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Plotinus, The Ethical Treatises, being the Treatises of the First Ennead [253]

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Plotinus, The Ethical Treatises, being the Treatises of the First Ennead, with Porphry’s Life of Plotinus, and the Preller-Ritter Extracts forming a Conspectus of the Plotinian System, translated from Greek by Stephen Mackenna (Boston: Charles T. Branford, 1918).

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About this Title:

Plotinus is primarily remembered for his teachings, which were collected by Porphyry into a volume called the Enneads. This work gives Plotinus’s accounts of the religions and cults of his age. He was interested in the occult but only in a detached and speculative way. He was indifferent to traditional paganism but critical of the Gnostic Christian heretics who preached the mystical dualism of the divine, which he regarded as antiphilosophical, un-Greek, and emotional superstition. His own religious beliefs inclined toward the idea that one could achieve a spiritual union with the good (understood as the Platonic idea of a perfect realm of the ideal) through philosophic reflection.

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The text is in the public domain.

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Table of Contents:

Edition: current; Page: [ix]

Do ċum glóire Dé & onóra na n-Éireann,

i nDoṁnaċ-Droc Ḋaile-Áṫa-Cliaṫ ḋom,

Stíofán mac-Enna. Nodlaig 1916.

Edition: current; Page: [x]
Edition: current; Page: [xi]


  • Porphyry’s Life of Plotinus . . . . . . . page 1
    • I. The Animate and the Man . . . . . . 29
    • II. On Virtue . . . . . . . 41
    • III. Dialectic (or The Upward Way) . . . . . 50
    • IV. On Happiness (or The Authentic Good of Life) . . . 56
    • V. On Happiness and Extension of Time . . . . . 72
    • VI. On Beauty . . . . . . . 77
    • VII. On the Primal Good and its Secondary Forms . . . 89
    • VIII. On Evil, Its Nature and Source . . . . . 92
    • IX. On “The Reasoned Dismissal” . . . . . . 108
    • Text, Previous Translations . . . . . . . 113
    • Method of this Translation . . . . . . . 114
    • Commentaries . . . . . . . . . 116
    • Terminology . . . . . . . . . 117
    • The Divine Names . . . . . . . . 118
    • The One . . . . . . . . . . 118
    • The Intellectual-Principle . . . . . . . 119
    • The All-Soul . . . . . . . . . 120
    • The Divine-Triad as a Unity . . . . . . . 120
    • The Gods and Daimones . . . . . . . 121
    • Man: His Nature, Powers and Destiny . . . . . 121
    • Evil and Matter . . . . . . . . 123
    • Morality . . . . . . . . . 123
    • The Term and the Way . . . . . . . 124
    • Minor Points of Terminology . . . . . . . 124
    • I. The Fall of the Souls and Their Return . . . . 130
    • Free-Will . . . . . . . . 131
    • II. The Grandeur of the Soul . . . . . . 131
    • All Souls as One Soul . . . . . . . 132
    • III. The Soul in Relation to the Intellectual-Principle . . . 134 Edition: current; Page: [xii]
    • Emanation, Its Nature and Mode . . . . . 135
    • Matter in the Divine Sphere . . . . . . 135
    • IV. The Intellectual-Principle in Relation to the One . . 136
    • The Categories of the Divine . . . . . 137
    • Reasoning and Intellection . . . . . . 137
    • Identity of Divine Mind and Divine Thoughts . . . 138
    • The Act of the Intellectual-Principle and of the Soul . . 139
    • Universal Contemplation . . . . . . 139
    • V. The Origin of Multiplicity . . . . . . 140
    • The Need of the One Transcending the Multiple . . 140
    • VI. The Absolute Transcendency of the One . . . . 141
    • The One Stated only by Negation . . . . . 141
    • VII. Why the Supreme is a Triad . . . . . . 143
    • The Soul’s Intellective-Nature . . . . . 144
    • The Ideas in the Intellectual-Principle and in Soul . . 144
    • The Presence of the One in the Lower Existents . . 145
    • VIII. The Soul and the World of Nature . . . . 146
    • Fall of the Soul . . . . . . . 147
    • IX. Matter . . . . . . . . . 148
    • X. Soul and Body . . . . . . . . 48
    • Eternity of the World . . . . . . . 149
    • Fall of the Soul Denied . . . . . . 150
    • Evil and Ugliness . . . . . . . 150
    • The World Animated . . . . . . . 150
    • Prayer and Magic . . . . . . . 151
    • Temples and Statues . . . . . . . 151
    • XI. How Souls Take Body . . . . . . . 152
    • Fall of the Soul . . . . . . . 152
    • Gods and Daimones . . . . . . . 152
    • Astrology . . . . . . . . 153
    • Celestial Man . . . . . . . . 153
    • XII. The Soul after Death . . . . . . 153
    • Body is in Soul, not Soul in Body . . . . . 153
    • Sensation and the True Man . . . . . . 154
    • Virtue and Vice . . . . . . . 154
    • The Drama of Life . . . . . . . 154
    • XIII. Likeness to God . . . . . . . 155
    • Purification and Perfection . . . . . . 155
    • XIV. The Vision of the Supreme . . . . . . 156
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(Plotinus born ad 205 in Egypt, at Lycopolis according to Eunapius, died near Rome ad 270.)


Plotinus, the philosopher our contemporary, seemed ashamed of being in the body.

So deeply-rooted was this feeling that he could never be induced to tell of his ancestry, his parentage or his birthplace.

He showed, too, an unconquerable reluctance to sit to a painter or a sculptor, and when Amelius persisted in urging him to allow of a portrait being made he asked him, “Is it not enough to carry about this image in which nature has enclosed us? Do you really think I must also consent to leave, as a desirable spectacle to posterity, an image of the image?”

In view of this determined refusal Amelius brought his friend Carterius, the best artist of the day, to the Conferences, which were open to every comer, and saw to it that by long observation of the philosopher he caught his most striking personal traits. From the impressions thus stored in mind the artist drew a first sketch; Amelius made various suggestions towards bringing out the resemblance, and in this way, without the knowledge of Plotinus, the genius of Carterius gave us a life-like portrait.


Plotinus was often distressed by an intestinal complaint, but declined clysters, pronouncing the use of such remedies unbecoming in an elderly man: in the same way he refused such medicaments as contain Edition: current; Page: [2] any substance taken from wild beasts or reptiles: all the more, he remarked, since he could not approve of eating the flesh of animals reared for the table.

He abstained from the use of the bath, contenting himself with a daily massage at home: when the terrible epidemic carried off his masseurs he renounced all such treatment: in a short while he contracted malign diphtheria.

During the time I was about him there was no sign of any such malady, but after I sailed for Sicily the condition grew acute: his intimate, Eustochius, who was with him till his death, told me, on my return to Rome, that he became hoarse, so that his voice quite lost its clear sonorous note, his sight grew dim and ulcers formed on his hands and feet.

As he still insisted on addressing everyone by word of mouth, his condition prompted his friends to withdraw from his society: he therefore left Rome for Campania, retiring to a property which had belonged to Zethos, an old friend of his at this time dead. His wants were provided in part out of Zethos’ estate, and for the rest were furnished from Minturnæ, where Castricius’ property lay.

Of Plotinus’ last moments Eustochius has given me an account.

He himself was staying at Puteoli and was late in arriving: when he at last came, Plotinus said: “I have been a long time waiting for you; I am striving to give back the Divine in myself to the Divine in the All.” As he spoke a snake crept under the bed on which he lay and slipped away into a hole in the wall: at the same moment Plotinus died.

This was at the end of the second year of the reign of Claudius, and, as Eustochius tells me, Plotinus was then sixty-six. I myself was at Lilybæum at the time, Amelius at Apamea in Syria, Castricius at Rome; only Eustochius was by his side.

Counting sixty-six years back from the second year of Claudius, we can fix Plotinus’ birth at the thirteenth year of Severus; but he never disclosed the month or day. This was because he did not desire any birthday sacrifice or feast; yet he himself sacrificed on the traditional birthdays of Plato and of Socrates, afterwards giving a banquet at which Edition: current; Page: [3] every member of the circle who was able was expected to deliver an address.


Despite his general reluctance to talk of his own life, some few details he did often relate to us in the course of conversation.

Thus he told how, at the age of eight, when he was already going to school, he still clung about his nurse and loved to bare her breasts and take suck: one day he was told he was a “perverted imp,” and so was shamed out of the trick.

At twenty he was caught by the passion for philosophy: he was directed to the most highly reputed professors to be found at Alexandria; but he used to come from their lectures saddened and discouraged. A friend to whom he opened his heart divined his temperamental craving and suggested Ammonius, whom he had not yet tried. Plotinus went, heard a lecture, and exclaimed to his comrade: “This was the man I was looking for.”

From that day he followed Ammonius continuously, and under his guidance made such progress in philosophy that he became eager to investigate the Persian methods and the system adopted among the Indians. It happened that the Emperor Gordian was at that time preparing his campaign against Persia; Plotinus joined the army and went on the expedition. He was then thirty-nine, for he had passed eleven entire years under Ammonius. When Gordian was killed in Mesopotamia, it was only with great difficulty that Plotinus came off safe to Antioch.

At forty, in the reign of Philip, he settled in Rome.

Erennius, Origen and Plotinus had made a compact not to disclose any of the doctrines which Ammonius had revealed to them. Plotinus kept faith, and in all his intercourse with his associates divulged nothing of Ammonius’ system. But the compact was broken, first by Erennius and then by Origen following suit: Origen, it is true, put in writing nothing but the treatise On the Spirit-Beings, and in Galienus’ reign that entitled The King the Sole Creator. Plotinus himself remained a Edition: current; Page: [4] long time without writing, but he began to base his Conferences on what he had gathered from his studies under Ammonius. In this way, writing nothing but constantly conferring with a certain group of associates, he passed ten years.

He used to encourage his hearers to put questions, a liberty which, as Amelius told me, led to a great deal of wandering and futile talk.

Amelius had entered the circle in the third year of Philip’s reign, the third, too, of Plotinus’ residence in Rome, and remained about him until the first year of Claudius, twenty-four years in all. He had come to Plotinus after an efficient training under Lysimachus: in laborious diligence he surpassed all his associates; for example, he transcribed and arranged nearly all the works of Numenius, and was not far from having most of them off by heart. He also took notes of the Conferences and wrote them out in something like a hundred treatises which he has since presented to Hostilianus of Apamea, his adopted son.


I myself arrived from Greece in the tenth year of Galienus’ reign, accompanied by Antonius of Rhodes, and found Amelius an eighteen-years’ associate of Plotinus, but still lacking the courage to write anything except for the notebooks, which had not reached their century. Plotinus, in this tenth year of Galienus, was about fifty-nine: when I first met him I was thirty.

From about the first year of Galienus Plotinus had begun to write upon such subjects as had arisen at the Conferences: when I first came to know him in this tenth year of the reign he had composed twenty-one treatises.

These I procured though they were by no means given about freely. In fact the distribution was grudging and secret; those that obtained them had passed the strictest scrutiny.

Plotinus had given no titles to these treatises; everybody headed them for himself: I cite them here under the titles which finally prevailed, quoting the first words of each to facilitate identification.*

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  • 1. On Beauty (I. 6).
  • 2. On the Immortality of the Soul (IV. 7).
  • 3. On Fate (III. 1).
  • 4. On the Essence of the Soul (IV. 1).
  • 5. On the Intellectual-Principle, the Ideas, and the Authentic-Existent (V. 9).
  • 6. On the Descent of the Soul into the Body (IV. 8).
  • 7. On the Emanation of the Non-Primal from the Primal-Being; and on The One (V. 4).
  • 8. Whether all the Souls constitute One Soul (IV. 9).
  • 9. On the Good or the One (VI. 9).
  • 10. On the Three First Hypostases (V. 1).
  • 11. On the Generation and Order of the Post-Primals (V. 2).
  • 12. On the Two Orders of Matter (II. 4).
  • 13. Diverse Questions (III. 9).
  • 14. On the Circular Movement (II. 2).
  • 15. On our Tutelary Spirit (II. 2).
  • 16. On the Reasoned Dismissal (I. 9).
  • 17. On Quality (II. 6).
  • 18. Whether there exist Ideas of Particulars (V. 7).
  • 19. On the Virtues (I. 2).
  • 20. On Dialectic (I. 3).
  • 21. Why the Soul is described as Intermediate between the Existent having parts and the undisparted Existent (IV. 1).

These are the twenty-one treatises which, as I have said, Plotinus had already written, by his fifty-ninth year, when I first came to him.


I had been, it is true, in Rome a little before this tenth year of Galienus, but at that time Plotinus was taking a summer holiday, engaging merely in conversation with his friends. After coming to know him I passed six years in close relation with him. Many questions were threshed out in the Conferences of those six years and, under persuasion from Amelius and myself, he composed two treatises to establish:—

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  • 22, 23. That the Authentic-Existent is universally an integral, self-identical Unity (II. 4, 5).

In immediate succession to these he composed two more: one is entitled:—

  • 24. On the Absence of the Intellectual-Act in the Transcendental; and on What Existent has the Intellectual-Act Primarily and What Existent has the Intellectual-Act Secondarily (V. 6);

The other deals with—

  • 25. Existence, Potential and Actual (II. 5).

After these come the following twenty:—

  • 26. On the Impassibility of the Bodiless (III. 5).
  • 27. On the Soul, First (IV. 3).
  • 28. On the Soul, Second (IV. 4).
  • 29. On the Soul, Third; or, How We See (IV. 5).
  • 30. On Contemplation (III. 8).
  • 31. On the Intellectual-Beauty (V. 8).
  • 32. That the Intelligibles are Not Outside of the Intellectual-Principle and On the Good (V. 5).
  • 33. Against the Gnostics (II. 9).
  • 34. On Numbers (VI. 6).
  • 35. Why Distant Objects Appear Small (II. 8).
  • 36. Whether Happiness depends upon Extension of Time (I. 5).
  • 37. On Coalescence (II. 7).
  • 38. How the Multitude of Ideas came into Being; and on the Good (VI. 7).
  • 39. On Free-Will (VI. 8).
  • 40. On the World (II. 1).
  • 41. On Sensation and Memory (IV. 6).
  • 42. On the Kinds of Being, First (VI. 1).
  • 43. On the Kinds of Being, Second (VI. 2).
  • 44. On the Kinds of Being, Third (VI. 3).
  • 45. On Eternity and Time (III. 7).
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Thus we have twenty-four treatises composed during the six years of my association with him and dealing, as the titles indicate, with such problems as happened to arise at the Conferences; add the twenty-one composed before my arrival, and we have accounted for forty-five treatises.


The following five more Plotinus wrote and sent to me while I was living in Sicily, where I had gone about the fifteenth year of Galienus:—

  • 46. On Happiness (I. 4).
  • 47. On Providence, First (III. 2).
  • 48. On Providence, Second (III. 3).
  • 49. On the Conscious Hypostases and the Transcendental (V. 3).
  • 50. On Love (III. 5).

These five he sent me in the first year of Claudius: in the early months of the second year, shortly before his death, I received the following four:—

  • 51. On Evil (I. 8).
  • 52. Whether the Stars have Causal Operation (II. 3).
  • 53. On the Animate and the Man (I. 1).
  • 54. On the First Good; or, On Happiness (I. 8).

Adding these nine to the forty-five of the first and second sets we have a total of fifty-four treatises.

According to the time of writing—early manhood, vigorous prime, worn-out constitution—so the tractates vary in power. The first twenty-one pieces manifest a slighter capacity, the talent being not yet matured to the fulness of nervous strength. The twenty-four produced in the mid-period display the utmost reach of the powers and, except for the short treatises among them, attain the highest perfection. The last nine were written when the mental strength was already waning, and of these the last four show less vigour even than the five preceding.

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Plotinus had a large following. Notable among the more zealous students, really devoted to philosophy, was Amelius of Tuscany, whose family name was Gentilianus. Amelius preferred to call himself Amerius, changing L for R, because, as he explained, it suited him better to be named from Amereia, Unification, than from Ameleia, Indifference.

The group included also one Paulinus, a doctor of Scythopolis, whom Amelius used to call Mikkalos in allusion to his blundering habit of mind.

Among closer personal friends was Eustochius of Alexandria, also a doctor, who came to know Plotinus towards the end of his life, and attended him until his death: Eustochius consecrated himself exclusively to Plotinus’ system and became a veritable philosopher.

Then there was Zoticus, at once critic and poet, who has amended the text of Antimachus’ works and is the author of an exquisite poem upon the Atlantis story: his sight failed, and he died a little before Plotinus, as also did Paulinus.

Another friend was Zethos, an Arabian by descent, who married a daughter of Ammonius’ friend Theodosius. Zethos, too, was a doctor: Plotinus was deeply attached to him and was always trying to divert him from the political career in which he stood high. Plotinus was on the most familiar terms with him, and used to stay with him at his country place, six miles from Minturnæ, a property which had formerly belonged to Castricius Firmus.

Castricius was excelled by none of the group in appreciation of the finer side of life: he venerated Plotinus; he devoted himself in the most faithful comradeship to Amelius in every need, and was in all matters as loyal to myself as though I were his own brother.

This was another example of a politician venerating the philosopher. There were also among Plotinus’ hearers not a few members of the Senate, amongst whom Marcellus Orontius and Sabinillus showed the greatest assiduity in philosophical studies.

Another Senator, Rogatianus, advanced to such detachment from political ambitions that he gave up all his property, dismissed all his Edition: current; Page: [9] slaves, renounced every dignity, and, on the point of taking up his prætorship, the lictors already at the door, refused to come out or to have anything to do with the office. He even abandoned his own house, spending his time here and there at his friends’ and acquaintances’, sleeping and eating with them and taking, at that, only one meal a day. He had been a victim of gout, carried in a chair, but this new regime of abstinence and abnegation restored his health: he had been unable to stretch out his hands; he came to use them as freely as men living by manual labour. Plotinus took a great liking to Rogatianus and frequently praised him very highly, holding him up as a model to those aiming at the philosophical life.

Then there was Serapion, an Alexandrian, who began life as a professional orator and later took to the study of philosophy, but was never able to conquer the vices of avarice and usury.

I myself, Porphyry of Tyre, was one of Plotinus’ very closest friends, and it was to me he entrusted the task of revising his writings.


Such revision was necessary: Plotinus could not bear to go back on his work even for one re-reading; and indeed the condition of his sight would scarcely allow it: his handwriting was slovenly; he misjoined his words; he cared nothing about spelling; his one concern was for the idea: in these habits, to our general surprise, he remained unchanged to the very end.

He used to work out his design mentally from first to last: when he came to set down his ideas; he wrote out at one jet all he had stored in mind as though he were copying from a book.

Interrupted, perhaps, by someone entering on business, he never lost hold of his plan; he was able to meet all the demands of the conversation and still keep his own train of thought clearly before him; when he was free again, he never looked over what he had previously written—his sight, it has been mentioned, did not allow of such re-reading—but he linked on what was to follow as if no distraction had occurred.

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Thus he was able to live at once within himself and for others; he never relaxed from his interior attention unless in sleep; and even his sleep was kept light by an abstemiousness that often prevented him taking as much as a piece of bread, and by this unbroken concentration upon his own highest nature.


Several women were greatly attached to him, amongst them Gemina, in whose house he lived, and her daughter, called Gemina, too, after the mother, and Amphiclea, the wife of Ariston, son of Iamblichus; all three devoted themselves assiduously to philosophy.

Not a few men and women of position, on the approach of death, had left their boys and girls, with all their property, in his care, feeling that with Plotinus for guardian the children would be in holy hands. His house therefore was filled with lads and lasses, amongst them Polemon, in whose education he took such interest as often to hear the boy recite verses of his own composition.

He always found time for those that came to submit returns of the childrens’ property, and he looked closely to the accuracy of the accounts: “Until the young people take to philosophy,” he used to say, “their fortunes and revenues must be kept intact for them.” And yet all this labour and thought over the worldly interests of so many people never interrupted, during waking hours, his intention towards the Supreme.

He was gentle, and always at the call of those having the slightest acquaintance with him. After spending twenty-six entire years in Rome, acting, too, as arbiter in many differences, he had never made an enemy of any citizen.


Among those making profession of Philosophy at Rome was one Olympius, an Alexandrian, who had been for a little while a pupil of Ammonius.

This man’s jealous envy showed itself in continual insolence, and Edition: current; Page: [11] finally he grew so bitter that he even ventured sorcery, seeking to crush Plotinus by star-spells. But he found his experiments recoiling upon himself, and he confessed to his associates that Plotinus possessed “a mighty soul, so powerful as to be able to hurl every assault back upon those that sought his ruin.” Plotinus had felt the operation and declared that at that moment Olympius’ “limbs were convulsed and his body shrivelling like a money-bag pulled tight.” Olympius, perceiving on several attempts that he was endangering himself rather than Plotinus, desisted.

In fact Plotinus possessed by birth something more than is accorded to other men. An Egyptian priest who had arrived in Rome and, through some friend, had been presented to the philosopher, became desirous of displaying his powers to him, and he offered to evoke a visible manifestation of Plotinus’ presiding spirit. Plotinus readily consented and the evocation was made in the Temple of Isis, the only place, they say, which the Egyptian could find pure in Rome.

At the summons a Divinity appeared, not a being of the spirit-ranks, and the Egyptian exclaimed: “You are singularly graced; the guiding-spirit within you is none of the lower degree but a God.” It was not possible, however, to interrogate or even to contemplate this God any further, for the priest’s assistant, who had been holding the birds to prevent them flying away, strangled them, whether through jealousy or in terror. Thus Plotinus had for indwelling spirit a Being of the more divine degree, and he kept his own divine spirit unceasingly intent upon that inner presence. It was this preoccupation that led him to write his treatise upon Our Tutelary Spirit, an essay in the explanation of the differences among spirit-guides.

Amelius was scrupulous in observing the day of the New-Moon and other holy-days, and once asked Plotinus to join in some such celebration: Plotinus refused: “It is for those Beings to come to me, not for me to go to them.”

What was in his mind in so lofty an utterance we could not explain to ourselves and we dared not ask him.

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He had a remarkable penetration into character.

Once a valuable necklace was stolen from Chione, who was living in honourable widowhood with her children in the same house as Plotinus: the servants were called before him: he scrutinised them all, then indicated one: “This man is the thief.” The man was whipped but for some time persisted in denial: finally, however, he confessed, and restored the necklace.

Plotinus foretold also the future of each of the children in the household: for instance, when questioned as to Polemon’s character and destiny he said: “He will be amorous and short-lived”; and so it proved.

I myself at one period had formed the intention of ending my life; Plotinus discerned my purpose; he came unexpectedly to my house where I had secluded myself, told me that my decision sprang not from reason but from mere melancholy and advised me to leave Rome. I obeyed and left for Sicily, which I chose because I heard that one Probus, a man of scholarly repute, was living there not far from Lilybæum. Thus I was induced to abandon my first intention but was prevented from being with Plotinus between that time and his death.


The Emperor Galienus and his wife Salonina greatly honoured and venerated Plotinus, who thought to turn their friendly feeling to some good purpose. In Campania there had once stood, according to tradition, a City of Philosophers, a ruin now; Plotinus asked the Emperor to rebuild this city and to make over the surrounding district to the new-founded state; the population was to live under Plato’s laws: the city was to be called Platonopolis; and Plotinus undertook to settle down there with his associates. He would have had his way without more ado but that opposition at court, prompted by jealousy, spite, or some such paltry motive, put an end to the plan.

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At the Conferences he showed the most remarkable power of going to the heart of a subject, whether in exposition or in explanation, and his phrasing was apt; but he made mistakes in certain words; for example, he said “anamnemisketai” for “anamimnesketai”—just such errors as he committed in his writing.

When he was speaking his intellect visibly illuminated his face: always of winning presence, he became at these times still more engaging: a slight moisture gathered on his forehead; he radiated benignity.

He was always as ready to entertain objections as he was powerful in meeting them. At one time I myself kept interrogating him during three days as to how the soul is associated with the body, and he continued explaining; a man called Thomasius entered in the midst of our discussions; the visitor was more interested in the general drift of the system than in particular points, and said he wished to hear Plotinus expounding some theory as he would in a set treatise, but that he could not endure Porphyry’s questions and answers: Plotinus asked, “But if we cannot first solve the difficulties Porphyry raises what could go into the treatise?”


In style Plotinus is concise, dense with thought, terse, more lavish of ideas than of words, most often expressing himself with a fervid inspiration. He followed his own path rather than that of tradition, but in his writings both the Stoic and Peripatetic doctrines are sunk; Aristotle’s Metaphysic, especially, is condensed in them, all but entire.

He had a thorough theoretical knowledge of Geometry, Mechanics, Optics and Music, though it was not in his temperament to go practically into these subjects.

At the Conferences he used to have treatises by various authors read aloud—among the Platonists it might be Severus or Cronius, Numenius, Caius or Atticus; and—among the Peripatetics Aspasius, Alexander, Adrastus or some such writer, at the call of the moment. But it was far from his way to follow any of these authors blindly; he took Edition: current; Page: [14] a personal, original view, applying Ammonius’ method to the investigation of every problem.

He was quick to absorb; a few words sufficed him to make clear the significance of some profound theory and so to pass on. After hearing Longinus’ work On Causes, and his Philarchaios, he remarked: “Longinus is a man of letters, but in no sense a philosopher.”

One day Origen came to the conference-room; Plotinus blushed deeply and was on the point of bringing his lecture to an end; when Origen begged him to continue, he said: “The zest dies down when the speaker feels that his hearers have nothing to learn from him.”


Once on Plato’s feast I read a poem, “The Sacred Marriage”; my piece abounded in mystic doctrine conveyed in veiled words and was couched in terms of enthusiasm; someone exclaimed: “Porphyry has gone mad”; Plotinus said to me so that all might hear: “You have shown yourself at once poet, philosopher and hierophant.”

The orator Diophanes one day read a justification of the Alcibiades of Plato’s Banquet and maintained that the pupil, for the sake of advancement in virtue, should submit to the teacher without reserve, even to the extent of carnal commerce: Plotinus started up several times to leave the room but forced himself to remain; on the breaking up of the company he directed me to write a refutation. Diophanes refused to lend me his address and I had to depend on my recollection of his argument; but my refutation, delivered before the same audience, delighted Plotinus so much that during the very reading he repeatedly quoted: “So strike and be a light to men.”

When Eubulus, the Platonic Successor, wrote from Athens, sending treatises on some questions in Platonism, Plotinus had the writings put into my hands with instructions to examine them and report to him upon them.

He paid some attention to the principles of Astronomy, though he did not study the subject very deeply on the mathematical side. He went more searchingly into Horoscopy; when once he was convinced Edition: current; Page: [15] that its results were not to be trusted he had no hesitation in attacking the system frequently both at the Conferences and in his writings.


Many Christians of this period—amongst them sectaries who had abandoned the old philosophy, men of the schools of Adelphius and Aquilinus—had possessed themselves of works by Alexander of Lydia, by Philocomus, by Demostratus and by Lydus, and exhibited also Revelations bearing the names of Zoroaster, Zostrianus, Nikotheus, Allogenes, Mesus and others of that order. Thus they fooled many, themselves fooled first; Plato, according to them, had failed to penetrate into the depth of Intellectual Being.

Plotinus frequently attacked their position at the Conferences and finally wrote the treatise which I have headed Against the Gnostics: he left to us of the circle the task of examining what he himself passed over. Amelius proceeded as far as a fortieth treatise in refutation of the book of Zostrianus: I myself have shown on many counts that the Zoroastrian volume is spurious and modern, concocted by the sectaries in order to pretend that the doctrines they had embraced were those of the ancient sage.


Some of the Greeks began to accuse Plotinus of appropriating the ideas of Numenius.

Amelius being informed of this charge by the Stoic and Platonist Trupho, challenged it in a treatise which he entitled The Difference between the Doctrines of Plotinus and Numenius. He dedicated the work to me, under the name of Basileus (or King). This really is my name; it is equivalent to Porphyry (Purple-robed) and translates the name I bear in my own tongue; for I am called Malchos, like my father, and “Malchos” would give “Basileus” in Greek. Longinus, in dedicating his work On Impulse to Cleodamus and myself, addressed us as “Cleodamus and Malchus,” just as Numenius translated the Latin “Maximus” into its Greek equivalent “Megalos.”

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Here follows Amelius’ letter:

Amelius to Basileus, with all good wishes.

You have been, in your own phrase, pestered by the persistent assertion that our friend’s doctrine is to be traced to Numenius of Apamea.

Now, if it were merely for those illustrious personages who spread this charge, you may be very sure I would never utter a word in reply. It is sufficiently clear that they are actuated solely by that famous and astonishing facility of speech of theirs when they assert, at one moment, that he is an idle babbler, next that he is a plagiarist, and finally that he bases the universe on the meanest of existents. Clearly in all this we have nothing but scoffing and abuse.

But your judgement has persuaded me that we should profit by this occasion firstly to provide ourselves with a useful memorandum of the doctrines that have won our adhesion, and secondly to bring about a more complete knowledge of the system—long celebrated though it be—to the glory of our friend, a man so great as Plotinus.

Hence I now bring you the promised Reply, executed, as you yourself know, in three days. You must judge it with reasonable indulgence; this is no orderly and elaborate defence composed in step by step correspondence with the written indictment: I have simply set down, as they occurred to me, my recollections of our frequent discussions. You will admit, also, that it is by no means easy to grasp the meaning of a writer who, like Plotinus, now arraigned for the opinion we also hold, varies in the terms he uses to express the one idea.

If I have falsified any essential of the doctrine, I trust to your good nature to set me right: I am reminded of the phrase in the tragedy: A busy man and far from the teachings of our master I must needs correct and recant. Judge how much I wish to give you pleasure. Good health.


This letter seemed worth insertion as showing, not merely that some contemporary judgement pronounced Plotinus to be parading on the strength of Numenius’ ideas, but that he was even despised as a word-spinner.

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The fact is that these people did not understand his teaching: he was entirely free from all the inflated pomp of the professor: his lectures had the air of conversation, and he never forced upon his hearers the severely logical substructure of his thesis.

I myself, when I first heard him, had the same experience. It led me to combat his doctrine in a paper in which I tried to show that The Intelligibles exist outside of the Intellectual-Principle. He had my work read to him by Amelius: at the end he smiled and said: “You must clear up these difficulties, Amelius: Porphyry doesn’t understand our position.” Amelius wrote a tract of considerable length, “In Answer to Porphyry’s Objections”; I wrote a reply to the reply: Amelius replied to my reply; at my third attempt I came, though even so with difficulty, to grasp the doctrine: then only, I was converted, wrote a recantation and read it before the circle. From that time on I put faith in Plotinus’ writings and sought to stir in the master himself the ambition of organising his doctrine and setting it down in more extended form. Amelius, too, under my prompting, was encouraged in composition.


Longinus’ estimate of Plotinus, formed largely upon indications I myself had given him in my letters, will be gathered from the following extract from one of his to me. He is asking me to leave Sicily and join him in Phœnicia, and to bring Plotinus’ works with me. He says:

“And send them at your convenience or, better, bring them; for I can never cease urging you to give the road towards us the preference over any other. If there is no better reason—and what intellectual gain can you anticipate from a visit to us?—at least there are old acquaintances and the mild climate which would do you good in the weak state of health you report. Whatever else you may be expecting, do not hope for anything new of my own, or even for the earlier works which you tell me you have lost; for there is a sad dearth of copyists here. I assure you it has taken me all this time to complete my set of Plotinus, and it was done only by calling off my scribe from all his routine work, and keeping him steadily to this one task.

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I think that now, with what you have sent me, I have everything, though in a very imperfect state, for the manuscript is exceeding faulty. I had expected our friend Amelius to correct the scribal errors, but he evidently had something better to do. The copies are quite useless to me; I have been especially eager to examine the treatises on the Soul and on The Authentic-Existent, and these are precisely the most corrupted. It would be a great satisfaction to me if you would send me faithful transcripts for collation and return—though again I suggest to you not to send but to come in person, bringing me the correct copies of these treatises and of any that Amelius may have passed over. All that have reached me I have been careful to make my own: how could I be content not to possess myself of all the writings of a man so worthy of the deepest veneration?

I repeat, what I have often said in your presence and in your absence, as on that occasion when you were at Tyre, that while much of the theory does not convince me, yet I am filled with admiration and delight over the general character of the work, the massive thinking of the man, the philosophic handling of problems; in my judgement investigators must class Plotinus’ work with that holding the very highest rank.”


This extended quotation from the most acute of the critics of our day—a writer who has passed judgement on nearly all his contemporaries—serves to show the estimate he came to set upon Plotinus of whom, at first, misled by ignorant talk, he had held a poor opinion.

His notion, by the way, that the transcripts Amelius sent him were faulty sprang from his misunderstanding of Plotinus’ style and phraseology; if there were ever any accurate copies, these were they, faithful reproductions from the author’s own manuscript.

Another passage from a work of Longinus, dealing with Amelius, Plotinus and other metaphysicians of the day, must be inserted here to give a complete view of the opinion formed upon these philosophers by the most authoritative and most searching of critics. The work was Edition: current; Page: [19] entitled On the End: in Answer to Plotinus and Gentilianus Amelius. It opens with the following preface:

In our time, Marcellus, there have been many philosophers—especially in our youth—for there is a strange scarcity at present. When I was a boy, my parents’ long journeys gave me the opportunity of seeing all the better-known teachers; and in later life those that still lived became known to me as my visits to this and that city and people brought me where they happened to live.

Some of these undertook the labour of developing their theories in formal works and so have bequeathed to the future the means of profiting by their services. Others thought they had done enough when they had convinced their own immediate hearers of the truth of their theories.

First of those that have written.

Among the Platonists there are Euclides, Democritus, Proclinus the philosopher of the Troad, and the two who still profess philosophy at Rome, Plotinus and his friend Gentilianus Amelius. Among the Stoics there are Themistocles and Phoibion and the two who flourished only a little while ago, Annius and Medius. And there is the Peripatetic, Heliodorus of Alexandria.

For those that have not written, there are among the Platonists Ammonius and Origen, two teachers whose lectures I myself attended during a long period, men greatly surpassing their contemporaries in mental power; and there are the Platonic Successors at Athens, Theodorus and Eubulus.

No doubt some writing of a metaphysical order stands to the credit of this group: Origen wrote on Spirit-Beings; Eubulus commented on both the Philebus and Gorgias, and examined the objections urged by Aristotle to Plato’s Republic; but this is not enough to class either of them with systematic authors. This was side-play; authorship was not in the main plan of their careers.

Among Stoic teachers that refrained from writing we have Herminus and Lysimachus, and the two living at Athens, Musonius and Athenæus; among Peripatetics, Ammonius and Ptolemæus.

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The two last were the most accomplished scholars of their time, Ammonius especially being unapproached in breadth of learning; but neither produced any systematic work; we have from them merely verses and duty-speeches; and these I cannot think to have been preserved with their consent; they did not concern themselves about formal statement of their doctrine, and it is not likely they would wish to be known in after times by compositions of so trivial a nature.

To return to the writers; some of them, like Euclides, Democritus and Proclinus, confined themselves to the mere compilation and transcription of passages from earlier authorities. Others diligently worked over various minor points in the investigations of the ancients, and put together books dealing with the same subjects. Such were Annius, Medius and Phoibion, the last especially choosing to be distinguished for style rather than for systematic thinking. In the same class must be ranked Heliodorus; his writings contribute nothing to the organisation of the thought which he found to his hand in the teaching of earlier workers.

Plotinus and Gentilianus Amelius alone display the true spirit of authorship; they treat of a great number of questions and they bring a method of their own to the treatment.

Plotinus, it would seem, set the principles of Pythagoras and of Plato in a clearer light than anyone before him; on the same subjects, Numenius, Cronius, Moderatus and Thrasyllus fall far short of him in precision and fulness. Amelius set himself to walk in Plotinus’ steps and adopted most of Plotinus’ opinions; his method, however, was diffuse and, unlike his friend, he indulges in an extravagance of explanation.

Only these two seem to me worth study. What profit can anyone expect from troubling the works of any of the others to the neglect of the originals on which they drew? Content with setting side by side the most generally adopted theories and marking off the better from the worse, they bring us nothing of their own, not even a novel argument, much less a leading idea.

My own method has been different; as for example when I replied to Gentilianus upon Plato’s treatment of Justice and in a review I undertook Edition: current; Page: [21] of Plotinus’ theory of the Idea. This latter was in the form of a reply to Basileus of Tyre, my friend as theirs. He had preferred Plotinus’ system to mine and had written several works in the manner of his master, amongst them a treatise supporting Plotinus’ theory of the Idea against that which I taught. I endeavoured, not, I think, unsuccessfully, to show that his change of mind was mistaken.

In these two essays I have ranged widely over the doctrines of this school, as also in my Letter to Amelius which, despite the simple title with which I contented myself, has the dimensions of a book, being a reply to a treatise he addressed to me from Rome under the title “On Plotinus’ Philosophic Method.”


This Preface leaves no doubt of Longinus’ final verdict: he ranks Plotinus and Amelius above all authors of his time in the multitude of questions they discuss; he credits them with an original method of investigation: in his judgement they by no means took their system from Numenius or gave a first place to his opinions, but followed the Pythagorean and Platonic schools; finally he declares the writings of Numenius, Cronius, Moderatus and Thrasyllus greatly inferior in precision and fulness to those of Plotinus.

Notice, by the way, that while Amelius is described as following in Plotinus’ footsteps, it is indicated that his temperamental prolixity led him to delight in an extravagance of explanation foreign to his master: in the reference to myself, though I was then only at the beginning of my association with Plotinus—“Basileus of Tyre, my friend as theirs, who has written a good deal, has taken Plotinus as his model”—Longinus recognises that I entirely avoided Amelius’ unphilosophical prolixity and made Plotinus’ manner my standard.

Such a pronouncement upon the value of Plotinus’ work, coming from so great an authority, the first of critics then as now, must certainly carry weight, and I may remark that if I had been able to confer with him, during such a visit as he proposed, he would not have written to combat doctrines which he had not thoroughly penetrated.

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But why talk, to use Hesiod’s phrase, “About Oak and Rock”? If we are to accept the evidence of the wise—who could be wiser than a God? And here the witness is the same God that said with truth:

“i have numbered the sands and taken the measure of the sea; I understand the dumb and hear where there has been no speech.”

Apollo was consulted by Amelius, who desired to learn where Plotinus’ soul had gone. And Apollo, who uttered of Socrates that great praise, “Of all men, Socrates the wisest”—you shall hear what a full and lofty oracle Apollo rendered upon Plotinus.

I raise an undying song, to the memory of a gentle friend, a hymn of praise woven to the honey-sweet tones of my lyre under the touch of the golden plectrum.

The Muses, too, I call to lift the voice with me in strains of many-toned exultation, in passion ranging over all the modes of song:

even as of old they raised the famous chant to the glory of Aeakides in the immortal ardours of the Homeric line.

Come, then, Sacred Chorus, let us intone with one great sound the utmost of all song, I Phoebus, Bathychaites, singing in the midst.

Celestial! Man at first but now nearing the diviner ranks! the bonds of human necessity are loosed for you and, strong of heart, you beat your eager way from out the roaring tumult of the fleshly life to the shores of that wave-washed coast free from the thronging of the guilty, thence to take the grateful path of the sinless soul:

where glows the splendour of God, where Right is throned in the stainless place, far from the wrong that mocks at law.

Oft-times as you strove to rise above the bitter waves of this blood-drenched life, above the sickening whirl, toiling in the mid-most of the rushing flood and the unimaginable turmoil, oft-times, Edition: current; Page: [23] from the Ever-Blessed, there was shown to you the Term still close at hand:

Oft-times, when your mind thrust out awry and was like to be rapt down unsanctioned paths, the Immortals themselves prevented, guiding you on the straightgoing way to the celestial spheres, pouring down before you a dense shaft of light that your eyes might see from amid the mournful gloom.

Sleep never closed those eyes: high above the heavy murk of the mist you held them; tossed in the welter, you still had vision; still you saw sights many and fair not granted to all that labour in wisdom’s quest.

But now that you have cast the screen aside, quitted the tomb that held your lofty soul, you enter at once the heavenly consort:

where fragrant breezes play, where all is unison and winning tenderness and guileless joy, and the place is lavish of the nectar-streams the unfailing Gods bestow, with the blandishments of the Loves, and delicious airs, and tranquil sky:

where Minos and Rhadamanthus dwell, great brethren of the golden race of mighty Zeus; where dwells the just Aeacus, and Plato, consecrated power, and stately Pythagoras and all else that form the Choir of Immortal Love, there where the heart is ever lifted in joyous festival.

O Blessed One, you have fought your many fights; now, crowned with unfading life, your days are with the Ever-Holy.

Rejoicing Muses, let us stay our song and the subtle windings of our dance; thus much I could but tell, to my golden lyre, of Plotinus, the hallowed soul.


Good and kindly, singularly gentle and engaging: thus the oracle presents him, and so in fact we found him. Sleeplessly alert—Apollo tells—pure of soul, ever striving towards the divine which he loved with all his being, he laboured strenuously to free himself and rise above the bitter waves of this blood-drenched life: and this is why to Plotinus—God-like Edition: current; Page: [24] and lifting himself often, by the ways of meditation and by the methods Plato teaches in the Banquet, to the first and all-transcendent God—that God appeared, the God throned above the Intellectual-Principle and all the Intellectual-Sphere.

“There was shown to Plotinus the Term ever near”: for the Term, the one end, of his life was to become Uniate, to approach to the God over all: and four times, during the period I passed with him, he achieved this Term, by no mere latent fitness but by the ineffable Act.

To this God, I also declare, I Porphyry, that in my sixty-eighth year I too was once admitted and entered into Union.

We are told that often when he was leaving the way, the Gods set him on the true path again, pouring down before him a dense shaft of light; here we are to understand that in his writing he was overlooked and guided by the divine powers.

“In this sleepless vision within and without,”—the oracle says,—“your eyes have beheld sights many and fair not vouchsafed to all that take the philosophic path”: contemplation in man may sometimes be more than human, but compare it with the True-Knowing of the Gods and, wonderful though it be, it can never plunge into the depths their divine vision fathoms.

Thus far the Oracle recounts what Plotinus accomplished and to what heights he attained while still in the body: emancipated from the body, we are told how he entered the celestial circle where all is friendship, tender delight, happiness and loving union with God, where Minos and Rhadamanthus and Aeacus, the sons of God, are enthroned as judges of souls—not, however, to hold him to judgement but as welcoming him to their consort to which are bidden spirits pleasing to the Gods—Plato, Pythagoras and all the people of the Choir of Immortal Love, there where the blessed spirits have their birth-home and live in days made happy by the Gods.


I have related Plotinus’ life; something remains to tell of my revision and arrangement of his writings. This task he himself had Edition: current; Page: [25] imposed upon me during his lifetime and I had pledged myself to him and to the circle to carry it out.

I judged that in the case of treatises which, like these, had been issued without consideration of logical sequence it was best to disregard the time-order.

Apollodorus, the Athenian, edited in ten volumes the collected works of Epicharmus, the comedy writer; Andronicus, the Peripatetic, classified the works of Aristotle and of Theophrastus according to subject, bringing together the discussions of related topics: I have adopted a similar plan.

I had fifty-four treatises before me: I divided them into six sets of nine, an arrangement which pleased me by the happy combination of the perfect number six with the nines: to each such ennead I assigned matter of one general nature, leading off with the themes presenting the least difficulty.

The First Ennead, on this method, contains the treatises of a more ethical tendency:—

  • 1. On the Animate and the Man.
  • 2. On the Virtues.
  • 3. On Dialectic.
  • 4. On Happiness.
  • 5. Whether Happiness depends on Extension of Time.
  • 6. On Beauty.
  • 7. On the Primal Good and Secondary forms of Good.
  • 8. On Evil.
  • 9. On the Reasoned Withdrawal from Life.

The Second Ennead, following the more strictly ethical First, is physical, containing the disquisitions on the world and all that belongs to the world:—

  • 1. On the World.
  • 2. On the Circular Movement.
  • 3. On the Stars.
  • 4. On the Two Orders of Matter. Edition: current; Page: [26]
  • 5. On Potentiality and Actuality.
  • 6. On Quality and Form.
  • 7. On Coalescence.
  • 8. Why Distant Objects appear Small.
  • 9. Against those Declaring the Creator of the World, and the World itself, to be Evil.

The Third Ennead, still keeping to the World, discusses the philosophical implications of some of its features:—

  • 1. On Fate.
  • 2. The First Treatise on Providence.
  • 3. The Second Treatise on Providence.
  • 4. On Our Tutelary Spirit.
  • 5. On Love.
  • 6. On the Impassibility of the Bodiless.
  • 7. On Eternity and Time.
  • 8. On Nature, Contemplation and The One.
  • 9. Various Questions.


These first three Enneads constitute in my arrangement one self-contained section.

The treatise on Our Tutelary Spirit is placed in the Third Ennead because this Spirit is not discussed as it is in itself, and the essay by its main content falls into the class dealing with the origin of man. Similar reasons determined the inclusion in this set of the treatise on Love. That on Time and Eternity is placed in this Third Ennead in virtue of its treatment of Time: that On Nature, Contemplation and The One, because of the discussion of Nature contained in it.

Next to the two dealing with the world comes the Fourth Ennead containing the treatises dealing with the Soul:—

  • 1. On the Essence of the Soul (I.).
  • 2. On the Essence of the Soul (II.).
  • 3. Questions referring to the Soul (I.). Edition: current; Page: [27]
  • 4. Questions referring to the Soul (II.).
  • 5. Questions referring to the Soul (III.); or, On Vision.
  • 6. On Sensation and Memory.
  • 7. On the Immortality of the Soul.
  • 8. On the Descent of the Soul into Bodies.
  • 9. Whether all Souls are One.

The Fifth Ennead—following upon that dealing with the Soul—contains the treatises upon the Intellectual-Principle, each of which has also some reference to the All-Transcending and to the Intellectual-Principle in the Soul, and to the Ideas:—

  • 1. On the three Primal Hypostases.
  • 2. On the Origin and Order of the Post-Primals.
  • 3. On the Conscious Hypostases and the All-Transcending.
  • 4. How the Post-Primal derives from the Primal, and On the One.
  • 5. That the Intelligibles are not outside the Intellectual-Principle and on the Good.
  • 6. That there is no Intellectual Act in the Principle which transcends the Authentic-Existent; and On the Nature that has the Intellectual Act Primally and that which has it Secondarily.
  • 7. Whether there are Ideas even of Particulars.
  • 8. On Intellectual Beauty.
  • 9. On the Intellectual-Principle, on the Ideas and on the Authentic-Existent.


These Fourth and Fifth Enneads, again, I have arranged in the form of one distinct section.

The Last Ennead, the Sixth, constitutes one other section, so that we have the entire work of Plotinus in three sections, the first containing three Enneads, the second two, the third one Ennead.

The content of the third section, that is of the Sixth Ennead, is as follows:—

  • 1, 2, 3. On the Kinds of the Authentic-Existent. Edition: current; Page: [28]
  • 4, 5. That the Authentic-Existent, one and identical, is everywhere present, integrally.
  • 6. On Numbers.
  • 7. How the Multitude of Ideas Exists; and On the Good.
  • 8. On Free-Will and the Will of The One.
  • 9. On The Good, or The One.

Thus, in sum, I have arranged the fifty-four treatises, constituting Plotinus’ entire work, into six sets of nine: to some of the treatises I have further added commentaries—irregularly, as friends asked for enlightenment on this or that point—finally for all the treatises, except that on Beauty, which was not to hand, I have written Summaries which follow the chronological order: in this department of my work besides the Summaries will be found Developments; the numbering of these also adopts the chronological order.

Now I have only to go once more through the entire work, see to the punctuation and correct any verbal errors; what else has solicited my attention, the reader will discover for himself.

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The Animate and the Man


Pleasure and distress, fear and courage, desire and aversion, where have these affections and experiences their seat?

Clearly, either in the Soul alone, or in the Soul as employing the body, or in some third entity deriving from both. And for this third entity, again, there are two possible modes: it might be either a blend or a distinct form due to the blending.

And what applies to the affections applies also to whatsoever acts, physical or mental, spring from them.

We have, therefore, to examine discursive-reason and the ordinary mental action upon objects of sense, and enquire whether these have the one seat with the affections and experiences, or perhaps sometimes the one seat, sometimes another.

And we must consider also our acts of Intellection, their mode and their seat.

And this very examining principle, which investigates and decides in these matters, must be brought to light.

Firstly, what is the seat of Sense-Perception? This is the obvious beginning since the affections and experiences either are sensations of some kind or at least never occur apart from sensation.


This first enquiry obliges us to consider at the outset the nature of the Soul—that is whether a distinction is to be made between Soul and Essential Soul (between an individual Soul and the Soul-Kind in itself).

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If such a distinction holds, then the Soul (in man) is some sort of a composite and at once we may agree that it is a recipient and—if only reason allows—that all the affections and experiences really have their seat in the Soul, and with the affections every state and mood, good and bad alike.

But if Soul (in man) and Essential Soul are one and the same, then the Soul will be an Ideal-Form unreceptive of all those activities which it imparts to another Kind but possessing within itself that native Act of its own which Reason manifests.

If this be so, then, indeed, we may think of the Soul as an immortal—if the immortal, the imperishable, must be impassive, giving out something of itself but itself taking nothing from without except for what it receives from the Existents prior to itself from which Existents, in that they are the nobler, it cannot be sundered.

Now what could bring fear to a nature thus unreceptive of all the outer? Fear demands feeling. Nor is there place for courage: courage implies the presence of danger. And such desires as are satisfied by the filling or voiding of the body, must be proper to something very different from the Soul, to that only which admits of replenishment and voidance.

And how could the Soul lend itself to any admixture? An essential is not mixed. Or of the intrusion of anything alien? If it did, it would be seeking the destruction of its own nature. Pain must be equally far from it. And Grief—how or for what could it grieve? Whatever possesses Existence is supremely free, dwelling, unchangeable, within its own peculiar nature. And can any increase bring joy, where nothing, not even anything good, can accrue? What such an Existent is, it is unchangeably.

Thus assuredly Sense-Perception, Discursive-Reasoning and all our ordinary mentation are foreign to the Soul: for sensation is a receiving—whether of an Ideal-Form or of an impassive body—and reasoning and all ordinary mental action deal with sensation.

The question still remains to be examined in the matter of the intellections—whether these are to be assigned to the Soul—and as to Edition: current; Page: [31] Pure-Pleasure (pleasure apart from sense), whether this belongs to the Soul in its solitary state.


We may treat of the Soul as in the body—whether it be set above it or actually within it—since the association of the two constitutes the one thing called the living organism, the Animate.

Now from this relation, from the Soul using the body as an instrument, it does not follow that the Soul must share the body’s experiences: a man does not himself feel all the experiences of the tools with which he is working.

It may be objected that the Soul must, however, have Sense-Perception since its use of its instrument must acquaint it with the external conditions, and such knowledge comes by way of sense. Thus, it will be argued, the eyes are the instrument of seeing, and seeing may bring distress to the soul: hence the Soul may feel sorrow and pain and every other affection that belongs to the body; and from this again will spring desire, the Soul seeking the mending of its instrument.

But, we ask, how, possibly, can these affections pass from body to Soul? Body may communicate qualities or conditions to another body: but—body to Soul? Something happens to A; does that make it happen to B? As long as we have agent and instrument, there are two distinct entities; if the Soul uses the body it is separate from it.

But apart from the philosophical separation how does Soul stand to body?

Clearly there is a combination. And for this several modes are possible. There might be a complete coalescence: Soul might be interwoven through the body: or it might be an Ideal-Form detached or an Ideal-Form in governing contact like a pilot: or there might be part of the Soul detached and another part in contact, the disjoined part being the agent or user, the conjoined part ranking with the instrument or thing used.

In this last case it will be the double task of philosophy to direct this lower Soul towards the higher, the agent, and except in so far as the Edition: current; Page: [32] conjunction is absolutely necessary, to sever the agent from the instrument, the body, so that it need not forever have its Act upon or through this inferior.


Let us consider, then, the hypothesis of a coalescence.

Now if there is a coalescence, the lower is ennobled, the nobler degraded; the body is raised in the scale of being as made participant in life; the Soul, as associated with death and unreason, is brought lower. How can a lessening of the life-quality produce an increase such as Sense-Perception?

No: the body has acquired life, it is the body that will acquire, with life, sensation and the affections coming by sensation. Desire, then, will belong to the body, as the objects of desire are to be enjoyed by the body. And fear, too, will belong to the body alone; for it is the body’s doom to fail of its joys and to perish.

Then again we should have to examine how such a coalescence could be conceived: we might find it impossible: perhaps all this is like announcing the coalescence of things utterly incongruous in kind, let us say of a line and whiteness.

Next for the suggestion that the Soul is interwoven through the body: such a relation would not give woof and warp community of sensation: the interwoven element might very well suffer no change: the permeating soul might remain entirely untouched by what affects the body—as light goes always free of all it floods—and all the more so, since, precisely, we are asked to consider it as (not confined to any one part but) diffused throughout the entire frame.

Under such an interweaving, then, the Soul would not be subjected to the body’s affections and experiences: it would be present rather as Ideal-Form in Matter.

Let us then suppose Soul to be in body as Ideal-Form in Matter. Now if—the first possibility—the Soul is an essence, a self-existent, it can be present only as separable form and will therefore all the more decidedly be the Using-Principle (and therefore unaffected).

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Suppose, next, the Soul to be present like axe-form on iron: here, no doubt, the form is all important but it is still (not the one member but) the axe, the complement of iron and form, that effects whatever is effected by the iron thus modified: on this analogy, therefore, we are even more strictly compelled to assign all the experiences of the combination to the body: their natural seat is the material member, the instrument, the potential recipient of life (and not the Life-Principle itself).

Compare the passage (in Plato) where we read that “it is absurd to suppose that the Soul weaves”; equally absurd to think of it as desiring, grieving. All this is rather in the province of something which we may call the Animate.


Now this Animate might be merely the body as having life: it might be the Couplement of Soul and body: it might be a third and different entity formed from both.

The Soul in turn—apart from the nature of the Animate—must be either impassive, merely causing Sense-Perception in its yoke-fellow, or sympathetic; and, if sympathetic, it may have identical experiences with its fellow or merely correspondent experiences: desire for example in the Animate may be something quite distinct from the accompanying movement or state in the desiring faculty.

The body, the live-body as we know it, we will consider later.

Let us take first the Couplement of body and Soul. How could suffering, for example, be seated in this Couplement?

It may be suggested that some unwelcome state of the body produces a distress which reaches to a Sensitive-Faculty which in turn merges into Soul. But this account still leaves the origin of the sensation unexplained.

Another suggestion might be that all is due to an opinion or judgement: some evil seems to have befallen the man or his belongings and this conviction sets up a state of trouble in the body and in the entire Animate. But this account leaves still a question as to the source and seat of the judgement: does it belong to the Soul or to the Couplement? Besides, the judgement that evil is present does not involve the feeling Edition: current; Page: [34] of grief: the judgement might very well arise and the grief by no means follow: one may think oneself slighted and yet not be angry; and the appetite is not necessarily excited by the thought of a pleasure. We are, thus, no nearer than before to any warrant for assigning these affections to the Couplement.

Is it any explanation to say that desire is vested in a Faculty-of-desire and anger in the Irascible-Faculty and, collectively, that all tendency is seated in the Appetitive-Faculty? Such a statement of the facts does not help towards making the affections common to the Couplement; they might still be seated either in the Soul alone or in the body alone. On the one hand if the appetite is to be stirred, as in the carnal passion, there must be a heating of the blood and the bile, a well-defined state of the body; on the other hand, the impulse towards The Good cannot be a joint affection, but, like certain others too, it would belong necessarily to the Soul alone.

Reason, then, does not permit us to assign all the affections to the Couplement.

In the case of carnal desire, it will certainly be the Man that desires, and yet, on the other hand, there must be desire in the Desiring-Faculty as well. How can this be? Are we to suppose that, when the man originates the desire, the Desiring-Faculty moves to the order? How could the Man have come to desire at all unless through a prior activity in the Desiring-Faculty? Then it is the Desiring-Faculty that takes the lead? Yet how, unless the body be first in the appropriate condition?


It may seem reasonable to lay down as a law that when any powers are contained by a recipient, every action or state expressive of them must be the action or state of that recipient, they themselves remaining unaffected as merely furnishing efficiency.

But if this were so, then, since the Animate is the recipient of the Causing-Principle (i.e. the Soul) which brings life to the Couplement, this Cause must itself remain unaffected, all the experiences and expressive activities of the life being vested in the recipient, the Animate.

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But this would mean that life itself belongs not to the Soul but to the Couplement; or at least the life of the Couplement would not be the life of the Soul; Sense-Perception would belong not to the Sensitive-Faculty but to the container of the faculty.

But if sensation is a movement traversing the body and culminating in Soul, how can the soul lack sensation? The very presence of the Sensitive-Faculty must assure sensation to the Soul.

Once again, where is Sense-Perception seated?

In the Couplement.

Yet how can the Couplement have sensation independently of action in the Sensitive-Faculty, the Soul left out of count and the Soul-Faculty?


The truth lies in the Consideration that the Couplement subsists by virtue of the Soul’s presence.

This, however, is not to say that the Soul gives itself as it is in itself to form either the Couplement or the body.

No; from the organised body and something else, let us say a light, which the Soul gives forth from itself, it forms a distinct Principle, the Animate; and in this Principle are vested Sense-Perception and all the other experiences found to belong to the Animate.

But the “We”? How have We Sense-Perception?

By the fact that We are not separate from the Animate so constituted, even though certainly other and nobler elements go to make up the entire many-sided nature of Man.

The faculty of perception in the Soul cannot act by the immediate grasping of sensible objects, but only by the discerning of impressions printed upon the Animate by sensation: these impressions are already Intelligibles while the outer sensation is a mere phantom of the other (of that in the Soul) which is nearer to Authentic-Existence as being an impassive reading of Ideal-Forms.

And by means of these Ideal-Forms, by which the Soul wields single lordship over the Animate, we have Discursive-Reasoning, Sense-Knowledge Edition: current; Page: [36] and Intellection. From this moment we have peculiarly the We: before this there was only the “Ours”; but at this stage stands the WE (the authentic Human-Principle) loftily presiding over the Animate.

There is no reason why the entire compound entity should not be described as the Animate or Living-Being—mingled in a lower phase, but above that point the beginning of the veritable man, distinct from all that is kin to the lion, all that is of the order of the multiple brute. And since The Man, so understood, is essentially the associate of the reasoning Soul, in our reasoning it is this “We” that reasons, in that the use and act of reason is a characteristic Act of the Soul.


And towards the Intellectual-Principle what is our relation? By this I mean, not that faculty in the soul which is one of the emanations from the Intellectual-Principle, but The Intellectual-Principle itself (Divine-Mind).

This also we possess as the summit of our being. And we have It either as common to all or as our own immediate possession: or again we may possess It in both degrees, that is in common, since It is indivisible—one, everywhere and always Its entire self—and severally in that each personality possesses It entire in the First-Soul (i.e. in the Intellectual as distinguished from the lower phase of the Soul).

Hence we possess the Ideal-Forms also after two modes: in the Soul, as it were unrolled and separate; in the Intellectual-Principle, concentrated, one.

And how do we possess the Divinity?

In that the Divinity is contained in the Intellectual-Principle and Authentic-Existence; and We come third in order after these two, for the We is constituted by a union of the supreme, the undivided Soul—we read—and that Soul which is divided among (living) bodies. For, note, we inevitably think of the Soul, though one and undivided in the All, as being present to bodies in division: in so far as any bodies are Animates, the Soul has given itself to each of the separate material masses; or rather it appears to be present in the bodies by the fact that Edition: current; Page: [37] it shines into them: it makes them living beings not by merging into body but by giving forth, without any change in itself, images or likenesses of itself like one face caught by many mirrors.

The first of these images is (the faculty of) Sense-Perception seated in the Couplement; and from this downwards all the successive images are to be recognised as phases of the Soul in lessening succession from one another, until the series ends in the faculties of generation and growth and of all production of offspring—offspring efficient in its turn, in contradistinction to the engendering Soul which (has no direct action within matter but) produces by mere inclination towards what it fashions.


That Soul, then, in us, will in its nature stand apart from all that can cause any of the evils which man does or suffers; for all such evil, as we have seen, belongs only to the Animate, the Couplement.

But there is a difficulty in understanding how the Soul can go guiltless if our mentation and reasoning are vested in it: for all this lower kind of knowledge is delusion and is the cause of much of what is evil.

When we have done evil it is because we have been worsted by our baser side—for a man is many—by desire or rage or some evil image: the misnamed reasoning that takes up with the false, in reality fancy, has not stayed for the judgement of the Reasoning-Principle: we have acted at the call of the less worthy, just as in matters of the sense-sphere we sometimes see falsely because we credit only the lower perception, that of the Couplement, without applying the tests of the Reasoning-Faculty.

The Intellectual-Principle has held aloof from the act and so is guiltless; or, as we may state it, all depends on whether we ourselves have or have not put ourselves in touch with the Intellectual-Realm either in the Intellectual-Principle or within ourselves; for it is possible at once to possess and not to use.

Thus we have marked off what belongs to the Couplement from what stands by itself: the one group has the character of body and never exists apart from body, while all that has no need of body for its Edition: current; Page: [38] manifestation belongs peculiarly to Soul: and the Understanding, as passing judgement upon Sense-Impressions, is at the point of the vision of Ideal-Forms, seeing them as it were with an answering sensation (i.e. with consciousness) this last is at any rate true of the Understanding in the Veritable Soul. For Understanding, the true, is the Act of the Intellections: in many of its manifestations it is the assimilation and reconciliation of the outer to the inner.

Thus in spite of all, the Soul is at peace as to itself and within itself: all the changes and all the turmoil we experience are the issue of what is subjoined to the Soul, and are, as we have said, the states and experiences of this elusive “Couplement.”


It will be objected, that if the Soul constitutes the We (the personality) and We are subject to these states then the Soul must be subject to them, and similarly that what We do must be done by the Soul.

But it has been observed that the Couplement, too—especially before our emancipation—is a member of this total We, and in fact what the body experiences we say We experience. This We then covers two distinct notions; sometimes it includes the brute-part, sometimes it transcends the brute. The body is brute touched to life; the true man is the other, going pure of the body, natively endowed with the virtues which belong to the Intellectual-Activity, virtues whose seat is the Separate Soul, the Soul which even in its dwelling here may be kept apart. (This Soul constitutes the human being) for when it has wholly withdrawn, that other Soul which is a radiation (or emanation) from it withdraws also, drawn after it.

Those virtues, on the other hand, which spring not from contemplative wisdom but from custom or practical discipline belong to the Couplement: to the Couplement, too, belong the vices; they are its repugnances, desires, sympathies.

And Friendship?

This emotion belongs sometimes to the lower part, sometimes to the interior man.

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In childhood the main activity is in the Couplement and there is but little irradiation from the higher principles of our being: but when these higher principles act but feebly or rarely upon us their action is directed towards the Supreme; they work upon us only when they stand at the mid-point.

But does not the We include that phase of our being which stands above the mid-point?

It does, but on condition that we lay hold of it: our entire nature is not ours at all times but only as we direct the mid-point upwards or downwards, or lead some particular phase of our nature from potentiality or native character into act.

And the animals, in what way or degree do they possess the Animate?

If there be in them, as the opinion goes, human Souls that have sinned, then the Animating-Principle in its separable phase does not enter directly into the brute; it is there but not there to them; they are aware only of the image of the Soul (only of the lower Soul) and of that only by being aware of the body organised and determined by that image.

If there be no human Soul in them, the Animate is constituted for them by a radiation from the All-Soul.


But if Soul is sinless, how come the expiations? Here surely is a contradiction; on the one side the Soul is above all guilt; on the other, we hear of its sin, its purification, its expiation; it is doomed to the lower world, it passes from body to body.

We may take either view at will: they are easily reconciled.

When we tell of the sinless Soul we make Soul and Essential-Soul one and the same: it is the simple unbroken Unity.

By the Soul subject to sin we indicate a groupment, we include that other, that phase of the Soul which knows all the states and passions: the Soul in this sense is compound, all-inclusive: it falls under the conditions of the entire living experience: this compound it is that sins; it is this, and not the other, that pays penalty.

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It is in this sense that we read of the Soul “We saw it as those others saw the sea-god Glaukos.” “And,” reading on, “if we mean to discern the nature of the Soul we must strip it free of all that has gathered about it, must see into the philosophy of it, examine with what Existences it has touch and by kinship to what Existences it is what it is.”

Thus the Life is one thing, the Act is another and the Expiator yet another. The retreat and sundering, then, must be not from this body only, but from every alien accruement. Such accruement takes place at birth; or rather birth is the coming-into-being of that other (lower) phase of the Soul. For the meaning of birth has been indicated elsewhere; it is brought about by a descent of the Soul, something being given off by the Soul other than that actually coming down in the declension.

Then the Soul has let this image fall? And this declension is it not certainly sin?

If the declension is no more than the illuminating of an object beneath, it constitutes no sin: the shadow is to be attributed not to the luminary but to the object illuminated; if the object were not there, the light could cause no shadow.

And the Soul is said to go down, to decline, only in that the object it illuminates lives by its life. And it lets the image fall only if there be nothing near to take it up; and it lets it fall, not as a thing cut off, but as a thing that ceases to be: the image has no further being when the whole Soul is looking toward the Supreme.

The poet, too, in the story of Hercules, seems to give this image separate existence; he puts the shade of Hercules in the lower world and Hercules himself among the gods: treating the hero as existing in the two realms at once, he gives us a twofold Hercules.

It is not difficult to explain this distinction. Hercules was a hero of practical virtue. By his noble serviceableness he was worthy to be a God. On the other hand, his merit was action and not the Contemplation which would place him unreservedly in the higher realm. Therefore while he has place above, something of him remains below.

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And the principle that reasons out these matters? Is it We or the Soul?

We, but by the Soul.

But how “by the Soul”? Does this mean that the Soul reasons by possession (by contact with the matters of enquiry)?

No; by the fact of being Soul. Its Act subsists without movement; or any movement that can be ascribed to it must be utterly distinct from all corporal movement and be simply the Soul’s own life.

And Intellection in us is twofold: since the Soul is intellective, and Intellection is the highest phase of life, we have Intellection both by the characteristic Act of our Soul and by the Act of the Intellectual-Principle upon us—for this Intellectual-Principle is part of us no less than the Soul, and towards it we are ever rising.

On Virtue


Since Evil is here, “haunting this world by necessary law,” and it is the Soul’s design to escape from Evil, we must escape hence.

But what is this escape?

“In attaining Likeness to God,” we read. And this is explained as “becoming just and holy, living by wisdom,” the entire nature grounded in Virtue.

But does not Likeness by way of Virtue imply Likeness to some being that has Virtue? To what Divine Being, then, would our Likeness be? To the Being—must we not think?—in Which, above all, such excellence seems to inhere, that is to the Soul of the Kosmos and to the Principle ruling within it, the Principle endowed with a wisdom most wonderful. What could be more fitting than that we, living in this world, should become Like to its ruler?

But, at the beginning, we are met by the doubt whether even in this Divine-Being all the virtues find place—Moral-Balance (Sophrosyny), Edition: current; Page: [42] for example; or Fortitude where there can be no danger since nothing is alien; where there can be nothing alluring whose lack could induce the desire of possession.

If, indeed, that aspiration towards the Intelligible which is in our nature exists also in this Ruling-Power, then we need not look elsewhere for the source of order and of the virtues in ourselves.

But does this Power possess the Virtues?

We cannot expect to find There what are called the Civic Virtues, the Prudence which belongs to the reasoning faculty; the Fortitude which conducts the emotional and passionate nature; the Sophrosyny which consists in a certain pact, in a concord between the passionate faculty and the reason; or Rectitude which is the due application of all the other virtues as each in turn should command or obey.

Is Likeness, then, attained, perhaps, not by these virtues of the social order but by those greater qualities known by the same general name? And if so do the Civic Virtues give us no help at all?

It is against reason, utterly to deny Likeness by these while admitting it by the greater: tradition at least recognises certain men of the civic excellence as divine, and we must believe that these too had in some sort attained Likeness: on both levels there is virtue for us, though not the same virtue.

Now, if it be admitted that Likeness is possible, though by a varying use of different virtues and though the civic virtues do not suffice, there is no reason why we should not, by virtues peculiar to our state, attain Likeness to a model in which virtue has no place.

But is that conceivable?

When warmth comes in to make anything warm, must there needs be something to warm the source of the warmth?

If a fire is to warm something else, must there be a fire to warm that fire?

Against the first illustration it may be retorted that the source of the warmth does already contain warmth, not by an infusion but as an essential phase of its nature, so that, if the analogy is to hold, the argument would make Virtue something communicated to the Soul but an Edition: current; Page: [43] essential constituent of the Principle from which the Soul attaining Likeness absorbs it.

Against the illustration drawn from the fire, it may be urged that the analogy would make that Principle identical with virtue, whereas we hold it to be something higher.

The objection would be valid if what the soul takes in were one and the same with the source, but in fact virtue is one thing, the source of virtue quite another. The material house is not identical with the house conceived in the intellect, and yet stands in its likeness: the material house has distribution and order while the pure idea is not constituted by any such elements; distribution, order, symmetry are not parts of an idea.

So with us: it is from the Supreme that we derive order and distribution and harmony, which are virtues in this sphere: the Existences There, having no need of harmony, order or distribution, have nothing to do with virtue; and, none the less, it is by our possession of virtue that we become like to Them.

Thus much to show that the principle that we attain Likeness by virtue in no way involves the existence of virtue in the Supreme. But we have not merely to make a formal demonstration: we must persuade as well as demonstrate.


First, then, let us examine those good qualities by which we hold Likeness comes, and seek to establish what is this thing which, as we possess it, in transcription, is virtue but as the Supreme possesses it, is in the nature of an exemplar or archetype and is not virtue.

We must first distinguish two modes of Likeness.

There is the likeness demanding an identical nature in the objects which, further, must draw their likeness from a common principle: and there is the case in which B resembles A, but A is a Primal, not concerned about B and not said to resemble B. In this second case, likeness is understood in a distinct sense: we no longer look for identity of nature, Edition: current; Page: [44] but, on the contrary, for divergence since the likeness has come about by the mode of difference.

What, then, precisely is Virtue, collectively and in the particular? The clearer method will be to begin with the particular, for so the common element by which all the forms hold the general name will readily appear.

The Civic Virtues, on which we have touched above, are a principle or order and beauty in us as long as we remain passing our life here: they ennoble us by setting bound and measure to our desires and to our entire sensibility, and dispelling false judgement—and this by sheer efficacy of the better, by the very setting of the bounds, by the fact that the measured is lifted outside of the sphere of the unmeasured and lawless.

And, further, these Civic Virtues—measured and ordered themselves and acting as a principle of measure to the Soul which is as Matter to their forming—are like to the measure reigning in the over-world, and they carry a trace of that Highest Good in the Supreme; for, while utter measurelessness is brute Matter and wholly outside of Likeness, any participation in Ideal-Form produces some corresponding degree of Likeness to the formless Being There. And participation goes by nearness: the Soul nearer than the body, therefore closer akin, participates more fully and shows a godlike presence, almost cheating us into the delusion that in the Soul we see God entire.

This is the way in which men of the Civic Virtues attain Likeness.


We come now to that other mode of Likeness which, we read, is the fruit of the loftier virtues: discussing this we shall penetrate more deeply into the essence of the Civic Virtue and be able to define the nature of the higher kind whose existence we shall establish beyond doubt.

To Plato, unmistakably, there are two distinct orders of virtue, and the civic does not suffice for Likeness: “Likeness to God,” he says, “is a flight from this world’s ways and things”: in dealing with Edition: current; Page: [45] the qualities of good citizenship he does not use the simple term Virtue but adds the distinguishing word civic: and elsewhere he declares all the virtues without exception to be purifications.

But in what sense can we call the virtues purifications, and how does purification issue in Likeness?

As the Soul is evil by being interfused with the body, and by coming to share the body’s states and to think the body’s thoughts, so it would be good, it would be possessed of virtue, if it threw off the body’s moods and devoted itself to its own Act—the state of Intellection and Wisdom—never allowed the passions of the body to affect it—the virtue of Sophrosyny—knew no fear at the parting from the body—the virtue of Fortitude—and if reason and the Intellectual-Principle ruled—in which state is Righteousness. Such a disposition in the Soul, become thus intellective and immune to passion, it would not be wrong to call Likeness to God; for the Divine, too, is pure and the Divine-Act is such that Likeness to it is Wisdom.

But would not this make virtue a state of the Divine also?

No: the Divine has no states; the state is in the Soul. The Act of Intellection in the Soul is not the same as in the Divine: of things in the Supreme, Soul grasps come after a mode of its own, some not at all.

Then yet again, the one word, Intellection, covers two distinct Acts?

Rather there is primal Intellection and there is Intellection deriving from the Primal and of other scope.

As speech is the echo of the thought in the Soul, so thought in the Soul is an echo from elsewhere: that is to say, as the uttered thought is an image of the soul-thought, so the soul-thought images a thought above itself and is the interpreter of the higher sphere.

Virtue, in the same way, is a thing of the Soul: it does not belong to the Intellectual-Principle or to the Transcendence.


We come, so, to the question whether Purification is the whole of this human quality, virtue, or merely the forerunner upon which virtue follows? Does virtue imply the achieved state of purification or does Edition: current; Page: [46] the mere process suffice to it, Virtue being something of less perfection than the accomplished pureness which is almost the Term?

To have been purified is to have cleansed away everything alien: but Goodness is something more.

If before the impurity entered there was Goodness, the Goodness suffices; but even so, not the act of cleansing but the cleansed thing that emerges will be The Good. And it remains to establish what (in the case of the cleansed Soul) this emergent is.

It can scarcely prove to be The Good: The Absolute Good cannot be thought to have taken up its abode with Evil. We can think of it only as something of the nature of good but paying a double allegiance and unable to rest in the Authentic Good.

The Soul’s true Good is in devotion to the Intellectual-Principle, its kin; evil to the Soul lies in frequenting strangers. There is no other way for it than to purify itself and so enter into relation with its own; the new phase begins by a new orientation.

After the Purification, then, there is still this orientation to be made? No: by the purification the true alignment stands accomplished.

The Soul’s virtue, then, is this alignment? No: it is what the alignment brings about within.

And this is . . . ?

That it sees; that, like sight affected by the thing seen, the soul admits the imprint, graven upon it and working within it, of the vision it has come to.

But was not the Soul possessed of all this always, or had it forgotten?

What is now sees, it certainly always possessed, but as lying away in the dark, not as acting within it: to dispel the darkness, and thus come to knowledge of its inner content, it must thrust towards the light.

Besides, it possessed not the originals but images, pictures; and these it must bring into closer accord with the verities they represent. And, further, if the Intellectual-Principle is said to be a possession of the Soul, this is only in the sense that It is not alien and that the link becomes very close when the Soul’s sight is turned towards It: Edition: current; Page: [47] otherwise, ever-present though It be, It remains foreign, just as our knowledge, if it does not determine action, is dead to us.


So we come to the scope of the purification: that understood, the nature of Likeness becomes clear. Likeness to what Principle? Identity with what God?

The question is substantially this: how far does purification dispel the two orders of passion—anger, desire and the like, with grief and its kin—and in what degree the disengagement from the body is possible.

Disengagement means simply that the soul withdraws to its own place.

It will hold itself above all passions and affections. Necessary pleasures and all the activity of the senses it will employ only for medicament and assuagement lest its work be impeded. Pain it may combat, but, failing the cure, it will bear meekly and ease it by refusing assent to it. All passionate action it will check: the suppression will be complete if that be possible, but at worst the Soul will never itself take fire but will keep the involuntary and uncontrolled outside its own precincts and rare and weak at that. The Soul has nothing to dread, though no doubt the involuntary has some power here too: fear therefore must cease, except so far as it is purely monitory. What desire there may be can never be for the vile; even the food and drink necessary for restoration will lie outside of the Soul’s attention, and not less the sexual appetite: or if such desire there must be, it will turn upon the actual needs of the nature and be entirely under control; or if any uncontrolled motion takes place, it will reach no further than the imagination, be no more than a fleeting fancy.

The Soul itself will be inviolately free and will be working to set the irrational part of the nature above all attack, or if that may not be, then at least to preserve it from violent assault, so that any wound it takes may be slight and be healed at once by virtue of the Soul’s presence, just as a man living next door to a Sage would profit by the neighbourhood, Edition: current; Page: [48] either in becoming wise and good himself or, for sheer shame, never venturing any act which the nobler mind would disapprove.

There will be no battling in the Soul: the mere intervention of Reason is enough: the lower nature will stand in such awe of Reason that for any slightest movement it has made it will grieve, and censure its own weakness, in not having kept low and still in the presence of its lord.


In all this there is no sin—there is only matter of discipline—but our concern is not merely to be sinless but to be God.

As long as there is any such involuntary action, the nature is two-fold, God and Demi-God, or rather God in association with a nature of a lower power: when all the involuntary is suppressed, there is God unmingled, a Divine Being of those that follow upon The First.

For, at this height, the man is the very being that came from the Supreme. The primal excellence restored, the essential man is There: entering this sphere, he has associated himself with the reasoning phase of his nature and this he will lead up into likeness with his highest self, as far as earthly mind is capable, so that if possible it shall never be inclined to, and at the least never adopt, any course displeasing to its over-lord.

What form, then, does virtue take in one so lofty?

It appears as Wisdom, which consists in the contemplation of all that exists in the Intellectual-Principle, and as the immediate presence of the Intellectual-Principle itself.

And each of these has two modes or aspects: there is Wisdom as it is in the Intellectual-Principle and as in the Soul; and there is the Intellectual-Principle as it is present to itself and as it is present to the Soul: this gives what in the Soul is Virtue, in the Supreme not Virtue.

In the Supreme, then, what is it?

Its proper Act and Its Essence.

That Act and Essence of the Supreme, manifested in a new form, constitute the virtue of this sphere. For the Supreme is not self-existent Edition: current; Page: [49] Justice, or the Absolute of any defined virtue: it is, so to speak, an exemplar, the source of what in the soul becomes virtue: for virtue is dependent, seated in something not itself; the Supreme is self-standing, independent.

But taking Rectitude to be the due ordering of faculty, does it not always imply the existence of diverse parts?

No: There is a Rectitude of Diversity appropriate to what has parts, but there is another, not less Rectitude than the former though it resides in a Unity. And the authentic Absolute-Rectitude is the Act of a Unity upon itself, of a Unity in which there is no this and that and the other.

On this principle, the supreme Rectitude of the Soul is that it direct its Act towards the Intellectual-Principle: its Restraint (Sophrosyny) is its inward bending towards the Intellectual-Principle; its Fortitude is its being impassive in the likeness of That towards which its gaze is set, Whose nature comports an impassivity which the Soul acquires by virtue and must acquire if it is not to be at the mercy of every state arising in its less noble companion.


The virtues in the Soul run in a sequence correspondent to that existing in the over-world, that is among their exemplars in the Intellectual-Principle.

In the Supreme, Intellection constitutes Knowledge and Wisdom; self-concentration is Sophrosyny; Its proper Act is Its Dutifulness; Its Immateriality, by which It remains inviolate within Itself, is the equivalent of Fortitude.

In the Soul, the direction of vision towards the Intellectual-Principle is Wisdom and Prudence, soul-virtues not appropriate to the Supreme where Thinker and Thought are identical. All the other virtues have similar correspondences.

And if the term of purification is the production of a pure being, then the purification of the Soul must produce all the virtues; if any are lacking, then not one of them is perfect.

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And to possess the greater is potentially to possess the minor, though the minor need not carry the greater with them.

Thus we have indicated the dominant note in the life of the Sage; but whether his possession of the minor virtues be actual as well as potential, whether even the greater are in Act in him or yield to qualities higher still, must be decided afresh in each several case.

Take, for example, Contemplative-Wisdom. If other guides of conduct must be called in to meet a given need, can this virtue hold its ground even in mere potentiality?

And what happens when the virtues in their very nature differ in scope and province? Where, for example, Sophrosyny would allow certain acts or emotions under due restraint and another virtue would cut them off altogether? And is it not clear that all may have to yield, once Contemplative-Wisdom comes into action?

The solution is in understanding the virtues and what each has to give: thus the man will learn to work with this or that as every several need demands. And as he reaches to loftier principles and other standards these in turn will define his conduct: for example, Restraint in its earlier form will no longer satisfy him; he will work for the final Disengagement; he will live, no longer, the human life of the good man—such as Civic Virtue commends—but, leaving this beneath him, will take up instead another life, that of the Gods.

For it is to the Gods, not to the Good, that our Likeness must look: to model ourselves upon good men is to produce an image of an image: we have to fix our gaze above the image and attain Likeness to the Supreme Exemplar.

On Dialectic (The Upward Way)


What art is there, what method, what discipline to bring us there where we must go?

The Term at which we must arrive we may take as agreed: we have established elsewhere, by many considerations, that our journey is Edition: current; Page: [51] to the Good, to the Primal-Principle; and, indeed, the very reasoning which discovered the Term was itself something like an initiation.

But what order of beings will attain the Term?

Surely, as we read, those that have already seen all or most things, those who at their first birth have entered into the life-germ from which is to spring a metaphysician, a musician or a born lover, the metaphysician taking to the path by instinct, the musician and the nature peculiarly susceptible to love needing outside guidance.

But how lies the course? Is it alike for all, or is there a distinct method for each class of temperament?

For all there are two stages of the path, as they are making upwards or have already gained the upper sphere.

The first degree is the conversion from the lower life; the second—held by those that have already made their way to the sphere of the Intelligibles, have set as it were a footprint there but must still advance within the realm—lasts until they reach the extreme hold of the place, the Term attained when the topmost peak of the Intellectual realm is won.

But this highest degree must bide its time: let us first try to speak of the initial process of conversion.

We must begin by distinguishing the three types. Let us take the musician first and indicate his temperamental equipment for the task.

The musician we may think of as being exceedingly quick to beauty, drawn in a very rapture to it: somewhat slow to stir of his own impulse, he answers at once to the outer stimulus: as the timid are sensitive to noise so he to tones and the beauty they convey; all that offends against unison or harmony in melodies and rhythms repels him; he longs for measure and shapely pattern.

This natural tendency must be made the starting-point to such a man; he must be drawn by the tone, rhythm and design in things of sense: he must learn to distinguish the material forms from the Authentic-Existent which is the source of all these correspondences and of the entire reasoned scheme in the work of art: he must be led to the Edition: current; Page: [52] Beauty that manifests itself through these forms; he must be shown that what ravished him was no other than the Harmony of the Intellectual world and the Beauty in that sphere, not some one shape of beauty but the All-Beauty, the Absolute Beauty; and the truths of philosophy must be implanted in him to lead him to faith in that which, unknowing it, he possesses within himself. What these truths are we will show later.


The born lover, to whose degree the musician also may attain—and then either come to a stand or pass beyond—has a certain memory of beauty but, severed from it now, he no longer comprehends it: spell-bound by visible loveliness he clings amazed about that. His lesson must be to fall down no longer in bewildered delight before some, one embodied form; he must be led, under a system of mental discipline, to beauty everywhere and made to discern the One Principle underlying all, a Principle apart from the material forms, springing from another source, and elsewhere more truly present. The beauty, for example, in a noble course of life and in an admirably organised social system may be pointed out to him—a first training this in the loveliness of the immaterial—he must learn to recognise the beauty in the arts, sciences, virtues; then these severed and particular forms must be brought under the one principle by the explanation of their origin. From the virtues he is to be led to the Intellectual-Principle, to the Authentic-Existent; thence onward, he treads the upward way.


The metaphysician, equipped by that very character, winged already and not like those others, in need of disengagement, stirring of himself towards the supernal but doubting of the way, needs only a guide. He must be shown, then, and instructed, a willing wayfarer by his very temperament, all but self-directed.

Mathematics, which as a student by nature he will take very easily, will be prescribed to train him to abstract thought and to faith in the Edition: current; Page: [53] unembodied; a moral being by native disposition, he must be led to make his virtue perfect; after the Mathematics he must be put through a course in Dialectic and made an adept in the science.


But this science, this Dialectic essential to all the three classes alike, what, in sum, is it?

It is the Method, or Discipline, that brings with it the power of pronouncing with final truth upon the nature and relation of things—what each is, how it differs from others, what common quality all have, to what Kind each belongs and in what rank each stands in its Kind and whether its Being is Real-Being, and how many Beings there are, and how many non-Beings to be distinguished from Beings.

Dialectic treats also of the Good and the not-Good, and of the particulars that fall under each, and of what is the Eternal and what the not-Eternal—and of these, it must be understood, not by seeming-knowledge (“sense-knowledge”) but with authentic science.

All this accomplished, it gives up its touring of the realm of sense and settles down in the Intellectual Kosmos and there plies its own peculiar Act: it has abandoned all the realm of deceit and falsity, and pastures the Soul in the “Meadows of Truth”: it employs the Platonic division to the discernment of the Ideal-Forms, of the Authentic-Existence and of the First-Kinds (or Categories of Being): it establishes, in the light of Intellection, the unity there is in all that issues from these Firsts, until it has traversed the entire Intellectual Realm: then, resolving the unity into the particulars once more, it returns to the point from which it starts.

Now it rests: instructed and satisfied as to the Being in that sphere, it is no longer busy about many things: it has arrived at Unity and it contemplates: it leaves to another science all that coil of premisses and conclusions called the art of reasoning, much as it leaves the art of writing: some of the matter of logic, no doubt, it considers necessary—to clear the ground—but it makes itself the judge, here as in everything else; where it sees use, it uses; anything it finds superfluous, it leaves Edition: current; Page: [54] to whatever department of learning or practice may turn that matter to account.


But whence does this science derive its own initial laws?

The Intellectual-Principle furnishes standards, the most certain for any soul that is able to apply them. What else is necessary, Dialectic puts together for itself, combining and dividing, until it has reached perfect Intellection. “For,” we read, “it is the purest (perfection) of Intellection and Contemplative-Wisdom.” And, being the noblest method and science that exists it must needs deal with Authentic-Existence, The Highest there is: as Contemplative-Wisdom (or true-knowing) it deals with Being, as Intellection with what transcends Being.

What, then, is Philosophy?

Philosophy is the supremely precious.

Is Dialectic, then, the same as Philosophy?

It is the precious part of Philosophy. We must not think of it as the mere tool of the metaphysician: Dialectic does not consist of bare theories and rules: it deals with verities; Existences are, as it were, Matter to it, or at least it proceeds methodically towards Existences, and possesses itself, at the one step, of the notions and of the realities.

Untruth and sophism it knows, not directly, not of its own nature, but merely as something produced outside itself, something which it recognises to be foreign to the verities laid up in itself; in the falsity presented to it, it perceives a clash with its own canon of truth. Dialectic, that is to say, has no knowledge of propositions—collections of words—but it knows the truth and, in that knowledge, knows what the schools call their propositions: it knows above all, the operation of the soul, and, by virtue of this knowing, it knows, too, what is affirmed and what is denied, whether the denial is of what was asserted or of something else, and whether propositions agree or differ; all that is submitted to it, it attacks with the directness of sense-perception and it leaves petty precisions of process to what other science may care for such exercises.

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Philosophy has other provinces, but Dialectic is its precious part: in its study of the laws of the universe, Philosophy draws on Dialectic much as other studies and crafts use Arithmetic, though, of course, the alliance between Philosophy and Dialectic is closer.

And in Morals, too, Philosophy uses Dialectic: by Dialectic it comes to contemplation, though it originates of itself the moral state or rather the discipline from which the moral state develops.

Our reasoning faculties employ the data of Dialectic almost as their proper possession for they are mainly concerned about Matter (whose place and worth Dialectic establishes).

And while the other virtues bring the reason to bear upon particular experiences and acts, the virtue of Wisdom (i.e. the virtue peculiarly induced by Dialectic) is a certain super-reasoning much closer to the Universal; for it deals with (such abstract ideas as) correspondence and sequence, the choice of time for action and inaction, the adoption of this course, the rejection of that other: Wisdom and Dialectic have the task of presenting all things as Universals and stripped of matter for treatment by the Understanding.

But can these inferior kinds of virtue exist without Dialectic and philosophy?

Yes—but imperfectly, inadequately.

And is it possible to be a Sage, a Master in Dialectic, without these lower virtues?

It would not happen: the lower will spring either before or together with the higher. And it is likely that everyone normally possesses the natural virtues from which, when Wisdom steps in, the perfected virtue develops. After the natural virtues, then, Wisdom and, so the perfecting of the moral nature. Once the natural virtues exist, both orders, the natural and the higher, ripen side by side to their final excellence: or as the one advances it carries forward the other towards perfection.

But, ever, the natural virtue is imperfect in vision and in strength—and to both orders of virtue the essential matter is from what principles we derive them.

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On True Happiness


Are we to make True Happiness one and the same thing with Welfare or Prosperity and therefore within the reach of the other living beings as well as ourselves?

There is certainly no reason to deny well-being to any of them as long as their lot allows them to flourish unhindered after their kind.

Whether we make Welfare consist in pleasant conditions of life, or in the accomplishment of some appropriate task, by either account it may fall to them as to us. For certainly they may at once be pleasantly placed and engaged about some function that lies in their nature: take for an instance such living beings as have the gift of music; finding themselves well-off in other ways, they sing, too, as their nature is, and so their day is pleasant to them.

And if, even, we set Happiness in some ultimate Term pursued by inborn tendency, then on this head, too, we must allow it to animals from the moment of their attaining this Ultimate: the nature in them comes to a halt, having fulfilled its vital course from a beginning to an end.

It may be a distasteful notion, this bringing-down of happiness so low as to the animal world—making it over, as then we must, even to the vilest of them and not withholding it even from the plants, living they too and having a life unfolding to a Term.

But, to begin with, it is surely unsound to deny that good of life to animals only because they do not appear to man to be of great account. And as for plants, we need not necessarily allow to them what we accord to the other forms of life, since they have no feeling. It is true people might be found to declare prosperity possible to the very plants: they have life, and life may bring good or evil; the plants may thrive or wither, bear or be barren.

No: if Pleasure be the Term, if here be the good of life, it is impossible to deny the good of life to any order of living things; if the Edition: current; Page: [57] Term be inner-peace, equally impossible; impossible, too, if the good of life be to live in accordance with the purpose of nature.


Those that deny the happy life to the plants on the ground that they lack sensation are really denying it to all living things.

By sensation can be meant, only, perception of state, and the state of well-being must be a Good in itself quite apart from the perception: to be a part of the natural plan is good whether knowingly or without knowledge: there is good in the appropriate state even though there be no recognition of its fitness or desirable quality—for it must be in itself desirable.

This Good exists, then; is present: that in which it is present has well-being without more ado: what need then to ask for sensation into the bargain?

Perhaps, however, the theory is that the Good of any state consists not in the condition itself but in the knowledge and perception of it.

But at this rate the Good is nothing but the mere sensation, the bare activity of the sentient life. And so it will be possessed by all that feel, no matter what. Perhaps it will be said that two constituents are needed to make up the Good, that there must be both feeling and a given state felt: but how can it be maintained that the bringing together of two neutrals can produce the Good?

They will explain, possibly, that the state must be a state of Good and that such a condition constitutes well-being on the discernment of that present good; but then they invite the question whether the well-being comes by discerning the presence of the Good that is there, or whether there must further be the double recognition that the state is agreeable and that the agreeable state constitutes the Good.

If well-being demands this recognition, it depends no longer upon sensation but upon another, a higher faculty; and well-being is vested not in a faculty receptive of pleasure but in one competent to discern that pleasure is the Good.

Then the cause of the well-being is no longer pleasure but the Edition: current; Page: [58] faculty competent to pronounce as to pleasure’s value. Now a judging entity is nobler than one that merely accepts a state: it is a principle of Reason or of Intellection: pleasure is a state: the reasonless can never be closer to the Good than reason is. How can reason abdicate and declare nearer to good than itself something lying in a contrary order?

No: those denying the good of life to the vegetable world, and those that make it consist in some precise quality of sensation, are in reality seeking a loftier well-being than they are aware of, and setting their highest in a more luminous phase of life.

Perhaps, then, those are in the right who found happiness not on the bare living or even on sensitive life but on the life of Reason?

But they must tell us why it should be thus restricted and why precisely they make Reason an essential to the happiness in a living being:—

“When you insist on Reason, is it because Reason is resourceful, swift to discern and compass the primal needs of nature; or would you demand it, even though it were powerless in that domain?”

If you call it in as a provider, then the reasonless, equally with the reasoning, may possess happiness after their kind, as long as, without any thought of theirs, nature supplies their wants: Reason becomes a servant; there is no longer any worth in it for itself and no worth in that consummation of reason which, we hold, is virtue.

If you say that reason is to be cherished for its own sake and not as supplying these human needs, you must tell us what other services it renders, what is its proper nature and what makes it the perfect thing it is.

For, on this admission, its perfection cannot reside in any such planning and providing: its perfection will be something quite different, something of quite another class: Reason cannot be itself one of those first needs of nature; it cannot even be a cause of those first needs of nature or at all belong to that order: it must be nobler than any and all of such things: otherwise it is not easy to see how we can be asked to rate it so highly.

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Until these people light upon some nobler principle than any at which they still halt, they must be left where they are and where they choose to be, never understanding what the Good of Life is to those that can make it theirs, never knowing to what kind of beings it is accessible.

What then is happiness? Let us try basing it upon Life.


Now if we draw no distinction as to kinds of life, everything that lives will be capable of happiness, and those will be effectively happy who possess that one common gift of which every living thing is by nature receptive. We could not deny it to the irrational whilst allowing it to the rational. If happiness were inherent in the bare being-alive, the common ground in which the cause of happiness could always take root would be simply life.

Those, then, that set happiness not in the mere living but in the reasoning life seem to overlook the fact that they are not really making it depend upon life at all: they admit that this reasoning faculty, round which they centre happiness, is a property (not the subject of a property): the subject, to them, must be the Reasoning-Life since it is in this double term that they find the basis of the happiness: so that they are making it consist not in life but in a particular kind of life—not, of course, a species formally opposite but, in our terminology, standing as an “earlier” to a “later” in the one Kind.

Now in common use this word “Life” embraces many forms which shade down from primal to secondary and so on, all massed under the common term—life of plant and life of animal—each phase brighter or dimmer than its next: and so it evidently must be with the Good-of-Life. And if thing is ever the image of thing, so every Good must always be the image of a higher Good.

If mere Being is insufficient, if happiness demands fulness of life. and exists, therefore, where nothing is lacking of all that belongs to the idea of life, then happiness can exist only in a being that lives fully.

And such a one will possess not merely the good, but the Supreme Good if, that is to say, in the realm of existents the Supreme Good can be Edition: current; Page: [60] no other than the authentically living, no other than Life in its greatest plenitude, life in which the good is present as something essential not as something brought in from without, a life needing no foreign substance called in from a foreign realm, to establish it in good.

For what could be added to the fullest life to make it the best life? If anyone should answer “The nature of Good” (The Good, as a Divine Hypostasis), the reply would certainly be near our thought, but we are not seeking the Cause but the main constituent.

It has been said more than once that the perfect life and the true life, the essential life, is in the Intellectual Nature beyond this sphere, and that all other forms of life are incomplete, are phantoms of life, imperfect, not pure, not more truly life than they are its contrary: here let it be said succinctly that since all living things proceed from the one principle but possess life in different degrees, this principle must be the first life and the most complete.


If, then, the perfect life is within human reach, the man attaining it attains happiness: if not, happiness must be made over to the gods, for the perfect life is for them alone.

But since we hold that happiness is for human beings too, we must consider what this perfect life is. The matter may be stated thus:—

It has been shown elsewhere that man when he commands not merely the life of sensation but also Reason and Authentic Intellection, has realised the perfect life.

But are we to picture this kind of life as something foreign imported into his nature?

No: there exists no single human being that does not either potentially or effectively possess this thing which we hold to constitute happiness.

But are we to think of man as including this form of life, the perfect, after the manner of a partial constituent of his entire nature?

We say, rather, that while in some men it is present as a mere portion of their total being—in those, namely, that have it potentially—there is, Edition: current; Page: [61] too, the man, already in possession of true felicity, who is this perfection realised, who has passed over into actual identification with it. All else is now mere clothing about the man, not to be called part of him since it lies about him unsought, not his because not appropriated to himself by any act of the will.

To the man in this state, what is the Good?

He himself by what he has and is.

And the author and principle of what he is and holds is the Supreme, which within Itself is the Good but manifests Itself within the human being after this other mode.

The sign that this state has been achieved is that the man seeks nothing else.

What indeed could he be seeking? Certainly none of the less worthy things; and the Best he carries always within him.

He that has such a life as this has all he needs in life.

Once the man is a Sage, the means of happiness, the way to good, are within, for nothing is good that lies outside him. Anything he desires further than this he seeks as a necessity, and not for himself but for a subordinate, for the body bound to him, to which since it has life he must minister the needs of life, not needs, however, to the true man of this degree. He knows himself to stand above all such things, and what he gives to the lower he so gives as to leave his true life undiminished.

Adverse fortune does not shake his felicity: the life so founded is stable ever. Suppose death strikes at his household or at his friends; he knows what death is, as the victims, if they are among the wise, know too. And if death taking from him his familiars and intimates does bring grief, it is not to him, not to the true man, but to that in him which stands apart from the Supreme, to that lower man in whose distress he takes no part.


But what of sorrows, illnesses and all else that inhibit the native activity?

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What of the suspension of consciousness which drugs or disease may bring about? Could either welfare or happiness be present under such conditions? And this is to say nothing of misery and disgrace, which will certainly be urged against us, with undoubtedly also those never-failing “Miseries of Priam.”

“The Sage,” we shall be told, “may bear such afflictions and even take them lightly but they could never be his choice, and the happy life must be one that would be chosen. The Sage, that is, cannot be thought of as simply a sage soul, no count being taken of the bodily-principle in the total of the being: he will, no doubt, take all bravely . . . until the body’s appeals come up before him, and longings and loathings penetrate through the body to the inner man. And since pleasure must be counted in towards the happy life, how can one that, thus, knows the misery of ill-fortune or pain be happy, however sage he be? Such a state, of bliss self-contained, is for the Gods; men, because of the less noble part subjoined in them, must needs seek happiness throughout all their being and not merely in some one part; if the one constituent be troubled, the other, answering to its associate’s distress, must perforce suffer hindrance in its own activity. There is nothing but to cut away the body or the body’s sensitive life and so secure that self-contained unity essential to happiness.”


Now if happiness did indeed require freedom from pain, sickness, misfortune, disaster, it would be utterly denied to anyone confronted by such trials: but if it lies in the fruition of the Authentic Good, why turn away from this Term and look to means, imagining that to be happy a man must need a variety of things none of which enter into happiness? If, in fact, felicity were made up by heaping together all that is at once desirable and necessary we must bid for these also. But if the Term must be one and not many; if in other words our quest is of a Term and not of Terms; that only can be elected which is ultimate and noblest, that which calls to the tenderest longings of the soul.

The quest and will of the Soul are not pointed directly towards Edition: current; Page: [63] freedom from this sphere: the reason which disciplines away our concern about this life has no fundamental quarrel with things of this order; it merely resents their interference; sometimes, even, it must seek them; essentially all the aspiration is not so much away from evil as towards the Soul’s own highest and noblest: this attained, all is won and there is rest—and this is the veritably willed state of life.

There can be no such thing as “willing” the acquirement of necessaries, if Will is to be taken in its strict sense, and not misapplied to the mere recognition of need.

It is certain that we shrink from the unpleasant, and such shrinking is assuredly not what we should have willed; to have no occasion for any such shrinking would be much nearer to our taste; but the things we seek tell the story as soon as they are ours. For instance, health and freedom from pain; which of these has any great charm? As long as we possess them, we set no store upon them.

Anything which, present, has no charm and adds nothing to happiness, which when lacking is desired because of the presence of an annoying opposite, may reasonably be called a necessity but not a Good.

Such things can never make part of our final object: our Term must be such that though these pleasanter conditions be absent and their contraries present, it shall remain, still, intact.


Then why are these conditions sought and their contraries repelled by the man established in happiness?

Here is our answer:—

These more pleasant conditions cannot, it is true, add any particle towards the Sage’s felicity: but they do serve towards the integrity of his being, while the presence of the contraries tends against his Being or complicates the Term: it is not that the Sage can be so easily deprived of the Term achieved but simply that he that holds the highest good desires to have that alone, not something else at the same time, something which, though it cannot banish the Good by its incoming, does yet take place by its side.

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In any case if the man that has attained felicity meets some turn of fortune that he would not have chosen, there is not the slightest lessening of his happiness for that. If there were, his felicity would be veering or falling from day to day; the death of a child would bring him down, or the loss of some trivial possession. No: a thousand mischances and disappointments may befall him and leave him still in the tranquil possession of the Term.

But, they cry, great disasters, not the petty daily chances!

What human thing, then, is great, so as not to be despised by one who has mounted above all we know here, and is bound now no longer to anything below?

If the Sage thinks all fortunate events, however momentous, to be no great matter—kingdom and the rule over cities and peoples, colonisations and the founding of states, even though all be his own handiwork—how can he take any great account of the vacillations of power or the ruin of his fatherland? Certainly if he thought any such event a great disaster, or any disaster at all, he must be of a very strange way of thinking. One that sets great store by wood and stones, or . . . Zeus . . . by mortality among mortals cannot yet be the Sage, whose estimate of death, we hold, must be that it is better than life in the body.

But suppose that he himself is offered a victim in sacrifice?

Can he think it an evil to die beside the altars?

But if he go unburied?

Wheresoever it lie, under earth or over earth, his body will always rot.

But if he has been hidden away, not with costly ceremony but in an unnamed grave, not counted worthy of a towering monument?

The littleness of it!

But if he falls into his enemies’ hands, into prison?

There is always the way towards escape, if none towards well-being.

But if his nearest be taken from him, his sons and daughters dragged away to captivity?

What then, we ask, if he had died without witnessing the wrong? Could he have quitted the world in the calm conviction that nothing of all this could happen? He must be very shallow. Can he fail to see that Edition: current; Page: [65] it is possible for such calamities to overtake his household, and does he cease to be a happy man for the knowledge of what may occur? In the knowledge of the possibility he may be at ease; so, too, when the evil has come about.

He would reflect that the nature of this All is such as brings these things to pass and man must bow the head.

Besides in many cases captivity will certainly prove an advantage; and those that suffer have their freedom in their hands: if they stay, either there is reason in their staying, and then they have no real grievance, or they stay against reason, when they should not, and then they have themselves to blame. Clearly the absurdities of his neighbours, however near, cannot plunge the Sage into evil: his state cannot hang upon the fortunes good or bad of any other men.


As for violent personal sufferings, he will carry them off as well as he can; if they overpass his endurance they will carry him off.

And so in all his pain he asks no pity: there is always the radiance in the inner soul of the man, untroubled like the light in a lantern when fierce gusts beat about it in a wild turmoil of wind and tempest.

But what if he be put beyond himself? What if pain grow so intense and so torture him that the agony all but kills? Well, when he is put to torture he will plan what is to be done: he retains his freedom of action.

Besides we must remember that the Sage sees things very differently from the average man; neither ordinary experiences nor pains and sorrows, whether touching himself or others, pierce to the inner hold. To allow them any such passage would be a weakness in our soul.

And it is a sign of weakness, too, if we should think it gain not to hear of miseries, gain to die before they come: this is not concern for others’ welfare but for our own peace of mind. Here we see our imperfection: we must not indulge it, we must put it from us and cease to tremble over what perhaps may be.

Anyone that says that it is in human nature to grieve over misfortune Edition: current; Page: [66] to our household must learn that this is not so with all, and that, precisely, it is virtue’s use to raise the general level of nature towards the better and finer, above the mass of men. And the finer is to set at nought what terrifies the common mind.

We cannot be indolent: this is an arena for the powerful combatant holding his ground against the blows of fortune, and knowing that, sore though they be to some natures, they are little to his, nothing dreadful, nursery terrors.

So, the Sage would have desired misfortune?

It is precisely to meet the undesired when it appears that he has the virtue which gives him, to confront it, his passionless and unshakeable soul.


But when he is out of himself, reason quenched by sickness or by magic arts?

If it be allowed that in this state, resting as it were in a slumber, he remains a Sage, why should he not equally remain happy? No one rules him out of felicity in the hours of sleep; no one counts up that time and so denies that he has been happy all his life.

If they say that, failing consciousness, he is no longer the Sage, then they are no longer reasoning about the Sage: but we do suppose a Sage, and are enquiring whether, as long as he is the Sage, he is in the state of felicity.

“Well, a Sage let him remain,” they say, “still, having no sensation and not expressing his virtue in act, how can he be happy?”

But a man unconscious of his health may be, none the less, healthy: a man may not be aware of his personal attraction, but he remains handsome none the less: if he has no sense of his wisdom, shall he be any the less wise?

It may perhaps be urged that sensation and consciousness are essential to wisdom and that happiness is only wisdom brought to act.

Now, this argument might have weight if prudence, wisdom, were something fetched in from outside: but this is not so: wisdom is, in its Edition: current; Page: [67] essential nature, an Authentic-Existence, or rather is The Authentic-Existent—and this Existent does not perish in one asleep or, to take the particular case presented to us, in the man out of his mind: the Act of this Existent is continuous within him; and is a sleepless activity: the Sage, therefore, even unconscious, is still the Sage in Act.

This activity is screened not from the man entire but merely from one part of him: we have here a parallel to what happens in the activity of the physical or vegetative life in us which is not made known by the sensitive faculty to the rest of the man: if our physical life really constituted the “We,” its Act would be our Act: but, in the fact, this physical life is not the “We”; the “We” is the activity of the Intellectual-Principle so that when the Intellective is in Act we are in Act.


Perhaps the reason this continuous activity remains unperceived is that it has no touch whatever with things of sense. No doubt action upon material things, or action dictated by them, must proceed through the sensitive faculty which exists for that use: but why should there not be an immediate activity of the Intellectual-Principle and of the soul that attends it, the soul that antedates sensation or any perception? For, if Intellection and Authentic-Existence are identical, this “Earlier-than-perception” must be a thing having Act.

Let us explain the conditions under which we become conscious of this Intellective-Act.

When the Intellect is in upward orientation that (lower part of it) which contains (or, corresponds to) the life of the Soul, is, so to speak, flung down again and becomes like the reflection resting on the smooth and shining surface of a mirror; in this illustration, when the mirror is in place the image appears but, though the mirror be absent or out of gear, all that would have acted and produced an image still exists; so in the case of the Soul; when there is peace in that within us which is capable of reflecting the images of the Rational and Intellectual-Principles these images appear. Then, side by side with the primal Edition: current; Page: [68] knowledge of the activity of the Rational and the Intellectual-Principles, we have also as it were a sense-perception of their operation.

When, on the contrary, the mirror within is shattered through some disturbance of the harmony of the body, Reason and the Intellectual-Principle act unpictured: intellection is unattended by imagination.

In sum we may safely gather that while the Intellective-Act may be attended by the Imaging Principle, it is not to be confounded with it.

And even in our conscious life we can point to many noble activities, of mind and of hand alike, which at the time in no way compel our consciousness. A reader will often be quite unconscious when he is most intent: in a feat of courage there can be no sense either of the brave action or of the fact that all that is done conforms to the rules of courage. And so in cases beyond number.

So that it would even seem that consciousness tends to blunt the activities upon which it is exercised, and that in the degree in which these pass unobserved they are purer and have more effect, more vitality, and that, consequently, the Sage arrived at this state has the truer fulness of life, life not spilled out in sensation but gathered closely within itself.


We shall perhaps be told that in such a state the man is no longer alive: we answer that these people show themselves equally unable to understand his inner life and his happiness.

If this does not satisfy them, we must ask them to keep in mind a living Sage and, under these terms, to enquire whether the man is in happiness: they must not whittle away his life and then ask whether he has the happy life; they must not take away the man and then look for the happiness of a man: once they allow that the Sage lives within, they must not seek him among the outer activities, still less look to the outer world for the object of his desires. To consider the outer world to be a field to his desire, to fancy the Sage desiring any good external, would be to deny Substantial-Existence to happiness; for the Sage would like to see all men prosperous and no evil befalling anyone; but though it prove otherwise, he is still content.

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If it be admitted that such a desire would be against reason, since evil cannot cease to be, there is no escape from agreeing with us that the Sage’s will is set always and only inward.


The pleasure demanded for the Sage’s life cannot be in the enjoyments of the licentious or in any gratifications of the body—there is no place for these, and they stifle happiness—nor in any violent emotions—what could so move the Sage?—it can be only such pleasure as there must be where Good is, pleasure that does not rise from movement and is not a thing of process, for all that is good is immediately present to the Sage and the Sage is present to himself: his pleasure, his contentment, stands, immovable.

Thus he is ever cheerful, the order of his life ever untroubled: his state is fixedly happy and nothing whatever of all that is known as evil can set it awry—given only that he is and remains a Sage.

If anyone seeks for some other kind of pleasure in the life of the Sage, it is not the life of the Sage he is looking for.


The characteristic activities are not hindered by outer events but merely adapt themselves, remaining always fine, and perhaps all the finer for dealing with the actual. When he has to handle particular cases and things, he may not be able to put his vision into act without searching and thinking, but the one greatest principle is ever present to him, like a part of his being—most of all present, should he be even a victim in the much-talked-of Bull of Phalaris. No doubt, despite all that has been said, it is idle to pretend that this is an agreeable lodging; but what cries in the Bull is the thing that feels the torture; in the Sage there is something else as well, The Self-Gathered which, as long as it holds itself by main force within itself, can never be robbed of the vision of the All-Good.

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For man, and especially the Sage, is not the Couplement of soul and body: the proof is that man can be disengaged from the body and disdain its nominal goods.

It would be absurd to think that happiness begins and ends with the living-body: happiness is the possession of the good of life: it is centred therefore in Soul, is an Act of the Soul—and not of all the Soul at that: for it certainly is not characteristic of the vegetative soul, the soul of growth; that would at once connect it with the body.

A powerful frame, a healthy constitution, even a happy balance of temperament, these surely do not make felicity; in the excess of these advantages there is, even, the danger that the man be crushed down and forced more and more within their power. There must be a sort of counter-pressure in the other direction, towards the noblest: the body must be lessened, reduced, that the veritable man may show forth, the man behind the appearances.

Let the earth-bound man be handsome and powerful and rich, and so apt to this world that he may rule the entire human race: still there can be no envying him, the fool of such lures. Perhaps such splendours could not, from the beginning even, have gathered to the Sage; but if it should happen so, he of his own action will lower his state, if he has any care for his true life; the tyranny of the body he will work down or wear away by inattention to its claims; the rulership he will lay aside. While he will safeguard his bodily health, he will not wish to be wholly untried in sickness, still less never to feel pain: if such troubles should not come to him of themselves, he will wish to know them, during youth at least: in old age, it is true, he will desire neither pains nor pleasures to hamper him; he will desire nothing of this world, pleasant or painful; his one desire will be to know nothing of the body. If he should meet with pain he will pit against it the powers he holds to meet it; but pleasure and health and ease of life will not mean any increase of happiness to him nor will their contraries destroy or lessen it.

When in the one subject, a positive can add nothing, how can the negative take away?

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But suppose two wise men, one of them possessing all that is supposed to be naturally welcome, while the other meets only with the very reverse: do we assert that they have an equal happiness?

We do, if they are equally wise.

What though the one be favoured in body and in all else that does not help towards wisdom, still less towards virtue, towards the vision of the noblest, towards being the highest, what does all that amount to? The man commanding all such practical advantages cannot flatter himself that he is more truly happy than the man without them: the utmost profusion of such boons would not help even to make a flute-player.

We discuss the happy man after our own feebleness; we count alarming and grave what his felicity takes lightly: he would be neither wise nor in the state of happiness if he had not quitted all trifling with such things and become as it were another being, having confidence in his own nature, faith that evil can never touch him. In such a spirit he can be fearless through and through; where there is dread, there is not perfect virtue; the man is some sort of a half-thing.

As for any involuntary fear rising in him and taking the judgement by surprise, while his thoughts perhaps are elsewhere, the Sage will attack it and drive it out; he will, so to speak, calm the refractory child within him, whether by reason or by menace, but without passion, as an infant might feel itself rebuked by a glance of severity.

This does not make the Sage unfriendly or harsh: it is to himself and in his own great concern that he is the Sage: giving freely to his intimates of all he has to give, he will be the best of friends by his very union with the Intellectual-Principle.


Those that refuse to place the Sage aloft in the Intellectual Realm but drag him down to the accidental, dreading accident for him, have substituted for the Sage we have in mind another person altogether; they offer us a tolerable sort of man and they assign to him a life of Edition: current; Page: [72] mingled good and ill, a case, after all, not easy to conceive. But admitting the possibility of such a mixed state, it could not be deserved to be called a life of happiness; it misses the Great, both in the dignity of Wisdom and in the integrity of Good. The life of true happiness is not a thing of mixture. And Plato rightly taught that he who is to be wise and to possess happiness draws his good from the Supreme, fixing his gaze on That, becoming like to That, living by That.

He can care for no other Term than That: all else he will attend to only as he might change his residence, not in expectation of any increase to his settled felicity, but simply in a reasonable attention to the differing conditions surrounding him as he lives here or there.

He will give to the body all that he sees to be useful and possible, but he himself remains a member of another order, not prevented from abandoning the body, and necessarily leaving it at nature’s hour, he himself always the master to decide in its regard.

Thus some part of his life considers exclusively the Soul’s satisfaction; the rest is not immediately for the Term’s sake and not for his own sake, but for the thing bound up with him, the thing which he tends and bears with as the musician cares for his lyre, as long as it can serve him: when the lyre fails him, he will change it, or will give up lyre and lyring, as having another craft now, one that needs no lyre, and then he will let it rest unregarded at his side while he sings on without an instrument. But it was not idly that the instrument was given him in the beginning: he has found it useful until now, many a time.

Happiness and Extension of Time


Is it possible to think that Happiness increases with Time, Happiness which is always taken as a present thing?

The memory of former felicity may surely be ruled out of count, for Happiness is not a thing of words, but a definite condition which must be actually present like the very fact and act of life.

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It may be objected that our will towards living and towards expressive activity is constant, and that each attainment of such expression is an increase in Happiness.

But in the first place, by this reckoning every to-morrow’s well-being will be greater than to-day’s, every later instalment successively larger than an earlier; at once time supplants moral excellence as the measure of felicity.

Then again the Gods to-day must be happier than of old: and their bliss, too, is not perfect, will never be perfect. Further, when the will attains what it was seeking, it attains something present: the quest is always for something to be actually present until a standing felicity is definitely achieved. The will to life which is will to Existence aims at something present, since Existence must be a stably present thing. Even when the act of the will is directed towards the future, and the furthest future, its object is an actually present having and being: there is no concern about what is passed or to come: the future state a man seeks is to be a now to him; he does not care about the forever: he asks that an actual present be actually present.


Yes, but if the well-being has lasted a long time, if that present spectacle has been a longer time before the eyes?

If in the greater length of time the man has seen more deeply, time has certainly done something for him, but if all the process has brought him no further vision, then one glance would give all he has had.


Still the one life has known pleasure longer than the other?

But pleasure cannot be fairly reckoned in with Happiness—unless indeed by pleasure is meant the unhindered Act (of the true man), in which case this pleasure is simply our “Happiness.” And even pleasure, though it exist continuously, has never anything but the present; its past is over and done with.

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We are asked to believe, then, it will be objected, that if one man has been happy from first to last, another only at the last, and a third, beginning with happiness, has lost it, their shares are equal?

This is straying from the question: we were comparing the happy among themselves: now we are asked to compare the not-happy at the time when they are out of happiness with those in actual possession of happiness. If these last are better off, they are so as men in possession of happiness against men without it and their advantage is always by something in the present.


Well, but take the unhappy man: must not increase of time bring an increase of his unhappiness? Do not all troubles—long-lasting pains, sorrows, and everything of that type—yield a greater sum of misery in the longer time? And if thus in misery the evil is augmented by time why should not time equally augment happiness when all is well?

In the matter of sorrows and pains there is, no doubt, ground for saying that time brings increase: for example, in a lingering malady the evil hardens into a state, and as time goes on the body is brought lower and lower. But if the constitution did not deteriorate, if the mischief grew no worse, then, here too, there would be no trouble but that of the present moment: we cannot tell the past into the tale of unhappiness except in the sense that it has gone to make up an actually existing state—in the sense that, the evil in the sufferer’s condition having been extended over a longer time, the mischief has gained ground. The increase of ill-being then is due to the aggravation of the malady not to the extension of time.

It may be pointed out also that this greater length of time is not a thing existent at any given moment; and surely a “more” is not to be made out by adding to something actually present something that has passed away.

No: true happiness is not vague and fluid: it is an unchanging state.

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If there is in this matter any increase besides that of mere time, it is in the sense that a greater happiness is the reward of a higher virtue: this is not counting up to the credit of happiness the years of its continuance; it is simply nothing the high-water mark once for all attained.


But if we are to consider only the present and may not call in the past to make the total, why do we not reckon so in the case of time itself, where, in fact, we do not hesitate to add the past to the present and call the total greater? Why not suppose a quantity of happiness equivalent to a quantity of time? This would be no more than taking it lap by lap to correspond with time-laps instead of choosing to consider it as an indivisible, measurable only by the content of a given instant.

There is no absurdity in taking count of time which has ceased to be: we are merely counting what is past and finished, as we might count the dead: but to treat past happiness as actually existent and as outweighing present happiness, that is an absurdity. For Happiness must be an achieved and existent state, whereas any time over and apart from the present is non-existent: all progress of time means the extinction of all the time that has been.

Hence time is aptly described as a mimic of eternity that seeks to break up in its fragmentary flight the permanence of its exemplar. Thus whatever time seizes and seals to itself of what stands permanent in eternity is annihilated—saved only in so far as in some degree it still belongs to eternity, but wholly destroyed if it be unreservedly absorbed into time.

If Happiness demands the possession of the good of life, it clearly has to do with the life of Authentic-Existence for that life is the Best. Now the life of Authentic-Existence is measurable not by time but by eternity; and eternity is not a more or a less or a thing of any magnitude but is the unchangeable, the indivisible, is timeless Being.

We must not muddle together Being and Non-Being, time and eternity, not even everlasting time with the eternal; we cannot make laps and stages of an absolute unity; all must be taken together, wheresoever Edition: current; Page: [76] and howsoever we handle it; and it must be taken at that, not even as an undivided block of time but as the Life of Eternity, a stretch not made up of periods but completely rounded, outside of all notion of time.


It may be urged that the actual presence of past experiences, kept present by Memory, gives the advantage to the man of the longer felicity.

But, Memory of what sort of experiences?

Memory either of formerly attained wisdom and virtue—in which case we have a better man and the argument from memory is given up—or memory of past pleasures, as if the man that has arrived at felicity must roam far and wide in search of gratifications and is not contented by the bliss actually within him.

And what is there pleasant in the memory of pleasure? What is it to recall yesterday’s excellent dinner? Still more ridiculous, one of ten years ago. So, too, of last year’s morality.


But is there not something to be said for the memory of the various forms of beauty?

That is the resource of a man whose life is without beauty in the present, so that, for lack of it now, he grasps at the memory of what has been.


But, it may be said, length of time produces an abundance of good actions missed by the man whose attainment of the happy state is recent—if indeed we can think at all of a state of happiness where good actions have been few.

Now to make multiplicity, whether in time or in action, essential to Happiness is to put it together by combining non-existents, represented by the past, with some one thing that actually is. This consideration it Edition: current; Page: [77] was that led us at the very beginning to place Happiness in the actually existent and on that basis to launch our enquiry as to whether the higher degree was determined by the longer time. It might be thought that the Happiness of longer date must surpass the shorter by virtue of the greater number of acts it included.

But, to begin with, men quite outside of the active life may attain the state of felicity, and not in a less but in a greater degree than men of affairs.

Secondly, the good does not derive from the act itself but from the inner disposition which prompts the noble conduct: the wise and good man in his very action harvests the good not by what he does but by what he is.

A wicked man no less than a Sage may save the country, and the good of the act is for all alike, no matter whose was the saving hand. The contentment of the Sage does not hang upon such actions and events: it is his own inner habit that creates at once his felicity and whatever pleasure may accompany it.

To put Happiness in actions is to put it in things that are outside virtue and outside the Soul; for the Soul’s expression is not in action but in wisdom, in a contemplative operation within itself; and this, this alone, is Happiness.



Beauty addresses itself chiefly to sight; but there is a beauty for the hearing too, as in certain combinations of words and in all kinds of music, for melodies and cadences are beautiful; and minds that lift themselves above the realm of sense to a higher order are aware of beauty in the conduct of life, in actions, in character, in the pursuits of the intellect; and there is the beauty of the virtues. What loftier beauty there may be, yet, our argument will bring to light.

What, then, is it that gives comeliness to material forms and draws Edition: current; Page: [78] the ear to the sweetness perceived in sounds, and what is the secret of the beauty there is in all that derives from Soul?

Is there some One Principle from which all take their grace, or is there a beauty peculiar to the embodied and another for the bodiless? Finally, one or many, what would such a Principle be?

Consider that some things, material shapes for instance, are gracious not by anything inherent but by something communicated, while others are lovely of themselves, as, for example, Virtue.

The same bodies appear sometimes beautiful, sometimes not; so that there is a good deal between being body and being beautiful.

What, then, is this something that shows itself in certain material forms? This is the natural beginning of our enquiry.

What is it that attracts the eyes of those to whom a beautiful object is presented, and calls them, lures them, towards it, and fills them with joy at the sight? If we possess ourselves of this, we have at once a standpoint for the wider survey.

Almost everyone declares that the symmetry of parts towards each other and towards a whole, with, besides, a certain charm of colour, constitutes the beauty recognised by the eye, that in visible things, as indeed in all else, universally, the beautiful thing is essentially symmetrical, patterned.

But think what this means.

Only a compound can be beautiful, never anything devoid of parts; and only a whole; the several parts will have beauty, not in themselves, but only as working together to give a comely total. Yet beauty in an aggregate demands beauty in details; it cannot be constructed out of ugliness; its law must run throughout.

All the loveliness of colour and even the light of the sun, being devoid of parts and so not beautiful by symmetry, must be ruled out of the realm of beauty. And how comes gold to be a beautiful thing? And lightning by night, and the stars, why are these so fair?

In sounds also the simple must be proscribed, though often in a whole noble composition each several tone is delicious in itself.

Again since the one face, constant in symmetry, appears sometimes Edition: current; Page: [79] fair and sometimes not, can we doubt that beauty is something more than symmetry, that symmetry itself owes its beauty to a remoter principle?

Turn to what is attractive in methods of life or in the expression of thought; are we to call in symmetry here? What symmetry is to be found in noble conduct, or excellent laws, in any form of mental pursuit?

What symmetry can there be in points of abstract thought?

The symmetry of being accordant with each other? But there may be accordance or entire identity where there is nothing but ugliness: the proposition that honesty is merely a generous artlessness chimes in the most perfect harmony with the proposition that morality means weakness of will; the accordance is complete.

Then again, all the virtues are a beauty of the soul, a beauty authentic beyond any of these others; but how does symmetry enter here? The soul, it is true, is not a simple unity, but still its virtue cannot have the symmetry of size or of number: what standard of measurement could preside over the compromise or the coalescence of the soul’s faculties or purposes?

Finally, how by this theory would there be beauty in the Intellectual-Principle, essentially the solitary?


Let us, then, go back to the source, and indicate at once the Principle that bestows beauty on material things.

Undoubtedly this Principle exists; it is something that is perceived at the first glance, something which the soul names as from an ancient knowledge and, recognising, welcomes it, enters into unison with it.

But let the soul fall in with the Ugly and at once it shrinks within itself, denies the thing, turns away from it, not accordant, resenting it.

Our interpretation is that the soul—by the very truth of its nature, by its affiliation to the noblest Existents in the hierarchy of Being—when Edition: current; Page: [80] it sees anything of that kin, or any trace of that kinship, thrills with an immediate delight, takes its own to itself, and thus stirs anew to the sense of its nature and of all its affinity.

But, is there any such likeness between the loveliness of this world and the splendours in the Supreme? Such a likeness in the particulars would make the two orders alike: but what is there in common between beauty here and beauty There?

We hold that all the loveliness of this world comes by communion in Ideal-Form.

All shapelessness whose kind admits of pattern and form, as long as it remains outside of Reason and Idea, is ugly by that very isolation from the Divine-Thought. And this is the Absolute Ugly: an ugly thing is something that has not been entirely mastered by pattern, that is by Reason, the Matter not yielding at all points and in all respects to Ideal-Form.

But where the Ideal-Form has entered, it has grouped and co-ordinated what from a diversity of parts was to become a unity: it has rallied confusion into co-operation: it has made the sum one harmonious coherence: for the Idea is a unity and what it moulds must come to unity as far as multiplicity may.

And on what has thus been compacted to unity, Beauty enthrones itself, giving itself to the parts as to the sum: when it lights on some natural unity, a thing of like parts, then it gives itself to that whole. Thus, for an illustration, there is the beauty, conferred by craftsmanship, of all a house with all its parts, and the beauty which some natural quality may give to a single stone.

This, then, is how the material thing becomes beautiful—by communicating in the thought that flows from the Divine.


And the soul includes a faculty peculiarly addressed to Beauty—one incomparably sure in the appreciation of its own, never in doubt whenever any lovely thing presents itself for judgement.

Or perhaps the soul itself acts immediately, affirming the Beautiful Edition: current; Page: [81] where it finds something accordant with the Ideal-Form within itself, using this Idea as a canon of accuracy in its decision.

But what accordance is there between the material and that which antedates all Matter?

On what principle does the architect, when he finds the house standing before him correspondent with his inner ideal of a house, pronounce it beautiful? Is it not that the house before him, the stones apart, is the inner idea stamped upon the mass of exterior matter, the indivisible exhibited in diversity?

So with the perceptive faculty: discerning in certain objects the Ideal-Form which has bound and controlled shapeless matter, opposed in nature to Idea, seeing further stamped upon the common shapes some shape excellent above the common, it gathers into unity what still remains fragmentary, catches it up and carries it within, no longer a thing of parts, and presents it to the Ideal-Principle as something concordant and congenial, a natural friend: the joy here is like that of a good man who discerns in a youth the early signs of a virtue consonant with the achieved perfection within his own soul.

The beauty of colour is also the outcome of a unification: it derives from shape, from the conquest of the darkness inherent in Matter by the pouring-in of light, the unembodied, which is a Rational-Principle and an Ideal-Form.

Hence it is that Fire itself is splendid beyond all material bodies, holding the rank of Ideal-Principle to the other elements, making ever upwards, the subtlest and sprightliest of all bodies, as very near to the unembodied; itself alone admitting no other, all the others penetrated by it: for they take warmth but this is never cold; it has colour primally; they receive the Form of colour from it: hence the splendour of its light, the splendour that belongs to the Idea. And all that has resisted and is but uncertainly held by its light remains outside of beauty, as not having absorbed the plenitude of the Form of colour.

And harmonies unheard in sound create the harmonies we hear and wake the soul to the consciousness of beauty, showing it the one essence in another kind: for the measures of our sensible music are not Edition: current; Page: [82] arbitrary but are determined by the Principle whose labour is to dominate Matter and bring pattern into being.

Thus far of the beauties of the realm of sense, images and shadow-pictures, fugitives that have entered into Matter—to adorn, and to ravish, where they are seen.


But there are earlier and loftier beauties than these. In the sense-bound life we are no longer granted to know them, but the soul, taking no help from the organs, sees and proclaims them. To the vision of these we must mount, leaving sense to its own low place.

As it is not for those to speak of the graceful forms of the material world who have never seen them or known their grace—men born blind, let us suppose—in the same way those must be silent upon the beauty of noble conduct and of learning and all that order who have never cared for such things, nor may those tell of the splendour of virtue who have never known the face of Justice and of Moral-Wisdom beautiful beyond the beauty of Evening and of Dawn.

Such vision is for those only who see with the Soul’s sight—and at the vision, they will rejoice, and awe will fall upon them and a trouble deeper than all the rest could ever stir, for now they are moving in the realm of Truth.

This is the spirit that Beauty must ever induce, wonderment and a delicious trouble, longing and love and a trembling that is all delight. For the unseen all this may be felt as for the seen; and this the Souls feel for it, every soul in some degree, but those the more deeply that are the more truly apt to this higher love—just as all take delight in the beauty of the body but all are not stung as sharply, and those only that feel the keener wound are known as Lovers.


These Lovers, then, lovers of the beauty outside of sense, must be made to declare themselves.

What do you feel in presence of the grace you discern in actions, Edition: current; Page: [83] in manners, in sound morality, in all the works and fruits of virtue, in the beauty of souls? When you see that you yourselves are beautiful within, what do you feel? What is this Dionysiac exultation that thrills through your being, this straining upwards of all your Soul, this longing to break away from the body and live sunken within the veritable self?

These are no other than the emotions of Souls under the spell of love.

But what is it that awakens all this passion? No shape, no colour, no grandeur of mass: all is for a Soul, something whose beauty rests upon no colour, for the moral wisdom the Soul enshrines and all the other hueless splendour of the virtues. It is that you find in yourself, or admire in another, loftiness of spirit; righteousness of life; disciplined purity; courage of the majestic face; gravity; modesty that goes fearless and tranquil and passionless; and, shining down upon all, the light of god-like Intellection.

All these noble qualities are to be reverenced and loved, no doubt, but what entitles them to be called beautiful?

They exist: they manifest themselves to us: anyone that sees them must admit that they have reality of Being; and is not Real-Being, really beautiful?

But we have not yet shown by what property in them they have wrought the Soul to loveliness: what is this grace, this splendour as of Light, resting upon all the virtues?

Let us take the contrary, the ugliness of the Soul, and set that against its beauty: to understand, at once, what this ugliness is and how it comes to appear in the Soul will certainly open our way before us.

Let us then suppose an ugly Soul, dissolute, unrighteous: teeming with all the lusts; torn by internal discord; beset by the fears of its cowardice and the envies of its pettiness; thinking, in the little thought it has, only of the perishable and the base; perverse in all its impulses; the friend of unclean pleasures; living the life of abandonment to bodily sensation and delighting in its deformity.

What must we think but that all this shame is something that has gathered about the Soul, some foreign bane outraging it, soiling it, so Edition: current; Page: [84] that, encumbered with all manner of turpitude, it has no longer a clean activity or a clean sensation, but commands only a life smouldering dully under the crust of evil; that, sunk in manifold death, it no longer sees what a Soul should see, may no longer rest in its own being, dragged ever as it is towards the outer, the lower, the dark?

An unclean thing, I dare to say; flickering hither and thither at the call of objects of sense, deeply infected with the taint of body, occupied always in Matter, and absorbing Matter into itself; in its commerce with the Ignoble it has trafficked away for an alien nature its own essential Idea.

If a man has been immersed in filth or daubed with mud his native comeliness disappears and all that is seen is the foul stuff besmearing him: his ugly condition is due to alien matter that has encrusted him, and if he is to win back his grace it must be his business to scour and purify himself and make himself what he was.

So, we may justly say, a Soul becomes ugly—by something foisted upon it, by sinking itself into the alien, by a fall, a descent into body, into Matter. The dishonour of the Soul is in its ceasing to be clean and apart. Gold is degraded when it is mixed with earthy particles; if these be worked out, the gold is left and is beautiful, isolated from all that is foreign, gold with gold alone. And so the Soul; let it be but cleared of the desires that come by its too intimate converse with the body, emancipated from all the passions, purged of all that embodiment has thrust upon it, withdrawn, a solitary, to itself again—in that moment the ugliness that came only from the alien is stripped away.


For, as the ancient teaching was, moral-discipline and courage and every virtue, not even excepting Wisdom itself, all is purification.

Hence the Mysteries with good reason adumbrate the immersion of the unpurified in filth, even in the Nether-World, since the unclean loves filth for its very filthiness, and swine foul of body find their joy in foulness.

What else is Sophrosyny, rightly so-called, but to take no part in the Edition: current; Page: [85] pleasures of the body, to break away from them as unclean and unworthy of the clean? So too, Courage is but being fearless of the death which is but the parting of the Soul from the body, an event which no one can dread whose delight is to be his unmingled self. And Magnanimity is but disregard for the lure of things here. And Wisdom is but the Act of the Intellectual-Principle withdrawn from the lower places and leading the Soul to the Above.

The Soul thus cleansed is all Idea and Reason, wholly free of body, intellective, entirely of that divine order from which the wellspring of Beauty rises and all the race of Beauty.

Hence the Soul heightened to the Intellectual-Principle is beautiful to all its power. For Intellection and all that proceeds from Intellection are the Soul’s beauty, a graciousness native to it and not foreign, for only with these is it truly Soul. And it is just to say that in the Soul’s becoming a good and beautiful thing is its becoming like to God, for from the Divine comes all the Beauty and all the Good in beings.

We may even say that Beauty is the Authentic-Existents and Ugliness is the Principle contrary to Existence: and the Ugly is also the primal evil; therefore its contrary is at once good and beautiful, or is Good and Beauty: and hence the one method will discover to us the Beauty-Good and the Ugliness-Evil.

And Beauty, this Beauty which is also The Good, must be posed as The First: directly deriving from this First is the Intellectual-Principle which is pre-eminently the manifestation of Beauty; through the Intellectual-Principle Soul is beautiful. The beauty in things of a lower order—actions and pursuits for instance—comes by operation of the shaping Soul which is also the author of the beauty found in the world of sense. For the Soul, a divine thing, a fragment as it were of the Primal Beauty, makes beautiful to the fulness of their capacity all things whatsoever that it grasps and moulds.


Therefore we must ascend again towards the Good, the desired of every Soul. Anyone that has seen This, knows what I intend when I say Edition: current; Page: [86] that it is beautiful. Even the desire of it is to be desired as a Good. To attain it is for those that will take the upward path, who will set all their forces towards it, who will divest themselves of all that we have put on in our descent:—so, to those that approach the Holy Celebrations of the Mysteries, there are appointed purifications and the laying aside of the garments worn before, and the entry in nakedness—until, passing, on the upward way, all that is other than the God, each in the solitude of himself shall behold that solitary-dwelling Existence, the Apart, the Unmingled, the Pure, that from Which all things depend, for Which all look and live and act and know, the Source of Life and of Intellection and of Being.

And one that shall know this vision—with what passion of love shall he not be seized, with what pang of desire, what longing to be molten into one with This, what wondering delight! If he that has never seen this Being must hunger for It as for all his welfare, he that has known must love and reverence It as the very Beauty; he will be flooded with awe and gladness, stricken by a salutary terror; he loves with a veritable love, with sharp desire; all other loves than this he must despise, and disdain all that once seemed fair.

This, indeed, is the mood even of those who, having witnessed the manifestation of Gods or Supernals, can never again feel the old delight in the comeliness of material forms: what then are we to think of one that contemplates Absolute Beauty in Its essential integrity, no accumulation of flesh and matter, no dweller on earth or in the heavens—so perfect Its purity—far above all such things in that they are non-essential, composite, not primal but descending from This?

Beholding this Being—the Choragos of all Existence, the Self-Intent that ever gives forth and never takes—resting, rapt, in the vision and possession of so lofty a loveliness, growing to Its likeness, what Beauty can the soul yet lack? For This, the Beauty supreme, the absolute, and the primal, fashions Its lovers to Beauty and makes them also worthy of love.

And for This, the sternest and the uttermost combat is set before the Souls; all our labour is for This, lest we be left without part in this Edition: current; Page: [87] noblest vision, which to attain is to be blessed in the blissful sight, which to fail of is to fail utterly.

For not he that has failed of the joy that is in colour or in visible forms, not he that has failed of power or of honours or of kingdom has failed, but only he that has failed of only This, for Whose winning he should renounce kingdoms and command over earth and ocean and sky, if only, spurning the world of sense from beneath his feet, and straining to This, he may see.


But what must we do? How lies the path? How come to vision of the inaccessible Beauty, dwelling as if in consecrated precincts, apart from the common ways where all may see, even the profane?

He that has the strength, let him arise and withdraw into himself, foregoing all that is known by the eyes, turning away for ever from the material beauty that once made his joy. When he perceives those shapes of grace that show in body, let him not pursue: he must know them for copies, vestiges, shadows, and hasten away towards That they tell of. For if anyone follow what is like a beautiful shape playing over water—is there not a myth telling in symbol of such a dupe, how he sank into the depths of the current and was swept away to nothingness? So too, one that is held by material beauty and will not break free shall be precipitated, not in body but in Soul, down to the dark depths loathed of the Intellective-Being, where, blind even in the Lower-World, he shall have commerce only with shadows, there as here.

“Let us flee then to the beloved Fatherland”: this is the soundest counsel. But what is this flight? How are we to gain the open sea? For Odysseus is surely a parable to us when he commands the flight from the sorceries of Circe or Calypso—not content to linger for all the pleasure offered to his eyes and all the delight of sense filling his days.

The Fatherland to us is There whence we have come, and There is The Father.

What then is our course, what the manner of our flight? This is not a journey for the feet; the feet bring us only from land to land; nor Edition: current; Page: [88] need you think of coach or ship to carry you away; all this order of things you must set aside and refuse to see: you must close the eyes and call instead upon another vision which is to be waked within you, a vision, the birth-right of all, which few turn to use.


And this inner vision, what is its operation?

Newly awakened it is all too feeble to bear the ultimate splendour. Therefore the Soul must be trained—to the habit of remarking, first, all noble pursuits, then the works of beauty produced not by the labour of the arts but by the virtue of men known for their goodness: lastly, you must search the souls of those that have shaped these beautiful forms.

But how are you to see into a virtuous soul and know its loveliness?

Withdraw into yourself and look. And if you do not find yourself beautiful yet, act as does the creator of a statue that is to be made beautiful: he cuts away here, he smoothes there, he makes this line lighter, this other purer, until a lovely face has grown upon his work. So do you also: cut away all that is excessive, straighten all that is crooked, bring light to all that is overcast, labour to make all one glow of beauty and never cease chiselling your statue, until there shall shine out on you from it the godlike splendour of virtue, until you shall see the perfect goodness surely established in the stainless shrine.

When you know that you have become this perfect work, when you are self-gathered in the purity of your being, nothing now remaining that can shatter that inner unity, nothing from without clinging to the authentic man, when you find yourself wholly true to your essential nature, wholly that only veritable Light which is not measured by space, not narrowed to any circumscribed form nor again diffused as a thing void of term, but ever unmeasurable as something greater than all measure and more than all quantity—when you perceive that you have grown to this, you are now become very vision: now call up all your confidence, strike forward yet a step—you need a guide no longer—strain, and see.

This is the only eye that sees the mighty Beauty. If the eye that Edition: current; Page: [89] adventures the vision be dimmed by vice, impure, or weak, and unable in its cowardly blenching to see the uttermost brightness, then it sees nothing even though another point to what lies plain to sight before it. To any vision must be brought an eye adapted to what is to be seen, and having some likeness to it. Never did eye see the sun unless it had first become sunlike, and never can the soul have vision of the First Beauty unless itself be beautiful.

Therefore, first let each become godlike and each beautiful who cares to see God and Beauty. So, mounting, the Soul will come first to the Intellectual-Principle and survey all the beautiful Ideas in the Supreme and will avow that this is Beauty, that the Ideas are Beauty. For by their efficacy comes all Beauty else, by the offspring and essence of the Intellectual-Being. What is beyond the Intellectual-Principle we affirm to be the nature of Good radiating Beauty before it. So that, treating the Intellectual-Kosmos as one, the first is the Beautiful: if we make distinction there, the Realm of Ideas constitutes the Beauty of the Intellectual Sphere; and The Good, which lies beyond, is the Fountain at once and Principle of Beauty: the Primal Good and the Primal Beauty have the one dwelling-place and, thus, always, Beauty’s seat is There.

On the Primal Good and Secondary Forms of Good (Otherwise, On Happiness)


We can scarcely conceive that for any entity the Good can be other than the natural Act expressing its life-force, or in the case of an entity made up of parts the Act, appropriate, natural and complete, expressive of that in it which is best.

For the Soul, then, the Good is its own natural Act.

But the Soul itself is natively a “Best”; if, further, its Act be directed towards the Best, the achievement is not merely the “Soul’s good” but “The Good” without qualification.

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Now, given an Existent which—as being itself the best of existences and even transcending the existences—directs its Act towards no other, but is the object to which the Act of all else is directed, it is clear that this must be at once the Good and the means through which all else may participate in Good.

This Absolute Good other entities may possess in two ways—by becoming like to It and by directing the Act of their being towards It.

Now, if all aspiration and Act whatsoever are directed towards the Good, it follows that the Essential-Good neither need nor can look outside itself or aspire to anything other than itself: it can but remain unmoved, as being, in the constitution of things, the wellspring and first-cause of all Act: whatsoever in other entities is of the nature of Good cannot be due to any Act of the Essential-Good upon them; it is for them on the contrary to act towards their source and cause. The Good must, then, be the Good not by any Act, not even by virtue of its Intellection, but by its very rest within Itself.

Existing beyond and above Being, it must be beyond and above the Intellectual-Principle and all Intellection.

For, again, that only can be named the Good to which all is bound and itself to none: for only thus is it veritably the object of all aspiration. It must be unmoved, while all circles around it, as a circumference around a centre from which all the radii proceed. Another example would be the sun, central to the light which streams from it and is yet linked to it, or at least is always about it, irremoveably; try all you will to separate the light from the sun, or the sun from its light, for ever the light is in the sun.


But the Universe outside; how is it aligned towards the Good?

The soul-less by direction toward Soul: Soul towards the Good itself, through the Intellectual-Principle.

Everything has something of the Good, by virtue of possessing a certain degree of unity and a certain degree of Existence and by participation in Ideal-Form: to the extent of the Unity, Being, and Form which are present, there is a sharing in an image, for the Unity and Edition: current; Page: [91] Existence in which there is participation are no more than images of the Ideal-Form.

With Soul it is different; the First-Soul, that which follows upon the Intellectual-Principle, possesses a life nearer to the Verity and through that Principle is of the nature of good; it will actually possess the Good if it orientate itself towards the Intellectual-Principle since this follows immediately upon the Good.

In sum, then, life is the Good to the living, and the Intellectual-Principle to what is intellective; so that where there is life with intellection there is a double contact with the Good.


But if life is a good, is there good for all that lives?

No: in the vile, life limps: it is like the eye to the dim-sighted; it fails of its task.

But if the mingled strand of life is to us, though entwined with evil, still in the total a good, must not death be an evil?

Evil to What? There must be a subject for the evil: but if the possible subject is no longer among beings, or, still among beings, is devoid of life . . . why, a stone is not more immune.

If, on the contrary, after death life and soul continue, then death will be no evil but a good; Soul, disembodied, is the freer to ply its own Act.

If it be taken into the All-Soul—what evil can reach it There? And as the Gods are—possessed of Good and untouched by evil—so, certainly is the Soul that has preserved its essential character. And if it should lose its purity, the evil it experiences is not in its death but in its life. Suppose it to be under punishment in the lower world, even there the evil thing is its life and not its death; the misfortune is still life, a life of a definite character.

Life is a partnership of a Soul and body; death is the dissolution; in either life or death, then, the Soul will feel itself at home.

But, again, if life is good, how can death be anything but evil?

Remember that the good of life, where it has any good at all, Edition: current; Page: [92] is not due to anything in the partnership but to the repelling of evil by virtue; death, then, must be the greater good.

In a word, life in the body is of itself an evil but the Soul enters its Good through Virtue, not living the life of the Couplement but holding itself apart, even here.

On the Nature and Source of Evil


Those enquiring whence Evil enters into beings, or rather into a certain order of beings, would be making the best beginning if they established, first of all, what precisely Evil is, what constitutes its Nature. At once we should know whence it comes, where it has its native seat and where it is present merely as an accident; and there would be no further question as to whether it has Authentic-Existence.

But a difficulty arises. By what faculty in us could we possibly know Evil?

All knowing comes by likeness. The Intellectual-Principle and the Soul, being Ideal-Forms, would know Ideal-Forms and would have a natural tendency towards them; but who could imagine Evil to be an Ideal-Form, seeing that it manifests itself as the very absence of Good?

If the solution is that the one act of knowing covers contraries, and that as Evil is the contrary to Good the one act would grasp Good and Evil together, then to know Evil there must be first a clear perception and understanding of Good, since the nobler existences precede the baser and are Ideal-Forms while the less good hold no such standing, are nearer to Non-Being.

No doubt there is a question in what precise way Good is contrary to Evil—whether it is as First-Principle to last of things or as Ideal-Form to utter Lack (to Non-entity): but this subject we postpone.

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For the moment let us define the Nature of the Good as far as the immediate purpose demands.

The Good is that on which all else depends, towards which all Existences aspire as to their source and their need, while Itself is without need, sufficient to Itself, aspiring to no other, the measure and Term of all, giving out from itself the Intellectual-Principle and Existence and Soul and Life and all Intellective-Act.

All until The Good is reached is beautiful; The Good is beyond-beautiful, beyond the Highest, holding kingly state in the Intellectual-Kosmos, that sphere constituted by a Principle wholly unlike what is known as Intelligence in us. Our intelligence is nourished on the propositions of logic, is skilled in following discussions, works by reasonings, examines links of demonstration, and comes to know the world of Being also by the steps of logical process, having no prior grasp of Reality but remaining empty, all Intelligence though it be, until it has put itself to school.

The Intellectual-Principle we are discussing is not of such a kind: It possesses all: It is all: It is present to all by Its self-presence: It has all by other means than having, for what It possesses is still Itself, nor does any particular of all within It stand apart; for every such particular is the whole and in all respects all, while yet not confused in the mass but still distinct, apart to the extent that any participant in the Intellectual-Principle participates not in the entire as one thing but in whatsoever lies within its own reach.

And the First Act is the Act of The Good stationary within Itself, and the First Existence is the self-contained Existence of The Good; but there is also an Act upon It, that of the Intellectual-Principle which, as it were, lives about It.

And the Soul, outside, circles around the Intellectual-Principle, and by gazing upon it, seeing into the depths of It, through It sees God.

Such is the untroubled, the blissful, life of divine beings, and Evil has no place in it; if this were all, there would be no Evil but Good only, the first, the second and the third Good. All, thus far, is with the King Edition: current; Page: [94] of All, unfailing Cause of Good and Beauty and controller of all; and what is Good in the second degree depends upon the Second-Principle and tertiary Good upon the Third.


If such be the Nature of Beings and of That which transcends all the realm of Being, Evil cannot have place among Beings or in the Beyond-Being; these are good.

There remains, only, if Evil exist at all, that it be situate in the realm of Non-Being, that it be some mode, as it were, of the Non-Being, that it have its seat in something in touch with Non-Being or to a certain degree communicate in Non-Being.

By this Non-Being, of course, we are not to understand something that simply does not exist, but only something of an utterly different order from Authentic-Being: there is no question here of movement or position with regard to Being; the Non-Being we are thinking of is, rather, an image of Being or perhaps something still further removed than even an image.

Now this (the required faint image of Being) might be the sensible universe with all the impressions it engenders, or it might be something of even later derivation, accidental to the realm of sense, or again, it might be the source of the sense-world or something of the same order entering into it to complete it.

Some conception of it would be reached by thinking of measurelessness as opposed to measure, of the unbounded against bound, the unshaped against a principle of shape, the ever-needy against the self-sufficing: think of the ever-undefined, the never at rest, the all-accepting but never sated, utter dearth; and make all this character not mere accident in it but its equivalent for essential-being, so that, whatsoever fragment of it be taken, that part is all lawless void, while whatever participates in it and resembles it becomes evil, though not of course to the point of being, as itself is, Evil-Absolute.

In what substantial-form (hypostasis) then is all this to be found—not as accident but as the very substance itself?

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For if Evil can enter into other things, it must have in a certain sense a prior existence, even though it may not be an essence. As there is Good, the Absolute, as well as Good, the quality, so, together with the derived evil entering into something not itself, there must be the Absolute Evil.

But how? Can there be Unmeasure apart from an unmeasured object?

Does not Measure exist apart from unmeasured things? Precisely as there is Measure apart from anything measured, so there is Unmeasure apart from the unmeasured. If Unmeasure could not exist independently, it must exist either in an unmeasured object or in something measured; but the unmeasured could not need Unmeasure and the measured could not contain it.

There must, then, be some Undetermination-Absolute, some Absolute Formlessness; all the qualities cited as characterising the Nature of Evil must be summed under an Absolute Evil; and every evil thing outside of this must either contain this Absolute by saturation or have taken the character of evil and become a cause of evil by consecration to this Absolute.

What will this be?

That Kind whose place is below all the patterns, forms, shapes, measurements and limits, that which has no trace of good by any title of its own, but (at best) takes order and grace from some Principle outside itself, a mere image as regards Absolute-Being but the Authentic Essence of Evil—in so far as Evil can have Authentic Being. In such a Kind Reason recognises the Primal Evil, Evil Absolute.


The bodily Kind, in that it partakes of Matter is an evil thing. What form is in bodies is an untrue form: they are without life: by their own natural disorderly movement they make away with each other; they are hindrances to the soul in its proper Act; in their ceaseless flux they are always slipping away from Being.

Soul, on the contrary, since not every Soul is evil, is not an evil Kind.

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What, then, is the evil Soul?

It is, we read, the Soul that has entered into the service of that in which soul-evil is implanted by nature, in whose service the unreasoning phase of the Soul accepts evil—unmeasure, excess and shortcoming, which bring forth licentiousness, cowardice and all other flaws of the Soul, all the states, foreign to the true nature, which set up false judgements, so that the Soul comes to name things good or evil not by their true value but by the mere test of like and dislike.

But what is the root of this evil state? how can it be brought under the causing principle indicated?

Firstly, such a Soul is not apart from Matter, is not purely itself. That is to say, it is touched with Unmeasure, it is shut out from the Forming-Idea that orders and brings to measure, and this because it is merged into a body made of Matter.

Then if the Reasoning-Faculty too has taken hurt, the Soul’s seeing is baulked by the passions and by the darkening that Matter brings to it, by its decline into Matter, by its very attention no longer to Essence but to Process—whose principle or source is, again, Matter, the Kind so evil as to saturate with its own pravity even that which is not in it but merely looks towards it.

For, wholly without part in Good, the negation of Good, unmingled Lack, this Matter-Kind makes over to its own likeness whatsoever comes in touch with it.

The Soul wrought to perfection, addressed towards the Intellectual-Principle is steadfastly pure: it has turned away from Matter; all that is undetermined, that is outside of measure, that is evil, it neither sees nor draws near; it endures in its purity, only, and wholly, determined by the Intellectual-Principle.

The Soul that breaks away from this source of its reality to the non-perfect and non-primal is, as it were, a secondary, an image, to the loyal Soul. By its falling-away—and to the extent of the fall—it is stripped of Determination, becomes wholly indeterminate, sees darkness. Looking to what repels vision, as we look when we are said to see darkness, it has taken Matter into itself.

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But, it will be objected, if this seeing and frequenting of the darkness is due to the lack of good, the Soul’s evil has its source in that very lack; the darkness will be merely a secondary cause—and at once the Principle of Evil is removed from Matter, is made anterior to Matter.

No: Evil is not in any and every lack; it is in absolute lack. What falls in some degree short of the Good is not Evil; considered in its own kind it might even be perfect, but where there is utter dearth, there we have Essential Evil, void of all share in Good; this is the case with Matter.

Matter has not even existence whereby to have some part in Good: Being is attributed to it by an accident of words: the truth would be that it has Non-Being.

Mere lack brings merely Not-Goodness: Evil demands the absolute lack—though, of course, any very considerable shortcoming makes the ultimate fall possible and is already, in itself, an evil.

In fine we are not to think of Evil as some particular bad thing—injustice, for example, or any other ugly trait—but as a principle distinct from any of the particular forms in which, by the addition of certain elements, it becomes manifest. Thus there may be wickedness in the Soul; the forms this general wickedness is to take will be determined by the environing Matter, by the faculties of the Soul that operate and by the nature of their operation, whether seeing, acting, or merely admitting impression.

But supposing things external to the Soul are to be counted Evil—sickness, poverty and so forth—how can they be referred to the principle we have described?

Well, sickness is excess or defect in the body, which as a material organism rebels against order and measure; ugliness is but matter not mastered by Ideal-Form; poverty consists in our need and lack of goods made necessary to us by our association with Matter whose very nature is to be one long want.

If all this be true, we cannot be, ourselves, the source of Evil, we are not evil in ourselves; Evil was before we came to be; the Evil which Edition: current; Page: [98] holds men down binds them against their will; and for those that have the strength—not found in all men, it is true—there is a deliverance from the evils that have found lodgement in the soul.

In a word since Matter belongs only to the sensible world, vice in men is not the Absolute Evil; not all men are vicious; some overcome vice, some, the better sort, are never attacked by it; and those who master it win by means of that in them which is not material.


If this be so, how do we explain the teaching that evils can never pass away but “exist of necessity,” that “while evil has no place in the divine order, it haunts mortal nature and this place for ever”?

Does this mean that heaven is clear of evil, ever moving its orderly way, spinning on the appointed path, no injustice There or any flaw, no wrong done by any power to any other but all true to the settled plan, while injustice and disorder prevail on earth, designated as “the Mortal Kind and this Place”?

Not quite so: for the precept to “flee hence” does not refer to earth and earthly life. The flight we read of consists not in quitting earth but in living our earth-life “with justice and piety in the light of philosophy”; it is vice we are to flee, so that clearly to the writer Evil is simply vice with the sequels of vice. And when the disputant in that dialogue says that, if men could be convinced of the doctrine advanced, there would be an end of Evil, he is answered, “That can never be: Evil is of necessity, for there must be a contrary to good.”

Still we may reasonably ask how can vice in man be a contrary to The Good in the Supernal: for vice is the contrary to virtue and virtue is not The Good but merely the good thing by which Matter is brought to order.

How can there be any contrary to the Absolute Good, when the absolute has no quality?

Besides, is there any universal necessity that the existence of one of two contraries should entail the existence of the other? Admit that the existence of one is often accompanied by the existence of the other—sickness Edition: current; Page: [99] and health, for example—yet there is no universal compulsion.

Perhaps, however, our author did not mean that this was universally true; he is speaking only of The Good.

But then, if The Good is an essence, and still more, if It is that which transcends all existence, how can It have any contrary?

That there is nothing contrary to essence is certain in the case of particular existences—established by practical proof—but not in the quite different case of the Universal.

But of what nature would this contrary be, the contrary to universal existence and in general to the Primals?

To essential existence would be opposed the non-existence; to the nature of Good, some principle and source of evil. Both these will be sources, the one of what is good, the other of what is evil; and all within the domain of the one principle is opposed, as contrary, to the entire domain of the other, and this in a contrariety more violent than any existing between secondary things.

For these last are opposed as members of one species or of one genus, and, within that common ground, they participate in some common quality.

In the case of the Primals or Universals there is such complete separation that what is the exact negation of one group constitutes the very nature of the other; we have diametric contrariety if by contrariety we mean the extreme of remoteness.

Now to the content of the divine order, the fixed quality, the measuredness and so forth—there is opposed the content of the evil principle, its unfixedness, measurelessness and so forth: total is opposed to total. The existence of the one genus is a falsity, primarily, essentially, a falseness: the other genus has Essence-Authentic: the opposition is of truth to lie; essence is opposed to essence.

Thus we see that it is not universally true that an Essence can have no contrary.

In the case of fire and water we would admit contrariety if it were not for their common element, the Matter, about which are gathered the Edition: current; Page: [100] warmth and dryness of one and the dampness and cold of the other: if there were only present what constitutes their distinct kinds, the common ground being absent, there would be, here also, essence contrary to essence.

In sum, things utterly sundered, having nothing in common, standing at the remotest poles, are opposites in nature: the contrariety does not depend upon quality or upon the existence of a distinct genus of beings, but upon the utmost difference, clash in content, clash in effect.


But why does the existence of the Principle of Good necessarily comport the existence of a Principle of Evil? Is it because the All necessarily comports the existence of Matter? Yes: for necessarily this All is made up of contraries: it could not exist if Matter did not. The Nature of this Kosmos is, therefore, a blend; it is blended from the Intellectual-Principle and Necessity: what comes into it from God is good; evil is from the Ancient Kind which, we read, is the underlying Matter not yet brought to order by the Ideal-Form.

But, since the expression “this place” must be taken to mean the All, how explain the words “mortal nature”?

The answer is in the passage (in which the Father of Gods addresses the Divinities of the lower sphere), “Since you possess only a derivative being, you are not immortals . . . but by my power you shall escape dissolution.”

The escape, we read, is not a matter of place, but of acquiring virtue, of disengaging the self from the body; this is the escape from Matter. Plato explains somewhere how a man frees himself and how he remains bound; and the phrase “to live among the gods” means to live among the Intelligible-Existents, for these are the Immortals.

There is another consideration establishing the necessary existence of Evil.

Given that The Good is not the only existent thing, it is inevitable that, by the outgoing from it or, if the phrase be preferred, the continuous Edition: current; Page: [101] down-going or away-going from it, there should be produced a Last, something after which nothing more can be produced: this will be Evil.

As necessarily as there is Something after the First, so necessarily there is a Last: this Last is Matter, the thing which has no residue of good in it: here is the necessity of Evil.


But there will still be some to deny that it is through this Matter that we ourselves become evil.

They will say that neither ignorance nor wicked desires arise in Matter. Even if they admit that the unhappy condition within us is due to the pravity inherent in body, they will urge that still the blame lies not in the Matter itself but with the Form present in it—such Form as heat, cold, bitterness, saltness and all other conditions perceptible to sense, or again such states as being full or void—not in the concrete signification but in the presence or absence of just such forms. In a word, they will argue, all particularity in desires and even in perverted judgements upon things, can be referred to such causes, so that Evil lies in this Form much more than in the mere Matter.

Yet, even with all this, they can be compelled to admit that Matter is the Evil.

For, the quality (form) that has entered into Matter does not act as an entity apart from the Matter, any more than axe-shape will cut apart from iron. Further, Forms lodged in Matter are not the same as they would be if they remained within themselves; they are Reason-Principles Materialised, they are corrupted in the Matter, they have absorbed its nature: essential fire does not burn, nor do any of the essential entities effect, of themselves alone, the operation which, once they have entered into Matter, is traced to their action.

Matter becomes mistress of what is manifested through it: it corrupts and destroys the incomer, it substitutes its own opposite character and kind, not in the sense of opposing, for example, concrete cold to concrete warmth, but by setting its own formlessness against the Edition: current; Page: [102] Form of heat, shapelessness to shape, excess and defect to the duly ordered. Thus, in sum, what enters into Matter ceases to belong to itself, comes to belong to Matter, just as, in the nourishment of living beings, what is taken in does not remain as it came, but is turned into, say, dog’s blood and all that goes to make a dog, becomes, in fact, any of the humours of any recipient.

No, if body is the cause of Evil, then there is no escape; the cause of Evil is Matter.

Still, it will be urged, the incoming Idea should have been able to conquer the Matter.

The difficulty is that Matter’s master cannot remain pure itself except by avoidance of Matter.

Besides, the constitution determines both the desires and their violence so that there are bodies in which the incoming idea cannot hold sway: there is a vicious constitution which chills and clogs the activity and inhibits choice; a contrary bodily habit produces frivolity, lack of balance. The same fact is indicated by our successive variations of mood: in times of stress, we are not the same—either in desires or in ideas—as when we are at peace, and we differ again with every several object that brings us satisfaction.

To resume: the Measureless is evil primarily; whatever, either by resemblance or participation, exists in the state of unmeasure, is evil secondarily, by force of its dealing with the Primal—primarily, the darkness; secondarily, the darkened. Now, Vice, being an ignorance and a lack of measure in the Soul, is secondarily evil, not the Essential Evil, just as Virtue is not the Primal Good but is Likeness to The Good, or participation in it.


But what approach have we to the knowing of Good and Evil?

And first of the Evil of soul: Virtue, we may know by the Intellectual-Principle and by means of the philosophic habit; but Vice?

As a ruler marks off straight from crooked, so Vice is known by its divergence from the line of Virtue.

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But are we able to affirm Vice by any vision we can have of it, or is there some other way of knowing it?

Utter viciousness, certainly not by any vision, for it is utterly outside of bound and measure; this thing which is nowhere can be seized only by abstraction; but any degree of evil falling short of The Absolute is knowable by the extent of that falling short.

We see partial wrong; from what is before us we divine that which is lacking to the entire form (or Kind) thus indicated; we see that the completed Kind would be the Indeterminate; by this process we are able to identify and affirm Evil. In the same way when we observe what we feel to be an ugly appearance in Matter—left there because the Reason-Principle has not become so completely the master as to cover over the unseemliness—we recognise Ugliness by the falling-short from Ideal-Form.

But how can we identify what has never had any touch of Form?

We utterly eliminate every kind of Form; and the object in which there is none whatever we call Matter: if we are to see Matter we must so completely abolish Form that we take shapelessness into our very selves.

In fact it is another Intellectual-Principle, not the true, this which ventures a vision so uncongenial.

To see darkness the eye withdraws from the light; it is striving to cease from seeing, therefore it abandons the light which would make the darkness invisible; away from the light its power is rather that of not-seeing than of seeing and this not-seeing is its nearest approach to seeing Darkness. So the Intellectual-Principle, in order to see its contrary (Matter), must leave its own light locked up within itself, and as it were go forth from itself into an outside realm, it must ignore its native brightness, and submit itself to the very contradiction of its being.


But if Matter is devoid of quality how can it be evil?

It is described as being devoid of quality in the sense only that it does not essentially possess any of the qualities which it admits and Edition: current; Page: [104] which enter into it as into a substratum. No one says that it has no nature; and if it has any nature at all, why may not that nature be evil though not in the sense of quality?

Quality qualifies something not itself: it is therefore an accidental; it resides in some other object. Matter does not exist in some other object but is the substratum in which the accidental resides. Matter, then, is said to be devoid of Quality in that it does not in itself possess this thing which is by nature an accidental. If, moreover, Quality itself be devoid of Quality, how can Matter, which is the unqualified, be said to have it?

Thus, it is quite correct to say at once that Matter is without Quality and that it is evil: it is Evil not in the sense of having Quality but, precisely, in not having it; give it Quality and in its very Evil it would almost be a Form, whereas in Truth it is a Kind contrary to Form.

“But,” it may be said, “the Kind opposed to all Form is Privation or Negation, and this necessarily refers to something other than itself, it is no Substantial-Existence: therefore if Evil is Privation or Negation it must be lodged in some Negation of Form: there will be no Self-Existent Evil.”

This objection may be answered by applying the principle to the case of Evil in the Soul; the Evil, the Vice, will be a Negation and not anything having a separate existence; we come to the doctrine which denies Matter or, admitting it, denies its Evil; we need not seek elsewhere; we may at once place Evil in the Soul, recognising it as the mere absence of Good. But if the negation is the negation of something that ought to become present, if it is a denial of the Good by the Soul, then the Soul produces vice within itself by the operation of its own Nature, and is devoid of good and, therefore, Soul though it be, devoid of life: the Soul, if it has no life, is soulless; the Soul is no Soul.

No; the Soul has life by its own nature and therefore does not, of its own nature, contain this negation of The Good: it has much good in it; it carries a happy trace of the Intellectual-Principle and is not essentially evil: neither is it primally evil nor is that Primal Evil present in it even as an accidental, for the Soul is not wholly apart from the Good.

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Perhaps Vice and Evil as in the Soul should be described not as an entire, but as a partial, negation of good.

But if this were so, part of the Soul must possess The Good, part be without it; the Soul will have a mingled nature and the Evil within it will not be unblended: we have not yet lighted on the Primal, Unmingled Evil. The Soul would possess the Good as its Essence, the Evil as an Accidental.

Perhaps Evil is merely an impediment to the Soul like something affecting the eye and so hindering sight.

But such an evil in the eyes is no more than an occasion of evil, the Absolute Evil is something quite different. If then Vice is an impediment to the Soul, Vice is an occasion of evil but not Evil-Absolute. Virtue is not the Absolute Good, but a co-operator with it; and if Virtue is not the Absolute Good neither is Vice the Absolute Evil. Virtue is not the Absolute Beauty or the Absolute Good; neither, therefore, is Vice the Essential Ugliness or the Essential Evil.

We teach that Virtue is not the Absolute Good and Beauty, because we know that These are earlier than Virtue and transcend it, and that it is good and beautiful by some participation in them. Now as, going upward from virtue, we come to the Beautiful and to the Good, so, going downward from Vice, we reach Essential Evil: from Vice as the starting-point we come to vision of Evil, as far as such vision is possible, and we become evil to the extent of our participation in it. We are become dwellers in the Place of Unlikeness, where, fallen from all our resemblance to the Divine, we lie in gloom and mud: for if the Soul abandons itself unreservedly to the extreme of viciousness, it is no longer a vicious Soul merely, for mere vice is still human, still carries some trace of good: it has taken to itself another nature, the Evil, and as far as Soul can die it is dead. And the death of Soul is twofold: while still sunk in body to lie down in Matter and drench itself with it; when it has left the body, to lie in the other world until, somehow, it stirs again and lifts its sight from the mud: and this is our “going down to Hades and slumbering there.”

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It may be suggested that Vice is feebleness in the Soul.

We shall be reminded that the Vicious Soul is unstable, swept along from every ill to every other, quickly stirred by appetites, headlong to anger, as hasty to compromises, yielding at once to obscure imaginations, as weak, in fact, as the weakest thing made by man or nature, blown about by every breeze, burned away by every heat.

Still the question must be faced what constitutes this weakness in the Soul, whence it comes.

For weakness in the body is not like that in the Soul: the word weakness, which covers the incapacity for work and the lack of resistance in the body, is applied to the Soul merely by analogy—unless, indeed, in the one case as in the other, the cause of the weakness is Matter.

But we must go more thoroughly into the source of this weakness, as we call it, in the Soul, which is certainly not made weak as the result of any density or rarity, or by any thickening or thinning or anything like a disease, like a fever.

Now this weakness must be seated either in Souls utterly disengaged or in Souls bound to Matter or in both.

It cannot exist in those apart from Matter, for all these are pure and, as we read, winged and perfect and unimpeded in their task: there remains only that the weakness be in the fallen Souls, neither cleansed nor clean; and in them the weakness will be, not in any privation but in some hostile presence, like that of phlegm or bile in the organs of the body.

If we form an acute and accurate notion of the cause of the fall we shall understand the weakness that comes by it.

Matter exists; Soul exists; and they occupy, so to speak, one place. There is not one place for Matter and another for Soul,—Matter, for instance, kept to earth, Soul in the air: the soul’s “separate place” is simply its not being in Matter; that is, its not being united with it; that is that there be no compound unit consisting of Soul and Matter; that is that Soul be not moulded in Matter as in a matrix; this is the Soul’s apartness.

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But the faculties of the Soul are many, and it has its beginning, its intermediate phases, its final fringe. Matter appears, importunes, raises disorders, seeks to force its way within; but all the ground is holy, nothing there without part in Soul. Matter therefore submits, and takes light: but the source of its illumination it cannot attain to, for the Soul cannot lift up this foreign thing close by, since the evil of it makes it invisible. On the contrary the illumination, the light streaming from the Soul, is dulled, is weakened, as it mixes with Matter which offers Birth to the Soul, providing the means by which it enters into generation, impossible to it if no recipient were at hand.

This is the fall of the Soul, this entry into Matter: thence its weakness: not all the faculties of its being retain free play, for Matter hinders their manifestation; it encroaches upon the Soul’s territory and, as it were, crushes the Soul back; and it turns to evil all that it has stolen, until the Soul finds strength to advance again.

Thus the cause, at once, of the weakness of Soul and of all its evil is Matter.

The evil of Matter precedes the weakness, the vice; it is Primal Evil. Even though the Soul itself submits to Matter and engenders to it; if it becomes evil within itself by its commerce with Matter, the cause is still the presence of Matter: the Soul would never have approached Matter but that the presence of Matter is the occasion of its earth-life.


If the existence of Matter be denied, the necessity of this Principle must be demonstrated from the treatises “On Matter” where the question is copiously treated.

To deny Evil a place among realities is necessarily to do away with the Good as well, and even to deny the existence of anything desirable; it is to deny desire, avoidance and all intellectual act; for desire has Good for its object, aversion looks to Evil, all intellectual act, all Wisdom, deals with Good and Bad, and is itself one of the things that are good.

There must then be The Good—good unmixed—and the Mingled Good and Bad, and the Rather Bad than Good, this last ending with the Edition: current; Page: [108] Utterly Bad we have been seeking, just as that in which Evil constitutes the lesser part tends, by that lessening, towards the Good.

What, then, must Evil be to the Soul?

What Soul could contain Evil unless by contact with the lower Kind? There could be no desire, no sorrow, no rage, no fear: fear touches the compounded dreading its dissolution; pain and sorrow are the accompaniments of the dissolution; desires spring from something troubling the grouped being or are a provision against trouble threatened; all impression is the stroke of something unreasonable outside the Soul, accepted only because the Soul is not devoid of parts or phases; the Soul takes up false notions through having gone outside of its own truth by ceasing to be purely itself.

One desire or appetite there is which does not fall under this condemnation; it is the aspiration towards the Intellectual-Principle: this demands only that the Soul dwell alone enshrined within that place of its choice, never lapsing towards the lower.

Evil is not alone: by virtue of the nature of Good, the power of Good, it is not Evil only: it appears, necessarily, bound around with bonds of Beauty, like some captive bound in fetters of gold; and beneath these it is hidden so that, while it must exist, it may not be seen by the gods, and that men need not always have evil before their eyes, but that when it comes before them they may still be not destitute of Images of the Good and Beautiful for their Remembrance.

The Reasoned Dismissal

“You will not dismiss your Soul lest it go forth . . .” (taking something with it).

For wheresoever it go, it will be in some definite condition, and its going forth is to some new place. The Soul will wait for the body to be completely severed from it; then it makes no departure; it simply finds itself free.

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But how does the body come to be separated?

The separation takes place when nothing of Soul remains bound up with it: the harmony within the body, by virtue of which the Soul was retained, is broken and it can no longer hold its guest.

But when a man contrives the dissolution of the body, it is he that has used violence and torn himself away, not the body that has let the Soul slip from it. And in loosing the bond he has not been without passion; there has been revolt or grief or anger, movements which it is unlawful to indulge.

But if a man feel himself to be losing his reason?

That is not likely in the Sage, but if it should occur, it must be classed with the inevitable, to be welcome at the bidding of the fact though not for its own sake. To call upon drugs to the release of the Soul seems a strange way of assisting its purposes.

And if there be a period allotted to all by fate, to anticipate the hour could not be a happy act, unless, as we have indicated, under stern necessity.

If everyone is to hold in the other world a standing determined by the state in which he quitted this, there must be no withdrawal as long as there is any hope of progress.

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The text on which this translation has been made is that of Richard Volkmann (Teubner, Leipzig, 1883): occasionally a reading has been adopted from the text variations or spacious commentary given in the three-volume edition of Frederick Creuzer, Oxford, 1835: very rarely the translator has been driven to venture an emendation of his own.


The present translation has been scrupulously compared, clause by clause, over and over again, with those undermentioned:—

The Latin of Ficino (in Creuzer’s edition).

The French of M. N. Bouillet (three vols., Paris, 1875, etc.).

A complete version; often inaccurate, often only vaguely conveying the meaning; furnished with the most copious and fascinating notes and commentary. To the elucidation of Plotinus’ general themes Bouillet brings illustrations from the entire range of religious and mystical thought, beginning with the earliest thinkers, minutely comparing Plato, borrowing from the Fathers of the Church, from works of the Eastern mysticism, from the Rabbalah, from the mediæval theologians, from Malebranche, Spinoza, Leibnitz, Bossuet, Thomassin, etc. He also uses Macrobius very effectively. As Bouillet’s monumental work is long out of print and very rare, it would be a service to Plotinian studies to translate his notes and commentary entire, the Greek and Latin equally with the French. If this were done, with of course a summary of the passages of Plotinus under illustration, the book would have a great value of its own as a conspectus of the mystic thought that has entered into Christianity from outside or been evolved by Christianity from its own depths.

The German of Hermann Friedrich Mueller (2 vols., Berlin: Weidmann, 1878-80).

This valuable translation is described by its author as “literal, but scarcely palatable unless taken in conjunction with the Greek text”: both statements are true: in parts the version is, even, meaningless without a close study of the original.

The German of Otto Kiefer (2 vols., Diederichs: Jena and Leipzig, 1905).

This is a book of selections, very extensive, purporting, indeed, to omit only what is judged to be out of date, futile or incomprehensible in the original: it is substantially a Edition: current; Page: [114] Mueller made very much more readable with often improvement in sense and sometimes, it is to be feared, a deterioration.

[The translator upon reading some of the treatises translated into English by Thomas Taylor decided, for reasons mainly literary, that the work of this devoted pioneer would not be helpful in the present undertaking: it has, therefore, not been used in any part of this work except possibly by indirect suggestion from the quotations made occasionally in the commentaries of Bouillet and Creuzer.]


Inevitably the present translator has sometimes differed from all his predecessors, as they have sometimes differed each from all the others: he hopes it will not be thought an insolence in him to remark that his rendering of any given passage is not to be tested finally by the authority of any of these scholars, still less by any preconceived idea of Plotinus’ meaning or by any hasty memory of controversy and decisions as to the peculiar uses of words in Plato or Aristotle. The text of the Enneads may be taken to be very fairly well-established, but it would be absurd to suppose that as yet Plotinus, so little cautious or consistent in verbal expression, yields his precise meaning, or full content, as Plato, for example, may be supposed now to do after the scholarly scrutiny of generations. It may, indeed, be said with a rough truth that Plotinus’ terms, shifting at best and depending upon context and again upon the context of the context, are never to be more carefully examined than when they seem to be most true to the Platonic or Aristotelian uses: the confusion is a constant pitfall: Plotinus was pouring a quite new wine into very old bottles. Plotinus is often to be understood rather by swift and broad rushes of the mind—the mind trained to his methods—than by laborious word-racking investigation: we must know him through and through before we can be quite sure of his minuter meanings anywhere: there must be many a scholar at work yet, many an order of mind, before we can hope to have a perfectly true translation of the Enneads in any language. The present worker must have made mistakes, some perhaps that to himself will one day appear inexcusable: his one consolation is that the thing he will that day welcome from other hands has almost certainly passed through his own, and been deliberately rejected. Where he appears most surely to have sinned against the light, it is most sure that he has passed through an agony of hesitation.

People seem always anxious to know whether a work of translation is what they call literal; the important question is rather whether it is faithful: the present work pretends to be faithful—and, if we must be precise, literary rather than literal. This is not to say that it is a paraphrase.

Probably every translator from the classic tongues sets out gaily in the firm purpose of achieving the impossible, of making a crib that shall also be a piece of sound and flowing idiomatic writing; and certainly many critics demand the miracle. Some years ago, on the publication of a preliminary specimen of this present venture, one very highly accomplished scholar wrote complaining with utter seriousness of an English past tense which had dared to translate a “frequentative aorist” of the Greek original; he had apparently never asked himself whether an English past may not be as frequentative as any Greek Edition: current; Page: [115] aorist: in any case, readers who desire their translations to serve as an unfailing treasury of illustrations to “X. on Greek Idioms” are not asked to like this version.

Again, various arbitrary principles, laid down by translators of a formally precise school, have been quite ignored here. For example, it has been decreed that “one word must translate one word” and this in a double application:—

1. That if, for example, the word Phusis is once translated Nature, Phusis must stand as Nature at every repetition, never Kind or Essence, or Being or any other word which happens, in a particular context, to be equally clear and precise or even imperative in English to the sense and connection of thought.

2. That Phusis, for example, may never be translated by such a double as “Nature or Hypostasis,” Doxa, for example, never by such a double as “Opinion or Seeming-Knowledge,” still less, as several times here, by “Ordinary Mentation,” with or without an alternative or an addition.

All such bans have been treated here as belonging to the childish pedantry of a game of skill, not to the serious task of conveying to the reader a grave body of foreign thought. Probably in every writer—certainly in Plotinus—such a word as Phusis, such a word as Theos, or again Theios, may carry in connotation not merely two but three or four or more notions, any one of which may at a given moment be the dominant, though not necessarily to the utter exclusion of the others. Plotinus has some score of words, technical terms, which he uses in very varying applications where no single fixed English word or even combination of words would always carry his meaning. The translator has in this whole matter adopted the principle of using such a variety of terms, single or double or upon occasion triple, as will exactly cover or carry the idea which appears in the original; he has arrogated to himself almost the entire freedom of a philosophic writer in English who uses his words with an absolute loyalty, of course, to his thought but with never a moment’s scruple as to the terms in which he happened to convey or indicate a given notion five pages back. In other words the present translator has not thought of his probable readers as glossary-bound pedants but as possessed of the living vision which can follow a stream of thought by the light of its own vivid movement.

Other theorists of translation desire that a version should represent the style of the original writer: this notion is tempting and may often be safely achieved but not, the present worker ventures to say, in the case of Plotinus, or perhaps in the case of any writer whose main preoccupation is less with artistic expression than with the enunciation of cardinal and very gravely important ideas. Longinus, as may be learned from Porphyry’s Life-sketch of Plotinus, so little grasped Plotinus’ manner of expression as to judge ruinously erroneous the most faithful transcripts that could be: a version which should reproduce such a style as disconcerted and misled the most widely read contemporary critic of Greek letters, would not be a translation in any useful sense of the word, or at least would not be English or would not be readable.

The present translation, therefore, has been executed on the basic ideal of carrying Plotinus’ thought—its strength and its weakness alike—to the mind of the reader of English: the first aim has been the utmost attainable clearness in the faithful, full and unalloyed expression of the meaning; the second aim, set a long way after the first, has been the reproduction of the splendid soaring passages with all their warmth and light. Edition: current; Page: [116] Nothing whatever has been, consciously, added or omitted with such absurd purpose as that of heightening either the force of the thought or the beauty of the expression—except in so far as force and beauty demand a clarity which sometimes must be, courageously, imposed upon the most negligent, probably, of the great authors of the world.


The translator has necessarily been indebted for guidance, direct and indirect, to many works of metaphysic, theology and even history—but there are some which must be particularly named, books to which he has been under the deepest, constant obligations in the immediate grappling with the text, books also to which the novice in Plotinian studies may be usefully directed.

In English

The Neo-Platonists: a study in the history of Hellenism: by Thomas Whittaker (Cambridge University Press: 1901): as a formal scientific exposition of the entire history of the school and a chart of the Plotinian system (some sixty pages summing the Enneads) this book is of the first value.

Much useful suggestion is contained in “The Wisdom of Plotinus: a Metaphysical Study” by Charles J. Whitby, London (William Rider and Son: 1909).

There is nothing more helpful, in its own wide sphere, towards the understanding and appreciation of Plotinus than the late Principal Caird’s beautiful work “The Evolution of Theology in the Greek Philosophers: Gifford Lectures for 1901-2” (Glasgow: MacLehose: 1904): this book, written in the loftiest spirit, contains some exquisite fragments from the Enneads: the author presumably disdained the humble work of a mere translator, but had he given us a complete rendering the world would have been the richer by a classic of thought and a classic of language.

In “Neo-Platonism” by C. Bigg, D.D. (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge: 1895), we have a good general summary, rather popular in tone, of the system and of its antecedents and results.

Another work which would serve as an adequate explanation of practically the whole system is “The Problem of Evil in Plotinus”: B. A. G. Fuller: 1912: it includes translations of many cardinal passages and is written throughout in as lucid a style as has ever expounded a metaphysical system.

The Philosophy of Plotinus,” by David Sylvan Guthrie (Philadelphia, Dunlop Printing Co., 1896): is a brief summary containing a helpful index to the most fundamentally significant passages of the Enneads.

The valuable works of Miss Underhill, dealing with the history and methods of the schools and masters of mysticism, are too well known to need more than the naming.

The translator owes acknowledgment to G. R. S. Meade, whose great labour on the Hermes’ documents gave him much valuable suggestion.

Edward Carpenter’s work “The Art of Creation” (George Allen: 1907) will be found very helpful as exhibiting, in modern terms and with the support of modern metaphysical and scientific investigation, a great deal that is either basic or implied in the Plotinian system.

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French and German

No specialist student in Plotinus can pass over Jules Simon’s “Histoire de l’École d’Alexandrie”: it is very full, very minute; it is disfigured in places by a strange, a most unphilosophical scorn where Plotinus’ magnificent attempt to explain the Universe is found to involve the contradictions or lacunæ perhaps inevitable to all such efforts religious or philosophical: Simon’s figure-references to the Enneads are not seldom faulty.

Vacherot’s volume, of the same title as Simon’s, is another work of capital importance: it is described by H. Guyot as intelligent, systematic, the best existing in French and still to be read with profit even after Zeller’s exposition: M. Guyot, however, finds that Vacherot’s Hegelianism somewhat mars his judgments upon the Plotinian system.

“L’Infinité Divine depuis Philon jusqu’à Plotin”: Henri Guyot: (Paris: Alcan: 1906). This little book contains in less than one hundred of its two hundred and fifty pages some of the most original and subtlest analysis, synthesis and interpretation yet presented of Plotinus’ dominant ideas: it is very lucidly written, and even pleasantly: an English translation would add to the language another valuable document of Metaphysical Mysticism.

“Die Lehre vom Logos in der Griechischen Philosophie”: Dr. Max Heinze: Oldenburg, 1872. A most valuable work.

“Die Psychologie des Plotin”: Dr. Arthur Richter: (Halle: 1867).

In all the books mentioned will be found more or less extensive bibliographies, including works, mostly in German, which the present translator either has not been able to procure or has not found very useful.

. . . . . . . . . .

It would not be right to close this chapter of acknowledgment without some expression of the translator’s deep obligation to Mr. Ernest R. Debenham, whose interest in Plotinus and friendly offices in the publishing world have resulted in the production of this version of the first Ennead.

. . . . . . . . . .


The six Enneads—six sets of Nine treatises—do not constitute or include a formal step-by-step statement or demonstration of the Plotinian doctrine: the entire system is assumed in each of the separate treatises, which take the form of special developments or demonstrations of significant points, not chapters in one work of consecutive exposition.

Hence, failing a previous knowledge of the main doctrines, almost any of the treatises must appear incomprehensible or, worse, be radically misunderstood; the terminology, simple enough in itself, becomes dishearteningly mysterious or gravely misleading.

A serious misapprehension may be caused, to take one instance among several, by incautiously reading into terms used by Plotinus meanings or suggestions commonly conveyed by those words in the language of modern philosophy or religion; on the other hand, there is in places almost a certainty of missing these same religious or philosophical Edition: current; Page: [118] implications or connotations where to the initiate the phrase of Plotinus conveys them, intensely.

Thus, it is not easy, without knowledge and the training of habit, to quiver with any very real rapture over the notion of becoming “wholly identified with the Intellectual-Principle,”: when it is understood and at each moment deeply realised that “The Intellectual-Principle” is the highest accessible “Person” of the Godhead, is very God, is the Supreme Wisdom immanent within the human soul and yet ineffably superior to all the Universe beside, then perhaps we may feel the great call to the devotion that has such a reward.

We must, then, learn at the very beginning what are the main lines of the Plotinian explanation of the Heavens and the Earth and the Human-Being if we are to obtain from our author, our temporary Master, the depth of his philosophical meaning and the warmth of his religious fervour.

It is not possible to cram the Plotinian system unhurt into a confined space: to be brief is necessarily to be inaccurate: what follows is merely a rough chart intended to give the first essential orientation, to indicate the great highways in their main course and to name the commanding landmarks: it is the natural and necessary introduction to the Terminology, nothing more.

The Divine Names

The system of Plotinus is a system of necessary Emanation, Procession or Irradiation accompanied by necessary Aspiration or Reversion-to-Source: all the forms and phases of Existence flow from the Divinity and all strive to return Thither and to remain There.

This Divinity is a graded Triad.

Its three Hypostases—or in modern religious terminology, “Persons”—are, in the briefest description—

  • 1. The One, or First Existent.
  • 2. The Divine Mind, or First Thinker and Thought.
  • 3. The All-Soul, or First and Only Principle of Life.

“Of all things the governance and the existence are in these Three.”

1.: the one

The First Hypostasis of the Supreme Divine Triad is variously named: often it is simply “The First.” Envisaged logically, or dialectically, it is The One. Morally seen, it is The Good: in various other uses or aspects it is The Simple, The Absolute, The Transcendence, The Infinite, The Unconditioned: it is sometimes The Father.

It is unknowable: its nature—or its Super-Nature, its Supra-Existence—is conveyed theoretically by the simple statement that it transcends all the knowable, practically most often by negation of all Quality: thus if we call it the Good, we do not intend any formal affirmation of a quality within itself; we mean only that it is the Goal or Term to which all aspires. When we affirm existence of it, we mean no more than that it does not fall within the realm of non-existents; it transcends even the quality of Being.

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It is not the Creator: it is scarcely even to be rightly called the First-Cause: its lonely majesty rejects all such predication of action: in this realm of the unknowable the First-Cause is, strictly, a lower principle than The First, which is not to be spoken of in any terms of human thought.

We may utter no more of it—and then under infinite reserve, appealing always to a deep sense behind the words—than, that in an ineffable, Supra-Existence, it exists, that in an ineffable Super-Act, it acts, that it is everywhere, in the sense that without its Supra-Existence nothing could be, that it is nowhere in that it is loftily alien from all else. In so far as language and all the unconquerable force of human thought drive us to speak of it as a Cause, we must keep in mind that it is so only in that its Perfection implies an Act, a production, or, in a metaphor basic with Plotinus, a “generation” of something other than Itself: for Existence or Supra-Existence comports expressive Act. The most perfect form of expressive Act is Thought or Intellection: the Divine Existence, or Supra-Existence, produces, therefore, a Divine-Thought or Intellection.


This Divine-Thought is, of course, a Real-Being, the first “thing” of whom existence may, if only in some vaguer sense, be affirmed: it is an Intelligence, or rather is the Universal-Intelligence. As the act, offspring and image of The First, it is a sort of mediation to us of the Unknowable One. It is in the Greek named ho Noûs, which has often, perhaps not very happily, been translated Divine-Mind, sometimes Divine Intelligence or Divine-Intellection: in the present translation it is most often conveyed by the rather clumsy term, found in practice, expressive and convenient, “The Intellectual-Principle.

In the English, it must be noted, as in the Greek, the same term is used for the parallel Principle and Act in man: in both realms, the divine and human, the Intellectual-Principle connotes the highest really knowable: often therefore to absorb the full mystical or religious suggestion of a passage the reader will find it expedient to re-translate, i.e. to substitute temporarily for the term “Intellectual-Principle,” the term Spirit, or despite the awkward clash, even the term “Supreme-Soul.”

With this Noûs, or Divine-Mind or Divine-Intellection, or Divine-Intellectual-Principle, begins the existence of Plurality or Complexity, or Multiplicity: the Divine Mind contains, or rather is, ta Noeta = the Intellectual-Universe or Intelligible-Universe, often known as The Intelligible or The Intelligibles.

The Intellectual or Intelligible-Universe is the Totality of the Divine-Thoughts, generally known, in the phrase familiar in Platonism, as The Ideas.

The Ideas, or Divine-Thoughts, are Real-Beings, Intelligences, Powers: they are the eternal Originals, Archetypes, Intellectual-Forms of all that exists in the lower spheres. In certain aspects this sphere of the Intelligibles would be best named The Spiritual Universe: Principal Caird agrees with Whittaker in finding it closely like Dante’s conception of the circle of angels and blessed spirits gathered in contemplation and service round the throne of God.

The Intellectual or Intelligible Universe contains, or even in some sense is, all particular minds or intelligences and these in their kinds are images, representations, Edition: current; Page: [120] phantasms, “shadows” of this Universal or Divine Mind. All the phases of existence—down even to Matter, the ultimate, the lowest faintest image of Real-Being—all are “ideally” present from eternity in this Realm of the divine Thoughts, this Totality of the Supreme Wisdom or “Mentation.”

The Supreme Intellectual-Principle cannot be unproductive: accompanying its Act of Thought there is what we may, coarsely, indicate as an Act of Act: the Divine-Thinking “engenders a power apt to the realisation of its Thought,” apt that is to “Creation”: This engendered power is the Third Hypostasis of the Divine Triad.


The Third Hypostasis of the Divine-Triad is, then, the All-Soul, or Universal Soul or Soul of the All: it is the eternal emanation and image of the Second Hypostasis, the Intellectual-Principle.

As the Divine-Intellectual-Principle has, to our view, two Acts—that of upward contemplation of The One and that of “generation” towards the lower—so the All-Soul has two Acts: it at once contemplates the Intellectual-Principle and “generates” in the bounty of its own perfection the lower possible. Thus we have often in the Enneads a verbal partition of the All-Soul; we hear of the Leading-Principle of the Soul, or the Celestial Soul, concentrated in contemplation of its superior, and the Lower Soul, called also the Nature-Looking and Generative Soul, whose operation it is to generate or fashion the lower, the material Universe upon the model of the Divine-Thoughts, the “Ideas” laid up within the Divine-Mind: this lower principle in the Soul is sometimes called the Logos of the Universe, or the “Reason-Principle” of the Universe. The All-Soul is the mobile cause of movement as well as of Form: more directly than the two superior or “earlier” Hypostases of the Divine-Triad it is the eternal cause of the existence, eternal existence, of the Kosmos, or “World,” or material, or sense-grasped Universe, which is the Soul’s Act and emanation, image and “shadow.” It is the Creator, therefore, and the Vital-Principle of all that is lower, or “later” than the Divine-Triad. In a sense that need not be here minutely elaborated the All-Soul includes, and is, All-the-Souls: for the first rough practical purposes of the average reader, it may be conveniently indicated in a stanza, by Richard Watson Dixon:—

  • “There is a soul above the soul of each,
  • A mightier soul which yet to each belongs:
  • There is a sound made of all human speech,
  • And numerous as the concourse of all songs:
  • And in that soul lives each, in each that soul,
  • Tho’ all the ages are its life-time vast;
  • Each soul that dies in its most sacred whole
  • Receiveth life that shall for ever last.”

The Divine-Triad as a Unity

The Three Hypostases of the Supreme-Being are, of course, quite frequently spoken of collectively as one transcendent Being or one Divine Realm: sometimes, even, where one of the Three is definitely named, the entire context shows that the reference is not to the Hypostasis actually named but to the Triad collectively or to one of the two not Edition: current; Page: [121] named: thus where the All-Soul is specified in a moral connection the reference may really be to The First, to The Good; and where the connection is rather intellectual than moral or merely dynamic, the All-Soul may be used as a comprehensive term for the Godhead with a real reference to the Second Hypostasis, to Divine-Mind.

The Triad, it must never, under any stress, be forgotten, is The Divinity, and each Hypostasis is Divine: the All-Soul, as Jules Simon well remarks, is the expression of the outgoing energy of the Divinity as the Intellectual-Principle is the expression of the Godhead’s self-pent Thought or Vision.

The Divinity is communicated and approached by the channel of any one of the three Hypostases. The Intellectual-Principle has its Act about The First, towards Which it “looks” in eternal “contemplation,” while, of its lavishness, it engenders the Vital-Principle or Soul; similarly the All-Soul ceaselessly “looks” towards the Intellectual-Principle, while, of its lavish energy, it engenders or creates all the lower, down to the lowest form of being in the visible universe. Thus the Divinity is communicated to all things. Now this action within the Divine-Circle is reflected by a parallel action in the lower Kosmos. All “Nature,” even in the lowest, is in ceaseless Contemplation and Aspiration: while every being, until the ultimate possible is reached, tends to engender an image of itself, it tends also to rejoin the next highest, of which it is itself a shadow or lower manifestation: even Matter, all but outcast from the sphere of Being and unable to engender, has the power of receiving form and is, thereby, tending feebly towards Authentic-Existence, towards Soul and Mind, and so is linked, distantly, with the Divine.

The Gods and Daimones

The Gods” are frequently mentioned in the Enneads: the words are generally little more than a fossil survival, an accident of language not a reality of thought. Where, however, Plotinus names Ouranios (Cœlius) Kronos (Saturn) Zeus (Jupiter), he indicates the three Hypostases of the Divine-Being: this is part of his general assumption that all his system is contained already in the most ancient knowledge of the world.

Where we meet “The Gods” without any specification we are to understand, according to the context; sometimes the entire Divine Order; sometimes the Divine-Thoughts, The Ideas or Archetypes; sometimes exalted Beings vaguely understood to exist above man as ministers of the Supreme: sometimes the stars and earth, thought of, at least in their soul-part, as Divine-Beings: sometimes the words indicate, vaguely, the souls of lofty men; sometimes there is some vague, sleepy acceptance of the popular notion of the Olympian personalities.

The Daimones are, strictly speaking, lofty powers beneath the “Gods”: in practice they are often confounded with the Gods: the same word is translated here, according to context and English connotation, by “Supernals,” Celestials, Divine Spirits, Blessed Spirits.

Man: His Nature, Powers and Destiny

Porphyry’s arrangement of the Enneads has, at least, this one advantage that Plotinus’ work opens for us with a tract dealing mainly—and not inadequately or, on the whole, obscurely—with the Nature of Man: here then we may be very summary.

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The Third Hypostasis of the Divinity—the All-Soul, the Universal Life-Principle—includes, and is, all the souls: the human soul is, therefore, the All-Soul: but it is the All-Soul set into touch with the lower: it is the All-Soul particularised for the space, at least, of the mortal life of man.

This particularisation is necessarily a limitation: it sets bounds: it comports a provisory application to this rather than that; we may, therefore, discern phases of the All-Soul in us. These phases or images of the Divine-Soul are found to be three: they are:—

  • 1. The Intellective-Soul, or Intuitive, Intellectual or Intelligent Soul, or the Intellectual-Principle of the Soul.
  • 2. The Reasoning-Soul.
  • 3. The Unreasoning-Soul.

1. The Intellective-Soul is impassible, all but utterly untouched by Matter, forever in the nature of things separated from the body: its Act is the act of Intellection, or Intuition, or True-Knowing of Real Existences: it has its being in eternal Contemplation of the Divine: this Act of the Intellective-Soul, identical with the Intellectual-Principle in Man, is, however, not perceived by the Man except when, by a life of philosophical morality (Sanctity or Sagehood), he has identified his entire being with this his highest principle.

2. The Reasoning-Soul is the principle of the characteristic human life: to live by the First Soul, the Intellectual-Principle, is to live as a God; in this second Soul we have the principle that constitutes the normal nature of man. This Reasoning-Soul is separable from the body but not separated. Its Act is “Discursive-Reasoning”; it knows, not in the instantaneous, unmediated, entirely adequate True-Knowing of the First soul but step by step, arriving by the way of doubt and of logic at a knowledge which is even at best imperfect: in its lower action we have as its result “doxa” the untranslatable word, usually rendered “Opinion”—in this translation represented according to context, by “Surface-Knowledge,” by “Ordinary Mentation,” by Sense-Knowing or Sense-Knowledge, or the like.

This second phase of the human soul also possesses the three faculties known as Will, Intellectual-Imagination, and Intellectual-Memory. The Intellectual-Imagination and Intellectual-Memory, distinct from the lower Imagination and Memory, deal with the intellectual element of sensation, presenting sensations, as it were, to the higher faculty for judgment and for the uses of the semi-divine life of philosophic Man.

3. The last phase of the Soul, the Unreasoning-Soul, is the Principle of Animal-Life: it constitutes, in conjunction with the body, the Animal as distinct from the Man: here for reasons of emotional connotation or clearness this phase of the soul conjoined with the body has been said to produce not “The Animal” but “The Animate” or “The Animate-Entity.” This conjunction is also called by Plotinus the “Two-together,” usually translated here as the Couplement.

The faculties of this “Unreasoning-Soul” or of the “Couplement” are the Sensible (or sense-grasping) imagination and sensible Memory, the appetites rooted in the flesh, passivity or the faculty of sensation, and the vegetative, nutritive, and generative faculties.

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This last soul, or phase of the All-Soul, represents in man the very lowest “strength” of the Divinity except for the Matter which is organised by the All-Soul into the form of the body: this last soul, in other words, represents the bare fact of life, going as low as the life of the plant.

The word Soul used of man often conveys, in Plotinus’ practice, the idea of the highest in man, what we should be apt to call Spirit; sometimes, where the motion is mainly of intellectual operation, Mind will be the nearest translation; very often “Life-Principle” is the nearest.


As in Man before the organisation or shaping by the All-Soul, is the same as Matter everywhere else: there is a certain tendency to think of Matter as being “material,” e.g. in man as flesh or clay, in the world at large as some sort of powdery beginning or residue of things: this misconception must be carefully guarded out. “Matter,” says Jules Simon, “is rather a demand of thought than a reality of existence”: this is perhaps to state the case rashly, but it is certainly nearer to the true conception than is the notion the word conveys to the uninstructed mind.

Matter is the last, lowest and least emanation of the creative power of the All-Soul, or rather it is a little lower than that even: it is, to speak roughly, the point at which the creative or generative power comes to a halt; it is the Ultimate Possible, it is almost Non-Being; it would be Non-Being except that Absolute Non-Being is non-existent, impossible in a world emanating from the bounty of Being: often no doubt it is called Non-Being but this is not in strict definition but as a convenient expression of its utter, all-but infinite, remoteness from the Authentic-Existence to which, in the long line of descent, it owes its origin.

We are to think of it—as is indicated in the tract on Evil (I. 8)—as invisible, imperceptible to any sense, unknowable by any reach of the mind except by its negation of all that the mind can however feebly grasp, as utterly outside of the realm of form except in so far as feebly it stretches towards some determination in the universal pining of all things towards the Goodness and Wisdom from which however remotely all have sprung.


In so far as Evil exists, the root of evil is in Matter; but Evil does not exist; all that exists, in a half-existence, is the last effort of The Good, the point at which The Good ceases because, so to speak, endlessness has all but faded out to an end. If this seem too violent a paradox to be even mentioned amongst us, we must remember that it is to some degree merely metaphorical, like so much in Plotinus: it is the almost desperate effort to express a combined idea that seems to be instinctive in the mind of mind, the idea that Good is all-reaching and yet that it has degrees, that an Infinitely powerful Wisdom exists and operates and casts an infinite splendour on all its works while we ourselves can see, or think we see, its failures or the last and feeblest rays of its light.


The existence, or half-existence, of Matter brings about the necessity of morality: The Divine perfection is above morality, is “unmoral”; the purely material is below morality; Edition: current; Page: [124] morality is for man; man—being divine at his topmost pitch and “human” at the mean, and brute below that and merely vegetative below that and merely Matter in the lowest range of his nature—man, if he is to reach his good, the desired of every being, must “what in him is dark illumine, what is low raise and support,” if he is to rise to the height of his great argument, become what his highest is, attain his eternally destined Term.

The Term and the Way

His Way is indicated in many sumptuous passages of the Enneads—it is coldly charted for him in the tractate on Dialectic, I. 3. The Term is more richly described in the famous sixth tract of the same First Ennead: the main need, the cry, of man’s nature is to become actually, as he is always potentially, Divine: all his faculties, images each of its next highest, culminate in the Intellectual-Principle or Intellective-Principle, the Intuitional or True-knowing Faculty; and his duty, or rather his happiness, his blessedness, his deepest inner choice, is to labour his entire being into identification with this, the Divine in him: through this inner Divine, in an ecstasy away from all the lower, and first from all that links him to Matter, he may even in this life attain to the “possession” of the God-head in an ineffable act of identification, becoming Uniate, one with God, actually God, and foretasting the blessedness of the final Return after which he is for all the space of eternity to be with the God-head, to be Divine, or to be God.

. . . . . . . . . .


Authentic-Existent, -Existents, -Existence represent what is usually conveyed by the English philosophical term Real-Being. This choice was made, mainly, on considerations of literary convenience: an original writer can so play with his sentence-construction as to avoid the awkward clash between the Noun and Participle; a translator works more freely when there is no possibility of this clash.

It happens, moreover, that the adopted term is in itself better, at least for Plotinian uses: Real-Being carries some undesirable suggestion of the purely abstract; “The Authentic-Existent” comports something of the notion of Person or Individuality in an august sense and, so, is often though not by any means always, nearer to the Plotinian notion. The need of some such departure from the customary term was suggested by Mr. Meade’s use of the emphatic “That which is” for the same notion: Mr. Meade’s term was rejected only because it sounds a little grandiose, does not pack conveniently into every sentence and has no handy plural.

As for Plotinus’ use of the idea, it must be pointed out that it represents most often the very superlative of altitude but sometimes is employed in a derogatory sense: the Sphere of Existence is often The Intellectual-and-Intelligible-Kosmos, Divine Mind, or in general The Divine; sometimes, however, it means the realm of process or of “Becoming,” as opposed to the stately immobility of the Divine Beings, then considered as collectively Supra-Existents.

Sensation and Sense-perception are used, almost indifferently, for any action or Edition: current; Page: [125] passive-state by which man experiences the material world or any of its manifestations or representations.

Act, with the capital, usually translates the difficult word Energeia and stands for the Expression of the Identity of any being or for its characteristic function, an expression and function which may, often, be entirely within, the very reverse of any operation upon the outer.

In general, Capitalisation implies some more or less important technical use of a word.

“There”—“In the Supreme”—“In the Beyond” and other similar words or phrases translate at convenience the word “Ekei” used by Plotinus for the Divine Sphere, the Intelligible World.

The Sage translates ho Spoudaios, and means the achieved Mystic, the Adept, almost the “Uniate,” the human being who has become “wholly the Divine.”

Philosophy in Plotinus often means not Metaphysics but the Act or State of the Uniate: it might, often, without much fault of tone, be taken as the equivalent of 1, Sanctity, and 2, the Mystic Way.

Earlier and Later refer to order of emanation and therefore convey the rank of nearness or farness with regard to the Divine.

We read” represents the “He says” with which Plotinus, like the Pythagoreans referring to their own Master, quotes or paraphrases Plato. Where Plato is mentioned by name the name appears in this translation. It has not been judged necessary to give chapter and verse for the Platonic references since the passages are invariably those which have most entered into controversy or into literary allusion.

Elsewhere” and similar phrases may puzzle the reader: it must be remembered that we are reading the treatises in the order not of Plotinus’ writing but of Porphyry’s editing: an allusion or demonstration referred to in this First Ennead may be contained in the Sixth.

[Reference should have been made on page 116 to the monumental work of Cudworth and to Henry More; both these authors served the translator considerably in his earlier study of Plotinus. “Platonism in English Poetry of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries”; by John Smith Harrison (Columbia University Press, 1903), contains a useful study of More’s Psychodia Platonica.]

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The translator had written copious notes with reference to many passages of the Enneads when, at last and just in time, he saw that the method of particular explanation would lead inevitably to endless repetition with not a little final ambiguity. In a good translation no single passage should be difficult to anyone having a firm grasp of the Neo-Platonic system.

After the study of the general exposition given under the heading “Terminology,” the novice will find the first difficulties wonderfully cleared by the reading of the passages selected by Preller and Ritter as embodying the main substance of the doctrine.

Since all this matter will appear, elaborately worked, in its proper place in the course of this complete rendering of the Enneads now beginning to appear, it has been judged sufficient for the immediate purpose to translate these Preller-Ritter extracts in somewhat rough-and-ready fashion; they, too, serve as a chart, merely.

The edition used is “Historia Philosophiæ Græcæ et Romanæ ex Fontium Locis contexta. . . . H. Ritter et L. Preller. . . . Gothæ, 1864.” Where the compilers had presented a flagrantly vicious text, the emendations of Volkmann have been adopted.

The Notes following each of the fourteen main extracts and embodying other extracts, are also the work of Preller and Ritter. In translation some explosions of mere learning have been suppressed and some more substantial passages, too—these last where the translator, having taken up Plotinus’ text earlier or carried it further than the compilers, found that their remarks or illustrations had become superfluous. The compilers have occasionally caught too quickly at the first apparent meaning of a passage without sufficient study of its context—a common fault in citation from the Enneads—and the notes sometimes state very bluntly matters calling for very fine distinction: the translator has sometimes judged well to vary their phrasing to meet such cases, sometimes has left the errors to be tranquilly corrected by the evidence the compilers themselves furnish.

Whatever fault may be found with the compilers or with their hasty translator, it will remain the fact that to know this Preller-Ritter Conspectus through and Edition: current; Page: [130] through is to have present to the mind a very useful and nearly adequate compendium of the system.

I: The Fall of the Souls: Their Return

V. 3, 9. What can be the cause that has led the souls to forget God, their Father, and, members of Him though they are, wholly His, to cease to know both themselves and Him?

The evil that has befallen them is due to a Rebellious Audacity (n) to their entry into birth (or their desire to “become”) to the Primal Differentiation (n) and to the desire of the souls to have similarly a life of their own.

They began to revel in free-will (n): they indulged their own movement: they took the wrong path: they went far astray (n): thus it was that they lost the knowledge that they sprang of that Divine Order (were members of the Triune). . . . They no longer had a true vision of The Supreme or of themselves: they dishonoured themselves by honouring the Alien in forgetfulness of their Race, by admiring all things rather than themselves. Smitten with longing for the Lower, rapt in love for it, they grew to depend upon it: so they broke away, as far as was in their power, and came to slight the lofty sphere they had abandoned. . . Nothing that so humbles itself to things that rise and perish, making itself pettier and less enduring than what it honours, nothing such can ever keep in mind the nature of God or His power.

Two appeals must be made to those that have thus fallen if they are to be set again towards the High and towards The Primals and led up to the Supreme, to the One and First.

One method exhibits to the soul the shame of the things which it now honours—of this we will treat later—the second appeal . . . leads the other and conveys it with clear conviction: it is to teach the soul, or to remind it, of its lofty race and rank.


Rebellious-Audacity:This word, tolma,—is used elsewhere in the same sense, that is to indicate the motive leading the soul, from the beginning, to desert its First Principle.

In Theologumena Arithmetica, we read, “The first Dyad separated itself from the Monad in what is called an act of rebellion or self-assertion, a tolma.”

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Plotinus: V. 2, 2, says that in plants there dwells “the more rebellious and self-assertive part (or phase) of the soul.”

Primal Differentiation:This refers to the Intellectual-Principle (the Divine-Mind) which is said, VI. 9, 5, “to sunder itself from The One in an act of self-assertion.”

Self-Will:Plotinus upholds the Freedom of the Will but denies that Free-Will can consist in the power to effect things mutually contradictory. Thus, VI. 8, 21, “The greatest power is in keeping nearest to Unity: to be able to effect contradictory acts is weakness; it is to be unable to hold to the Best.”

He says that Free-Will is shown in right action not in acts done under the driving of the senses:—

III. 1, 9. “Whensoever the soul has been wrested from its own character by the force of the Outer and so acts—rushing in a blind excitement—the act or the state is not to be called an act or state of freedom; so, too, when in a self-induced corruption it answers to impulses within itself that are not entirely right, not of its highest nature: only when our soul acts by its native pure and independent Reason-Principle can the act be described as ours and as an exercise of Free-Will.”

Plotinus often affirms that the Liberty or Free-Will by which we pursue or accomplish evil is rather the very negation of freedom:—

IV. 8, 5. “All that descends to a lower state descends against its own Free-Will, but since it has followed an impulse of its own nature it is said to pay the penalty, which is no other than the very fall itself. But in the sense that such act and experience was necessary from eternity by a law of nature, then one may say, . . . that this thing, descending from what was above it to the service of something else, was sent down by God.”

On this doctrine of the alienation of the soul from God and the necessity of return by purification, see III. 6, 5: in a deeper sense he denies that we are really cut off from God: see, later, Extract X., page 148.

II: The Grandeur of the Soul (Human and Divine)

V. 1, 2. Before all let every Soul remember that itself is the creator of every living thing, having breathed the life into them: into all that the earth nourishes and the sea; all that are in the air and all the divine stars in the heavens; itself has formed the sun and this vast firmament of sky: itself has given them their stately Edition: current; Page: [132] ordering and leads them around in their ranks: and it is a Nature apart from all to which it gives the order and the movement and the life, and it must of necessity be more honourable than they; for they are things whose being has had a beginning, and they perish when the Soul that leads the chorus-dance of life departs, but the Soul itself has ever-being since it cannot suffer change. . . . As rays from the sun pour light upon a gloomy cloud and make it shine in a golden glory, so the Soul when it comes to body touches it to life, brings immortality to it, wakes it where it lies prostrate; and the heavenly-system, taking up its everlasting movement under the leading of the wisdom of the Soul, becomes a blissful living-being, venerable with the Soul that dwells within, a dead body before the Soul came, or rather mere darkness of Matter, Non-Being, “hated of the gods.”

What the Soul is, and what its power, will be more manifestly, more splendidly, evident, if we think how its counsel comprehends and conducts the heavens, how it communicates itself to all this vast bulk and ensouls it through all its extension, through big and little so that every particle of the great frame, though each has its own need and function and some are closely linked and some far apart, every particle has its own place in Soul.

But the Soul itself is not thus dismembered, it does not give life parcelwise, a fragment of Soul to a fragment of matter; every fragment lives by the Soul entire which is present everywhere, present as a unit and as an Universal, as is the Father that engendered it.

And the heavens, manifold in content and in spatial difference, become a Unity by the power and faculty of the Soul, and through Soul this world is a God. And the Sun too is a God, for it too is ensouled; so too the stars: and if we ourselves are anything, we come to it through the Soul: “Dead is nastier than dung.” . . .

If it is soul that gives worth, why does anyone ignore himself and follow aught else? You reverence the Soul elsewhere; then revere yourself.


(The Compilers say, “This passage evidently refers to the Soul-of-the-World”; it does, but, as they proceed to indicate, it refers also to the human Soul, as being one with the Divine All-Soul.)

The ninth treatise of the Fourth Ennead is devoted, entire, to proving That All the Souls are One Soul.

The main argument is that only bodies are separated by mass, place, limit.

IV. 9, 1. “Why should the Soul in myself be One and the Soul of the All not One? All the more why, since in the divine there is no mass, no body?”

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VI. 4, 4. “The Souls are separate without being distinct; they are present to each other as one; they are no more sundered by boundaries than are the manifold elements of a science in any one mind: the one Soul is of such a nature as to include all, for it knows nothing of limits.”

Remark, however, that there is still a multiplicity of souls:—

IV. 9, 2. “We do not declare the Soul to be one in the sense of entirely excluding Multiplicity: this absolute Unity belongs only to the prior Kind (The Transcendent): we make it both one and manifold: it has part in the Nature which is divided among bodies; but it has part also in the Indivisible and so we find it One again.”

Proof of the Soul’s unity is afforded by human sympathy and by the efficacy of the magic arts:—

IV. 9, 3. “We share each others’ feelings; if we see another in distress we suffer with him; we are irresistibly impelled to form friendships: incantations and other magical practices draw us together and call out sympathetic response from afar: all this is a token to us of the unity of the Souls.”

How we are to understand the co-existence of Unity and Multiplicity in the Soul is exhibited in a neighbouring passage:—

“The Indivisible Soul (the Unity of the Soul) is seated in the Intellectual-Principle which is not divided among the bodily forms; the divisible Soul is seated within (or around) the bodies; it is essentially one in identity but, associated with different bodies, it brings sensation about, and may be called another faculty or power of the Soul; so too with (the still lower) that faculty which has creative power and procures the multiplication of bodily-life. This manifoldness of faculty does not take away unity; a seed has the power of manifold production and yet is one thing, and out of this Unity springs the unity of its produce.”

Plotinus frequently uses the simile (as above) of the Unity of knowledge to illustrate the Unity of particular Souls in the All-Soul: thus—

IV. 9, 5. “The particular Souls merge into one Soul which has given itself to form the Multiplicity and yet has kept its character: it is of a quality to remain one though it bestow itself upon all; its potency runs to all at once; it is present in every particular Soul and is the same in them all: no one need baulk at this doctrine if he will but think how a science, with all its detail, constitutes one whole: the whole remains a unity and yet is divisible into its parts.”

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III: The Soul in Relation to its Prior, to The Intellectual-Principle

V. 1, 3. Since your Soul is so exalted a power, so divine, be confident that in virtue of its possession you are close to God. Begin, therefore, with the help of this Principle, to make your way to Him: you have not far to go; there is not much between. Lay hold of that which is more divine than this godlike thing, lay hold of that Summit of the Soul which borders on the Supreme from which the Soul immediately derives, the Intellectual-Principle of which the Soul, glorious Principle though we have shown it to be, is but an image.

For as the spoken thought is an image of the thought that was in the Soul, so the Soul is an image (or thought) of the Intellectual-Principle and is the entire activity by which the Intellectual-Principle sends forth life to the producing of later forms of Being: fire contains a warmth ever within itself and a warmth which it sends forth to do its work (and so Divine-Mind both has its own inner Act and sends forth a creative force, the Soul).

We are to take the Soul now in its loftier phase, not as an emanation, merely, but as eternally a member of the Supreme, even though in part it operates, also, elsewhere.

Springing from the Intellectual-Principle (n) it is intellective, operating in the sphere of the Divine Reason: it draws its perfection from this superior Principle which is like a cherishing father who has given it Existence though not a nature as perfect as his own.

The Soul’s substantial-existence springs from the Divine Intellect, and its expression in characteristic Act is effected by virtue of its vision of this Divine Intellect, for, as its vision penetrates into This, it possesses within itself, for its very own, what it sees no less than what it effects; nothing can be called an Act of the Soul but what it does after the mode of its intellective nature and, so, entirely in its own character: all that is lower than such act has another origin and is an accidental experience, merely.

The Soul becomes yet more divine through the Intellectual-Principle because This is at once its Father and its ever-present companion. Nothing separates the Soul and the Divine-Mind but that they are not one and identical, that the Soul is a subsequent and a recipient while the other is the Divine thing received: what serves as Matter to the Intellectual-Principle must be noble; it is itself intellective and simplex (n).

In fine, nothing more clearly shows the grandeur of Divine-Mind than that it is nobler than so noble a being as the Soul.

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Springing from the Intellectual-Principle”:—Many metaphors are used to indicate how the universe rises from its principles—cast down like light from the sun, flowing forth like water from a well, branching out like a tree from the root. That from which the Emanation takes place remains ever complete, undiminished:—

III. 8, 9. “Imagine a spring which has no commencement, giving itself to all the rivers, never exhausted by what they take, ever tranquilly its full self.”

Such is the exuberance of the First that it gives forth its Emanations without premeditation.

V. 2, 1. “The One is not a Being but the source of Being which is its first offspring. The One is perfect, that is it has nothing, seeks nothing, needs nothing, but, as we may say, it overflows, and this overflowing is creative: the engendered entity . . . looks towards the One and becomes The Intellectual-Principle; resting within itself, this offspring of the One is Being.”

No idea of time or of any motion or change may be admitted in reference to this Generative Act:—

V. 1, 6. Far from our thought be any generation in time when we treat of the Ever-Existents. . . . Nor may we attribute action to the Generator. If there were action this very action would have to be counted among the Divine Principles and the engendered Hypostasis (The Intellectual-Principle) would be a Third, not a Second. The First is immobile; any second must spring from it without any assent in It, apart from Its will, without any movement in It. . . . And all things that have Being, as long as that Being inheres to them, must by the virtue that is in them, give forth from their essence an hypostasis belonging to them but going forth to the outer while still closely linked to them, an image, as it were, of this original and archetype: fire thus gives forth its heat; snow does not keep its inner cold to itself; perfumes, too, may serve in illustration; as long as they exist they spread abroad something of themselves to the pleasure of all that are near.

All that has reached its perfection produces; The Eternally Perfect produces an eternal product, though a product of less perfection than Itself.

Matter to the Intellectual-Principle”:— The Intelligible (or Intellectual)-Matter in the Divine Mind is explained in—

II. 4, 4. “If, then, the Divine Thought-Forms (The Ideas) are many, there must of necessity be something common to all and something peculiar to each to differentiate them: this particularity or specific difference is the individual shape; but if there is shape there must be something that has taken the shape . . . that is to say there is a foundation, substratum, a Matter. Further, if there is an Intellectual Edition: current; Page: [136] Kosmos of which our Kosmos is an image, and if ours is compound and includes Matter, there must be a Matter in the Intellectual Kosmos as well.

IV: The Intellectual Principle and the Intellectual-realm in Relation to the One

V. 1, 4. If anything more is needed to establish the magnificence of Divine-Mind, look, with awe, to this sense-known Universe; consider its vastness, and its beauty and the harmony of its eternal course, the Gods within it, the seen Gods and the unseen, and the blessed spirits (n) and all the life of animal and plant. Then ascend to its Original, to its more authentic form, and There contemplate all the Intellectual Host, immortal by their own indwelling right, in the plenitude of their own conscious life: see, presiding above these, the immaculate Divine-Mind; consider that fathomless Wisdom, that veritable Saturnian Age, age of Kronos, who is Son of God and is the Intellect of the Divinity, embracing all the immortal orders—all Intelligence, every God, every soul—in His calm eternal Identity. Eternally identical this Principle must be, for what change or “otherness” could be sought There where all is well? Whither could that Being move outside Itself, having all within Itself? What increase (and, therefore, diversity) could The Most Perfect desire? In Him, in all ways consummate, all things are consummate; of all that He has, all is perfect: and of all that is within His being, all is perfect: of all that is His there is nothing that He does not know—knowing by a knowledge that is never sought but always immediately present (n); and His blessedness is nothing from without but exists, all, in the one Eternity, exists to the Divine Mind which is Itself the veritable Eternity mimicked by that Soul-circling movement of Time which is ever flinging aside the outworn and clutching at the new.

The Soul (principle of movement and author of Time) is occupied always with consecutive things—always with some single object, now Socrates, and now a horse—but Divine Mind knows all as one. Within this all things are contained at rest in Unity; it alone has Authentic Existence and Its “I am” is for ever: nowhere is there any future to It; already It is all Its infinity; nowhere any past for nothing There can pass, but, as all is True-Being There, so all holds steadfast always, all things in the divine finding joy in their state. Each Being of all that are There is Divine Mind, is Authentic Existence; and their entirety constitutes Divine Mind entire and Authentic Existence entire. This Divine Mind, through Its Act, Its Intellection, becomes Existence; and Existence, in that it is the object of the Intellection, brings to Divine Mind both Intellection and Existence.

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The First Cause of the Intellectual-Principle is another Principle which is the Cause also of Existence; this Cause, distinct from either, is common to them since they have their substantial existence together, never deserting each other; so that, while they are two, they yet constitute a Unity, which Unity is at once Intellection and Existence, Thinker and Thought—the Intellectual-Principle being the Intellective Subject while Existence is the object of the Intellection (n). For the Intellection could not take place if this Intellectual Kosmos did not contain, at once, identity and difference.

Thus the Primals are Intellection (=The Intellectual-Principle) Existence, Differentiation and Identity. To these must also be added Motion and Rest (n)—Motion corresponding to the Act of Intellection, Rest to the unbroken Identity. Differentiation is implied by there being a Thinker and a Thought (an Intellectual-Principle and an object of Intellection): if this difference did not exist, all would be a silent Oneness.

There must also be a difference among the Divine Thoughts (The Ideas)—with, yet, identity since the Intellectual-Principle is one in itself, a common principle to all: this Difference is that the Ideas are distinct (i.e. it is not a difference of essential nature).

It is this Multiplicity of difference in the Divine Realm itself that produces Number and Quantity and even Quality which is the specific character of these Principles, the sources of all else that exists.


Blessed-Spirits”:—These are the Daimones.

Knowledge immediately present”:—Enquiry implies an imperfect mentality and therefore cannot be imputed to the Intellectual-Principle: the Soul has, of itself, only the Reasoning-Intelligence. Thus:—

V. 1, 10. “Our Soul is a Divine Thing, outside of the Realm of Sense as Soul-Nature must be: it is consummate when it has attached itself to the Intellectual-Principle, which in part is eternally self-wrapped in Intellection but in part is occupied abroad in leading the Soul towards Intellection.” “The higher part of the Soul,” Plotinus continues, “is ever absorbed in the Divine Mind.”

So also:—

V. 1, 11. “And if the Soul, though it must sometimes reason towards the Just and the Good, may sometimes know them immediately, there must be within us the Intellectual-Principle which never seeks but eternally knows the Right.”

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All Reasoning belongs to the inferior order:—

IV. 3, 18. “Does the Soul employ Reasoning before it enters the body and when it has left body, or only while it is here? Only here, where it knows doubt and care and weakness; for Intelligence is the less self-sufficing for needing to reason, just as in the crafts or arts reasoning means hesitation in the workman, but when all is plain the craft takes its own masterly way. In the Intellectual Order there is no ratiocination and the man arrived at this degree does not employ it.”

V. 5, 1. “The Intellectual-Principle must ever know and never overlook or forget; its knowing can never come by way of conjecture, never be doubtful, never depend upon learning from without or upon any proving. This Intellectual-Principle (even in man) has nothing to do with sense-reports; it contemplates nothing outside of itself.”

The Intellective Subject and the Object of Intellection”:—Authentic-Existence and The Divine Mind are customarily named together by Plotinus as one entity: to him there is no real being except what is of the Intellectual and Intelligible order:—

V. 4, 2. “The Intellectual-Principle is Itself the Intelligible—the object of True-Knowing—and at the same time the Intelligent—the True-Knower. Real-Being and the Intellectual-Principle are identical, for the Divine Mind does not act upon Its object as sensation acts upon material things which must exist apart from the sensation: the Intellectual-Principle actually is all the Existence upon which it exercises its Act.”

So again:—

V. 1, 10. “And in sequence upon The First comes Existence, that is the Intellectual-Principle.”

This Existence (or Being) is also called Essence:—e.g. in I. 7, 1 we read of “Intelligence and Essence” where the reference is to the Second Principle, the Emanation directly proceeding from the First, the One.

Motion and Rest”:—Since the Intellectual-Principle is identical with its Act (Intellection) and with its object (Existence) it follows that Motion and Rest must be attributed to it: for “Intellection is the First Life” (III. 8, 7) and Life is identical with Act (expressive or functional activity) as we are told more than once. Compare VI. 2, 8. “Activity and movement accompany the Intellection in the Divine Mind: in Its Self-Intellection is the foundation of Essence and Being: It exists while it thinks and it knows both itself and its objects as possessing Being . . . and Being is the absolutely unmoving, the very base in which all that is most motionless is founded.”

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Often, however, all motion is limited to the Soul, rest being given as the characteristic of the Intellectual-Principle:—

II. 9, 1. “The Divine Mind remains true to its own Being, ever in the one state, unmoving in its stable Act: all movement around It, as towards It, begins with Soul.”

IV. 4, 16. “Making The Good the centre, the Intellectual-Principle will be a motionless circle and the Soul a circle in motion, moved by its aspiration inwards: for the Intellectual-Principle contains The Good immediately, and the Soul must strive towards it.

The Intellectual-Principle rests ever in Itself, contemplates nothing else (except The First) never moves elsewhere and is therefore not an agent (praktikos).”

V. 3, 6. “This principle is not an agent under need of acquiring knowledge of the outer, as for instance a man must, when he goes out from himself into the business of life.”

The Soul does not of its own right and nature possess this Intellectual-Principle which merely takes possession if the Soul turns towards It:—

V. 6, 4. “The Soul possesses the Intellectual-Principle as something added to it: Intellection belongs essentially to the Intellectual-Principle.”

The Soul therefore has external action when it builds the Kosmos:—

IV. 8, 3. “The Intellective Soul has Intellection for its Act, but not Intellection unalloyed: if it had, it would be identical with its prior. To its nature as an Intellective it adds another Act which constitutes its characteristic “person” (hypostasis) and so it becomes something distinct from the Intellectual-Principle. The Soul too has its function, as every member of the Divine must; looking towards its prior, it has Intellection; looking to itself, it preserves its own essence; looking to what comes after it, to what it orders and conducts, it rules the lower world.”

Still, on deeper examination, it is discovered that all action subserves thought and is performed for purposes of contemplation:—

III. 8, 5. “All action is in view of contemplation . . . what we have not the will-power to get by the direct way we seek by the round. When we acquire what our action sought, achieve what we proposed, what is it for? Not to be ignored but to be known, to be seen: we act for the sake of some satisfaction we desire, and this not that it may remain outside the bound of our possessions but that it may be ours. This means that it be . . . where? Where but in the mind? Thus all act circles back to thought, for what the act lays up in the soul, which is a Reason-Principle, can be nothing else than a Reason-Form, a silent thought (a thought not marred by the noise of action).”

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Even the very Kosmos, shaped or created by the Soul, is itself a “Contemplation” (or, as we might say, a Mentation, an intellectual activity).

III. 8, 4. “Treating of Nature we said that all engendering was a Contemplation: we come now to the Soul which is prior to Nature and say that by the Soul’s Contemplation—its zest for knowledge, its desire for experience, the birth-pangs induced in it by what it knows, its teeming plenty—the Soul, itself a Contemplation entire, has begotten another Contemplation . . . a weaker than itself.”

V: The Beginning of Multiplicity

V. 1, 5. This God (The Intellectual-Principle), already a Being of Multiplicity, is present in the soul. . . . But what is the God that has thus engendered; what is the Simplex, existing before all such Multiplicity, the source at once of its existence and of its Multiplicity, the source of Number itself? For Number is not primal: before the Two, there is the One (n) and the Unit must precede the Dyad: coming later than the One, the Dyad has the One as the standard of its differentiation, that without which it could not be the separate differentiated thing it is. And as soon as there is differentiation, number exists.


The need for a Principle above the Intellectual-Principle is established by the consideration that Divine Mind is, and contains, a Multiplicity: it is both Intellection and Existence and includes the Multiplicity of the Divine Thoughts, the Ideas; its Multiplicity demands a Unity to include or contain it.

III. 8, 8. “The Intellectual-Principle, thus, contains the Multiple: therefore it is not the First: there must be a Principle transcending t. . . . Multiplicity is subsequent to Unity and the Intellectual-Principle is number: the Source of this number is the One: Divine Mind, as being both the Intellectual-Principle and the Intellectual-Kosmos is twofold: as long as we have duality, we must go still higher until we reach what transcends the Dyad.”

From this it follows that nothing can be attributed to The One but what is purely Itself: if It possessed or included anything other than Itself, the One would be, again, a Multiplicity:—

V. 4, 1. “Standing transcendent above all things that follow It, existing in Itself, not mixing or to be mixed with any emanation from Itself, veritably The One, not merely possessing Oneness as an attribute of Its essence—for that would Edition: current; Page: [141] be a false Oneness—a Principle overpassing all reasoning, all knowing . . . a Principle standing over all Essence and Existence . . . only when it is simplex and First, apart from all, can It be perfectly self-sufficing: a non-primal needs its prior and a non-simplex demands the simplex which is its source.”

VI. 9, 6. “All that is multiple, and not One, is needy; made up of many elements, it craves the Unity; the Unity itself cannot crave the Unity which it is.”

Another consideration is that unless there were a Unity there could be nothing else: things are by the virtue of a Unity:—

VI. 9, 1. “All beings exist by the One—and this whether their being is primal or merely partial. . . . Take away their Unity and they lose their Being.” Plotinus goes on to instance an army, a choir, a herd, a house, a ship, planets, animals, a man: a principle of Unity makes them what they are, and this principle in them is an image, a distant reflection, of the Unity that is the essence of the all-transcending One.”

Still, in a certain mode, Multiplicity may be affirmed of The One—in that it possesses infinite power:—

VI. 9, 6. “The One must be taken to be infinite not in the sense of some mass or number never to be measured or traversed, but in the sense of inconceivable power.” And see, later, on Extract VII, page 144.

VI: The Absolute Transcendence of The One

VI. 9, 3. Since the Nature or Hypostasis of The One is the engenderer of the All, It can Itself be none of the things in the All; that is It is not a thing; it does not possess quality or quantity; It is not an Intellectual-Principle, not a Soul; It is not in motion and not at rest; not in space, not in time; It is essentially of a unique form or rather of no-form, since it is prior to form as It is prior to movement and to rest: all these categories hold only in the realm of Existence and constitute the Multiplicity characteristic of that lower realm.


The One can be indicated only in negations:—

VI. 8, 11. “How can we make such a statement about It, seeing that all else we say of it is said by negation?”

No attribute can be affirmed of It: we penetrate to It only by mystic contemplation, the senses sealed:—

See I. 6, 8. Page 88 of this work.

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The One is without thought but also without ignorance:—

VI. 9, 6. “That It neither knows nor has Intellection of Itself does not constitute any ignorance in It. Ignorance implies something outside the ignorer . . . but what stands absolutely alone neither knows anything nor has anything to ignore; being one and always present to itself it has no need of self-knowing; in fact, even that self-presence ought not to be attributed to It if we are to preserve Its unity; we must rule out all knowing and all consciousness whether of Itself or of aught else; we must conceive It not as having Intellection but as being the object of Intellection (object to the knowing of the Divine Mind).

Hence it follows that The One is not intelligible in Itself but only to the Divine Intellectual-Principle:—

V. 6, 2. “In regard to the Intellectual-Principle The One will be Intelligible, an object of true-knowing, but within Itself It will strictly neither possess Intellection nor be the object of Intellection.”

The One does not even possess will; if Plotinus, after Plato, names It The Good, even this must be understood in a modified sense:—

VI. 9, 6. “All that can be said to lack or desire, lacks or desires the Good that will complete it: The One, therefore, can experience no Good nor any will to Good; It is the Beyond-Good, or It is good, not in regard to Itself, but in regard to the lower that is capable of partaking in it.”

Similarly if It is called the Source and the Cause, this is not a definition of The One as It is in Itself but the statement of a relation in which the lower stands to It:—

VI. 8, 8. “All things, however exalted, august, are later than This: It is the source of all, though in some sense It is no source: we must keep all things apart from It . . . even freedom of action. . . . It can enter into no relation with the realm of Existence.”

VI. 9, 3. “When we call it a Cause we are not making an assertion about It but about ourselves; we speak of what we derive from It while It remains steadfastly within Itself.”

Plotinus is insistent that this name, The One, is a poor shift towards indicating a Nature which can never be expressed, of which no knowledge is possible:—

VI. 9, 5. “This Wonder, this One, to which in verity no name may be given . . . but since we must treat of It we may thus name It, but on condition of bearing in mind the special sense and guarding against confusing It with any form that may be suggested by the numerical designation.”

V. 3, 13. “Hence It can not be truly designated; any name employed makes It some thing; but That which is above all things—above that most august of Edition: current; Page: [143] Existents, the Intellectual-Principle—This alone of all is authentic; It is no thing among things; It is nameless, for It falls under no class; we can attempt no more than to use words which will in some helpful way indicate It for the purposes of discussion.”

VI. 8, 8. “Language fails even for the adequate discussion of the Transcendent, much more for defining it.”

VII: Why The Supreme is a Triad

II. 9, 1. . . . It follows that we need have recourse to no other Principles than these Three: we have first The One, then, following upon The One, the Divine Mind and the Primal Intellectual-Principle; after this, the Soul. This is the order ruling in the nature of things and we may not assign either fewer or more Principles than these to the Supreme. If we affirm less than Three, we must bring together either Soul and Intellectual-Principle or Intellectual-Principle and The First: but we have abundantly shown that these are separate. It remains, then, to consider whether there can be more than Three.

Now what Divine Hypostasis could exist outside of these Three?

The First Principle of the All, as we have indicated it, is at once the most simplex and the most exaltedly transcendent that can be discovered: it is unsound to double the Persons by distinguishing between potentiality and act in an immaterial Existence whose Act is its Essence.

Similarly we cannot pose two Intellectual-Principles, one in rest and one in movement. . . . The Divine Mind has its eternal, immobile Act towards The One; the Reason which descends from It to the Soul and makes the Soul intellective cannot constitute a distinct Hypostasis. . . . Nor may we conceive two Divine Minds, one knowing and the other knowing that It knows; thinking may be distinguished, no doubt, from thinking that one is thinking; but in the entire process there is really only one consciousness aware of its activity; it would be absurd to suppose that the Authentic Intelligence could ever be thus unconscious of its act. . . . No: the Intellectual-Principle has Intellection of Itself; and the Intellectual and Intelligible Kosmos which is its Thought is also Itself: therefore the Intellectual-Principle in Its Intellection has self-consciousness; It necessarily knows Itself. (Plotinus urges, further, that if we are to suppose, with certain Gnostics, a second Intellectual-Principle conscious of the action of an unconscious first, we open the list of an unending series of Divine Minds.)

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So, too, the supposition that a first Intellectual-Principle engenders in the Soul-of-the-All a second Intellectual-Principle intermediate between Divine Mind and Soul, takes away from the Soul its intellective-nature (n) . . . on this hypothesis the Soul would possess not the Divine Intellectual Principle but merely an image of it. . . . We can, therefore, admit only these Three Hypostases in the Supreme; one Transcendent; one Intellectual-Principle, self-identical, unswerving ever, imitating the Father as nearly as may be (n); then Soul, with the reserve that the Soul in us, while in part always dwelling with the Intellectual Existences, is in part fallen to the realm of sense and in part again occupies an intermediate region.”


The Soul’s Intellective-Nature”:— This refers to the Plotinian doctrine that the Soul is a Logos, a Reason-Principle or Idea or Thought of the Divine Mind:—

III. 2, 2. “For what emanates from the Intellectual-Principle is a Reason-Principle, a Logos.”

III. 6, 18. “The Soul, itself a Divine Thought and possessing the Divine Thoughts, or Ideas, of all things, contains all things concentred within it.”

If the Soul is one of many Ideas in the Intellectual-Principle it is hard to see why there should be only one All-Soul: but Plotinus is concerned in opposing, not so much the “superfluous multiplication.” of lower forms of Being as the multiplication of grades in the Intellectual-Realm; the ninth tractate of the Second Ennead, “Against the Gnostics,” contains an elaborate refutation of such needless subdivision of the Divine.

One Intellectual-Principle”:— The one Divine Intellectual-Principle is, as we have seen, Intelligent no less than Intelligible (is at once the subject and object of True-Knowing). The Ideas which it contains are understood, in Philo’s sense, as Intellectual Powers:—

V. 9, 8. “No Idea is anything other than the Intellectual-Principle: each is the Intellectual-Principle; and the entire Intellectual-Principle is the entirety of the Ideas . . . as a science entire is the entirety of the truths it sums.”

IV. 8, 3. “Every Intelligence dwells in that Place of Intellection, and there, too, dwell the Intellectual-Forces, the Ideas, with all particular Intelligences; for Divine Mind is not a pure Unity but a Unity in Multiplicity.”

Hence it is that there comes to exist in the Divine a Kosmos which contains all the Ideas of things existing in the world of sense: in that Divine Realm the Divine Thoughts, imperfectly manifested below, are consummately beautiful, perfect and veritably one:—

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V. 9, 9. “This sense-grasped universe is a living being including the entirety of life, but it derives its existence and the specific mode of its existence from a Power (the Soul) which is ever being led back towards the Divine Mind from which it emerged: therefore the entire exemplar of this universe must be in that Intellectual-Principle which must be, thus, a Kosmos, an ordered collectivity.”

The Three Supreme Principles are most closely linked; each of the lower derives from its prior and the entire lower universe derives from The First, but through the mediation of the Intellectual-Principle and the Soul.

The Intellectual-Principle has its intellection by virtue of the self-contemplation of the One:—

V. 1, 7. “We say the Intellectual-Principle is the image of The One. . . . But The One is not an Intellectual-Principle, how then does it engender an Intellectual-Principle? The answer is that The One has Vision and this very Vision actually is the Intellectual-Principle.”

The Soul is twofold in Act; standing between Divine Mind and Nature, it looks to both, as is indicated in the quotation from IV. 8, 3, page 139.

So, too:—

IV. 8, 5. “For every soul has something of the lower for the purposes of body and of the higher for the purposes of Divine Mind.”

All existents are brought back, by these channels of mediation, to the First Principle. See I. 7, 2, page 90.

IV. 3, 12. “The Intellectual-Principle entire rests ever Above but sends down to the sense-known world through the Soul which in turn gives out to its own next.”

IV. 5, 9. “All through the scheme of things, lowers are included under what is one degree less low, and highers under the higher yet; one thing under another, until the First is reached; this First, having nothing before It, can be overpassed by nothing . . . must therefore overpass all.”

Thus all follow the same line, up and down, and for their ultimate Principle all depend upon The One, which for this reason alone is called The Good:—

I. 7, 1. “The Absolute Good must be described as That to Which all things aspire and It to none.”

Compare I. 8, 2, page 93.

As to the mode in which The One or The Good is present to all and all exist and have their substantial being in It, this is conveyed, after Plotinus’ manner, by many images and metaphors. One of these illustrations makes it, so to speak, a universal Life:—

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VI. 5, 12. “It is present as one Life: in a living organism the life is not seated at one point . . . it is diffused throughout the entire frame. If this seems impossible, remember that the Divine Energy knows no bound of quantity; divide it mentally for ever and It is still the same; It is fundamentally infinite; it has no touch of Matter about It so as to vary according to the magnitude of the object upon which It acts.”

VIII: The Soul and the World of Nature

IV. 4, 13. How does this Wisdom (n) differ from what we know as Nature?

The distinction is that the Wisdom is an earlier, a more divine form of the Soul; for Nature, too, is an image of the Divine Wisdom, but, as the last emanation of the Soul, possesses only the lowest degree of the Reason illuminating it. . . . Nature, then, has not consciousness (n): it has merely productivity which consists in its transmitting, without choice or knowledge, to what follows upon itself, to the body-kinds and Matter-kinds, the Form which it has received from Soul.

III. 2, 2. From that Divine Kosmos, authentic and One, this lower Kosmos derives its existence: it is not a true Unity; it is manifold, subdivided into multiplicity, thing standing apart from thing in spatial differentiation; discord takes the place of harmony; where all is something less than perfect, item clashes with item; no member suffices to itself; each to complete its own function demands the aid of another and so there is general strife.

This lower Kosmos has been engendered not because the Divinity saw need for it, but from the sheer necessity there was for a secondary or derivative kind, since it was not in the constitution of existence that The Divine should be the latest and lowest of things.

The Divine is The First; it possessed, also, a multiform power, an all-power, fitted to produce other forms of being; but Its action could not be the result of seeking and planning; if there were planning, It would not possess the Kosmos as something quite Its own, something emanating from Its own Essence: It would be like a craftsman in whom creation is not an inborn personal power but an acquirement, as of a trade learned. But the Universe is the work of the undisturbed, unmoved Divine Mind giving something from Itself to Matter (n): this Gift is the Reason-Principle which flows from It.

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This Wisdom” is that Soul which verges on The Intellectual-Principle, that is the superior Soul above that which deals directly with Nature and with bodily forms:—

III. 8, 4. “What we call Nature is a Soul, the offspring of a prior Soul, of a Soul living with more power.”

This prior Soul is compared elsewhere to the Celestial Aphrodite, the inferior Soul, that which is Nature, to the Earthly Aphrodite. This inferior or later soul is described as bringing Nature into being by the process by which Contemplation or Mental Purposing passes into action.

In other places Sensation in animals and the principle of growth in plants are said to be produced by an outwending or procession of the Soul:—

V. 2, 1. “The Soul, as looking to the Divine order, is perfect; going outside of itself into a movement foreign to its essence, it engenders an image which is sensitive and vegetative Nature.”

Speaking rather loosely Plotinus says, IV. 9, 4, that the multiplicity of Souls all proceed from the one Soul-of-the-All: in IV. 8, 4 we have the conception, truer to the system, that they are, rather, a multiplicity within the one Soul.

Something of Itself to Matter”:—VI. 4, 16. “This is no coming-down as into a place; the Soul’s Descent consists in its being with body; when we say that the Soul is in the body, we mean that it communicates something of its own to the body.”

The Soul “entering” the multiplicity of the sense-known world suffers, as it were, a loss of its unity, a part, a lower part, visiting the lower sphere:—

II. 9, 2. “The less exalted part of the Soul is dragged down . . . the eternal law could never allow it to descend entire.”

In joining the body it loses something of its liberty, for in all that it now does, even though the life be mainly lived in Reason, there is a certain admixture:—

VI. 8, 2. “All that has to do with action, even where Reason rules, is of mixed quality, and entire freedom cannot exist.”

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IX: Matter

I. 8, 7. “But why does the existence . . . necessity of Evil” (pages 100-101).


Plotinus goes much further than Plato in the low rank accorded to Matter. In the Enneads it is the sheer terminus of the Truly-Existent and of The Good; it is that which has nothing of reality or of value. Sometimes, however, like Plato, Plotinus makes Matter “The Other-than-Being”: cf. I. 8, 3, and I. 8, 5, pages 94, 97 of this volume.

III. 6, 7. “Matter is without body; body is of earlier date (less distant from the Divine) and merely includes Matter . . . neither is Matter a spirit or a mind, it is not life, it is not a Reason-Form or Idea, it is not a limit; it might be more nearly described as a boundlessness; it is not a power or potentiality; it produces nothing and since it is none of the things of this sphere it cannot come under the name of an Existent; it is, rather, Not-Being; and it is not even this in the sense in which Motion and Rest may be called Not-Being; it is merely a phantasm or shadow of space, an aspiration towards existence; it is present where no one sees; it ever eludes the eye that searches for it . . . it comprises all the contraries, the little and the great, the more and the less . . . it is a ghostly thing incapable alike of staying or going since it has drawn no force from the Divine: and, so, all its pretence of existence is a lie.”

From Plotinus’ doctrine it would follow that wherever there is Non-Being or defect of Being, there must be some presence of Matter; that would seem to be the case even in the Soul, even in the Divine Mind; but Plotinus will not allow Matter There (?).

X: Soul and Body

IV. 3, 9. The entry of a Soul into a body may take place in one of two ways. In one case it has already been in an earthly body and changes for another, or having been in a body of fire or air (an “astral” body) it enters for the first time into an earthly body. . . . In another case it has been previously outside of any body, but chooses one now and so enters for the first time into relation with the material universe. At present we are to deal only with this second case. . . . We begin with the Soul-of-the-All. . . . We must use such phrases as “entry of the Soul” Edition: current; Page: [149] and “ensouling the world,” though there never was a time when this All was without Soul, never a time when the frame of the universe held together in the absence of Soul, never a time when Matter was crude and unordered (n). We separate them, Soul and Body, Form and Matter, only to be enabled to discuss them clearly; there is no combination which the reasoning faculties may not resolve into its elements.

If Body, the body-kind, had not existed the Soul could never have gone forth from itself, for there exists no other place to which its nature would allow it to resort. If it is to go forth from itself, it must provide a suitable place; it must shape itself a body.

Now the Soul (as a Divine Hypostasis) is motionless, with an immobility rooted in immobility’s self (the immobility which is one of the Categories of the world of Authentic-Existence) but it may be thought of as a powerful light shining forth afar; at the uttermost reach of its fires there must be darkness (n): once this darkness exists the Soul must see it, and, by seeing it, give it form, for the Law could not allow anything that is near to Soul to be without some share in Divine Idea. . . .

The Kosmos, the ordered and patterned system thus produced, becomes like a stately and varied mansion not disowned by its architect though not identical with him; it is judged worthy in every inch of all its builder’s care in adding beauty to its being, as far as existence is possible to Matter and without prejudice to the Maker who presides over it from the eternal seat Above (n).

Thus is the All ensouled, with a spirit not its own but communicated to it: governed by Soul, not governing it; not so much possessing as possessed by Soul. For the Universe lies within this maintaining Spirit and no recess of it is wholly void of Soul (n): it may be compared to a net that takes all its life from being wet in the waters and still is never able to move of its own motion there, but as the sea tosses it the net is spread out, exactly to the full of its reach, no mesh of it able to push beyond its own set place.

The Soul, outside all the limits of space and quantity, is able to embrace within its unvarying force the entire body of the All, and is ever at the furthest and the nearest point which the All includes (n). The Universe spreads as broad and wide as the presence of the Soul, and it stretches as far as the outflow of life from the Soul proceeds.


Never a time. Plotinus makes the world eternal on the ground that there could never be a time at which the Eternal Principles were unproductive.

Darkness”:—Cf. I. 8, 4, and I. 8, 5, pages 96-7 of this volume.

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Presides over it”:—This refers to the prior Soul. In other places Plotinus utterly denies a fall of the Soul:—

II. 9, 4. “Is it to be thought that creation comes about because the Soul has lost its wings? Such a catastrophe cannot be conceived of the Divine All-Soul. We hear of its Fall: but, why and how, and when? If it fell from all eternity, then it is eternally a fallen thing; if we fix a time, why not earlier or later? We hold that the Kosmos was produced by no such fall: the creation, rather, came about by the Soul’s not falling. If the Soul fell that could be only by its forgetting the things of the Supreme; but if it forget that Sphere, how could it create this? From what model does it work but from what it sees There? If then it creates from the vision of the Divine Realities, it can never have fallen.”

Adding Beauty”:—“All things that exist in the Universe have Soul and vital force and are images of the eternal life in the Divine and Intellectual Kosmos. The Universe is consummate in beauty and only the witless could revile it:—

II. 9, 4. “Nor can we admit that this universe is ill-constructed because of the many flaws that may be found in it: such a complaint would rank it high indeed—as if it were the Intellectual Universe itself and not merely an image of that Divine Sphere.”

The very evil in the universe contributes towards the good: the Providence of God nowhere shines more brightly than in His power to turn evil to His purposes:—

III. 2, 5. “Vice itself is not without its usefulness to the All; it exhibits the beauty and the rightness of virtue; it calls up the intelligence to oppose the evil course; it manifests the value and grace there is in goodness by displaying the cost of sin. No doubt evil has not essentially anything to do with these purposes, but once it is there it serves in working out great ends; and only a mighty power could thus turn the ignoble to noble uses and employ to the purposes of form what has risen in formless lawlessness.”

The Furthest and Nearest Point”:—For the world is a living-being penetrated with life, and all its members are working together towards one end:—

IV. 4, 32: “We must look upon this Universe with all the lives within it as one living-being having for all its parts one soul which reaches to every member, to every object existing in the sense-known scheme. . . . This world, by virtue of its unity, is linked in fellow-feeling; it is like one animal and its furthest extremities are near and share their experiences.”

IV. 4, 36. “The universe is very varied: all the Reason-Principles (Divine Thought-Forms) meet in it, infinitely diverse powers. . . . It is a being awake and Edition: current; Page: [151] alive at every point. . . . Each thing has its own peculiar life in the All, though we, because our senses do not discern the activity going on inside wood and stone, deny the life. . . . Their living is in secret, but they live: all that lives to our perception is composed of things that live imperceptibly and bestow upon the visibly living the powers which are manifested in the life. Man could not rise to his lofty height if his activity were determined by utterly soulless powers; nor, again, could the All be of so exalted a life unless everything in it had a life of its own; choice perhaps does not belong to these invisible lives, but their activity has no need of choice; they are of earlier origin than choice (i.e. they act by an “instinct” nearer to the Divine intuition) and therefore have far-reaching efficiency.”

To this general idea are hinged Plotinus’ theory of the sacredness of temples and statues and upon the efficacy of Magic:—

IV. 3, 11. “The olden sages, in seeking to procure the presence of the Gods by erecting temples and statues, seem to me to have possessed deep insight into the nature of the universe: They felt the All-Soul to be a Principle ever at our call; it is but fitly preparing a place in which some phase of it may be received, and a thing is always fit to receive the operation of the Soul when it is brought to the condition of a mirror, apt to catch the image.”

IV. 4, 26. “Our prayers are heard in the sense that they fit into the linked scheme of the All; they are effective by virtue of the same universal harmony. This is the secret of Magic also.”

IV. 4, 40. “Enchantment is possible because of the fellow-feeling and accordant nature of like things and also through the unlikeness that, equally, exists; in sum through the variety in the forces which co-operate to the constitution of one living-being. Even without human intervention there is much magical operation: the true magic is the Love reigning in the Universe—and the Hate, as well.” . . . (Prayer and Magic, Plotinus explains, are efficient through the one cause:—“the sympathy which every part of the Universe has for every other: twitch at any one point a rope hanging free, and it swings through all its length; touch one chord of a lyre and every other chord resounds . . . much more must the universe respond to any single action since it embraces all things, even contraries, reconciled into a perfect harmony.)”

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XI: The Soul in Man

IV. 3, 15. “The Souls, in proceeding from the Intellectual Sphere, pass first to the heavens and there take a body: by means of this celestial body, as they acquire more and more of spatial extension they descend to bodies of a more earthly nature; some of the souls will have entered into a first and only body, others will have passed down from body to body; these last have not the strength to lift themselves aloft again; they are heavily burdened and numbed into forgetfulness; they carry a great weight that bears them down (n).”

IV. 3, 17. “That this is the order of descent is a matter of simple sense. The heavenly region is the most exalted of sensible space and touches the borders of the Intellectual Sphere; the sky-things are, therefore, the first to receive Soul, fitter as they are for participation in the Divine. The earthy is of later origin, is further removed from the bodiless kind and is of a nature to receive only a lesser and later soul. All the Souls, then, illuminate the heavens, shedding there the first and most powerful effulgence of their splendour (n) the lower world receives only the later rays. Those Souls that plunge deepest in the descent irradiate the lowest bodies but they themselves take no gain from that service.”

VI. 4, 14. “But we, what are we? Before our birth to the world we were in the Divine, men of another rank than now, of the order of the Gods, souls unmingled with Matter, Intellectual-Principle inbound into the entirety of Authentic-Existence; we were members of the Divine Mind, not then under limit, not cast out but wholly of the All.

“Even now we are not cast out; but upon that Primal-Man which we were, another man has been intruded . . . we are become a double person . . . and our first and loftier nature lies torpid.”


The Descent of the Souls”:—Sometimes the Descent is explained by the consideration that the Soul has need of Matter, and Matter need of Soul: cf. I. 8, 11, page 106 of this work. Sometimes it appears that a law of eternal necessity leads the Souls to follow their own temper and will, and enter a body, choosing one suited to the distinctive character of each. After this arise the forgetfulness and self-will mentioned in the first Extract as causing the fall.

First Effulgence etc.”:—Compare Extract X. page 148 of this work. The firmanent is, to Plotinus, a God; so, too, the sun and stars, Gods of the second Edition: current; Page: [153] order; for, besides the Supreme God, The One, Plotinus admits three orders of Gods: I. The Intellectual-Puissances, constituting the Divine Mind: cf. notes on Extract VII. page 144 of this volume; 2. The heavenly bodies; 3. The Daimones or “Blessed Spirits,” midway between earth and moon and between the Gods and men.

Plotinus impugns the theory of Astrology but concedes that the stars signify what is to be; this doctrine he bases on the intimate connection of all things great and small in the Universe:—

II. 3, 7. “We may think of the stars as letters being ceaselessly traced upon the sky, or traced once for all but being constantly rearranged in such a way that while they do their own work in the universe they also signify to us. The unity of an organic body enables us to reason from part to other part; from the eyes or some other organ one can judge of a man’s character, perils, resources. . . . So the Universe is full of signs, and the wise man is the man that reads the reality from the symbols.”

What are We?”:—Compare—

IV. 3, 12. “The human Souls, which can see their own image in the world as in a Dionysos’ mirror, have not abandoned their place in the Divine; for all their descent, they are not cut off from their Principle, from Divine Mind. The Intellectual-Principle does not descend with them but while they walk the earth their Summit is above the heavens.”

XII: The Soul after Death

I. 1, 10. Page 38 of this volume.


The Soul liberated by death goes whither it has tended and as it has deserved—up to the heavens and among the stars, or in the Divine Mind itself, or into other human bodies, or yet deeper into Matter as into animals or plants. Cf. I. 8, 13, page 105 of this volume.

Plotinus does not allow that the authentic, the separable Soul, is in the body: the body is in the Soul: see I. 1, 7, page 35 of this work; and

IV. 3, 20. “The body is visible; the Soul is not: we observe that the body is possessed of Soul since it moves and feels . . . hence we are led to say that there is a Soul in it. If the Soul were an object of sight or of any sense, we should Edition: current; Page: [154] perceive that it is wrapped about the entire living being, equally covering it from extremity to extremity; we should judge that the Soul is in no way within the body but that the secondary is within its principal, the content within the container, the passing within the perdurable.”

IV. 3, 22. “The Soul is in the body only as light is in the air (permeating but not enclosed).”

The Essential Constituent of man is that prior Soul which ever remains a member of the Intellectual Realm from which it sprang: cf. I. 1, 7, page 36 of this volume.

VI. 7, 5. “The diviner Soul never leaves the Divine Mind: while it clings There, it allows the lower Soul, as it were, to hang down from it while it holds itself bound by its own Reason-Principle to the Reason-Principle of the Divine sphere to which it belongs.”

It follows that the perceptions of the senses and the perturbations of the mind do not belong to the true man but to the body or to the Couplement of Soul and body, so that the Authentic Soul is not affected but is merely aware of an affection elsewhere:—

IV. 4, 18. “Sorrow and pleasure of the sense belong to the body thus modified; pain and joy of the body come in the form of knowledge without feeling to us, to the true man.”

The virtues not philosophic but practical, or civic, belong to this Couplement—as do vices and flaws which cannot touch the true Soul: cf. I. 1, 11 and 12, page 39 of this volume. The true virtue is seated only in the true essence of the man: see I. 4, 14, page 70 of this volume.

For the true Soul, or true Man, is the Soul loosed from the body either by death or by the life of philosophic contemplation: cf. Porphyry, “There are two modes of death: one, known to every one, where the body is loosed from the Soul; the other, that of the Sages, where the Soul is released from the body: the one death may or may not be followed by the other.”

All the trouble of this life, all the vicissitudes of the earthly career touch only those that cede too much to the lower and outer:—

III. 2, 15. “Man-made weapons directed against fellow-mortals in quaintly set-out battles, like Pyrrhic dances, show what children’s games are all our human affairs; and they show us, too, that death is nothing very serious: to die in wars, in battles, is to grow old a little before one’s time; it is going away suddenly, to come back again. Or suppose that you are dispossessed of your wealth; remember that there was a time when you did not as yet possess it, and that your despoiler will either lose it in turn or find its possession a greater evil than its loss could be. Edition: current; Page: [155] Murders, death in all its shapes, the capture and sacking of towns, all must be considered as so much stage-show, so many shiftings of scenes, the horror and outcry of a play; for here, too, in all the changing doom of life, it is not the true man, the inner Soul, that grieves and laments but merely the phantasm of the man, the outer man, playing his part on the boards of the world. Who could be troubled by such griefs, except one that understands only the lower and outer life, never dreaming that all the tears and mighty business are but a sport? . . . If the Sage has to take part in the revels he will not forget that he has fallen among children and for the moment discarded his own grave truth.”

XIII: Likeness to God

I. 2, 3. Page 44 of this volume.

V. 3, 9. One that seeks to penetrate the nature of the Divine Mind must see deeply into the nature of his own Soul, into the Divinest part of himself. He must first make abstraction of the body, then of the lower soul which built up that body, then of all the faculties of sense, of all desires and emotions and every such triviality, of all that leans towards the mortal. What is left after this abstraction is the part which we describe as the image of the Divine Mind, an emanation preserving some of that Divine Light.


All the virtues are referred to the “Purification” which consists in separating the Reasonable or Intellectual Soul from the body-soul and from the body: cf. I. 6, 6, page 84 of this volume.

It is an error to seek the perfect happiness in action or in the moral (or civic) virtues, since all action belongs to the outer, to the mixed life, not to the pure Act of the prior Soul: see I. 1, 10 and the reference to Hercules in I. 1, 12, pages 38, 40, of this volume.

Our task is not merely to expel evil but to become good, not to be without fault but to be God. Still if we expel evil, the Good comes of itself:—

V. 3, 6. “The Soul, brought to its purity, welcomes the indwelling imprint of the Intellectual-Principle.”

V. 3, 6. “When we were in the Divine we rested content in the nature of the Intellectual-Principle; we had Intellection and saw all things in The One; for the Intellectual-Principle had the Intellection and spoke to the Soul of what Edition: current; Page: [156] it saw, and the Soul rested in tranquil co-operation with the activities of its prior.”

V. 3, 8. “Light is visible by light: the Intellectual-Principle sees Itself; and this Light shining upon the Soul enlightens it, that is makes it a member of the Intellective order.”

XIV: The Vision of the Supreme

VI. 9, 3. What, then, is The One and what Its nature? We cannot be surprised to find It difficult to tell of since even Existence and the Ideas resist our penetration though all our knowing is based upon the Ideas.

The further the human Soul, or Mind, ventures towards the Formless (to what is either above or below Form and Idea), the more is it troubled; it becomes itself, as it were, undefined, unshaped, in face of the shifting variety before it and so it is utterly unable to take hold; it slips away; it feels that it can grasp nothing. It is at pain in these alien places, and often is glad to give up all its purpose and to fall back upon the solid ground of the sense-grasped world and there take rest—much as the eye, wearied of the minute and fine, is eased when it meets the large and bold.

Besides, the Soul when it ventures the vision unaided thinks itself baulked from the very fact that it can see only by completely possessing its object, that is by becoming one within itself and one with The One; perfectly assimilated to the object of its contemplation, it recognises no vision. Despite all this difficulty, there is a way; and this way must be taken by those that desire the life of Wisdom within The One. That which we seek is The One, the Principle of the Universe, The Good and the First; therefore, the way is to keep ourselves in the close neighbourhood of Unity, never allowing ourselves to fall away towards the lower sphere of Multiplicity; we must keep calling ourselves back from the sense-known world . . . to the Primals, from all that is evil to the Absolute Good; we must ascend to this Principle within ourselves, making ourselves one out of our manyness; that is we must become Intellectual-Principle alone by throwing the entire Soul in confidence into the Intellectual-Principle and so establishing it There that henceforth, in the plenitude of life, it shall take to itself all that the Intellectual-Principle sees and thus shall see The One, no longer asking aid from any sense, no longer paying heed to anything that comes by sense, but with pure Intellection and the topmost Puissance of the Intellective-Principle contemplating the All-Pure.

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VI. 9, 4. Our greatest difficulty is that consciousness of The One comes not by knowledge, not even by such an intuitive Intellection as possesses us of the lower members of the Intellectual Order, but by an actual Presence superior to any knowing. The Soul, when it deals with matters of knowledge, suffers a certain decline from its Unity, for knowing is still an act of reasoning, and reasoning is a multiple act, an act which leads the Soul down to the sphere of number and multiplicity. The Soul, therefore, must rise above knowledge, above all its wandering from its Unity; it must hold itself aloof from all knowing and from all the knowable and from the very contemplation of Beauty and Good, for all Beauty and Good are later than this, springing from This as the daily light springs from the sun.

Hence it is that we read of the “Greatness, not to be spoken of, not to be written.” If we here speak and write, it is but as guides to those that long to see: we send them to the Place Itself, bidding them from words to the Vision: the teaching is of the path and the plan, seeing is the work of each Soul for itself. Some there are that for all their effort have not attained the Vision: the Soul in them has come to no sense of the Splendour There; it has not taken warmth; it has not felt burning within itself the flame of love for What is There to know, the passion of the lover resting on the bosom of his love. They have received the Authentic Light; all their Soul has gleamed as they have drawn near; but, they come with a load on the shoulders which has held them back from the Place of Vision; they have not ascended in the pure integrity of their being but are burdened with that which keeps them apart; they are not yet all one within.

The Supreme is not absent from any one—and yet is absent from all; present everywhere It is absent except only to those that are prepared to receive It, those that have wrought themselves to harmony with It, that have seized It and hold It by virtue of their own Likeness to It and by the power in themselves akin to the power which rays from It: These and these only, whose Soul is again as it was when it came from out of the Divine, are free of what Vision of the Supreme Its mighty nature allows.

VI. 9, 11. The Soul restored to Likeness goes to its Like and holds of the Supreme all that Soul can hold . . . that which is before all things that are, over and apart from all the universe of Existence. This is not to say that in this plunging into the Divine the Soul reaches nothingness: it is when it is evil that it sinks towards nothingness: by this way, this that leads to the Good, it finds itself; when it is the Divine it is truly itself, no longer a thing among things. It abandons Being to become a Beyond-Being when its converse is in the Supreme. He who knows himself to have become such, knows himself now an image of the Supreme; and when the phantasm has returned to the Original, the journey is achieved. Edition: current; Page: [158] Suppose him to fall again from the Vision, he will call up the virtue within him and, seeing himself all glorious again, he will take his upward flight once more, through virtue to the Divine Mind, through the Wisdom There to the Supreme. And this is the life of the Gods, and of Godlike men, a life without love of the world, a flight of the Alone to the Alone.


These first words are of course omitted and the Ennead reference is added.