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THE THIRD ENNEAD - Plotinus, Psychic and Physical Treatises; comprising the Second and Third Enneads [253 AD]
Psychic and Physical Treatises; comprising the Second and Third Enneads, translated from Greek by Stephen Mackenna (Boston: Charles T. Branford, 1918).
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Do ċum glóire Dé & onóra na n-Éireann,
i nDoṁnaċ-Droc Ḋaile-Áṫa-Cliaṫ ḋom,
Stíofán mac-Enna. Nodlaig 1916.
THE THIRD ENNEAD
In the two orders of things—those whose existence is that of process and those in whom it is Authentic Being—there is a variety of possible relation to Cause.
Cause might conceivably underly all the entities in both orders or none in either. It might underly some, only, in each order, the others being causeless. It might, again, underly the Realm of Process universally while in the Realm of Authentic Existence some things were caused, others not, or all were causeless. Conceivably, on the other hand, the Authentic Existents are all caused while in the Realm of Process some things are caused and others not, or all are causeless.
Now, to begin with the Eternal Existents:—
The Firsts among these, by the fact that they are Firsts, cannot be referred to outside Causes; but all such (Eternals) as depend upon those Firsts may be admitted to derive their Being from them.
And in all cases the Act may be referred to the Essence (as its cause), for their Essence consists, precisely, in giving forth an appropriate Act.
As for Things of Process—or for Eternal Existents whose Act is not eternally invariable—we must hold that these are due to Cause; Causelessness is quite inadmissible; we can make no place here for unwarranted “slantings,” for sudden movement of bodies apart from any initiating power, for precipitate spurts in a soul with nothing to drive it into the new course of action. Such causelessness would bind the Soul under an even sterner compulsion, no longer master of itself, but at the mercy of movements apart from will and cause. Something willed—within itself or without—something desired, must lead it to action; without motive it can have no motion.
On the assumption that all happens by Cause, it is easy to discover the nearest determinants of any particular act or state and to trace it plainly to them.
The cause of a visit to the centre of affairs will be that one thinks it necessary to see some person or to receive a debt, or, in a word, that one has some definite motive or impulse confirmed by a judgment of expediency. Sometimes a condition may be referred to the arts, the recovery of health for instance to medical science and the doctor. Wealth has for its cause the discovery of a treasure or the receipt of a gift, or the earning of money by manual or intellectual labour. The child is traced to the father as its Cause and perhaps to a chain of favourable outside circumstances such as a particular diet or, more immediately, a special organic aptitude or a wife apt to childbirth.
And the general cause of all is Nature.
But to halt at these nearest determinants, not to be willing to penetrate deeper, indicates a sluggish mind, a dullness to all that calls us towards the primal and transcendent causes.
How comes it that the same surface causes produce different results? There is moonshine, and one man steals and the other does not: under the influence of exactly similar surroundings one man falls sick and the other keeps well; an identical set of operations makes one rich and leaves another poor. The differences amongst us in manners, in characters, in success, force us to go still further back.
Men therefore have never been able to rest at the surface causes.
One school postulates material principles, such as atoms; from the movement, from the collisions and combinations of these, it derives the existence and the mode of being of all particular phenomena, supposing that all depends upon how these atoms are agglomerated, how they act, how they are affected; our own impulses and states, even, are supposed to be determined by these principles.
Such teaching, then, obtrudes this compulsion, an atomic Anagke, even upon Real Being. Substitute, for the atoms, any other material entities as principles and the cause of all things, and at once Real Being becomes servile to the determination set up by them.
Others rise to the first-principle of all that exists and from it derive all they tell of a cause penetrating all things, not merely moving all but making each and everything; but they pose this as a fate and a supremely dominating cause; not merely all else that comes into being, but even our own thinking and thoughts would spring from its movement, just as the several members of an animal move not at their own choice but at the dictation of the leading principle which animal life presupposes.
Yet another school fastens on the universal Circuit as embracing all things and producing all by its motion and by the positions and mutual aspect of the planets and fixed stars in whose power of foretelling they find warrant for the belief that this Circuit is the universal determinant.
Finally, there are those that dwell on the interconnection of the causative forces and on their linked descent—every later phenomenon following upon an earlier, one always leading back to others by which it arose and without which it could not be, and the latest always subservient to what went before them—but this is obviously to bring in fate by another path. This school may be fairly distinguished into two branches; a section which makes all depend upon some one principle and a section which ignores such a unity.
Of this last opinion we will have something to say, but for the moment we will deal with the former, taking the others in their turn.
“Atoms” or “elements”—it is in either case an absurdity, an impossibility, to hand over the universe and its contents to material entities, and out of the disorderly swirl thus occasioned to call order, reasoning, and the governing soul into being; but the atomic origin is, if we may use the phrase, the most impossible.
A good deal of truth has resulted from the discussion of this subject; but, even to admit such principles does not compel us to admit universal compulsion or any kind of “fate.”
Suppose the atoms to exist:—
These atoms are to move, one downwards—admitting a down and an up (in the Universe or before the Universe is in being)—another slantwise, all at haphazard, in a confused conflict. Nothing here is orderly; order has not come into being, though the outcome, this Universe, when it achieves existence, is all order; and thus prediction and divination are utterly impossible, whether by the laws of the science—what science can operate where there is no order?—or by divine possession and inspiration, which no less require that the future be something regulated.
Material entities exposed to all this onslaught may very well be under compulsion to yield to whatsoever the atoms may bring: but would anyone pretend that the acts and states of a soul or mind could be explained by any atomic movements? How can we imagine that the onslaught of an atom, striking downwards or dashing in from any direction, could force the soul to definite and necessary reasonings or impulses or into any reasonings, impulses or thoughts at all, necessary or otherwise? And what of the soul’s resistance to bodily states? What movement of atoms could compel one man to be a geometrician, set another studying arithmetic or astronomy, lead a third to the philosophic life? In a word, if we must go, like soulless bodies, wherever bodies push and drive us, there is an end to our personal act and to our very existence as living beings.
The School that erects other material forces (such as “the elements”) into universal causes is met by the same reasoning: we say that while these can warm us and chill us, and destroy weaker forms of existence, they can be causes of nothing that is done in the sphere of mind or soul: all this must be traceable to quite another kind of Principle.
The Universe is permeated by one Soul, Cause of all things and events; every separate phenomenon as a member of a whole moves in its place with the general movement; all the various causes spring into action from one source: therefore, it is argued, the entire descending claim of causes and all their interaction must follow inevitably and so constitute a universal determination. A plant rises from a root, and we are asked on that account to reason that not only the interconnection linking the root to all the members and every member to every other but the entire activity and experience of the plant, as well, must be one organised overruling, a “destiny” of the plant.
But such an extremity of determination, a destiny so all-pervasive, does away with the very destiny that is affirmed: it shatters the sequence and co-operation of causes.
It would be unreasonable to attribute to destiny the movement of our limbs dictated by the mind and will: this is no case of something outside (some destiny) bestowing motion while another thing (mind) accepts it and is thus set into action; the mind itself (and not destiny) is the prime mover.
Similarly in the case of the universal system; if all that performs act and is subject to experience constitutes one substance, if one thing does not really produce another thing under causes leading back continuously one to another, then it is not a truth that all happens by causes, there is nothing but a rigid unity. We are no “We”: nothing is our act; our thought is not ours; our decisions are the reasoning of something outside ourselves; we are no more agents than our feet are kickers when we use them to kick with.
No; each several thing must be a separate thing; there must be acts and thoughts that are our own; the good and evil done by each human being must be his own; and it is quite certain that we must not lay any vileness to the charge of the All.
But perhaps the explanation of every particular act or event is rather that they are determined by the spheric movement—the Phora—and by the changing position of the heavenly bodies as these stand at setting or rising or in mid course and in various aspects with each other.
Augury, it is urged, is able from these indications to foretell what is to happen not merely to the universe as a whole, but even to individuals, and this not merely as regards external conditions of fortune but even as to the events of the mind. We observe, too, how growth or check in other orders of beings—animals and plants—is determined by their sympathetic relations with the heavenly bodies and how widely they are influenced by them, how, for example, the various countries show a different produce according to their situation on the earth and especially their lie towards the sun. And the effect of place is not limited to plants and animals; it rules human beings too, determining their appearance, their height and colour, their mentality and their desires, their pursuits and their moral habit. Thus the universal circuit would seem to be the monarch of the All.
Now a first answer to this theory is that its advocates have merely devised another shift to immolate to the heavenly bodies all that is ours, our acts of will and our states, all the evil in us, our entire personality; nothing is allowed to us; we are left to be stones set rolling, not men, not beings whose nature implies a task.
But we must be allowed our own—with the understanding that to what is primarily ours, our personal holding, there is added some influx from the All—the distinction must be made between our individual act and what is thrust upon us: we are not to be immolated to the stars.
Place and climate, no doubt, produce constitutions warmer or colder; and the parents tell on the offspring, as is seen in the resemblance between them, very general in personal appearance and noted also in some of the unreflecting states of the mind.
None the less, in spite of physical resemblance and similar environment, we observe the greatest difference in temperament and in ideas: this side of the human being, then, derives from some quite other Principle (than any external causation or destiny). A further confirmation is found in the efforts we make to correct both bodily constitution and mental aspirations.
If the stars are held to be causing principles on the ground of the possibility of foretelling individual fate or fortune from observation of their positions, then the birds and all the other things which the soothsayer observes for divination must equally be taken as causing what they indicate.
Some further considerations will help to clarify this matter:—
The heavens are observed at the moment of a birth and the individual fate is thence predicted in the idea that the stars are no mere indications, but active causes, of the future events. Sometimes the Astrologers tell of noble birth; “the child is born of highly placed parents”; yet how is it possible to make out the stars (of the natal chart) to be causes of a condition which existed in the father and mother previously to that star pattern on which the prediction is based?
And consider still further:—
They are really announcing the fortunes of parents from the birth of children; the character and career of children are included in the predictions as to the parents—they predict for the yet unborn!—in the lot of one brother they are foretelling the death of another; a girl’s fate includes that of a future husband, a boy’s that of a wife.
Now, can we think that the star-grouping over any particular birth can be the cause of what stands already announced in the facts about the parents? Either the previous star-groupings were the determinants of the child’s future career or, if they were not, then neither is the immediate grouping. And notice further that physical likeness to the parents—the Astrologers hold—is of purely domestic origin: this implies that ugliness and beauty are so caused and not by astral movements.
Again, there must at one and the same time be a widespread coming to birth—men, and the most varied forms of animal life at the same moment—and these should all be under the one destiny since the one pattern rules at the moment; how explain that identical star-groupings give here the human form, there the animal?
But in fact everything follows its own Kind; the birth is a horse because it comes from the Horse Kind, a man by springing from the Human Kind; offspring answers to species. Allow the kosmic circuit its part, a very powerful influence upon the thing brought into being: allow the stars a wide material action upon the bodily part of the man, producing heat and cold and their natural resultants in the physical constitution; still does such action explain character, vocation and especially all that seems quite independent of material elements, a man taking to letters, to geometry, to gambling, and becoming an originator in any of these pursuits? And can we imagine the stars, divine beings, bestowing wickedness? And what of a doctrine that makes them wreak vengeance, as for a wrong, because they are in their decline or are being carried to a position beneath the earth—as if a decline from our point of view brought any change to themselves, as if they ever ceased to traverse the heavenly spheres and to make the same figure around the earth.
Nor may we think that these divine beings lose or gain in goodness as they see this one or another of the company in various aspects, and that in their happier position they are benignant to us and, less pleasantly situated, turn maleficent. We can but believe that their circuit is for the protection of the entirety of things while they furnish the incidental service of being letters on which the augur, acquainted with that alphabet, may look and read the future from their pattern—arriving at the thing signified by such analogies as that a soaring bird tells of some lofty event.
It remains to notice the theory of the one Causing-Principle alleged to interweave everything with everything else, to make things into a chain, to determine the nature and condition of each phenomenon—a Principle which, acting through seminal (operatively productive) Reason-Forms—Logoi Spermatikoi—elaborates all that exists and happens.
The doctrine is close to that which makes the Soul of the Universe the source and cause of all condition and of all movement whether without or—supposing that we are allowed as individuals some little power towards personal act—within ourselves.
But it is the theory of the most rigid and universal Necessity: all the causative forces enter into the system, and so every several phenomenon rises necessarily; where nothing escapes Destiny, nothing has power to check or to change. Such forces beating upon us, as it were, from one general cause leave us no resource but to go where they drive. All our ideas will be determined by a chain of previous causes; our doings will be determined by those ideas; personal action becomes a mere word. That we are the agents does not save our freedom when our action is prescribed by those causes; we have precisely what belongs to everything that lives, to infants guided by blind impulses, to lunatics; all these act; why, even fire acts; there is act in everything that follows the plan of its being, servilely.
No one that sees the implications of this theory can hesitate: unable to halt at such a determinant principle, we seek for other explanations of our action.
What can this other cause be; one standing above those treated of; one that leaves nothing causeless, that preserves sequence and order in the Universe and yet allows ourselves some reality and leaves room for prediction and augury?
Soul: we must place at the crest of the world of beings, this other Principle, not merely the Soul of the Universe but, included in it, the Soul of the individual: this, no mean Principle, is needed to be the bond of union in the total of things, not, itself, a thing sprung like things from life-seeds, but a first-hand Cause, bodiless and therefore supreme over itself, free, beyond the reach of kosmic Cause: for, brought into body, it would not be unrestrictedly sovereign; it would hold rank in a series.
Now the environment into which this independent principle enters, when it comes to this midpoint, will be largely led by secondary causes (or, by chance-causes): there will therefore be a compromise; the action of the Soul will be in part guided by this environment while in other matters it will be sovereign, leading the way where it will. The nobler Soul will have the greater power; the poorer Soul, the lesser. A soul which defers to the bodily temperament cannot escape desire and rage and is abject in poverty, overbearing in wealth, arbitrary in power. The soul of nobler nature holds good against its surroundings; it is more apt to change them than to be changed, so that often it improves the environment and, where it must make concession, at least keeps its innocence.
We admit, then, a Necessity in all that is brought about by this compromise between evil and accidental circumstance: what room was there for anything else than the thing that is? Given all the causes, all must happen beyond aye or nay—that is, all the external and whatever may be due to the sidereal circuit—therefore when the Soul has been modified by outer forces and acts under that pressure so that what it does is no more than an unreflecting acceptance of stimulus, neither the act nor the state can be described as voluntary: so, too, when even from within itself, it falls at times below its best and ignores the true, the highest, laws of action.
But when our Soul holds to its Reason-Principle, to the guide, pure and detached and native to itself, only then can we speak of personal operation, of voluntary act. Things so done may truly be described as our doing, for they have no other source; they are the issue of the unmingled Soul, a Principle that is a First, a leader, a sovereign not subject to the errors of ignorance, not to be overthrown by the tyranny of the desires which, where they can break in, drive and drag, so as to allow of no act of ours, but mere answer to stimulus.
To sum the results of our argument:—All things and events are foreshown and brought into being by causes; but the causation is of two Kinds; there are results originating from the Soul and results due to other causes, those of the environment.
In the action of our Souls all that is done of their own motion in the light of sound reason is the Soul’s work, while what is done where they are hindered from their own action is not so much done as suffered. Unwisdom, then, is not due to the Soul, and, in general—if we mean by Fate a compulsion outside ourselves—an act is fated when it is contrary to wisdom.
But all our best is of our own doing: such is our nature as long as we remain detached. The wise and good do perform acts; their right action is the expression of their own power: in the others it comes in the breathing spaces when the passions are in abeyance; but it is not that they draw this occasional wisdom from outside themselves; simply, they are for the time being unhindered.
To make the existence and coherent structure of this Universe depend upon automatic activity and upon chance is against all good sense.
Such a notion could be entertained only where there is neither intelligence nor even ordinary perception; and reason enough has been urged against it, though none is really necessary.
But there is still the question as to the process by which the individual things of this sphere have come into being, how they were made.
Some of them seem so undesirable as to cast doubts upon a Universal Providence; and we find, on the one hand, the denial of any controlling power, on the other the belief that the Kosmos is the work of an evil creator.
This matter must be examined through and through from the very first principles. We may, however, omit for the present any consideration of the particular providence, that beforehand decision which accomplishes or holds things in abeyance to some good purpose and gives or withholds in our own regard: when we have established the Universal Providence which we affirm, we can link the secondary with it.
Of course the belief that after a certain lapse of time a Kosmos previously non-existent came into being would imply a foreseeing and a reasoned plan on the part of God providing for the production of the Universe and securing all possible perfection in it—a guidance and partial providence, therefore, such as is indicated. But since we hold the eternal existence of the Universe, the utter absence of a beginning to it, we are forced, in sound and sequent reasoning, to explain the providence ruling in the Universe as a universal consonance with the divine Intelligence to which the Kosmos is subsequent not in time but in the fact of derivation, in the fact that the Divine Intelligence, preceding it in Kind, is its cause as being the Archtype and Model which it merely images, the primal by which, from all eternity, it has its existence and subsistence.
The relationship may be presented thus:—
The authentic and primal Kosmos is the Being of the Intellectual Principle and of the Veritable Existent. This contains within itself no spatial distinction, and has none of the feebleness of division, and even its parts bring no incompleteness to it since here the individual is not severed from the entire. In this Nature inheres all life and all intellect, a life living and having intellection as one act within a unity: every part that it gives forth is a whole; all its content is its very own, for there is here no separation of thing from thing, no part standing in isolated existence estranged from the rest, and therefore nowhere is there any wronging of any other, any opposition. Everywhere one and complete, it is at rest throughout and shows difference at no point; it does not make over any of its content into any new form; there can be no reason for changing what is everywhere perfect.
Why should Reason elaborate yet another Reason, or Intelligence another Intelligence? An indwelling power of making things is in the character of a being not at all points as it should be but making, moving, by reason of some failure in quality. Those whose nature is all blessedness have no more to do than to repose in themselves and be their being.
A widespread activity is dangerous to those who must go out from themselves to act. But such is the blessedness of this Being that in its very non-action it magnificently operates and in its self-dwelling it produces mightily.
By derivation from that Authentic Kosmos, one within itself, there subsists this lower kosmos, no longer a true unity.
It is multiple, divided into various elements, thing standing apart from thing in a new estrangement. No longer is there concord unbroken; hostility, too, has entered as the result of difference and distance; imperfection has inevitably introduced discord; for a part is not self-sufficient, it must pursue something outside itself for its fulfilment, and so it becomes the enemy to what it needs.
This Kosmos of parts has come into being not as the result of a judgment establishing its desirability, but by the sheer necessity of a secondary Kind.
The Intellectual Realm was not of a nature to be the ultimate of existents. It was the First and it held great power, all there is of power; this means that it is productive without seeking to produce; for if effort and search were incumbent upon it, the Act would not be its own, would not spring from its essential nature; it would be, like a craftsman, producing by a power not inherent but acquired, mastered by dint of study.
The Intellectual Principle, then, in its unperturbed serenity has brought the universe into being, by communicating from its own store to Matter: and this gift is the Reason-Form flowing from it. For the Emanation of the Intellectual Principle is Reason, an emanation unfailing as long as the Intellectual Principle continues to have place among beings.
The Reason-Principle within a seed contains all the parts and qualities concentrated in identity; there is no distinction, no jarring, no internal hindering; then there comes a pushing out into bulk, part rises in distinction with part, and at once the members of the organism stand in each other’s way and begin to wear each other down.
So from this, the One Intellectual Principle, and the Reason-Form emanating from it, our Universe rises and develops part, and inevitably are formed groups concordant and helpful in contrast with groups discordant and combative; sometimes of choice and sometimes incidentally, the parts maltreat each other; engendering proceeds by destruction.
Yet: Amid all that they effect and accept, the divine Realm imposes the one harmonious act; each utters its own voice, but all is brought into accord, into an ordered system, for the universal purpose, by the ruling Reason-Principle. This Universe is not Intelligence and Reason, like the Supernal, but participant in Intelligence and Reason: it stands in need of the harmonising because it is the meeting ground of Necessity and divine Reason—Necessity pulling towards the lower, towards the unreason which is its own characteristic, while yet the Intellectual Principle remains sovran over it.
The Intellectual Sphere (the Divine) alone is Reason, and there can never be another Sphere that is Reason and nothing else; so that, given some other system, it cannot be as noble as that first; it cannot be Reason: yet since such a system cannot be merely Matter, which is the utterly unordered, it must be a mixed thing. Its two extremes are Matter and the Divine Reason; its governing principle is Soul, presiding over the conjunction of the two, and to be thought of not as labouring in the task but as administering serenely by little more than an act of presence.
Nor would it be sound to condemn this Kosmos as less than beautiful, as less than the noblest possible in the corporeal; and neither can any charge be laid against its source.
The world, we must reflect, is a product of Necessity, not of deliberate purpose: it is due to a higher Kind engendering in its own likeness by a natural process. And none the less, a second consideration, if a considered plan brought it into being it would still be no disgrace to its maker—for it stands a stately whole, complete within itself, serving at once its own purpose and that of all its parts which, leading and lesser alike, are of such a nature as to further the interests of the total. It is, therefore, impossible to condemn the whole on the merits of the parts which, besides, must be judged only as they enter harmoniously or not into the whole, the main consideration, quite overpassing the members which thus cease to have importance. To linger about the parts is to condemn not the Kosmos but some isolated appendage of it; in the entire living Being we fasten our eyes on a hair or a toe neglecting the marvellous spectacle of the complete Man; we ignore all the tribes and kinds of animals except for the meanest; we pass over an entire race, humanity, and bring forward—Thersites.
No: this thing that has come into Being is (not a mass of fragments, but) the Kosmos complete: do but survey it, and surely this is the pleading you will hear:—
I am made by a God: from that God I came perfect above all forms of life, adequate to my function, self-sufficing, lacking nothing: for I am the container of all, that is, of every plant and every animal, of all the Kinds of created things, and many Gods and nations of Spirit-Beings and lofty souls and men happy in their goodness.
And do not think that, while earth is ornate with all its growths and with living things of every race, and while the very sea has answered to the power of Soul, do not think that the great air and the ether and the far-spread heavens remain void of it: there it is that all good Souls dwell, infusing life into the stars and into that orderly eternal circuit of the heavens which in its conscious movement ever about the one Centre, seeking nothing beyond, is a faithful copy of the divine Mind. And all that is within me strives towards the Good; and each, to the measure of its faculty, attains. For from that Good all the heavens depend, with all my own Soul and the Gods that dwell in my every part, and all that lives and grows, and even all in me that you may judge inanimate.
But there are degrees of participation: here no more than Existence, elsewhere Life; and, in Life, sometimes mainly that of Sensation, higher again that of Reason, finally Life in all its fullness. We have no right to demand equal powers in the unequal: the finger is not to be asked to see; there is the eye for that; a finger has its own business—to be finger and have finger power.
That water extinguishes fire and fire consumes other things should not astonish us. The thing destroyed derived its being from outside itself: this is no case of a self-originating substance being annihilated by an external; it rose on the ruin of something else, and thus in its own ruin it suffers nothing strange; and for every fire quenched, another is kindled.
In the immaterial heaven every member is unchangeably itself for ever; in the heavens of our universe, while the whole has life eternally and so too all the nobler and lordlier components, the Souls pass from body to body entering into varied forms—and, when it may, a Soul will rise outside of the realm of birth and dwell with the one Soul of all. For the embodied lives by virtue of a Form or Idea: individual or partial things exist by virtue of Universals; from these priors they derive their life and maintenance, for life here is a thing of change; only in that prior realm is it unmoving. From that unchangingness change had to emerge and from that self-cloistered Life its derivative, this which breathes and stirs, the respiration of the still life of the divine.
The conflict and destruction that reign among living beings are inevitable, since things here are derived, brought into existence because the Divine Reason which contains all of them in the upper Heavens—how could they come here unless they were There?—must outflow over the whole extent of Matter.
Similarly, the very wronging of man by man may be derived from an effort towards the Good; foiled, in their weakness, of their true desire, they turn against each other: still, when they do wrong, they pay the penalty—that of having hurt their Souls by their evil conduct and of degradation to a lower place—for nothing can ever escape what stands decreed in the law of the Universe.
This is not to accept the idea, sometimes urged, that order is an outcome of disorder and law of lawlessness, as if evil were a necessary preliminary to their existence or their manifestation: on the contrary order is the original and enters this sphere as imposed from without: it is because order, law and reason exist that there can be disorder; breach of law and unreason exist because Reason exists—not that these better things are directly the causes of the bad but simply that what ought to absorb the Best is prevented by its own nature, or by some accident, or by foreign interference. An entity which must look outside itself for a law, may be foiled of its purpose by either an internal or an external cause; there will be some flaw in its own nature, or it will be hurt by some alien influence, for often harm follows, unintended, upon the action of others in the pursuit of quite unrelated aims. Such living beings, on the other hand, as have freedom of motion under their own will sometimes take the right turn, sometimes the wrong.
Why the wrong course is followed is scarcely worth enquiring: a slight deviation at the beginning develops with every advance into a continuously wider and graver error—especially since there is the attached body with its inevitable concomitant of desire—and the first step, the hasty movement not previously considered and not immediately corrected, ends by establishing a set habit where there was at first only a fall.
Punishment naturally follows: there is no injustice in a man suffering what belongs to the condition in which he is; nor can we ask to be happy when our actions have not earned us happiness; the good, only, are happy; divine beings are happy only because they are good.
Now, once Happiness is possible at all to Souls in this Universe, if some fail of it, the blame must fall not upon the place but upon the feebleness insufficient to the staunch combat in the one arena where the rewards of excellence are offered. Men are not born divine; what wonder that they do not enjoy a divine life. And poverty and sickness mean nothing to the good—only to the evil are they disastrous—and where there is body there must be ill-health.
Besides, these accidents are not without their service in the co-ordination and completion of the Universal system.
One thing perishes, and the Kosmic Reason—whose control nothing anywhere eludes—employs that ending to the beginning of something new; and, so, when the body suffers and the Soul, under the affliction, loses power, all that has been bound under illness and evil is brought into a new set of relations, into another class or order. Some of these troubles are helpful to the very sufferers—poverty and sickness, for example—and as for vice, even this brings something to the general service: it acts as a lesson in right doing, and, in many ways even, produces good; thus, by setting men face to face with the ways and consequences of iniquity, it calls them from lethargy, stirs the deeper mind and sets the understanding to work; by the contrast of the evil under which wrong-doers labour it displays the worth of the right. Not that evil exists for this purpose; but, as we have indicated, once the wrong has come to be, the Reason of the Kosmos employs it to good ends; and, precisely, the proof of the mightiest power is to be able to use the ignoble nobly and, given formlessness, to make it the material of unknown forms.
The principle is that evil by definition is a falling short in good, and good cannot be at full strength in this Sphere where it is lodged in the alien: the good here is in something else, in something distinct from the Good, and this something else constitutes the falling short for it is not good. And this is why evil is ineradicable: there is, first, the fact that in relation to this principle of Good, thing will always stand less than thing, and, besides, all things come into being through it, and are what they are by standing away from it.
As for the disregard of desert—the good afflicted, the unworthy thriving—it is a sound explanation no doubt that to the good nothing is evil and to the evil nothing can be good: still the question remains why should what essentially offends our nature fall to the good while the wicked enjoy all it demands? How can such an allotment be approved?
No doubt since pleasant conditions add nothing to true happiness and the unpleasant do not lessen the evil in the wicked, the conditions matter little: as well complain that a good man happens to be ugly and a bad man handsome.
Still, under such a dispensation, there would surely be a propriety, a reasonableness, a regard to merit which, as things are, do not appear, though this would certainly be in keeping with the noblest Providence: even though external conditions do not affect a man’s hold upon good or evil, none the less it would seem utterly unfitting that the bad should be the masters, be sovereign in the state, while honourable men are slaves: a wicked ruler may commit the most lawless acts; and in war the worst men have a free hand and perpetrate every kind of crime against their prisoners.
We are forced to ask how such things can be, under a Providence. Certainly a maker must consider his work as a whole, but none the less he should see to the due ordering of all the parts, especially when these parts have Soul, that is, are Living and Reasoning Beings: the Providence must reach to all the details; its functioning must consist in neglecting no point.
Holding, therefore, as we do, despite all, that the Universe lies under an Intellectual Principle whose power has touched every existent, we cannot be absolved from the attempt to show in what way the detail of this sphere is just.
A preliminary observation: in looking for excellence in this thing of mixture, the Kosmos, we cannot require all that is implied in the excellence of the unmingled; it is folly to ask for Firsts in the Secondary, and since this Universe contains body, we must allow for some bodily influence upon the total and be thankful if the mingled existent lack nothing of what its nature allowed it to receive from the Divine Reason.
Thus, supposing we were enquiring for the finest type of the human being as known here, we would certainly not demand that he prove identical with Man as in the Divine Intellect; we would think it enough in the Creator to have so brought this thing of flesh and nerve and bone under Reason as to give grace to these corporeal elements and to have made it possible for Reason to have contact with Matter.
Our progress towards the object of our investigation must begin from this principle of gradation which will open to us the wonder of the Providence and of the power by which our universe holds its being.
We begin with evil acts entirely dependent upon the Souls which perpetrate them—the harm, for example, which perverted Souls do to the good and to each other. Unless the fore-planning power alone is to be charged with the vice in such Souls, we have no ground of accusation, no claim to redress: the blame lies on the Soul exercising its choice. Even a Soul, we have seen, must have its individual movement; it is not abstract Spirit; the first step towards animal life has been taken and the conduct will naturally be in keeping with that character.
It is not because the world existed that Souls are here: before the world was, they had it in them to be of the world, to concern themselves with it, to presuppose it, to administer it: it was in their nature to produce it—by whatever method, whether by giving forth some emanation while they themselves remained above, or by an actual descent, or in both ways together, some presiding from above, others descending; for we are not at the moment concerned about the mode of creation but are simply urging that, however the world was produced, no blame falls on Providence for what exists within it.
There remains the other phase of the question—the distribution of evil to the opposite classes of men: the good go bare while the wicked are rich: all that human need demands, the least deserving have in abundance; it is they that rule; peoples and states are at their disposal. Would not all this imply that the divine power does not reach to earth?
That it does is sufficiently established by the fact that Reason rules in the lower things: animals and plants have their share in Reason, Soul and Life.
Perhaps, then, it reaches to earth but is not master over all?
We answer that the universe is one living organism: as well maintain that while human head and face are the work of nature and of the ruling reason-principle, the rest of the frame is due to other agencies—accident or sheer necessity—and owes its inferiority to this origin, or to the incompetence of unaided Nature. And even granting that those less noble members are not in themselves admirable it would still be neither pious nor even reverent to censure the entire structure.
Thus we come to our enquiry as to the degree of excellence found in things of this Sphere, and how far they belong to an ordered system or in what degree they are, at least, not evil.
Now in every living being the upper parts—head, face—are the most beautiful, the mid and lower members inferior. In the Universe the middle and lower members are human beings; above them, the Heavens and the Gods that dwell there; these Gods with the entire circling expanse of the heavens constitute the greater part of the Kosmos: the earth is but a central point, and may be considered as simply one among the stars. Yet human wrong-doing is made a matter of wonder; we are evidently asked to take humanity as the choice member of the Universe, nothing wiser existent!
But humanity, in reality, is poised midway between gods and beasts, and inclines now to the one order, now to the other; some men grow like to the divine, others to the brute, the greater number stand neutral. But those that are corrupted to the point of approximating to irrational animals and wild beasts pull the mid-folk about and inflict wrong upon them; the victims are no doubt better than the wrong-doers, but are at the mercy of their inferiors in the field in which they themselves are inferior, where, that is, they cannot be classed among the good since they have not trained themselves in self-defence.
A gang of lads, morally neglected, and in that respect inferior to the intermediate class, but in good physical training, attack and throw another set, trained neither physically nor morally, and make off with their food and their dainty clothes. What more is called for than a laugh?
And surely even the lawgiver would be right in allowing the second group to suffer this treatment, the penalty of their sloth and self-indulgence: the gymnasium lies there before them, and they, in laziness and luxury and listlessness, have allowed themselves to fall like fat-loaded sheep, a prey to the wolves.
But the evil-doers also have their punishment: first they pay in that very wolfishness, in the disaster to their human quality: and next there is laid up for them the due of their Kind; living ill here, they will not get off by death; on every precedent through all the line there waits its sequent, reasonable and natural—worse to the bad, better to the good.
This at once brings us outside the gymnasium with its fun for boys; they must grow up, both kinds, amid their childishness and both one day stand girt and armed. Then there is a finer spectacle than is ever seen by those that train in the ring. But at this stage some have not armed themselves—and the duly armed win the day.
Not even a God would have the right to deal a blow for the unwarlike: the law decrees that to come safe out of battle is for fighting men, not for those that pray. The harvest comes home not for praying but for tilling; healthy days are not for those that neglect their health: we have no right to complain of the ignoble getting the richer harvest if they are the only workers in the fields, or the best.
Again: it is childish, while we carry on all the affairs of our life to our own taste and not as the Gods would have us, to expect them to keep all well for us in spite of a life that is lived without regard to the conditions which the Gods have prescribed for our well-being. Yet death would be better for us than to go on living lives condemned by the laws of the Universe. If things took the contrary course, if all the modes of folly and wickedness brought no trouble in life—then indeed we might complain of the indifference of a Providence leaving the victory to evil.
Bad men rule by the feebleness of the ruled: and this is just; the triumph of weaklings would not be just.
It would not be just, because Providence cannot be a something reducing us to nothingness: to think of Providence as everything, with no other thing in existence, is to annihilate the Universe; such a providence could have no field of action; nothing would exist except the Divine. As things are, the Divine, of course, exists, but has reached forth to something other—not to reduce that to nothingness but to preside over it; thus in the case of Man, for instance, the Divine presides as the Providence, preserving the character of human nature, that is the character of a being under the providential law, which, again, implies subjection to what that law may enjoin.
And that law enjoins that those who have made themselves good shall know the best of life, here and later, the bad the reverse. But the law does not warrant the wicked in expecting that their prayers should bring others to sacrifice themselves for their sakes; or that the gods should lay aside the divine life in order to direct their daily concerns; or that good men, who have chosen a path nobler than all earthly rule, should become their rulers. The perverse have never made a single effort to bring the good into authority, nor do they take any steps to improve themselves; they are all spite against anyone that becomes good of his own motion, though if good men were placed in authority the total of goodness would be increased.
In sum: Man has come into existence, a living being but not a member of the noblest order; he occupies by choice an intermediate rank; still, in that place in which he exists, Providence does not allow him to be reduced to nothing; on the contrary he is ever being led upwards by all those varied devices which the Divine employs in its labour to increase the dominance of moral value. The human race, therefore, is not deprived by Providence of its rational being; it retains its share, though necessarily limited, in wisdom, intelligence, executive power and right doing, the right doing, at least, of individuals to each other—and even in wronging others people think they are doing right and only paying what is due.
Man is, therefore, a noble creation, as perfect as the scheme allows; a part, no doubt, in the fabric of the All, he yet holds a lot higher than that of all the other living things of earth.
Now, no one of any intelligence complains of these others, man’s inferiors, which serve to the adornment of the world; it would be feeble indeed to complain of animals biting man, as if we were to pass our days asleep. No: the animal, too, exists of necessity, and is serviceable in many ways, some obvious and many progressively discovered—so that not one lives without profit to itself and even to humanity. It is ridiculous, also, to complain that many of them are dangerous—there are dangerous men abroad as well—and if they distrust us, and in their distrust attack, is that anything to wonder at?
But: if the evil in men is involuntary, if their own will has not made them what they are, how can we either blame wrong-doers or even reproach their victims with suffering through their own fault?
If there is a Necessity, bringing about human wickedness either by force of the celestial movement or by a rigorous sequence set up by the First Cause, is not the evil a thing rooted in Nature? And if thus the Reason-Principle of the universe is the creator of evil, surely all is injustice?
No: Men are no doubt involuntary sinners in the sense that they do not actually desire to sin; but this does not alter the fact that wrongdoers, of their own choice, are, themselves, the agents; it is because they themselves act that the sin is in their own; if they were not agents they could not sin.
The Necessity (held to underlie human wickedness) is not an outer force (actually compelling the individual), but exists only in the sense of a universal relationship.
Nor is the force of the celestial Movement such as to leave us powerless: if the universe were something outside and apart from us it would stand as its makers willed so that, once the gods had done their part, no man, however impious, could introduce anything contrary to their intention. But, as things are, efficient act does come from men: given the starting Principle, the secondary line, no doubt, is inevitably completed; but each and every principle contributes towards the sequence. Now Men are Principles, or, at least, they are moved by their characteristic nature towards all that is good, and that nature is a Principle, a freely acting cause.
Are we, then, to conclude that particular things are determined by Necessities rooted in Nature and by the sequence of causes, and that everything is as good as anything can be?
No: the Reason-Principle is the sovereign, making all: it wills things as they are and, in its reasonable act, it produces even what we know as evil: it cannot desire all to be good: an artist would not make an animal all eyes; and in the same way, the Reason-Principle would not make all divine; it makes Gods but also celestial spirits, the intermediate order, then men, then the animals; all is graded succession, and this in no spirit of grudging but in the expression of a Reason teeming with intellectual variety.
We are like people ignorant of painting who complain that the colours are not beautiful everywhere in the picture: but the Artist has laid on the appropriate tint to every spot. Or we are censuring a drama because the persons are not all heroes but include a servant and a rustic and some scurrilous clown; yet take away the low characters and the power of the drama is gone; these are part and parcel of it.
Suppose this Universe were the direct creation of the Reason-Principle applying itself, quite unchanged, to Matter, retaining, that is, the hostility to partition which it derives from its Prior, the Intellectual Principle—then, this its product, so produced, would be of supreme and unparalleled excellence. But the Reason-Principle (if it is to be the author of a universe) could not be a thing of entire identity or even of closely compact diversity; and the mode in which it is here manifested is no matter of censure since its function is to be all things, each single thing in some distinctive way.
But (it will be asked) has it not, besides itself entering Matter, brought other beings down? Has it not for example brought Souls into Matter and, in adapting them to its creation, twisted them against their own nature and been the ruin of many of them? And can this be right?
The answer is that the Souls are, in a fair sense, members of this Reason-Principle and that it has not adapted them to the creation by perverting them, but has set them in the place here to which their quality entitles them.
And we must not despise the famlliar observation that there is something more to be considered than the present. There are the periods of the past and, again, those in the future; and these have everything to do with fixing worth of place.
Thus a man, once a ruler, will be made a slave because he abused his power and because the fall is to his future good. Those that have money will be made poor—and to the good poverty is no hindrance. Those that have unjustly killed, are killed in turn, unjustly as regards the murderer but justly as regards the victim, and those that are to suffer are thrown into the path of those that administer the merited treatment.
It is not an accident that makes a man a slave; no one is a prisoner by chance; every bodily outrage has its due cause. The man once did what he now suffers. A man that murders his mother will become a woman and be murdered by a son; a man that wrongs a woman will become a woman, to be wronged.
Hence arises that awesome word Adrasteia (the Inevadable Retribution); for in very truth this ordinance is an Adrasteia, Justice itself and a wonderful wisdom.
We cannot but recognise from what we observe in this universe that some such principle of order prevails throughout the entire of existence—the minutest of things a tributary to the vast total; the marvellous art shown not merely in the mightiest works and sublimest members of the All, but even amid such littleness as one would think Providence must disdain: the varied workmanship of wonder in any and every animal form; the world of vegetation, too; the grace of fruits and even of leaves, the lavishness, the delicacy, the diversity of exquisite bloom: and all this not issuing once, and then to die out, but made ever and ever anew as the Transcendent Beings move variously over this earth.
In all the changing, there is no change by chance: there is no taking of new forms but to desirable ends and in ways worthy of Divine Powers. All that is Divine executes the Act of its quality; its quality is the expression of its essential Being: and this essential Being in the Divine is the Being whose activities produce as one thing the desirable and the just—for if the good and the just are not produced, there, where, then, have they their being?
The ordinance of the Kosmos, then, is in keeping with the Intellectual Principle. True, no reasoning went to its creation, but it so stands that the keenest reasoning must wonder—since no reasoning could be able to make it otherwise—at the spectacle before it, a product which, even in the Kinds of the partial and particular Sphere, displays the Divine Intelligence to a degree in which no arranging by reason could express it. Every one of the ceaselessly recurrent types of being manifests a creating Reason-Principle above all censure. No fault is to be found unless on the assumption that everything ought to come into being with all the perfection of those that have never known such a coming, the Eternals. In that case, things of the Intellectual realm and things of the realm of sense must remain one unbroken identity for ever.
In this demand for more good than exists, there is implied a failure to recognise that the form allotted to each entity is sufficient in itself; it is like complaining because one kind of animal lacks horns. We ought to understand both that the Reason-Principle must extend to every possible existent and, at the same time, that every greater must include lesser things, that to every whole belong its parts, and that all cannot be equality unless all part is to be absent.
This is why in the Over-World each entity is all, while here, below, the single thing is not all (is not the Universe but a “Self”). Thus too, a man, an individual, in so far as he is a part, is not Humanity complete: but wheresoever there is associated with the parts something that is no part (but a Divine, an Intellectual Being), this makes a whole of that in which it dwells. Man, man as partial thing, cannot be required to have attained to the very summit of goodness: if he had, he would have ceased to be of the partial order. Not that there is any grudging in the whole towards the part that grows in goodness and dignity; such an increase in value is a gain to the beauty of the whole; the lesser grows by being made over in the likeness of the greater, by being admitted, as it were, to something of that greatness, by sharing in that rank, and thus even from this place of man, from man’s own self, something gleams forth, as the stars shine in the divine firmament, so that all appears one great and lovely figure—living or wrought in the furnaces of craftsmanship—with stars radiant not only in the ears and on the brow but on the breasts too, and wherever else they may be displayed in beauty.
These considerations apply very well to things considered as standing alone: but there is a stumbling-block, a new problem, when we think of all these forms, permanent and ceaselessly produced, in mutual relationship.
The animals devour each other: men attack each other: all is war without rest, without truce: this gives new force to the question how Reason can be author of the plan and how all can be declared well done.
This new difficulty is not met by the former answer; that all stands as well as the nature of things allows; that the blame for their condition falls on Matter dragging them down; that, given the plan as we know it, evil cannot be eliminated and should not be; that the Matter making its presence felt is still not supreme but remains an element taken in from outside to contribute to a definite total, or rather to be itself brought to order by Reason.
The Divine Reason is the beginning and the end; all that comes into being must be rational and fall at its coming into an ordered scheme reasonable at every point. Where, then, is the necessity of this bandit war of man and beast?
This devouring of Kind by Kind is necessary as the means to the transmutation of living things which could not keep form for ever even though no other killed them: what grievance is it that when they must go their despatch is so planned as to be serviceable to others?
Still more, what does it matter when they are devoured only to return in some new form? It comes to no more than the murder of one of the personages in a play; the actor alters his make-up and enters in a new rôle. The actor, of course, was not really killed; but if dying is but changing a body as the actor changes a costume, or even an exit from the body like the exit of the actor from the boards when he has no more to say or do, what is there so very dreadful in this transformation of living beings one into another?
Surely it is much better so than if they had never existed: that way would mean the bleak quenching of life, precluded from passing outside itself; as the plan holds, life is poured copiously throughout a Universe, engendering the universal things and weaving variety into their being, never at rest from producing an endless sequence of comeliness and shapeliness, a living pastime.
Men directing their weapons against each other—under doom of death yet neatly lined up to fight as in the pyrrhic sword-dances of their sport—this is enough to tell us that all human intentions are but play, that death is nothing terrible, that to die in a war or in a fight is but to taste a little beforehand what old age has in store, to go away earlier and come back the sooner. So for misfortunes that may accompany life, the loss of property, for instance; the loser will see that there was a time when it was not his, that its possession is but a mock boon to the robbers, who will in their turn lose it to others, and even, that to retain property is a greater loss than to forfeit it.
Murders, death in all its guises, the reduction and sacking of cities, all must be to us just such a spectacle as the changing scenes of a play; all is but the varied incident of a plot, costume on and off, acted grief and lament. For on earth, in all the succession of life, it is not the Soul within but the Shadow outside of the authentic man, that grieves and complains and acts out the plot on this world stage which men have dotted with stages of their own constructing. All this is the doing of man knowing no more than to live the lower and outer life, and never perceiving that, in his weeping and in his graver doings alike, he is but at play; to handle austere matters austerely is reserved for the thoughtful: the other kind of man is himself a futility. Those incapable of thinking gravely read gravity into frivolities which correspond to their own frivolous Nature. Anyone that joins in their trifling and so comes to look on life with their eyes must understand that by lending himself to such idleness he has laid aside his own character. If Socrates himself takes part in the trifling, he trifles in the outer Socrates.
We must remember, too, that we cannot take tears and laments as proof that anything is wrong; children cry and whimper where there is nothing amiss.
But if all this is true, what room is left for evil? Where are we to place wrong-doing and sin?
How explain that in a world organised in good, the efficient agents (human beings) behave unjustly, commit sin? And how comes misery if neither sin nor injustice exists?
Again, if all our action is determined by a natural process, how can the distinction be maintained between behaviour in accordance with nature and behaviour in conflict with it?
And what becomes of blasphemy against the divine? The blasphemer is made what he is: a dramatist has written a part insulting and maligning himself and given it to an actor to play.
These considerations oblige us to state the Logos (the Reason-Principle of the Universe) once again, and more clearly, and to justify its nature.
This Reason-Principle, then—let us dare the definition in the hope of conveying the truth—this Logos is not the Intellectual Principle unmingled, not the Absolute Divine Intellect; nor does it descend from the pure Soul alone; it is a dependent of that Soul while, in a sense, it is a radiation from both those divine Hypostases: the Intellectual Principle and the Soul—the Soul as conditioned by the Intellectual Principle—engender this Logos which is a Life holding restfully a certain measure of Reason.
Now all life, even the least valuable, is an activity, and not a blind activity like that of flame; even where there is not sensation the activity of life is no mere haphazard play of Movement: any object in which life is present, any object which participates in Life, is at once enreasoned in the sense that the activity peculiar to life is formative, shaping as it moves.
Life, then, aims at pattern as does the pantomimic dancer with his set movements; the mime, in himself, represents life, and, besides, his movements proceed in obedience to a pattern designed to symbolise life.
Thus far to give us some idea of the nature of Life in general.
But this Reason-Principle which emanates from the complete unity, divine Mind, and the complete unity Life (=Soul)—is neither a uniate complete Life nor a uniate complete divine Mind, nor does it give itself whole and all-including to its subject. (By an imperfect communication) it sets up a conflict of part against part: it produces imperfect things and so engenders and maintains war and attack, and thus its unity can be that only of a sum-total not of a thing undivided. At war with itself in the parts which it now exhibits, it has the unity, or harmony, of a drama torn with struggle. The drama, of course, brings the conflicting elements to one final harmony, weaving the entire story of the clashing characters into one thing; while in the Logos the conflict of the divergent elements rises within the one element, the Reason-Principle: the comparison therefore is rather with a harmony emerging directly from the conflicting elements themselves, and the question becomes what introduces clashing elements among these Reason-Principles.
Now in the case of music, tones high and low are the product of Reason-Principles which, by the fact that they are Principles of harmony, meet in the unit of Harmony, the absolute Harmony, a more comprehensive Principle, greater than they and including them as its parts. Similarly in the Universe at large we find contraries—white and black, hot and cold, winged and wingless, footed and footless, reasoning and unreasoning—but all these elements are members of one living body, their sum-total; the Universe is a self-accordant entity, its members everywhere clashing but the total being the manifestation of a Reason-Principle. That one Reason-Principle, then, must be the unification of conflicting Reason-Principles whose very opposition is the support of its coherence and, almost, of its Being.
And indeed, if it were not multiple, it could not be a Universal Principle, it could not even be at all a Reason-Principle; in the fact of its being a Reason-Principle is contained the fact of interior difference. Now the maximum of difference is contrariety; admitting that this differentiation exists and creates, it will create difference in the greatest and not in the least degree; in other words, the Reason-Principle, bringing about differentiation to the uttermost degree, will of necessity create contrarieties: it will be complete only by producing itself not in merely diverse things but in contrary things.
The nature of the Reason-Principle is adequately expressed in its Act and, therefore, the wider its extension the nearer will its productions approach to full contrariety: hence the world of sense is less a unity than is its Reason-Principle; it contains a wider multiplicity and contrariety: its partial members will, therefore, be urged by a closer intention towards fullness of life, a warmer desire for unification.
But desire often destroys the desired; it seeks its own good, and if the desired object is perishable, the ruin follows: and the partial thing (a human being, for example) straining towards its completing principle draws towards itself all it possibly can.
Thus, with the good we have the bad: we have the opposed movements of a dancer guided by one artistic plan; we recognise in his steps the good as against the bad, and see that in the opposition lies the merit of the design.
But, thus, the wicked disappear?
No: their wickedness remains; simply, their rôle is not of their own planning.
But, surely, this excuses them?
No; excuse lies with the Reason-Principle—and the Reason-Principle does not excuse them.
No doubt all are members of this Principle but one is a good man, another is bad—the larger class, this—and it goes as in a play; the poet while he gives each actor a part is also using them as they are in their own persons: he does not himself rank the men as leading actor, second, third; he simply gives suitable words to each, and by that assignment fixes each man’s standing.
Thus, every man has his place, a place that fits the good man, a place that fits the bad: each within the two orders of men makes his way, naturally, reasonably, to the place, good or bad, that suits him, and takes the position he has made his own. There he talks and acts, in blasphemy and crime or in all goodness: for the actors bring to this play what they were before it was ever staged.
In the dramas of human art, the poet provides the words but the actors add their own quality, good or bad—for they have more to do than merely repeat the author’s words—in the truer drama which dramatic genius imitates in its degree, the Soul displays itself in a part assigned by the creator of the piece.
As the actors of our stages get their masks and their costume, robes of state or rags, so a Soul is allotted its fortunes, and not at haphazard but always under a Reason: it adapts itself to the fortunes assigned to it, attunes itself, ranges itself rightly to the drama, to the whole Principle of the piece: then it speaks out its business, exhibiting at the same time all that a Soul can express of its own quality, as a singer in a song. A voice, a bearing, naturally fine or vulgar, may increase the charm of a piece; on the other hand, an actor with his ugly voice may make a sorry exhibition of himself, yet the drama stands as good a work as ever: the dramatist taking the action which a sound criticism suggests, disgraces one, taking his part from him, with perfect justice: another man he promotes to more serious rôles or to any more important play he may have, while the first is cast for whatever minor work there may be.
Just so the Soul, entering this drama of the Universe, making itself a part of the Play, bringing to its acting its personal excellence or defect, set in a definite place at the entry and accepting from the author its entire rôle—superimposed upon its own character and conduct—just so, it receives in the end its punishment and reward.
But these actors, Souls, hold a peculiar dignity: they act in a vaster place than any stage: the Author has made them masters of all this world; they have a wide choice of place; they themselves determine the honour or discredit in which they are agents since their place and part are in keeping with their quality: they therefore fit into the Reason-Principle of the Universe, each adjusted, most legitimately, to the appropriate environment, as every string of the lyre is set in the precisely right position, determined by the Principle directing musical utterance, for the due production of the tones within its capacity. All is just and good in the Universe in which every actor is set in his own quite appropriate place, though it be to utter in the Darkness and in Tartarus the dreadful sounds whose utterance there is well.
This Universe is good not when the individual is a stone, but when everyone throws in his own voice towards a total harmony, singing out a life—thin, harsh, imperfect, though it be. The Syrinx does not utter merely one pure note; there is a thin obscure sound which blends in to make the harmony of Syrinx music: the harmony is made up from tones of various grades, all the tones differing, but the resultant of all forming one sound.
Similarly the Reason-Principle entire is One, but it is broken into unequal parts: hence the difference of place found in the Universe, better spots and worse; and hence the inequality of Souls, finding their appropriate surroundings amid this local inequality. The diverse places of this sphere, the Souls of unequal grade and unlike conduct, are well exemplified by the distinction of parts in the Syrinx or any other instrument: there is local difference, but from every position every string gives forth its own tone, the sound appropriate, at once, to its particular place and to the entire plan.
What is evil in the single Soul will stand a good thing in the universal system; what in the unit offends nature will serve nature in the total event—and still remains the weak and wrong tone it is, though its sounding takes nothing from the worth of the whole, just as, in another order of image, the executioner’s ugly office does not mar the well-governed state: such an officer is a civic necessity; and the corresponding moral type is often serviceable; thus, even as things are, all is well.
Souls vary in worth; and the difference is due, among other causes, to an almost initial inequality; it is in reason that, standing to the Reason-Principle, as parts, they should be unequal by the fact of becoming separate.
We must also remember that every Soul has its second grade and its third, and that, therefore, its expression may take any one of three main forms. But this point must be dealt with here again: the matter requires all possible elucidation.
We may perhaps think of actors having the right to add something to the poet’s words: the drama as it stands is not perfectly filled in, and they are to supply where the Author has left blank spaces here and there; the actors are to be something else as well; they become parts of the poet, who on his side has a fore-knowledge of the word they will add, and so is able to bind into one story what the actors bring in and what is to follow.
For, in the All, the sequences, including what follows upon wickedness, become Reason-Principles, and therefore in right reason. Thus: from adultery and the violation of prisoners the process of nature will produce fine children, to grow, perhaps, into fine men; and where wicked violence has destroyed cities, other and nobler cities may rise in their place.
But does not this make it absurd to introduce Souls as responsible causes, some acting for good and some for evil? If we thus exonerate the Reason-Principle from any part in wickedness do we not also cancel its credit for the good? Why not simply take the doings of these actors (in the universal drama) for representative parts of the Reason-Principle as the doings of stage-actors are representative parts of the stage-drama? Why not admit that the Reason-Principle itself includes evil action as much as good action, and inspires the precise conduct of all its representatives? Would not this be all the more plausible in that the universal drama is the completer creation and that the Reason-Principle is the source of all that exists?
But this raises the question, What motive could lead the Logos to produce evil?
The explanation, also, would take away all power in the Universe from Souls, even those nearest to the divine; they would all be mere parts of a Reason-Principle.
And, further—unless all Reason-Principles are Souls—why should some be souls and others exclusively Reason-Principles when the All is itself a Soul?
What is our answer?
All events and things, good and evil alike, are included under the Universal Reason-Principle of which they are parts—strictly “included” for this Universal Idea does not engender them but encompasses them.
The Reason-Principles are acts or expressions of a Universal Soul; its parts (i.e. events good and evil) are expressions of these Soul-parts.
This unity, Soul, has different parts; the Reason-Principles, correspondingly, will also have their parts, and so, too, will the ultimates of the system, all that they bring into being.
The Souls are in harmony with each other and so, too, are their acts and effects; but it is harmony in the sense of a resultant unity built out of contraries. All things, as they rise from a unity, come back to unity by a sheer need of nature; differences unfold themselves, contraries are produced, but all is drawn into one organised system by the unity at the source.
The principle may be illustrated from the different classes of animal life: there is one genus, horse, though horses among themselves fight and bite and show malice and angry envy: so all the others within the unity of their Kind; and so humanity.
All these types, again, can be ranged under the one Kind, that of living things; objects without life can be thought of under their specific types and then be resumed under the one Kind of the “non-living”; if we choose to go further yet, living and non-living may be included under the one Kind, “Beings,” and, further still, under the Source of Being.
Having attached all to this source, we turn to move down again in continuous division: we see the Unity fissuring, as it reaches out into Universality, and yet embracing all in one system so that with all its differentiation it is one multiple living thing—an organism in which each member executes the function of its own nature while it still has its being in that One Whole; fire burns; horse does horse work; men give, each the appropriate act of the peculiar personal quality—and upon the several particular Kinds to which each belongs follow the acts, and the good or evil of the life.
Circumstances are not sovereign over the good of life, for they are themselves moulded by their priors and come in as members of a sequence. The Leading-Principle holds all the threads while the minor agents, the individuals, serve according to their own capacities, as in a war the generalissimo lays down the plan and his subordinates do their best to its furtherance. The Universe has been ordered by a Providence that may be compared to a general; he has considered operations, conditions and such practical needs as food and drink, arms and engines of war; all the problem of reconciling these complex elements has been worked out beforehand so as to make it probable that the final event may be success. The entire scheme emerges from the general’s mind with a certain plausible promise, though it cannot cover the enemy’s operations, and there is no power over the disposition of the enemy’s forces: but where the mighty general is in question whose power extends over all that is, what can pass unordered, what can fail to fit into the plan?
For, even though the I is sovereign in choosing, yet by the fact of the choice the thing done takes its place in the ordered total. Your personality does not come from outside into the universal scheme; you are a part of it, you and your personal disposition.
But what is the cause of this initial personality?
This question resolves itself into two: are we to make the Creator, if Creator there is, the cause of the moral quality of the individual or does the responsibility lie with the creature?
Or is there, perhaps, no responsibility? After all, none is charged in the case of plants brought into being without the perceptive faculties; no one is blamed because animals are not all that men are—which would be like complaining that men are not all that gods are. Reason acquits plant and animal and, their maker; how can it complain because men do not stand above humanity?
If the reproach simply means that Man might improve by bringing from his own stock something towards his betterment we must allow that the man failing in this is answerable for his own inferiority: but if the betterment must come not from within the man but from without, from his Author, it is folly to ask more than has been given, as foolish in the case of man as in plant and animal.
The question is not whether a thing is inferior to something else but whether in its own Kind it suffices to its own part; universal equality there cannot be.
Then the Reason-Principle has measured things out with the set purpose of inequality?
Certainly not: the inequality is inevitable by the nature of things: the Reason-Principle of this Universe follows upon a phase of the Soul; the Soul itself follows upon an Intellectual Principle, and this Intellectual Principle is not one among the things of the Universe but is all things; in all things, there is implied variety of things; where there is variety and not identity there must be primals, secondaries, tertiaries and every grade downward. Forms of life, then, there must be that are not pure Soul but the dwindling of Souls enfeebled stage by stage of the process. There is, of course, a Soul in the Reason-Principle constituting a living being, but it is another Soul (a lesser phase), not that (the Supreme Soul) from which the Reason-Principle itself derives; and this combined vehicle of life weakens as it proceeds towards matter, and what it engenders is still more deficient. Consider how far the engendered stands from its origin and yet, what a marvel!
In sum nothing can secure to a thing of process the quality of the prior order, loftier than all that is product and amenable to no charge in regard to it: the wonder is, only, that it reaches and gives to the lower at all, and that the traces of its presence should be so noble. And if its outgiving is greater than the lower can appropriate, the debt is the heavier; all the blame must fall upon the unreceptive creature, and Providence be the more exalted.
If man were all of one piece—I mean, if he were nothing more than a made thing, acting and acted upon according to a fixed nature—he could be no more subject to reproach and punishment than the mere animals. But as the scheme holds, man is singled out for condemnation when he does evil; and this with justice. For he is no mere thing made to rigid plan; his nature contains a Principle apart and free.
This does not, however, stand outside of Providence or of the Reason of the All; the Over-World cannot be dependent upon the World of Sense. The higher shines down upon the lower, and this illumination is Providence in its highest aspect: The Reason-Principle has two phases, one which creates the things of process and another which links them with the higher beings: these higher beings constitute the over-providence on which depends that lower providence which is the secondary Reason-Principle inseparably united with its primal: the two—the Major and Minor Providence—acting together produce the universal woof, the one all-comprehensive Providence.
Men possess, then, a distinctive Principle: but not all men turn to account all that is in their Nature; there are men that live by one Principle and men that live by another or, rather, by several others, the least noble. For all these Principles are present even when not acting upon the man—though we cannot think of them as lying idle; everything performs its function.
“But,” it will be said, “what reason can there be for their not acting upon the man once they are present; inaction must mean absence?”
We maintain their presence always, nothing void of them.
But surely not where they exercise no action? If they necessarily reside in all men, surely they must be operative in all—this Principle of free action, especially.
First of all, this free Principle is not an absolute possession of the animal Kinds and is not even an absolute possession to all men.
So this Principle is not the only effective force in all men?
There is no reason why it should not be. There are men in whom it alone acts, giving its character to the life while all else is but Necessity (and therefore outside of blame).
For (in the case of an evil life) whether it is that the constitution of the man is such as to drive him down the troubled paths or whether (the fault is mental or spiritual in that) the desires have gained control, we are compelled to attribute the guilt to the substratum (something inferior to the highest principle in Man). We would be naturally inclined to say that this substratum (the responsible source of evil) must be Matter and not, as our argument implies, the Reason-Principle; it would appear that not the Reason-Principle but Matter were the dominant, crude Matter at the extreme and then Matter as shaped in the realised man: but we must remember that to this free Principle in man (which is a phase of the All Soul) the Substratum (the direct inferior to be moulded) is (not Matter but) the Reason-Principle itself with whatever that produces and moulds to its own form, so that neither crude Matter nor Matter organised in our human total is sovereign within us.
The quality now manifested may be probably referred to the conduct of a former life; we may suppose that previous actions have made the Reason-Principle now governing within us inferior in radiance to that which ruled before; the Soul which later will shine out again is for the present at a feebler power.
And any Reason-Principle may be said to include within itself the Reason-Principle of Matter which therefore it is able to elaborate to its own purposes, either finding it consonant with itself or bestowing upon it the quality which makes it so. The Reason-Principle of an ox does not occur except in connection with the Matter appropriate to the ox-Kind. It must be by such a process that the transmigration, of which we read (in Plato) takes place; the Soul must lose its nature, the Reason-Principle be transformed; thus there comes the ox-soul which once was Man.
The degradation, then, is just.
Still, how did the inferior Principle ever come into being, and how does the higher fall to it?
Once more—not all things are Firsts; there are Secondaries and Tertiaries, of a nature inferior to that of their Priors; and a slight tilt is enough to determine the departure from the straight course. Further, the linking of any one being with any other amounts to a blending such as to produce a distinct entity, a compound of the two; it is not that the greater and prior suffers any diminution of its own nature; the lesser and secondary is such from its very beginning; it is in its own nature the lesser thing it becomes, and if it suffers the consequences, such suffering is merited: all our reasonings on these questions must take account of previous living as the source from which the present takes its rise.
There is, then, a Providence, which permeates the Kosmos from first to last, not everywhere equal, as in a numerical distribution, but proportioned, differing, according to the grades of place—just as in some one animal, linked from first to last, each member has its own function, the nobler organ the higher activity while others successively concern the lower degrees of the life, each part acting of itself, and experiencing what belongs to its own nature and what comes from its relation with every other. Strike, and what is designed for utterance gives forth the appropriate volume of sound while other parts take the blow in silence but react in their own especial movement; the total of all the utterance and action and receptivity constitutes what we may call the personal voice, life and history of the living form. The parts, distinct in Kind, have distinct functions: the feet have their work and the eyes theirs; the understanding serves to one end, the Intellectual Principle to another.
But all sums to a unity, a comprehensive Providence. From the inferior grade downwards is Fate: the upper is Providence alone: for in the Intellectual Kosmos all is Reason-Principle or its Priors—Divine Mind and unmingled Soul—and immediately upon these follows Providence which rises from Divine Mind, is the content of the Unmingled Soul, and, through this Soul, is communicated to the Sphere of living things.
This Reason-Principle comes as a thing of unequal parts, and therefore its creations are unequal, as, for example, the several members of one Living Being. But after this allotment of rank and function, all act consonant with the will of the gods keeps the sequence and is included under the providential government, for the Reason-Principle of providence is god-serving.
All such right-doing, then, is linked to Providence; but it is not therefore performed by it: men or other agents, living or lifeless, are causes of certain things happening, and any good that may result is taken up again by Providence. In the total, then, the right rules and what has happened amiss is transformed and corrected. Thus, to take an example from a single body, the Providence of a living organism implies its health; let it be gashed or otherwise wounded, and that Reason-Principle which governs it sets to work to draw it together, knit it anew, heal it, and put the affected part to rights.
In sum, evil belongs to the sequence of things, but it comes (not from Providence but) from necessity. It originates in ourselves; it has its causes no doubt, but we are not, therefore, forced to it by Providence: some of these causes we adapt to the operation of Providence and of its subordinates, but with others we fail to make the connection; the act instead of being ranged under the will of Providence consults the desire of the agent alone or of some other element in the Universe, something which is either itself at variance with Providence or has set up some such state of variance in ourselves.
The one circumstance does not produce the same result wherever it acts; the normal operation will be modified from case to case: Helen’s beauty told very differently on Paris and on Idomeneus; bring together two handsome people of loose character and two living honourably and the resulting conduct is very different; a good man meeting a libertine exhibits a distinct phase of his nature and, similarly, the dissolute answer to the society of their betters.
The act of the libertine is not done by Providence or in accordance with Providence; neither is the action of the good done by Providence—it is done by the man—but it is done in accordance with Providence, for it is an act consonant with the Reason-Principle. Thus a patient following his treatment is himself an agent and yet is acting in accordance with the doctor’s method inspired by the art concerned with the causes of health and sickness: what one does against the laws of health is one’s act, but an act conflicting with the Providence of medicine.
But, if all this be true, how can evil fall within the scope of seership? The predictions of the seers are based on observation of the Universal Circuit: how can this indicate the evil with the good?
Clearly the reason is that all contraries coalesce. Take, for example, Shape and (its contrary) Matter: the living being (of the lower order) is a coalescence of these two; so that to be aware of the Shape and the Reason-Principle is to be aware of the Matter on which the Shape has been imposed.
The living-being of the compound order is not present (as pure and simple Idea) like the living being of the Intellectual order: in the compound entity, we are aware, at once, of the Reason-Principle and of the inferior element brought under form. Now the Universe is such a compound living thing: to observe, therefore, its content is to be aware not less of its lower elements than of the Providence which operates within it.
This Providence reaches to all that comes into being; its scope therefore includes living things with their actions and states, the total of their history at once overruled by the Reason-Principle and yet subject in some degree to Necessity.
These, then, are presented as mingled both by their initial nature and by the continuous process of their existence; and the Seer is not able to make a perfect discrimination setting on the one side Providence with all that happens under Providence and on the other side what the substrate communicates to its product. Such discrimination is not for a man, not for a wise man or a divine man: one may say it is the prerogative of a god. Not causes but facts lie in the Seer’s province; his art is the reading of the scriptures of Nature which tell of the ordered and never condescend to the disorderly; the movement of the Universe utters its testimony to him and, before men and things reveal themselves, brings to light what severally and collectively they are.
Here conspires with There and There with Here, elaborating together the consistency and eternity of a Kosmos and by their correspondences revealing the sequence of things to the trained observer—for every form of divination turns upon correspondences. Universal interdependence, there could not be, but universal resemblance there must. This probably is the meaning of the saying that Correspondences maintain the Universe.
This is a correspondence of inferior with inferior, of superior with superior, eye with eye, foot with foot, everything with its fellow and, in another order, virtue with right action and vice with unrighteousness. Admit such correspondence in the All and we have the possibility of prediction. If the one order acts on the other, the relation is not that of maker to thing made—the two are coeval—it is the interplay of members of one living being; each in its own place and way moves as its own nature demands; to every organ its grade and task, and to every grade and task its effective organ.
And since the higher exists, there must be the lower as well. The Universe is a thing of variety, and how could there be an inferior without a superior or a superior without an inferior? We cannot complain about the lower in the higher; rather, we must be grateful to the higher for giving something of itself to the lower.
In a word, those that would like evil driven out from the All would drive out Providence itself.
What would Providence have to provide for? Certainly not for itself or for the Good: when we speak of a Providence above, we mean an act upon something below.
That which resumes all under a unity is a Principle in which all things exist together and the single thing is All. From this Principle, which remains internally unmoved, particular things push forth as from a single root which never itself emerges. They are a branching into part, into multiplicity, each single outgrowth bearing its trace of the common source. Thus, phase by phase, there is finally the production into this world; some things close still to the root, others widely separate in the continuous progression until we have, in our metaphor, bough and crest, foliage and fruit. At the one side all is one point of unbroken rest, on the other is the ceaseless process, leaf and fruit, all the things of process carrying ever within themselves the Reason-Principles of the Upper Sphere, and striving to become trees in their own minor order and producing, if at all, only what is in strict gradation from themselves.
As for the abandoned spaces in what corresponds to the branches these too draw upon the root, from which, despite all their variance, they also derive; and the branches again operate upon their own furthest extremities: operation is to be traced only from point to next point, but, in the fact, there has been both inflow and outgo (of creative or modifying force) at the very root which, itself again, has its priors.
The things that act upon each other are branchings from a far-off beginning and so stand distinct; but they derive initially from the one source: all interaction is like that of brothers, resemblant as drawing life from the same parents.
Some Existents (Absolute Unity and Intellectual-Principle) remain at rest while their Hypostases, or Expressed-Idea, come into being; but, in our view, the Soul generates by its motion, to which is due the sensitive faculty—that in any of its expression-forms—Nature and all forms of life down to the vegetable order. Even as it is present in human beings the Soul carries its Expression-form (Hypostasis) with it, but is not the dominant since it is not the whole man (humanity including the Intellectual Principle, as well): in the vegetable order it is the highest since there is nothing to rival it; but at this phase it is no longer reproductive, or, at least, what it produces is of quite another order; here life ceases; all later production is lifeless.
What does this imply?
Everything the Soul engenders down to this point (of sheer lifelessness) comes into being shapeless, and takes form by orientation towards its author and supporter: therefore (and even more certainly) the thing engendered on the further side can be no image of the Soul, since it is not even alive; it must be an utter Indetermination. No doubt even in things of the nearer order there was indetermination, but within a form; they were undetermined not utterly but only in contrast with their perfect state: at this extreme point we have the utter lack of determination. Let it be raised to its highest degree and it becomes body by taking such shape as serves its scope; then it becomes the recipient of its author and sustainer: this presence in body is the only example of the boundaries of Higher Existents running into the boundary of the Lower.
It is of this Soul especially that we read “All Soul has care for the Soulless”—though the several Souls thus care in their own degree and way. The passage continues—“Soul passes through the entire heavens in forms varying with the variety of place”—the sensitive form, the reasoning form, even the vegetative form—and this means that in each “place” the phase of the soul there dominant carries out its own ends while the rest, not present there, is idle.
Now, in humanity the lower is not supreme; it is an accompaniment; but neither does the better rule unfailingly; the lower element also has a footing, and Man, therefore, lives in part under sensation, for he has the organs of sensation, and in large part even by the merely vegetative principle, for the body grows and propagates: all the graded phases are in a collaboration, but the entire form, man, takes rank by the dominant, and when the life-principle leaves the body it is what it is, what it most intensely lived.
This is why we must break away towards the High: we dare not keep ourselves set towards the sensuous principle, following the images of sense, or towards the merely vegetative, intent upon the gratifications of eating and procreation; our life must be pointed towards the Intellective, towards the Intellectual-Principle, towards God.
Those that have maintained the human level are men once more. Those that have lived wholly to sense become animals—corresponding in species to the particular temper of the life—ferocious animals where the sensuality has been accompanied by a certain measure of spirit, gluttonous and lascivious animals where all has been appetite and satiation of appetite. Those who in their pleasures have not even lived by sensation, but have gone their way in a torpid grossness become mere growing things, for this lethargy is the entire act of the vegetative, and such men have been busy be-treeing themselves. Those, we read, that, otherwise untainted, have loved song become vocal animals; kings ruling unreasonably but with no other vice are eagles; futile and flighty visionaries ever soaring skyward, become high-flying birds; observance of civic and secular virtue makes man again, or where the merit is less marked, one of the animals of communal tendency, a bee or the like.
What, then, is the spirit (guiding the present life and determining the future?)
The Spirit of here and now.
And the God?
The God of here and now.
Spirit, God; This in act within us, conducts every life; for, even here and now, it is the dominant of our Nature.
That is to say that the dominant is the spirit which takes possession of the human being at birth?
No: the dominant is the Prior of the individual spirit; it presides inoperative while its secondary acts: so that if the acting force is that of men of the sense-life, the tutelary spirit is the Rational Being, while if we live by that Rational Being, our tutelary Spirit is the still higher Being, not directly operative but assenting to the working principle. The words “You shall yourselves choose (your presiding Spirit)” are true, then; for by our life we elect our own loftier.
But how does this spirit come to be the determinant of our fate?
It is not when the life is ended that it conducts us here or there; it operates during the lifetime; when we cease to live, our death hands over to another principle this energy of our own personal career.
That principle (of the new birth) strives to gain control, and if it succeeds it also lives and itself, in turn, possesses a guiding spirit (its next higher): if on the contrary it is weighed down by the developed evil in the character, the spirit of the previous life pays the penalty: the evil-liver loses grade because during his life the active principle of his being took the tilt towards the brute by force of affinity. If, on the contrary, the Man is able to follow the leading of his higher Spirit, he rises: he lives that Spirit; that noblest part of himself to which he is being led becomes sovereign in his life; this made his own, he works for the next above until he has attained the height.
For the Soul is many things, is all, is the Above and the Beneath to the totality of life: and each of us is an Intellectual Kosmos, linked to this world by what is lowest in us, but, by what is the highest, to the Divine Intellect: by all that is intellective we are permanently in that higher realm, but at the fringe of the Intellectual we are fettered to the lower; it is as if we gave forth from it some emanation towards that lower, or, rather some Act, which however leaves our diviner part not in itself diminished.
But is this lower extremity of our intellective phase fettered to body for ever?
No: if we turn, this turns by the same act.
And the Soul of the All—are we to think that when it turns from this sphere its lower phase similarly withdraws?
No: for it never accompanied that lower phase of itself; it never knew any coming, and therefore never came down; it remains unmoved above, and the material frame of the Universe draws close to it, and, as it were, takes light from it, no hindrance to it, in no way troubling it, simply lying unmoved before it.
But has the Universe, then, no sensation? “It has no Sight,” we read, since it has no eyes, and obviously it has not ears, nostrils, or tongue. Then has it perhaps such a consciousness as we have of our own inner conditions?
No: where all is the working out of one nature, there is nothing but still rest; there is not even enjoyment. Sensibility is present as the quality of growth is, unrecognised. But the Nature of the World will be found treated elsewhere; what stands here is all that the question of the moment demands.
But if the presiding Spirit and the conditions of life are chosen by the Soul in the over-world, how can anything be left to our independent action here?
The answer is that that very choice in the over-world is merely an allegorical statement of the Soul’s tendency and temperament, a total character which it must express wherever it operates.
But if the tendency of the Soul is the master-force and, in the Soul, the dominant is that phase which has been brought to the fore by a previous history, then the body stands acquitted of any bad influence upon it? The Soul’s quality exists before any bodily life; it has exactly what it chose to have; and, we read, it never changes its chosen spirit; therefore neither the good man nor the bad is the product of this life?
Is the solution, perhaps, that man is potentially both good and bad but becomes the one or the other by force of act?
But what if a man temperamentally good happens to enter a disordered body, or if a perfect body falls to a man naturally vicious?
The answer is that the Soul, to whichever side it inclines, has in some varying degree the power of working the forms of body over to its own temper, since outlying and accidental circumstances cannot overrule the entire decision of a Soul. Where we read that, after the casting of lots, the sample lives are exhibited with the casual circumstances attending them and that the choice is made upon vision, in accordance with the individual temperament, we are given to understand that the real determination lies with the Souls, who adapt the allotted conditions to their own particular quality.
The Timæus indicates the relation of this guiding spirit to ourselves: it is not entirely outside of ourselves; is not bound up with our nature; is not the agent in our action; it belongs to us as belonging to our Soul, but not in so far as we are particular human beings living a life to which it is superior: take the passage in this sense and it is consistent; understand this Spirit otherwise and there is contradiction. And the description of the Spirit, moreover, as “the power which consummates the chosen life,” is, also, in agreement with this interpretation; for while its presidency saves us from falling much deeper into evil, the only direct agent within us in some thing neither above it nor equal to it but under it: Man cannot cease to be characteristically Man.
What, then, is the achieved Sage?
One whose Act is determined by the higher phase of the Soul.
It does not suffice to perfect virtue to have only this Spirit (equivalent in all men) as co-operator in the life: the acting force in the Sage is the Intellective Principle (the diviner phase of the human Soul) which therefore is itself his presiding spirit or is guided by a presiding spirit of its own, no other than the very Divinity.
But this exalts the Sage above the Intellectual Principle as possessing for presiding spirit the Prior to the Intellectual Principle: how then does it come about that he was not, from the very beginning, all that he now is?
The failure is due to the disturbance caused by birth—though, before all reasoning, there exists the instinctive movement reaching out towards its own.
An instinct which the Sage finally rectifies in every respect?
Not in every respect: the Soul is so constituted that its life-history and its general tendency will answer not merely to its own nature but also to the conditions among which it acts.
The presiding Spirit, as we read, conducting a Soul to the Underworld ceases to be its guardian—except when the Soul resumes (in its later choice) the former state of life.
But, meanwhile, what happens to it?
From the passage (in the Phædo) which tells how it presents the Soul to judgment we gather that after the death it resumes the form it had before the birth, but that then, beginning again, it is present to the Souls in their punishment during the period of their renewed life—a time not so much of living as of expiation.
But the Souls that enter into brute bodies, are they controlled by some thing less than this presiding Spirit? No: theirs is still a Spirit, but an evil or a foolish one.
And the Souls that attain to the highest?
Of these higher Souls some live in the world of Sense, some above it: and those in the world of Sense inhabit the Sun or another of the planetary bodies; the others occupy the fixed Sphere (above the planetary) holding the place they have merited through having lived here the superior life of reason.
We must understand that, while our Souls do contain an Intellectual Kosmos they also contain a subordination of various forms like that of the Kosmic Soul. The world Soul is distributed so as to produce the fixed sphere and the planetary circuits corresponding to its graded powers: so with our Souls; they must have their provinces according to their different powers, parallel to those of the World Soul: each must give out its own special act; released, each will inhabit there a star consonant with the temperament and faculty in act within and constituting the principle of the life; and this star or the next highest power will stand to them as God or more exactly as tutelary spirit.
But here some further precision is needed.
Emancipated Souls, for the whole period of their sojourn there above, have transcended the Spirit-nature and the entire fatality of birth and all that belongs to this visible world, for they have taken up with them that Hypostasis of the Soul in which the desire of earthly life is vested. This Hypostasis may be described as the distributable Soul, for it is what enters bodily forms and multiplies itself by this division among them. But its distribution is not (arithmetical, not) a matter of magnitudes; wherever it is present, there is the same thing present entire; its unity can always be reconstructed: when living things—animal or vegetal—(distribute themselves and) produce their constant succession of new forms, they do so in virtue of the self-distribution of this phase of the Soul, for it must be as much distributed among the new forms as the propagating originals are. In some cases it communicates its force by permanent presence—the life principle in plants for instance—in other cases it withdraws after imparting its virtue—for instance where from the putridity of dead animal or vegetable matter a multitudinous birth is produced from one organism.
A power corresponding to this in the All must reach down and co-operate in the life of our world—in fact the very same power.
If the Soul returns to this Sphere it finds itself under the same Spirit or a new, according to the life it is to live. With this Spirit it embarks in the skiff of the universe: the “spindle of Necessity” then takes control and appoints the seat for the voyage, the seat of the lot in life.
The Universal circuit is like a breeze, and the voyager, still or stirring, is carried forward by it. He has a hundred varied experiences, fresh sights, changing circumstances, all sorts of events. The vessel itself furnishes incident, tossing as it drives on. And the voyager also acts of himself in virtue of that individuality which he retains because he is on the vessel in his own person and character. Under identical circumstances individuals answer very differently in their movements and acts: hence it comes about that, be the occurrences and conditions of life similar or dissimilar, the result may differ from man to man, as on the other hand a similar result may be produced by dissimilar conditions: this (personal answer to incident) it is that constitutes destiny.
What is Love? A God, a Celestial Spirit, a state of mind? Or is it, perhaps, sometimes to be thought of as a God or Spirit and sometimes merely as an experience? And what is it essentially in each of these respects?
These important questions make it desirable to review prevailing opinions on the matter, the philosophical treatment it has received and, especially, the theories of the great Plato who has many passages dealing with Love, from a point of view entirely his own.
Plato does not treat of it as simply a state observed in Souls; he also makes it a Spirit-being so that we read of the birth of Eros, under definite circumstances and by a certain parentage.
Now everyone recognises that the emotional state for which we make this “Love” responsible rises in souls aspiring to be knit in the closest union with some beautiful object, and that this aspiration takes two forms, that of the good whose devotion is for beauty itself, and that other which seeks its consummation in some vile act. But this generally admitted distinction opens a new question: we need a philosophical investigation into the origin of the two phases.
It is sound, I think, to find the primal source of Love in a tendency of the Soul towards pure beauty, in a recognition, in a kinship, in an unreasoned consciousness of friendly relation. The vile and ugly is in clash, at once, with Nature and with God: Nature produces by looking to the Good, for it looks towards Order—which has its being in the consistent total of the good, while the unordered is ugly, a member of the system of evil—and besides Nature itself, clearly, springs from the divine realm, from Good and Beauty; and when anything brings delight and the sense of kinship, its very image attracts.
Reject this explanation, and no one can tell how the mental state rises and what are its causes: it is the explanation of even copulative love which is the will to beget in beauty; Nature seeks to produce the beautiful and therefore by all reason cannot desire to procreate in the ugly.
Those that desire earthly procreation are satisfied with the beauty found on earth, the beauty of image and of body; it is because they are strangers to the Archetype, the source of even the attraction they feel towards what is lovely here. There are Souls to whom earthly beauty is a leading to the memory of that in the higher realm and these love the earthly as an image; those that have not attained to this memory do not understand what is happening within them, and take the image for the reality. Once there is perfect self-control, it is no fault to enjoy the beauty of earth; where appreciation degenerates into carnality, there is sin.
Pure Love seeks the beauty alone, whether there is Reminiscence or not; but there are those that feel, also, a desire of such immortality as lies within mortal reach; and these are seeking Beauty in their demand for perpetuity, the desire of the eternal; Nature teaches them to sow the seed and to beget in beauty, to sow towards eternity, but in beauty through their own kinship with the beautiful. And indeed the eternal is of the one stock with the beautiful, the Eternal-Nature is the first shaping of beauty and makes beautiful all that rises from it.
The less the desire for procreation, the greater is the contentment with beauty alone, yet procreation aims at the engendering of beauty; it is the expression of a lack; the subject is conscious of insufficiency and, wishing to produce beauty, feels that the way is to beget in a beautiful form. Where the procreative desire is lawless or against the purposes of nature, the first inspiration has been natural, but they have diverged from the way, they have slipped and fallen, and they grovel; they neither understand whither Love sought to lead them nor have they any instinct to production; they have not mastered the right use of the images of beauty; they do not know what the Authentic Beauty is.
Those that love beauty of person without carnal desire love for beauty’s sake; those that have—for women, of course—the copulative love, have the further purpose of self-perpetuation: as long as they are led by these motives, both are on the right path, though the first have taken the nobler way. But, even in the right, there is the difference that the one set, worshipping the beauty of earth, look no further, while the others, those of recollection, venerate also the beauty of the other world while they, still, have no contempt for this in which they recognise, as it were, a last outgrowth, an attenuation of the higher. These, in sum, are innocent frequenters of beauty, not to be confused with the class to whom it becomes an occasion of fall into the ugly—for the aspiration towards a good degenerates into an evil often.
So much for love, the state.
Now we have to consider Love, the God.
The existence of such a being is no demand of the ordinary man, merely; it is supported by Theologians (Orphic teachers) and, over and over again, by Plato to whom Eros is child of Aphrodite, minister of beautiful children, inciter of human souls towards the supernal beauty or quickener of an already existing impulse thither. All this requires philosophical examination. A cardinal passage is that in The Banquet where we are told Eros was not a child of Aphrodite but born on the day of Aphrodite’s birth, Penia, Poverty, being the mother, and Poros, Possession, the father.
The matter seems to demand some discussion of Aphrodite since in any case Eros is described as being either her son or in some association with her. Who then is Aphrodite, and in what sense is Love either her child or born with her or in some way both her child and her birth-fellow?
To us Aphrodite is twofold; there is the heavenly Aphrodite, daughter of Ouranos or Heaven: and there is the other the daughter of Zeus and Dione, this is the Aphrodite who presides over earthly unions; the higher was not born of a mother and has no part in marriages for in Heaven there is no marrying.
The Heavenly Aphrodite, daughter of Kronos (Saturn) who is no other than the Intellectual Principle—must be the Soul at its divinest: unmingled as the immediate emanation of the unmingled; remaining ever Above, as neither desirous nor capable of descending to this sphere, never having developed the downward tendency, a divine Hypostasis essentially aloof, so unreservedly an Authentic Being as to have no part with Matter—and therefore mythically “the unmothered”—justly called not Celestial Spirit but God, as knowing no admixture, gathered cleanly within itself.
Any Nature springing directly from the Intellectual Principle must be itself also a clean thing: it will derive a resistance of its own from its nearness to the Highest, for all its tendency, no less than its fixity, centres upon its author whose power is certainly sufficient to maintain it Above.
Soul then could never fall from its sphere; it is closer held to the divine Mind than the very sun could hold the light it gives forth to radiate about it, an outpouring from itself held firmly to it, still.
But following upon Kronos—or, if you will, upon Heaven, (Ouranos) the father of Kronos—the Soul directs its Act towards him and holds closely to him and in that love brings forth the Eros through whom it continues to look towards him. This Act of the Soul has produced an Hypostasis, a Real-Being; and the mother and this Hypostasis—her offspring, noble Love—gaze together upon Divine Mind. Love, thus, is ever intent upon that other loveliness, and exists to be the medium between desire and that object of desire. It is the eye of the desirer; by its power what loves is enabled to see the loved thing. But it is first; before it becomes the vehicle of vision, it is itself filled with the sight; it is first, therefore, and not even in the same order—for desire attains to vision only through the efficacy of Love, while Love, in its own Act, harvests the spectacle of beauty playing immediately above it.
That Love is a Hypostasis (a “Person”) a Real-Being sprung from a Real-Being—lower than the parent but authentically existent—is beyond doubt.
For the parent-Soul was a Real-Being sprung directly from the Act of the Hypostasis that ranks before it: it had life; it was a constituent in the Real-Being of all that authentically is—in the Real-Being which looks, rapt, towards the very Highest. That was the first object of its vision; it looked towards it as towards its good, and it rejoiced in the looking; and the quality of what it saw was such that the contemplation could not be void of effect; in virtue of that rapture, of its position in regard to its object, of the intensity of its gaze, the Soul conceived and brought forth an offspring worthy of itself and of the vision. Thus; there is a strenuous activity of contemplation in the Soul; there is an emanation towards it from the object contemplated; and Eros is born, the Love which is an eye filled with its vision, a seeing that bears its image with it; Eros taking its name, probably, from the fact that its essential being is due to this horasis, this seeing. Of course Love, as an emotion, will take its name from Love, the Person, since a Real-Being cannot but be prior to what lacks this reality. The mental state will be designated as Love, like the Hypostasis, though it is no more than a particular act directed towards a particular object; but it must not be confused with the Absolute Love, the Divine Being. The Eros that belongs to the supernal Soul must be of one temper with it; it must itself look aloft as being of the household of that Soul, dependent upon that Soul, its very offspring; and therefore caring for nothing but the contemplation of the Gods.
Once that Soul which is the primal source of light to the heavens is recognised as an Hypostasis standing distinct and aloof, it must be admitted that Love too is distinct and aloof though not, perhaps, so loftily celestial a being as the Soul. Our own best we conceive as inside ourselves and yet something apart; so, we must think of this Love—as essentially resident where the unmingling Soul inhabits.
But besides this purest Soul, there must be also a Soul of the All: at once there is another Love—the eye with which this second Soul looks upwards—like the supernal Eros engendered by force of desire. This Aphrodite, the secondary Soul, is of this Universe—not Soul unmingled alone, not Soul, the Absolute, giving birth, therefore, to the Love concerned with the universal life; no, this is the Love presiding over marriages; but it, also, has its touch of the upward desire; and, in the degree of that striving, it stirs and leads upwards the Souls of the young and every Soul with which it is incorporated in so far as there is a natural tendency to remembrance of the divine. For every Soul is striving towards The Good, even the mingling Soul and that of particular beings, for each holds directly from the divine Soul, and is its offspring.
Does each individual Soul, then, contain within itself such a Love in essence and substantial reality?
Since not only the pure All-Soul but also that of the Universe contain such a Love, it would be difficult to explain why our personal Soul should not. It must be so, even, with all that has life.
This indwelling love is no other than the Spirit which, as we are told, walks with every being, the affection dominant in each several nature. It implants the characteristic desire; the particular Soul, strained towards its own natural objects, brings forth its own Eros, the guiding spirit realising its worth and the quality of its Being.
As the All-Soul contains the Universal Love, so must the single Soul be allowed its own single Love: and as closely as the single Soul holds to the All-Soul, never cut off but embraced within it, the two together constituting one principle of life, so the single separate Love holds to the All-Love. Similarly, the individual love keeps with the individual Soul as that other, the great Love, goes with the All-Soul; and the Love within the All permeates it throughout so that the one Love becomes many, showing itself where it chooses at any moment of the Universe, taking definite shape in these its partial phases and revealing itself at its will.
In the same way we must conceive many Aphrodites in the All, Spirits entering it together with Love, all emanating from an Aphrodite of the All, a train of particular Aphrodites dependent upon the first, and each with the particular Love in attendance: this multiplicity cannot be denied, if Soul be the mother of Love, and Aphrodite mean Soul, and Love be an act of a Soul seeking good.
This Love, then, leader of particular Souls to The Good, is twofold: the Love in the loftier Soul would be a god ever linking the Soul to the divine; the Love in the mingling Soul will be a celestial spirit.
But what is the Nature of this Spirit—of the Supernals in general?
The Spirit-Kind is treated in the Symposium where, with much about the others, we learn of Eros—Love—born to Penia—Poverty—and Poros—Possession—who is son of Metis—Resource—at Aphrodite’s birth feast.
But (the passage has been misunderstood for) to take Plato as meaning, by Eros, this Universe—and not simply the Love native within it—involves much that is self-contradictory.
For one thing, the universe is described as a blissful god and as self-sufficing, while this “Love” is confessedly neither divine nor self-sufficing but in ceaseless need.
Again, this Kosmos is a compound of body and soul; but Aphrodite to Plato is the Soul itself, therefore Aphrodite would necessarily be a constituent part of Eros, (not mother but) dominant member! A man is the man’s Soul, if the world is, similarly, the world’s Soul, then Aphrodite, the Soul, is identical with Love, the Kosmos! And why should this one spirit, Love, be the Universe to the exclusion of all the others, which certainly are sprung from the same Essential-Being? Our only escape would be to make the Kosmos a complex of Supernals.
Love, again, is called the Dispenser of beautiful children: does this apply to the Universe? Love is represented as homeless, bedless and bare-footed: would not that be a shabby description of the Kosmos and quite out of the truth?
What then, in sum, is to be thought of Love and of his “birth” as we are told of it?
Clearly we have to establish the significance, here, of Poverty and Possession, and show in what way the parentage is appropriate: we have also to bring these two into line with the other Supernals since one spirit nature, one spirit essence, must characterise all unless they are to have merely a name in common.
We must, therefore, lay down the grounds on which we distinguish the Gods from the Celestials—that is, when we emphasise the separate nature of the two orders and are not, as often in practice, including these Spirits under the common name of Gods.
It is our teaching and conviction that the Gods are immune to all passion while we attribute experience and emotion to the Celestials which, though eternal Beings and directly next to the Gods, are already a step towards ourselves and stand between the divine and the human.
But by what process (of degeneration) was the immunity lost? What in their nature led them downwards to the inferior?
And other questions present themselves.
Does the Intellectual Realm include no member of this spirit order, not even one? And does the Kosmos contain only these spirits, God being confined to the Intellectual? Or are there Gods in the sub-celestial too, the Kosmos itself being a God, the third, as is commonly said, and the Powers down to the Moon being all Gods as well?
It is best not to use the word “Celestial” of any Being of that Realm; the word “God” may be applied to the Essential-Celestial—the auto-daimon—and even to the Visible Powers of the Universe of Sense down to the Moon; Gods, these too, visible, secondary, sequent upon the Gods of the Intellectual Realm, consonant with Them, held about Them, as the radiance about the star.
What, then, are these spirits?
A Celestial is the representative generated by each Soul when it enters the Kosmos.
And why, by a Soul entering the Kosmos?
Because Soul pure of the Kosmos generates not a Celestial Spirit but a God; hence it is that we have spoken of Love, offspring of Aphrodite the Pure Soul, as a God.
But, first what prevents every one of the Celestials from being an Eros, a Love? And why are they not untouched by Matter like the Gods?
On the first question:—Every Celestial born in the striving of the Soul towards the good and beautiful is an Eros; and all the Souls within the Kosmos do engender this Celestial; but other Spirit-Beings, equally born from the Soul of the All, but by other faculties of that Soul, have other functions: they are for the direct service of the All, and administer particular things to the purpose of the Universe entire. The Soul of the All must be adequate to all that is and therefore must bring into being spirit powers serviceable not merely in one function but to its entire charge.
But what participation can the Celestials have in Matter, and in what Matter?
Certainly none in bodily Matter; that would make them simply living things of the order of sense. And if, even, they are to invest themselves in bodies of air or of fire, the nature must have already been altered before they could have any contact with the corporeal. The Pure does not mix, unmediated, with body—though many think that the Celestial-Kind, of its very essence, comports a body aerial or of fire.
But (since this is not so) why should one order of Celestial descend to body and another not? The difference implies the existence of some cause or medium working upon such as thus descend. What would constitute such a medium?
We are forced to assume that there is a Matter of the Intellectual Order, and that Beings partaking of it are thereby enabled to enter into the lower Matter, the corporeal.
This is the significance of Plato’s account of the birth of Love.
The drunkenness of the father Poros or Possession is caused by Nectar, “wine yet not existing”; Love is born before the realm of sense has come into being: Penia (Poverty) had participation in the Intellectual before the lower image of that divine Realm had appeared; she dwelt in that Sphere, but as a mingled being consisting partly of Form but partly also of that indetermination which belongs to the Soul before she attains the Good and when all her knowledge of Reality is a fore-intimation veiled by the indeterminate and unordered: in this state (of fore-feeling and desiring The Good) Poverty brings forth the Hypostasis, Love.
This, then, is a union of Reason with something that is not Reason but a mere indeterminate striving in a being not yet illuminated: the offspring Love, therefore, is not perfect, not self-sufficient, but unfinished, bearing the signs of its parentage, the undirected striving and the self-sufficient Reason. This offspring is a Reason-Principle but not purely so; for it includes within itself an aspiration ill-defined, unreasoned, unlimited—it can never be sated as long as it contains within itself that element of the Indeterminate. Love, then, clings to the Soul, from which it sprung as from the principle of its Being, but it is lessened by including an element of the Reason-Principle which did not remain self-concentrated but blended with the indeterminate, not, it is true, by immediate contact but through its emanation. Love, therefore, is like a goad; it is without resource in itself; even winning its end, it is poor again.
It cannot be satisfied because a thing of mixture never can be so: true satisfaction is only for what has its plenitude in its own being; where craving is due to an inborn deficiency, there may be satisfaction at some given moment but it does not last. Love, then, has on the one side the powerlessness of its native inadequacy, on the other the resource inherited from the Reason-Kind.
Such must be the nature and such the origin of the entire Spirit Order, each—like its fellow, Love—has its appointed sphere, is powerful there, and wholly devoted to it, and, like Love, none is ever complete of itself but always straining towards some good which it sees in things of the partial sphere.
We understand, now, why good men have no other Love—no other Eros of life—than that for the Absolute and Authentic Good, and never follow the random attractions known to those ranged under the lower Spirit Kind.
Each human being is set under his own Spirit-Guides, but this is mere blank possession when they ignore their own and live by some other spirit adopted by them as more closely attuned to the operative part of the Soul in them. Those that go after evil are natures that have merged all the Love-Principles within them in the evil desires springing in their hearts and allowed the right reason, which belongs to our kind, to fall under the spell of false ideas from another source.
All the natural Loves, all that serve the ends of Nature, are good; in a lesser Soul, inferior in rank and in scope; in the greater Soul, superior; but all belong to the order of Being. Those forms of Love that do not serve the purposes of Nature are merely accidents attending on perversion: in no sense are they Real-Beings or even manifestations of any Reality; for they are no true issue of Soul; they are merely accompaniments of a spiritual flaw which the Soul automatically exhibits in the total of disposition and conduct.
In a word; all that is truly good in a Soul acting to the purposes of nature and within its appointed order, all this is Real-Being: anything else is alien, no act of the Soul, but merely something that happens to it: a parallel may be found in false mentation, notions behind which there is no reality as there is in the case of authentic ideas, the eternal, the strictly defined, in which there is at once an act of true knowing, a truly knowable object and authentic existence—and this not merely in the Absolute, but also in the particular being that is occupied by the authentically knowable and by the Intellectual-Principle manifest in every several form.
In each particular human being we must admit the existence of the authentic Intellective Act and of the authentically knowable object—though not as wholly merged into our being, since we are not these in the absolute and not exclusively these—and hence our longing for absolute things: it is the expression of our intellective activities: if we sometimes care for the partial, that affection is not direct but accidental, like our knowledge that a given triangular figure is made up of two right angles because the absolute triangle is so.
But what are we to understand by this Zeus with the garden into which, we are told, Poros or Wealth entered? And what is the garden?
We have seen that the Aphrodite of the Myth is the Soul and that Poros, Wealth, is the Reason-Principle of the Universe: we have still to explain Zeus and his garden.
We cannot take Zeus to be the Soul, which we have agreed is represented by Aphrodite.
Plato, who must be our guide in this question, speaks in the Phaedrus of this God, Zeus, as the Great Leader—though elsewhere he seems to rank him as one of three—but in the Philebus he speaks more plainly when he says that there is in Zeus not only a royal Soul, but also a royal Intellect.
As a mighty Intellect and Soul, he must be a principle of Cause; he must be the highest for several reasons but especially because to be King and Leader is to be the chief cause: Zeus then is the Intellectual Principle. Aphrodite, his daughter, issue of him, dwelling with him, will be Soul, her very name Aphrodite (=the habra, delicate) indicating the beauty and gleam and innocence and delicate grace of the Soul.
And if we take the male gods to represent the Intellectual Powers and the female gods to be their souls—to every Intellectual Principle its companion Soul—we are forced, thus also, to make Aphrodite the Soul of Zeus; and the identification is confirmed by Priests and Theologians who consider Aphrodite and Hera one and the same and call Aphrodite’s star (“Venus”) the star of Hera.
This Poros, Possession, then, is the Reason-Principle of all that exists in the Intellectual Realm and in the supreme Intellect; but being more diffused, kneaded out as it were, it must touch Soul, be in Soul, (as the next lower principle).
For, all that lies gathered in the Intellect is native to it: nothing enters from without; but “Poros intoxicated” is some Power deriving satisfaction outside itself: what, then, can we understand by this member of the Supreme filled with Nectar but a Reason-Principle falling from a loftier essence to a lower? This means that the Reason-Principle upon “the birth of Aphrodite” left the Intellectual for the Soul, breaking into the garden of Zeus.
A garden is a place of beauty and a glory of wealth: all the loveliness that Zeus maintains takes its splendour from the Reason-Principle within him; for all this beauty is the radiation of the Divine Intellect upon the Divine Soul, which it has penetrated. What could the Garden of Zeus indicate but the images of his Being and the splendours of his glory? And what could these divine splendours and beauties be but the Ideas streaming from him?
These Reason-Principles—this Poros who is the lavishness, the abundance of Beauty—are at one and are made manifest; this is the Nectar-drunkenness. For the Nectar of the gods can be no other than what the god-nature essentially demands; and this is the Reason pouring down from the divine Mind.
The Intellectual Principle possesses Itself to satiety, but there is no “drunken” abandonment in this possession which brings nothing alien to it. But the Reason-Principle—as its offspring, a later hypostasis—is already a separate Being and established in another Realm, and so is said to lie in the garden of this Zeus who is divine Mind; and this lying in the garden takes place at the moment when, in our way of speaking, Aphrodite enters the realm of Being.
“Our way of speaking”—for myths, if they are to serve their purpose, must necessarily import time-distinctions into their subject and will often present as separate, Powers which exist in unity but differ in rank and faculty; they will relate the births of the unbegotten and discriminate where all is one substance; the truth is conveyed in the only manner possible, it is left to our good sense to bring all together again.
On this principle we have, here, Soul (successively) dwelling with the divine Intelligence, breaking away from it, and yet again being filled to satiety with the divine Ideas—the beautiful abounding in all plenty, so that every splendour become manifest in it with the images of whatever is lovely—Soul which, taken as one all, is Aphrodite, while in it may be distinguished the Reason-Principles summed under the names of Plenty and Possession, produced by the downflow of the Nectar of the over realm. The splendours contained in Soul are thought of as the garden of Zeus with reference to their existing within Life; and Poros sleeps in this garden in the sense of being sated and heavy with its produce. Life is eternally manifest, an eternal existent among the existences, and the banqueting of the gods means no more than that they have their Being in that vital blessedness. And Love—“born at the banquet of the gods”—has of necessity been eternally in existence, for it springs from the intention of the Soul towards its Best, towards the Good; as long as Soul has been, Love has been.
Still this Love is of mixed quality. On the one hand there is in it the lack which keeps it craving: on the other, it is not entirely destitute; the deficient seeks more of what it has, and certainly nothing absolutely void of good would ever go seeking the good.
It is said then to spring from Poverty and Possession in the sense that Lack and Aspiration and the Memory of the Ideal Principles, all present together in the Soul, produce that Act towards The Good which is Love. Its Mother is Poverty, since striving is for the needy; and this Poverty is Matter, for Matter is the wholly poor: the very ambition towards the good is a sign of existing indetermination; there is a lack of shape and of Reason in that which must aspire towards the Good, and the greater degree of effort implies the lower depth of materiality. A thing aspiring towards the Good is an Ideal-principle only when the striving (with attainment) will leave it still unchanged in Kind: when it must take in something other than itself, its aspiration is the presentment of Matter to the incoming power.
Thus Love is at once, in some degree a thing of Matter and at the same time a Celestial, sprung of the Soul; for Love lacks its Good but, from its very birth, strives towards It.
In our theory, feelings are not states; they are action upon experience, action accompanied by judgment: the states, we hold, are seated elsewhere; they may be referred to the vitalised body; the judgment resides in the Soul, and is distinct from the state—for, if it is not distinct, another judgment is demanded, one that is distinct, and, so, we may be sent back for ever.
Still, this leaves it undecided whether in the act of judgment the judging faculty does or does not take to itself something of its object.
If (as is sometimes asserted) the judging faculty does actually receive an imprint, then it partakes of the state—though what are called the Impressions may be of quite another nature than is supposed; they may be like Thought, that is to say they may be acts rather than states; there may be, here too, awareness without participation.
For ourselves, it could never be in our system—or in our liking—to bring the Soul down to participation in such modes and modifications as the warmth and cold of material frames.
What is known as the Impressionable faculty of the soul—to pathetikon—would need to be identified: we must satisfy ourselves as to whether this too, like the Soul as a unity, is to be classed as immune or, on the contrary, as precisely the only part susceptible of being affected; this question, however, may be held over; we proceed to examine its preliminaries.
Even in the superior phase of the Soul—that which precedes the impressionable faculty and any sensation—how can we reconcile immunity with the indwelling of vice, false notions, ignorance? Inviolability; and yet likings and dislikings, the Soul enjoying, grieving, angry, grudging, envying, desiring, never at peace but stirring and shifting with everything that confronts it!
If the Soul were material and had magnitude, it would be difficult, indeed quite impossible, to make it appear to be immune, unchangeable, when any of such emotions lodge in it. And even considering it as an Authentic Being, devoid of magnitude and necessarily indestructible, we must be very careful how we attribute any such experiences to it or we will find ourselves unconsciously making it subject to dissolution. If its essence is a Number or as we hold a Reason-Principle, under neither head could it be susceptible of feeling. We can think, only, that it entertains unreasoned reasons and experiences unexperienced, all transmuted from the material frames, foreign and recognised only by parallel, so that it possesses in a kind of non-possession and knows affection without being affected. How this can be demands enquiry.
Let us begin with virtue and vice in the Soul. What has really occurred when, as we say, vice is present? In speaking of extirpating evil and implanting goodness, of introducing order and beauty to replace a former ugliness, we talk in terms of real things in the Soul.
Now when we make virtue a harmony, and vice a breach of harmony, we accept an opinion approved by the ancients; and the theory helps us decidedly to our solution. For if virtue is simply a natural concordance among the phases of the Soul, and vice simply a discord, then there is no further question of any foreign presence; harmony would be the result of every distinct phase or faculty joining in, true to itself; discord would mean that not all chimed in at their best and truest. Consider, for example, the performers in a choral dance; they sing together though each one has his particular part, and sometimes one voice is heard while the others are silent; and each brings to the chorus something of his own; it is not enough that all lift their voices together; each must sing, choicely, his own part to the music set for him. Exactly so in the case of the Soul; there will be harmony when each faculty performs its appropriate part.
Yes: but this very harmony constituting the virtue of the Soul must depend upon a previous virtue, that of each several faculty within itself; and before there can be the vice of discord there must be the vice of the single parts, and these can be bad only by the actual presence of vice as they can be good only by the presence of virtue. It is true that no presence is affirmed when vice is identified with ignorance in the reasoning faculty of the Soul; ignorance is not a positive thing; but in the presence of false judgments—the main cause of vice—must it not be admitted that something positive has entered into the Soul, something perverting the reasoning faculty? So, the initiative faculty; is it not, itself, altered as one varies between timidity and boldness? And the desiring faculty, similarly, as it runs wild or accepts control?
Our teaching is that when the particular faculty is sound it performs the reasonable act of its essential nature, obeying the reasoning faculty in it which derives from the Intellectual Principle and communicates to the rest. And this following of reason is not the acceptance of an imposed shape; it is like using the eyes; the Soul sees by its act, that of looking towards reason. The faculty of sight in the performance of its act is essentially what it was when it lay latent; its act is not a change in it, but simply its entering into the relation that belongs to its essential character; it knows—that is, sees—without suffering any change: so, precisely, the reasoning phase of the Soul stands towards the Intellectual Principle; this it sees by its very essence; this vision is its knowing faculty; it takes in no stamp, no impression; all that enters it is the object of vision—possessed, once more, without possession; it possesses by the fact of knowing but “without possession” in the sense that there is no incorporation of anything left behind by the object of vision, like the impression of the seal on sealing-wax.
And note that we do not appeal to stored-up impressions to account for memory: we think of the mind awakening its powers in such a way as to possess something not present to it.
Very good: but is it not different before and after acquiring the memory?
Be it so; but it has suffered no change—unless we are to think of the mere progress from latency to actuality as change—nothing has been introduced into the mind; it has simply achieved the Act dictated by its nature.
It is universally true that the characteristic Act of immaterial entities is performed without any change in them—otherwise they would at last be worn away—theirs is the Act of the unmoving; where act means suffering change, there is Matter: an immaterial Being would have no ground of permanence if its very Act changed it.
Thus in the case of Sight, the seeing faculty is in act but the material organ alone suffers change: judgements, (true or false, are not changes within the Soul; they) are similar to visual experiences.
But how explain the alternation of timidity and daring in the initiative faculty?
Timidity would come by the failure to look towards the Reason-Principle or by looking towards some inferior phase of it or by some defect in the organs of action—some lack or flaw in the bodily equipment—or by outside prevention of the natural act or by the mere absence of adequate stimulus: boldness would arise from the reverse conditions: neither implies any change, or even any experience, in the Soul.
So with the faculty of desire: what we call loose living is caused by its acting unaccompanied; it has done all of itself; the other faculties, whose business it is to make their presence felt in control and to point the right way, have lain in abeyance; the Seer in the Soul was occupied elsewhere, for, though not always at least sometimes, it has leisure for a certain degree of contemplation of other concerns.
Often, moreover, the vice of the desiring faculty will be merely some ill condition of the body, and its virtue, bodily soundness; thus there would again be no question of anything imported into the Soul.
But how do we explain likings and aversions? Sorrow, too, and anger and pleasure, desire and fear—are these not changes, affectings, present and stirring within the Soul?
This question cannot be ignored. To deny that changes take place and are intensely felt is in sharp contradiction to obvious facts. But, while we recognise this, we must make very sure what it is that changes. To represent the Soul or Mind as being the seat of these emotions is not far removed from making it blush or turn pale; it is to forget that while the Soul or Mind is the means, the effect takes place in the distinct organism, the animated body.
At the idea of disgrace, the shame is in the Soul; but the body is occupied by the Soul—not to trouble about words—is, at any rate, close to it and very different from soulless matter; and so, is affected in the blood, mobile in its nature. Fear begins in the mind; the pallor is simply the withdrawal of the blood inwards. So in pleasure, the elation is mental, but makes itself felt in the body; the purely mental phase has not reached the point of sensation: the same is true of pain. So desire is ignored in the Soul where the impulse takes its rise; what comes outward thence, the Sensibility knows.
When we speak of the Soul or Mind being moved—as in desire, reasoning, judging—we do not mean that it is driven into its act; these movements are its own acts.
In the same way when we call Life a movement we have no idea of a changing substance; the naturally appropriate act of each member of the living thing makes up the Life, which is, therefore, not a shifting thing.
To bring the matter to the point: put it that life, tendency, are no changements; that memories are not forms stamped upon the mind, that notions are not of the nature of impressions on sealing-wax; we thence draw the general conclusion that in all such states and movements the Soul, or Mind, is unchanged in substance and in essence, that virtue and vice are not something imported into the Soul—as heat and cold, blackness or whiteness are importations into body—but that, in all this relation, matter and spirit are exactly and comprehensively contraries.
We have, however, still to examine what is called the affective phase of the Soul. This has, no doubt, been touched upon above where we dealt with the passions in general as grouped about the initiative phase of the Soul and the desiring faculty in its effort to shape things to its choice: but more is required; we must begin by forming a clear idea of what is meant by this affective faculty of the Soul.
In general terms it means the centre about which we recognise the affections to be grouped; and by affections we mean those states upon which follow pleasure and pain.
Now among these affections we must distinguish. Some are pivoted upon judgements; thus, a Man judging his death to be at hand may feel fear; foreseeing some fortunate turn of events, he is happy: the opinion lies in one sphere; the affection is stirred in another. Sometimes the affections take the lead and automatically bring in the notion which thus becomes present to the appropriate faculty: but as we have explained, an act of opinion does not introduce any change into the Soul or Mind: what happens is that from the notion of some impending evil is produced the quite separate thing, fear, and this fear, in turn, becomes known in that part of the Mind which is said under such circumstances to harbour fear.
But what is the action of this fear upon the Mind?
The general answer is that it sets up trouble and confusion before an evil anticipated. It should, however, be quite clear that the Soul or Mind is the seat of all imaginative representation—both the higher representation known as opinion or judgement and the lower representation which is not so much a judgement as a vague notion unattended by discrimination, something resembling the action by which, as is believed, the “Nature” of common speech produces, unconsciously, the objects of the partial sphere. It is equally certain that in all that follows upon the mental act or state, the disturbance, confined to the body, belongs to the sense-order; trembling, pallor, inability to speak, have obviously nothing to do with the spiritual portion of the being. The Soul, in fact, would have to be described as corporeal if it were the seat of such symptoms: besides, in that case the trouble would not even reach the body since the only transmitting principle, oppressed by sensation, jarred out of itself, would be inhibited.
None the less, there is an affective phase of the Soul or Mind and this is not corporeal; it can be, only, some kind of Ideal-form.
Now Matter is the one field of the desiring faculty, as of the principles of nutrition growth and engendering, which are root and spring to desire and to every other affection known to this Ideal-form. No Ideal-form can be the victim of disturbance or be in any way affected: it remains in tranquillity; only the Matter associated with it can be affected by any state or experience induced by the movement which its mere presence suffices to set up. Thus the vegetal Principle induces vegetal life but it does not, itself, pass through the processes of vegetation; it gives growth but it does not grow; in no movement which it originates is it moved with the motion it induces; it is in perfect repose, or, at least, its movement, really its act, is utterly different from what it causes elsewhere.
The nature of an Ideal-form is to be, of itself, an activity; it operates by its mere presence: it is as if Melody itself plucked the strings. The affective phase of the Soul or Mind will be the operative cause of all affection; it originates the movement either under the stimulus of some sense-presentment or independently—and it is a question to be examined whether the judgement leading to the movement operates from above or not—but the affective phase itself remains unmoved like Melody dictating music. The causes originating the movement may be likened to the musician; what is moved is like the strings of his instrument, and, once more, the Melodic Principle itself is not affected, but only the strings, though, however much the musician desired it, he could not pluck the strings except under dictation from the principle of Melody.
But why have we to call in Philosophy to make the Soul immune if it is thus (like the Melodic Principle of our illustration) immune from the beginning?
Because representations attack it at what we call the affective phase and cause a resulting experience, a disturbance, to which disturbance is joined the image of threatened evil: this amounts to an affection and Reason seeks to extinguish it, to ban it as destructive to the well-being of the Soul which by the mere absence of such a condition is immune, the one possible cause of affection not being present.
Take it that some such affections have engendered appearances presented before the Soul or Mind from without but taken (for practical purposes) to be actual experiences within it—then Philosophy’s task is like that of a man who wishes to throw off the shapes presented in dreams, and to this end recalls to waking condition the mind that is breeding them.
But what can be meant by the purification of a Soul that has never been stained and by the separation of the Soul from a body to which it is essentially a stranger?
The purification of the Soul is simply to allow it to be alone; it is pure when it keeps no company; when it looks to nothing without itself; when it entertains no alien thoughts—be the mode or origin of such notions or affections what they may, a subject on which we have already touched—when it no longer sees in the world of image, much less elaborates images into veritable affections. Is it not a true purification to turn away towards the exact contrary of earthly things?
Separation, in the same way, is the condition of a soul no longer entering into the body to lie at its mercy; it is to stand as a light, set in the midst of trouble but unperturbed through all.
In the particular case of the affective phase of the Soul, purification is its awakening from the baseless visions which beset it, the refusal to see them; its separation consists in limiting its descent towards the lower and accepting no picture thence, and of course in the banning for its part too of all which the higher Soul ignores when it has arisen from the trouble storm and is no longer bound to the flesh by the chains of sensuality and of multiplicity but has subdued to itself the body and its entire surrounding so that it holds sovereignity, tranquilly, over all.
That the Intellectual Essence, wholly of the order of Ideal-form, must be taken as impassive has been already established.
But Matter also is an incorporeal, though after a mode of its own; we must examine, therefore, how this stands, whether it is passive, as is commonly held, a thing that can be twisted to every shape and Kind, or whether it too must be considered impassive and in what sense and fashion so. But in engaging this question and defining the nature of matter we must correct certain prevailing errors about the nature of the Authentic Existent, about Essence, about Being.
The Existent—rightly so called—is that which has authentic existence, that, therefore, which is existent completely, and therefore again, that which at no point fails in existence. Having existence perfectly, it needs nothing to preserve it in being; it is, on the contrary, the source and cause from which all that appears to exist derives that appearance. This admitted, it must of necessity be in life, in a perfect life: if it failed it would be more nearly the non-existent than the existent. But: The Being thus indicated is Intellect, is wisdom unalloyed. It is, therefore, determined and rounded off; it is nothing potentially that is not of the same determined order, otherwise (that is if it contained even potentially the undetermined) it would be in default.
Hence its eternity, its identity, its utter irreceptivity and impermeability. If it took in anything, it must be taking in something outside itself, that is to say, Existence would at last include non-existence. But it must be Authentic Existence all through; it must, therefore, present itself equipped from its own stores with all that makes up Existence so that all stands together and all is one thing. The Existent (Real Being) must have thus much of determination: if it had not, then it could not be the source of the Intellectual Principle and of Life which would be importations into it originating in the sphere of non-Being; and Real Being would be lifeless and mindless; but mindlessness and lifelessness are the characteristics of non-being and must belong to the lower order, to the outer borders of the existent; for Intellect and Life rise from the Beyond-Existence (the Indefinable Supreme)—though Itself has no need of them—and are conveyed from It into the Authentic Existent.
If we have thus rightly described the Authentic Existent, we see that it can not be any kind of body nor the under-stuff of body: in such entities the Being is simply the existing of things outside of Being.
But body, a non-existence? Matter, on which all this universe rises, a non-existence? Mountain and rock, the wide solid earth, all that resists, all that can be struck and driven, surely all proclaims the real existence of the corporeal? And how, it will be asked, can we, on the contrary, attribute Being, and the only Authentic Being, to entities like Soul and Intellect, things having no weight or pressure, yielding to no force, offering no resistance, things not even visible?
Yet even the corporeal realm witnesses for us; the resting earth has certainly a scantier share in Being than belongs to what has more motion and less solidity—and less than belongs to its own most upward element, for fire begins, already, to flit up and away outside of the body-kind.
In fact, it appears to be precisely the most self-sufficing that bear least hardly, least painfully, on other things, while the heaviest and earthiest bodies—deficient, falling, unable to bear themselves upward—these, by the very down-thrust due to their feebleness, offer the resistance which belongs to the falling habit and to the lack of buoyancy. It is lifeless objects that deal the severest blows; they hit hardest and hurt most; where there is life—that is to say participation in Being—there is beneficence towards the environment, all the greater as the measure of Being is fuller.
Again, Movement, which is a sort of life within bodies, an imitation of true Life, is the more decided where there is the least of body—a sign that the waning of Being makes the object affected more distinctly corporeal.
The changes known as affections show even more clearly that where the bodily quality is most pronounced susceptibility is at its intensest—earth more susceptible than other elements, and these others again more or less so in the degree of their corporeality: sever the other elements and, failing some preventive force, they join again; but earthy matter divided remains apart indefinitely. Things whose nature represents a diminishment have no power of recuperation after even a slight disturbance and they perish; thus what has most definitely become body, having most closely approximated to non-being lacks the strength to reknit its unity: the heavy and violent crash of body against body works destruction, and weak is powerful against weak, non-being against its like.
Thus far we have been meeting those who, on the evidence of thrust and resistance, identify body with real being and find assurance of truth in the phantasms that reach us through the senses, those, in a word, who, like dreamers, take for actualities the figments of their sleeping vision. The sphere of sense, the Soul in its slumber; for all of the Soul that is in body is asleep and the true getting-up is not bodily but from the body: in any movement that takes the body with it there is no more than a passage from sleep to sleep, from bed to bed; the veritable waking or rising is from corporeal things; for these, belonging to the Kind directly opposed to Soul, present to it what is directly opposed to its essential existence: their origin, their flux, and their perishing are the warning of their exclusion from the Kind whose Being is Authentic.
We are thus brought back to the nature of that underlying matter and the things believed to be based upon it; investigation will show us that Matter has no reality and is not capable of being affected.
Matter must be bodiless—for body is a later production, a compound made by Matter in conjunction with some other entity. Thus it is included among incorporeal things in the sense that body is something that is neither Real-Being nor Matter.
Matter is not Soul; it is not Intellect, is not Life, is no Ideal-Principle, no Reason-Principle; it is no limit or bound, for it is mere indetermination; it is not a power, for what does it produce?
It lives on the farther side of all these categories and so has no title to the name of Being. It will be more plausibly called a non-being, and this in the sense not of movement (away from Being) or station (in Not-Being) but of veritable Not-Being, so that it is no more than the image and phantasm of Mass, a bare aspiration towards substantial existence; it is stationary but not in the sense of having position, it is in itself invisible, eluding all effort to observe it, present where no one can look, unseen for all our gazing, ceaselessly presenting contraries in the things based upon it; it is large and small, more and less, deficient and excessive; a phantasm unabiding and yet unable to withdraw—not even strong enough to withdraw, so utterly has it failed to accept strength from the Intellectual Principle, so absolute its lack of all Being.
Its every utterance, therefore, is a lie; it pretends to be great and it is little, to be more and it is less; and the Existence with which it masks itself is no Existence, but a passing trick making trickery of all that seems to be present in it, phantasms within a phantasm; it is like a mirror showing things as in itself when they are really elsewhere, filled in appearance but actually empty, containing nothing, pretending everything. Into it and out of it move mimicries of the Authentic Existents, images playing upon an image devoid of Form, visible against it by its very formlessness; they seem to modify it but in reality effect nothing, for they are ghostly and feeble, have no thrust and meet none in Matter either; they pass through it leaving no cleavage, as through water; or they might be compared to shapes projected so as to make some appearance upon what we can know only as the Void.
Further: if visible objects were of the rank of the originals from which they have entered into Matter we might believe Matter to be really affected by them, for we might credit them with some share of the power inherent in their Senders: but the objects of our experiences are of very different virtue than the realities they represent, and we deduce that the seeming modification of matter by visible things is unreal since the visible thing itself is unreal, having at no point any similarity with its source and cause. Feeble, in itself, a false thing and projected upon a falsity, like an image in dream or against water or on a mirror, it can but leave Matter unaffected; and even this is saying too little, for water and mirror do give back a faithful image of what presents itself before them.
It is a general principle that, to be modified, an object must be opposed in faculty, and in quality to the forces that enter and act upon it.
Thus where heat is present, the change comes by something that chills, where damp by some drying agency: we say a subject is modified when from warm it becomes cold, from dry wet.
A further evidence is in our speaking of a fire being burned out, when it has passed over into another element; we do not say that the Matter has been burned out: in other words, modification affects what is subject to dissolution; the acceptance of modification is the path towards dissolution; susceptibility to modification and susceptibility to dissolution go necessarily together. But Matter can never be dissolved. What into? By what process?
Still:—Matter harbours heat, cold, qualities beyond all count; by these it is differentiated; it holds them as if they were of its very substance and they blend within it—since no quality is found isolated to itself—Matter lies there as the meeting ground of all these qualities with their changes as they act and react in the blend: how, then, can it fail to be modified in keeping? The only escape would be to declare Matter utterly and for ever apart from the qualities it exhibits; but the very notion of Substance implies that any and every thing present in it has some action upon it.
In answer:—It must, first, be noted that there are a variety of modes in which an object may be said to be present to another or to exist in another. There is a “presence” which acts by changing the object—for good or for ill—as we see in the case of bodies, especially where there is life. But there is also a “presence” which acts, towards good or ill, with no modification of the object, as we have indicated in the case of the Soul. Then there is the case represented by the stamping of a design upon wax, where the “presence” of the added pattern causes no modification in the substance nor does its obliteration diminish it. And there is the example of Light whose presence does not even bring change of pattern to the object illuminated. A stone becoming cold does not change its nature in the process; it remains the stone it was. A drawing does not cease to be a drawing for being coloured.
The intermediary mass on which these surface changes appear is certainly not transmuted by them; but might there not be a modification of the underlying Matter?
No: it is impossible to think of Matter being modified by, for instance, colour—for, of course we must not talk of modification when there is no more than a presence, or at most a presenting of shape.
Mirrors and transparent objects, even more, offer a close parallel; they are quite unaffected by what is seen in or through them: material things are reflections, and the Matter on which they appear is further from being affected than is a mirror. Heat and cold are present in Matter, but the Matter itself suffers no change of temperature: growing hot and growing cold have to do only with quality; a quality enters and brings the impassible Substance under a new state—though, by the way, research into nature may show that cold is nothing positive but an absence, a mere negation. The qualities come together into Matter, but in most cases they can have no action upon each other; certainly there can be none between those of unlike scope: what effect, for example, could fragrance have on sweetness or the colour-quality on the quality of form, any quality on another of some unrelated order? The illustration of the mirror may well indicate to us that a given substratum may contain something quite distinct from itself—even something standing to it as a direct contrary—and yet remain entirely unaffected by what is thus present to it or merged into it.
A thing can be hurt only by something related to it, and similarly things are not changed or modified by any chance presence: modification comes by contrary acting upon contrary; things merely different leave each other as they were. Such modification by a direct contrary can obviously not occur in an order of things to which there is no contrary: Matter, therefore (the mere absence of Reality) cannot be modified: any modification that takes place can occur only in some compound of Matter and reality, or, speaking generally, in some agglomeration of actual things. The Matter itself—isolated, quite apart from all else, utterly simplex—must remain immune, untouched in the midst of all the interacting agencies; just as when people fight within their four walls, the house and the air in it remain without part in the turmoil.
We may take it, then, that while all the qualities and entities that appear upon Matter group to produce each the effect belonging to its nature, yet Matter itself remains immune, even more definitely immune than any of those qualities entering into it which, not being contraries, are not affected by each other.
Further:—If Matter were susceptible of modification, it must acquire something by the incoming of the new state; it will either adopt that state, or, at least, it will be in some way different from what it was. Now upon this first incoming quality suppose a second to supervene; the recipient is no longer Matter but a modification of Matter: this second quality, perhaps, departs but it has acted and therefore leaves something of itself after it; the substratum is still further altered. This process proceeding, the substratum ends by becoming something quite different from Matter; it becomes a thing settled in many modes and many shapes; at once it is debarred from being the all-recipient; it will have closed the entry against many incomers. In other words, the Matter is no longer there: Matter is destructible.
No: if there is to be a Matter at all, it must be always identically as it has been from the beginning: to speak of Matter as changing is to speak of it as not being Matter.
Another consideration: it is a general principle that a thing changing must remain within its constitutive Idea so that the alteration is only in the accidents and not in the essential thing; the changing object must retain this fundamental permanence, and the permanent substance cannot be the member of it which accepts modification.
Therefore there are only two possibilities: the first, that Matter itself changes and so ceases to be itself, the second that it never ceases to be itself and therefore never changes.
We may be answered that it does not change in its character as Matter: but no one could tell us in what other character it changes; and we have the admission that the Matter in itself is not subject to change.
Just as the Ideal Principles stand immutably in their essence—which consists precisely in their permanence—so, since the essence of Matter consists in its being Matter (the substratum to all material things) it must be permanent in this character; because it is Matter, it is immutable. In the Intellectual realm we have the immutable Idea; here we have Matter, itself similarly immutable.
I think, in fact, that Plato had this in mind where he justly speaks of the Images of Real Existents “entering and passing out”: these particular words are not used idly: he wishes us to grasp the precise nature of the relation between Matter and the Ideas.
The difficulty on this point is not really that which presented itself to most of our predecessors—how the Ideas enter into Matter—it is rather the mode of their presence in it.
It is in fact strange at sight that Matter should remain itself intact, unaffected by Ideal-forms present within it, especially seeing that these are affected by each other. It is surprising, too, that the entrant Forms should regularly expel preceding shapes and qualities, and that the modification (which cannot touch Matter) should affect what is a compound (of Idea with Matter) and this, again, not at haphazard but precisely where there is need of the incoming or outgoing of some certain Ideal-form, the compound being deficient through the absence of a particular principle whose presence will complete it.
But the reason is that the fundamental nature of Matter can take no increase by anything entering it, and no decrease by any withdrawal: what from the beginning it was, it remains. It is not like those things whose lack is merely that of arrangement and order which can be supplied without change of substance as when we dress or decorate something bare or ugly.
But where the bringing to order must cut through to the very nature, the base original must be transmuted: it can leave ugliness for beauty only by a change of substance. Matter, then, thus brought to order must lose its own nature in the supreme degree unless its baseness is an accidental: if it is base in the sense of being Baseness the Absolute, it could never participate in order, and if evil in the sense of being Evil the Absolute, it could never participate in good.
We conclude that Matter’s participation in Idea is not by way of modification within itself: the process is very different; it is a bare seeming. Perhaps we have here the solution of the difficulty as to how Matter, essentially evil, can be reaching towards The Good: there would be (in this “seeming”) no such participation as would destroy its essential nature. Given this mode of pseudo-participation—in which Matter would, as we say, retain its nature, unchanged, always being what it has essentially been—there is no longer any reason to wonder as to how, while essentially evil, it yet participates in Idea: for, by this mode, it does not abandon its own character: participation is the law, but it participates only just so far as its essence allows. Under a mode of participation which allows it to remain on its own footing, its essential nature stands none the less, whatsoever the Idea, within that limit, may communicate to it: it is by no means the less evil for remaining immutably in its own order. If it had authentic participation in The Good and were veritably changed, it would not be essentially evil.
In a word, when we call Matter evil we are right only if we mean that it is not amenable to modification by The Good; but that means simply that it is subject to no modification whatever.
This is Plato’s conception: to him participation does not, in the case of Matter, comport any such presence of an Ideal form in a Substance to be shaped by it as would produce one compound thing made up of the two elements changing at the same moment, merging into one another, modified each by the other.
In his haste to his purpose he raises many difficult questions, but he is determined to disown that view; he labours to indicate in what mode Matter can receive the Ideal-forms without being, itself, modified. The direct way is debarred since it is not easy to point to things actually present in a base and yet leaving that base unaffected: he therefore devises a metaphor for participation without modification (patternless wax, alone taking a clear impression) one which supports, also, his thesis that all appearing to the senses is void of substantial existence and that the region of mere seeming is vast.
Holding, as he does, that it is the patterns displayed upon Matter that cause all experience in living bodies while the Matter itself remains unaffected, he chooses this way of stating its immutability, leaving us to make out for ourselves that those very patterns impressed upon it do not comport any experience, any modification, in itself.
In the case, no doubt, of the living bodies that take one pattern or shape after having borne another, it might be said that there was a change, the variation of shape being made verbally equivalent to a real change: but since Matter is essentially without shape or magnitude, the appearing of shape upon it can by no freedom of phrase be described as a change within it. On this point if one must have “a rule for thick and thin” one may safely say that the underlying Kind contains nothing whatever in the mode commonly supposed.
But if we reject even the idea of its really containing at least the patterns upon it, how is it, in any sense, a recipient?
The answer is that in the metaphor cited we have some reasonably adequate indication of the impassibility of Matter coupled with the presence upon it of what may be described as images of things not present.
But we cannot leave the point of its impassibility without a warning against allowing ourselves to be deluded by sheer custom of speech.
Plato speaks of Matter as becoming dry, wet, inflamed, but we must remember the words that follow: “and taking the shape of air and of water”: this blunts the expressions “becoming wet, becoming inflamed”; once we have Matter thus admitting these shapes, we learn that it has not itself become a shaped thing but that the shapes remain distinct as they entered. We see, further, that the expression “becoming inflamed” is not to be taken strictly: it is rather a case of becoming fire. Becoming fire is very different from becoming inflamed which implies an outside agency and, therefore, susceptibility to modification. Matter, being itself a portion of fire, cannot be said to catch fire. To suggest that the fire not merely permeates the matter, but actually sets it on fire is like saying that a statue permeates its bronze (and “statufies” it).
Further, if what enters must be an Ideal-Principle how could it set Matter aflame? But what if it is a pattern or condition? No: the object set aflame is so in virtue of the combination of Matter and condition.
But how can this follow on the conjunction when no unity has been produced by the two?
Even if such a unity had been produced, it would be a unity of things not mutually sharing experiences but acting upon each other. And the question would then arise whether each was effective upon the other or whether the sole action was not that of one (the form) preventing the other (the Matter) from slipping away?
But (another difficulty) when any material thing is severed, must not the Matter be divided with it? Surely the bodily modification and other experience that have accompanied the sundering, must have occurred, identically, within the Matter?
This reasoning would force the destructibility of Matter upon us: “the body is dissolved; then the Matter is dissolved.” We would have to allow Matter to be a thing of quantity, a magnitude. But since it is not a magnitude it could not have the experiences that belong to magnitude and, on the larger scale, since it is not body it cannot know the experiences of body.
In fact those that declare Matter subject to modification may as well declare it body right out.
Further, they must explain in what sense they hold that Matter tends to slip away from its form (the Idea). Can we conceive it stealing out from stones and rocks or whatever else envelops it?
And of course they cannot pretend that Matter in some cases rebels and sometimes not. For if once it makes away of its own will, why should it not always escape? If it is fixed despite itself, it must be enveloped by some Ideal-Form for good and all. This, however, leaves still the question why a given portion of Matter does not remain constant to any one given form: the reason lies mainly in the fact that the Ideas are constantly passing into it.
In what sense, then, is it said to elude form?
By very nature and for ever?
But does not this precisely mean that it never ceases to be itself, in other words that its one form is an invincible formlessness? In no other sense has Plato’s dictum any value to those that invoke it.
Matter (we read) is “the receptacle and nurse of all generation.”
Now if Matter is such a receptacle and nurse, all generation is distinct from it; and since all the changeable lies in the realm of generation, Matter, existing before all generation, must exist before all change.
“Receptacle” and “nurse”; then it “retains its identity; it is not subject to modification. Similarly if it is” (as again we read) “the ground on which individual things appear and disappear,” and so, too, if it is a “place, a base.” Where Plato describes and identifies it as “a ground to the ideas” he is not attributing any state to it; he is probing after its distinctive manner of being.
And what is that?
This which we think of as a Nature-Kind cannot be included among Existents but must utterly rebel from the Essence of Real Beings and be therefore wholly something other than they—for they are Reason-Principles and possess Authentic Existence—it must inevitably, by virtue of that difference, retain its integrity to the point of being permanently closed against them and, more, of rejecting close participation in any image of them.
Only on these terms can it be completely different: once it took any Idea to hearth and home, it would become a new thing, for it would cease to be the thing apart, the ground of all else, the receptacle of absolutely any and every form. If there is to be a ceaseless coming into it and going out from it, itself must be unmoved and immune in all the come and go. The entrant Idea will enter as an image, the untrue entering the untruth.
But, at least, in a true entry?
No: How could there be a true entry into that which, by being falsity, is banned from ever touching truth?
Is this then a pseudo-entry into a pseudo-entity—something merely brought near, as faces enter the mirror, there to remain just as long as the people look into it?
Yes: if we eliminated the Authentic Existents from this Sphere nothing of all now seen in sense would appear one moment longer.
Here the mirror itself is seen, for it is itself an Ideal-Form of a Kind (has some degree of Real Being); but bare Matter, which is no Idea, is not a visible thing; if it were, it would have been visible in its own character before anything else appeared upon it. The condition of Matter may be illustrated by that of air penetrated by light and remaining, even so, unseen because it is invisible whatever happens.
The reflections in the mirror are not taken to be real, all the less since the appliance on which they appear is seen and remains while the images disappear, but Matter is not seen either with the images or without them. But suppose the reflections on the mirror remaining and the mirror itself not seen, we would never doubt the solid reality of all that appears.
If, then, there is, really, something in a mirror, we may suppose objects of sense to be in Matter in precisely that way: if in the mirror there is nothing, if there is only a seeming of something, then we may judge that in Matter there is the same delusion and that the seeming is to be traced to the Substantial-Existence of the Real-Beings, that Substantial-Existence in which the Authentic has the real participation while only an unreal participation can belong to the unauthentic since their condition must differ from that which they would know if the parts were reversed, if the Authentic Existents were not and they were.
But would this mean that if there were no Matter nothing would exist?
Precisely as in the absence of a mirror, or something of similar power, there would be no reflection.
A thing whose very nature is to be lodged in something else cannot exist where the base is lacking—and it is the character of a reflection to appear in something not itself.
Of course supposing anything to desert from the Authentic Beings, this would not need an alien base: but these Beings are not subject to flux, and therefore any outside manifestation of them implies something other than themselves, something offering a base to what never enters, something which by its presence, in its insistence, by its cry for help, in its beggardom, strives as it were by violence to acquire and is always disappointed so that its poverty is enduring, its cry unceasing.
This alien base exists and the myth represents it as a pauper to exhibit its nature, to show that Matter is destitute of The Good. The claimant does not ask for all the Giver’s store, but it welcomes whatever it can get; in other words, what appears in Matter is not Reality.
The name, too (Poverty), conveys that Matter’s need is never met. The union with Poros, Possession, is designed to show that Matter does not attain to Reality, to Plenitude, but to some bare sufficiency—in point of fact to imaging skill.
It is, of course, impossible that an outside thing belonging in any degree to Real-Being—whose Nature is to engender Real-Beings—should utterly fail of participation in Reality: but here we have something perplexing; we are dealing with utter Non-Being, absolutely without part in Reality; what is this participation by the non-participant, and how does mere neighbouring confer anything on that which by its own nature is precluded from any association?
The answer is that all that impinges upon this Non-Being is flung back as from a repelling substance; we may think of an Echo returned from a repercussive plane surface; it is precisely because of the lack of retention that the phenomenon is supposed to belong to that particular place and even to arise there.
If Matter were participant and received Reality to the extent which we are apt to imagine, it would be penetrated by a Reality thus sucked into its constitution. But we know that the Entrant is not thus absorbed: Matter remains as it was, taking nothing to itself: it is the check to the forthwelling of Authentic Existence; it is a ground that repels; it is a mere receptacle to the Realities as they take their common path (of emanation) and here meet and mingle. It resembles those reflecting vessels, filled with water, which are often set against the sun to produce fire: the heat rays—prevented, by their contrary within, from being absorbed are flung out as one mass.
It is in this sense and way that Matter becomes the cause of the generated realm; the combinations within it hold together only after some such reflective mode.
Now the objects attracting the sun-rays to themselves—illuminated by a fire of the sense-order—are necessarily of the sense-order; there is perceptibility because there has been a union of things at once external to each other and continuous, contiguous, in direct contact, two extremes in one line. But the Reason-Principle operating upon Matter is external to it only in a very different mode and sense: exteriority in this case is amply supplied by contrariety of essence and can dispense with any opposite ends (any question of lineal position); or, rather, the difference is one that actually debars any local extremity; sheer incongruity of essence, the utter failure in relationship, inhibits admixture (between Matter and any form of Being).
The reason, then, of the immutability of Matter is that the entrant principle neither possesses it nor is possessed by it. Consider, as an example, the mode in which an opinion or representation is present in the mind; there is no admixture; the notion that came goes in its time, still integrally itself alone, taking nothing with it, leaving nothing after it, because it has not been blended with the mind; there is no “outside” in the sense of contact broken, and the distinction between base and entrant is patent not to the senses but to the reason.
In that example, no doubt, the mental representation—though it seems to have a wide and unchecked control—is an image, while the Soul (Mind) is in its nature not an image (but a Reality): none the less the Soul or Mind certainly stands to the concept as Matter, or in some analogous relation. The representation, however, does not cover the Mind over; on the contrary it is often expelled by some activity there; however urgently it presses in, it never effects such an obliteration as to be taken for the Soul; it is confronted there by indwelling powers, by Reason-Principles, which repel all such attack.
Matter—feebler far than the Soul for any exercise of power, and possessing no phase of the Authentic Existents, not even in possession of its own falsity—lacks the very means of manifesting itself, utter void as it is; it becomes the means by which other things appear, but it cannot announce its own presence. Penetrating thought may arrive at it, discriminating it from Authentic Existence; then, it is discerned as something abandoned by all that really is, by even the dimmest semblants of being, as a thing dragged towards every shape and property and appearing to follow—yet in fact not even following.
An Ideal-Principle approaches and leads Matter towards some desired dimension, investing this non-existent underlie with a magnitude from itself which never becomes incorporate—for Matter, if it really incorporated magnitude, would be a mass.
Eliminate this Ideal-Form and the substratum ceases to be a thing of magnitude, or to appear so: the mass produced by the Idea was, let us suppose, a man or a horse; the horse-magnitude came upon the Matter when a horse was produced upon it; when the horse ceases to exist upon the Matter, the magnitude of the horse departs also. If we are told that the horse implies a certain determined bulk and that this bulk is a permanent thing, we answer that what is permanent in this case is not the magnitude of the horse but the magnitude of mass in general. That same Magnitude might be fire or earth; on their disappearance their particular magnitudes would disappear with them. Matter, then, can never take to itself either pattern or magnitude; if it did, it would no longer be able to turn from being fire, let us say, into being something else; it would become and be fire once for all.
In a word, though Matter is far extended—so vastly as to appear co-extensive with all this sense-known Universe—yet if the Heavens and their content came to an end, all magnitude would simultaneously pass from Matter with, beyond a doubt, all its other properties; it would be abandoned to its own Kind, retaining nothing of all that which, in its own peculiar mode, it had hitherto exhibited.
Where an entrant force can effect modification it will inevitably leave some trace upon its withdrawal; but where there can be no modification, nothing can be retained; light comes and goes, and the air is as it always was.
That a thing essentially devoid of magnitude should come to a certain size is no more astonishing than that a thing essentially devoid of heat should become warm: Matter’s essential existence is quite separate from its existing in bulk, since, of course, magnitude is an immaterial principle as pattern is. Besides, if we are not to reduce Matter to nothing, it must be all things by way of participation, and Magnitude is one of those all things.
In bodies, necessarily compounds, Magnitude—though not a determined Magnitude—must be present as one of the constituents; it is implied in the very notion of body; but Matter—not a Body—excludes even undetermined Magnitude.
Nor can we, on the other hand, think that matter is simply Absolute Magnitude.
Magnitude is not, like Matter, a receptacle; it is an Ideal-Principle: it is a thing standing apart to itself, not some definite Mass. The fact is that the self-gathered content of the Intellectual Principle or of the All-Soul, desires expansion (and thereby engenders secondaries): in its images—aspiring and moving towards it and eagerly imitating its act—is vested a similar power of reproducing their states in their own derivatives. The Magnitude latent in the expansive tendency of the Imagemaking phase (of Intellect or All-Soul) runs forth into the Absolute Magnitude of the Universe; this in turn enlists into the process the spurious magnitude of Matter: the content of the Supreme, thus, in virtue of its own prior extension enables Matter—which never possesses a content—to exhibit the appearance of Magnitude. It must be understood that spurious Magnitude consists in the fact that a thing (Matter) not possessing actual Magnitude strains towards it and has the extension of that straining. All that is Real Being gives forth a reflection of itself upon all else; every Reality, therefore, has Magnitude which by this process is communicated to the Universe.
The Magnitude inherent in each Ideal-Principle—that of a horse or of anything else—combines with Magnitude the Absolute with the result that, irradiated by that Absolute, Matter entire takes Magnitude and every particle of it becomes a mass; in this way, by virtue at once of the totality of Idea with its inherent magnitude and of each several specific Idea, all things appear under mass; Matter takes on what we conceive as extension; it is compelled to assume a relation to the All and, gathered under this Idea and under Mass, to be all things—in the degree in which the operating power can lead the really nothing to become all.
By the conditions of Manifestation, colour rises from non-colour (=from the colourless prototype of colour in the Ideal Realm). Quality, known by the one name with its parallel in the sphere of Primals, rises, similarly, from non-quality: in precisely the same mode, the Magnitude appearing upon Matter rises from non-Magnitude or from that Primal which is known to us by the same name; so that material things become visible through standing midway between bare underlie and Pure Idea. All is perceptible by virtue of this origin in the Intellectual Sphere but all is falsity since the base in which the manifestation takes place is a non-existent.
Particular entities thus attain their Magnitude through being drawn out by the power of the Existents which mirror themselves and make space for themselves in them. And no violence is required to draw them into all the diversity of Shapes and Kinds because the phenomenal All exists by Matter (by Matter’s essential all-receptivity) and because each several Idea, moreover, draws Matter its own way by the power stored within itself, the power it holds from the Intellectual Realm. Matter is manifested in this sphere as Mass by the fact that it mirrors the Absolute Magnitude; Magnitude here is the reflection in the mirror. The Ideas meet all of necessity in Matter (the Ultimate of the emanatory progress): and Matter, both as one total thing and in its entire scope, must submit itself, since (by definition) it is the Material of the entire Here, not of any one determined thing: what is, in its own character, no determined thing may become determined by an outside force—though, in becoming thus determined, it does not become the definite thing in question, for thus it would lose its own characteristic indetermination.
The Ideal Principle possessing the Intellection (=Idea, Noesis) of Magnitude—assuming that this Intellection is of such power as not merely to subsist within itself but to be urged outward as it were by the intensity of its life—will necessarily realise itself in a Kind (=Matter) not having its being in the Intellective Principle, not previously possessing the Idea of Magnitude or any trace of that Idea or any other.
What then will it produce (in this Matter) by virtue of that power?
Not horse or cow: these are the product of other Ideas.
No: this Principle comes from the source of Magnitude (= is primal “Magnitude”) and therefore Matter can have no extension, in which to harbour the Magnitude of the Principle, but can take in only its reflected appearance.
To the thing which does not enjoy Magnitude in the sense of having mass-extension in its own substance and parts, the only possibility is that it present some partial semblance of Magnitude, such as being continuous, not here and there and everywhere, that its parts be related within it and ungapped. An adequate reflection of a great mass cannot be produced in a small space—mere size prevents—but the greater, pursuing the hope of that full self-presentment, makes progress towards it and brings about a nearer approach to adequate mirroring in the parallel from which it can never withhold its radiation: thus it confers Magnitude upon that (=Matter) which has none and cannot even muster up the appearance of having any, and the visible resultant exhibits the Magnitude of mass.
Matter, then, wears Magnitude as a dress thrown about it by its association with that Absolute Magnitude to whose movement it must answer; but it does not, for that, change its Kind; if the Idea which has clothed it were to withdraw, it would once again be what it permanently is, what it is by its own strength, or it would have precisely the Magnitude lent to it by any other form that happens to be present in it.
The (Universal) Soul—containing the Ideal Principles of Real-Beings, and itself an Ideal Principle—includes all in concentration within itself, just as the Ideal Principle of each particular entity is complete and self-contained: it, therefore, sees these principles of sensible things because they are turned, as it were, towards it and advancing to it: but it cannot harbour them in their plurality, for it cannot depart from its Kind; it sees them, therefore, stripped of Mass. Matter, on the contrary, destitute of resisting power since it has no Act of its own and is a mere shadow, can but accept all that an active power may choose to send. In what is thus sent, from the Reason-Principle in the Intellectual Realm, there is already contained a degree of the partial object that is to be formed: in the image-making impulse within the Reason-Principle there is already a step (towards the lower manifestation) or we may put it that the downward movement from the Reason-Principle is a first form of the partial: utter absence of partition would mean no movement but (sterile) repose. Matter cannot be the home of all things in concentration as the Soul is: if it were so, it would belong to the Intellective Sphere. It must be (like the Soul) all-recipient but not in that partless mode. It is to be the Place of all things, and it must therefore extend universally, offer itself to all things, serve to all interval: thus it will be a thing unconfined to any moment (of space or time) but laid out in submission to all that is to be.
But would we not expect that some one particularised form should occupy Matter (at once) and so exclude such others as are not able to enter into combination?
No: for there is no first Idea—except the Ideal Principle of the Universe—and, by this Idea, Matter is (the seat of) all things at once and of the particular thing in its parts—for the Matter of a living being is disparted according to the specific parts of the organism: if there were no such partition nothing would exist but the Reason-Principle.
The Ideal Principles entering into Matter as to a Mother (to be “born into the Universe”) affect it neither for better nor for worse.
Their action is not upon Matter but upon each other; these powers conflict with their opponent principles, not with their substrata—which it would be foolish to confuse with the entrant forms—Heat (the Principle) annuls Cold, and Blackness annuls Whiteness; or, the opponents blend to form an intermediate quality. Only that is affected which enters into combinations: being affected is losing something of self-identity.
In beings of soul and body, the affection occurs in the body, modified according to the qualities and powers presiding at the act of change: in all such dissolution of constituent parts, in the new combinations, in all variation from the original structure, the affection is bodily, the Soul or Mind having no more than an accompanying knowledge of the more drastic changes, or perhaps not even that. (Body is modified: Mind knows) but the Matter concerned remains unaffected; heat enters, cold leaves it, and it is unchanged because neither Principle is associated with it as friend or enemy.
So the appellation “Recipient and Nurse” is the better description: Matter is the mother only in the sense indicated; it has no begetting power. But probably the term Mother is used by those who think of a Mother as Matter to the offspring, as a container only, giving nothing to them, the entire bodily frame of the child being formed out of food. But if this Mother (Matter) does give anything to the offspring it does so not in its quality as Matter but as being (in some degree) an Ideal-Form; for only the Idea is generative; the contrary Kind is sterile.
This, I think, is why the doctors of old, teaching through symbols and mystic representations, exhibit the ancient Hermes with the generative organ always in active posture; this is to convey that the generator of things of sense is the Intellectual Reason Principle: the sterility of Matter, eternally unmoved, is indicated by the eunuchs surrounding it in its representation as the All-Mother.
This too exalting title is conferred upon it in order to indicate that it is the source of things in the sense of being their underlie: it is an approximate name chosen for a general conception; there is no intention of suggesting a complete parallel with motherhood to those not satisfied with a surface impression but needing a precisely true presentment; by a remote symbolism, the nearest they could find, they indicate that Matter is sterile, not female to full effect, female in receptivity only, not in pregnancy: this they accomplish by exhibiting Matter as approached by what is neither female nor effectively male, but castrated of that impregnating power which belongs only to the unchangeably masculine.
Eternity and Time; two entirely separate things, we explain “the one having its being in the everlasting Kind, the other in the realm of Process, in our own Universe”; and, by continually using the words and assigning every phenomenon to the one or the other category, we come to think that, both by instinct and by the more detailed attack of thought, we hold an adequate experience of them in our minds without more ado.
When, perhaps, we make the effort to clarify our ideas and close into the heart of the matter we are at once unsettled: our doubts throw us back upon ancient explanations; we choose among the various theories, or among the various interpretations of some one theory, and so we come to rest, satisfied, if only we can counter a question with an approved answer, and glad to be absolved from further enquiry.
Now, we must believe that some of the venerable philosophers of old discovered the truth; but it is important to examine which of them really hit the mark and by what guiding principle we can ourselves attain to certitude.
What, then, does Eternity really mean to those who (thus casually) describe it as something different from Time? We begin with Eternity, since when the standing Exemplar is known, its representation in image—which Time is understood to be—will be clearly apprehended—though it is of course equally true, admitting this relationship of Time as image to Eternity the original, that if we chose to begin by identifying Time we could thence proceed upwards by Recognition (the Platonic Anamnesis) and become aware of the Kind which it images.
What definition are we to give of Eternity?
Can it be identified with the (divine or) Intellectual Substance itself?
This would be like identifying Time with the Universe of Heavens and Earth—an opinion, it is true, which appears to have had its adherents. No doubt we conceive, we know, Eternity as something most august; most august, too, is the Intellectual Kind; and there is no possibility of saying that the one is more majestic than the other, since no such degrees can be asserted in the Above-World; there is therefore a certain excuse for the identification—all the more since the Intellectual Substance and Eternity have the one scope and content.
Still; by the fact of representing the one as contained within the other, by making Eternity a predicate to the Intellectual Existents—“the Nature of the Exemplar,” we read, “is eternal”—we cancel the identification; Eternity becomes a separate thing, something surrounding that Nature or lying within it or present to it. And the majestic quality of both does not prove them identical: it might be transmitted from the one to the other. So, too, Eternity and the Divine Nature envelop the same entities, yes; but not in the same way: the Divine may be thought of as enveloping parts, Eternity as embracing its content in an unbroken whole, with no implication of part, but merely from the fact that all eternal things are so by conforming to it.
May we, perhaps, identify Eternity with Repose-There as Time has been identified with Movement-Here?
This would bring on the counter-question whether Eternity is presented to us as Repose in the general sense or as the Repose that envelops the Intellectual Essence.
On the first supposition we can no more talk of Repose being eternal than of Eternity being eternal: to be eternal is to participate in an outside thing, Eternity.
Further, if Eternity is Repose, what becomes of Eternal Movement, which, by this identification, would become a thing of Repose?
Again, the conception of Repose scarcely seems to include that of perpetuity—I am speaking of course not of perpetuity in the time-order (which might follow on absence of movement) but of that which we have in mind when we speak of Eternity.
If, on the other hand, Eternity is identified with the Repose of the divine Essence, all species outside of the divine are put outside of Eternity.
Besides, the conception of Eternity requires not merely Repose but also unity—and, in order to keep it distinct from Time, a unity including interval—but neither that unity nor that absence of interval enters into the conception of Repose as such.
Lastly, this unchangeable Repose in unity is a predicate asserted of Eternity, which, therefore, is not itself Repose, the absolute, but a participant in Repose.
What, then, can this be, this something in virtue of which we declare the entire divine Realm to be Eternal, everlasting? We must come to some understanding of this perpetuity with which Eternity is either identical or in conformity.
It must at once, be at once something in the nature of unity and yet a notion compact of diversity, or (more exactly) a Kind, a Nature, that waits upon the Existents of that Other World, either associated with them or known in and upon them, they collectively being this Nature which, with all its unity, is yet diverse in power and essence. Considering this multifarious power, we declare it to be Essence in its relation to this sphere which is substratum or underlie to it; where we see life we think of it as Movement; where all is unvaried self-identity we call it Repose; and we know it as, at once, Difference and Identity when we recognise that all is unity with variety.
Then we reconstruct; we sum all into a collected unity once more, a sole Life in the Supreme; we concentrate Diversity and all the endless production of act: thus we know Identity, a concept or, rather, a Life never varying, not becoming what previously it was not, the thing immutably itself, broken by no interval; and knowing this, we know Eternity.
We know it as a Life changelessly motionless and ever holding the Universal content (time, space and phenomena) in actual presence; not this now and now that other, but always all; not existing now in one mode and now in another, but a consummation without part or interval. All its content is in immediate concentration as at one point; nothing in it ever knows development: all remains identical within itself, knowing nothing of change, for ever in a Now since nothing of it has passed away or will come into being, but what it is now, that it is ever.
Eternity, therefore—while not the Substratum (not the essential foundation of the Divine or Intellectual Principle)—may be considered as the radiation of this Substratum: it exists as the announcement of the Identity in the Divine, of that state—of being thus and not otherwise—which characterises what has no futurity but eternally is.
What future, in fact, could bring to that Being anything which it now does not possess; and could it come to be anything which it is not once for all?
There exists no source or ground from which anything could make its way into that standing present; any imagined entrant will prove to be not alien but already integral. And as it can never come to be anything at present outside it, so, necessarily, it cannot include any past; what can there be that once was in it and now is gone? Futurity, similarly, is banned; nothing could be yet to come to it. Thus no ground is left for its existence but that it be what it is.
That which neither has been nor will be, but simply possesses being; that which enjoys stable existence as neither in process of change nor having ever changed—that is Eternity. Thus we come to the definition: the Life—instantaneously entire, complete, at no point broken into period or part—which belongs to the Authentic Existent by its very existence, this is the thing we were probing for—this is Eternity.
We must, however, avoid thinking of it as an accidental from outside grafted upon that Nature: it is native to it, integral to it.
It is discerned as present essentially in that Nature like everything else that we can predicate There—all immanent, springing from that Essence and inherent to that Essence. For whatsoever has primal Being must be immanent to the Firsts and be a First—Eternity equally with The Good that is among them and of them and equally with the truth that is among them.
In one aspect, no doubt, Eternity resides in a partial phase of the All-Being; but in another aspect it is inherent in the All taken as a totality, since that Authentic All is not a thing patched up out of external parts, but is authentically an all because its parts are engendered by itself. It is like the truthfulness in the Supreme which is not an agreement with some outside fact or being but is inherent in each member about which it is the truth. To an authentic All it is not enough that it be everything that exists: it must possess all-ness in the full sense that nothing whatever is absent from it. Then nothing is in store for it: if anything were to come, that thing must have been lacking to it, and it was, therefore, not All. And what, of a Nature contrary to its own, could enter into it when it is (the Supreme and therefore) immune? Since nothing can accrue to it, it cannot seek change or be changed or ever have made its way into Being.
Engendered things are in continuous process of acquisition; eliminate futurity, therefore, and at once they lose their being; if the non-engendered are made amenable to futurity they are thrown down from the seat of their existence, for, clearly, existence is not theirs by their nature if it appears only as a being about to be, a becoming, an advancing from stage to stage.
The essential existence of generated things seems to lie in their existing from the time of their generation to the ultimate of time after which they cease to be: but such an existence is compact of futurity, and the annulment of that futurity means the stopping of the life and therefore of the essential existence.
Such a stoppage would be true, also, of the (generated) All in so far as it is a thing of process and change: for this reason it keeps hastening towards its future, dreading to rest, seeking to draw Being to itself by a perpetual variety of production and action and by its circling in a sort of ambition after Essential Existence.
And here we have, incidentally, lighted upon the cause of the Circuit of the All; it is a movement which seeks perpetuity by way of futurity.
The Primals, on the contrary, in their state of blessedness have no such aspiration towards anything to come: they are the whole, now; what life may be thought of as their due, they possess entire; they, therefore, seek nothing, since there is nothing future to them, nothing external to them in which any futurity could find lodgement.
Thus the perfect and all-comprehensive essence of the Authentic Existent does not consist merely in the completeness inherent in its members; its essence includes, further, its established immunity from all lack with the exclusion, also, of all that is without Being—for not only must all things be contained in the All and Whole, but it can contain nothing that is, or was ever non-existent—and this State and Nature of the Authentic Existent is Eternity: in our very word, Eternity means Ever-Being (aion=aei on).
This Ever-Being is realised when upon examination of an object I am able to say—or rather, to know—that in its very Nature it is incapable of increment or change; anything that fails by that test is no Ever-Existent or, at least, no Ever-All-Existent.
But is perpetuity enough in itself to constitute an Eternal?
No: the object must, farther, include such a Nature-Principle as to give the assurance that the actual state excludes all future change, so that it is found at every observation as it always was.
Imagine, then, the state of a being which cannot fall away from the vision of this but is for ever caught to it, held by the spell of its grandeur, kept to it by virtue of a nature itself unfailing—or even the state of one that must labour towards Eternity by directed effort, but then to rest in it, immoveable at any point, assimilated to it, co-eternal with it, contemplating Eternity and the Eternal by what is Eternal within the self.
Accepting this as a true account of an eternal, a perdurable Existent—one which never turns to any Kind outside itself, that possesses life complete once for all, that has never received any accession, that is now receiving none and will never receive any—we have, with the statement of a perduring Being, the statement also of perdurance and of Eternity: perdurance is the corresponding state arising from the (divine) substratum and inherent in it; Eternity (the Principle as distinguished from the property of everlastingness) is that substratum carrying that state in manifestation.
Eternity, thus, is of the order of the supremely great; it proves on investigation to be identical with God: it may fitly be described as God made manifest, as God declaring what He is, as existence without jolt or change, and therefore as also the firmly living.
And it should be no shock that we find plurality in it; each of the Beings of the Supreme is multiple by virtue of unlimited force; for to be limitless implies failing at no point, and Eternity is pre-eminently the limitless since (having no past or future) it spends nothing of its own substance.
Thus a close enough definition of Eternity would be that it is a life limitless in the full sense of being all the life there is and a life which, knowing nothing of past or future to shatter its completeness, possesses itself intact for ever. To the notion of a Life (a Living-Principle) all-comprehensive add that it never spends itself, and we have the statement of a Life instantaneously infinite.
Now the Principle this stated, all good and beauty, and everlasting, is centred in The One, sprung from It, and pointed towards It, never straying from It, but ever holding about It and in It and living by Its law; and it is in this reference, as I judge, that Plato—finely, and by no means inadvertently but with profound intention—wrote those words of his “Eternity stable in Unity”; he wishes to convey that Eternity is not merely something circling on its traces into a final unity but has (instantaneous) Being about The One as the unchanging Life of the Authentic Existent. This is certainly what we have been seeking: this Principle, at rest within the One, is Eternity; possessing this stable quality, being itself at once the absolute self-identical and none the less the active manifestation of an unchanging Life set towards the Divine and dwelling within It, untrue, therefore, neither on the side of Being nor on the side of Life—this will be Eternity (the Real-Being we have sought).
Truly to be comports never lacking existence and never knowing variety in the mode of existence: Being is, therefore, self-identical throughout, and, therefore, again is one undistinguishable thing. Being can have no this and that; it cannot be treated in terms of intervals, unfoldings, progression, extension; there is no grasping any first or last in it.
If, then, there is no first or last in this Principle, if existence is its most authentic possession and its very self, and this in the sense that its existence is Essence or Life—then, once again, we meet here what we have been discussing, Eternity.
Observe that such words as “always, never, sometimes” must be taken as mere conveniences of exposition: thus “always”—used in the sense not of time but of incorruptibility and endlessly complete scope—might set up the false notion of stage and interval. We might perhaps prefer to speak of “Being,” without any attribute; but since this term is applicable to Essence and some writers have used the word Essence for things of process, we cannot convey our meaning to them without introducing some word carrying the notion of perdurance.
There is, of course, no difference between Being and Everlasting Being; just as there is none between a philosopher and a true philosopher: the attribute “true” came into use because there arose what masqueraded as philosophy; and for similar reasons “everlasting” was adjoined to “Being,” and “Being” to “everlasting,” and we have (the tautology of) “Everlasting Being.” We must take this “Everlasting” as expressing no more than Authentic Being: it is merely a partial expression of a potency which ignores all interval or term and can look forward to nothing by way of addition to the All which it possesses. The Principle of which this is the statement will be the All-Existent, and, as being all, can have no failing or deficiency, cannot be at some one point complete and at some other lacking.
Things and Beings in the Time order—even when to all appearance complete, as a body is when fit to harbour a soul—are still bound to sequence; they are deficient to the extent of that thing, Time, which they need: let them have it, present to them and running side by side with them, and they are by that very fact incomplete; completeness is attributed to them only by an accident of language.
But the conception of Eternity demands something which is in its nature complete without sequence; it is not satisfied by something measured out to any remoter time or even by something limitless, but, in its limitless reach, still having the progression of futurity: it requires something immediately possessed of the due fullness of Being, something whose Being does not depend upon any quantity (such as instalments of time) but subsists before all quantity.
Itself having no quantity, it can have no contact with anything quantitative since its Life cannot be made a thing of fragments, in contradiction to the partlessness which is its character; it must be without parts in the Life as in the essence.
The phrase “He was good” (used by Plato of the Demiurge) refers to the Idea of the All; and its very indefiniteness signifies the utter absence of relation to Time: so that even this Universe has had no temporal beginning; and if we speak of something “before” it, that is only in the sense of the Cause from which it takes its Eternal Existence. Plato used the word merely for the convenience of exposition, and immediately corrects it as inappropriate to the order vested with the Eternity he conceives and affirms.
Now comes the question whether, in all this discussion, we are not merely helping to make out a case for some other order of Beings and talking of matters alien to ourselves.
But how could that be? What understanding can there be failing some point of contact? And what contact could there be with the utterly alien?
We must then have, ourselves, some part or share in Eternity.
Still, how is this possible to us who exist in Time?
The whole question turns on the distinction between being in Time and being in Eternity, and this will be best realised by probing to the Nature of Time. We must, therefore, descend from Eternity to the investigation of Time, to the realm of Time: till now we have been taking the upward way; we must now take the downward—not to the lowest levels but within the degree in which Time itself is a descent from Eternity.
If the venerable sages of former days had not treated of Time, our method would be to begin by linking to (the idea of) Eternity (the idea of) its Next (its inevitable downward or outgoing subsequent in the same order), then setting forth the probable nature of such a Next and proceeding to show how the conception thus formed tallies with our own doctrine.
But, as things are, our best beginning is to range over the most noteworthy of the ancient opinions and see whether any of them accord with ours.
Existing explanations of Time seem to fall into three classes:—
Time is variously identified with what we know as Movement, with a moved object, and with some phenomenon of Movement: obviously it cannot be Rest or a resting object or any phenomenon of rest, since, in its characteristic idea, it is concerned with change.
Of those that explain it as Movement, some identify it with Absolute Movement (or with the total of Movement), others with that of the All. Those that make it a moved object would identify it with the orb of the All. Those that conceive it as some phenomenon, or some period, of Movement treat it, severally, either as a standard of measure or as something inevitably accompanying Movement, abstract or definite.
Movement Time cannot be—whether a definite act of moving is meant or a united total made up of all such acts—since movement, in either sense, takes place in Time. And, of course, if there is any movement not in Time, the identification with Time becomes all the less tenable.
In a word, Movement must be distinct from the medium in which it takes place.
And, with all that has been said or is still said, one consideration is decisive: Movement can come to rest, can be intermittent; Time is continuous.
We will be told that the Movement of the All is continuous (and so may be identical with Time).
But, if the reference is to the Circuit of the heavenly system (it is not strictly continuous, or equable, since) the time taken in the return path is not that of the outgoing movement; the one is twice as long as the other: this Movement of the All proceeds, therefore, by two different degrees; the rate of the entire journey is not that of the first half.
Further, the fact that we hear of the Movement of the outermost sphere being the swiftest confirms our theory. Obviously, it is the swiftest of movements by taking the lesser time to traverse the greater space—the very greatest—all other moving things are slower by taking a longer time to traverse a mere segment of the same extension: in other words, Time is not this movement.
And, if Time is not even the movement of the Kosmic Sphere much less is it the sphere itself though that has been identified with Time on the ground of its being in motion.
Is it, then, some phenomenon or connection of Movement?
Let us, tentatively, suppose it to be extent, or duration, of Movement.
Now, to begin with, Movement, even continuous, has no unchanging extent (as Time the equable has), since, even in space, it may be faster or slower; there must, therefore, be some unit of standard outside it, by which these differences are measurable, and this outside standard would more properly be called Time. And failing such a measure, which extent would be Time, that of the fast or of the slow—or rather which of them all, since these speed-differences are limitless?
Is it the extent of the subordinate Movement (=movement of things of earth)?
Again, this gives us no unit since the movement is infinitely variable: we would have, thus, not Time but Times.
The extent of the Movement of the All, then?
The Celestial Circuit may, no doubt, be thought of in terms of quantity. It answers to measure—in two ways. First there is space; the movement is commensurate with the area it passes through, and this area is its extent. But this gives us, still, space only, not Time. Secondly, the circuit, considered apart from distance traversed, has the extent of its continuity, of its tendency not to stop but to proceed indefinitely: but this is merely amplitude of Movement; search it, tell its vastness, and, still, Time has no more appeared, no more enters into the matter, than when one certifies a high pitch of heat; all we have discovered is Motion in ceaseless succession, like water flowing ceaselessly, motion and extent of motion.
Succession or repetition gives us Number—dyad, triad, etc.—and the extent traversed is a matter of Magnitude; thus we have Quantity of Movement—in the form of number, dyad, triad, decade, or in the form of extent apprehended in what we may call the amount of the Movement: but, the idea of Time we have not. That definite Quantity is (not Time but) merely something occurring within Time, for, otherwise Time is not everywhere but is something belonging to Movement which thus would be its substratum or basic-stuff: once more, then, we would be making Time identical with Movement; for the extent of Movement is not something outside it but is simply its continuousness, and we need not halt upon the difference between the momentary and the continuous, which is simply one of manner and degree. The extended movement and its extent are not Time; they are in Time. Those that explain Time as extent of Movement must mean not the extent of the movement itself but something which determines its extension, something with which the movement keeps pace in its course. But what this something is, we are not told; yet it is, clearly, Time, that in which all Movement proceeds. This is what our discussion has aimed at from the first: “What, essentially, is Time?” It comes to this: we ask “What is Time?” and we are answered, “Time is the extension of Movement in Time!”
On the one hand Time is said to be an extension apart from and outside that of Movement; and we are left to guess what this extension may be: on the other hand, it is represented as the extension of Movement; and this leaves the difficulty what to make of the extension of Rest—though one thing may continue as long in repose as another in motion, so that we are obliged to think of one thing Time that covers both Rest and Movements, and, therefore, stands distinct from either.
What then is this thing of extension? To what order of beings does it belong?
It obviously is not spatial, for place, too, is something outside it.
“A Number, a Measure, belonging to Movement?”
This, at least, is plausible since Movement is a continuous thing; but let us consider.
To begin with, we have the doubt which met us when we probed its identification with extent of Movement: is Time the measure of any and every Movement?
Have we any means of calculating disconnected and lawless Movement? What number or measure would apply? What would be the principle of such a Measure?
One Measure for movement slow and fast, for any and every movement: then that number and measure would be like the decade, by which we reckon horses and cows, or like some common standard for liquids and solids. If Time is this Kind of Measure, we learn, no doubt, of what objects it is a Measure—of Movements—but we are no nearer understanding what it is in itself.
Or: we may take the decade and think of it, apart from the horses or cows, as a pure number; this gives us a measure which, even though not actually applied, has a definite nature. Is Time, perhaps, a Measure in this sense?
No: to tell us no more of Time in itself than that it is such a number is merely to bring us back to the decade we have already rejected, or to some similar collective figure.
If, on the other hand, Time is (not such an abstraction but) a Measure possessing a continuous extent of its own, it must have quantity, like a foot-rule; it must have magnitude; it will, clearly, be in the nature of a line traversing the path of Movement. But, itself thus sharing in the movement, how can it be a Measure of Movement? Why should the one of the two be the measure rather than the other? Besides an accompanying measure is more plausibly considered as a measure of the particular movement it accompanies than of Movement in general. Further, this entire discussion assumes continuous movement, since the accompanying principle, Time, is itself unbroken (but a full explanation implies justification of Time in repose).
The fact is that we are not to think of a measure outside and apart, but of a combined thing, a measured Movement, and we are to discover what measures it.
Given a Movement measured, are we to suppose the measure to be a magnitude?
If so, which of these two would be Time, the measured movement or the measuring magnitude? For Time (as measure) must be either the movement measured by magnitude, or the measuring magnitude itself or something using the magnitude like a yard-stick to appraise the movement. In all three cases, as we have indicated, the application is scarcely plausible except where continuous movement is assumed; unless the Movement proceeds smoothly, and even unintermittently and as embracing the entire content of the moving object, great difficulties arise in the identification of Time with any kind of measure.
Let us, then, suppose Time to be this “measured Movement,” measured by quantity. Now the Movement if it is to be measured requires a measure outside itself; this was the only reason for raising the question of the accompanying measure. In exactly the same way the measuring magnitude, in turn, will require a measure, because only when the standard shows such and such an extension can the degree of movement be appraised. Time then will be, not the magnitude accompanying the Movement, but that numerical value by which the magnitude accompanying the Movement is estimated. But that number can be only the abstract figure which represents the magnitude, and it is difficult to see how an abstract figure can perform the act of measuring.
And, supposing that we discover a way in which it can, we still have not Time, the measure, but a particular quantity of Time, not at all the same thing: Time means something very different from any definite period: before all question as to quantity is the question as to the thing of which a certain quantity is present.
Time, we are told, is the number outside Movement and measuring it, like the tens applied to the reckoning of the horses and cows but not inherent in them: we are not told what this Number is; yet, applied or not, it must, like that decade, have some nature of its own.
Or “it is that which accompanies a Movement and measures it by its successive stages”; but we are still left asking what this thing recording the stages may be.
In any case, once a thing—whether by point or standard or any other means—measures succession, it must measure according to time: this number appraising movement degree by degree must, therefore, if it is to serve as a measure at all, be something dependent upon time and in contact with it: for, either, degree is spatial, merely—the beginning and end of the Stadium, for example—or in the only alternative, it is a pure matter of Time: the succession of early and late is stage of Time, Time ending upon a certain Now or Time beginning from a Now.
Time, therefore, is something other than the mere number measuring Movement, whether Movement in general or any particular tract of Movement.
Further:—Why should the mere presence of a number give us Time—a number measuring or measured; for the same number may be either—if Time is not given us by the fact of Movement itself, the movement which inevitably contains in itself a succession of stages? To make the number essential to Time is like saying that magnitude has not its full quantity unless we can estimate that quantity.
Again, if Time is, admittedly, endless, how can number apply to it?
Are we to take some portion of Time and find its numerical statement? That simply means that Time existed before number was applied to it.
We may, therefore, very well think that it existed before the Soul or Mind that estimates it—if, indeed, it is not to be thought to take its origin from the Soul—for no measurement by anything is necessary to its existence; measured or not, it has the full extent of its being.
And suppose it to be true that the Soul is the appraiser, using Magnitude as the measuring standard, how does this help us to the conception of Time?
Time, again, has been described as some sort of a sequence upon Movement, but we learn nothing from this, nothing is said, until we know what it is that produces this sequential thing; probably the cause and not the result would turn out to be Time.
And, admitting such a thing, there would still remain the question whether it came into being before the movement, with it, or after it; and, whether we say before or with or after, we are speaking of order in Time: and thus our definition is “Time is a sequence upon movement in Time!”
Enough. Our main purpose is to show what Time is, not to refute false definition. To traverse point by point the many opinions of our many predecessors would mean a history rather than an identification; we have treated the various theories as fully as is possible in a cursory review: and, notice, that which makes Time the Measure of the All-Movement is refuted by our entire discussion and, especially, by the observations upon the Measurement of Movement in general, for all the argument—except, of course, that from irregularity—applies to the All as much as to particular Movement.
We are, thus, at the stage where we are to state what Time really is.
To this end we must go back to the state we affirmed of Eternity, unwavering Life, undivided totality, limitless, knowing no divagation, at rest in unity and intent upon it. Time was not yet: or at least it did not exist for the Eternal Beings, though its being was implicit in the Idea and Principle of progressive derivation.
But from the Divine Beings thus at rest within themselves, how did this Time first emerge?
We can scarcely call upon the Muses to recount its origin since they were not in existence then—perhaps not even if they had been. The engendered thing, Time, itself, can best tell us how it rose and became manifest; something thus its story would run:
Time at first—in reality before that “first” was produced by desire of succession—Time lay, self-concentrated, at rest within the Authentic Existent: it was not yet Time; it was merged in the Authentic and motionless with it. But there was an active principle there, one set on governing itself and realising itself (=the All-Soul), and it chose to aim at something more than its present: it stirred from its rest, and Time stirred with it. And we (i.e. human Souls as summed in the principle of developing Life, the All-Soul?) we, stirring to a ceaseless succession, to a next, to the discrimination of identity and the establishment of ever new difference, traversed a portion of the outgoing path and produced an image of Eternity, produced Time.
For the Soul contained an unquiet faculty, always desirous of translating elsewhere what it saw in the Authentic Realm, and it could not bear to retain within itself all the dense fullness of its possession.
A Seed is at rest; the nature-principle within, uncoiling outwards, makes way towards what seems to it a large life; but by that partition it loses; it was a unity self-gathered, and now, in going forth from itself, it fritters its unity away; it advances into a weaker greatness. It is so with this faculty of the Soul, when it produces the Kosmos known to sense—the mimic of the Divine Sphere, moving not in the very movement of the Divine but in its similitude, in an effort to reproduce that of the Divine. To bring this Kosmos into being, the Soul first laid aside its eternity and clothed itself with Time; this world of its fashioning it then gave over to be a servant to Time, making it at every point a thing of Time, setting all its progressions within the bournes of Time. For the Kosmos moves only in Soul—the only Space within the range of the All open to it to move in—and therefore its Movement has always been in the Time which inheres in Soul.
Putting forth its energy in act after act, in a constant progress of novelty, the Soul produces succession as well as act; taking up new purposes added to the old it brings thus into being what had not existed in that former period when its purpose was still dormant and its life was not as it since became: the life is changed and that change carries with it a change of Time. Time, then, is contained in differentiation of Life; the ceaseless forward movement of Life brings with it unending Time; and Life as it achieves its stages constitutes past Time.
Would it, then, be sound to define Time as the Life of the Soul in movement as it passes from one stage of act or experience to another?
Yes; for Eternity, we have said, is Life in repose, unchanging, self-identical, always endlessly complete; and there is to be an image of Eternity—Time—such an image as this lower All presents of the Higher Sphere. Therefore over against that higher life there must be another life, known by the same name as the more veritable life of the Soul; over against that movement of the Intellectual Soul there must be the movement of some partial phase; over against that identity, unchangeableness and stability there must be that which is not constant in the one hold but puts forth multitudinous acts; over against that oneness without extent or interval there must be an image of oneness, a unity of link and succession; over against the immediately infinite and all-comprehending, that which tends, yes, to infinity but by tending to a perpetual futurity; over against the Whole in concentration, there must be that which is to be a Whole by stages never final. The lesser must always be working towards the increase of its Being, this will be its imitation of what is immediately complete, self-realised, endless without stage: only thus can its Being reproduce that of the Higher.
Time, however, is not to be conceived as outside of Soul; Eternity is not outside of the Authentic Existent: nor is it to be taken as a sequence or succession to Soul, any more than Eternity is to the Divine. It is a thing seen upon Soul, inherent, coeval to it, as Eternity to the Intellectual Realm.
We are brought thus to the conception of a Natural-Principle—Time—a certain expanse (a quantitative phase) of the Life of the Soul, a principle moving forward by smooth and uniform changes following silently upon each other—a Principle, then, whose Act is (not one like that of the Supreme but) sequent.
But let us conceive this power of the Soul to turn back and withdraw from the life-course which it now maintains, from the continuous and unending activity of an ever-existent soul not self-contained or self-intent but concerned about doing and engendering: imagine it no longer accomplishing any Act, setting a pause to this work it has inaugurated; let this outgoing phase of the Soul become once more, equally with the rest, turned to the Supreme, to Eternal Being, to the tranquilly stable.
What would then exist but Eternity?
All would remain in unity; how could there be any diversity of things? What Earlier or Later would there be, what long-lasting or short-lasting? What ground would lie ready to the Soul’s operation but the Supreme in which it has its Being? Or, indeed, what operative tendency could it have even to That since a prior separation is the necessary condition of tendency?
The very sphere of the Universe would not exist; for it cannot antedate Time: it, too, has its Being and its Movement in Time; and if it ceased to move, the Soul-Act (which is the essence of Time) continuing, we could measure the period of its Repose by that standard outside it.
If, then, the Soul withdrew, sinking itself again into its primal unity, Time would disappear: the origin of Time, clearly, is to be traced to the first stir of the Soul’s tendency towards the production of the sensible universe with the consecutive act ensuing. This is how “Time”—as we read—“came into Being simultaneously” with this All: the Soul begot at once the Universe and Time; in that activity of the Soul this Universe sprang into being; the activity is Time, the Universe is a content of Time. No doubt it will be urged that we read also of “the orbit of the Stars being Times”: but do not forget what follows; “the stars exist,” we are told, “for the display and delimitation of Time,” and “that there may be a manifest Measure.” No indication of Time could be derived from (observation of) the Soul; no portion of it can be seen or handled, so it could not be measured in itself, especially when there was as yet no knowledge of counting; therefore the Soul brings into being night and day; in their difference is given Duality—from which, we read, arises the concept of Number.
We observe the tract between a sunrise and its return and, as the movement is uniform, we thus obtain a Time-interval upon which to support ourselves, and we use this as a standard. We have thus a measure of Time. Time itself is not a measure. How would it set to work? And what kind of thing is there of which it could say, “I find the extent of this equal to such and such a stretch of my own extent?” What is this “I”? Obviously something by which measurement is known. Time, then, serves towards measurement but is not itself the Measure: the Movement of the All will be measured according to Time, but Time will not, of its own Nature, be a Measure of Movement: primarily a Kind to itself, it will incidentally exhibit the magnitudes of that movement.
And the reiterated observation of Movement—the same extent found to be traversed in such and such a period—will lead to the conception of a definite quantity of Time past.
This brings us to the fact that, in a certain sense, the Movement, the orbit of the universe, may legitimately be said to measure Time—in so far as that is possible at all—since any definite stretch of that circuit occupies a certain quantity of Time, and this is the only grasp we have of Time, our only understanding of it: what that circuit measures—by indication, that is—will be Time, manifested by the Movement but not brought into being by it.
This means that the measure of the Spheric Movement has itself been measured by a definite stretch of that Movement and therefore is something different; as measure, it is one thing and, as the measured, it is another; (its being measure or) its being measured cannot be of its essence.
We are no nearer knowledge than if we said that the foot-rule measures Magnitude while we left the concept Magnitude undefined; or, again, we might as well define Movement—whose limitlessness puts it out of our reach—as the thing measured by Space; the definition would be parallel since we can mark off a certain space which the Movement has traversed and say the one is equivalent to the other.
The Spheral Circuit, then, performed in Time, indicates it: but when we come to Time itself there is no question of its being “within” something else: it must be primary, a thing “within itself.” It is that in which all the rest happens, in which all movement and rest exist smoothly and under order; something following a definite order is necessary to exhibit it and to make it a subject of knowledge—though not to produce it—it is known by order whether in rest or in motion; in motion especially, for Movement better moves Time into our ken than rest can, and it is easier to estimate distance traversed than repose maintained.
This last fact has led to Time being called a measure of Movement when it should have been described as something measured by Movement and then defined in its essential nature; it is an error to define it by a mere accidental concomitant and so to reverse the actual order of things. Possibly, however, this reversal was not intended by the authors of the explanation: but, at any rate, we do not understand them; they plainly apply the term Measure to what is in reality the measured and leave us unable to grasp their meaning: our perplexity may be due to the fact that their writings—addressed to disciples acquainted with their teaching—do not explain what this thing, measure, or measured object, is in itself.
Plato does not make the essence of Time consist in its being either a measure or a thing measured by something else.
Upon the point of the means by which it is known, he remarks that the Circuit advances an infinitesimal distance for every infinitesimal segment of Time so that from that observation it is possible to estimate what the Time is, how much it amounts to: but when his purpose is to explain its essential nature he tells us that it sprang into Being simultaneously with the Heavenly system, a reproduction of Eternity, its image in motion, Time necessarily unresting as the Life with which it must keep pace: and “coeval with the Heavens” because it is this same Life (of the Divine Soul) which brings the Heavens also into being; Time and the Heavens are the work of the one Life.
Suppose that Life, then, to revert—an impossibility—to perfect unity: Time, whose existence is in that Life, and the Heavens, no longer maintained by that Life, would end at once.
It is the height of absurdity to fasten on the succession of earlier and later occurring in the life and movement of this sphere of ours, to declare that it must be some definite thing and to call it Time, while denying the reality of the more truly existent Movement, that of the Soul, which has also its earlier and later: it cannot be reasonable to recognise succession in the case of the Soulless Movement—and so to associate Time with that—while ignoring succession and the reality of Time in the Movement from which the other takes its imitative existence; to ignore, that is, the very Movement in which succession first appears, a self-actuated movement which, engendering its own every operation, is the source of all that follows upon itself, to all which, it is the cause of existence, at once, and of every consequent.
But:—we treat the Kosmic Movement as overarched by that of the Soul and bring it under Time; yet we do not set under Time that Soul-Movement itself with all its endless progression: what is our explanation of this paradox?
Simply, that the Soul-Movement has for its Prior (not Time but) Eternity which knows neither its progression nor its extension. The descent towards Time begins with this Soul-Movement; it made Time and harbours Time as a concomitant to its Act.
And this is how Time is omnipresent: that Soul is absent from no fragment of the Kosmos just as our Soul is absent from no particle of ourselves. As for those who pronounce Time a thing of no substantial existence, of no reality, they clearly belie God Himself whenever they say “He was” or “He will be”: for the existence indicated by the “was and will be” can have only such reality as belongs to that in which it is said to be situated:—but this school demands another style of argument.
Meanwhile we have a supplementary observation to make.
Take a man walking and observe the advance he has made; that advance gives you the quantity of movement he is employing: and when you know that quantity—represented by the ground traversed by his feet, for, of course, we are supposing the bodily movement to correspond with the pace he has set within himself—you know also the movement that exists in the man himself before the feet move.
You must relate the body, carried forward during a given period of Time, to a certain quantity of Movement causing the progress and to the Time it takes, and that again to the Movement, equal in extension, within the man’s soul.
But the Movement within the Soul—to what are you to (relate) refer that?
Let your choice fall where it may, from this point there is nothing but the unextended: and this is the primarily existent, the container to all else, having itself no container, brooking none.
And, as with Man’s Soul, so with the Soul of the All.
“Is Time, then, within ourselves as well?”
Time is in every Soul of the order of the All-Soul, present in like form in all; for all the Souls are the one Soul.
And this is why Time can never be broken apart, any more than Eternity which, similarly, under diverse manifestations, has its Being as an integral constituent of all the eternal Existences.
Supposing we played a little before entering upon our serious concern and maintained that all things are striving after Contemplation, looking to Vision as their one end—and this, not merely beings endowed with reason but even the unreasoning animals, the Principle that rules in growing things, and the Earth that produces these—and that all achieve their purpose in the measure possible to their kind, each attaining Vision and possessing itself of the End in its own way and degree, some things in entire reality, others in mimicry and in image—we would scarcely find anyone to endure so strange a thesis. But in a discussion entirely among ourselves there is no risk in a light handling of our own ideas.
Well—in the play of this very moment am I engaged in the act of Contemplation?
Yes; I and all that enter this play are in Contemplation: our play aims at Vision; and there is every reason to believe that child or man, in sport or earnest, is playing or working only towards Vision, that every act is an effort towards Vision; the compulsory act, which tends rather to bring the Vision down to outward things, and the act thought of as voluntary, less concerned with the outer, originate alike in the effort towards Vision.
The case of Man will be treated later on: let us speak, first, of the earth and of the trees and vegetation in general, asking ourselves what is the nature of Contemplation in them, how we relate to any Contemplative activity the labour and productiveness of the earth, how Nature, held to be devoid of reason and even of conscious representation, can either harbour Contemplation or produce by means of the Contemplation which it does not possess.
There is, obviously, no question here of hands or feet, of any implement borrowed or inherent: Nature needs simply the Matter which it is to work upon and bring under Form; its productivity cannot depend upon mechanical operation. What driving or hoisting goes to produce all that variety of colour and pattern?
The wax-workers, whose methods have been cited as parallel to the creative act of Nature, are unable to make colours; all they can do is to impose upon their handicraft colours taken from elsewhere. None the less there is a parallel which demands attention: in the case of workers in such arts there must be something locked up within themselves, an efficacy not going out from them and yet guiding their hands in all their creation; and this observation should have indicated a similar phenomenon in Nature; it should be clear that this indwelling efficacy, which makes without hands, must exist in Nature, no less in the craftsman—but, there, as a thing completely inbound. Nature need possess no outgoing force as against that remaining within; the only moved thing is Matter; there can be no moved phase in this Nature-Principle; any such moved phase could not be the primal mover; this Nature-Principle is no such moved entity; it is the unmoved Principle operating in the Kosmos.
We may be answered that the Reason-Principle is, no doubt, unmoved, but that the Nature-Principle, another being, operates by motion.
But, if Nature entire is in question here, it is identical with the Reason-Principle; and any part of it that is unmoved is the Reason-Principle. The Nature-Principle must be an Ideal-Form, not a compound of Form and Matter; there is no need for it to possess (such a changeable element as) Matter, hot and cold: the Matter that underlies it, on which it exercises its creative act, brings all that with it, or, natively without quality, becomes hot and cold, and all the rest, when brought under Reason: Matter, to become fire, demands the approach not of fire but of a Reason-Principle.
This is no slight evidence that in the animal and vegetable realms the Reason-Principles are the makers and that Nature is a Reason-Principle producing a second Reason-Principle, its offspring, which, in turn, while itself, still, remaining intact, communicates something to the underlie, Matter.
The Reason-Principle presiding over visible Shape is the very ultimate of its order, a dead thing unable to produce further: that which produces in the created realm is the living Reason-Principle—brother, no doubt, to that which gives mere shape, but having life-giving power.
But if this Reason-Principle (Nature) is in act—and produces by the process indicated—how can it have any part in Contemplation?
To begin with, since in all its production it is stationary and intact, a Reason-Principle self-indwelling, it is in its own nature a Contemplative act. All doing must be guided by an Idea, and will therefore be distinct from that Idea: the Reason-Principle then, as accompanying and guiding the work, will be distinct from the work; not being action but Reason-Principle it is, necessarily, Contemplation. Taking the Reason-Principle, the Logos, in all its phases, the lowest and last springs from a mental act (in the higher Logos) and is itself a contemplation, though only in the sense of being contemplated (i.e. of being the conscious product of a Contemplation?), but above it stands the total Logos with its two distinguishable phases, first, that identified not as Nature but as All-Soul and, next, that operating in Nature and being itself the Nature-Principle.
And does this Reason-Principle, Nature, spring from a contemplation?
Wholly and solely?
From self-contemplation, then? Or what are we to think? It derives from a Contemplation and some contemplating Being; how are we to suppose it to have Contemplation itself?
The Contemplation springing from the reasoning faculty—that, I mean, of planning its own content, it does not possess.
But why not, since it is a phase of Life, a Reason-Principle and a creative Power?
Because to plan for a thing is to lack it: Nature does not lack; it creates because it possesses. Its creative act is simply its possession of its own characteristic Essence; now its Essence, since it is a Reason-Principle, is to be at once an act of contemplation and an object of contemplation. In other words, the Nature-Principle produces by virtue of being an act of contemplation, an object of contemplation and a Reason-Principle; on this triple character depends its creative efficacy.
Thus the act of production is seen to be in Nature an act of contemplation, for creation is the outcome of a contemplation which never becomes anything else, which never does anything else, but creates by simply being a contemplation.
And Nature, asked why it brings forth its works, might answer if it cared to listen and to speak:—
“It would have been more becoming to put no question but to learn in silence just as I myself am silent and make no habit of talking. And what is your lesson? This; that whatsoever comes into being is my vision, seen in my silence, the vision that belongs to my character who, sprung from vision, am vision-loving and create vision by the vision-seeing faculty within me. The mathematicians from their vision draw their figures: but I draw nothing: I gaze and the figures of the material world take being as if they fell from my contemplation. As with my Mother (the All-Soul) and the Beings that begot me so it is with me: they are born of a Contemplation and my birth is from them, not by their Act but by their Being; they are the loftier Reason-Principles, they contemplate themselves and I am born.”
Now what does this tell us?
It tells: that what we know as Nature is a Soul, offspring of a yet earlier Soul of more powerful life; that it possesses, therefore, in its repose, a vision within itself; that it has no tendency upward nor even downward but is at peace, steadfast, in its own Essence; that, in this immutability accompanied by what may be called Self-Consciousness, it possesses—within the measure of its possibility—a knowledge of the realm of subsequent things perceived in virtue of that understanding and consciousness; and, achieving thus a resplendent and delicious spectacle, has no further aim.
Of course, while it may be convenient to speak of “understanding” or “perception” in the Nature-Principle, this is not in the full sense applicable to other beings; we are applying to sleep a word borrowed from the wake.
For the Vision on which Nature broods, inactive, is a self-intuition, a spectacle laid before it by virtue of its unaccompanied self-concentration and by the fact that in itself it belongs to the order of intuition. It is a Vision silent but somewhat blurred, for there exists another a clearer of which Nature is the image: hence all that Nature produces is weak; the weaker act of intuition produces the weaker object.
In the same way, human beings, when weak on the side of contemplation, find in action their trace of vision and of reason: their spiritual feebleness unfits them for contemplation; they are left with a void, because they cannot adequately seize the vision; yet they long for it; they are hurried into action as their way to the vision which they cannot attain by intellection. They act from the desire of seeing their action, and of making it visible and sensible to others when the result shall prove fairly well equal to the plan. Everywhere, doing and making will be found to be either an attenuation or a complement of vision—attenuation if the doer was aiming only at the thing done; complement if he is to possess something nobler to gaze upon than the mere work produced.
Given the power to contemplate the Authentic, who would run, of choice, after its image?
The relation of action to contemplation is indicated in the way duller children, inapt to study and speculation, take to crafts and manual labour.
This discussion of Nature has shown us how the origin of things is a Contemplation: we may now take the matter up to the higher Soul; we find that the Contemplation pursued by this, its instinct towards knowing and enquiring, the birth pangs set up by the knowledge it attains, its teeming fullness, have caused it—in itself, all one object of Vision—to produce another Vision (that of the Kosmos): it is just as a given science, complete in itself, becomes the source and cause of what might be called a minor science in the student who attains to some partial knowledge of all its divisions. But the visible objects and the objects of intellectual contemplation of this later creation are dim and helpless by the side of the content of the Soul.
The primal phase of the Soul—inhabitant of the Supreme and, by its participation in the Supreme, filled and illuminated—remains unchangeably There; but in virtue of that first participation, that of the primal participant, a secondary phase also participates in the Supreme, and this secondary goes forth ceaselessly as Life streaming from Life; for energy runs through the Universe and there is no extremity at which it dwindles out. But, travel as far as it may, it never draws that first part of itself from the place whence the outgoing began: if it did, it would no longer be everywhere (its continuous Being would be broken and) it would be present at the end, only, of its course.
None the less that which goes forth cannot be equal to that which remains.
In sum, then:—
The Soul is to extend throughout the Universe, no spot void of its energy: but, a prior is always different from its secondary, and energy is a secondary, rising as it must from contemplation or act; act, however, is not at this stage existent since it depends upon contemplation: therefore the Soul while its phases differ must, in all of them, remain a contemplation and what seems to be an act done under contemplation must be in reality that weakened contemplation of which we have spoken: the engendered must respect the Kind, but in weaker form, dwindled in the descent.
All goes softly since nothing here demands the parade of thought or act upon external things: it is a Soul in vision and, by this vision, creating its own subsequent—this Principle (of Nature), itself also contemplative but in the feebler degree since it lies further away and cannot reproduce the quality or experiences of its prior—a Vision creates the Vision.
(Such creative contemplation is not inexplicable) for no limit exists either to contemplation or to its possible objects, and this explains how the Soul is universal: where can this thing fail to be, which is one identical thing in every Soul? Vision is not cabined within the bournes of magnitude.
This, of course, does not mean that the Soul is present at the same strength in each and every place and thing—any more than that it is at the same strength in each of its own phases.
The Charioteer (the Leading Principle of the Soul, in the Phædrus Myth) gives the two horses (its two dissonant faculties) what he has seen and they, taking that gift, showed that they were hungry for what made that vision; there was something lacking to them: if in their desire they acted, their action aimed at what they craved for—and that was vision, and an object of vision.
Action, thus, is set towards contemplation and an object of contemplation, so that even those whose life is in doing have seeing as their object; what they have not been able to achieve by the direct path, they hope to come at by the circuit.
Further: suppose they succeed; they desired a certain thing to come about, not in order to be unaware of it but to know it, to see it present before the mind: their success is the laying up of a vision. We act for the sake of some good; this means not for something to remain outside ourselves, not in order that we may possess nothing but that we may hold the good of the action. And hold it, where? Where but in the mind?
Thus once more, action is brought back to contemplation: for (mind or) Soul is a Reason-Principle and anything that one lays up in the Soul can be no other than a Reason-Principle, a silent thing, the more certainly such a principle as the impression made is the deeper.
This vision achieved, the acting instinct pauses; the mind is satisfied and seeks nothing further; the contemplation, in one so conditioned, remains absorbed within as having acquired certainty to rest upon. The brighter the certainty, the more tranquil is the contemplation as having acquired the more perfect unity; and—for now we come to the serious treatment of the subject—
In proportion to the truth with which the knowing faculty knows, it comes to identification with the object of its knowledge.
As long as duality persists, the two lie apart, parallel as it were to each other; there is a pair in which the two elements remain strange to one another, as when Ideal-Principles laid up in the mind or Soul remain idle.
Hence the Idea must not be left to lie outside but must be made one identical thing with the soul of the novice so that he finds it really his own.
The Soul, once domiciled within that Idea and brought to likeness with it, becomes productive, active; what it always held by its primary nature it now grasps with knowledge and applies in deed, so becoming, as it were, a new thing and, informed as it now is by the purely intellectual, it sees (in its outgoing act) as a stranger looking upon a strange world. It was, no doubt, essentially a Reason-Principle, even an Intellectual Principle; but its function is to see a (lower) realm which these do not see.
For, it is not a complete thing: it has a lack; it is incomplete in regard to its Prior; yet it, also, has a tranquil vision of what it produces. What it has once brought into being it produces no more, for all its productiveness is determined by this lack: it produces for the purpose of Contemplation, in the desire of knowing all its content: when there is question of practical things it adapts its content to the outside order.
The Soul has a greater content than Nature has and therefore it is more tranquil; it is more nearly complete and therefore more contemplative. It is, however, not perfect, and is all the more eager to penetrate the object of contemplation, and it seeks the vision that comes by observation. It leaves its native realm and busies itself elsewhere; then it returns, and it possesses its vision by means of that phase of itself from which it had parted. The self-indwelling Soul inclines less to such experiences.
The Sage, then, is the man made over into a Reason-Principle: to others he shows his act but in himself he is Vision: such a man is already set, not merely in regard to exterior things but also within himself, towards what is one and at rest: all his faculty and life are inward-bent.
Certain Principles, then, we may take to be established—some self-evident, others brought out by our treatment above:—
All the forms of Authentic Existence spring from vision and are a vision. Everything that springs from these Authentic Existences in their vision is an object of vision—manifest to sensation or to true knowledge or to surface-awareness. All act aims at this knowing; all impulse is towards knowledge, all that springs from vision exists to produce Ideal-Form, that is a fresh object of vision, so that universally, as images of their engendering principles, they all produce objects of vision, Ideal-forms. In the engendering of these sub-existences, imitations of the Authentic, it is made manifest that the creating powers operate not for the sake of creation and action but in order to produce an object of vision. This same vision is the ultimate purpose of all the acts of the mind and, even further downward, of all sensation, since sensation also is an effort towards knowledge; lower still, Nature, producing similarly its subsequent principle, brings into being the vision and Idea that we know in it. It is certain, also, that as the Firsts exist in vision all other things must be straining towards the same condition; the starting point is, universally, the goal.
When living things reproduce their Kind, it is that the Reason-Principles within stir them; the procreative act is the expression of a contemplation, a travail towards the creation of many forms, many objects of contemplation, so that the universe may be filled full with Reason-Principles and that contemplation may be, as nearly as possible, endless: to bring anything into being is to produce an Idea-Form and that again is to enrich the universe with contemplation: all the failures, alike in being and in doing, are but the swerving of visionaries from the object of vision: in the end the sorriest craftsman is still a maker of forms, ungracefully. So Love, too, is vision with the pursuit of Ideal-Form.
From this basis we proceed:—
In the advancing stages of Contemplation rising from that in Nature, to that in the Soul and thence again to that in the Intellectual-Principle itself—the object contemplated becomes progressively a more and more intimate possession of the Contemplating Beings, more and more one thing with them; and in the advanced Soul the objects of knowledge, well on the way towards the Intellectual-Principle, are close to identity with their container.
Hence we may conclude that, in the Intellectual-Principle Itself, there is complete identity of Knower and Known, and this not by way of domiciliation, as in the case of even the highest soul, but by Essence, by the fact that, there, no distinction exists between Being and Knowing; we cannot stop at a principle containing separate parts; there must always be a yet higher, a principle above all such diversity.
The Supreme must be an entity in which the two are one; it will, therefore, be a Seeing that lives, not an object of vision like things existing in something other than themselves: what exists in an outside element is some mode of living-thing; it is not the Self-Living.
Now admitting the existence of a living thing that is at once a Thought and its object, it must be a Life distinct from the vegetative or sensitive life or any other life determined by Soul.
In a certain sense no doubt all lives are thoughts—but qualified as thought vegetative, thought sensitive and thought psychic.
What, then, makes them thoughts?
The fact that they are Reason-Principles. Every life is some form of thought, but of a dwindling clearness like the degrees of life itself. The first and clearest Life and the first Intelligence are one Being. The First Life, then, is an Intellection and the next form of Life is the next Intellection and the last form of Life is the last form of Intellection. Thus every Life, of the order strictly so called, is an Intellection.
But while men may recognise grades in life they reject grade in thought; to them there are thoughts (full and perfect) and anything else is no thought.
This is simply because they do not seek to establish what Life is.
The essential is to observe that, here again, all reasoning shows that whatever exists is a bye-work of visioning: if, then, the truest Life is such by virtue of an Intellection and is identical with the truest Intellection, then the truest Intellection is a living being; Contemplation and its object constitute a living thing, a Life, two inextricably one.
The duality, thus, is a unity; but how is this unity also a plurality?
The explanation is that in a unity there can be no seeing (a pure unity has no room for vision and an object); and in its Contemplation the One is not acting as a Unity; if it were, the Intellectual-Principle cannot exist. The Highest began as a unity but did not remain as it began; all unknown to itself, it became manifold; it grew, as it were, pregnant: desiring universal possession, it flung itself outward, though it were better had it never known the desire by which a Secondary came into being: it is like a Circle (in the Idea) which in projection becomes a figure, a surface, a circumference, a centre, a system of radii, of upper and lower segments. The Whence is the better; the Whither is less good: the Whence is not the same as the Whence-followed-by-a-Whither; the Whence all alone is greater than with the Whither added to it.
The Intellectual-Principle on the other hand was never merely the Principle of an inviolable unity; it was a universal as well and, being so, was the Intellectual-Principle of all things. Being, thus, all things and the Principle of all, it must essentially include this part of itself (this element-of-plurality) which is universal and is all things: otherwise, it contains a part which is not Intellectual-Principle: it will be a juxtaposition of non-Intellectuals, a huddled heap waiting to be made over from the mass of things into the Intellectual-Principle!
We conclude that this Being is limitless and, that in all the outflow from it there is no lessening either in its emanation since this also is the entire universe, nor in itself, the starting point, since it is no assemblage of parts (to be diminished by any outgo).
Clearly a Being of this nature is not the primal existent; there must exist that which transcends it, that Being (the Absolute), to which all our discussion has been leading.
In the first place, Plurality is later than Unity. The Intellectual-Principle is a number (=the expression of a plurality); and number derives from unity: the source of a number such as this must be the authentically One. Further, it is the sum of an Intellectual-Being with the object of its Intellection, so that it is a duality; and, given this duality, we must find what exists before it.
What is this?
The Intellectual-Principle taken separately, perhaps?
No: an Intellect is always inseparable from an intelligible object; eliminate the intelligible, and the Intellectual-Principle disappears with it. If, then, what we are seeking cannot be the Intellectual-Principle but must be something that rejects the duality there present, then the Prior demanded by that duality must be something on the further side of the Intellectual-Principle.
But might it not be the Intelligible object itself?
No: for the Intelligible makes an equally inseparable duality with the Intellectual-Principle.
If, then, neither the Intellectual-Principle nor the Intelligible Object can be the First Existent, what is?
Our answer can only be:—
The source of both.
What will This be; under what character can we picture It?
(We will be told that) It must be either Intellective or without Intellection: if Intellective it is the Intellectual-Principle; if not, it will be without even knowledge of itself—so that, either way, what is there so august about it?
If we define it as The Good and the wholly simplex, we will, no doubt, be telling the truth, but we will not be giving any certain and lucid account of it as long as we have in mind no entity in which to lodge the conception by which we define it.
Yet: our knowledge of everything else comes by way of our intelligence; our power is that of knowing the intelligible by means of the intelligence: but this Entity transcends all of the intellectual nature; by what direct intuition, then, can it be brought within our grasp?
To this question the answer is that we can know it only in the degree of human faculty: we indicate it by virtue of what in ourselves is like it.
For in us, also, there is something of that Being; nay, nothing, ripe for that participation, can be void of it.
Wherever you be, you have only to range over against this omnipresent Being that in you which is capable of drawing from It, and you have your share in it: imagine a voice sounding over a vast waste of land, and not only over the emptiness alone but over human beings; wherever you be in that great space you have but to listen and you take the voice entire—entire though yet with a difference.
And what do we take when we thus point the Intelligence?
The Intellectual-Principle in us must mount to its origins: essentially a thing facing two ways, it must deliver itself over to those powers within it which tend upward; if it seeks the vision of that Being, it must become something more than Intellect.
For the Intellectual-Principle is the earliest form of Life: it is the Activity presiding over the outflowing of the universal Order—the outflow, that is, of the first moment, not that of the continuous process.
In its character as Life, as emanation, as containing all things in their precise forms and not merely in the agglomerate mass—for this would be to contain them (against its specific character) imperfectly and inarticulately—it must of necessity derive from some other Being, from one that does not emanate but is the Principle of Emanation, of Life, of Intellect and of the Universe.
For the Universe is not a Principle and Source: it springs from a source, and that source cannot be the All or anything belonging to the All since it is to generate the All, and must be not a plurality but the Source of plurality since universally a begetting power is less complex than the begotten. Thus the Being that has engendered the Intellectual-Principle must be more simplex than the Intellectual-Principle.
We may be told that this engendering Principle is the One-and-All.
But, at that, it must be either each separate entity from among all or it will be all things in the one mass.
Now if it were the massed total of all, it must be of later origin than any of the things of which it is the sum; if it precedes the total, it differs from the things that make up the total and they from it: if it and the total of things constitute a co-existence, it is not a Source. But what we are probing for must be a Source; it must exist before all, that all may be fashioned as sequel to it.
As for the notion that it may be each separate entity of the All, this would make a self-Identity into a what you like, where you like, indifferently, and would, besides, abolish all distinction in things themselves.
Once more we see that this can be no thing among things but must be prior to all things.
And what will such a Principle essentially be?
The potentiality of the Universe: the potentiality whose non-existence would mean the non-existence of all the Universe and even of the Intellectual-Principle which is the primal Life and all Life.
This Principle on the thither side of Life is the cause of Life—for that Manifestation of Life which is the Universe of things is not the First Activity; it is itself poured forth, so to speak, like water from a spring.
Imagine a spring that has no source outside itself; it gives itself to all the rivers, yet is never exhausted by what they take, but remains always integrally as it was; the tides that proceed from it are at one within it before they run their several ways, yet all, in some sense, know beforehand down what channels they will pour their streams.
Or:—think of the Life coursing throughout some mighty tree while yet it is the stationary Principle of the whole, in no sense scattered over all that extent but, as it were, vested in the root: it is the giver of the entire and manifold life of the tree, but remains unmoved itself, not manifold but the Principle of that manifold life.
And this surprises no one: though it is in fact astonishing how all that varied vitality springs from the unvarying, and how that very manifoldness could not be unless before the multiplicity there were something all singleness; for, the Principle is not broken into parts to make the total; on the contrary, such partition would destroy both; nothing would come into being if its cause, thus broken up, changed character.
Thus we are always brought back to The One.
Every particular thing has a One of its own to which it may be traced; the All has its One, its Prior but not yet the Absolute One; through this we reach that Absolute One, where all such reference comes to an end.
Now when we reach a One—the stationary Principle—in the tree, in the animal, in Soul, in the All—we have in every case the most powerful, the precious element: when we come to the One in the Authentically Existent Beings—their Principle and source and potentiality—shall we lose confidence and suspect it of being—nothing?
Certainly this Absolute is none of the things of which it is the source—its nature is that nothing can be affirmed of it—not existence, not essence, not life—since it is That which transcends all these. But possess yourself of it by the very elimination of Being and you hold a marvel. Thrusting forward to This, attaining, and resting in its content, seek to grasp it more and more—understanding it by that intuitive thrust alone, but knowing its greatness by the Beings that follow upon it and exist by its power.
The Intellectual-Principle is a Seeing, and a Seeing which itself sees; therefore it is a potentiality which has become effective.
This implies the distinction of Matter and Form in it—as there must be in all actual seeing—the Matter in this case being the Intelligibles which the Intellectual-Principle contains and sees. All actual seeing implies duality; before the seeing takes place there is the pure unity (of the power of seeing). That unity (of principle) acquires duality (in the act of seeing), and the duality is (always to be traced back to) a unity.
Now as our sight requires the world of sense for its satisfaction and realisation, so the vision in the Intellectual-Principle demands, for its completion, The Good.
It cannot be, itself, The Good, since then it would not need to see or to perform any other Act; for The Good is the centre of all else, and it is by means of The Good that every thing has Act, while the Good is in need of nothing and therefore possesses nothing beyond itself.
Once you have uttered “The Good,” add no further thought: by any addition, and in proportion to that addition, you introduce a deficiency.
Do not even say that it has Intellection; you would be dividing it; it would become a duality, Intellect and the Good. The Good has no need of the Intellectual-Principle which, on the contrary, needs it, and, attaining it, is shaped into Goodness and becomes perfect by it: the Form thus received, sprung from the Good, brings it to likeness with the Good.
Thus the traces of the Good discerned upon it must be taken as indication of the nature of that Archetype: we form a conception of its Authentic Being from its image playing upon the Intellectual-Principle. This image of itself, it has communicated to the Intellect that contemplates it: thus all the striving is on the side of the Intellect, which is the eternal striver and eternally the attainer. The Being beyond neither strives, since it feels no lack, nor attains, since it has no striving. And this marks it off from the Intellectual-Principle, to which characteristically belongs the striving, the concentrated strain towards its Form.
Yet: The Intellectual-Principle; beautiful; the most beautiful of all; lying lapped in pure light and in clear radiance; circumscribing the Nature of the Authentic Existents; the original of which this beautiful world is a shadow and an image; tranquil in the fullness of glory since in it there is nothing devoid of intellect, nothing dark or out of rule; a living thing in a life of blessedness: this, too, must overwhelm with awe any that has seen it, and penetrated it, to become a unit of its Being.
But:—As one that looks up to the heavens and sees the splendour of the stars thinks of the Maker and searches, so whoever has contemplated the Intellectual Universe and known it and wondered for it must search after its Maker too. What Being has raised so noble a fabric? And where? And how? Who has begotten such a child, this Intellectual-Principle, this lovely abundance so abundantly endowed?
The Source of all this cannot be an Intellect; nor can it be an abundant power: it must have been before Intellect and abundance were; these are later and things of lack; abundance had to be made abundant and Intellection needed to know.
These are very near to the un-needing, to that which has no need of Knowing, they have abundance and intellection authentically, as being the first to possess. But, there is That before them which neither needs nor possesses anything, since, needing or possessing anything else, it would not be what it is—The Good.
“The Intellectual-Principle” (=the Divine Mind)—we read (in the Timæus)—“looks upon the Ideas indwelling in that Being which is the Essentially Living (=according to Plotinus, the Intellectual Realm), and then”—the text proceeds—“the Creator judged that all the content of that essentially living Being must find place in this lower universe also.”
Are we meant to gather that the Ideas came into being before the Intellectual-Principle so that it “sees them” as previously existent?
The first step is to make sure whether the “Living Being” of the text is to be distinguished from the Intellectual-Principle as another thing than it.
It might be argued that the Intellectual-Principle is the Contemplator and therefore that the Living-Being contemplated is not the Intellectual-Principle but must be described as the Intellectual Object so that the Intellectual-Principle must possess the Ideal realm as something outside of itself.
But this would mean that it possesses images and not the realities, since the realities are in the Intellectual Realm which it contemplates: Reality—we read—is in the Authentic Existent which contains the essential form of particular things.
No: even though the Intellectual-Principle and the Intellectual Object are distinct, they are not apart except for just that distinction.
Nothing in the statement cited is inconsistent with the conception that these two constitute one substance—though, in a unity, admitting that distinction, of the intellectual act (as against passivity), without which there can be no question of an Intellectual-Principle and an Intellectual Object: what is meant is not that the contemplatory Being possesses its vision as in some other principle, but that it contains the Intellectual Realm within itself.
The Intelligible Object is the Intellectual-Principle itself in its repose, unity, immobility: the Intellectual-Principle, contemplator of that object—of the Intellectual-Principle thus in repose—is an active manifestation of the same Being, an Act which contemplates its unmoved phase and, as thus contemplating, stands as Intellectual-Principle to that of which it has the intellection: it is Intellectual-Principle in virtue of having that intellection, and at the same time is Intellectual Object, by assimilation.
This, then, is the Being which planned to create in the lower Universe what it saw existing in the Supreme, the four orders of living beings.
No doubt the passage (of the Timæus) seems to imply tacitly that this planning Principle is distinct from the other two: but the three—the Essentially-Living, the Intellectual-Principle and this planning Principle—will, to others, be manifestly one: the truth is that, by a common accident, a particular trend of thought has occasioned the discrimination.
We have dealt with the first two; but the third—this Principle which decides to work upon the objects (the Ideas) contemplated by the Intellectual-Principle within the Essentially-Living, to create them, to establish them in their partial existence—what is this third?
It is possible that in one aspect the Intellectual-Principle is the principle of partial existence, while in another aspect it is not.
The entities thus particularised from the unity are products of the Intellectual-Principle which thus would be, to that extent, the separating agent. On the other hand it remains in itself, indivisible; division begins with its offspring which, of course, means with Souls: and thus a Soul—with its particular Souls—may be the separative principle.
This is what is conveyed where we are told that the separation is the work of the third Principle and begins within the Third: for to this Third belongs the discursive reasoning which is no function of the Intellectual-Principle but characteristic of its secondary, of Soul, to which precisely, divided by its own Kind, belongs the Act of division.
. . . For in any one science the reduction of the total of knowledge into its separate propositions does not shatter its unity, chipping it into unrelated fragments; in each distinct item is latent the entire body of the science, an integral thing in its highest Principle and its last detail: and similarly a man must so discipline himself that the first Principles of his Being are also his completions, are totals, that all be pointed towards the loftiest phase of the Nature: when a man has become this unity in the best, he is in that other realm; for it is by this highest within himself, made his own, that he holds to the Supreme.
At no point did the All-Soul come into Being: it never arrived, for it never knew place; what happens is that body, neighbouring with it, participates in it: hence Plato does not place Soul in body but body in Soul. The others, the secondary Souls, have a point of departure—they come from the All-Soul—and they have a place into which to descend and in which to change to and fro, a place, therefore, from which to ascend: but this All-Soul is for ever Above, resting in that Being in which it holds its existence as Soul and followed, as next, by the Universe or, at least, by all beneath the sun.
The partial Soul is illuminated by moving towards the Soul above it; for on that path it meets Authentic Existence. Movement towards the lower is towards non-Being: and this is the step it takes when it is set on self; for by willing towards itself it produces its lower, an image of itself—a non-Being—and so is wandering, as it were, into the void, stripping itself of its own determined form. And this image, this undetermined thing, is blank darkness, for it is utterly without reason, untouched by the Intellectual-Principle, far removed from Authentic Being.
As long as it remains at the mid-stage it is in its own peculiar region; but when, by a sort of inferior orientation, it looks downward, it shapes that lower image and flings itself joyfully thither.
(A) . . . How, then, does Unity give rise to Multiplicity?
By its omnipresence: there is nowhere where it is not; it occupies, therefore, all that is; at once, it is manifold—or, rather, it is all things.
If it were simply and solely everywhere all would be this one thing alone: but it is, also, in no place, and this gives in the final result that while all exists by means of it, in virtue of its omnipresence, all is distinct from it in virtue of its being nowhere.
But why is it not merely present everywhere but in addition nowhere-present?
Because, universality demands a previous unity. It must, therefore, pervade all things and make all, but not be the universe which it makes.
(B) The Soul itself must exist as Seeing—with the Intellectual-Principle as the object of its vision—it is undetermined before it sees but is naturally apt to see: in other words, Soul is Matter to (its determinant) the Intellectual-Principle.
(C) When we exercise intellection upon ourselves, we are, obviously, observing an intellective nature, for otherwise we would not be able to have that intellection.
We know, and it is ourselves that we know; therefore we know the reality of a knowing nature: therefore, before that intellection in Act, there is another intellection, one at rest, so to speak.
Similarly, that self-intellection is an act upon a reality and upon a life; therefore, before the Life and Real-Being concerned in the intellection there must be another Being and Life. In a word, intellection is vested in the activities themselves: since, then, the activities of self-intellection are intellective-forms, We, the Authentic We, are the Intelligibles and self-intellection conveys the Image of the Intellectual Sphere.
(D) The Primal is a potentiality of Movement and of Repose—and so is above and beyond both—its next subsequent has rest and movement about the Primal. Now this subsequent is the Intellectual-Principle—so characterised by having intellection of something not identical with itself whereas the Primal is without intellection. A knowing principle has duality (that entailed by being the knower of something) and, moreover, it knows itself as deficient since its virtue consists in this knowing and not in its own bare Being.
(E) In the case of everything which has developed from possibility to actuality the actual is that which remains self-identical for its entire duration—and this it is which makes perfection possible even in things of the corporeal order, as for instance in fire—but the actual of this kind cannot be everlasting since (by the fact of their having once existed only in potentiality) Matter has its place in them. In anything, on the contrary, not composite (=never touched by Matter or potentiality) and possessing actuality, that actual existence is eternal. . . . There is, however, the case, also, in which a thing, itself existing in actuality, stands as potentiality to some other form of Being.
(F) . . . But the First is not to be envisaged as made up from Gods of a transcendent order: no; the Authentic Existents constitute the Intellectual-Principle with Which motion and rest begin. The Primal touches nothing, but is the centre round which those other Beings lie in repose and in movement. For Movement is aiming, and the Primal aims at nothing; what could the Summit aspire to?
Has It, even, no Intellection of Itself?
It possesses Itself and therefore is said in general terms to know itself. . . . But intellection does not mean self-ownership; it means turning the gaze towards the Primal: now the act of intellection is itself the Primal Act, and there is therefore no place for any earlier one. The Being projecting this Act transcends the Act so that Intellection is secondary to the Being in which it resides. Intellection is not the transcendently venerable thing—neither Intellection in general nor even the Intellection of The Good. Apart from and over any Intellection stands The Good itself.
The Good therefore needs no consciousness.
What sort of consciousness can be conceived in it?
Consciousness of the Good as existent or non-existent?
If of existent Good, that Good exists before and without any such consciousness: if the act of consciousness produces that Good, then The Good was not previously in existence—and, at once, the very consciousness falls to the ground since it is no longer consciousness of The Good.
But would not all this mean that the First does not even live?
The First cannot be said to live since it is the source of Life.
All that has self-consciousness and self-intellection is derivative; it observes itself in order, by that activity, to become master of its Being: and if it study itself this can mean only that ignorance inheres in it and that it is of its own nature lacking and to be made perfect by Intellection.
All thinking and knowing must, here, be eliminated: the addition introduces deprivation and deficiency.