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The Enneads of Plotinus


First ennead:

  1. The animate and the man
  2. On virtue
  3. On dialectic [the upward way]
  4. On true happiness
  5. Happiness and extension of time

The first ennead

The capsules along with the daffodil icon are furnished by me. - TK.

First tractate: The animate and the man

lily PERCEPTION forms man as he grows up and into various expressive activities through such as coaching. Through the senses we become aware of friendships and the many brutes around. Even in them the soul "weaves" their energy outlets to their advantage, it is hoped (or feared). "Tyger, tyger ...", wrote William Blake.

We sense and express the life activities. And the animated man - soul and body intertwined in life activity - may also experience simple,unbroken unity of a sort that is very different from the sense-perceptions.


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 whatever acts, physical or mental, spring from them.

We have, therefore, to examine discursive-reason and the ordinary mental action on 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]. *

* All matter shown in brackets is added by the translator for clearness' sake and, therefore, is not canonical. S.M.

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 pure-pleasure, 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 conjunction is absolutely necessary, to sever the agent from the instrument, the body, so that it need not forever have its act on 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 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 a 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].

Suppose, next, the soul to be present like axe-form on iron: here, no doubt, the form is all important but it is still 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.

Compare the passage 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.

* "We read" translates "he says" of the text, and always indicates a reference to Plato, whose name does not appear in the translation except where it was written by Plotinus. S.M.


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 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 [ie, 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.

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 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 organized 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 on 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 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 [ie 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 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 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 sense-perception seated in the couplement; and from this downwards all the successive images are to be recognized 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 manifestation belongs peculiarly to soul: And the understanding, as passing judgement on sense-impressions, is at the point of the vision of ideal-forms, seeing them as it were with an answering sensation (ie, 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 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 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.


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 on us their action is directed towards the supreme; they work on us only when they stand at the mid-point.

But does not the 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.

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.


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 on us—for this intellectual-principle is part of us no less than the soul, and towards it we are ever rising.

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Second tractate: On virtue

lily A DIVINE presence is something of the soul which may attain identity with a god, it says.

The divine presence has solutions and also foresees necessary purifications.

What is more, fortitude (bravery too) may be the essence of divine acts in the different spheres of life, from high-levelled to low-grade, shockingly impure ones. Thus, fortitude is much. And there is wisdom in the soul and wisdom built into the body.

These topics are switched on in "couplement" with the text, the 2nd tractate.


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 cosmos 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 [sophrosyne], 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 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 sophrosyne 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 recognizes 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 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, 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 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 sophrosyne—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 some 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 on which virtue follows? does virtue imply the achieved state of purification or does 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 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 on 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 it 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: 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 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 on 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, 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 twofold, 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 on 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 overlord.

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 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 on 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 (sophrosyne) 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 sophrosyne; 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.

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, sophrosyne 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 on 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.

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Third tractate: On dialectic [the upward way]

lilyLower lives need outside guidance to develop top intellect, thinks Plotinus, and that one is to start off with whatever natural tendencies are there. Accordingly,

  1. A musical-minded person is to be "drawn by the tone, rhythm and design in things," and thus led to beauty, whereas philosophical truths must be implanted in him.
  2. Likewise, those who are born to love, so to speak, and get "spellbound by visible loveliness," must learn to recognise the beauty of virtues and so on, and by this long process become intellectual in turn too.
  3. A third type is claimed to be disengaged but doubting the way, and therefore just in need of an explaining guide to get intellectual [enough] too.

There is a stress on getting intellectual by evolving things that seem imperfect at first. Going for "natural virtues," wisdom and perfecting of the moral nature the neophyte may gain a sense of unity, "instructed and satisfied," and return to his or her starting-point through sound meditation.


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 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 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: Spellbound 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 organized 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 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 on 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 cosmos 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 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 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.


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 on 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 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, 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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Fourth tractate: On true happiness

lily Happiness wells up from within. Pleasure and well-being do not have to function against it either, so a good life is fit for all, including plants, teaches Plotinus, and argues further that "if happiness demands fulness of life, . . . then happiness can exist only in a being that lives fully."

Plotinus does not stop there, but goes on to ask "what could be added to the fullest and good life to make it the best life?" And he thinks he has got the answer to that, by "The perfect life and the true life, the essential life, is in the intellectual nature beyond . . .", which also is of the origin of each. That is where joy is, and "Once the man is a sage, the means of happiness, the way to good, are within."

A sage is normally in a state of felicity, says Plotinus further. However, such a sage may bear afflictions that come in his or her way too. and "As for violent personal sufferings, he will carry them off as well as he can," hopefully without being carried off by them. [Apropos, we are to go well against pain, dhukkha, in its myriad forms, teaches Buddhism.]

Further, the sage will be the best of friends, for he or she has great integrity, and pays reasonable attention to the differing conditions surrounding him, thinks Plotinus too.


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 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 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 on sensation but on 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 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 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.

Until these people light on 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 on 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 on 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 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 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 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, too, the man, already in possession of true felicity, who is this perfection realized, 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?

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 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 on 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.

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?

Wherever 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 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 on 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 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 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 on 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 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 on 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 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.

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 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.


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?


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 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, 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.

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Fifth tractate: Happiness and extension of time

lily Plotinus thinks that fit and sound pleasure is good, and not to be discarded. Whereas pleasure is in the present, deep, true, unchanging happiness [of a higher realm, that is] is not bound in time, he says. He finds, further, that "the soul's expression is not in action but in wisdom," and that lots of happiness is of that soul within.


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.


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 that 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.


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.

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 noting 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 nonexistent: 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, wherever and however 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 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 on 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.

Enneads of Plotinus, END MATTER

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