within the perdurable.”
IV. 3, 22. “The Soul is in the body only as light is in the air (permeating but not enclosed).”
The Essential Constituent of man is that prior Soul which ever remains a member of the Intellectual Realm from which it sprang: cf. I. 1, 7, page 36 of this volume.
VI. 7, 5. “The diviner Soul never leaves the Divine Mind: while it clings There, it allows the lower Soul, as it were, to hang down from it while it holds itself bound by its own Reason-Principle to the Reason-Principle of the Divine sphere to which it belongs.”
It follows that the perceptions of the senses and the perturbations of the mind do not belong to the true man but to the body or to the Couplement of Soul and body, so that the Authentic Soul is not affected but is merely aware of an affection elsewhere:—
IV. 4, 18. “Sorrow and pleasure of the sense belong to the body thus modified; pain and joy of the body come in the form of knowledge without feeling to us, to the true man.”
The virtues not philosophic but practical, or civic, belong to this Couplement—as do vices and flaws which cannot touch the true Soul: cf. I. 1, 11 and 12, page 39 of this volume. The true virtue is seated only in the true essence of the man: see I. 4, 14, page 70 of this volume.
For the true Soul, or true Man, is the Soul loosed from the body either by death or by the life of philosophic contemplation: cf. Porphyry, “There are two modes of death: one, known to every one, where the body is loosed from the Soul; the other, that of the Sages, where the Soul is released from the body: the one death may or may not be followed by the other.”
All the trouble of this life, all the vicissitudes of the earthly career touch only those that cede too much to the lower and outer:—
III. 2, 15. “Man-made weapons directed against fellow-mortals in quaintly set-out battles, like Pyrrhic dances, show what children’s games are all our human affairs; and they show us, too, that death is nothing very serious: to die in wars, in battles, is to grow old a little before one’s time; it is going away suddenly, to come back again. Or suppose that you are dispossessed of your wealth; remember that there was a time when you did not as yet possess it, and that your despoiler will either lose it in turn or find its possession a greater evil than its loss could be. Murders, death in all its shapes, the capture and sacking of towns, all must be considered as so much stage-show, so many shiftings of scenes, the horror and outcry of a play; for here, too, in all the changing doom of life, it is not the true man, the inner Soul, that grieves and laments but merely the phantasm of the man, the outer man, playing his part on the boards of the world. Who could be troubled by such griefs, except one that understands only the lower and outer life, never dreaming that all the tears and mighty business are but a sport? . . . If the Sage has to take part in the revels he will not forget that he has fallen among children and for the moment discarded his own grave truth.”