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THE SECOND 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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THE SECOND ENNEAD
We hold that the ordered universe, in its material mass, has existed for ever and will for ever endure: but simply to refer this perdurance to the Will of God, however true an explanation, is utterly inadequate.
The elements of this sphere change; the living beings of earth pass away; only the Ideal-form (the species) persists: possibly a similar process obtains in the All.
The Will of God is able to cope with the ceaseless flux and escape of body stuff by ceaselessly reintroducing the known forms in new substances, thus ensuring perpetuity not to the particular item but to the unity of idea: now, seeing that objects of this realm possess no more than duration of form, why should celestial objects, and the celestial system itself, be distinguished by duration of the particular entity?
Let us suppose this persistence to be the result of the all-inclusiveness of the celestial and universal—with its consequence, the absence of any outlying matter into which change could take place or which could break in and destroy.
This explanation would, no doubt, safeguard the integrity of the Whole, of the All; but our sun and the individual being of the other heavenly bodies would not on these terms be secured in perpetuity: they are parts; no one of them is in itself the whole, the all; it would still be probable that theirs is no more than that duration in form which belongs to fire and such entities.
This would apply even to the entire ordered universe itself. For it is very possible that this too, though not in process of destruction from outside, might have only formal duration; its parts may be so wearing each other down as to keep it in a continuous decay while, amid the ceaseless flux of the Kind constituting its base, an outside power ceaselessly restores the form: in this way the living All may lie under the same conditions as man and horse and the rest—man and horse persisting but not the individual of the type.
With this, we would have no longer the distinction of one order, the heavenly system, stable for ever, and another, the earthly, in process of decay: all would be alike except in the point of time; the celestial would merely be longer lasting. If, then, we accepted this duration of type alone as a true account of the All equally with its partial members, our difficulties would be eased—or indeed we should have no further problem—once the Will of God were shown to be capable, under these conditions and by such communication, of sustaining the Universe.
But if we are obliged to allow individual persistence to any definite entity within the Kosmos then, firstly, we must show that the Divine Will is adequate to make it so; secondly, we have to face the question, What accounts for some things having individual persistence and others only the persistence of type? and, thirdly, we ask how the partial entities of the celestial system hold a real duration which would thus appear possible to all partial things.
Supposing we accept this view and hold that, while things below the moon’s orb have merely type-persistence, the celestial realm and all its several members possess individual eternity; it remains to show how this strict permanence of the individual identity—the actual item eternally unchangeable—can belong to what is certainly corporeal, seeing that bodily substance is characteristically a thing of flux.
The theory of bodily flux is held by Plato no less than by the other philosophers who have dealt with physical matters, and is applied not only to ordinary bodies but to those, also, of the heavenly sphere.
“How,” he asks, “can these corporeal and visible entities continue eternally unchanged in identity?”—evidently agreeing, in this matter also, with Herakleitos who maintained that even the sun is perpetually coming anew into being. To Aristotle there would be no problem; it is only accepting his theories of a fifth-substance.
But to those who reject Aristotle’s Quintessence and hold the material mass of the heavens to consist of the elements underlying the living things of this sphere, how is individual permanence possible? And the difficulty is still greater for the parts (than for the whole), for the sun and the heavenly bodies (than for the celestial sphere as a unit).
Every living thing is a combination of soul and body-kind: the celestial sphere, therefore, if it is to be everlasting as an individual entity must be so in virtue either of both these constituents or of one of them, by the combination of soul and body or by soul only or by body only.
Of course anyone that holds body to be incorruptible secures the desired permanence at once; no need, then, to call on a soul or on any perdurable conjunction to account for the continued maintenance of a living being.
But the case is different when one holds that body is, of itself, perishable and that Soul is the principle of permanence: this view obliges us to the proof that the character of body is not in itself fatal either to the coherence or to the lasting stability which are imperative: it must be shown that the two elements of the union envisaged are not inevitably hostile, but that on the contrary (in the heavens) even Matter must conduce to the scheme of the standing result.
We have to ask, that is, how Matter, this entity of ceaseless flux constituting the physical mass of the universe, could serve towards the immortality of the Kosmos.
And our answer is “Because the flux is not outgoing”: where there is motion within but not outwards and the total remains unchanged, there is neither growth nor decline, and thus the Kosmos never ages.
We have a parallel in our earth, constant from eternity to pattern and to mass; the air, too, never fails; and there is always water: all the changes of these elements leave unchanged the Principle of the total living thing, our world. In our own constitution, again, there is a ceaseless shifting of particles—and that with outgoing loss—and yet the individual persists for a long time: where (as in the case of the All) there is no question of an outside region, the body-principle cannot clash with soul as against the identity and endless duration of the living thing.
Of these material elements—for example—fire, the keen and swift, co-operates by its upward tendency as earth by its lingering below; for we must not imagine that the fire, once it finds itself at the point where its ascent must stop, settles down as in its appropriate place, no longer seeking, like all the rest, to expand in both directions. No: but higher is not possible; lower is repugnant to its Kind; all that remains for it is to be tractable and, answering to a need of its nature, to be drawn by the Soul to the activity of life, and so to move—to move in a glorious place, in the Soul. Anyone that dreads its falling may take heart; the circuit of the Soul provides against any declination, embracing, sustaining; and since fire has of itself no downward tendency it accepts that guiding without resistance. The partial elements constituting our persons do not suffice for their own cohesion; once they are brought to human shape, they must borrow elsewhere if the organism is to be maintained: but in the upper spheres since there can be no loss by flux no such replenishment is needed.
Suppose such loss, suppose fire extinguished there, then a new fire must be kindled; so also if such loss by flux could occur in some of the superiors from which the celestial fire depends, that too must be replaced: but with such transmutations, while there might be something continuously similar, there would be, no longer, a Living All abidingly self-identical.
But matters are involved here which demand specific investigation and cannot be treated as incidental merely to our present problem. We are faced with several questions: Is the heavenly system exposed to any such flux as would occasion the need of some restoration corresponding to nourishment; or do its members, once set in their due places, suffer no loss of substance, permanent by Kind? Does it consist of fire only, or is it mainly of fire with the other elements, as well, taken up and carried in the circuit by the dominant Principle?
(For the present we may say that) Our doctrine of the immortality of the heavenly system rests on the firmest foundation once we have cited the sovereign agent, the soul, and considered, besides, the peculiar excellence of the bodily substance constituting the stars, a material so pure, so entirely the noblest, and chosen by the soul as, in all living beings, the determining principle appropriates to itself the choicest among their characteristic parts. No doubt Aristotle is right in speaking of flame as a turmoil, fire insolently rioting; but the celestial fire is equable, placid, docile to the purposes of the stars.
Still, the great argument remains, the Soul, moving in its marvellous might second only to the very loftiest Existents: how could anything once placed within this Soul break away from it into non-being? No one that understands this principle, the support of all things, can fail to see that, sprung from God, it is a stronger stay than any bonds.
And is it conceivable that the Soul, valid to sustain for a certain space of time, could not so sustain for ever? This would be to assume that it holds things together by violence; that there is a “natural course” at variance with what actually exists in the nature of the universe and in these exquisitely ordered beings; and that there is some power able to storm the established system and destroy its ordered coherence, some kingdom or dominion that may shatter the order founded by the Soul.
Further: The Kosmos has had no beginning—the impossibility has been shown elsewhere—and this is warrant for its continued existence. Why should there be in the future a change that has not yet occurred? The elements there are not worn away like beams and rafters: they hold sound for ever, and so the All holds sound. And even supposing these elements to be in ceaseless transmutation, yet the All persists: the ground of all the change must itself be changeless.
As to any alteration of purpose in the Soul (such as might lead it to bring the Kosmos to an end) we have already shown the emptiness of that fancy: the administration of the universe entails neither labour nor loss; and, even supposing the possibility of annihilating all that is material, the Soul would be no whit the better or the worse.
But how explain the permanence There, while the content of this sphere—its elements and its living things alike—are passing?
The reason is given by Plato: the celestial order is from God, the living things of earth from the gods sprung from God; and it is law that the offspring of God endures.
In other words, the celestial soul—and our souls with it—springs directly next from the Creator, while the animal life of this earth is produced by an image which goes forth from that celestial soul and may be said to flow downwards from it.
A soul, then, of the minor degree—reproducing, indeed, that of the Divine sphere but lacking in power inasmuch as it must exercise its creative act upon inferior stuff in an inferior region—the substances taken up into the fabric being of themselves repugnant to duration; with such an origin the living things of this realm cannot be of strength to last for ever; the material constituents are not as firmly held and controlled as if they were ruled immediately by a Principle of higher potency.
The heavens, on the contrary, must have persistence as a whole, and this entails the persistence of the parts, of the stars they contain: we could not imagine that whole to endure with the parts in flux—though, of course, we must distinguish things sub-celestial from the heavens themselves whose region does not in fact extend so low as to the moon.
Our own case is different: physically we are formed by that (inferior) soul, given forth (not directly from God but) from the divine beings in the heavens and from the heavens themselves; it is by way of that inferior soul that we are associated with the body (which therefore will not be persistent); for the higher soul which constitutes the We is the principle not of our existence but of our excellence—or, if also of our existence, then only in the sense that, when the body is already constituted, it enters, bringing with it some effluence from the Divine Reason in support of the existence.
We may now consider the question whether fire is the sole element existing in that celestial realm and whether there is any outgoing thence with the consequent need of renewal.
Timæus pronounced the material frame of the All to consist primarily of earth and fire—fire for visibility, earth for solidity—and deduced that the stars must be mainly composed of fire, but not solely since there is no doubt they are solid.
And this is probably a true account. Plato accepts it as indicated by all the appearances. And, in fact, to all our perception—as we see them and derive from them the impression of illumination—the stars appear to be mostly, if not exclusively, fire: but on reasoning into the matter we judge that since solidity cannot exist apart from earth-matter, they must contain earth as well.
But what place could there be for the other elements? It is impossible to imagine water amid so vast a conflagration; and if air were present it would be continually changing into fire.
Admitting (with Timæus; as a logical truth) that two self-contained entities, standing as extremes to each other need for their coherence two intermediaries; we may still question whether this holds good with regard to physical bodies. Certainly water and earth can be mixed without any such intermediate. It might seem valid to object that the intermediates are already present in the earth and the water; but a possible answer would be, “Yes, but not as agents whose meeting is necessary to the coherence of those extremes.”
None the less we will take it that the coherence of extremes is produced by virtue of each possessing all the intermediates. It is still not proven that fire is necessary to the visibility of earth and earth to the solidarity of fire.
On this principle, nothing possesses an essential-nature of its very own; every several thing is a blend, and its name is merely an indication of the dominant constituent.
Thus we are told that earth cannot have concrete existence without the help of some moist element—the moisture in water being the necessary adhesive—but admitting that we so find it, there is still a contradiction in pretending that any one element has a being of its own and in the same breath denying its self-coherence, making its subsistence depend upon others, and so, in reality, reducing the specific element to nothing. How can we talk of the existence of the definite Kind, earth—earth essential—if there exists no single particle of earth which actually is earth without any need of water to secure its self-cohesion? What has such an adhesive to act upon if there is absolutely no given magnitude of real earth to which it may bind particle after particle in its business of producing the continuous mass? If there is any such given magnitude, large or small, of pure earth, then earth can exist in its own nature, independently of water: if there is no such primary particle of pure earth, then there is nothing whatever for the water to bind. As for air—air unchanged, retaining its distinctive quality—how could it conduce to the subsistence of a dense material like earth?
Similarly with fire. No doubt Timæus speaks of it as necessary not to the existence but to the visibility of earth and the other elements; and certainly light is essential to all visibility—we cannot say that we see darkness, which implies, precisely, that nothing is seen, as silence means nothing being heard.
But all this does not assure us that the earth to be visible must contain fire: light is sufficient: snow, for example, and other extremely cold substances gleam without the presence of fire—though of course it might be said that fire was once there and communicated colour before disappearing.
As to the composition of water, we must leave it an open question whether there can be such a thing as water without a certain proportion of earth.
But how can air, the yielding element, contain earth?
Fire, again: is earth perhaps necessary there since fire is by its own nature devoid of continuity and not a thing of three dimensions?
Supposing it does not possess the solidity of the three dimensions, it has that of its thrust; now, cannot this belong to it by the mere right and fact of its being one of the corporeal entities in nature? Hardness is another matter, a property confined to earth-stuff. Remember that gold—which is water—becomes dense by the accession not of earth but of denseness or consolidation: in the same way fire, with Soul present within it, may consolidate itself upon the power of the Soul; and there are living beings of fire among the Celestials.
But, in sum, do we abandon the teaching that all the elements enter into the composition of every living thing?
For this sphere, no: but to lift clay into the heavens is against nature, contrary to the laws of her ordaining: it is difficult, too, to think of that swiftest of circuits bearing along earthly bodies in its course—nor could such material conduce to the splendour and white glint of the celestial fire.
We can scarcely do better, in fine, than follow Plato.
In the universe as a whole there must necessarily be such a degree of solidity, that is to say, of resistance, as will ensure that the earth, set in the centre, be a sure footing and support to the living beings moving over it, and inevitably communicate something of its own density to them: the earth will possess coherence by its own unaided quality, but visibility by the presence of fire: it will contain water against the dryness which would prevent the cohesion of its particles; it will hold air to lighten its bulky matters; it will be in contact with the celestial fire—not as being a member of the sidereal system but by the simple fact that the fire there and our earth both belong to the ordered universe so that something of the earth is taken up by the fire as something of the fire by the earth and something of everything by everything else.
This borrowing, however, does not mean that the one thing taking-up from the other enters into a composition, becoming an element in a total of both: it is simply a consequence of the kosmic fellowship; the participant retains its own being and takes over not the thing itself but some property of the thing, not air but air’s yielding softness, not fire but fire’s incandescence: mixing is another process, a complete surrender with a resultant compound not, as in this case, earth—remaining earth, the solidity and density we know—with something of fire’s qualities superadded.
We have authority for this where we read:—
“At the second circuit from the earth, God kindled a light”: he is speaking of the sun which, elsewhere, he calls the all-glowing and, again, the all-gleaming: thus he prevents us imagining it to be anything else but fire, though of a peculiar kind; in other words it is light, which he distinguishes from flame as being only modestly warm: this light is a corporeal substance but from it there shines forth that other “light” which, though it carries the same name, we pronounce incorporeal, given forth from the first as its flower and radiance, the veritable “incandescent body.” Plato’s word “earthy” is commonly taken in too depreciatory a sense: he is thinking of earth as the principle of solidity; we are apt to ignore his distinctions and think of the concrete clay.
Fire of this order, giving forth this purest light, belongs to the upper realm, and there its seat is fixed by nature; but we must not, on that account, suppose the flame of earth to be associated with the beings of that higher sphere.
No: the flame of this world, once it has attained a certain height, is extinguished by the currents of air opposed to it. Moreover, as it carries an earthy element on its upward path, it is weighed downwards and cannot reach those loftier regions. It comes to a stand somewhere below the moon—making the air at that point subtler—and its flame, if any flame can persist, is subdued and softened, and no longer retains its first intensity, but gives out only what radiance it reflects from the light above.
And it is that loftier light—falling variously upon the stars; to each in a certain proportion—that gives them their characteristic differences, as well in magnitude as in colour; just such light constitutes also the still higher heavenly bodies which, however, like clear air, are invisible because of the subtle texture and unresisting transparency of their material substance and also by their very distance.
Now: given a light of this degree, remaining in the upper sphere at its appointed station, pure light in purest place, what mode of outflow from it can be conceived possible?
Such a Kind is not so constituted as to flow downwards of its own accord; and there exists in those regions no power to force it down. Again, body in contact with soul must always be very different from body left to itself; the bodily substance of the heavens has that contact and will show that difference.
Besides, the corporeal substance nearest to the heavens would be air or fire: air has no destructive quality; fire would be powerless there since it could not enter into effective contact: in its very rush it would change before its attack could be felt; and, apart from that, it is of the lesser order, no match for what it would be opposing in those higher regions.
Again, fire acts by imparting heat: now it cannot be the source of heat to what is already hot by nature; and anything it is to destroy must as a first condition be heated by it, must be brought to a pitch of heat fatal to the nature concerned.
In sum, then, no outside body is necessary to the heavens to ensure their permanence—or to produce their circular movement, for it has never been shown that their natural path would be the straight line; on the contrary the heavens, by their nature, will either be motionless or move by circle; all other movement indicates outside compulsion. We cannot think, therefore, that the heavenly bodies stand in need of replenishment; we must not argue from earthly frames to those of the celestial system whose sustaining soul is not the same, whose space is not the same, whose conditions are not those which make restoration necessary in this realm of composite bodies always in flux: we must recognise that the changes that take place in bodies here represent a slipping-away from the being (a phenomenon not incident to the celestial sphere) and take place at the dictate of a Principle not dwelling in the higher regions, one not powerful enough to ensure the permanence of the existences in which it is exhibited, one which in its coming into being and in its generative act is but an imitation of an antecedent Kind, and, as we have shown, cannot at every point possess the unchangeable identity of the Intellectual Realm.
But whence that circular movement?
In imitation of the Intellectual-Principle.
And does this movement belong to the material part or to the Soul? Can we account for it on the ground that the Soul has itself at once for centre and for the goal to which it must be ceaselessly moving; or that, being self-centred it is not of unlimited extension (and consequently must move ceaselessly to be omnipresent), and that its revolution carries the material mass with it?
If the Soul had been the moving power (by any such semi-physical action) it would be so no longer; it would have accomplished the act of moving and have brought the universe to rest; there would be an end of this endless revolution.
In fact the Soul must be in repose or at least cannot have spatial movement; how then, having itself a movement of quite another order, could it communicate spatial movement?
But perhaps the circular movement (of the Kosmos as soul and body) is not spatial or is spatial not primarily but only incidentally.
What, by this explanation, would be the essential movement of the kosmic soul?
A movement towards itself, the movement of self-awareness, of self-intellection, of the living of its life, the movement of its reaching to all things so that nothing shall lie outside of it, nothing anywhere but within its scope.
The dominant in a living thing is what compasses it entirely and makes it a unity.
If the Soul has no motion of any kind, it would not vitally compass the Kosmos nor would the Kosmos, a thing of body, keep its content alive, for the life of body is movement.
Any spatial motion there is will be limited; it will be not that of Soul untrammelled but that of a material frame ensouled, an animated organism; the movement will be partly of body, partly of Soul, the body tending to the straight line which its nature imposes, the Soul restraining it; the resultant will be the compromise movement of a thing at once carried forward and at rest.
But supposing that the circular movement is to be attributed to the body, how is it to be explained, since all body, including fire (which constitutes the heavens) has straightforward motion?
The answer is that forthright movement is maintained only pending arrival at the place for which the moving thing is destined: where a thing is ordained to be, there it seeks, of its nature, to come for its rest; its motion is its tendence to its appointed place.
Then, since the fire of the sidereal system has attained its goal, why does it not stay at rest?
Evidently because the very nature of fire is to be mobile: if it did not take the curve, its straight line would finally fling it outside the universe: the circular course, then, is imperative.
But this would imply an act of providence?
Not quite: rather its own act under providence; attaining to that realm, it must still take the circular course by its indwelling nature; for it seeks the straight path onwards but finds no further space and is driven back so that it recoils on the only course left to it: there is nothing beyond; it has reached the ultimate; it runs its course in the regions it occupies, itself its own sphere, not destined to come to rest there, existing to move.
Further, the centre of a circle (and therefore of the Kosmos) is distinctively a point of rest: if the circumference outside were not in motion, the universe would be no more than one vast centre. And movement around the centre is all the more to be expected in the case of a living thing whose nature binds it within a body. Such motion alone can constitute its impulse towards its centre: it cannot coincide with the centre, for then there would be no circle; since this may not be, it whirls about it; so only can it indulge its tendence.
If, on the other hand, the Kosmic circuit is due to the Soul, we are not to think of a painful driving (wearing it down at last); the soul does not use violence or in any way thwart nature, for “Nature” is no other than the custom the All-Soul has established. Omnipresent in its entirety, incapable of division, the Soul of the universe communicates that quality of universal presence to the heavens, too, in their degree, the degree, that is, of pursuing universality and advancing towards it.
If the Soul halted anywhere, there the Kosmos, too, brought so far, would halt: but the Soul encompasses all, and so the Kosmos moves, seeking everything.
Yet never to attain?
On the contrary this very motion is its eternal attainment.
Or, better; the Soul is ceaselessly leading the Kosmos towards itself: the continuous attraction communicates a continuous movement—not to some outside space but towards the Soul and in the one sphere with it, not in the straight line (which would ultimately bring the moving body outside and below the Soul), but in the curving course in which the moving body at every stage possesses the Soul that is attracting it and bestowing itself upon it.
If the soul were stationary, that is if (instead of presiding over a Kosmos) it dwelt wholly and solely in the realm in which every member is at rest, motion would be unknown; but, since the Soul is not fixed in some one station There, the Kosmos must travel to every point in quest of it, and never outside it: in a circle, therefore.
And what of lower things? (Why have they not this motion?)
(Their case is very different): the single thing here is not an all but a part and limited to a given segment of space; that other realm is all, is space, so to speak, and is subject to no hindrance or control, for in itself it is all that is.
As a self, each is a personal whole, no doubt; but as member of the universe, each is a partial thing.
But if, wherever the circling body be, it possesses the Soul, what need of the circling?
Because everywhere it finds something else besides the Soul (which it desires to possess alone).
The circular movement would be explained, too, if the Soul’s power may be taken as resident at its centre.
Here, however, we must distinguish between a centre in reference to the two different natures, body and Soul.
In body, centre is a point of place; in Soul it is a source, the source of some other nature. The word, which without qualification would mean the midpoint of a spheric mass, may serve in the double reference; and, as in a material mass so in the Soul, there must be a centre, that around which the object, Soul or material mass, revolves.
The Soul exists in revolution around God to whom it clings in love, holding itself to the utmost of its power near to Him as the Being on which all depends; and since it cannot coincide with God it circles about Him.
Why then do not all souls (i.e. the lower, also, as those of men and animals) thus circle about the Godhead?
Every Soul does in its own rank and place.
And why not our very bodies, also?
Because the forward path is characteristic of body and because all the body’s impulses are to other ends and because what in us is of this circling nature (the soul) is hampered in its motion by the clay it bears with it, while in the higher realm everything flows on its course, lightly and easily, with nothing to check it, once there is any principle of motion in it at all.
And it may very well be that even in us the Spirit which dwells with the Soul does thus circle about the divinity. For since God is omnipresent the Soul desiring perfect union must take the circular course: God is not stationed.
Similarly Plato attributes to the stars not only the spheric movement belonging to the universe as a whole but also to each a revolution around their common centre; each—not by way of thought but by links of natural necessity—has in its own place taken hold of God and exults.
The truth may be resumed in this way:—
There is a lowest power of the Soul, a nearest to earth, and this is interwoven throughout the entire universe: another phase possesses sensation, while yet another includes the Reason which is concerned with the objects of sensation: this higher phase holds itself to the spheres, poised towards the Above but hovering over the lesser Soul and giving forth to it an effluence which makes it more intensely vital.
The lower Soul is moved by the higher which, besides encircling and supporting it, actually resides in whatsoever part of it has thrust upwards and attained the spheres. The lower then, ringed round by the higher and answering its call, turns and tends towards it; and this upward tension communicates motion to the material frame in which it is involved: for if a single point in a spheric mass is in any degree moved, without being drawn away from the rest, it moves the whole, and the sphere is set in motion. Something of the same kind happens in the case of our bodies: the unspatial movement of the Soul—in happiness, for instance, or at the idea of some pleasant event—sets up a spatial movement in the body: the Soul, attaining in its own region some good which increases its sense of life, moves towards what pleases it; and so, by force of the union established in the order of nature, it moves the body, in the body’s region, that is in space.
As for that phase of the Soul in which sensation is vested, it, too, (like the higher) takes its good from the Supreme above itself and moves, rejoicingly, in quest of it: and since the object of its desire is everywhere, it too ranges always through the entire scope of the universe.
The Intellectual-Principle has no such progress in any region; its movement is a stationary act, for it turns upon itself.
And this is why the All, circling as it does, is at the same time at rest.
That the circuit of the stars indicates definite events to come but without being the cause direct (as the general opinion holds) of all that happens, has been elsewhere affirmed, and proved by some modicum of argument: but the subject demands more precise and detailed investigation for to take the one view rather than the other is of no small moment.
The belief is that the planets in their courses actually produce not merely such conditions as poverty, wealth, health and sickness but even ugliness and beauty and, gravest of all, vices and virtue and the very acts that spring from these qualities, the definite doings of each moment of virtue or vice. We are to suppose the stars to be annoyed with men—and upon matters in which men, moulded to what they are by the stars themselves, can surely do them no wrong.
They will be distributing what pass for their good gifts, not out of kindness towards the recipients but as they themselves are affected pleasantly or disagreeably at the various points of their course; so that they must be supposed to change their plans as they stand at their zeniths or are declining.
More absurdly still, some of them are supposed to be malicious and others to be helpful, and yet the evil stars will (in certain positions) bestow favours and the benevolent act harshly: further, their action alters as they see each other or not, so that, after all, they possess no definite nature but vary according to their angles of aspect; a star is kindly when it sees one of its fellows but changes at sight of another: and there is even a distinction to be made in the seeing as it occurs in this figure or in that. Lastly, all acting together, the fused influence is different again from that of each single star, just as the blending of distinct fluids gives a mixture unlike any of them.
Since these opinions and others of the same order are prevalent, it will be well to examine them carefully one by one, beginning with the fundamental question:—
Are these planets to be thought of as soulless or unsouled?
Suppose them, first, to be without Soul.
In that case they can purvey only heat or cold—if cold from the stars can be thought of—that is to say, any communication from them will affect only our bodily nature, since all they have to communicate to us is merely corporeal. This implies that no considerable change can be caused in the bodies affected since emanations merely corporeal cannot differ greatly from star to star, and must, moreover, blend upon earth into one collective resultant: at most the differences would be such as depend upon local position, upon nearness or farness with regard to the centre of influence. This reasoning, of course, is as valid of any cold emanation there may be as of the warm.
Now, what is there in such corporeal action to account for the various classes and kinds of men, learned and illiterate, scholars as against orators, musicians as against people of other professions? Can a power merely physical make rich or poor? Can it bring about such conditions as in no sense depend upon the interaction of corporeal elements? Could it, for example, bring a man such and such a brother, father, son, or wife, give him a stroke of good fortune at a particular moment, or make him generalissimo or king?
Next, suppose the stars to have life and mind and to be effective by deliberate purpose.
In that case, what have they suffered from us that they should, in free will, do us hurt, they who are established in a divine place, themselves divine? There is nothing in their nature of what makes men base, nor can our weal or woe bring them the slightest good or ill.
Possibly, however, they act not by choice but under stress of their several positions and collective figures?
But if position and figure determined their action each several one would necessarily cause identical effects with every other on entering any given place or pattern.
And that raises the question what effect for good or bad can be produced upon any one of them by its transit in the parallel of this or that section of the Zodiac circle—for they are not in the Zodiacal figure itself but considerably beneath it—especially since, whatever point they touch, they are always in the heavens.
It is absurd to think that the particular grouping under which a star passes can modify either its character or its earthward influences. And can we imagine it altered by its own progression as it rises, stands at centre, declines? Exultant when at centre; dejected or enfeebled in declension; some raging as they rise and growing benignant as they set, while declension brings out the best in one among them; surely this cannot be?
We must not forget that invariably every star, considered in itself, is at centre with regard to some one given group and in decline with regard to another and vice versa; and, very certainly, it is not at once happy and sad, angry and kindly. There is no reasonable escape in representing some of them as glad in their setting, others in their rising: they would still be grieving and glad at one and the same time.
Further, why should any distress of theirs work harm to us?
No: we cannot think of them as grieving at all or as being cheerful upon occasions: they must be continuously serene, happy in the good they enjoy and the Vision before them. Each lives its own free life; each finds its Good in its own Act; and this Act is not directed towards us.
Like the birds of augury, the living beings of the heavens, having no lot or part with us, may serve incidentally to foreshow the future, but they have absolutely no main function in our regard.
It is again not in reason that a particular star should be gladdened by seeing this or that other while, in a second couple, such an aspect is distressing: what enmities can affect such beings? what causes of enmity can there be among them?
And why should there be any difference as a given star sees certain others from the corner of a triangle or in opposition or at the angle of a square?
Why, again, should it see its fellow from some one given position and yet, in the next Zodiacal figure, not see it, though the two are actually nearer?
And, the cardinal question; by what conceivable process could they affect what is attributed to them? How explain either the action of any single star independently or, still more perplexing, the effect of their combined intentions?
We cannot think of them entering into compromises, each renouncing something of its efficiency and their final action in our regard amounting to a concerted plan.
No one star would suppress the contribution of another, nor would star yield to star and shape its conduct under suasion.
As for the fancy that while one is glad when it enters another’s region, the second is vexed when in its turn it occupies the place of the first, surely this is like starting with the supposition of two friends and then going on to talk of one being attracted to the other who, however, abhors the first.
When they tell us that a certain cold star is more benevolent to us in proportion as it is further away, they clearly make its harmful influence depend upon the coldness of its nature; and yet it ought (by this reasoning) to be beneficent to us when it is in the opposed Zodiacal figures.
When the cold planet, we are told, is in opposition to the cold, both become menacing: but the natural effect would be a compromise.
And we are asked to believe that one of them is happy by day and grows kindly under the warmth, while another, of a fiery nature, is most cheerful by night—as if it were not always day to them, light to them, and as if the first one could be darkened by night at that great distance above the earth’s shadow.
Then there is the notion that the moon, in conjunction with a certain star, is softened at her full but is malignant in the same conjunction when her light has waned; yet, if anything of this order could be admitted, the very opposite would be the case. For when she is full to us she must be dark on the further hemisphere, that is to that star which stands above her; and when dark to us she is full to that other star, upon which only then, on the contrary, does she look with her light. To the moon itself, in fact, it can make no difference in what aspect she stands, for she is always lit on the upper or on the under half: to the other star, the warmth from the moon, of which they speak, might make a difference; but that warmth would reach it precisely when the moon is without light to us; at its darkest to us it is full to that other, and therefore (by the theory) beneficent. The darkness of the moon to us is of moment to the earth, but brings no trouble to the planet above. That planet, it is alleged, can give no help on account of its remoteness and therefore seems less well disposed; but the moon at its full suffices to the lower realm so that the distance of the other is of no importance. When the moon, though dark to us, is in aspect with the Fiery Star she is held to be favourable: the reason alleged is that the force of Mars is all-sufficient since it contains more fire than it needs.
The truth is that while the material emanations from the living beings of the heavenly system are of various degrees of warmth—planet differing from planet in this respect—no cold comes from them: the nature of the space in which they have their being is voucher for that.
The star known as Jupiter includes a due measure of fire (and warmth), in this resembling the Morning-star and therefore seeming to be in alliance with it. In aspect with what is known as the Fiery Star, Jupiter is beneficent by virtue of the mixing of influences: in aspect with Saturn unfriendly by dint of distance. Mercury, it would seem, is (in itself) indifferent whatever stars it be in aspect with; for it adopts any and every character.
But (again, the truth is that) all the stars are serviceable to the Universe, and therefore can stand to each other only as the service of the Universe demands, in a harmony like that observed in the members of any one animal form. They exist essentially for the purpose of the Universe, just as the gall exists for the purposes of the body as a whole not less than for its own immediate function: it is to be the inciter of the animal spirits but without allowing the entire organism and its own especial region to run riot. Some such balance of function was indispensable in the All—bitter with sweet. There must be differentiation—eyes and so forth—but all the members will be in sympathy with the entire animal frame to which they belong. Only so can there be a unity and a total harmony.
And in such a total, analogy will make every part a Sign.
But that this same Mars, or Aphrodite, in certain aspects should cause adulteries—as if they could thus, through the agency of human incontinence, satisfy their own mutual desires—is not such a notion the height of unreason? And who could accept the fancy that their happiness comes from their seeing each other in this or that relative position and not from their own settled nature?
Again: countless myriads of living beings are born and continue to be: to minister continuously to every separate one of these; to make them famous, rich, poor, lascivious; to shape the active tendencies of every single one—what kind of life is this for the stars, how could they possibly handle a task so huge?
They are to watch, we must suppose, the rising of each several constellation and upon that signal to act; such a one, they see, has risen by so many degrees, representing so many of the periods of its upward path; they reckon on their fingers at what moment they must take the action which, executed prematurely, would be out of order: and in the sum, there is no One Being controlling the entire scheme; all is made over to the stars singly, as if there were no Sovereign Unity, standing as source of all the forms of Being in subordinate association with it, and delegating to the separate members, in their appropriate Kinds, the task of accomplishing its purposes and bringing its latent potentiality into act.
This is a separatist theory, tenable only by minds ignorant of the nature of a Universe which has a ruling principle and a first cause operative downwards through every member.
But, if the stars announce the future—as we hold of many other things also—what explanation of the cause have we to offer? What explains the purposeful arrangement thus implied? Obviously, unless the particular is included under some general principle of order, there can be no signification.
We may think of the stars as letters perpetually being inscribed on the heavens or inscribed once for all and yet moving as they pursue the other tasks allotted to them: upon these main tasks will follow the quality of signifying, just as the one principle underlying any living unit enables us to reason from member to member, so that for example we may judge of character and even of perils and safeguards by indications in the eyes or in some other part of the body. If these parts of us are members of a whole, so are we: in different ways the one law applies.
All teems with symbol; the wise man is the man who in any one thing can read another, a process familiar to all of us in not a few examples of everyday experience.
But what is the comprehensive principle of co-ordination? Establish this and we have a reasonable basis for the divination, not only by stars but also by birds and other animals, from which we derive guidance in our varied concerns.
All things must be enchained; and the sympathy and correspondence obtaining in any one closely knit organism must exist, first, and most intensely, in the All. There must be one principle constituting this unit of many forms of life and enclosing the several members within the unity, while at the same time, precisely as in each thing of detail the parts too have each a definite function, so in the All (the higher All) each several member must have its own task—but more markedly so since in this case the parts are not merely members but themselves Alls, members of the loftier Kind.
Thus each entity takes its origin from one Principle and, therefore, while executing its own function, works in with every other member of that All from which its distinct task has by no means cut it off: each performs its act, each receives something from the others, every one at its own moment bringing its touch of sweet or bitter. And there is nothing undesigned, nothing of chance, in all the process: all is one scheme of differentiation, starting from the Firsts and working itself out in a continuous progression of Kinds.
Soul, then, in the same way, is intent upon a task of its own; alike in its direct course (its tendence towards the divine?) and in its divagation (its activity towards the lower?) it is the cause of all by its possession of the Thought of the First Principle: thus a Law of Justice goes with all that exists in the Universe which, otherwise, would be dissolved, and is perdurable because the entire fabric is guided as much by the orderliness as by the power of the controlling force. And in this order the stars, as being no minor members of the heavenly system, are co-operators contributing at once to its stately beauty and to its symbolic quality. Their symbolic power extends to the entire realm of sense, their efficacy only to what they patently do.
For our part, nature keeps us upon the work of the Soul as long as we are not wrecked in the multiplicity of the Universe: once thus sunk and held we pay the penalty, which consists both in the fall itself and in the lower rank thus entailed upon us: riches and poverty are caused (not by the stars but) by the combinations of external fact.
And what of virtue and vice?
That question has been amply discussed elsewhere: in a word, virtue is ours by the ancient staple of the Soul; vice is due to the commerce of a Soul with the outer world.
This brings us to the Spindle-destiny, spun according to the ancients by the Fates. To Plato the Spindle represents the co-operation of the moving and the stable elements of the kosmic circuit: the Fates with Necessity, Mother of the Fates, manipulate it and spin at the birth of every being, so that all comes into existence through Necessity.
In the Timæus, the creating God bestows the essential of the Soul, but it is the divinities moving in the kosmos (the stars) that infuse the powerful affections holding from Necessity—our impulse and our desire, our sense of pleasure and of pain—and that lower phase of the Soul in which such experiences originate. By this statement our personality is bound up with the stars, whence our Soul (as total of Principle and affections) takes shape; and we are set under necessity at our very entrance into the world: our temperament will be of the stars’ ordering, and so, therefore, the actions which derive from temperament, and all the experiences of a nature shaped to impressions.
What, after all this, remains to stand for the “We”?
The “We” is the actual resultant of a Being whose nature includes, with certain sensibilities, the power of governing them. Cut off as we are by the nature of the body, God has yet given us, in the midst of all this evil, virtue the unconquerable, meaningless in a state of tranquil safety but everything where its absence would be peril of fall.
Our task, then, is to work for our liberation from this sphere, severing ourselves from all that has gathered about us; the total man is to be something better than a body ensouled—the bodily element dominant with a trace of Soul running through it and a resultant life-course mainly of the body—for in such a combination all is, in fact, bodily. There is another life, emancipated, whose quality is progression towards the higher realm, towards the good and divine, towards that Principle which no one possesses except by deliberate usage but so may appropriate, becoming, each personally, the higher, the beautiful, the Godlike, and living, remote, in and by It—unless one choose to go bereaved of that higher Soul and therefore, to live fate-bound, no longer profiting, merely, by the significance of the sidereal system but becoming as it were a part sunken in it and dragged along with the whole thus adopted.
For every human Being is of twofold character; there is that compromise-total and there is the Authentic Man: and it is so with the Kosmos as a whole; it is in the one phase a conjunction of body with a certain form of the Soul bound up in body; in the other phase it is the Universal Soul, that which is not itself embodied but flashes down its rays into the embodied Soul: and the same twofold quality belongs to the Sun and the other members of the heavenly system.
To the remoter Soul, the pure, sun and stars communicate no baseness. In their efficacy upon the (material) All, they act as parts of it, as ensouled bodies within it; and they act only upon what is partial; body is the agent while, at the same time, it becomes the vehicle through which is transmitted something of the star’s will and of that authentic Soul in it which is steadfastly in contemplation of the Highest.
But (with every allowance to the lower forces) all follows either upon that Highest or rather upon the Beings about It—we may think of the Divine as a fire whose outgoing warmth pervades the Universe—or upon whatsoever is transmitted by the one Soul (the divine first Soul) to the other, its Kin (the Soul of any particular being). All that is graceless is admixture. For the Universe is in truth a thing of blend, and if we separate from it that separable Soul, the residue is little. The All is a God when the divine Soul is counted in with it; “the rest,” we read, “is a mighty spirit and its ways are subdivine.”
If all this be true, we must at once admit signification, though, neither singly nor collectively, can we ascribe to the stars any efficacy except in what concerns the (material) All and in what is of their own function.
We must admit that the Soul before entering into birth presents itself bearing with it something of its own, for it could never touch body except under stress of a powerful inner impulse; we must admit some element of chance around it from its very entry, since the moment and conditions are determined by the kosmic circuit: and we must admit some effective power in that circuit itself; it is co-operative, and completes of its own act the task that belongs to the All of which everything in the circuit takes the rank and function of a part.
And we must remember that what comes from the supernals does not enter into the recipients as it left the source; fire, for instance, will be duller; the loving instinct will degenerate and issue in ugly forms of the passion; the vital energy in a subject not so balanced as to display the mean of manly courage, will come out as either ferocity or faint-heartedness; and ambition . . . in love . . .; and the instinct towards good sets up the pursuit of semblant beauty; intellectual power at its lowest produces the extreme of wickedness, for wickedness is a miscalculating effort towards Intelligence (=towards the highest principle in the man).
Any such quality, modified at best from its supreme form, deteriorates again within itself: things of any kind that approach from above, altered by merely leaving their source change further still by their blending with bodies, with Matter, with each other.
All that thus proceeds from the supernal combines into a unity (in the subject concerned) and every existing entity takes something from this blended infusion so that the result is the thing itself plus some quality. The effluence does not make the horse but adds something to it; for horse comes by horse, and man by man: the sun plays its part no doubt in the shaping, but the man has his origin in the Human-Principle. Outer things have their effect, sometimes to hurt and sometimes to help; like a father, they often contribute to good but sometimes also to harm; but they do not wrench the human being from the foundations of its nature; though sometimes Matter is the dominant, and the human principle takes the second place so that there is a failure to achieve perfection; the Ideal has been attenuated.
Of phenomena of this sphere some derive from the Kosmic Circuit and some not: we must take them singly and mark them off, assigning to each its origin.
The gist of the whole matter lies in the consideration that Soul governs this All by the plan contained in the Reason-Principle and plays in the All exactly the part of the particular principle which in every living-thing forms the members of the organism and adjusts them to the unity of which they are portions; the entire force of the Soul is represented in the All but, in the parts, Soul is present only in proportion to the degree of essential reality held by each of such partial objects. Surrounding every separate entity there are other entities, whose approach will sometimes be hostile and sometimes helpful to the purpose of its nature; but to the All taken in its length and breadth each and every separate existent is an adjusted part, holding its own characteristic and yet contributing by its own native tendency to the entire life-history of the Universe.
The soulless parts of the All are merely instruments; all their action is effected, so to speak, under a compulsion from outside themselves.
The ensouled fall into two classes. The one kind has a motion of its own, but haphazard like that of horses between the shafts but before their driver sets the course; they are set right by the whip. In the Living-Being possessed of Reason, the nature-principle includes the driver; where the driver is intelligent, it takes in the main a straight path to a set end. But both classes are members of the All and co-operate towards the general purpose.
The greater and most valuable among them have an important operation over a wide range: their contribution towards the life of the whole consists in acting, not in being acted upon; others, but feebly equipped for action, are almost wholly passive; there is an intermediate order whose members contain within themselves a principle of productivity and activity and make themselves very effective in many spheres or ways and yet serve also by their passivity.
Thus the All stands as one all-complete Life, whose members, to the measure in which each contains within itself the Highest, effect all that is high and noble: and the entire scheme must be subordinate to its Dirigeant as an army to its general, “following upon Zeus”—it has been said—“as he proceeds towards the Intelligible Kind.”
Secondary in the All are those of its parts which possess a less exalted nature just as in us the members rank lower than the Soul; and so all through, there is a general analogy between the things of the All and our own members—none of quite equal rank.
All living things, then—all in the heavens and all elsewhere—fall under the general Reason-Principle of the All—they have been made parts with a view to the whole: not one of these parts, however exalted, has power to effect any alteration of these Reason-Principles or of things shaped by them and to them; some modification one part may work upon another, whether for better or for worse; but there is no power that can wrest anything outside of its distinct nature.
The part effecting such a modification for the worse may act in several ways.
It may set up some weakness restricted to the material frame. Or it may carry the weakness through to the sympathetic Soul which by the medium of the material frame, become a power to debasement, has been delivered over, though never in its essence, to the inferior order of being. Or, in the case of a material frame ill-organised, it may check all such action (of the Soul) upon the material frame as demands a certain collaboration in the part acted upon: thus a lyre may be so ill-strung as to be incapable of the melodic exactitude necessary to musical effect.
What of poverty and riches, glory and power?
In the case of inherited fortune, the stars merely announce a rich man, exactly as they announce the high social standing of the child born to a distinguished house.
Wealth may be due to personal activity: in this case if the body has contributed, part of the effect is due to whatever has contributed towards the physical powers, first the parents and then, if place has had its influence, sky and earth; if the body has borne no part of the burden, then the success, and all the splendid accompaniments added by the Recompensers, must be attributed to virtue exclusively. If fortune has come by gift from the good then the source of the wealth is, again, virtue: if by gift from the evil, but to a meritorious recipient, then the credit must be given to the action of the best in them: if the recipient is himself unprincipled, the wealth must be attributed primarily to the very wickedness and to whatsoever is responsible for the wickedness, while the givers bear an equal share in the wrong.
When the success is due to labour, tillage for example, it must be put down to the tiller, with all his environment as contributory. In the case of treasure trove, something from the All has entered into action; and if this be so, it will be foreshown—since all things make a chain, so that we can speak of things universally. Money is lost: if by robbery, the blame lies with the robber and the native principle guiding him: if by shipwreck, the cause is the chain of events. As for good fame, it is either deserved and then is due to the services done and to the merit of those appraising them, or it is undeserved, and then must be attributed to the injustice of those making the award. And the same principle holds as regards power—for this also may be rightly or unrightly placed—it depends either upon the merit of the dispensers of place or upon the man himself who has effected his purpose by the organisation of supporters or in many other possible ways. Marriages, similarly, are brought about either by choice or by chance interplay of circumstance. And births are determined by marriages: the child is moulded true to type when all goes well; otherwise it is marred by some inner detriment, something due to the mother personally or to an environment unfavourable to that particular conception.
According to Plato lots and choice play a part (in the determination of human conditions) before the Spindle of Necessity is turned; that once done, only the Spindle-destiny is valid; it fixes the chosen conditions irretrievably since the elected guardian-spirit becomes accessory to their accomplishment.
But what is the significance of the Lots?
By the Lots (implying the unchosen element) we are to understand birth into the conditions actually existent in the All at the particular moment of each entry into body, birth into such and such a physical frame, from such and such parents, in this or that place, and generally all that in our phraseology is the External.
For Particulars and Universals alike it is established that to the first of those known as the Fates, to Clotho the Spinner, must be due the unity and as it were interweaving of all that exists: Lachesis (the Apportioner) presides over the Lots: to Atropos (the Inflexible) must necessarily belong the conduct of mundane events.
Of men, some enter into life as fragments of the All, bound to that which is external to themselves: they are victims of a sort of fascination, and are hardly, or not at all, themselves: but others mastering all this—straining, so to speak, by the head towards the Higher, to what is outside even the Soul—preserve still the nobility and the ancient privilege of the Soul’s essential being.
For certainly we cannot think of the Soul as a thing whose nature is just a sum of impressions from outside—as if it, alone, of all that exists, had no native character.
No: much more than all else, the Soul, possessing the Idea which belongs to a Principle, must have as its native wealth many powers serving to the activities of its Kind. It is an Essential-Existent and with this Existence must go desire and act and the tendency towards some good.
While body and soul stand one combined thing, there is a joint nature, a definite entity having definite functions and employments; but as soon as any Soul is detached, its employments are kept apart, its very own: it ceases to take the body’s concerns to itself: it has vision now: body and soul stand widely apart.
The question arises what phase of the Soul enters into the union for the period of embodiment and what phase remains distinct, what is separable and what necessarily interlinked, and in general what the Living-Being is.
On all this there has been a conflict of teaching: the matter must be examined later on from quite other considerations than occupy us here. For the present let us explain in what sense we have described the All as the expressed idea of the Governing Soul.
One theory might be that the Soul creates the particular entities in succession—man followed by horse and other animals domestic or wild: fire and earth, though, first of all—that it watches these creations acting upon each other whether to help or to harm, observes, and no more, the tangled web formed of all these strands, and their unfailing sequences; and that it makes no concern of the result beyond securing the reproduction of the primal living-beings, leaving them for the rest to act upon each other according to their definite natures.
Another view makes the soul answerable for all that thus comes about, since its first creations have set up the entire enchainment.
No doubt the Reason-Principle (conveyed by the Soul) covers all the action and experience of this realm: nothing happens, even here, by any form of haphazard; all follows a necessary order.
Is everything, then, to be attributed to the act of the Reason-Principles?
To their existence, no doubt, but not to their effective action; they exist and they know; or better, the Soul, which contains the engendering Reason-Principle, knows the results of all it has brought to pass. For whensoever similar factors meet and act in relation to each other, similar consequences must inevitably ensue: the Soul adopting or foreplanning the given conditions accomplishes the due outcome and links all into a total.
All, then, is antecedent and resultant, each sequent becoming in turn an antecedent once it has taken its place among things. And perhaps this is a cause of progressive deterioration: men, for instance, are not as they were of old; by dint of interval and of the inevitable law, the Reason-Principles (constituting man) have ceded something to the characteristics of the Matter.
The Soul watches the ceaselessly changing universe and follows all the fate of all its works: this is its life, and it knows no respite from this care, but is ever labouring to bring about perfection, planning to lead all to an unending state of excellence—like a farmer, first sowing and planting and then constantly setting to rights where rainstorms and long frosts and high gales have played havoc.
If such a conception of Soul be rejected as untenable we are obliged to think that the Reason-Principles themselves foreknew or even contained the ruin and all the consequences of flaw.
But then we would be imputing the creation of evil to the Reason-Principles, though (we ought to be saved from this by reflecting that) the arts and their guiding principle do not include blundering, do not cover the inartistic, the destruction of the work of art.
And here it will be objected that in All there is nothing contrary to nature, nothing evil.
Still, by the side of the better there exists also what is less good.
Well, perhaps even the less good has its contributory value in the All. Perhaps there is no need that everything be good. Contraries may co-operate; and without opposites there could be no ordered Universe: all living-beings of the partial realm include contraries. The better elements are compelled into existence and moulded to their function by the Reason-Principle directly; the less good are potentially present in the Reason-Principles, actually present in the phenomena themselves; the Soul’s power had reached its limit, and failed to bring the Reason-Principles into complete actuality since, amid the clash of these antecedent Principles, Matter had already from its own stock produced the less good.
Yet, with all this, Matter is continuously overruled towards the better; so that out of the total of things—modified by Soul on the one hand and by Matter on the other hand, and on neither hand as sound as in the Reason-Principles—there is, in the end, a Unity.
But these Reason-Principles, contained in the Soul, are they Thoughts?
And if so, by what process does the Soul create in accordance with these Thoughts?
It is upon Matter that this act of the Reason is exercised; and what acts physically is not an intellectual operation or a vision, but a power modifying matter, not conscious of it but merely acting upon it: the Reason-Principle, in other words, acts much like a force producing a figure or pattern upon water—that of a circle, suppose, where the formation of the ring is conditioned by something distinct from that force itself (i.e. by the existence and nature of the water).
If this is so, the prior puissance of the Soul (that which conveys the Reason-Principles) must act (not directly but) by manipulating the other Soul, that which is united with Matter and has the generative function.
But is this handling the result of calculation?
Calculation implies reference. Reference, then, to something outside or to something contained within itself? If to its own content, there is no need of reasoning, which could not itself perform the act of creation; creation is the operation of that phase of the Soul which contains Ideal-Principles; for that is its stronger puissance, its creative part.
It creates, then, on the model of the Ideas; for, what it has received from the Intellectual-Principle it must pass on in turn.
In sum, then, the Intellectual-Principle gives from itself to the Soul of the All which follows immediately upon it: this again gives forth from itself to its next, illuminated and imprinted by it; and that secondary Soul at once begins to create, as under order, unhindered in some of its creations, striving in others against the repugnance of Matter.
It has a creative power, derived; it is stored with Reason-Principles not the very originals: therefore it creates, but not in full accordance with the Principles from which it has been endowed: something enters from itself; and, plainly, this is inferior. The issue then is something living, yes; but imperfect, hindering its own life, something very poor and reluctant and crude, formed in a Matter that is the fallen sediment of the Higher Order, bitter and embittering. This is the Soul’s contribution to the All.
Are the evils in the Universe necessary because it is of later origin than the Higher Sphere?
Perhaps rather because without evil the All would be incomplete. For most or even all forms of evil serve the Universe—much as the poisonous snake has its use—though in most cases their function is unknown. Vice itself has many useful sides: it brings about much that is beautiful, in artistic creations for example, and it stirs us to thoughtful living, not allowing us to drowse in security.
If all this is so, then (the secret of creation is that) the Soul of the All abides in contemplation of the Highest and Best, ceaselessly striving towards the Intelligible Kind and towards God: but, thus absorbing and filled full, it overflows—so to speak—and the image it gives forth, its last utterance towards the lower, will be the creative puissance.
This ultimate phase, then, is the Maker, secondary to that aspect of the Soul which is primarily saturated from the Divine Intelligence. But the Creator above all is the Intellectual-Principle, as giver, to the Soul that follows it, of those gifts whose traces exist in the Third Kind.
Rightly, therefore, is this Kosmos described as an image continuously being imaged, the First and the Second Principles immobile, the Third, too, immobile essentially, but, accidentally and in Matter, having motion.
For as long as divine Mind and Soul exist, the divine Thought-Forms will pour forth into that phase of the Soul: as long as there is a sun all that streams from it will be some form of Light.
By common agreement of all that have arrived at the conception of such a Kind, what is known as Matter is understood to be a certain base, a recipient of Form-Ideas. Thus far all go the same way. But departure begins with the attempt to establish what this basic Kind is in itself, and how it is a recipient and of what.
To a certain school, body-forms exclusively are the Real Beings; existence is limited to bodies; there is one only Matter, the stuff underlying the primal-constituents of the Universe: existence is nothing but this Matter: everything is some modification of this; the elements of the Universe are simply this Matter in a certain condition.
The school has even the audacity to foist Matter upon the divine beings so that, finally, God himself becomes a mode of Matter—and this though they make it corporeal, describing it as a body void of quality, but a magnitude.
Another school makes it incorporeal: among these, not all hold the theory of one only Matter; some of them while they maintain the one Matter, in which the first school believes, the foundation of bodily forms, admit another, a prior, existing in the divine-sphere, the base of the Ideas there and of the unembodied Beings.
We are obliged, therefore, at the start, both to establish the existence of this other Kind and to examine its nature and the mode of its Being.
Now (it will be reasoned) if Matter must characteristically be undetermined, void of shape, while in that sphere of the Highest there can be nothing that lacks determination, nothing shapeless, there can be no Matter there. Further, if all that order is simplex, there can be no need of Matter, whose function is to join with some other element to form a compound: it will be found of necessity in things of derived existence and shifting nature—the signs which lead us to the notion of Matter—but it is unnecessary to the primal.
And again, where (it will be asked) could it have come from? whence did it take its being? If it is derived, it has a source: if it is eternal, then the Primal-Principles are more numerous than we thought, the Firsts are a meeting-ground. Lastly, if that Matter has been entered by Idea, the union constitutes a body; and, so, there is Body in the Supreme.
Now it may be observed, first of all, that we cannot hold utterly cheap either the indeterminate, or even a Kind whose very idea implies absence of form, provided only that it offer itself to its Priors and (through them) to the Highest Beings. We have the parallel of the Soul itself in its relation to the Intellectual-Principle and the Divine Reason, taking shape by these and led so to a nobler principle of form.
Further, a compound in the Intellectual order is not to be confounded with a compound in the realm of Matter; the Divine Reasons are compounds and their Act is to produce a compound, namely that (lower) Nature which works towards Idea. And there is not only a difference of function; there is a still more notable difference of source. Then, too, the Matter of the realm of process ceaselessly changes its form: in the eternal, Matter is immutably one and the same, so that the two are diametrically opposites. The Matter of this realm is all things in turn, a new entity in every separate case, so that nothing is permanent and one thing ceaselessly pushes another out of being: Matter has no identity here. In the Intellectual it is all things at once: and therefore has nothing to change into: it already and ever contains all. This means that not even in its own Sphere is the Matter there at any moment shapeless: no doubt that is true of the Matter here as well; but shape is held by a very different right in the two orders of Matter.
As to whether Matter is eternal or a thing of process, this will be clear when we are sure of its precise nature.
The present existence of the Ideal-Forms has been demonstrated elsewhere: we take up our argument from that point.
If, then, there is more than one of such forming Ideas, there must of necessity be some character common to all and equally some peculiar character in each keeping them distinct.
This peculiar characteristic, this distinguishing difference, is the individual shape. But if shape, then there is the shaped, that in which the difference is lodged.
There is, therefore, a Matter accepting the shape, a permanent substratum.
Further, admitting that there is an Intelligible Realm beyond, of which this world is an image, then, since this world-compound is based on Matter, there must be Matter there also.
And how can you predicate an ordered system without thinking of form, and how think of form apart from the notion of something in which the form is lodged?
No doubt that Realm is, in the strict fact, utterly without parts, but in some sense there is part there too. And in so far as these parts are really separate from each other, any such division and difference can be no other than a condition of Matter, of a something divided and differentiated: in so far as that realm, though without parts, yet consists of a variety of entities, these diverse entities, residing in a unity of which they are variations, reside in a Matter; for this unity, since it is also a diversity, must be conceived of as varied and multiform; it must have been shapeless before it took the form in which variation occurs. For if we abstract from the Intellectual-Principle the variety and the particular shapes, the Reason-Principles and the Thoughts, what precedes these was something shapeless and undetermined, nothing of what is actually present there.
It may be objected that the Intellectual-Principle possesses its content in an eternal conjunction so that the two make a perfect unity, and that thus there is no Matter there.
But that argument would equally cancel the Matter present in the bodily forms of this realm: body without shape has never existed, always body achieved and yet always the two constituents. We discover these two—Matter and Idea—by sheer force of our reasoning which distinguishes continually in pursuit of the simplex, the irreducible, working on, until it can go no further, towards the ultimate in the subject of enquiry. And the ultimate of every partial-thing is its Matter, which, therefore, must be all darkness since light is a Reason-Principle. The Mind, too, as also a Reason-Principle, sees only in each particular object the Reason-Principle lodging there; anything lying below that it declares to lie below the light, to be therefore a thing of darkness, just as the eye, a thing of light, seeks light and colours which are modes of light, and dismisses all that is below the colours and hidden by them, as belonging to the order of the darkness, which is the order of Matter.
The dark element in the Intelligible, however, differs from that in the sense-world: so therefore does the Matter—as much as the forming-Idea presiding in each of the two realms. The Divine Matter, though (like the Matter here) it is the object of determination has, of its own nature, a life defined and intellectual; the Matter of this sphere while it does accept determination is not living or intellective, but a dead thing decorated: any shape it takes is an image, exactly as the Base is an image. There on the contrary the shape is a real-existent as is the Base. Those that ascribe Real Being to Matter must be admitted to be right as long as they keep to the Matter of the Intelligible Realm: for the Base there is Being, or even, taken as an entirety with the higher that accompanies it, is illuminated Being.
But does this Base, of the Intellectual Realm, possess eternal existence?
The solution of that question is the same as for the Ideas.
Both are engendered, in the sense that they have had a beginning, but unengendered in that this beginning is not in Time: they have a derived being but by an eternal derivation: they are not, like the Kosmos, always in process but, in the character of the Supernal, have their Being permanently. For that differentiation within the Intelligible which produces Matter has always existed and it is this cleavage which produces the Matter there: it is the first movement; and movement and differentiation are convertible terms since the two things arose as one: this motion, this cleavage, away from the first is indetermination (=Matter), needing The First to its determination which it achieves by its Return, remaining, until then, an Alienism, still lacking good; unlit by the Supernal. It is from the Divine that all light comes, and, until this be absorbed, no light in any recipient of light can be authentic; any light from elsewhere is of another order than the true.
We are led thus to the question of receptivity in things of body.
An additional proof that bodies must have some substratum different from themselves, is found in the changing of the basic-constituents into one another. Notice that the destruction of the elements passing over is not complete—if it were we would have a Principle of Being wrecked in Non-being—nor does an engendered thing pass from utter non-being into Being: what happens is that a new form takes the place of an old. There is, then, a stable element, that which puts off one form to receive the form of the incoming entity.
The same fact is clearly established by decay, a process implying a compound object; where there is decay there is a distinction between Matter and Form.
And the reasoning which shows the destructible to be a compound is borne out by practical examples of reduction: a drinking vessel is reduced to its gold, the gold to liquid; analogy forces us to believe that the liquid too is reducible.
The basic-constituents of things must be either their Form-Idea or that Primal Matter (of the Intelligible) or a compound of the Form and Matter.
Form-Idea, pure and simple, they cannot be: for without Matter how could things stand in their mass and magnitude?
Neither can they be that Primal Matter for they are not indestructible.
They must, therefore, consist of Matter and Form-Idea—Form for quality and shape, Matter for the base, indeterminate as being other than Idea.
Empedokles in identifying his “elements” with Matter is refuted by their decay.
Anaxagoras, in identifying his “primal-combination” with Matter—to which he allots no mere aptness to any and every nature or quality but the effective possession of all—withdraws in this way the very Intellectual-Principle he had introduced; for this Mind is not to him the bestower of shape, of Forming Idea; and it is co-æval with Matter, not its prior. But this simultaneous existence is impossible: for if the combination derives Being by participation, Being is the prior; if both are Authentic Existents, then an additional Principle, a third, is imperative (a ground of unification). And if this Creator, Mind, must pre-exist, why need Matter contain the Forming-Ideas parcelwise for the Mind, with unending labour, to assort and allot? Surely the undetermined could be brought to quality and pattern in the one comprehensive act?
As for the notion (of Anaxagoras) that all is in all, this clearly is impossible.
Those who (with Anaximander) make the base to be “the infinite” must define the term.
If this “infinite” means “of endless extension” there is no infinite among beings; there is neither an infinity-in-itself (Infinity Abstract) nor an infinity as an attribute to some body; for in the first case every part of that infinity would be infinite and in the second an object in which the infinity was present as an attribute could not be infinite apart from that attribute, could not be simplex, could not therefore be Matter.
Atoms again (Democritus) cannot meet the need of a base.
There are no atoms; all body is divisible endlessly: besides neither the continuity nor the ductility of corporeal things is explicable apart from Mind, or apart from the Soul which cannot be made up of atoms; and, again, out of atoms creation could produce nothing but atoms: a creative power could produce nothing from a material devoid of continuity. Any number of reasons might be brought, and have been brought, against this hypothesis and it need detain us no longer.
What, then, is this Kind, this Matter, described as one stuff, continuous and without quality?
Clearly since it is without quality it is incorporeal; bodiliness would be quality.
It must be the basic stuff of all the entities of the sense-world and not merely base to some while being to others achieved form.
Clay, for example, is matter to the potter but is not Matter pure and simple. Nothing of this sort is our object: we are seeking the stuff which underlies all alike. We must therefore refuse to it all that we find in things of sense—not merely such attributes as colour, heat or cold, but weight or weightlessness, thickness or thinness, shape and therefore magnitude; though notice that to be present within magnitude and shape is very different from possessing these qualities.
It cannot be a compound, it must be a simplex, one distinct thing in its nature; only so can it be void of all quality. The Principle which gives it form gives this as something alien: so with magnitude and all really-existent things bestowed upon it. If, for example, it possessed a magnitude of its own, the Principle giving it form would be at the mercy of that magnitude and must produce not at will, but only within the limit of the Matter’s capacity: to imagine that Will keeping step with its material is fantastic.
The Matter must be of later origin than the forming-power, and therefore must be at its disposition throughout, ready to become anything, ready therefore to any bulk; besides, if it possessed magnitude, it would necessarily possess shape also: it would be doubly inductile.
No: all that ever appears upon it is brought in by the Idea: the Idea alone possesses: to it belongs the magnitude and all else that goes with the Reason-Principle or follows upon it. Quantity is given with the Ideal-Form in all the particular species—man, bird, and particular kind of bird.
The imaging of Quantity upon Matter by an outside power is not more surprising than the imaging of Quality; Quality is no doubt a Reason-Principle, but Quantity also—being measure, number—is equally so.
But how can we conceive a thing having existence without having magnitude?
We have only to think of things whose identity does not depend on their quantity—for certainly magnitude can be distinguished from existence as can many other forms and attributes.
In a word, every unembodied Kind must be classed as without quantity, and Matter is unembodied.
Besides quantitativeness itself (the Absolute-Principle) does not possess quantity, which belongs only to things participating in it, a consideration which shows that Quantitativeness is an Idea-Principle. A white object becomes white by the presence of whiteness; what makes an organism white or of any other variety of colour is not itself a specific colour but, so to speak, a specific Reason-Principle: in the same way what gives an organism a certain bulk is not itself a thing of magnitude but is Magnitude itself, the abstract Absolute, or the Reason-Principle.
This Magnitude-Absolute, then, enters and beats the Matter out into Magnitude?
Not at all: the Matter was not previously shrunken small: there was no littleness or bigness: the Idea gives Magnitude exactly as it gives every quality not previously present.
But how can I form the conception of the sizelessness of Matter?
How do you form the concept of any absence of quality? What is the Act of the Intellect, what is the mental approach, in such a case?
The secret is Indetermination.
Likeness knows its like: the indeterminate knows the indeterminate. Around this indefinite a definite conception will be realised, but the way lies through indefiniteness.
All knowledge comes by Reason and the Intellectual Act; in this case Reason conveys information in any account it gives, but the act which aims at being intellectual is, here, not intellection but rather its failure: therefore (in this crippled approach) the representation of Matter must be spurious, unreal, something sprung of the Alien, of the unreal, and bound up with the alien reason.
This is Plato’s meaning where he says that Matter is apprehended by a sort of spurious reasoning.
What, then, is this indetermination in the Soul? Does it amount to an utter absence of Knowledge, as if the Soul or Mind had withdrawn?
No: the indeterminate has some footing in the sphere of affirmation. The eye is aware of darkness as a base capable of receiving any colour not yet seen against it: so the Mind, putting aside all attributes perceptible to sense—all that corresponds to light—comes upon a residuum which it cannot bring under determination: it is thus in the state of the eye which, when directed towards darkness, has become in some way identical with the object of its spurious vision.
There is vision, then, in this approach of the Mind towards Matter?
Some vision, yes; of shapelessness, of colourlessness, of the unlit, and therefore of the sizeless. More than this would mean that the Soul is already bestowing Form.
But is not such a void precisely what the Soul experiences when it has no intellection whatever?
No: in that case it affirms nothing, or rather has no experience: but in knowing Matter, it has an experience, what may be described as the impact of the shapeless; for in its very consciousness of objects that have taken shape and size it knows them as compounds (i.e. as possessing with these forms a formless base) for they appear as things that have accepted colour and other quality.
It knows, therefore, a whole which includes two components; it has a clear Knowledge or perception of the overlie (the Ideas) but only a dim awareness of the underlie, the shapeless which is not an Ideal-Principle.
With what is perceptible to it there is presented something else: what it can directly apprehend it sets on one side as its own; but the something else which Reason rejects, this, the dim, it knows dimly, this, the dark, it knows darkly, this it knows in a sort of non-knowing.
And just as even Matter itself is not stably shapeless but, in things, is always shaped, the Soul also is eager to throw over it the thing-form; for the Soul recoils from the indefinite, dreads, almost, to be outside of reality, does not endure to linger about Non-Being.
“But, given Magnitude and the properties we know, what else can be necessary to the existence of body?”
Some base to be the container of all the rest.
“A certain mass then; and if mass, then Magnitude? Obviously if your Base has no Magnitude it offers no footing to any entrant. And suppose it sizeless; then, what end does it serve? It never helped Idea or quality; now it ceases to account for differentiation or for magnitude, though the last, wheresoever it resides, seems to find its way into embodied entities by way of Matter.”
“Or, taking a larger view, observe that actions, productive operations, periods of time, movements, none of these have any such substratum and yet are real things; in the same way the most elementary body has no need of Matter; things may be, all, what they are, each after its own kind, in their great variety, deriving the coherence of their being from the blending of the various Ideal-Forms. This Matter with its sizelessness seems, then, to be a name without a content.”
Now, to begin with: extension is not an imperative condition of being a recipient; it is necessary only where it happens to be a property inherent to the recipient’s peculiar mode of being. The Soul, for example, contains all things but holds them all in an unextended unity; if magnitude were one of its attributes it would contain things in extension. Matter does actually contain in spatial extension what it takes in; but this is because itself is a potential recipient of spatial extension: animals and plants, in the same way, as they increase in size, take quality in parallel development with quantity, and they lose in the one as the other lessens.
No doubt in the case of things as we know them there is a certain mass lying ready beforehand to the shaping power: but that is no reason for expecting bulk in Matter strictly so called; for in such cases Matter is not the absolute; it is that of some definite object; the Absolute Matter must take its magnitude, as every other property, from outside itself.
A thing then need not have magnitude in order to receive form: it may receive mass with everything else that comes to it at the moment of becoming what it is to be: a phantasm of mass is enough, a primary aptness for extension, a magnitude of no content—whence the identification that has been made of Matter with The Void.
But I prefer to use the word phantasm as hinting the indefiniteness into which the Soul spills itself when it seeks to communicate with Matter, finding no possibility of delimiting it, neither encompassing it nor able to penetrate to any fixed point of it, either of which achievements would be an act of delimitation.
In other words we have something which is to be described not as small or great but as the great-and-small: for it is at once a mass and a thing without magnitude, in the sense that it is the Matter on which Mass is based and that, as it changes from great to small and small to great, it traverses magnitude. Its very undeterminateness is a mass in the same sense—that of being a recipient of Magnitude—though of course only in the visible object.
In the order of things without Mass, all that is Ideal-Principle possesses delimitation, each entity for itself, so that the conception of Mass has no place in them: Matter, not delimited, having in its own nature no stability, swept into any or every form by turns, ready to go here, there and everywhere, becomes a thing of multiplicity: driven into all shapes, becoming all things, it has that much of the character of mass.
It is the corporeal, then, that demands magnitude: the Ideal-Forms of body are Ideas installed in Mass.
But these Ideas enter, not into Magnitude itself but into some subject that has been brought to Magnitude. For to suppose them entering into Magnitude—and not into Matter—is to represent them as being either without Magnitude and without Real-Existence (and therefore undistinguishable from the Matter) or not Ideal-Forms (apt to body) but Reason-Principles (utterly removed) whose sphere could only be Soul; at this, there would be no such thing as body (i.e. instead of Ideal-Forms shaping Matter and so producing body, there would be merely Reason-Principles dwelling remote in Soul.)
The multiplicity here must be based upon some unity which, since it has been brought to Magnitude, must be, itself, distinct from Magnitude. Matter is the base of Identity to all that is composite: once each of the constituents comes bringing its own Matter with it, there is no need of any other base. No doubt there must be a container, as it were a place, to receive what is to enter, but Matter and even body precede place and space; the primal necessity, in order to the existence of body, is Matter.
There is no force in the suggestion that since production and act are immaterial, corporeal entities also must be immaterial.
Bodies are compound, actions not. Further, Matter does in some sense underlie action; it supplies the substratum to the doer: it is permanently within him though it does not enter as a constituent into the act where, indeed, it would be a hindrance. Doubtless, one act does not change into another—as would be the case if there were a specific Matter of actions—but the doer directs himself from one act to another so that he is the Matter, himself, to his varying actions.
Matter, in sum, is necessary to quality and to quantity, and, therefore, to body.
It is, thus, no name void of content; we know there is such a base, invisible and without bulk though it be.
If we reject it, we must by the same reasoning reject qualities and mass: for quality, or mass, or any such entity, taken by itself apart, might be said not to exist. But these do exist, though in an obscure existence: there is much less ground for rejecting Matter, however it lurk, discerned by none of the senses.
It eludes the eye, for it is utterly outside of colour: it is not heard, for it is no sound: it is no flavour or savour for nostrils or palate: can it, perhaps, be known to touch? No: for neither is it corporeal; and touch deals with body, which is known by being solid, fragile, soft, hard, moist, dry—all properties utterly lacking in Matter.
It is grasped only by a mental process, though that not an act of the intellective mind but a reasoning that finds no subject; and so it stands revealed as the spurious thing it has been called. No bodiliness belongs to it; bodiliness is itself a phase of Reason-Principle and so is something different from Matter, as Matter, therefore, from it: bodiliness already operative and so to speak made concrete would be body manifest and not Matter unelaborated.
Are we asked to accept as the substratum some attribute or quality present to all the elements in common?
Then, first, we must be told what precise attribute this is and, next, how an attribute can be a substratum.
The elements are sizeless, and how conceive an attribute where there is neither base nor bulk?
Again, if the quality possesses determination, it is not Matter the undetermined; and anything without determination is not a quality but is the substratum—the very Matter we are seeking.
It may be suggested that perhaps this absence of quality means simply that, of its own nature, it has no participation in any of the set and familiar properties, but takes quality by this very non-participation, holding thus an absolutely individual character, marked off from everything else, being as it were the negation of those others. Deprivation we will be told comports quality: a blind man has the quality of his lack of sight. If then—it will be urged—Matter exhibits such a negation, surely it has a quality, all the more so, assuming any deprivation to be a quality, in that here the deprivation is all comprehensive.
But this notion reduces all existence to qualified things or qualities: Quantity itself becomes a Quality and so does even Existence. Now this cannot be: if such things as Quantity and Existence are qualified, they are, by that very fact, not qualities: Quality is an addition to them; we must not commit the absurdity of giving the name Quality to something distinguishable from Quality, something therefore that is not Quality.
Is it suggested that its mere Alienism is a quality in Matter?
If this Alienism is difference-absolute (the abstract entity) it possesses no Quality: absolute Quality cannot be itself a qualified thing.
If the Alienism is to be understood as meaning only that Matter is differentiated, then it is different not by itself (since it is certainly not an absolute) but by this Difference, just as all identical objects are so (not by themselves but) by virtue of Identicalness (the Absolute principle of Identity).
An absence is neither a Quality nor a qualified entity; it is the negation of a Quality or of something else, as noiselessness is the negation of noise and so on. A lack is negative; Quality demands something positive. The distinctive character of Matter is unshape, the lack of qualification and of form; surely then it is absurd to pretend that it has Quality in not being qualified; that is like saying that sizelessness constitutes a certain size.
The distinctive character of Matter, then, is simply its manner of being—not something definite inserted in it but, rather a relation towards other things, the relation of being distinct from them.
Other things possess something besides this relation of Alienism: their form makes each an entity. Matter may with propriety be described as merely alien; perhaps, even, we might describe it as “The Aliens,” for the singular suggests a certain definiteness while the plural would indicate the absence of any determination.
But is Absence this privation itself, or something in which this Privation is lodged?
Anyone maintaining that Matter and Privation are one and the same in substratum but stand separable in reason cannot be excused from assigning to each the precise principle which distinguishes it in reason from the other: that which defines Matter must be kept quite apart from that defining the Privation and vice versa.
There are three possibilities: Matter is not in Privation and Privation is not in Matter; or each is in each; or each is in itself alone.
Now if they should stand quite apart, neither calling for the other, they are two distinct things: Matter is something other than Privation even though Privation always goes with it: into the principle of the one, the other cannot enter even potentially.
If their relation to each other is that of a snubnose to snubness, here also there is a double concept; we have two things.
If they stand to each other as fire to heat—heat in fire, but fire not included in the concept of heat—if Matter is Privation in the way in which fire is heat, then the Privation is a form under which Matter appears but there remains a base distinct from the Privation and this base must be the Matter. Here, too, they are not one thing.
Perhaps the identity in substance with differentiation in reason will be defended on the ground that Privation does not point to something present but precisely to an absence, to something absent, to the negation or lack of Real-being: the case would be like that of the affirmation of non-existence, where there is no real predication but simply a denial.
Is, then, this Privation simply a non-existence?
If a non-existence in the sense that it is not a thing of Real-being, but belongs to some other Kind of existent, we have still two Principles, one referring directly to the substratum, the other merely exhibiting the relation of the Privation to other things (as their potentiality).
Or we might say that the one concept defines the relation of substratum to what is not substratum (but realised entity) while that of Privation, in bringing out the indeterminateness of Matter, applies to the Matter in itself (and not in its relationships): but this still makes Privation and Matter two in reason though one in substratum.
Now if Matter possesses an identity—though only the identity of being indeterminate, unfixed and without quality—how can we bring it so under two principles?
The further question, therefore, is raised whether boundlessness and indetermination are things lodging in something other than themselves as a sort of attribute and whether Privation (or Negation of quality) is also an attribute residing in some separate substratum.
Now all that is Number and Reason-Principle is outside of boundlessness (is fully delimited): these (Number and Reason) bestow bound and settlement and order in general upon all else: neither anything that has been brought under order nor any Order-Absolute (apart from themselves) is needed to bring them under order. The thing that has to be brought under order (e.g. Matter) is other than the Ordering Principle which is Limit and Definiteness and Reason-Principle. Therefore, necessarily, the thing to be brought under order and to definiteness must be in itself a thing lacking delimitation.
Now Matter is a thing that is brought under order—like all that shares its nature by participation or by possessing the same principle—therefore, necessarily, Matter is The Undelimited (the Absolute, the “thing” Indefiniteness) and not merely the recipient of a non-essential quality of Indefiniteness entering as an attribute.
For, first, any attribute to any subject must be a Reason-Principle; and Indefiniteness is not a Reason-Principle.
Secondly, what must a thing be to take Indefiniteness as an attribute? Obviously it must, beforehand, be either Definiteness (the Principle) or a defined thing. But Matter is neither.
Then again Indefiniteness entering as an attribute into the definite must cease to be indefinite: but (since Matter remains true to its Kind, i.e. is indefinite as long as it is Matter) Indefiniteness has not entered as an attribute into Matter: that is, Matter is essentially Indefiniteness.
The Matter even of the Intellectual Realm is the Indefinite, (the undelimited); it must be a thing generated by the undefined nature, the illimitable nature, of the Eternal Being, The One—an illimitableness, however, not possessing native existence There (not inherent) but engendered by The One.
But how can Matter be common to both spheres, be here and be There?
Because even Indefiniteness has two phases.
But what difference can there be between phase and phase of Indefiniteness?
The difference of archetype and image.
So that Matter here (as only an image of Indefiniteness) would be less indefinite?
On the contrary, more indefinite as an Image-thing remote from true being. Indefiniteness is the greater in the less ordered object; the less deep in good, the deeper in evil. The Indeterminate in the Intellectual Realm, where there is truer being, might almost be called merely an Image of Indefiniteness: in this lower Sphere where there is less Being, where there is a refusal of the Authentic, and an adoption of the Image-Kind, Indefiniteness is more authentically indefinite.
But this argument seems to make no difference between the indefinite object and Indefiniteness-essential. Is there none?
In any object in which Reason and Matter co-exist we distinguish between Indeterminateness and the Indeterminate subject: but where Matter stands alone we make them identical, or, better, we would say right out that in that case essential Indeterminateness is not present; for it is a Reason-Principle and could not lodge in the indeterminate object without at once annulling the indeterminateness.
Matter, then, must be described as Indefinite of itself, by its natural opposition to Reason-Principle. Reason is Reason and nothing else; just so Matter, opposed by its indeterminateness to Reason, is Indeterminateness and nothing else.
Then Matter is simply Alienism (the Principle of Difference)?
No: it is merely that part of Alienism which stands in contradiction with the Authentic Existents which are Reason-Principles. So understood, this non-existent has a certain measure of existence; for it is identical with Privation, which also is a thing standing in opposition to the things that exist in Reason.
But must not Privation cease to have existence, when what has been lacking is present at last?
By no means: the recipient of a state or character is not a state but the (negation or) Privation of the state; and that into which determination enters is neither a determined object nor determination itself, but simply the wholly or partly undetermined.
Still, must not the nature of this Undetermined be annulled by the entry of Determination, especially where (as in Matter) this is no mere attribute (but the very nature of the recipient)?
No doubt to introduce quantitative determination into an undetermined object would annul the original state; but in the particular case, the introduction of determination only confirms the original state, bringing it into actuality, into full effect, as sowing brings out the natural quality of land or as a female organism impregnated by the male is not defeminised but becomes more decidedly of its sex; the thing becomes more emphatically itself.
But on this reasoning must not Matter owe its evil to having in some degree participated in good?
No: its evil is in its first lack: it was not a possessor (as the land or the female organism are, of some specific character).
To lack one thing and to possess another, in something like equal proportions, is to hold a middle state of good and evil: but whatsoever (like this substratum) possesses nothing and so is in destitution—and especially what is essentially destitution—must be evil in its own Kind.
For in Matter we have no mere absence of means or of strength; it is utter destitution—of sense, of virtue, of beauty, of pattern, of Ideal principle, of quality. This is surely ugliness, utter disgracefulness, unredeemed evil.
The Matter in the Intellectual Realm is an Existent, for there is nothing previous to it except the Beyond-Existence; but what precedes the Matter of this sphere is Existence; by its alienism in regard to the beauty and good of Existence, Matter is therefore a non-existent.
A distinction is made between things existing actually and things existing potentially; a certain Actuality, also, is spoken of as a really existent entity. We must consider what content there is in these terms.
Can we distinguish between Actuality (an absolute, abstract Principle) and the state of being-in-act? And if there is such an Actuality, is this itself in Act, or are the two quite distinct so that this actually existent thing need not be, itself, an Act?
It is indubitable that Potentiality exists in the Realm of Sense: but does the Intellectual Realm similarly include the potential or only the actual? and if the potential exists there, does it remain merely potential for ever? And, if so, is this resistance to actualisation due to its being precluded (as a member of the Divine or Intellectual world) from time-processes?
First we must make clear what potentiality is.
We cannot think of potentiality as standing by itself; there can be no potentiality apart from something which a given thing may be or become. Thus bronze is the potentiality of a statue: but if nothing could be made out of the bronze, nothing wrought upon it, if it could never be anything as a future to what it has been, if it rejected all change, it would be bronze and nothing else: its own character it holds already as a present thing, and that would be the full of its capacity: it would be destitute of potentiality. Whatsoever has a potentiality must first have a (definite) character of its own; and its potentiality will consist in its having a reach beyond that character to some other.
Sometimes after it has turned its potentiality into actuality it will remain what it was; sometimes it will sink itself to the fullest extent in the new form and itself disappear: these two different modes are exemplified in (1) bronze as potentially a statue and (2) water (=primalliquid) as potentially bronze or, again, air as potentially fire.
But if this be the significance of potentiality, may we describe it as a Power towards the thing that is to be? Is the Bronze a power towards a statue?
Not in the sense of an effectively productive force: such a power could not be called a potentiality. Of course Potentiality may be a power, as, for instance, when we are referring not merely to a thing which may be brought into actualisation but to Actuality itself (the Principle or Abstract in which potentiality and the power of realising potentiality may be thought of as identical): but it is better, as more conducive to clarity, to use “Potentiality” in regard to the process of Actualisation and “Power” in regard to the Principle, Actuality.
Potentiality may be thought of as a Substratum to states and shapes and forms which are to be received, which it welcomes by its nature and even strives for—sometimes in gain but sometimes, also, to loss, to the annulling of some distinctive manner of Being already actually achieved.
Then the question rises whether Matter—potentially what it becomes by receiving shape—is actually something else or whether it has no actuality at all. In general terms: When a potentiality has taken a definite form, does it retain its being? Is the potentiality, itself, in actualisation? The alternative is that, when we speak of the “Actual Statue” and of the “Potential Statue,” the Actuality is not predicated of the same subject as the “Potentiality.” If we have really two different subjects, then the potential does not really become the actual: all that happens is that an actual entity takes the place of a potential.
The actualised entity is not the Matter (the Potentiality, merely) but a combination, including the Form-Idea upon the Matter.
This is certainly the case when a quite different thing results from the actualisation—the statue, for example, the combination, is distinctly different from the bronze, the base; where the resultant is something quite new, the Potentiality has clearly not, itself, become what is now actualised. But take the case where a person with a capacity for education becomes in fact educated: is not potentiality, here, identical with actualisation? Is not the potentially wise Socrates the same man as the Socrates actually wise?
But is an ignorant man a being of knowledge because he is so potentially? Is he, in virtue of his non-essential ignorance, potentially an instructed being?
It is not because of his accidental ignorance that he is a being of Knowledge: it is because, ignorant though he be by accident, his mind, apt to knowledge, is the potentiality through which he may become so. Thus, in the case of the potentially instructed who have become so in fact, the potentiality is taken up into the actual; or, if we prefer to put it so, there is on the one side the potentiality while, on the other, there is the power in actual possession of the form.
If, then, the Potentiality is the Substratum while the thing in actualisation—the Statue for example—is a combination, how are we to describe the form that has entered the bronze?
There will be nothing unsound in describing this shape, this Form which has brought the entity from potentiality to actuality, as the actualisation; but of course as the actualisation of the definite particular entity, not as Actuality the abstract: we must not confuse it with the other actualisation, strictly so called, that which is contrasted with the power producing actualisation. The potential is led out into realisation by something other than itself; power accomplishes, of itself, what is within its scope, but by virtue of Actuality (the abstract): the relation is that existing between a temperament and its expression in act, between courage and courageous conduct. So far so good:—
We come now to the purpose of all this discussion; to make clear in what sense or to what degree Actualisation is predicable in the Intellectual Realm and whether all is in Actualisation there, each and every member of that realm being an Act, or whether Potentiality also has place there.
Now: if there is no Matter there to harbour potentiality: if nothing there has any future apart from its actual mode: if nothing there generates, whether by changes or in the permanence of its identity; if nothing goes outside of itself to give being to what is other than itself; then, potentiality has no place there: the Beings there possess actuality as belonging to eternity, not to time.
Those, however, who (with us) assert Matter in the Intellectual Realm will be asked whether the existence of that Matter does not imply the potential there too; for even if Matter there exists in another mode than here, every Being there will have its Matter, its form and the union of the two (and therefore the potential, separable from the actual). What answer is to be made?
Simply, that even the Matter there is Idea, just as the Soul, an Idea, is Matter to another (a higher) Being.
But relatively to that higher, the Soul is a potentiality?
No: for the Idea (to which it is Matter) is integral to the Soul and does not look to a future; the distinction between the Soul and its Idea is purely mental: the Idea and the Matter it includes are conceived as a conjunction but are essentially one Kind: remember that Aristotle makes his Fifth Body immaterial.
But surely Potentiality exists in the Soul? Surely the Soul is potentially the living-being of this world before it has become so? Is it not potentially musical, and everything else that it has not been and becomes? Does not this imply potentiality even in the Intellectual Existences?
No: the Soul is not potentially these things; it is a Power towards them.
But after what mode does Actualisation exist in the Intellectual Realm?
Is it the Actualisation of a statue, where the combination is realised because the Form-Idea has mastered each separate constituent of the total?
No: it is that every constituent there is a Form-Idea and, thus, is perfect in its Being.
There is in the Intellectual Principle no progression from some power capable of intellection to the Actuality of intellection: such a progression would send us in search of a Prior Principle not progressing from Power to Act; there all stands ever realised. Potentiality requires an intervention from outside itself to bring it to the actualisation which otherwise cannot be; but what possesses, of itself, identity unchangeable for ever is an actualisation: all the Firsts then are actualisations, simply because eternally and of themselves they possess all that is necessary to their completion.
This applies equally to the Soul, not to that in Matter but to that in the Intellectual Sphere; and even that in Matter, the Soul of Growth, is an actualisation in its difference; it possesses actually (and not, like material things, merely in image) the Being that belongs to it.
Then, everything, in the intellectual is in actualisation and so all There is Actuality?
Why not? If that Nature is rightly said to be “Sleepless,” and to be Life and the noblest mode of Life, the noblest Activities must be there; all then is actualisation there, everything is an Actuality, for everything is a Life, and all Place there is the Place of Life, in the true sense the ground and spring of Soul and of the Intellectual Principle.
Now, in general anything that has a potentiality is actually something else, and this potentiality of the future mode of being is an existing mode.
But what we think of as Matter, what we assert to be the potentiality of all things, cannot be said to be actually any one being among beings: if it were of itself any definite being, it could not be potentially all.
If, then, it is not among existences, it must necessarily be without existence.
How, therefore, can it be actually anything?
The answer is that while Matter can not be any of the things which are founded upon it, it may quite well be something else, admitting that all existences are not rooted in Matter.
But once more, if it is excluded from the entities founded upon it and all these are Beings, it must itself be a Non-Being.
It is, further, by definition, formless and therefore not an Idea: it cannot then be classed among things of the Intellectual Realm, and so is, once more, a Non-Being. Falling, as regards both worlds, under Non-Being, it is all the more decidedly the Non-Being.
It has eluded the Nature of the Authentic Existences; it has even failed to come up with the things to which a spurious existence can be attributed—for it is not even a phantasm of Reason as these are—how is it possible to include it under any mode of Being?
And if it falls under no mode of Being, what can it actually be?
How can we talk of it? How can it be the Matter of real things?
It is talked of, and it serves, precisely, as a Potentiality.
And, as being a Potentiality, it is not of the order of the thing it is to become: its existence is no more than an announcement of a future, as it were a thrust forward to what is to come into existence.
As Potentiality then, it is not any definite thing but the potentiality of everything: being nothing in itself—beyond what being Matter amounts to—it is not in actualisation. For if it were actually something, that actualised something would not be Matter, or at least not Matter out and out, but merely Matter in the limited sense in which bronze is the matter of the statue.
And its Non-Being must be no mere difference from Being.
Motion, for example, is different from Being, but plays about it, springing from it and living within it: Matter is, so to speak, the outcast of Being, it is utterly removed, irredeemably what it was from the beginning: in origin it was Non-Being and so it remains.
Nor are we to imagine that, standing away at the very beginning from the universal circle of Beings, it was thus necessarily an active Something or that it became a Something. It has never been able to annex for itself even a visible outline from all the forms under which it has sought to creep: it has always pursued something other than itself; it was never more than a Potentiality towards its next: where all the circle of Being ends, there only is it manifest; discerned underneath things produced after it, it is remoter (from Real-Being) even than they.
Grasped, then, as an underlie in each order of Being, it can be no actualisation of either: all that is allowed to it is to be a Potentiality, a weak and blurred phantasm, a thing incapable of a Shape of its own.
Its actuality is that of being a phantasm, the actuality of being a falsity; and the false in actualisation is the veritably false, which again is Authentic Non-Existence.
So that Matter, as the Actualisation of Non-Being, is all the more decidedly Non-Being, is Authentic Non-Existence.
Thus, since the very reality of its Nature is situated in Non-Being, it is in no degree the Actualisation of any definite Being.
If it is to be present at all, it cannot be an Actualisation, for then it would not be the stray from Authentic Being which it is, the thing having its Being in Non-Beingness: for, note, in the case of things whose Being is a falsity, to take away the falsity is to take away what Being they have, and if we introduce actualisation into things whose Being and Essence is Potentiality, we destroy the foundation of their nature since their Being is Potentiality.
If Matter is to be kept as the unchanging substratum, we must keep it as Matter: that means—does it not?—that we must define it as a Potentiality and nothing more—or refute these considerations.
Are not Being and Reality (tò [Editor: illegible character]n and hē o[Editor: illegible character]sía) distinct; must we not envisage Being as the substance stripped of all else, while Reality is this same thing, Being, accompanied by the others—Movement, Rest, Identity, Difference—so that these are the specific constituents of Reality?
The universal fabric, then, is Reality in which Being, Movement, and so on are separate constituents.
Now Movement has Being (not essentially but) as an accident and therefore should have Reality as an accident; or is it something serving to the completion of Reality?
No: Movement is a Reality; everything in the Supreme is a Reality.
Why, then, does not Reality reside, equally, in this sphere?
In the Supreme there is Reality because all things are one; ours is the sphere of images whose separation produces grades of difference. Thus in the spermatic unity all the human members are present undistinguishably; there is no separation of head and hand: their distinct existence begins in the life here, whose content is image, not Authentic Existence.
And are the distinct Qualities in the Authentic Realm to be explained in the same way? Are they differing Realities centred in one Reality or gathered round Being—differences which constitute Realities distinct from each other within the common fact of Reality?
This is sound enough; but it does not apply to all the qualities of this sphere, some of which, no doubt, are differentiations of Reality—such as the quality of two-footedness or four-footedness—but others are not such differentiations of Reality and, because they are not so, must be called qualities and nothing more.
On the other hand, one and the same thing may be sometimes a differentiation of Reality and sometimes not—a differentiation when it is a constitutive element, and no differentiation in some other thing, where it is not a constitutive element but an accidental. The distinction may be seen in the (constitutive) whiteness of a swan or of ceruse and the whiteness which in a man is an accidental.
Where whiteness belongs to the very Reason-Form of the thing it is a constitutive element and not a quality; where it is a superficial appearance it is a quality.
In other words, qualification may be distinguished. We may think of a qualification that is of the very substance of the thing, something exclusively belonging to it. And there is a qualifying that is nothing more (not constituting but simply) giving some particular character to the real thing; in this second case the qualification does not produce any alteration towards Reality or away from it; the Reality has existed fully constituted before the incoming of the qualification which—whether in soul or body—merely introduces some state from outside, and by this addition elaborates the Reality into the particular thing.
But what if (the superficial appearance such as) the visible whiteness in ceruse is constitutive? In the swan the whiteness is not constitutive since a swan need not be white: it is constitutive in ceruse, just as warmth is constitutive of the Reality, fire.
No doubt we may be told that the Reality in fire is (not warmth but) fieriness and in ceruse an analogous abstraction: yet the fact remains that in visible fire warmth or fieriness is constitutive and in the ceruse whiteness.
Thus the same entities (warmness, whiteness and fieriness) are represented at once as being not qualities but constituents of Reality and not constituents but qualities.
Now it is absurd to talk as if one identical thing—(warmth, whiteness or the like) changed its own nature according to whether it is present as a constituent or as an accidental.
The truth is that while the Reason-Principles producing these entities contain nothing but what is of the nature of Reality, yet only in the Intellectual Realm do the produced things possess real existence: here they are not real; they are qualified.
And this is the starting-point of an error we constantly make: in our enquiries into things we let realities escape us and fasten on what is mere quality. Thus fire is not the thing we so name from the observation of certain qualities present; fire is a Reality (not a combination of material phenomena); the phenomena observed here and leading us to name fire call us away from the authentic thing; a quality is erected into the very matter of definition—a procedure, however, reasonable enough in regard to things of the realm of sense which are in no case realities but accidents of Reality.
And this raises the question how Reality can ever spring from what are not Realities.
It has been shown that a thing coming into being cannot be identical with its origins: it must here be added that nothing thus coming into being (no “thing of process”) can be a Reality.
Then how do we assert the rising in the Supreme of what we have called Reality from what is not Reality (i.e. from the pure Being which is above Reality)?
The Reality there—possessing Authentic Being in the strictest sense, with the least admixture—is Reality (not so much by being produced as) by existing among the differentiations of the Authentic Being; or, better, Reality is affirmed in the sense that with the existence of the Supreme is included its Act so that Reality seems to be a perfectionment of the Authentic Being, though in the truth it is a diminution; the produced thing is deficient by the very addition, by being less simplex, by standing one step away from the Authentic.
But we must enquire into Quality in itself: to know its nature is certainly the way to settle our general question.
The first point is to assure ourselves whether or not one and the same thing may be held to be sometimes a mere qualification and sometimes a constituent of Reality—not staying on the point that qualification could not be constitutive of a Reality but of a qualified Reality only.
Now in a Reality possessing a determined quality, the Reality and the fact of existence precede the qualified Reality.
What, then, in the case of fire is the Reality which precedes the qualified Reality?
Its mere body, perhaps? If so, body being the Reality, fire is a warmed body; and the total thing is not the Reality; and the fire has warmth (not essentially but) as a man might have a snub nose.
Rejecting its warmth, its glow, its lightness—all which certainly do seem to be qualities—and its resistance, there is left only its extension by three dimensions: in other words, its Matter is its Reality.
But that cannot be held: surely the form is much more likely than the Matter to be the Reality.
But is not the Form a Quality (and not therefore a Reality)?
No, the Form is not a Quality: it is a Reason-Principle.
And the outcome of this Reason-Principle entering into the underlying Matter, what is that?
Certainly not what is seen and burns, for that is the something in which these qualities inhere.
We might define the burning as an Act springing from the Reason-Principle: then the warming and lighting and other effects of fire will be its Acts and we still have found no foothold for its quality.
Such completions of a Reality cannot be called qualities since they are its Acts emanating from the Reason-Principles and from the essential powers. A quality is something persistently outside Reality; it cannot appear as Reality in one place after having figured in another as quality; its function is to bring in the something more after the Reality is established, such additions as virtue, vice, ugliness, beauty, health, a certain shape. On this last, however, it may be remarked that triangularity and quadrangularity are not in themselves qualities, but there is quality when a thing is triangular by having been brought to that shape; the quality is not the triangularity but the patterning to it. The case is the same with the arts and avocations (by which human beings take the quality of being instructed, etc.).
Thus: Quality is a condition superadded to a Reality whose existence does not depend upon it, whether this something more be a later acquirement or an accompaniment from the first; it is something in whose absence the Reality would still be complete. It will sometimes come and go, sometimes be inextricably attached, so that there are two forms of Quality, the moveable and the fixed.
The Whiteness, therefore, in a human being is, clearly, to be classed not as a quality but as an activity—the act of a power which can make white; and similarly what we think of as qualities in the Intellectual Realm should be known as activities; they are activities which to our minds take the appearance of quality from the fact that, differing in character among themselves, each of them is a particularity which, so to speak, distinguishes those Realities from each other.
What, then, distinguishes Quality in the Intellectual Realm from that here, if both are Acts?
The difference is that these (“Quality-Activities”) in the Supreme do not indicate the very nature of the Reality (as do the corresponding Activities here) nor do they indicate variations of substance or of (essential) character; they merely indicate what we think of as Quality but in the Intellectual Realm must still be Activity.
In other words this thing, considered in its aspect as possessing the characteristic property of Reality is by that alone recognised as no mere Quality. But when our reason separates what is distinctive in these (“Quality-Activities”)—not in the sense of abolishing them but rather as taking them to itself and making something new of them—this new something is Quality: reason has, so to speak, appropriated a portion of Reality, that portion manifest to it on the surface.
By this analogy, warmth, as a concomitant of the specific nature of fire, may very well be no quality in fire but an Idea-Form belonging to it, one of its activities, while being merely a Quality in other things than fire: as it is manifested in any warm object, it is not a mode of Reality but merely a trace, a shadow, an image, something that has gone forth from its own Reality—where it was an Act—and in the warm object is a quality.
All, then, that is accident and not Act; all but what is Idea-form of the Reality; all that merely confers pattern; all this is Quality: qualities are characteristics and modes other than those constituting the substratum of a thing.
But the Archetypes of all such qualities, the foundation in which they exist primarily, these are (not qualities but) Activities of the Intellectual Beings.
And; one and the same thing cannot be both Quality and non-quality: the thing void of Real-Existence is Quality; but the thing accompanying Reality is either Form or Activity: there is no longer self-identity when, from having its being in itself, anything comes to be in something else with a fall from its standing as Form and Activity.
Finally, anything which is never Form but always accidental to something else is Quality unmixed and nothing more.
Some enquiry must be made into what is known as the complete transfusion of material substances.
Is it possible that fluid be blended with fluid in such a way that each penetrate the other through and through? or—a difference of no importance if any such penetration occurs—that one of them pass completely through the other?
Those that admit only contact need not detain us. They are dealing with mixture, not with the coalescence which makes the total a thing of like parts, each minutest particle being composed of all the combined elements.
But there are those who, admitting coalescence, confine it to the qualities: to them the material substances of two bodies are in contact merely, but in this contact of the matter they find footing for the qualities of each.
Their view is plausible because it rejects the notion of total admixture and because it recognises that the masses of the mixing bodies must be whittled away if there is to be mixture without any gap, if, that is to say, each substance must be divided within itself through and through for complete interpenetration with the other. Their theory is confirmed by the cases in which two mixed substances occupy a greater space than either singly, especially a space equal to the conjoined extent of each: for, as they point out, in an absolute interpenetration the infusion of the one into the other would leave the occupied space exactly what it was before and, where the space occupied is not increased by the juxtaposition, they explain that some expulsion of air has made room for the incoming substance. They ask further, how a minor quantity of one substance can be spread out so as to interpenetrate (speck by speck or drop by drop) a major quantity of another. In fact they have a multitude of arguments.
Those, on the other hand, that accept “complete transfusion,” might object that it does not require the reduction of the mixed things to fragments, a certain cleavage being sufficient: thus, for instance, sweat does not split up the body or even pierce holes in it. And if it is answered that this may well be a special decree of Nature to allow of the sweat exuding, there is the case of those manufactured articles, slender but without puncture, in which we can see a liquid wetting them through and through so that it runs down from the upper to the under surface. How can this fact be explained, since both the liquid and the solid are bodily substances? Interpenetration without disintegration is difficult to conceive, and if there is such mutual disintegration the two must obviously destroy each other.
When they urge that often there is a mixing without augmentation their adversaries can counter at once with the exit of air.
When there is an increase in the space occupied, nothing refutes the explanation—however unsatisfying—that this is a necessary consequence of two bodies bringing to a common stock their magnitude equally with their other attributes: size is as permanent as any other property; and, exactly as from the blending of qualities there results a new form of thing, the combination of the two, so we find a new magnitude; the blending gives us a magnitude representing each of the two. But at this point the others will answer, “If you mean that substance lies side by side with substance and mass with mass, each carrying its quantum of magnitude, you are at one with us: if there were complete transfusion, one substance sinking its original magnitude in the other, we would have no longer the case of two lines joined end to end by their terminal points and thus producing an increased extension; we would have line superimposed upon line with, therefore, no increase.”
But a lesser quantity permeates the entire extent of a larger; the smallest is sunk in the greatest; transfusion is exhibited unmistakeably. In certain cases it is possible to pretend that there is no total penetration but there are manifest examples leaving no room for the pretence. In what they say of the spreading out of masses they cannot be thought very plausible; the extension would have to be considerable indeed in the case of a very small quantity (to be in true mixture with a very large mass); for they do not suggest any such extension by change as that of water into air.
This, however, raises a problem deserving investigation in itself: what has happened when a definite magnitude of water becomes air, and how do we explain the increase of volume? But for the present we must be content with the matter thus far discussed out of all the varied controversy accumulated on either side.
It remains for us to make out on our own account the true explanation of the phenomenon of mixing, without regard to the agreement or disagreement of that theory with any of the current opinions mentioned.
When water runs through wool or when papyrus-pulp gives up its moisture why is not the moist content expressed to the very last drop or even, without question of outflow, how can we possibly think that in a mixture the relation of matter with matter, mass with mass, is contact and that only the qualities are fused? The pulp is not merely in touch with water outside it or even in its pores; it is wet through and through so that every particle of its matter is drenched in that quality. Now if the matter is soaked all through with the quality, then the water is everywhere in the pulp.
“Not the water; the quality of the water.”
But then, where is the water? and (if only a quality has entered) why is there a change of volume? The pulp has been expanded by the addition: that is to say it has received magnitude from the incoming substance—but if it has received the magnitude, magnitude has been added; and a magnitude added has not been absorbed; therefore the combined matter must occupy two several places. And as the two mixing substances communicate quality and receive matter in mutual give and take so they may give and take magnitude. Indeed when a quality meets another quality it suffers some change; it is mixed, and by that admixture it is no longer pure and therefore no longer itself but a blunter thing, whereas magnitude joining magnitude retains its full strength.
But let it be understood how we came to say that body passing through and through another body must produce disintegration, while we make qualities pervade their substances without producing disintegration: the bodilessness of qualities is the reason. Matter, too, is bodiless: it may, then, be supposed that as Matter pervades everything so the bodiless qualities associated with it—as long as they are few—have the power of penetration without disintegration. Anything solid would be stopped either in virtue of the fact that a solid has the precise quality which forbids it to penetrate or in that the mere coexistence of too many qualities in Matter (constitutes density and so) produces the same inhibition.
If, then, what we call a dense body is so by reason of the presence of many qualities, that plenitude of qualities will be the cause (of the inhibition).
If on the other hand density is itself a quality like what they call corporeity, then the cause will be that particular quality.
This would mean that the qualities of two substances do not bring about the mixing by merely being qualities but by being apt to mixture; nor does Matter refuse to enter into a mixing as Matter but as being associated with a quality repugnant to mixture; and this all the more since it has no magnitude of its own but only does not reject magnitude.
We have thus covered our main ground, but since corporeity has been mentioned, we must consider its nature: is it the conjunction of all the qualities or is it an Idea, or Reason-Principle, whose presence in Matter constitutes a body?
Now if body is the compound, the thing made up of all the required qualities plus Matter, then corporeity is nothing more than their conjunction.
And if it is a Reason-Principle, one whose incoming constitutes the body, then clearly this Principle contains embraced within itself all the qualities. If this Reason-Principle is to be no mere principle of definition exhibiting the nature of a thing but a veritable Reason constituting the thing, then it cannot itself contain Matter but must encircle Matter, and by being present to Matter elaborate the body: thus the body will be Matter associated with an indwelling Reason-Principle which will be in itself immaterial, pure Idea, even though irremoveably attached to the body. It is not to be confounded with that other Principle in man—treated elsewhere—which dwells in the Intellectual World by right of being itself an Intellectual Principle.
Seen from a distance, objects appear reduced and close together, however far apart they be: within easy range, their sizes and the distances that separate them are observed correctly.
Distant objects show in this reduction because they must be drawn together for vision and the light must be concentrated to suit the size of the pupil; besides, as we are placed further and further away from the material mass under observation, it is more and more the bare form that reaches us, stripped, so to speak, of magnitude as of all other quality.
Or it may be that we appreciate the magnitude of an object by observing the salience and recession of its several parts, so that to perceive its true size we must have it close at hand.
Or again, it may be that magnitude is known incidentally (as a deduction) from the observation of colour. With an object at hand we know how much space is covered by the colour; at a distance, only that something is coloured, for the parts, quantitatively distinct among themselves, do not give us the precise knowledge of that quantity, the colours themselves reaching us only in a blurred impression.
What wonder, then, if size be like sound—reduced when the form reaches us but faintly—for in sound the hearing is concerned only about the form; magnitude is not discerned except incidentally.
Well, in hearing magnitude is known incidentally; but how? Touch conveys a direct impression of a visible object; what gives us the same direct impression of an object of hearing?
The magnitude of a sound is known not by actual quantity but by degree of impact, by intensity—and this in no indirect knowledge; the ear appreciates a certain degree of force, exactly as the palate perceives by no indirect knowledge, a certain degree of sweetness. But the true magnitude of a sound is its extension; this the hearing may define to itself incidentally by deduction from the degree of intensity but not to the point of precision. The intensity is merely the definite effect at a particular spot; the magnitude is a matter of totality, the sum of space occupied.
Still (it will be objected) the colours seen from a distance are faint; but they are not small as the masses are.
True; but there is the common fact of diminution. There is colour with its diminution, faintness; there is magnitude with its diminution, smallness; and magnitude follows colour diminishing stage by stage with it.
But, the phenomenon is more easily explained by the example of things of wide variety. Take mountains dotted with houses, woods and other land-marks; the observation of each detail gives us the means of calculating, by the single objects noted, the total extent covered: but, where no such detail of form reaches us, our vision, which deals with detail, has not the means towards the knowledge of the whole by measurement of any one clearly discerned magnitude. This applies even to objects of vision close at hand: where there is variety and the eye sweeps over all at one glance so that the forms are not all caught, the total appears the less in proportion to the detail which has escaped the eye; observe each single point and then you can estimate the volume precisely. Again, magnitudes of one colour and unbroken form trick the sense of quantity: the vision can no longer estimate by the particular; it slips away, not finding the stand-by of the difference between part and part.
It was the detail that prevented a near object deceiving our sense of magnitude: in the case of the distant object, because the eye does not pass stage by stage through the stretch of intervening space so as to note its forms, therefore it cannot report the magnitude of that space.
The explanation by lesser angle of vision has been elsewhere dismissed; one point, however, we may urge here.
Those attributing the reduced appearance to the lesser angle occupied allow by their very theory that the unoccupied portion of the eye still sees something beyond or something quite apart from the object of vision, if only air-space.
Now consider some very large object of vision, that mountain for example. No part of the eye is unoccupied; the mountain adequately fills it so that it can take in nothing beyond, for the mountain as seen either corresponds exactly to the eye-space or stretches away out of range to right and to left. How does the explanation by lesser angle of vision hold good in this case, where the object still appears smaller, far, than it is and yet occupies the eye entire?
Or look up to the sky and no hesitation can remain. Of course we cannot take in the entire hemisphere at one glance; the eye directed to it could not cover so vast an expanse. But suppose the possibility: the entire eye, then, embraces the hemisphere entire; but the expanse of the heavens is far greater than it appears; how can its appearing far less than it is be explained by a lessening of the angle of vision?
Against Those that Affirm the Creator of the Kosmos and the Kosmos Itself to be Evil: [Generally Quoted as “Against the Gnostics”]
We have seen elsewhere that the Good, the Principle, is simplex, and, correspondingly, primal—for the secondary can never be simplex—that it contains nothing: that it is an integral Unity.
Now the same Nature belongs to the Principle we know as The One. Just as the goodness of The Good is essential and not the outgrowth of some prior substance so the Unity of The One is its essential.
When we speak of The One and when we speak of The Good we must recognise an Identical Nature; we must affirm that they are the same—not, it is true, as venturing any predication with regard to that (unknowable) Hypostasis but simply as indicating it to ourselves in the best terms we find.
Even in calling it The First we mean no more than to express that it is the most absolutely simplex: it is the Self-Sufficing only in the sense that it is not of that compound nature which would make it dependent upon any constituent; it is “the Self-Contained” because everything contained in something alien must also exist by that alien.
Deriving then, from nothing alien, entering into nothing alien, in no way a made-up thing, there can be nothing above it.
We need not, then, go seeking any other Principles; this—the One and the Good—is our First, next to it follows the Intellectual Principle, the Primal Thinker, and upon this follows Soul. Such is the order in nature. The Intellectual Realm allows no more than these and no fewer.
Those who hold to fewer Principles must hold the identity of either Intellectual-Principle and Soul or of Intellectual-Principle and The First; but we have abundantly shown that these are distinct.
It remains for us to consider whether there are more than these Three.
Now what other (Divine) Kinds could there be? No Principles of the universe could be found at once simpler and more transcendent than this whose existence we have affirmed and described.
They will scarcely urge upon us the doubling of the Principle in Act by a Principle in Potentiality. It is absurd to seek such a plurality by distinguishing between potentiality and actuality in the case of immaterial beings whose existence is in Act—even in lower forms no such division can be made—and we cannot conceive a duality in the Intellectual-Principle, one phase in some vague calm, another all astir. Under what form can we think of repose in the Intellectual Principle as contrasted with its movement or utterance? What would the quiescence of the one phase be as against the energy of the other?
No: the Intellectual-Principle is continuously itself, unchangeably constituted in stable Act. With movement—towards it or within it—we are in the realm of the Soul’s operation: such act is a Reason-Principle emanating from it and entering into Soul, thus made an Intellectual Soul, but in no sense creating an intermediate Principle to stand between the two.
Nor are we warranted in affirming a plurality of Intellectual Principles on the ground that there is one that knows and thinks and another knowing that it knows and thinks. For whatever distinction be possible in the Divine between its Intellectual Act and its Consciousness of that Act, still all must be one projection not unaware of its own operation: it would be absurd to imagine any such unconsciousness in the Authentic Intelligence; the knowing principle must be one and the selfsame with that which knows of the knowing.
The contrary supposition would give us two beings, one that merely knows, and another—a separate being—that knows of the act of knowing.
If we are answered that the distinction is merely a process of our thought, then, at once, the theory of a plurality in the Divine Hypostasis is abandoned: further, the question is opened whether our thought can entertain a knowing principle so narrowed to its knowing as not to know that it knows—a limitation which would be charged as imbecility even in ourselves, who if but of very ordinary moral force are always master of our emotions and mental processes.
No: The Divine Mind in its mentation thinks itself; the object of the thought is nothing external: Thinker and Thought are one; therefore in its thinking and knowing it possesses itself, observes itself and sees itself not as something unconscious but as knowing: in this Primal Knowing it must include, as one and the same Act, the knowledge of the knowing; and even the logical distinction mentioned above cannot be made in the case of the Divine; the very eternity of its self-thinking precludes any such separation between that intellective act and the consciousness of the act.
The absurdity becomes still more blatant if we introduce yet a further distinction—after that which affirms the knowledge of the knowing, a third distinction affirming the knowing of the knowledge of the knowing: yet there is no reason against carrying on the division for ever and ever.
To increase the Primals by making the Supreme Mind engender the Reason-Principle, and this again engender in the Soul a distinct power to act as mediator between Soul and the Supreme Mind, this is to deny intellection to the Soul, which would no longer derive its Reason from the Intellectual-Principle but from an intermediate: the Soul then would possess not the Reason-Principle but an image of it: the Soul could not know the Intellectual-Principle; it could have no intellection.
Therefore we must affirm no more than these three Primals: we are not to introduce superfluous distinctions which their nature rejects. We are to proclaim one Intellectual-Principle unchangeably the same, in no way subject to decline, acting in imitation, as true as its nature allows, of the Father.
And as to our own Soul we are to hold that it stands, in part, always in the presence of The Divine Beings, while in part it is concerned with the things of this sphere and in part occupies a middle ground. It is one nature in graded powers; and sometimes the Soul in its entirety is borne along by the loftiest in itself and in the Authentic Existent; sometimes, the less noble part is dragged down and drags the mid-soul with it, though the law is that the Soul may never succumb entire.
The Soul’s disaster falls upon it when it ceases to dwell in the perfect Beauty—the appropriate dwelling-place of that Soul which is no part and of which we too are no part—thence to pour forth into the frame of the All whatsoever the All can hold of good and beauty. There that Soul rests, free from all solicitude, not ruling by plan or policy, not redressing, but establishing order by the marvellous efficacy of its contemplation of the things above it.
For the measure of its absorption in that vision is the measure of its grace and power, and what it draws from this contemplation it communicates to the lower sphere, illuminated and illuminating always.
Ever illuminated, receiving light unfailing, the All-Soul imparts it to the entire series of later Being which by this light is sustained and fostered and endowed with the fullest measure of life that each can absorb. It may be compared with a central fire warming every receptive body within range.
Our fire, however, is a thing of limited scope: given powers that have no limitation and are never cut off from the Authentic Existences, how imagine anything existing and yet failing to receive from them?
It is of the essence of things that each gives of its being to another: without this communication, The Good would not be Good, nor the Intellectual-Principle an Intellective Principle, nor would Soul itself be what it is: the law is, “some life after the Primal Life, a second where there is a first; all linked in one unbroken chain; all eternal; divergent types being engendered only in the sense of being secondary.”
In other words, things commonly described as generated have never known a beginning: all has been and will be. Nor can anything disappear unless where a later form is possible: without such a future there can be no dissolution.
If we are told that there is always Matter as a possible term, we ask why then should not Matter itself come to nothingness. If we are told it may, then we ask why it should ever have been generated. If the answer comes that it had its necessary place as the ultimate of the series, we return that the necessity still holds.
With Matter left aside as wholly isolated, the Divine Beings are not everywhere but in some bounded place, walled off, so to speak; if that is not possible, Matter itself must receive the Divine light (and so cannot be annihilated).
To those who assert that creation is the work of the Soul after the failing of its wings, we answer that no such disgrace could overtake the Soul of the All. If they tell us of its falling, they must tell us also what caused the fall. And when did it take place? If from eternity, then the Soul must be essentially a fallen thing: if at some one moment, why not before that?
We assert its creative act to be a proof not of decline but rather of its steadfast hold. Its decline could consist only in its forgetting the Divine: but if it forgot, how could it create? Whence does it create but from the things it knew in the Divine? If it creates from the memory of that vision, it never fell. Even supposing it to be in some dim intermediate state, it need not be supposed more likely to decline: any inclination would be towards its Prior, in an effort to the clearer vision. If any memory at all remained, what other desire could it have than to retrace the way?
What could it have been planning to gain by world-creating? Glory? That would be absurd—a motive borrowed from the sculptors of our earth.
Finally, if the Soul created by policy and not by sheer need of its nature, by being characteristically the creative power—how explain the making of this universe?
And when will it destroy the work? If it repents of its work, what is it waiting for? If it has not yet repented, then it will never repent: it must be already accustomed to the world, must be growing more tender towards it with the passing of time.
Can it be waiting for certain souls still here? Long since would these have ceased returning for such re-birth, having known in former life the evils of this sphere; long since would they have foreborne to come.
Nor may we grant that this world is of unhappy origin because there are many jarring things in it. Such a judgement would rate it too high, treating it as the same with the Intelligible Realm and not merely its reflection.
And yet—what reflection of that world could be conceived more beautiful than this of ours? What fire could be a nobler reflection of the fire there than the fire we know here? Or what other earth than this could have been modelled after that earth? And what globe more minutely perfect than this, or more admirably ordered in its course could have been conceived in the image of the self-centred circling of the World of Intelligibles? And for a sun figuring the Divine sphere, if it is to be more splendid than the sun visible to us, what a sun it must be.
Still more unreasonably:—
There are men, bound to human bodies and subject to desire, grief, anger, who think so generously of their own faculty that they declare themselves in contact with the Intelligible World, but deny that the sun possesses a similar faculty less subject to influence, to disorder, to change; they deny that it is any wiser than we, the late born, hindered by so many cheats on the way towards truth.
Their own soul, the soul of the least of mankind, they declare deathless, divine; but the entire heavens and the stars within the heavens have had no communion with the Immortal Principle, though these are far purer and lovelier than their own souls—yet they are not blind to the order, the shapely pattern, the discipline prevailing in the heavens, since they are the loudest in complaint of the disorder that troubles our earth. We are to imagine the deathless Soul choosing of design the less worthy place, and preferring to abandon the nobler to the Soul that is to die.
Equally unreasonable is their introduction of that other Soul which they piece together from the elements.
How could any form or degree of life come about by a blend of the elements? Their conjunction could produce only a warm or cold or an intermediate substance, something dry or wet or intermediate.
Besides, how could such a soul be a bond holding the four elements together when (by the hypothesis) it is a later thing and rises from them? And this element-soul is described as possessing consciousness and will and the rest—what can we think?
Furthermore, these teachers, in their contempt for this creation and this earth, proclaim that another earth has been made for them into which they are to enter when they depart. Now this new earth is the Reason-Form (the Logos) of our world. Why should they desire to live in the archetype of a world abhorrent to them?
Then again, what is the origin of that pattern world? It would appear, from the theory, that the Maker had already declined towards the things of this sphere before that pattern came into being.
Now let us suppose the Maker craving to construct such an Intermediate World—though what motive could He have?—in addition to the Intellectual world which He eternally possesses. If He made the mid-world first, what end was it to serve?
To be a dwelling-place for Souls?
How then did they ever fall from it? It exists in vain.
If He made it later than this world—abstracting the formal-idea of this world and leaving the Matter out—the Souls that have come to know that intermediate sphere would have experienced enough to keep them from entering this. If the meaning is simply that Souls exhibit the Ideal-Form of the Universe, what is there distinctive in the teaching?
And, what are we to think of the new forms of being they introduce—their “Exiles” and “Impressions” and “Repentings”?
If all comes to states of the Soul—“Repentance” when it has undergone a change of purpose; “Impressions” when it contemplates not the Authentic Existences but their simulacra—there is nothing here but a jargon invented to make a case for their school: all this terminology is piled up only to conceal their debt to the ancient Greek philosophy which taught, clearly and without bombast, the ascent from the cave and the gradual advance of souls to a truer and truer vision.
For, in sum, a part of their doctrine comes from Plato; all the novelties through which they seek to establish a philosophy of their own have been picked up outside of the truth.
From Plato come their punishments, their rivers of the underworld and the changing from body to body; as for the plurality they assert in the Intellectual Realm—the Authentic Existent, the Intellectual-Principle, the Second Creator and the Soul—all this is taken over from the Timæus, where we read:—
“As many Ideal-Forms as the Divine Mind beheld dwelling within the Veritably Living Being, so many the Maker resolved should be contained in this All.”
Misunderstanding their text, they conceived one Mind passively including within itself all that has being, another mind, a distinct existence, having vision, and a third planning the Universe—though often they substitute Soul for this planning Mind as the creating Principle—and they think that this third being is the Creator according to Plato.
They are in fact quite outside of the truth in their identification of the Creator.
In every way they misrepresent Plato’s theory as to the method of creation as in many other respects they dishonour his teaching: they, we are to understand, have penetrated the Intellectual Nature, while Plato and all those other illustrious teachers have failed.
They hope to get the credit of minute and exact identification by setting up a plurality of intellectual Essences; but in reality this multiplication lowers the Intellectual Nature to the level of the Sense-Kind: their true course is to seek to reduce number to the least possible in the Supreme, simply referring all things to the Second Hypostasis—which is all that exists as it is Primal Intellect and Reality and is the only thing that is good except only for the first Nature—and to recognise Soul as the third Principle, accounting for the difference among souls merely by diversity of experience and character. Instead of insulting those venerable teachers they should receive their doctrine with the respect due to the older thought and honour all that noble system—an immortal soul, an Intellectual and Intelligible Realm, the Supreme God, the Soul’s need of emancipation from all intercourse with the body, the fact of separation from it, the escape from the world of process to the world of essential-being. These doctrines, all emphatically asserted by Plato, they do well to adopt: where they differ, they are at full liberty to speak their minds, but not to procure assent for their own theories by flaying and flouting the Greeks: where they have a divergent theory to maintain they must establish it by its own merits, declaring their own opinions with courtesy and with philosophical method and stating the controverted opinion fairly; they must point their minds towards the truth and not hunt fame by insult, reviling and seeking in their own persons to replace men honoured by the fine intelligences of ages past.
As a matter of fact the ancient doctrine of the Divine Essences was far the sounder and more instructed, and must be accepted by all not caught in the delusions that beset humanity: it is easy also to identify what has been conveyed in these later times from the ancients with incongruous novelties—how for example, where they must set up a contradictory doctrine, they introduce a medley of generation and destruction, how they cavil at the Universe, how they make the Soul blameable for the association with body, how they revile the Administrator of this All, how they ascribe to the Creator, identified with the Soul, the character and experiences appropriate to partial beings.
That this world has neither beginning nor end but exists for ever as long as the Supreme stands is certainly no novel teaching. And before this school rose it had been urged that commerce with the body is no gain to a Soul.
But to treat the human Soul as a fair presentment of the Soul of the Universe is like picking out potters and blacksmiths and making them warrant for discrediting an entire well-ordered city.
We must recognise how different is the governance exercised by the All-Soul; the relation is not the same: it is not in fetters. Among the very great number of differences it should not have been overlooked that the We (the human Soul) lies under fetter; and this in a second limitation, for the Body-Kind, already fettered within the All-Soul, imprisons all that it grasps.
But the Soul of the Universe cannot be in bond to what itself has bound: it is sovereign and therefore immune of the lower things, over which we on the contrary are not masters. That in it which is directed to the Divine and Transcendent is ever unmingled, knows no encumbering; that in it which imparts life to the body admits nothing bodily to itself. It is the general fact that an inset (as the Body), necessarily shares the conditions of its containing principle (as the Soul), and does not communicate its own conditions where that principle has an independent life: thus a graft will die if the stock dies, but the stock will live on by its proper life though the graft wither. The fire within your own self may be quenched, but the thing, fire, will exist still; and if fire itself were annihilated that would make no difference to the Soul, the Soul in the Supreme, but only to the plan of the material world; and if the other elements sufficed to maintain a Kosmos, the Soul in the Supreme would be unconcerned.
The constitution of the All is very different from that of the single, separate forms of life: there, the established rule commanding to permanence is sovereign; here things are like deserters kept to their own place and duty by a double bond; there is no outlet from the All, and therefore no need of restraining or of driving errants back to bounds: all remains where from the beginning the Soul’s nature appointed.
The natural movement within the plan will be injurious to anything whose natural tendency it opposes: one group will sweep bravely onward with the great total to which it is adapted; the others, not able to comply with the larger order, are destroyed. A great choral is moving to its concerted plan; midway in the march, a tortoise is intercepted; unable to get away from the choral line it is trampled under foot; but if it could only range itself within the greater movement it too would suffer nothing.
To ask why the Soul has created the Kosmos, is to ask why there is a Soul and why a Creator creates. The question, also, implies a beginning in the eternal and, further, represents creation as the act of a changeful Being who turns from this to that.
Those that so think must be instructed—if they would but bear with correction—in the nature of the Supernals, and brought to desist from that blasphemy of majestic powers which comes so easily to them, where all should be reverent scruple.
Even in the administration of the Universe there is no ground for such attack, for it affords manifest proof of the greatness of the Intellectual Kind.
This All that has emerged into life is no amorphous structure—like those lesser forms within it which are born night and day out of the lavishness of its vitality—the Universe is a life organised, effective, complex, all-comprehensive, displaying an unfathomable wisdom. How, then, can anyone deny that it is a clear image, beautifully formed, of the Intellectual Divinities? No doubt it is copy, not original; but that is its very nature; it cannot be at once symbol and reality. But to say that it is an inadequate copy is false; nothing has been left out which a beautiful representation within the physical order could include.
Such a reproduction there must necessarily be—though not by deliberation and contrivance—for the Intellectual could not be the last of things, but must have a double Act, one within itself and one outgoing; there must, then, be something later than the Divine; for only the thing with which all power ends fails to pass downwards something of itself. In the Supreme there flourishes a marvellous vigour and therefore it produces.
Since there is no Universe nobler than this, is it not clear what this must be? A representation carrying down the features of the Intellectual Realm is necessary; there is no other Kosmos than this; therefore this is such a representation.
This earth of ours is full of varied life-forms and of immortal beings; to the very heavens it is crowded. And the stars, those of the upper and the under spheres, moving in their ordered path, fellow travellers with the universe, how can they be less than gods? Surely they must be morally good: what could prevent them? All that occasions vice here below is unknown there—no evil of body, perturbed and perturbing.
Knowledge, too; in their unbroken peace, what hinders them from the intellectual grasp of the God-Head and the Intellectual Gods? What can be imagined to give us a wisdom higher than belongs to the Supernals? Could anyone, not fallen to utter folly, bear with such an idea?
Admitting that human Souls have descended under constraint of the All-Soul, are we to think the constrained the nobler? Among Souls, what commands must be higher than what obeys. And if the coming was unconstrained, why find fault with a world you have chosen and can quit if you dislike it?
And further, if the order of this Universe is such that we are able, within it, to practise wisdom and to live our earthly course by the Supernal, does not that prove it a dependency of the Divine?
Wealth and poverty, and all inequalities of that order are made ground of complaint. But this is to ignore that the Sage demands no equality in such matters: he cannot think that to own many things is to be richer or that the powerful have the better of the simple; he leaves all such preoccupations to another kind of man. He has learned that life on earth has two distinct forms, the way of the Sage and the way of the mass, the Sage intent upon the sublimest, upon the realm above, while those of the more strictly human type fall, again, under two classes, the one reminiscent of virtue and therefore not without touch with good, the other mere populace, serving to provide necessaries to the better sort.
But what of murder? What of the feebleness that brings men under slavery to the passions?
Is it any wonder that there should be failing and error, not in the highest, the intellectual, Principle but in Souls that are like undeveloped children? And is not life justified even so if it is a training ground with its victors and its vanquished?
You are wronged; need that trouble an immortal? You are put to death; you have attained your desire. And from the moment your citizenship of the world becomes irksome you are not bound to it.
Our adversaries do not deny that even here there is a system of law and penalty: and surely we cannot in justice blame a dominion which awards to every one his due, where virtue has its honour, and vice comes to its fitting shame, in which there are not merely representations of the gods, but the gods themselves, watchers from above, and—as we read—easily rebutting human reproaches, since they lead all things in order from a beginning to an end, allotting to each human being, as life follows life, a fortune shaped to all that has preceded—the destiny which, to those that do not penetrate it, becomes the matter of boorish insolence upon things divine.
A man’s one task is to strive towards making himself perfect—though not in the idea—really fatal to perfection—that to be perfect is possible to himself alone.
We must recognise that other men have attained the heights of goodness; we must admit the goodness of the celestial spirits, and above all of the gods—those whose presence is here but their contemplation in the Supreme, and loftiest of them, the lord of this All, the most blessed Soul. Rising still higher, we hymn the divinities of the Intellectual Sphere, and, above all these, the mighty King of that dominion, whose majesty is made patent in the very multitude of the gods.
It is not by crushing the divine unto a unity but by displaying its exuberance—as the Supreme himself has displayed it—that we show knowledge of the might of God, who, abidingly what He is, yet creates that multitude, all dependent on Him, existing by Him and from Him.
This Universe, too, exists by Him and looks to Him—the Universe as a whole and every God within it—and tells of Him to men, all alike revealing the plan and will of the Supreme.
These, in the nature of things, cannot be what He is, but that does not justify you in contempt of them, in pushing yourself forward as not inferior to them.
The more perfect the man, the more compliant he is, even towards his fellows; we must temper our importance, not thrusting insolently beyond what our nature warrants; we must allow other beings, also, their place in the presence of the Godhead; we may not set ourselves alone next after the First in a dream-flight which deprives us of our power of attaining identity with the Godhead in the measure possible to the human Soul, that is to say, to the point of likeness to which the Intellectual-Principle leads us; to exalt ourselves above the Intellectual-Principle is to fall from it.
Yet imbeciles are found to accept such teaching at the mere sound of the words “You yourself are to be nobler than all else, nobler than men, nobler than even gods.” Human audacity is very great: a man once modest, restrained and simple hears, “You, yourself, are the child of God; those men whom you used to venerate, those beings whose worship they inherit from antiquity, none of these are His children; you without lifting hand are nobler than the very heavens”; others take up the cry: the issue will be much as if in a crowd all equally ignorant of figures, one man were told that he stands a thousand cubic feet; he will naturally accept his thousand cubits even though the others present are said to measure only five cubits; he will merely tell himself that the thousand indicates a considerable figure.
Another point:—(you hold that) God has care for you; how then can He be indifferent to the entire Universe in which you exist?
We may be told that He is too much occupied to look upon the Universe, and that it would not be right for Him to do so; yet when He looks down and upon these people, is He not looking outside Himself and upon the Universe in which they exist? If He cannot look outside Himself so as to survey the Kosmos, then neither does He look upon them.
But they have no need of Him?
The Universe has need of Him, and He knows its ordering and its indwellers and how far they belong to it and how far to the Supreme, and which of the men upon it are friends of God, mildly acquiescing with the Kosmic dispensation when in the total course of things some pain must be brought to them—for we are to look not to the single will of any man but to the universe entire, regarding every one according to worth but not stopping for such things where all that may is hastening onward.
Not one only kind of being is bent upon this quest, which brings bliss to whatsoever achieves, and earns for the others a future destiny in accord with their power. No man, therefore, may flatter himself that he alone is competent; a pretension is not a possession; many boast though fully conscious of their lack and many imagine themselves to possess what was never theirs and even to be alone in possessing what they alone of men never had.
Under detailed investigation, many other tenets of this school—indeed we might say all—could be corrected with an abundance of proof. But I am withheld by regard for some of our own friends who fell in with this doctrine before joining our circle and, strangely, still cling to it.
The school, no doubt, is free-spoken enough—whether in the set purpose of giving its opinions a plausible colour of verity or in honest belief—but we are addressing here our own acquaintances, not those people with whom we could make no way. We have spoken in the hope of preventing our friends from being perturbed by a party which brings, not proof—how could it?—but arbitrary, tyrannical assertion; another style of address would be applicable to such as have the audacity to flout the noble and true doctrines of the august teachers of antiquity.
That method we will not apply; anyone that has fully grasped the preceding discussion will know how to meet every point in the system.
Only one other tenet of theirs will be mentioned before passing the matter; it is one which surpasses all the rest in sheer folly, if that is the word.
They first maintain that the Soul and a certain “Wisdom” (Sophia) declined and entered this lower sphere—though they leave us in doubt of whether the movement originated in Soul or in this Sophia of theirs, or whether the two are the same to them—then they tell us that the other Souls came down in the descent and that these members of Sophia took to themselves bodies, human bodies, for example.
Yet in the same breath, that very Soul which was the occasion of descent to the others is declared not to have descended. “It knew no decline,” but merely illuminated the darkness in such a way that an image of it was formed upon the Matter. Then, they shape an image of that image somewhere below—through the medium of Matter or of Materiality or whatever else of many names they choose to give it in their frequent change of terms, invented to darken their doctrine—and so they bring into being what they call the Creator or Demiurge, then this lower is severed from his Mother (Sophia) and becomes the author of the Kosmos down to the latest of the succession of images constituting it.
Such is the blasphemy of one of their writers.
Now, in the first place, if the Soul has not actually come down but has illuminated the darkness, how can it truly be said to have declined? The outflow from it of something in the nature of light does not justify the assertion of its decline; for that, it must make an actual movement towards the object lying in the lower realm and illuminate it by contact.
If, on the other hand, the Soul keeps to its own place and illuminates the lower without directing any act towards that end, why should it alone be the illuminant? Why should not the Kosmos draw light also from the yet greater powers contained in the total of existence?
Again, if the Soul possesses the plan of a Universe, and by virtue of this plan illuminates it, why do not that illumination and the creating of the world take place simultaneously? Why must the Soul wait till the representations of the plan be made actual?
Then again this Plan—the “Far Country” of their terminology—brought into being, as they hold, by the greater powers, could not have been the occasion of decline to the creators.
Further, how explain that under this illumination the Matter of the Kosmos produces images of the order of Soul instead of mere bodily-nature? An image of Soul could not demand darkness or Matter, but wherever formed it would exhibit the character of the producing element and remain in close union with it.
Next, is this image a real-being, or, as they say, an Intellection?
If it is a reality, in what way does it differ from its original? By being a distinct form of the Soul? But then, since the original is the reasoning Soul, this secondary form must be the vegetative and generative Soul; and then, what becomes of the theory that it is produced for glory’s sake, what becomes of the creation in arrogance and self-assertion? The theory puts an end also to creation by representation and, still more decidedly, to any thinking in the act; and what need is left for a creator creating by way of Matter and Image?
If it is an Intellection, then we ask first What justifies the name? and next, How does anything come into being unless the Soul give this Intellection creative power and how, after all, can creative power reside in a created thing? Are we to be told that it is a question (not so much of creation as) of a first Image followed by a second?
But this is quite arbitrary.
And why is fire the first creation?
And how does this image set to its task immediately after it comes into being?
By memory of what it has seen?
But it was utterly non-existent, it could have no vision, either it or the Mother they bestow upon it.
Another difficulty: These people (tell us that they) come upon earth not as Soul-Images but as veritable Souls; yet, by great stress and strain, one or two of them are able to stir beyond the limits of the world, and when they do attain Reminiscence barely carry with them some slight recollection of the Sphere they once knew: on the other hand, this Image, a new-comer into being, is able, they tell us—as also is its Mother—to form at least some dim representation of the celestial world. It is an Image, stamped in Matter, yet it not merely has the conception of the Supreme and adopts from that world the plan of this, but knows what elements serve the purpose. How, for instance, did it come to make fire before anything else? What made it judge fire a better first than some other object?
Again, if it created the fire of the Universe by thinking of fire, why did it not make the Universe at a stroke by thinking of the Universe? It must have conceived the product complete from the first; the constituent elements would be embraced in that general conception.
The creation must have been in all respects more according to the way of Nature than to that of the arts—for the arts are of later origin than Nature and the Universe, and even at the present stage the partial things brought into being by the natural Kinds do not follow any such order—first fire, then the several other elements, then the various blends of these—on the contrary the living organism entire is encompassed and rounded off within the uterine germ. Why should not the material of the Universe be similarly embraced in a Kosmic Type in which earth, fire and the rest would be included? We can only suppose that these people themselves, acting by their more authentic Soul, would have produced the world by such a process, but that the Creator had not wit to do so.
And yet to conceive the vast span of the Heavens—to be great in that degree—to devise the obliquity of the Zodiac and the circling path of all the celestial bodies beneath it, and this earth of ours—and all in such a way that reason can be given for the plan—this could never be the work of an Image; it tells of that Power (the All-Soul) next to the very Highest Beings.
Against their will, they themselves admit this: their “outshining upon the darkness,” if the doctrine is sifted, makes it impossible to deny the true origins of the Kosmos.
Why should this down-shining take place unless such a process belonged to a universal law?
Either the process is in the order of Nature or against that order. If it is in the nature of things, it must have taken place from eternity; if it is against the nature of things, then the breach of natural right exists in the Supreme also; evil antedates this world; the cause of evil is not the world; on the contrary the Supreme is the evil to us; instead of the Soul’s harm coming from this sphere, we have this Sphere harmed by the Soul.
In fine, the theory amounts to making the world one of the Primals, and with it the Matter from which it emerges.
The Soul that declined, they tell us, saw and illuminated the already existent Darkness. Now whence came that Darkness?
If they tell us that the Soul created the Darkness by its Decline, then, obviously, there was nowhere for the Soul to decline to; the cause of the decline was not the Darkness but the very nature of the Soul. The theory, therefore, refers the entire process to pre-existing compulsions: the guilt inheres in the Primal Beings.
Those, then, that censure the constitution of the Kosmos do not understand what they are doing or where this audacity leads them. They do not understand that there is a successive order of Primals, Secondaries, Tertiaries and so on continuously to the Ultimates; that nothing is to be blamed for being inferior to the First; that we can but accept, meekly, the constitution of the total, and make our best way towards the Primals, withdrawing from the tragic spectacle, as they see it, of the Kosmic spheres—which in reality are all suave graciousness.
And what, after all, is there so terrible in these Spheres with which it is sought to frighten people unaccustomed to thinking, never trained in an instructive and coherent gnosis?
Even the fact that their material frame is of fire does not make them dreadful; their Movements are in keeping with the All and with the Earth: but what we must consider in them is the Soul, that on which these people base their own title to honour.
And, yet, again, their material frames are pre-eminent in vastness and beauty, as they co-operate in act and in influence with the entire order of Nature, and can never cease to exist as long as the Primals stand; they enter into the completion of the All of which they are major parts.
If men rank highly among other living Beings, much more do these, whose office in the All is not to play the tyrant but to serve towards beauty and order. The action attributed to them must be understood as a foretelling of coming events, while the causing of all the variety is due, in part to diverse destinies—for there cannot be one lot for the entire body of men—in part to the birth moment, in part to wide divergencies of place, in part to states of the Souls.
Once more, we have no right to ask that all men shall be good, or to rush into censure because such universal virtue is not possible: this would be repeating the error of confusing our sphere with the Supreme and treating evil as a nearly negligeable failure in wisdom—as good lessened and dwindling continuously, a continuous fading out: it would be like calling the Nature-Principle evil because it is not Sense-Perception and the thing of sense evil for not being a Reason-Principle. If evil is no more than that, we will be obliged to admit evil in the Supreme also, for there, too, Soul is less exalted than the Intellectual-Principle, and That too has its Superior.
In yet another way they infringe still more gravely upon the inviolability of the Supreme.
In the sacred formulas they inscribe, purporting to address the Supernal Beings—not merely the Soul but even the Transcendents—they are simply uttering spells and appeasements and evocations in the idea that these Powers will obey a call and be led about by a word from any of us who is in some degree trained to use the appropriate forms in the appropriate way—certain melodies, certain sounds, specially directed breathings, sibilant cries, and all else to which is ascribed magic potency upon the Supreme. Perhaps they would repudiate any such intention: still they must explain how these things act upon the unembodied: they do not see that the power they attribute to their own words is so much taken away from the majesty of the divine.
They tell us they can free themselves of diseases.
If they meant, by temperate living and an appropriate regime, they would be right and in accordance with all sound knowledge. But they assert diseases to be Spirit-Beings and boast of being able to expel them by formula: this pretension may enhance their importance with the crowd, gaping upon the powers of magicians; but they can never persuade the intelligent that disease arises otherwise than from such causes as overstrain, excess, deficiency, putrid decay, in a word some variation whether from within or from without.
The nature of illness is indicated by its very cure. A motion, a medicine, the letting of blood, and the disease shifts down and away; sometimes scantiness of nourishment restores the system: presumably the Spiritual power gets hungry or is debilitated by the purge. Either this Spirit makes a hasty exit or it remains within. If it stays, how does the disease disappear, with the cause still present? If it quits the place, what has driven it out? Has anything happened to it? Are we to suppose it throve on the disease? In that case the disease existed as something distinct from the Spirit-Power. Then again, if it steps in where no cause of sickness exists, why should there be anything else but illness? If there must be such a cause, the Spirit is unnecessary: that cause is sufficient to produce that fever. As for the notion, that just when the cause presents itself, the watchful Spirit leaps to incorporate itself with it, this is simply amusing.
But the manner and motive of their teaching have been sufficiently exhibited; and this was the main purpose of the discussion here upon their Spirit-Powers. I leave it to yourselves to read the books and examine the rest of the doctrine: you will note all through how our form of philosophy inculcates simplicity of character and honest thinking in addition to all other good qualities, how it cultivates reverence and not arrogant self-assertion, how its boldness is balanced by reason, by careful proof, by cautious progression, by the utmost circumspection—and you will compare those other systems to one proceeding by this method. You will find that the tenets of their school have been huddled together under a very different plan: they do not deserve any further examination here.
There is, however, one matter which we must on no account overlook—the effect of these teachings upon the hearers led by them into despising the world and all that is in it.
There are two theories as to the attainment of the End of life. The one proposes pleasure, bodily pleasure, as the term; the other pronounces for good and virtue, the desire of which comes from God and moves, by ways to be studied elsewhere, towards God.
Epicurus denies a Providence and recommends pleasure and its enjoyment, all that is left to us: but the doctrine under discussion is still more wanton; it carps at Providence and the Lord of Providence; it scorns every law known to us; immemorial virtue and all restraint it makes into a laughing stock, lest any loveliness be seen on earth; it cuts at the root of all orderly living, and of the righteousness which, innate in the moral sense, is made perfect by thought and by self-discipline: all that would give us a noble human being is gone. What is left for them—except where the pupil by his own character betters the teaching—comes to pleasure, self-seeking, the grudge of any share with one’s fellows, the pursuit of advantage.
Their error is that they know nothing good here: all they care for is something else to which they will at some future time apply themselves: yet, this world, to those that have known it once, must be the starting-point of the pursuit: arrived here from out of the divine nature, they must inaugurate their effort by some earthly correction. The understanding of beauty is not given except to a nature scorning the delight of the body, and those that have no part in well-doing can make no step towards the Supernal.
This school, in fact, is convicted by its neglect of all mention of virtue: any discussion of such matters is missing utterly: we are not told what virtue is or under what different kinds it appears; there is no word of all the numerous and noble reflections upon it that have come down to us from the ancients; we do not learn what constitutes it or how it is acquired, how the Soul is tended, how it is cleaned. For to say “Look to God” is not helpful without some instruction as to what this looking imports: it might very well be said that one can “look” and still sacrifice no pleasure, still be the slave of impulse, repeating the word God but held in the grip of every passion and making no effort to master any. Virtue, advancing towards the Term and, linked with thought, occupying a Soul makes God manifest: God on the lips without a good conduct of life, is a word.
On the other hand, to despise this Sphere, and the Gods within it or anything else that is lovely, is not the way to goodness.
Every evil-doer began by despising the Gods; and one not previously corrupt, taking to this contempt, even though in other respects not wholly bad, becomes an evil-doer by the very fact.
Besides, in this slighting of the Mundane Gods and the world, the honour they profess for the gods of the Intellectual Sphere becomes an inconsistency; Where we love, our hearts are warm also to the Kin of the beloved; we are not indifferent to the children of our friend. Now every Soul is a child of that Father; but in the heavenly bodies there are Souls, intellective, holy, much closer to the Supernal Beings than are ours; for how can this Kosmos be a thing cut off from That and how imagine the gods in it to stand apart?
But of this matter we have treated elsewere: here we urge that where there is contempt for the Kin of the Supreme the knowledge of the Supreme itself is merely verbal.
What sort of piety can make Providence stop short of earthly concerns or set any limit whatsoever to it?
And what consistency is there in this school when they proceed to assert that Providence cares for them, though for them alone?
And is this Providence over them to be understood of their existence in that other world only or of their lives here as well? If in the other world, how came they to this? If in this world, why are they not already raised from it?
Again, how can they deny that the Lord of Providence is here? How else can He know either that they are here, or that in their sojourn here they have not forgotten Him and fallen away? And if He is aware of the goodness of some, He must know of the wickedness of others, to distinguish good from bad. That means that He is present to all, is, by whatever mode, within this Universe. The Universe, therefore, must be participant in Him.
If He is absent from the Universe, He is absent from yourselves, and you can have nothing to tell about Him or about the powers that come after Him.
But, allowing that a Providence reaches to you from the world beyond—making any concession to your liking—it remains none the less certain that this world holds from the Supernal and is not deserted and will not be: a Providence watching entires is even more likely than one over fragments only; and similarly, Participation is more perfect in the case of the All-Soul—as is shown, further, by the very existence of things and the wisdom manifest in their existence. Of those that advance these wild pretensions, who is so well ordered, so wise, as the Universe? The comparison is laughable, utterly out of place; to make it, except as a help towards truth, would be impiety.
The very question can be entertained by no intelligent being but only by one so blind, so utterly devoid of perception and thought, so far from any vision of the Intellectual Universe as not even to see this world of our own.
For who that truly perceives the harmony of the Intellectual Realm could fail, if he has any bent towards music, to answer to the harmony in sensible sounds? What geometrician or arithmetician could fail to take pleasure in the symmetries, correspondences and principles of order observed in visible things? Consider, even, the case of pictures: those seeing by the bodily sense the productions of the art of painting do not see the one thing in the one only way; they are deeply stirred by recognising in the objects depicted to the eyes the presentation of what lies in the idea, and so are called to recollection of the truth—the very experience out of which Love rises. Now, if the sight of Beauty excellently reproduced upon a face hurries the mind to that other Sphere, surely no one seeing the loveliness lavish in the world of sense—this vast orderliness, the Form which the stars even in their remoteness display—no one could be so dull-witted, so immoveable, as not to be carried by all this to recollection, and gripped by reverent awe in the thought of all this, so great, sprung from that greatness. Not to answer thus could only be to have neither fathomed this world nor had any vision of that other.
Perhaps the hate of this school for the corporeal is due to their reading of Plato who inveighs against body as a grave hindrance to Soul and pronounces the corporeal to be characteristically the inferior.
Then let them for the moment pass over the corporeal element in the Universe and study all that still remains.
They will think of the Intellectual Sphere which includes within itself the Ideal-Form realised in the Kosmos. They will think of the Souls, in their ordered rank, that produce incorporeal magnitude and lead the Intelligible out towards spatial extension, so that finally the thing of process becomes, by its magnitude, as adequate a representation as possible of the principle void of parts which is its model—the greatness of power there being translated here into greatness of bulk. Then whether they think of the Kosmic Sphere (the All-Soul) as already in movement under the guidance of that power of God which holds it through and through, beginning and middle and end, or whether they consider it as in rest and exercising as yet no outer governance: either approach will lead to a true appreciation of the Soul that conducts this Universe.
Now let them set body within it—not in the sense that Soul suffers any change but that, since “In the Gods there can be no grudging,” it gives to its inferior all that any partial thing has strength to receive—and at once their conception of the Kosmos must be revised; they cannot deny that the Soul of the Kosmos has exercised such a weight of power as to have brought the corporeal-principle, in itself unlovely, to partake of good and beauty to the utmost of its receptivity—and to a pitch which stirs Souls, beings of the divine order.
These people may no doubt say that they themselves feel no such stirring, and that they see no difference between beautiful and ugly forms of body; but, at that, they can make no distinction between the ugly and the beautiful in conduct; sciences can have no beauty; there can be none in thought; and none, therefore, in God. This world descends from the Firsts: if this world has no beauty, neither has its Source; springing thence, this world, too, must have its beautiful things. And while they proclaim their contempt for earthly beauty, they would do well to ignore that of youths and women so as not to be overcome by incontinence.
In fine, we must consider that their self-satisfaction could not turn upon a contempt for anything indisputably base; theirs is the perverse pride of despising what was once admired.
We must always keep in mind that the beauty in a partial thing cannot be identical with that in a whole; nor can any several objects be as stately as the total.
And we must recognise, that even in the world of sense and part, there are things of a loveliness comparable to that of the Celestials—forms whose beauty must fill us with veneration for their creator and convince us of their origin in the divine, forms which show how ineffable is the beauty of the Supreme since they cannot hold us but we must, though in all admiration, leave these for those. Further, wherever there is interior beauty, we may be sure that inner and outer correspond; where the interior is vile, all is brought low by that flaw in the dominants.
Nothing base within can be beautiful without—at least not with an authentic beauty, for there are examples of a good exterior not sprung from a beauty dominant within; people passing as handsome but essentially base have that, a spurious and superficial beauty: if anyone tells me he has seen people really fine-looking but interiorly vile, I can only deny it; we have here simply a false notion of personal beauty; unless, indeed, the inner vileness were an accident in a nature essentially fine; in this Sphere there are many obstacles to self-realisation.
In any case the All is beautiful, and there can be no obstacle to its inner goodness: where the nature of a thing does not comport perfection from the beginning, there may be a failure in complete expression; there may even be a fall to vileness, but the All never knew a childlike immaturity; it never experienced a progress bringing novelty into it; it never had bodily growth: there was nowhere from whence it could take such increment; it was always the All-Container.
And even for its Soul no one could imagine any such a path of process: or, if this were conceded, certainly it could not be towards evil.
But perhaps this school will maintain that, while their teaching leads to a hate and utter abandonment of the body, ours binds the Soul down in it.
In other words: two people inhabit the one stately house; one of them declaims against its plan and against its Architect, but none the less maintains his residence in it; the other makes no complaint, asserts the entire competency of the Architect and waits cheerfully for the day when he may leave it, having no further need of a house: the malcontent imagines himself to be the wiser and to be the readier to leave because he has learned to repeat that the walls are of soulless stone and timber and that the place falls far short of a true home; he does not see that his only distinction is in not being able to bear with necessity—assuming that his conduct, his grumbling, does not cover a secret admiration for the beauty of those same “stones.” As long as we have bodies we must inhabit the dwellings prepared for us by our good sister the Soul in her vast power of labourless creation.
Or would this school reject the word Sister? They are willing to address the lowest of men as brothers; are they capable of such raving as to disown the tie with the Sun and the powers of the Heavens and the very Soul of the Kosmos? Such kinship, it is true, is not for the vile; it may be asserted only of those that have become good and are no longer body but embodied Soul and of a quality to inhabit the body in a mode very closely resembling the indwelling of the All-Soul in the universal frame. And this means continence, self-restraint, holding staunch against outside pleasure and against outer spectacle, allowing no hardship to disturb the mind. The All-Soul is immune from shock; there is nothing that can affect it: but we, in our passage here, must call on virtue in repelling these assaults, reduced for us from the beginning by a great conception of life, annulled by matured strength.
Attaining to something of this immunity, we begin to reproduce within ourselves the Soul of the vast All and of the heavenly bodies: when we are come to the very closest resemblance, all the effort of our fervid pursuit will be towards that goal to which they also tend; their contemplative vision becomes ours, prepared as we are, first by natural disposition and afterwards by all this training, for that state which is theirs by the Principle of their Being.
This school may lay claim to vision as a dignity reserved to themselves, but they are not any the nearer to vision by the claim—or by the boast that while the celestial powers, bound for ever to the ordering of the Heavens, can never stand outside the material universe, they themselves have their freedom in their death. This is a failure to grasp the very notion of “standing outside,” a failure to appreciate the mode in which the All-Soul cares for the unensouled.
No: it is possible to go free of love for the body; to be clean-living, to disregard death; to know the Highest and aim at that other world; not to slander, as negligent in the quest, others who are able for it and faithful to it; and not to err with those that deny vital motion to the stars because to our sense they stand still—the error which in another form leads this school to deny outer vision to the Star-Nature, only because they do not see the Star-Soul in outer manifestation.
NOTE ON THE ORDER OF THE TRACTATES OF THE THIRD AND SECOND ENNEADS
It has been pointed out by several exponents and commentators (for example Whittaker, pp. 31-32) that the logical order of the Enneads is roughly IV., V., VI., II., III., I. Starting from I., therefore, it is best to read in the order I., III., II.
Since it happens that the second and third tractates fall together in this volume it has been judged advisable to open with the Third as the most natural sequent to the First.
The order in which Porphyry knew the tractates of the Second and Third Enneads is as follows (see volume i.):—
Approximately, therefore, the chronological order of the tractates in this volume runs:—
In simple honesty to such readers as do not consult the original, the translator feels obliged to state that he does not pretend to be perfectly satisfied that he has himself understood every passage of which he has been obliged to present a rendering: he has in no case passed for publication any passage or phrase which does not appear to him to carry a clear sense in English and a sense possible in view at once of the text and of Plotinus’ general thought; he has been scrupulous in frankly committing himself; but there are at least three or four places in which he feels himself to be as probably wrong as right, places in which either the text is disordered or Plotinus, as often, was inattentive to the normal sequence, or even—verbally at least—to the general consistency, of his thought.
For the present it appears that the best service to Plotinian studies is to dare to be tentative and to beg critics to collaborate in the clearing of dark passages: the notices the first volume of this series received were more flattering than helpful. Modifications suggested by such comment will be noted in the final volume.
Readers are reminded that “we read” translates “he says” of the text, and always indicates a reference to Plato, whose name does not appear in the translation except where it was written by Plotinus: and that all matter shown in brackets is added by the translator for clearness’ sake, and therefore is not canonical. Nothing but what is judged to be quite obviously present in the text appears without this warning sign.
The translator desires to acknowledge invaluable help derived from repeated study of “The Philosophy of Plotinus,” by William Ralph Inge, C.V.O., D.D., etc., Dean of St. Paul’s (Longmans, Green and Co., 1918)—a work fascinating in detail and henceforth the necessary foundation to English speakers of all serious study of Plotinus.
In several cases of perplexity, the translator consulted Mr. E. R. Dodds, of University College, Reading, and profited greatly by his advice: in at least two cases he has adopted readings from a revised text projected by Mr. Dodds.
Dr. Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie’s translation, “Plotinus’ Complete Works” (Comparative Literature Press: Alpine, N.Y., U.S.A., and George Bell, London), came to hand too late to serve in the preparation of this second volume: it will be carefully consulted in the revision of the three Enneads remaining to the completion of this work.
The translator finds that in his first volume he inadvertently made far too little of the kindly offices of Mr. Ernest R. Debenham, who most generously undertook the entire financial burden of the work: his deepest thanks are here offered for the service by which he is enabled to realise the dominant desire of his life.