Front Page Titles (by Subject) THIRD TRACTATE Problems of the Soul (I) - Ethical Treatises; the Books of the Fourth Ennead
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THIRD TRACTATE Problems of the Soul (I) - Plotinus, Ethical Treatises; the Books of the Fourth Ennead [253 AD]
Ethical Treatises; the Books of the Fourth Ennead, translated from Greek by Stephen Mackenna (Boston: Charles T. Branford, 1918).
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The soul: what dubious questions concerning it admit of solution, or where we must abide our doubt—with, at least, the gain of recognising the problem that confronts us—this is matter well worth attention. On what subject can we more reasonably expend the time required by minute discussion and investigation? Apart from much else, it is enough that such an enquiry illuminates two grave questions:—of what sphere the soul is the principle and whence the soul itself springs. Moreover, we will be only obeying the ordinance of the God who bade us know ourselves.
Our general instinct to seek and learn, our longing to possess ourselves of whatsoever is lovely in the vision will, in all reason, set us enquiring into the nature of the instrument with which we search.
Now even in the universal Intellect (Divine Mind) there was duality, so that we would expect differences of condition in things of part: how some things rather than others come to be receptacles of the divine beings will need to be examined; but all this we may leave aside until we are considering the mode in which soul comes to occupy body. For the moment we return to our argument against those who maintain our souls to be offshoots from the soul of the universe (parts and not an identity modally parted).
Our opponents will probably deny the validity of our arguments against the theory that the human soul is a mere segment of the All-Soul—the considerations, namely, that it is of identical scope, and that it is intellective in the same degree, supposing them, even, to admit that equality of intellection.
They will object that parts must necessarily fall under one ideal-form with their wholes. And they will adduce Plato as expressing their view where, in demonstrating that the All is ensouled, he says “As our body is a portion of the body of the All, so our soul is a portion of the soul of the All.” It is admitted on clear evidence that we are borne along by the Circuit of the All; we will be told that—taking character and destiny from it, strictly inbound with it—we must derive our souls, also, from what thus bears us up, and that as within ourselves every part absorbs from our soul so, analogically, we, standing as parts to the universe, absorb from the Soul of the All as parts of it. They will urge also that the dictum “The collective soul cares for all the unensouled,” carries the same implication and could be uttered only in the belief that nothing whatever of later origin stands outside the soul of the universe, the only soul there can be there to concern itself with the unensouled.
To this our first answer is that to place certain things under one identical class—by admitting an identical range of operation—is to make them of one common species, and puts an end to all mention of part; the reasonable conclusion would be, on the contrary, that there is one identical soul, every separate manifestation being that soul complete.
Our opponents after first admitting the unity go on to make our soul dependent on something else, something in which we have no longer the soul of this or that, even of the universe, but a soul of nowhere, a soul belonging neither to the kosmos, nor to anything else, and yet vested with all the function inherent to the kosmic soul and to that of every ensouled thing.
The soul considered as an entirety cannot be a soul of any one given thing—since it is an Essence (a divine Real-Being)—or, at least, there must be a soul which is not exclusively the soul of any particular thing, and those attached to particulars must so belong merely in some mode of accident.
In such questions as this it is important to clarify the significance of “part.”
Part, as understood of body—uniform or varied—need not detain us; it is enough to indicate that, when part is mentioned in respect of things whose members are alike, it refers to mass and not to ideal-form (specific idea): take for example, whiteness: the whiteness in a portion of milk is not a part of the whiteness of milk in general: we have the whiteness of a portion not a portion of whiteness; for whiteness is utterly without magnitude; has nothing whatever to do with quantity.
That is all we need say with regard to part in material things; but part in the unembodied may be taken in various ways. We may think of it in the sense familiar in numbers, “two” a part of the standard “ten”—in abstract numbers of course—or as we think of a segment of a circle, or line (abstractly considered), or, again, of a section or branch of knowledge.
In the case of the units of reckoning and of geometrical figure, exactly as in that of corporeal masses, partition must diminish the total; the part must be less than the whole; for these are things of quantity, and have their being as things of quantity; and—since they are not the ideal-form Quantity—they are subject to increase and decrease.
Now in such a sense as this, part cannot be affirmed of the soul.
The soul is not a thing of quantity; we are not to conceive of the All-Soul as some standard ten with particular souls as its constituent units.
Such a conception would entail many absurdities:—
The Ten could not be (essentially) a unity (the Soul would be an aggregation, not a self-standing Real-Being) and, further—unless every one of the single constituents were itself an All-Soul—the All-Soul would be formed of non-souls.
Again, it is admitted that the particular soul—this “part of the All-Soul”—is of one ideal-form with it, but this does not entail the relation of part to whole, since in objects formed of continuous parts there is nothing inevitably making any portion uniform with the total: take, for example, the parts of a circle or square; we may divide it in different ways so as to get our part; a triangle need not be divided into triangles; all sorts of different figures are possible: yet an absolute uniformity is admitted to reign throughout soul.
In a line, no doubt, the part is inevitably a line; but even here there is a necessary difference in size; and if, in the case of the soul we similarly called upon magnitude as the distinction between constituents and collective soul, then soul, thus classed by magnitude becomes quantitative, and is simply body.
But it is admitted that all souls are alike, and are entireties; clearly, soul is not subject to part in the sense in which magnitudes are: our opponents themselves would not consent to the notion of the All-Soul being whittled down into fragments, yet this is what they would be doing, annulling the All-Soul—if any collective soul existed at all—making it a mere piece of terminology, thinking of it like wine separated into many portions, each portion, in its jar, being described as a portion of the total thing, wine.
Next there is the conception of the individual soul as a part in the sense in which we speak of some single proposition as a part of the science entire.
The theorem is separate, but the science stands as one undivided thing, the expression and summed efficiency (energy) of each constituent notion: this is partition without severance; each item potentially includes the whole science, which itself remains an unbroken total.
Is this the appropriate parallel?
No; in such a relationship the All-Soul, of which the particular souls are to be a part, would not be the soul of any definite thing, but an entity standing aloof; that means that it would not even be the soul of the Kosmos; it would, in fact, be, itself, one of those partial souls; thus all alike (kosmic soul and particular souls) would be partial and of one nature; and, at that, there would be no reason for making any such distinction.
Is it a question of part in the sense that, taking one living being, the soul in a finger might be called a part of the soul entire?
This would carry the alternative that either there is no soul outside of body, or that—no soul being within body—the thing described as the soul of the universe is, none the less, outside the body of the universe. That is a point to be investigated, but for the present we must consider what kind of soul this parallel would give us.
If the particular soul is a part of the All-Soul only in the sense that this bestows itself upon all living things of the partial sphere, such a self-bestowal does not imply division; on the contrary, it is the identical soul that is present everywhere, the one complete thing, multi-present at the one moment: there is no longer question of a soul that is a part against a soul that is an all—especially where an identical power is present. Even difference of function, as in eyes and ears, cannot warrant the assertion of distinct parts concerned in each separate act—with other parts again making allotment of faculty—all is met by the notion of one identical thing, but a thing in which a distinct power operates in each separate function. All the powers are present either in seeing or in hearing; the difference in impression received is due to the difference in the organs concerned; all the varying impressions are our various responses to Ideal-forms that can be taken in a variety of modes.
A further proof (of the unity of soul) is that perception demands a common gathering place; every organ has its distinct function, and is competent only upon its own material, and must interpret each several experience in its own fashion; the judgement upon these impressions must, then, be vested in some one principle, a judge informed upon all that is said and done.
But again: “Everywhere, Unity”: in the variety of functions if each “part of the soul” were as distinct as are the entrant sensations, none of those parts could have knowledge; awareness would belong only to that judging faculty—or, if local, every such act of awareness would stand quite unrelated to any other. But since the soul is a rational soul, by the very same title by which it is an All-Soul, and is called the rational soul, in the sense of being a whole (and so not merely “reasoning locally”), then what is thought of as a part must in reality be no part but the identity of an unparted thing.
But if this is the true account of the unity of soul, we must be able to meet the problems that ensue: firstly, the difficulty of one thing being present at the same moment in all things; and, secondly, the difficulty of soul in body as against soul not embodied.
We might be led to think that all soul must always inhabit body; this would seem especially plausible in the case of the soul of the universe, not thought of as ever leaving its body as the human soul does: there exists, no doubt, an opinion that even the human soul, while it must leave the body, can not become an utterly disembodied thing; but, assuming its complete disembodiment, how comes it that the human soul can go free of the body but the All-Soul not, though they are one and the same?
There is no such difficulty in the case of the Intellectual-Principle; by the primal differentiation, this separates, no doubt, into partial things of widely varying nature, but eternal unity is secured by virtue of the eternal identity of that Essence: it is not so easy to explain how, in the case of the soul described as separate among bodies, such differentiated souls can still remain one thing.
A possible solution may be offered:—
The unit soul (it may be conceived) holds aloof, not actually falling into body; the differentiated souls—the All-Soul, with the others—issue from the unity while still constituting, within certain limits, an association. They are one soul by the fact that they do not belong unreservedly to any particular being; they meet, so to speak, fringe to fringe; they strike out here and there, but are held together at the source much as light is a divided thing upon earth, shining in this house, and that, and yet remains uninterruptedly one identical substance.
The All-Soul would always remain above, since essentially it has nothing to do with descent or with the lower, or with any tendency towards this sphere: the other souls would become ours (become “partial,” individual in us) because their lot is cast for this sphere, and because they are solicited by a thing (the body) which invites their care.
The one—the lowest soul in the total of the All-Soul—would correspond to that in some great growth, silently, unlaboriously conducting the whole; our own lowest soul might be compared to the insect life in some rotted part of the growth—for this is the ratio of the animated body to the universe—while the other soul in us, of one ideal nature with the higher parts of the All-Soul, may be imaged as the gardener concerned about the insects lodged in the tree and anxiously working to amend what is wrong; or we may contrast a healthy man living with the healthy and, by his thought or by his act, lending himself to the service of those about him, with, on the other side, a sick man intent upon his own care and cure, and so living for the body, body-bound.
But what place is left for the particular souls, yours and mine and another’s?
May we suppose the Soul to be appropriated on the lower ranges to some individual, but to belong on the higher to that other sphere?
At this there would be a Socrates as long as Socrates’ soul remained in body; but Socrates ceases to exist, precisely on attainment of the highest.
Now nothing of Real Being is ever annulled.
In the Supreme, the Intellectual-Principles are not annulled, for in their differentiation there is no bodily partition, no passing of each separate phase into a distinct unity; every such phase remains in full possession of that identical being. It is exactly so with the souls.
By their succession they are linked to the several Intellectual-Principles, for they are the expression, the Logos, of the Intellectual-Principles, of which they are the unfolding; brevity has opened out to multiplicity; by that point of their being which least belongs to the partial order, they are attached each to its own Intellectual original: they have already chosen the way of division; but to the extreme they cannot go; thus they keep, at once, identification and difference; each soul is permanently a unity (a self) and yet all are, in their total, one being.
Thus the gist of the matter is established: one soul the source of all; those others, as a many founded in that one, are, on the analogy of the Intellectual-Principle, at once divided and undivided; that Soul which abides in the Supreme is the one expression or Logos of the Intellectual-Principle, and from it spring other Reason-Principles, partial but immaterial, exactly as in the differentiation of the Supreme.
But how comes it that while the All-Soul has produced a kosmos, the soul of the particular has not, though it is of the one ideal Kind and contains, it too, all things in itself?
We have indicated that a thing may enter and dwell at the same time in various places; this ought to be explained, and the enquiry would show how an identity resident simultaneously here and there may, in its separate appearances, act or react—or both—after distinct modes; but the matter deserves to be examined in a special discussion.
To return, then: how and why has the All-Soul produced a kosmos, while the particular souls simply administer some one part of it?
In the first place, we are not surprised when men of identical knowledge differ greatly in effective power.
But the reason, we will be asked.
The answer might be that there is an even greater difference among these souls, the one never having fallen away from the All-Soul, but dwelling within it and assuming body therein, while the others received their allotted spheres when the body was already in existence, when their sister soul was already in rule and, as it were, had already prepared habitations for them. Again, the reason may be that the one (the creative All-Soul) looks towards the universal Intellectual-Principle (the exemplar of all that can be) while the others are more occupied with the Intellectual within themselves, that which is already of the sphere of part; perhaps, too, these also could have created, but that they were anticipated by that originator—the work accomplished before them—an impediment inevitable whichsoever of the souls were first to operate.
But it is safer to account for the creative act by nearer connection with the over-world; the souls whose tendency is exercised within the Supreme have the greater power; immune in that pure seat they create securely; for the greater power takes the least hurt from the material within which it operates; and this power remains enduringly attached to the over-world: it creates, therefore, self gathered and the created things gather round it; the other souls, on the contrary, themselves go forth; that can mean only that they have deserted towards the abyss; a main phase in them is drawn downward and pulls them with it in the desire towards the lower.
The “secondary and tertiary souls,” of which we hear, must be understood in the sense of closer or remoter position: it is much as in ourselves the relation to the Supreme is not identical from soul to soul; some of us are capable of becoming Uniate, others of striving and almost attaining, while a third rank is much less apt; it is a matter of the degree or powers of the soul by which our expression is determined—the first degree dominant in the one person, the second, the third (the merely animal life) in others while, still, all of us contain all the powers.
So far, so good: but what of the passage in the Philebus taken to imply that the other souls are parts of the All-Soul?
The statement there made does not bear the meaning read into it; it expresses only, what the author was then concerned with, that the heavens are ensouled—a teaching which he maintains in the observation that it is preposterous to make the heavens soulless when we, who contain a part of the body of the All, have a soul; how, he asks, could there be soul in the part and none in the total.
He makes his teaching quite clear in the Timaeus, where he shows us the other souls brought into existence after the All-Soul, but “compounded from the same mixing bowl”; secondary and tertiary are duly marked off from the primal but every form of soul is presented as being of identical ideal-nature with the All-Soul.
As for the saying of the Phaedrus, “All that is soul cares for all that is soulless,” this simply tells us that the corporeal kind cannot be controlled—fashioned, set in place or brought into being—by anything but the Soul. And we cannot think that there is one soul whose nature includes this power and another without it. “The perfect soul, that of the All,” we read, “going its lofty journey, operates upon the kosmos not by sinking into it, but, as it were, by brooding over it”; and “every perfect soul exercises this governance”; he distinguishes the other, the soul in this sphere (not as a part, or as a different being, but) as “the soul when its wing is broken.”
As for our souls being entrained in the kosmic circuit, and taking character and condition thence; this is no indication that they are parts: soul-nature may very well take some tincture from even the qualities of place, from water and from air; residence in this city or in that, and the varying make-up of the body may have their influence (upon our human souls which, yet, are no parts of place or of body).
We have always admitted that as members of the universe we take over something from the All-Soul; we do not deny the influence of the Kosmic Circuit; but against all this we oppose another soul in us (the Intellectual as distinguished from the merely vitalising) proven to be distinct by that power of opposition.
As for our being begotten children of the kosmos, we answer that in motherhood the entrant soul is distinct, is not the mother’s.
These considerations, amounting to the settlement of the question, are not countered by the phenomenon of sympathy; the response between soul and soul is due to the mere fact that all spring from that self-same soul (the next to Divine Mind) from which springs the Soul of the All.
We have already stated that the one soul is also multiple; and we have dealt with the different forms of relationship between part and whole: we have investigated the different degrees existing within soul; we may now add, briefly, that differences might be induced, also, by the bodies with which the soul has to do, and, even more, by the character and mental operations carried over from the conduct of the previous lives. “The life-choice made by a soul has a correspondence”—we read—“with its former lives.”
As regards the nature of soul in general, the differences have been defined in the passage in which we mentioned the secondary and tertiary orders and laid down that, while all souls are all-comprehensive, each ranks according to its operative phase—one becoming Uniate in the achieved fact, another in knowledge, another in desire, according to the distinct orientation by which each is, or tends to become, what it looks upon. The very fulfilment and perfectionment attainable by souls cannot but be different.
But, if in the total the organisation in which they have their being is compact of variety—as it must be since every Reason-Principle is a unity of multiplicity and variety, and may be thought of as a psychic animated organism having many shapes at its command—if this is so and all constitutes a system in which being is not cut adrift from being, if there is nothing chance-borne among beings as there is none even in bodily organisms, then it follows that Number must enter into the scheme; for, once again, Being must be stable; the members of the Intellectual must possess identity, each numerically one; this is the condition of individuality. Where, as in bodily masses, the Idea is not essentially native, and the individuality is therefore in flux, existence under ideal form can rise only out of imitation of the Authentic Existences; these last, on the contrary, not rising out of any such conjunction (as the duality of Idea and dead Matter) have their being in that which is numerically one, that which was from the beginning, and neither becomes what it has not been nor can cease to be what it is.
Even supposing Real-Beings (such as soul) to be produced by some other principle, they are certainly not made from Matter; or, if they were, the creating principle must infuse into them, from within itself, something of the nature of Real-Being; but, at this, it would itself suffer change, as it created more or less. And, after all, why should it thus produce at any given moment rather than remain for ever stationary?
Moreover the produced total, variable from more to less, could not be an eternal: yet the soul, it stands agreed, is eternal.
But what becomes of the soul’s infinity if it is thus fixed?
The infinity is a matter of power: there is question, not of the soul’s being divisible into an infinite number of parts, but of an infinite possible effectiveness: it is infinity in the sense in which the Supreme God, also, is free of all bound.
This means that it is no external limit that defines the individual being or the extension of souls any more than of God; on the contrary each in right of its own power is all that it chooses to be: and we are not to think of it as going forth from itself (losing its unity by any partition): the fact is simply that the element within it, which is apt to entrance into body, has the power of immediate projection any whither: the soul is certainly not wrenched asunder by its presence at once in foot and in finger. Its presence in the All is similarly unbroken; over its entire range it exists in every several part of everything having even vegetal life, even in a part cut off from the main; in any possible segment it is as it is at its source. For the body of the All is a unit, and soul is everywhere present to it as to one thing.
When some animal rots and a multitude of others spring from it, the Life-Principle now present is not the particular soul that was in the larger body; that body has ceased to be receptive of soul, or there would have been no death; what happens is that whatsoever in the product of the decay is apt material for animal existence of one kind or another becomes ensouled by the fact that soul is nowhere lacking, though a recipient of soul may be. This new ensouling does not mean however an increase in the number of souls: all depend from the one or, rather, all remains one: it is as with ourselves; some elements are shed, others grow in their place; the soul abandons the discarded and flows into the newcoming as long as the one soul of the man holds its ground; in the All the one soul holds its ground for ever; its distinct contents now retain soul and now reject it, but the total of spiritual beings is unaffected.
But we must examine how soul comes to inhabit the body—the manner and the process—a question certainly of no minor interest.
The entry of soul into body takes place under two forms.
Firstly, there is the entry—metensomatosis—of a soul present in body by change from one (wholly material) frame to another or the entry—not known as metensomatosis, since the nature of the earlier habitacle is not certainly definable—of a soul leaving an aerial or fiery body for one of earth.
Secondly, there is the entry from the wholly bodiless into any kind of body; this is the earliest form of any dealing between body and soul, and this entry especially demands investigation.
What then can be thought to have happened when soul, utterly clean from body, first comes into commerce with the bodily nature?
It is reasonable, necessary even, to begin with the Soul of the All. Notice that if we are to explain and to be clear, we are obliged to use such words as “entry” and “ensoulment,” though never was this All unensouled, never did body subsist with soul away, never was there Matter unelaborate; we separate, the better to understand; there is nothing illegitimate in the verbal and mental sundering of things which must in fact be co-existent.
The true doctrine may be stated as follows:—
In the absence of body, soul could not have gone forth, since there is no other place to which its nature would allow it to descend. Since go forth it must, it will generate a place for itself; at once body, also, exists.
While the Soul (as an eternal, a Divine Being) is at rest—in rest firmly based on Repose, the Absolute—yet, as we may put it, that huge illumination of the Supreme pouring outwards comes at last to the extreme bourne of its light and dwindles to darkness; this darkness, now lying there beneath, the soul sees and by seeing brings to shape; for in the law of things this ultimate depth, neighbouring with soul, may not go void of whatsoever degree of that Reason-Principle it can absorb, the dimmed reason of reality at its faintest.
Imagine that a stately and varied mansion has been built; it has never been abandoned by its Architect, who, yet, is not tied down to it; he has judged it worthy in all its length and breadth of all the care that can serve to its Being—as far as it can share in Being—or to its beauty, but a care without burden to its director, who never descends, but presides over it from above: this gives the degree in which the kosmos is ensouled, not by a soul belonging to it, but by one present to it; it is mastered not master; not possessor but possessed. The soul bears it up, and it lies within, no fragment of it unsharing.
The kosmos is like a net which takes all its life, as far as ever it stretches, from being wet in the water, and has no act of its own; the sea rolls away and the net with it, precisely to the full of its scope, for no mesh of it can strain beyond its set place: the soul is of so far-reaching a nature—a thing unbounded—as to embrace the entire body of the All in the one extension; so far as the universe extends, there soul is; and if the universe had no existence, the extent of soul would be the same; it is eternally what it is. The universe spreads as broad as the presence of soul; the bound of its expansion is the point at which, in its downward egression from the Supreme, it still has soul to bind it in one: it is a shadow as broad as the Reason-Principle proceeding from soul; and that Reason-Principle is of scope to generate a kosmic bulk as vast as lay in the purposes of the Idea (the Divine forming power) which it conveys.
In view of all this we must now work back from the items to the unit, and consider the entire scheme as one enduring thing.
We ascend from air, light, sun—or, moon and light and sun—in detail, to these (and such) things as constituting a total—though a total of degrees, primary, secondary, tertiary. Thence we come to the (kosmic) Soul, always the one undiscriminated entity. At this point in our survey we have before us the over-world and all that follows upon it. That suite (the lower and material world) we take to be the very last effect that has penetrated to its furthest reach.
Our knowledge of the first is gained from the ultimate of all, from the very shadow cast by the fire, because this ultimate (the material world) itself receives its share of the general light, something of the nature of the Forming-Idea hovering over the outcast that at first lay in blank obscurity. It is brought under the scheme of reason by the efficacy of soul whose entire extension latently holds this rationalising power. As we know, the Reason-Principles carried in animal seed fashion and shape living beings into so many universes in the small. For whatsoever touches soul is moulded to the nature of soul’s own Real-Being.
We are not to think that the Soul acts upon the object by conformity to any external judgement; there is no pause for willing or planning: any such procedure would not be an act of sheer nature, but one of applied art: but art is of later origin than soul; it is an imitator, producing dim and feeble copies—toys, things of no great worth—and it is dependent upon all sorts of mechanism by which alone its images can be produced. The soul, on the contrary, is sovran over material things by might of Real-Being; their quality is determined by its lead, and those elementary things cannot stand against its will. On the later level, things are hindered one by the other, and thus often fall short of the characteristic shape at which their unextended Reason-Principle must be aiming; in that other world (under the soul but above the material) the entire shape (as well as the idea) comes from soul, and all that is produced takes and keeps its appointed place in a unity, so that the engendered thing, without labour as without clash, becomes all that it should be. In that world the soul has elaborated its creation, the images of the gods, dwellings for men, each existing to some peculiar purpose.
Soul could produce none but the things which truly represent its powers: fire produces warmth; another source produces cold; soul has a double efficacy, its act within itself, and its act from within outwards towards the new production.
In soulless entities, the outgo (natural to everything) remains dormant, and any efficiency they have is to bring to their own likeness whatever is amenable to their act. All existence has this tendency to bring other things to likeness; but the soul has the distinction of possessing at once an action of conscious attention within itself, and an action towards the outer. It has thus the function of giving life to all that does not live by prior right, and the life it gives is commensurate with its own; that is to say, living in reason, it communicates reason to the body—an image of the reason within itself, just as the life given to the body is an image of Real-Being—and it bestows, also, upon that material the appropriate shapes of which it contains the Reason-Forms.
The content of the creative soul includes the Ideal shapes of gods and of all else: and hence it is that the kosmos contains all.
I think, therefore, that those ancient sages, who sought to secure the presence of divine beings by the erection of shrines and statues, showed insight into the nature of the All; they perceived that, though this Soul is everywhere tractable, its presence will be secured all the more readily when an appropriate receptacle is elaborated, a place especially capable of receiving some portion or phase of it, something reproducing it, or representing it, and serving like a mirror to catch an image of it.
It belongs to the nature of the All to make its entire content reproduce, most felicitously, the Reason-Principles in which it participates; every particular thing is the image within matter of a Reason-Principle which itself images a pre-material Reason-Principle: thus every particular entity is linked to that Divine Being in whose likeness it is made, the divine principle which the soul contemplated and contained in the act of each creation. Such mediation and representation there must have been since it was equally impossible for the created to be without share in the Supreme, and for the Supreme to descend into the created.
The Intellectual-Principle in the Supreme has ever been the sun of that sphere—let us accept that as the type of the creative Logos—and immediately upon it follows the Soul depending from it, stationary Soul from stationary Intelligence. But the Soul borders also upon the sun of this sphere, and it becomes the medium by which all is linked to the over-world; it plays the part of an interpreter between what emanates from that sphere down to this lower universe, and what rises—as far as, through soul, anything can—from the lower to the highest.
Nothing, in fact, is far away from anything; things are not remote: there is, no doubt, the aloofness of difference and of mingled natures as against the unmingled; but selfhood has nothing to do with spatial position, and in unity itself there may still be distinction.
These Beings (the Reason-Principles of this sphere) are divine in virtue of cleaving to the Supreme, because, by the medium of the Soul thought of as descending, they remain linked with the Primal Soul, and through it are veritably what they are called and possess the vision of the Intellectual Principle, the single object of contemplation to that soul in which they have their being.
The souls of men, seeing their images in the mirror of Dionysus as it were, have entered into that realm in a leap downward from the Supreme: yet even they are not cut off from their origin, from the divine Intellect; it is not that they have come bringing the Intellectual Principle down in their fall; it is that though they have descended even to earth, yet their higher part holds for ever above the heavens.
Their initial descent is deepened since that mid-part of theirs is compelled to labour in care of the care-needing thing into which they have entered. But Zeus, the father, takes pity on their toils and makes the bonds in which they labour soluble by death and gives respite in due time, freeing them from the body, that they too may come to dwell there where the Universal Soul, unconcerned with earthly needs, has ever dwelt.
For the container of the total of things must be a self-sufficing entity and remain so: in its periods it is wrought out to purpose under its Reason-Principles which are perdurably valid; by these periods it reverts unfailingly, in the measured stages of defined life-duration, to its established character; it is leading the things of this realm to be of one voice and plan with the Supreme. And thus the kosmic content is carried forward to its purpose, everything in its co-ordinate place, under one only Reason-Principle operating alike in the descent and return of souls and to every purpose of the system.
We may know this also by the concordance of the Souls with the ordered scheme of the kosmos; they are not independent, but, by their descent, they have put themselves in contact, and they stand henceforth in harmonious association with the kosmic circuit—to the extent that their fortunes, their life experiences, their choosing and refusing, are announced by the patterns of the stars—and out of this concordance rises as it were one musical utterance: the music, the harmony, by which all is described is the best witness to this truth.
Such a consonance can have been procured in one only way:—
The All must, in every detail of act and experience, be an expression of the Supreme, which must dominate alike its periods and its stable ordering and the life-careers varying with the movement of the souls as they are sometimes absorbed in that highest, sometimes in the heavens, sometimes turned to the things and places of our earth. All that is Divine Intellect will rest eternally above, and could never fall from its sphere but, poised entire in its own high place, will communicate to things here through the channel of Soul. Soul in virtue of neighbourhood is more closely modelled upon the Idea uttered by the Divine Intellect, and thus is able to produce order in the movement of the lower realm, one phase (the World-Soul) maintaining the unvarying march (of the kosmic circuit) the other (the soul of the Individual) adopting itself to times and season.
The depth of the descent, also, will differ—sometimes lower, sometimes less low—and this even in its entry into any given Kind: all that is fixed is that each several soul descends to a recipient indicated by affinity of condition; it moves towards the thing which it There resembled, and enters, accordingly, into the body of man or animal.
The Ineluctable, the Kosmic Law is, thus, rooted in a natural principle under which each several entity is overruled to go, duly and in order, towards that place and Kind to which it characteristically tends, that is towards the image of its primal choice and constitution.
In that archetypal world every form of soul is near to the image (the thing in the world of copy) to which its individual constitution inclines it; there is therefore no need of a sender or leader acting at the right moment to bring it at the right moment whether into body or into a definitely appropriate body: of its own motion it descends at the precisely true time and enters where it must. To every Soul its own hour; when that strikes it descends and enters the body suitable to it as at the cry of a herald; thus all is set stirring and advancing as by a magician’s power or by some mighty traction; it is much as, in any living thing, the soul itself effects the fulfilment of the natural career, stirring and bringing forth, in due season, every element—beard, horn, and all the successive stages of tendency and of output—or, as it leads a tree through its normal course within set periods.
The Souls go forth neither under compulsion nor of freewill; or, at least, freedom, here, is not to be regarded as action upon preference; it is more like such a leap of the nature as moves men to the instinctive desire of sexual union, or, in the case of some, to fine conduct; the motive lies elsewhere than in the reason: like is destined unfailingly to like, and each moves hither or thither at its fixed moment.
Even the Intellectual-Principle, which is before all the kosmos, has, it also, its destiny, that of abiding intact above, and of giving downwards: what it sends down is the particular whose existence is implied in the law (or decreed system) of the universal; for the universal broods closely over the particular; it is not from without that the law derives the power by which it is executed; on the contrary the law is given in the entities upon whom it falls; these bear it about with them. Let but the moment arrive, and what it decrees will be brought to act by those beings in whom it resides; they fulfil it because they contain it; it prevails because it is within them; it becomes like a heavy burden, and sets up in them a painful longing to enter the realm to which they are bidden from within.
Thus it comes about that this kosmos, lit with many lights, gleaming in its souls, receives still further graces, gifts from here and from there, from the gods of the Supreme, and from those other Intellectual-Principles whose nature it is to ensoul. This is probably the secret of the myth in which, after Prometheus had moulded woman, the other gods heaped gifts upon her, Hephaistos “blending the clay with moisture and bestowing the human voice and the form of a goddess”; Aphrodite bringing her gifts, and the Graces theirs, and other gods other gifts, and finally calling her by the name (Pandora) which tells of gift and of all giving—for all have added something to this formation brought to being by a Promethean, a fore-thinking power. As for the rejection of Prometheus’ gift by after-thought, Epimetheus, what can this signify but that the wiser choice is to remain in the Intellectual realm? Pandora’s creator is fettered, to signify that he is in some sense held by his own creation; such a fettering is external and the release by Hercules tells that there is power in Prometheus, so that he need not remain in bonds.
Take the myth as we may, it is certainly such an account of the bestowal of gifts upon the kosmos as harmonises with our explanation of the universal system.
The souls peering forth from the Intellectual Realm descend first to the heavens and there put on a body; this becomes at once the medium by which as they reach out more and more towards magnitude (physical extension) they proceed to bodies progressively more earthy. Some even plunge from heaven to the very lowest of corporeal forms; others pass, stage by stage, too feeble to lift towards the higher the burden they carry, weighed downwards by their heaviness and forgetfulness.
As for the differences among them, these are due to variation in the bodies entered, or to the accidents of life, or to upbringing, or to inherent peculiarities of temperament, or to all these influences together, or to specific combinations of them.
Then again some have fallen unreservedly into the power of the destiny ruling here: some yielding betimes are betimes too their own: there are those who, while they accept what must be borne, have the strength of self-mastery in all that is left to their own act; they have given themselves to another dispensation: they live by the code of the aggregate of beings, the code which is woven out of the Reason-Principles and all the other causes ruling in the kosmos, out of soul-movements and out of laws springing in the Supreme; a code, therefore, consonant with those higher existences, founded upon them, linking their sequents back to them, keeping unshakeably true all that is capable of holding itself set towards the divine nature, and leading round by all appropriate means whatsoever is less natively apt.
In fine all diversity of condition in the lower spheres is determined by the descendent beings themselves.
The punishment justly overtaking the wicked must therefore be ascribed to the kosmic order which leads all in accordance with the right.
But what of chastisements, poverty, illness, falling upon the good outside of all justice? These events, we will be told, are equally interwoven into the world order and fall under prediction, and must consequently have a cause in the general reason: are they therefore to be charged to past misdoing?
No: such misfortunes do not answer to reasons established in the nature of things; they are not laid up in the master-facts of the universe, but were merely accidental sequents: a house falls, and anyone that chances to be underneath is killed, no matter what sort of man he be: two objects are moving in perfect order—or one if you like—but anything getting in the way is wounded or trampled down. Or we may reason that the underserved stroke can be no evil to the sufferer in view of the beneficent interweaving of the All or again, no doubt, that nothing is unjust that finds justification in a past history.
We may not think of some things being fitted into a system with others abandoned to the capricious; if things must happen by cause, by natural sequences, under one Reason-Principle and a single set scheme, we must admit that the minor equally with the major is fitted into that order and pattern.
Wrong-doing from man to man is wrong in the doer and must be imputed, but, as belonging to the established order of the universe is not a wrong even as regards the innocent sufferer; it is a thing that had to be, and, if the sufferer is good, the issue is to his gain. For we cannot think that this ordered combination proceeds without God and justice; we must take it to be precise in the distribution of due, while, yet, the reasons of things elude us, and to our ignorance the scheme presents matter of censure.
Various considerations explain why the Souls going forth from the Intellectual proceed first to the heavenly regions. The heavens, as the noblest portion of sensible space, would border with the least exalted of the Intellectual, and will, therefore, be first ensouled, first to participate as most apt; while what is of earth is at the very extremity of progression, least endowed towards participation, remotest from the unembodied.
All the souls, then, shine down upon the heavens and spend there the main of themselves and the best; only their lower phases illuminate the lower realms; and those souls which descend deepest show their light furthest down—not themselves the better for the depth to which they have penetrated.
There is, we may put it, something that is centre; about it, a circle of light shed from it; round centre and first circle alike, another circle, light from light; outside that again, not another circle of light but one which, lacking light of its own, must borrow.
The last we may figure to ourselves as a revolving circle, or rather a sphere, of a nature to receive light from that third realm, its next higher, in proportion to the light which that itself receives. Thus all begins with the great light, shining self-centred; in accordance with the reigning plan (that of emanation) this gives forth its brilliance; the later (divine) existents (souls) add their radiation—some of them remaining above, while there are some that are drawn further downward, attracted by the splendour of the object they illuminate. These last find that their charges need more and more care: the steersman of a storm-tossed ship is so intent on saving it that he forgets his own interest and never thinks that he is recurrently in peril of being dragged down with the vessel; similarly the souls are intent upon contriving for their charges and finally come to be pulled down by them; they are fettered in bonds of sorcery, gripped and held by their concern for the realm of Nature.
If every living being were of the character of the All-perfect, self-sufficing, in peril from no outside influence—the soul now spoken of as indwelling would not occupy the body; it would infuse life while clinging, entire, within the Supreme.
There remains still something to be said on the question whether the soul uses deliberate reason before its descent and again when it has left the body.
Reasoning is for this sphere; it is the act of the soul fallen into perplexity, distracted with cares, diminished in strength: the need of deliberation goes with the less self-sufficing intelligence; craftsmen faced by a difficulty stop to consider; where there is no problem their art works on by its own forthright power.
But if souls in the Supreme operate without reasoning, how can they be called reasoning souls?
One answer might be that they have the power of deliberating to happy issue, should occasion arise: but all is met by repudiating the particular kind of reasoning intended (the earthly and discursive type); we may represent to ourselves a reasoning that flows uninterruptedly from the Intellectual-Principle in them, an inherent state, an enduring activity, an assertion that is real; in this way they would be users of reason even when in that over-world. We certainly cannot think of them, it seems to me, as employing words when, though they may occupy bodies in the heavenly region, they are essentially in the Intellectual: and very surely the deliberation of doubt and difficulty which they practise here must be unknown to them There; all their act must fall into place by sheer force of their nature; there can be no question of commanding or of taking counsel; they will know, each, what is to be communicated from another, by present consciousness. Even in our own case here, eyes often know what is not spoken; and There all is pure, every being is, as it were, an eye, nothing is concealed or sophisticated, there is no need of speech, everything is seen and known. As for the Celestials (the Daimones) and souls in the air, they may well use speech; for all such are simply Animate=Beings.
Are we to think of the indivisible phase of the soul and the divided as making one thing in a coalescence; or is the indivisible in a place of its own and under conditions of its own, the divisible being a sequent upon it, a separate part of it, as distinct as the reasoning phase is from the unreasoning?
The answer to this question will emerge when we make plain the nature and function to be attributed to each.
The indivisible phase is mentioned (in the passage of Plato) without further qualification; but not so the divisible; “that soul” we read “which becomes divisible in bodies”—and even this last is presented as becoming partible, not as being so once for all.
“In bodies”: we must, then, satisfy ourselves as to what form of soul is required to produce life in the corporeal, and what there must be of soul present throughout such a body, such a completed organism.
Now, every sensitive power—by the fact of being sensitive throughout—tends to become a thing of parts: present at every distinct point of sensitiveness, it may be thought of as divided. In the sense, however, that it is present as a whole at every such point, it cannot be said to be wholly divided; it “becomes divisible in body.” We may be told that no such partition is implied in any sensations but those of touch; but this is not so; where the participant is body (of itself insensitive and non-transmitting) that divisibility in the sensitive agent will be a condition of all other sensations, though in less degree than in the case of touch. Similarly the vegetative function in the soul, with that of growth, indicates divisibility; and, admitting such locations as that of desire at the liver and emotional activity at the heart, we have the same result. It is to be noted, however, as regards these (the less corporeal) sensations, that the body may possibly not experience them as a fact of the conjoint thing but in another mode, as rising within some one of the elements of which it has been participant (as inherent, purely, in some phase of the associated soul): reasoning and the act of the intellect, for instance, are not vested in the body; their task is not accomplished by means of the body which in fact is detrimental to any thinking on which it is allowed to intrude.
Thus the indivisible phase of the soul stands distinct from the divisible; they do not form a unity, but, on the contrary, a whole consisting of parts, each part a self-standing thing having its own peculiar virtue. None the less, if that phase which becomes divisible in body holds indivisibility by communication from the superior power, then this one same thing (the soul in body) may be at once indivisible and divisible; it will be, as it were, a blend, a thing made up of its own divisible self with, in addition, the quality that it derives from above itself.
Here a question rises to which we must find an answer:—whether these and the other powers which we call “parts” of the Soul are situated, all, in place; or whether some have place and standpoint, others not; or whether again none are situated in place.
The matter is difficult: if we do not allot to each of the parts of the Soul some form of place, but leave all unallocated—no more within the body than outside it—we leave the body soulless, and are at a loss to explain plausibly the origin of acts performed by means of the bodily organs: if, on the other hand, we suppose some of those phases to be (capable of situation) in place but others not so, we will be supposing that those parts to which we deny place are ineffective in us, or, in other words, that we do not possess our entire soul.
This simply shows that neither the soul entire nor an NA may be considered to be within the body as in a space: space is a container, a container of body; it is the home of such things as consist of isolated parts, things, therefore, in which at no point is there an entirety; now, the soul is not a body and is no more contained than containing.
Neither is it in body as in some vessel: whether as vessel or as place of location, the body would remain, in itself, unensouled. If we are to think of some passing-over from the soul—that self-gathered thing—to the containing vessel, then soul is diminished by just as much as the vessel takes.
Space, again, in the strict sense is unembodied, and is not, itself, body; why, then, should it need soul?
Besides (if the soul were contained as in space) contact would be only at the surface of the body, not throughout the entire mass.
Many other considerations equally refute the notion that the soul is in body as (an object) in space; for example, this space would be shifted with every movement, and a thing itself would carry its own space about.
Of course if by space we understand the interval separating objects, it is still less possible that the soul be in body as in space: such a separating interval must be a void; but body is not a void; the void must be that in which body is placed; body (not soul) will be in the void.
Nor can it be in the body as in some substratum: anything in a substratum is a condition affecting that—a colour, a form—but the soul (is no condition of something else), is a separate existence.
Nor is it present as a part in the whole; soul is no part of body. If we are asked to think of soul as a part in the living total we are faced with the old difficulty:—How it is in that whole. It is certainly not there as the wine is in the wine jar, or as the jar in the jar, or as some absolute is self-present.
Nor can the presence be that of a whole in its part: It would be absurd to think of the soul as a total of which the body should represent the parts.
It is not present as Form is in Matter; for the Form as in Matter is inseparable, and, further, is something superimposed upon an already existent thing; soul, on the contrary, is that which engenders the Form residing within the Matter and therefore is not the Form. If the reference is not to the Form actually present, but to Form as a thing existing apart from all formed objects, it is hard to see how such an entity has found its way into body, and at any rate this makes the soul separable.
How comes it then that everyone speaks of soul as being in body?
Because the soul is not seen and the body is: we perceive the body, and by its movement and sensation we understand that it is ensouled, and we say that it possesses a soul; to speak of residence is a natural sequence. If the soul were visible, an object of the senses, radiating throughout the entire life, if it were manifest in full force to the very outermost surface, we would no longer speak of soul as in body; we would say the minor was within the major, the contained within the container, the fleeting within the perdurable.
What does all this come to? What answer do we give to any who, with no opinion of his own to assert, asks us to explain this presence? And what do we say to the question whether there is one only mode of presence of the entire soul or different modes, phase and phase?
Of the modes currently accepted for the presence of one thing in another, none really meets the case of the soul’s relation to the body. Thus we are given as a parallel the steersman in the ship; this serves adequately to indicate that the soul is potentially separable, but the mode of presence, which is what we are seeking, it does not exhibit.
We can imagine it within the body in some incidental way—for example, as a voyager in a ship—but scarcely as the steersman: and, of course, too, the steersman is not omnipresent to the ship as the soul is to the body.
May we, perhaps, compare it to the science or skill that acts through its appropriate instruments—through a helm, let us say, which should happen to be a live thing—so that the soul effecting the movements dictated by seamanship is an indwelling directive force?
No: the comparison breaks down, since the science is something outside of helm and ship.
Is it any help to adopt the illustration of the steersman taking the helm, and to station the soul within the body as the steersman may be thought to be within the material instrument through which he works? Soul, whenever and wherever it chooses to operate, does in much that way move the body.
No; even in this parallel we have no explanation of the mode of presence within the instrument; we cannot be satisfied without further search, a closer approach.
May we think that the mode of the soul’s presence to body is that of the presence of light to the air?
This certainly is presence with distinction: the light penetrates through and through, but nowhere coalesces; the light is the stable thing, the air flows in and out; when the air passes beyond the lit area it is dark; under the light it is lit: we have a true parallel to what we have been saying of body and soul, for the air is in the light quite as much as the light in the air.
Plato therefore is wise when, in treating of the All he puts the body in its soul and not its soul in the body, and says that while there is a region of that soul which contains body, there is another region to which body does not enter—certain powers, that is, with which body has no concern. And what is true of the All-Soul is true of the others.
There are, therefore, certain soul-powers whose presence to body must be denied.
The phases present are those which the nature of body demands: they are present without being resident—either in any parts of the body or in the body as a whole.
For the purposes of sensation the sensitive phase of the soul is present to the entire sensitive being: for the purposes of act, differentiation begins; every soul phase operates at a point peculiar to itself.
I explain:—A living body is illuminated by soul: each organ and member participates in soul after some manner peculiar to itself; the organ is adapted to a certain function, and this fitness is the vehicle of the soul-faculty under which the function is performed; thus the seeing faculty acts through the eyes, the hearing faculty through the ears, the tasting faculty through the tongue, the faculty of smelling through the nostrils, and the faculty of sentient touch is present throughout, since in this particular form of perception the entire body is an instrument in the soul’s service.
The vehicles of touch are mainly centred in the nerves—which moreover are vehicles of the faculty by which the movements of the living being are affected—in them the soul-faculty concerned makes itself present; the nerves start from the brain. The brain therefore has been considered as the centre and seat of the principle which determines feeling and impulse and the entire act of the organism as a living thing; where the instruments are found to be linked, there the operating faculty is assumed to be situated. But it would be wiser to say only that there is situated the first activity of the operating faculty: the power to be exercised by the operator—in keeping with the particular instrument—must be considered as concentrated at the point at which the instrument is to be first applied; or, since the soul’s faculty is of universal scope the sounder statement is that the point of origin of the instrument is the point of origin of the act.
Now, the faculty presiding over sensation and impulse is vested in the sensitive and representative soul; it draws upon the Reason-Principle immediately above itself; downward, it is in contact with an inferior of its own: on this analogy the uppermost member of the living being was taken by the ancients to be obviously its seat; they lodged it in the brain, or not exactly in the brain but in that sensitive part which is the medium through which the Reason-Principle impinges upon the brain. They saw that something must be definitely allocated to body—at the point most receptive of the act of reason—while something, utterly isolated from body must be in contact with that superior thing which is a form of soul (and not merely of the vegetative or other quasicorporeal forms but) of that soul apt to the appropriation of the perceptions originating in the Reason-Principle.
Such a linking there must be, since in perception there is some element of judging, in representation something intuitional, and since impulse and appetite derive from representation and reason. The reasoning faculty, therefore, is present where these experiences occur, present not as in a place but in the fact that what is there draws upon it. As regards perception we have already explained in what sense it is local.
But every living being includes the vegetal principle, that principle of growth and nourishment which maintains the organism by means of the blood; this nourishing medium is contained in the veins; the veins and blood have their origin in the liver: from observation of these facts the power concerned was assigned a place; the phase of the soul, which has to do with desire, was allocated to the liver. Certainly what brings to birth and nourishes and gives growth must have the desire of these functions. Blood—subtle, light, swift, pure—is the vehicle most apt to animal spirit: the heart, then, its well-spring, the place where such blood is sifted into being, is taken as the fixed centre of the ebullition of the passionate nature.
Now comes the question of the soul leaving the body; where does it go?
It cannot remain in this world where there is no natural recipient for it; and it cannot remain attached to anything not of a character to hold it: it can be held here when only it is less than wise, containing within itself something of that which lures it.
If it does contain any such alien element it gives itself, with increasing attachment, to the sphere to which that element naturally belongs and tends.
The space open to the soul’s resort is vast and diverse; the difference will come by the double force of the individual condition and of the justice reigning in things. No one can ever escape the suffering entailed by ill deeds done: the divine law is ineluctable, carrying bound up, as one with it, the fore-ordained execution of its doom. The sufferer, all unaware, is swept onward towards his due, hurried always by the restless driving of his errors, until at last wearied out by that against which he struggled, he falls into his fit place and, by self-chosen movement, is brought to the lot he never chose. And the law decrees, also, the intensity and the duration of the suffering while it carries with it, too, the lifting of chastisement and the faculty of rising from those places of pain—all by power of the harmony that maintains the universal scheme.
Souls, body-bound, are apt to body-punishment; clean souls no longer drawing to themselves at any point any vestige of body are, by their very being, outside the bodily sphere; body-free, containing nothing of body—there where Essence is, and Being, and the Divine within the Divinity, among Those, within That, such a soul must be.
If you still ask Where, you must ask where those Beings are—and in your seeking, seek otherwise than with the sight, and not as one seeking for body.
Now comes the question, equally calling for an answer, whether those souls that have quitted the places of earth retain memory of their lives—all souls or some, of all things, or of some things, and, again, for ever or merely for some period not very long after their withdrawal.
A true investigation of this matter requires us to establish first what a remembering principle must be—I do not mean what memory is, but in what order of beings it can occur. The nature of memory has been indicated, laboured even, elsewhere; we still must try to understand more clearly what characteristics are present where memory exists.
Now a memory has to do with something brought into ken from without, something learned or something experienced; the Memory-Principle, therefore, cannot belong to such beings as are immune from experience and from time.
No memory, therefore, can be ascribed to any divine being, or to the Authentic-Existent or the Intellectual-Principle: these are intangibly immune; time does not approach them; they possess eternity centred around Being; they know nothing of past and sequent; all is an unbroken state of identity, not receptive of change. Now a being rooted in unchanging identity cannot entertain memory, since it has not and never had a state differing from any previous state, or any new intellection following upon a former one, so as to be aware of contrast between a present perception and one remembered from before.
But what prevents such a being (from possessing memory in the sense of) perceiving, without variation in itself, such outside changes as, for example, the kosmic periods?
Simply the fact that following the changes of the revolting kosmos it would have perception of earlier and later: intuition and memory are distinct.
We cannot hold its self-intellections to be acts of memory; this is no question of something entering from without, to be grasped and held in fear of an escape; if its intellections could slip away from it (as a memory might) its very Essence (as the Hypostasis of inherent Intellection) would be in peril.
For the same reason memory, in the current sense, cannot be attributed to the soul in connection with the ideas inherent in its essence: these it holds not as a memory but as a possession, though, by its very entrance into this sphere, they are no longer the mainstay of its Act.
The Soul-action which is to be observed seems to have induced the Ancients to ascribe memory, and “Recollection,” (the Platonic Anamnesis) to souls bringing into outward manifestation the ideas they contain: we see at once that the memory here indicated is another kind; it is a memory outside of time.
But, perhaps, this is treating too summarily a matter which demands minute investigation. It might be doubted whether that recollection, that memory, really belongs to the highest soul and not rather to another, a dimmer, or even to the Couplement, the Living-Being. And if to that dimmer soul, when and how has it come to be present; if to the Couplement, again when and how?
We are driven thus to enquire into these several points: in which of the constituents of our nature is memory vested—the question with which we started—if in the soul, then in what power or part; if in the Animate or Couplement—which has been supposed, similarly to be the seat of sensation—then by what mode it is present, and how we are to define the Couplement; finally whether sensation and intellectual acts may be ascribed to one and the same agent, or imply two distinct principles.
Now if sensations of the active order depend upon the Couplement of soul and body, sensation must be of that double nature. Hence it is classed as one of the shared acts: the soul, in the feeling, may be compared to the workman in such operations as boring or weaving, the body to the tool employed: the body is passive and menial; the soul is active, reading such impressions as are made upon the body or discerned by means of the body, perhaps entertaining only a judgement formed as the result of the bodily experiences.
In such a process it is at once clear that the sensation is a shared task; but the memory is not thus made over to the Couplement, since the soul has from the first taken over the impression, either to retain or to reject.
It might be ventured that memory, no less than sensation, is a function of the Couplement, on the ground that bodily constitution determines our memories good or bad; but the answer would come that, whether the body happens or not to be a hindrance, the act of remembering would still be an act of the soul. And in the case of matters learned (and not merely felt, as corporeal experiences), how can we think of the Couplement of soul and body as the remembering principle? Here, surely, it must be soul alone?
We may be told that the living-being is a Couplement in the sense of something entirely distinct formed from the two elements (so that it might have memory though neither soul nor body had it). But, to begin with, it is absurd to class the living-being as neither body nor soul; these two things cannot so change as to make a distinct third, nor can they blend so utterly that the soul shall become a mere faculty of the animate whole. And, further, supposing they could so blend, memory would still be due to the soul just as in honey-wine all the sweetness will be due to the honey.
It may be suggested the while the soul is perhaps not in itself a remembering principle, yet that, having lost its purity and acquired some degree of modification by its presence in body, it becomes capable of reproducing the imprints of sensible objects and experiences, and that, seated, as roughly speaking it is, within the body—it may reasonably be thought capable of accepting such impressions, and in such a manner as to retain them (thus in some sense possessing memory.)
But, to begin with, these imprints are not magnitudes (are not of corporeal nature at all); there is no resemblance to seal impressions, no stamping of a resistant matter, for there is neither the down-thrust (as of the seal) nor (the acceptance) as in the wax: the process is entirely of the intellect, though exercised upon things of sense; and what kind of resistance (or other physical action) can be affirmed in matters of the intellectual order, or what need can there be of body or bodily quality as a means?
Further there is one order of which the memory must obviously belong to the soul; it alone can remember its own movements, for example its desires and those frustrations of desire in which the coveted thing never came to the body: the body can have nothing to tell about things which never approached it, and the soul cannot use the body as a means to the remembrance of what the body by its nature cannot know.
If the soul is to have any significance—to be a definite principle with a function of its own—we are forced to recognise two orders of fact, an order in which the body is a means but all culminates in soul, and an order which is of the soul alone. This being admitted, aspiration will belong to soul, and so, as a consequence, will that memory of the aspiration and of its attainment or frustration, without which the soul’s nature would fall into the category of the unstable (that is to say of the undivine, unreal). Deny this character of the soul and at once we refuse it perception, consciousness, any power of comparison, almost any understanding. Yet these powers of which, embodied, it becomes the source cannot be absent from its own nature. On the contrary; it possesses certain activities to be expressed in various functions whose accomplishment demands bodily organs; at its entry it brings with it (as vested in itself alone) the powers necessary for some of these functions, while in the case of others it brings the very activities themselves.
Memory, in point of fact, is impeded by the body: even as things are, addition often brings forgetfulness; with thinning and clearing away, memory will often revive. The soul is a stability; the shifting and fleeting thing which body is can be a cause only of its forgetting not of its remembering—Lethe stream may be understood in this sense—and memory is a fact of the soul.
But of what soul; of that which we envisage as the more divine, by which we are human beings, or that other which springs from the All?
Memory must be admitted in both of these, personal memories and shared memories; and when the two souls are together, the memories also are as one; when they stand apart, assuming that both exist and endure, each soon forgets the other’s affairs, retaining for a longer time its own. Thus it is that the Shade of Hercules in the lower regions—this “Shade,” as I take it, being the characteristically human part—remembers all the action and experience of the life, since that career was mainly of the hero’s personal shaping; the other souls (soul-phases) going to constitute the joint-being could, for all their different standing, have nothing to recount but the events of that same life, doings which they knew from the time of their association: perhaps they would add also some moral judgement.
What the Hercules standing outside the Shade spoke of we are not told: what can we think that other, the freed and isolated, soul would recount?
The soul, still a dragged captive, will tell of all the man did and felt; but upon death there will appear, as time passes, memories of the lives lived before, some of the events of the most recent life being dismissed as trivial. As it grows away from the body, it will revive things forgotten in the corporeal state, and if it passes in and out of one body after another, it will tell over the events of the discarded life, it will treat as present that which it has just left, and it will remember much from the former existence. But with lapse of time it will come to forgetfulness of many things that were mere accretion.
Then, free and alone at last, what will it have to remember?
The answer to that question depends on our discovering in what faculty of the soul memory resides.
Is memory vested in the faculty by which we perceive and learn? Or does it reside in the faculty by which we set things before our minds as objects of desire or of anger, the passionate faculty?
This will be maintained on the ground that there could scarcely be both a first faculty in direct action and a second to remember what that first experiences. It is certain that the desiring faculty is apt to be stirred by what it has once enjoyed; the object presents itself again; evidently, memory is at work; why else, the same object with the same attraction?
But, at that, we might reasonably ascribe to the desiring faculty the very perception of the desired objects and then the desire itself to the perceptive faculty, and so on all through, and in the end conclude that the distinctive names merely indicate the function which happens to be uppermost.
Yet the perception is very different from faculty to faculty; certainly it is sight and not desire that sees the object; desire is stirred merely as a result of the seeing, by a transmission; its act is not in the nature of an identification of an object seen; all is simply blind response (automatic reaction). Similarly with rage; sight reveals the offender and the passion leaps; we may think of a shepherd seeing a wolf at his flock, and a dog, seeing nothing, who springs to the scent or the sound.
In other words the desiring faculty has had the emotion, but the trace it keeps of the event is not a memory; it is a condition, something passively accepted: there is another faculty that was aware of the enjoyment and retains the memory of what has happened. This is confirmed by the fact that many satisfactions which the desiring faculty has enjoyed are not retained in the memory: if memory resided in the desiring faculty, such forgetfulness could not be.
Are we, then, to refer memory to the perceptive faculty and so make one principle of our nature the seat of both awareness and remembrance?
Now supposing the very Shade, as we were saying in the case of Hercules, has memory, then the perceptive faculty is twofold.
[(And if (on the same supposition) the faculty that remembers is not the faculty that perceives, but some other thing, then the remembering faculty is two-fold.)]
And further if the perceptive faculty (=the memory) deals with matters learned (as well as with matters of observation and feeling) it will be the faculty for the processes of reason also: but these two orders certainly require two separate faculties.
Must we then suppose a common faculty of apprehension (one covering both sense perceptions and ideas) and assign memory in both orders to this?
The solution might serve if there were one and the same percipient for objects of sense and objects of the Intellectual-Kind; but if these stand in definite duality, then, for all we can say or do, we are left with two separate principles of memory; and, supposing each of the two orders of soul to possess both principles, then we have four.
And, on general grounds, what compelling reason is there that the principle by which we perceive should be the principle by which we remember, that these two acts should be vested in the one faculty? Why must the seat of our intellectual action be also the seat of our remembrance of that action? The most powerful thought does not always go with the readiest memory; people of equal perception are not equally good at remembering; some are especially gifted in perception, others, never swift to grasp, are strong to retain.
But, once more, admitting two distinct principles, something quite separate remembering what sense-perception has first known—still this something must have felt what it is required to remember?
No; we may well conceive that where there is to be memory of a sense-perception, this perception becomes a mere presentment, and that to this image-grasping power, a distinct thing, belongs the memory, the retention of the object: for in this imaging faculty the perception culminates; the impression passes away but the vision remains present to the imagination.
By the fact of harbouring the presentment of an object that has disappeared, the imagination is, at once, a seat of memory: where the persistence of the image is brief, the memory is poor; people of powerful memory are those in whom the image-holding power is firmer, not easily allowing the record to be jostled out of its grip.
Remembrance, thus, is vested in the imaging faculty; and memory deals with images. Its differing quality or degree from man to man, we would explain by difference or similarity in the strength of the individual powers, by conduct like or unlike, by bodily conditions present or absent, producing change and disorder or not—a point this, however, which need not detain us here.
But what of the memory of mental acts: do these also fall under the imaging faculty?
If every mental act is accompanied by an image we may well believe that this image, fixed and like a picture of the thought, would explain how we remember the object of knowledge once entertained. But if there is no such necessary image, another solution must be sought. Perhaps memory would be the reception, into the image-making faculty, of the Reason-Principle which accompanies the mental conception: this mental conception—an indivisible thing, and one that never rises to the exterior of the consciousness—lies unknown below; the Reason-Principle—the revealer, the bridge between the concept and the image-taking faculty—exhibits the concept as in a mirror; the apprehension by the image-taking faculty would thus constitute the enduring presence of the concept, would be our memory of it.
This explains, also, another fact:—the soul is unfailingly intent upon intellection; only when it acts upon this image-making faculty does its intellection become a human perception: intellection is one thing, the perception of an intellection is another: we are continuously intuitive but we are not unbrokenly aware: the reason is that the recipient in us receives from both sides, absorbing not merely intellections but also sense-perceptions.
But if each of the two phases of the soul, as we have said, possesses memory, and memory is vested in the imaging faculty, there must be two such faculties. Now that is all very well as long as the two souls stand apart; but, when they are at one in us, what becomes of the two faculties, and in which of them is the imaging faculty vested?
If each soul has its own imaging faculty the images must in all cases be duplicated, since we cannot think that one faculty deals only with intellectual objects, and the other with objects of sense, a distinction which inevitably implies the co-existence in man of two life-principles utterly unrelated.
And if both orders of image act upon both orders of soul, what difference is there in the souls; and how does the fact escape our knowledge?
The answer is that, when the two souls chime each with each, the two imaging faculties no longer stand apart; the union is dominated by the more powerful of the faculties of the soul, and thus the image perceived is as one; the less powerful is like a shadow attending upon the dominant, like a minor light merging into a greater: when they are in conflict, in discord, the minor is distinctly apart, a self-standing thing—though its isolation is not perceived, for the simple reason that the separate being of the two souls escapes observation.
The two have run into a unity in which, yet, one is the loftier: this loftier knows all; when it breaks from the union, it retains some of the experiences of its companion, but dismisses others; thus we accept the talk of our less valued associates, but, on a change of company, we remember little from the first set and more from those in whom we recognise a higher quality.
But the memory of friends, children, wife? Country too, and all that the better sort of man may reasonably remember?
All these, the one (the lower man) retains with emotion, the authentic man passively: for the experience, certainly, was first felt in that lower phase from which, however, the best of such impressions pass over to the graver soul in the degree in which the two are in communication.
The lower soul must be always striving to attain to memory of the activities of the higher: this will be especially so when it is itself of a fine quality, for there will always be some that are better from the beginning and bettered here by the guidance of the higher.
The loftier, on the contrary, must desire to come to a happy forgetfulness of all that has reached it through the lower: for one reason, there is always the possibility that the very excellence of the lower prove detrimental to the higher, tending to keep it down by sheer force of vitality. In any case the more urgent the intention towards the Supreme, the more extensive will be the soul’s forgetfulness, unless indeed, when the entire living has, even here, been such that memory has nothing but the noblest to deal with: in this world itself, all is best when human interests have been held aloof; so, therefore, it must be with the memory of them. In this sense we may truly say that the good soul is the forgetful. It flees multiplicity; it seeks to escape the unbounded by drawing all to unity, for only thus is it free from entanglement, light-footed, self-conducted. Thus it is that even in this world the soul which has the desire of the other is putting away, amid its actual life, all that is foreign to that order. It brings there very little of what it has gathered here; as long as it is in the heavenly regions only, it will have more than it can retain.
The Hercules of the heavenly regions would still tell of his feats: but there is the other man to whom all of that is trivial; he has been translated to a holier place; he has won his way to the Intellectual Realm; he is more than Hercules, proven in the combats in which the combatants are the wise.