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The Enneads of Plotinus


Third ennead:

  1. Fate
  2. On providence (1)
  3. On providence (2)
  4. Our tutelary spirit
  5. On love

The third ennead

First tractate: Fate



In the two orders of things—those whose existence is that of process and those in whom it is authentic being—there is a variety of possible relation to cause.

Cause might conceivably underly all the entities in both orders or none in either. It might underly some, only, in each order, the others being causeless. It might, again, underly the realm of process universally while in the realm of authentic existence some things were caused, others not, or all were causeless. Conceivably, on the other hand, the authentic existents are all caused while in the realm of process some things are caused and others not, or all are causeless.

Now, to begin with the eternal existents:

The firsts among these, by the fact that they are firsts, cannot be referred to outside causes; but all such as depend on those firsts may be admitted to derive their being from them.

And in all cases the act may be referred to the essence [as its cause], for their essence consists, precisely, in giving forth an appropriate act.

As for things of process—or for eternal existents whose act is not eternally invariable—we must hold that these are due to cause; causelessness is quite inadmissible; we can make no place here for unwarranted "slantings," for sudden movement of bodies apart from any initiating power, for precipitate spurts in a soul with nothing to drive it into the new course of action. Such causelessness would bind the soul under an even sterner compulsion, no longer master of itself, but at the mercy of movements apart from will and cause. Something willed—within itself or without—something desired, must lead it to action; without motive it can have no motion.

On the assumption that all happens by cause, it is easy to discover the nearest determinants of any particular act or state and to trace it plainly to them.

The cause of a visit to the centre of affairs will be that one thinks it necessary to see some person or to receive a debt, or, in a word, that one has some definite motive or impulse confirmed by a judgement of expediency. Sometimes a condition may be referred to the arts, the recovery of health for instance to medical science and the doctor. Wealth has for its cause the discovery of a treasure or the receipt of a gift, or the earning of money by manual or intellectual labour. The child is traced to the father as its cause and perhaps to a chain of favourable outside circumstances such as a particular diet or, more immediately, a special organic aptitude or a wife apt to childbirth.

And the general cause of all is nature.


But to halt at these nearest determinants, not to be willing to penetrate deeper, indicates a sluggish mind, a dullness to all that calls us towards the primal and transcendent causes.

How comes it that the same surface causes produce different results? There is moonshine, and one man steals and the other does not: Under the influence of exactly similar surroundings one man falls sick and the other keeps well; an identical set of operations makes one rich and leaves another poor. The differences amongst us in manners, in characters, in success, force us to go still further back.

Men therefore have never been able to rest at the surface causes.

One school postulates material principles, such as atoms; from the movement, from the collisions and combinations of these, it derives the existence and the mode of being of all particular phenomena, supposing that all depends on how these atoms are agglomerated, how they act, how they are affected; our own impulses and states, even, are supposed to be determined by these principles.

Such teaching, then, obtrudes this compulsion, an atomic anagke, even on real being. Substitute, for the atoms, any other material entities as principles and the cause of all things, and at once real being becomes servile to the determination set up by them.

Others rise to the first-principle of all that exists and from it derive all they tell of a cause penetrating all things, not merely moving all but making each and everything; but they pose this as a fate and a supremely dominating cause; not merely all else that comes into being, but even our own thinking and thoughts would spring from its movement, just as the several members of an animal move not at their own choice but at the dictation of the leading principle which animal life presupposes.

Yet another school fastens on the universal circuit as embracing all things and producing all by its motion and by the positions and mutual aspect of the planets and fixed stars in whose power of foretelling they find warrant for the belief that this circuit is the universal determinant.

Finally, there are those that dwell on the interconnection of the causative forces and on their linked descent—every later phenomenon following on an earlier, one always leading back to others by which it arose and without which it could not be, and the latest always subservient to what went before them—but this is obviously to bring in fate by another path. This school may be fairly distinguished into two branches; a section which makes all depend on some one principle and a section which ignores such a unity.

Of this last opinion we will have something to say, but for the moment we will deal with the former, taking the others in their turn.


"Atoms" or "elements"—it is in either case an absurdity, an impossibility, to hand over the universe and its contents to material entities, and out of the disorderly swirl thus occasioned to call order, reasoning, and the governing soul into being; but the atomic origin is, if we may use the phrase, the most impossible.

A good deal of truth has resulted from the discussion of this subject; but, even to admit such principles does not compel us to admit universal compulsion or any kind of "fate."

Suppose the atoms to exist:

These atoms are to move, one downwards—admitting a down and an up—another slant-wise, all at haphazard, in a confused conflict. Nothing here is orderly; order has not come into being, though the outcome, this universe, when it achieves existence, is all order; and thus prediction and divination are utterly impossible, whether by the laws of the science—what science can operate where there is no order?—or by divine possession and inspiration, which no less require that the future be something regulated.

Material entities exposed to all this onslaught may very well be under compulsion to yield to whatever the atoms may bring: But would anyone pretend that the acts and states of a soul or mind could be explained by any atomic movements? How can we imagine that the onslaught of an atom, striking downwards or dashing in from any direction, could force the soul to definite and necessary reasonings or impulses or into any reasonings, impulses or thoughts at all, necessary or otherwise? and what of the soul's resistance to bodily states? What movement of atoms could compel one man to be a geometrician, set another studying arithmetic or astronomy, lead a third to the philosophic life? In a word, if we must go, like soulless bodies, wherever bodies push and drive us, there is an end to our personal act and to our very existence as living beings.

The school that erects other material forces into universal causes is met by the same reasoning: We say that while these can warm us and chill us, and destroy weaker forms of existence, they can be causes of nothing that is done in the sphere of mind or soul: All this must be traceable to quite another kind of principle.


Another theory:

The universe is permeated by one soul, cause of all things and events; every separate phenomenon as a member of a whole moves in its place with the general movement; all the various causes spring into action from one source: Therefore, it is argued, the entire descending claim of causes and all their interaction must follow inevitably and so constitute a universal determination. A plant rises from a root, and we are asked on that account to reason that not only the interconnection linking the root to all the members and every member to every other but the entire activity and experience of the plant, as well, must be one organized overruling, a "destiny" of the plant.

But such an extremity of determination, a destiny so all- pervasive, does away with the very destiny that is affirmed: It shatters the sequence and co-operation of causes.

It would be unreasonable to attribute to destiny the movement of our limbs dictated by the mind and will: This is no case of something outside bestowing motion while another thing accepts it and is thus set into action; the mind itself is the prime mover.

Similarly in the case of the universal system; if all that performs act and is subject to experience constitutes one substance, if one thing does not really produce another thing under causes leading back continuously one to another, then it is not a truth that all happens by causes, there is nothing but a rigid unity. We are no "We": Nothing is our act; our thought is not ours; our decisions are the reasoning of something outside ourselves; we are no more agents than our feet are kickers when we use them to kick with.

No; each several thing must be a separate thing; there must be acts and thoughts that are our own; the good and evil done by each human being must be his own; and it is quite certain that we must not lay any vileness to the charge of the all.


But perhaps the explanation of every particular act or event is rather that they are determined by the spheric movement—the phora—and by the changing position of the heavenly bodies as these stand at setting or rising or in mid-course and in various aspects with each other.

Augury, it is urged, is able from these indications to foretell what is to happen not merely to the universe as a whole, but even to individuals, and this not merely as regards external conditions of fortune but even as to the events of the mind. We observe, too, how growth or check in other orders of beings—animals and plants—is determined by their sympathetic relations with the heavenly bodies and how widely they are influenced by them, how, for example, the various countries show a different produce according to their situation on the earth and especially their lie towards the sun. And the effect of place is not limited to plants and animals; it rules human beings too, determining their appearance, their height and colour, their mentality and their desires, their pursuits and their moral habit. Thus the universal circuit would seem to be the monarch of the all.

Now a first answer to this theory is that its advocates have merely devised another shift to immolate to the heavenly bodies all that is ours, our acts of will and our states, all the evil in us, our entire personality; nothing is allowed to us; we are left to be stones set rolling, not men, not beings whose nature implies a task.

But we must be allowed our own—with the understanding that to what is primarily ours, our personal holding, there is added some influx from the all—the distinction must be made between our individual act and what is thrust on us: We are not to be immolated to the stars.

Qlace and climate, no doubt, produce constitutions warmer or colder; and the parents tell on the offspring, as is seen in the resemblance between them, very general in personal appearance and noted also in some of the unreflecting states of the mind.

None the less, in spite of physical resemblance and similar environment, we observe the greatest difference in temperament and in ideas: This side of the human being, then, derives from some quite other principle [than any external causation or destiny]. A further confirmation is found in the efforts we make to correct both bodily constitution and mental aspirations.

If the stars are held to be causing principles on the ground of the possibility of foretelling individual fate or fortune from observation of their positions, then the birds and all the other things which the soothsayer observes for divination must equally be taken as causing what they indicate.

Some further considerations will help to clarify this matter:

The heavens are observed at the moment of a birth and the individual fate is thence predicted in the idea that the stars are no mere indications, but active causes, of the future events. Sometimes the astrologers tell of noble birth; "the child is born of highly placed parents"; yet how is it possible to make out the stars to be causes of a condition which existed in the father and mother previously to that star pattern on which the prediction is based?

And consider still further:

They are really announcing the fortunes of parents from the birth of children; the character and career of children are included in the predictions as to the parents—they predict for the yet unborn!—in the lot of one brother they are foretelling the death of another; a girl's fate includes that of a future husband, a boy's that of a wife.

Now, can we think that the star-grouping over any particular birth can be the cause of what stands already announced in the facts about the parents? Either the previous star-groupings were the determinants of the child's future career or, if they were not, then neither is the immediate grouping. And notice further that physical likeness to the parents—the astrologers hold—is of purely domestic origin: This implies that ugliness and beauty are so caused and not by astral movements.

Again, there must at one and the same time be a widespread coming to birth—men, and the most varied forms of animal life at the same moment—and these should all be under the one destiny since the one pattern rules at the moment; how explain that identical star- groupings give here the human form, there the animal?


But in fact everything follows its own kind; the birth is a horse because it comes from the horse kind, a man by springing from the human kind; offspring answers to species. Allow the cosmic circuit its part, a very powerful influence on the thing brought into being: Allow the stars a wide material action on the bodily part of the man, producing heat and cold and their natural resultants in the physical constitution; still does such action explain character, vocation and especially all that seems quite independent of material elements, a man taking to letters, to geometry, to gambling, and becoming an originator in any of these pursuits? and can we imagine the stars, divine beings, bestowing wickedness? and what of a doctrine that makes them wreak vengeance, as for a wrong, because they are in their decline or are being carried to a position beneath the earth—as if a decline from our point of view brought any change to themselves, as if they ever ceased to traverse the heavenly spheres and to make the same figure around the earth.

Nor may we think that these divine beings lose or gain in goodness as they see this one or another of the company in various aspects, and that in their happier position they are benignant to us and, less pleasantly situated, turn maleficent. We can but believe that their circuit is for the protection of the entirety of things while they furnish the incidental service of being letters on which the augur, acquainted with that alphabet, may look and read the future from their pattern—arriving at the thing signified by such analogies as that a soaring bird tells of some lofty event.


It remains to notice the theory of the one causing-principle alleged to interweave everything with everything else, to make things into a chain, to determine the nature and condition of each phenomenon—a principle which, acting through seminal reason- forms—logoi spermatikoi—elaborates all that exists and happens.

The doctrine is close to that which makes the soul of the universe the source and cause of all condition and of all movement whether without or—supposing that we are allowed as individuals some little power towards personal act—within ourselves.

But it is the theory of the most rigid and universal necessity: All the causative forces enter into the system, and so every several phenomenon rises necessarily; where nothing escapes destiny, nothing has power to check or to change. Such forces beating on us, as it were, from one general cause leave us no resource but to go where they drive. All our ideas will be determined by a chain of previous causes; our doings will be determined by those ideas; personal action becomes a mere word. That we are the agents does not save our freedom when our action is prescribed by those causes; we have precisely what belongs to everything that lives, to infants guided by blind impulses, to lunatics; all these act; why, even fire acts; there is act in everything that follows the plan of its being, servilely.

No one that sees the implications of this theory can hesitate: Unable to halt at such a determinant principle, we seek for other explanations of our action.


What can this other cause be; one standing above those treated of; one that leaves nothing causeless, that preserves sequence and order in the universe and yet allows ourselves some reality and leaves room for prediction and augury?

Soul: We must place at the crest of the world of beings, this other principle, not merely the soul of the universe but, included in it, the soul of the individual: This, no mean principle, is needed to be the bond of union in the total of things, not, itself, a thing sprung like things from life-seeds, but a first-hand cause, bodiless and therefore supreme over itself, free, beyond the reach of cosmic cause: For, brought into body, it would not be unrestrictedly sovereign; it would hold rank in a series.

Now the environment into which this independent principle enters, when it comes to this midpoint, will be largely led by secondary causes [or, by chance-causes]: There will therefore be a compromise; the action of the soul will be in part guided by this environment while in other matters it will be sovereign, leading the way where it will. The nobler soul will have the greater power; the poorer soul, the lesser. A soul which defers to the bodily temperament cannot escape desire and rage and is abject in poverty, overbearing in wealth, arbitrary in power. The soul of nobler nature holds good against its surroundings; it is more apt to change them than to be changed, so that often it improves the environment and, where it must make concession, at least keeps its innocence.


We admit, then, a necessity in all that is brought about by this compromise between evil and accidental circumstance: What room was there for anything else than the thing that is? Given all the causes, all must happen beyond aye or nay—that is, all the external and whatever may be due to the sidereal circuit—therefore when the soul has been modified by outer forces and acts under that pressure so that what it does is no more than an unreflecting acceptance of stimulus, neither the act nor the state can be described as voluntary: So, too, when even from within itself, it falls at times below its best and ignores the true, the highest, laws of action.

But when our soul holds to its reason-principle, to the guide, pure and detached and native to itself, only then can we speak of personal operation, of voluntary act. Things so done may truly be described as our doing, for they have no other source; they are the issue of the unmingled soul, a principle that is a first, a leader, a sovereign not subject to the errors of ignorance, not to be overthrown by the tyranny of the desires which, where they can break in, drive and drag, so as to allow of no act of ours, but mere answer to stimulus.


To sum the results of our argument: All things and events are foreshown and brought into being by causes; but the causation is of two kinds; there are results originating from the soul and results due to other causes, those of the environment.

In the action of our souls all that is done of their own motion in the light of sound reason is the soul's work, while what is done where they are hindered from their own action is not so much done as suffered. Unwisdom, then, is not due to the soul, and, in general—if we mean by fate a compulsion outside ourselves—an act is fated when it is contrary to wisdom.

But all our best is of our own doing: Such is our nature as long as we remain detached. The wise and good do perform acts; their right action is the expression of their own power: In the others it comes in the breathing spaces when the passions are in abeyance; but it is not that they draw this occasional wisdom from outside themselves; simply, they are for the time being unhindered.

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Second tractate: On providence (1)



To make the existence and coherent structure of this universe depend on automatic activity and on chance is against all good sense.

Such a notion could be entertained only where there is neither intelligence nor even ordinary perception; and reason enough has been urged against it, though none is really necessary.

But there is still the question as to the process by which the individual things of this sphere have come into being, how they were made.

Some of them seem so undesirable as to cast doubts on a universal providence; and we find, on the one hand, the denial of any controlling power, on the other the belief that the cosmos is the work of an evil creator.

This matter must be examined through and through from the very first principles. We may, however, omit for the present any consideration of the particular providence, that beforehand decision which accomplishes or holds things in abeyance to some good purpose and gives or withholds in our own regard: When we have established the universal providence which we affirm, we can link the secondary with it.

Of course the belief that after a certain lapse of time a cosmos previously non-existent came into being would imply a foreseeing and a reasoned plan on the part of God providing for the production of the universe and securing all possible perfection in it—a guidance and partial providence, therefore, such as is indicated. But since we hold the eternal existence of the universe, the utter absence of a beginning to it, we are forced, in sound and sequent reasoning, to explain the providence ruling in the universe as a universal consonance with the divine intelligence to which the cosmos is subsequent not in time but in the fact of derivation, in the fact that the divine intelligence, preceding it in kind, is its cause as being the archetype and model which it merely images, the primal by which, from all eternity, it has its existence and subsistence.

The relationship may be presented thus:

The authentic and primal cosmos is the being of the intellectual principle and of the veritable existent. This contains within itself no spatial distinction, and has none of the feebleness of division, and even its parts bring no incompleteness to it since here the individual is not severed from the entire. In this nature inheres all life and all intellect, a life living and having intellection as one act within a unity: Every part that it gives forth is a whole; all its content is its very own, for there is here no separation of thing from thing, no part standing in isolated existence estranged from the rest, and therefore nowhere is there any wronging of any other, any opposition. Everywhere one and complete, it is at rest throughout and shows difference at no point; it does not make over any of its content into any new form; there can be no reason for changing what is everywhere perfect.

Why should reason elaborate yet another reason, or intelligence another intelligence? an indwelling power of making things is in the character of a being not at all points as it should be but making, moving, by reason of some failure in quality. Those whose nature is all blessedness have no more to do than to repose in themselves and be their being.

A widespread activity is dangerous to those who must go out from themselves to act. But such is the blessedness of this being that in its very non-action it magnificently operates and in its self-dwelling it produces mightily.


By derivation from that authentic cosmos, one within itself, there subsists this lower cosmos, no longer a true unity.

It is multiple, divided into various elements, thing standing apart from thing in a new estrangement. No longer is there concord unbroken; hostility, too, has entered as the result of difference and distance; imperfection has inevitably introduced discord; for a part is not self-sufficient, it must pursue something outside itself for its fulfillment, and so it becomes the enemy to what it needs.

This cosmos of parts has come into being not as the result of a judgement establishing its desirability, but by the sheer necessity of a secondary kind.

The intellectual realm was not of a nature to be the ultimate of existents. It was the first and it held great power, all there is of power; this means that it is productive without seeking to produce; for if effort and search were incumbent on it, the act would not be its own, would not spring from its essential nature; it would be, like a craftsman, producing by a power not inherent but acquired, mastered by dint of study.

The intellectual principle, then, in its unperturbed serenity has brought the universe into being, by communicating from its own store to matter: And this gift is the reason-form flowing from it. For the emanation of the intellectual principle is reason, an emanation unfailing as long as the intellectual principle continues to have place among beings.

The reason-principle within a seed contains all the parts and qualities concentrated in identity; there is no distinction, no jarring, no internal hindering; then there comes a pushing out into bulk, part rises in distinction with part, and at once the members of the organism stand in each other's way and begin to wear each other down.

So from this, the One intellectual principle, and the reason- form emanating from it, our universe rises and develops part, and inevitably are formed groups concordant and helpful in contrast with groups discordant and combative; sometimes of choice and sometimes incidentally, the parts maltreat each other; engendering proceeds by destruction.

Yet: Amid all that they effect and accept, the divine realm imposes the one harmonious act; each utters its own voice, but all is brought into accord, into an ordered system, for the universal purpose, by the ruling reason-principle. This universe is not intelligence and reason, like the supernal, but participant in intelligence and reason: It stands in need of the harmonizing because it is the meeting ground of necessity and divine reason- necessity pulling towards the lower, towards the unreason which is its own characteristic, while yet the intellectual principle remains sovereign over it.

The intellectual sphere [the divine] alone is reason, and there can never be another sphere that is reason and nothing else; so that, given some other system, it cannot be as noble as that first; it cannot be reason: Yet since such a system cannot be merely matter, which is the utterly unordered, it must be a mixed thing. Its two extremes are matter and the divine reason; its governing principle is soul, presiding over the conjunction of the two, and to be thought of not as labouring in the task but as administering serenely by little more than an act of presence.


Nor would it be sound to condemn this cosmos as less than beautiful, as less than the noblest possible in the corporeal; and neither can any charge be laid against its source.

The world, we must reflect, is a product of necessity, not of deliberate purpose: It is due to a higher kind engendering in its own likeness by a natural process. And none the less, a second consideration, if a considered plan brought it into being it would still be no disgrace to its maker—for it stands a stately whole, complete within itself, serving at once its own purpose and that of all its parts which, leading and lesser alike, are of such a nature as to further the interests of the total. It is, therefore, impossible to condemn the whole on the merits of the parts which, besides, must be judged only as they enter harmoniously or not into the whole, the main consideration, quite overpassing the members which thus cease to have importance. To linger about the parts is to condemn not the cosmos but some isolated appendage of it; in the entire living being we fasten our eyes on a hair or a toe neglecting the marvellous spectacle of the complete man; we ignore all the tribes and kinds of animals except for the meanest; we pass over an entire race, humanity, and bring forward—thersites.

No: This thing that has come into being is the cosmos complete: Do but survey it, and surely this is the pleading you will hear:

I am made by a God: From that God I came perfect above all forms of life, adequate to my function, self-sufficing, lacking nothing: For I am the container of all, that is, of every plant and every animal, of all the kinds of created things, and many Gods and nations of spirit- beings and lofty souls and men happy in their goodness.

And do not think that, while earth is ornate with all its growths and with living things of every race, and while the very sea has answered to the power of soul, do not think that the great air and the ether and the far-spread heavens remain void of it: There it is that all good souls dwell, infusing life into the stars and into that orderly eternal circuit of the heavens which in its conscious movement ever about the one centre, seeking nothing beyond, is a faithful copy of the divine mind. And all that is within me strives towards the good; and each, to the measure of its faculty, attains. For from that good all the heavens depend, with all my own soul and the gods that dwell in my every part, and all that lives and grows, and even all in me that you may judge inanimate.

But there are degrees of participation: Here no more than existence, elsewhere life; and, in life, sometimes mainly that of sensation, higher again that of reason, finally life in all its fullness. We have no right to demand equal powers in the unequal: The finger is not to be asked to see; there is the eye for that; a finger has its own business—to be finger and have finger power.


That water extinguishes fire and fire consumes other things should not astonish us. The thing destroyed derived its being from outside itself: This is no case of a self-originating substance being annihilated by an external; it rose on the ruin of something else, and thus in its own ruin it suffers nothing strange; and for every fire quenched, another is kindled.

In the immaterial heaven every member is unchangeably itself for ever; in the heavens of our universe, while the whole has life eternally and so too all the nobler and lordlier components, the souls pass from body to body entering into varied forms—and, when it may, a soul will rise outside of the realm of birth and dwell with the one soul of all. For the embodied lives by virtue of a form or idea: Individual or partial things exist by virtue of universals; from these priors they derive their life and maintenance, for life here is a thing of change; only in that prior realm is it unmoving. From that unchangingness, change had to emerge, and from that self-cloistered life its derivative, this which breathes and stirs, the respiration of the still life of the divine.

The conflict and destruction that reign among living beings are inevitable, since things here are derived, brought into existence because the divine reason which contains all of them in the upper heavens—how could they come here unless they were there?—must outflow over the whole extent of matter.

Similarly, the very wronging of man by man may be derived from an effort towards the good; foiled, in their weakness, of their true desire, they turn against each other: Still, when they do wrong, they pay the penalty—that of having hurt their souls by their evil conduct and of degradation to a lower place—for nothing can ever escape what stands decreed in the law of the universe.

This is not to accept the idea, sometimes urged, that order is an outcome of disorder and law of lawlessness, as if evil were a necessary preliminary to their existence or their manifestation: On the contrary order is the original and enters this sphere as imposed from without: It is because order, law and reason exist that there can be disorder; breach of law and unreason exist because reason exists—not that these better things are directly the causes of the bad but simply that what ought to absorb the best is prevented by its own nature, or by some accident, or by foreign interference. An entity which must look outside itself for a law, may be foiled of its purpose by either an internal or an external cause; there will be some flaw in its own nature, or it will be hurt by some alien influence, for often harm follows, unintended, on the action of others in the pursuit of quite unrelated aims. Such living beings, on the other hand, as have freedom of motion under their own will sometimes take the right turn, sometimes the wrong.

Why the wrong course is followed is scarcely worth enquiring: A slight deviation at the beginning develops with every advance into a continuously wider and graver error—especially since there is the attached body with its inevitable concomitant of desire—and the first step, the hasty movement not previously considered and not immediately corrected, ends by establishing a set habit where there was at first only a fall.

Punishment naturally follows: There is no injustice in a man suffering what belongs to the condition in which he is; nor can we ask to be happy when our actions have not earned us happiness; the good, only, are happy; divine beings are happy only because they are good.


Now, once happiness is possible at all to souls in this universe, if some fail of it, the blame must fall not on the place but on the feebleness insufficient to the staunch combat in the one arena where the rewards of excellence are offered. Men are not born divine; what wonder that they do not enjoy a divine life. And poverty and sickness mean nothing to the good—only to the evil are they disastrous—and where there is body there must be ill health.

Besides, these accidents are not without their service in the co-ordination and completion of the universal system.

One thing perishes, and the cosmic reason—whose control nothing anywhere eludes—employs that ending to the beginning of something new; and, so, when the body suffers and the soul, under the affliction, loses power, all that has been bound under illness and evil is brought into a new set of relations, into another class or order. Some of these troubles are helpful to the very sufferers—poverty and sickness, for example—and as for vice, even this brings something to the general service: It acts as a lesson in right doing, and, in many ways even, produces good; thus, by setting men face to face with the ways and consequences of iniquity, it calls them from lethargy, stirs the deeper mind and sets the understanding to work; by the contrast of the evil under which wrong-doers labour it displays the worth of the right. Not that evil exists for this purpose; but, as we have indicated, once the wrong has come to be, the reason of the cosmos employs it to good ends; and, precisely, the proof of the mightiest power is to be able to use the ignoble nobly and, given formlessness, to make it the material of unknown forms.

The principle is that evil by definition is a falling short in good, and good cannot be at full strength in this sphere where it is lodged in the alien: The good here is in something else, in something distinct from the good, and this something else constitutes the falling short for it is not good. And this is why evil is ineradicable: There is, first, the fact that in relation to this principle of good, thing will always stand less than thing, and, besides, all things come into being through it and are what they are by standing away from it.


As for the disregard of desert—the good afflicted, the unworthy thriving—it is a sound explanation no doubt that to the good nothing is evil and to the evil nothing can be good: Still the question remains why should what essentially offends our nature fall to the good while the wicked enjoy all it demands? How can such an allotment be approved?

No doubt since pleasant conditions add nothing to true happiness and the unpleasant do not lessen the evil in the wicked, the conditions matter little: As well complain that a good man happens to be ugly and a bad man handsome.

Still, under such a dispensation, there would surely be a propriety, a reasonableness, a regard to merit which, as things are, do not appear, though this would certainly be in keeping with the noblest providence: Even though external conditions do not affect a man's hold on good or evil, none the less it would seem utterly unfitting that the bad should be the masters, be sovereign in the state, while honourable men are slaves: A wicked ruler may commit the most lawless acts; and in war the worst men have a free hand and perpetrate every kind of crime against their prisoners.

We are forced to ask how such things can be, under a providence. Certainly a maker must consider his work as a whole, but none the less he should see to the due ordering of all the parts, especially when these parts have soul, that is, are living and reasoning beings: The providence must reach to all the details; its functioning must consist in neglecting no point.

Holding, therefore, as we do, despite all, that the universe lies under an intellectual principle whose power has touched every existent, we cannot be absolved from the attempt to show in what way the detail of this sphere is just.


A preliminary observation: In looking for excellence in this thing of mixture, the cosmos, we cannot require all that is implied in the excellence of the unmingled; it is folly to ask for firsts in the secondary, and since this universe contains body, we must allow for some bodily influence on the total and be thankful if the mingled existent lack nothing of what its nature allowed it to receive from the divine reason.

Thus, supposing we were enquiring for the finest type of the human being as known here, we would certainly not demand that he prove identical with man as in the divine intellect; we would think it enough in the creator to have so brought this thing of flesh and nerve and bone under reason as to give grace to these corporeal elements and to have made it possible for reason to have contact with matter.

Our progress towards the object of our investigation must begin from this principle of gradation which will open to us the wonder of the providence and of the power by which our universe holds its being.

We begin with evil acts entirely dependent on the souls which perpetrate them—the harm, for example, which perverted souls do to the good and to each other. Unless the foreplanning power alone is to be charged with the vice in such souls, we have no ground of accusation, no claim to redress: The blame lies on the soul exercising its choice. Even a soul, we have seen, must have its individual movement; it is not abstract spirit; the first step towards animal life has been taken and the conduct will naturally be in keeping with that character.

It is not because the world existed that souls are here: Before the world was, they had it in them to be of the world, to concern themselves with it, to presuppose it, to administer it: It was in their nature to produce it—by whatever method, whether by giving forth some emanation while they themselves remained above, or by an actual descent, or in both ways together, some presiding from above, others descending; some for we are not at the moment concerned about the mode of creation but are simply urging that, however the world was produced, no blame falls on providence for what exists within it.

There remains the other phase of the question—the distribution of evil to the opposite classes of men: The good go bare while the wicked are rich: All that human need demands, the least deserving have in abundance; it is they that rule; peoples and states are at their disposal. Would not all this imply that the divine power does not reach to earth?

That it does is sufficiently established by the fact that reason rules in the lower things: Animals and plants have their share in reason, soul and life.

Perhaps, then, it reaches to earth but is not master over all?

We answer that the universe is one living organism: As well maintain that while human head and face are the work of nature and of the ruling reason-principle, the rest of the frame is due to other agencies—accident or sheer necessity—and owes its inferiority to this origin, or to the incompetence of unaided nature. And even granting that those less noble members are not in themselves admirable it would still be neither pious nor even reverent to censure the entire structure.


Thus we come to our enquiry as to the degree of excellence found in things of this sphere, and how far they belong to an ordered system or in what degree they are, at least, not evil.

Now in every living being the upper parts—head, face—are the most beautiful, the mid and lower members inferior. In the universe the middle and lower members are human beings; above them, the heavens and the gods that dwell there; these gods with the entire circling expanse of the heavens constitute the greater part of the cosmos: The earth is but a central point, and may be considered as simply one among the stars. Yet human wrong-doing is made a matter of wonder; we are evidently asked to take humanity as the choice member of the universe, nothing wiser existent!

But humanity, in reality, is poised midway between gods and beasts, and inclines now to the one order, now to the other; some men grow like to the divine, others to the brute, the greater number stand neutral. But those that are corrupted to the point of approximating to irrational animals and wild beasts pull the mid- folk about and inflict wrong on them; the victims are no doubt better than the wrongdoers, but are at the mercy of their inferiors in the field in which they themselves are inferior, where, that is, they cannot be classed among the good since they have not trained themselves in self-defence.

A gang of lads, morally neglected, and in that respect inferior to the intermediate class, but in good physical training, attack and throw another set, trained neither physically nor morally, and make off with their food and their dainty clothes. What more is called for than a laugh?

And surely even the lawgiver would be right in allowing the second group to suffer this treatment, the penalty of their sloth and self-indulgence: The gymnasium lies there before them, and they, in laziness and luxury and listlessness, have allowed themselves to fall like fat-loaded sheep, a prey to the wolves.

But the evil-doers also have their punishment: First they pay in that very wolfishness, in the disaster to their human quality: And next there is laid up for them the due of their kind: Living ill here, they will not get off by death; on every precedent through all the line there waits its sequent, reasonable and natural—worse to the bad, better to the good.

This at once brings us outside the gymnasium with its fun for boys; they must grow up, both kinds, amid their childishness and both one day stand girt and armed. Then there is a finer spectacle than is ever seen by those that train in the ring. But at this stage some have not armed themselves—and the duly armed win the day.

Not even a God would have the right to deal a blow for the unwarlike: The law decrees that to come safe out of battle is for fighting men, not for those that pray. The harvest comes home not for praying but for tilling; healthy days are not for those that neglect their health: We have no right to complain of the ignoble getting the richer harvest if they are the only workers in the fields, or the best.

Again: It is childish, while we carry on all the affairs of our life to our own taste and not as the gods would have us, to expect them to keep all well for us in spite of a life that is lived without regard to the conditions which the gods have prescribed for our well- being. Yet death would be better for us than to go on living lives condemned by the laws of the universe. If things took the contrary course, if all the modes of folly and wickedness brought no trouble in life—then indeed we might complain of the indifference of a providence leaving the victory to evil.

Bad men rule by the feebleness of the ruled: And this is just; the triumph of weaklings would not be just.


It would not be just, because providence cannot be a something reducing us to nothingness: To think of providence as everything, with no other thing in existence, is to annihilate the universe; such a providence could have no field of action; nothing would exist except the divine. As things are, the divine, of course, exists, but has reached forth to something other—not to reduce that to nothingness but to preside over it; thus in the case of man, for instance, the divine presides as the providence, preserving the character of human nature, that is the character of a being under the providential law, which, again, implies subjection to what that law may enjoin.

And that law enjoins that those who have made themselves good shall know the best of life, here and later, the bad the reverse. But the law does not warrant the wicked in expecting that their prayers should bring others to sacrifice themselves for their sakes; or that the gods should lay aside the divine life in order to direct their daily concerns; or that good men, who have chosen a path nobler than all earthly rule, should become their rulers. The perverse have never made a single effort to bring the good into authority, nor do they take any steps to improve themselves; they are all spite against anyone that becomes good of his own motion, though if good men were placed in authority the total of goodness would be increased.

In sum: Man has come into existence, a living being but not a member of the noblest order; he occupies by choice an intermediate rank; still, in that place in which he exists, providence does not allow him to be reduced to nothing; on the contrary he is ever being led upwards by all those varied devices which the divine employs in its labour to increase the dominance of moral value. The human race, therefore, is not deprived by providence of its rational being; it retains its share, though necessarily limited, in wisdom, intelligence, executive power and right doing, the right doing, at least, of individuals to each other—and even in wronging others people think they are doing right and only paying what is due.

Man is, therefore, a noble creation, as perfect as the scheme allows; a part, no doubt, in the fabric of the all, he yet holds a lot higher than that of all the other living things of earth.

Now, no one of any intelligence complains of these others, man's inferiors, which serve to the adornment of the world; it would be feeble indeed to complain of animals biting man, as if we were to pass our days asleep. No: The animal, too, exists of necessity, and is serviceable in many ways, some obvious and many progressively discovered—so that not one lives without profit to itself and even to humanity. It is ridiculous, also, to complain that many of them are dangerous—there are dangerous men abroad as well—and if they distrust us, and in their distrust attack, is that anything to wonder at?


But: If the evil in men is involuntary, if their own will has not made them what they are, how can we either blame wrong- doers or even reproach their victims with suffering through their own fault?

If there is a necessity, bringing about human wickedness either by force of the celestial movement or by a rigorous sequence set up by the first cause, is not the evil a thin rooted in nature? and if thus the reason-principle of the universe is the creator of evil, surely all is injustice?

No: Men are no doubt involuntary sinners in the sense that they do not actually desire to sin; but this does not alter the fact that wrongdoers, of their own choice, are, themselves, the agents; it is because they themselves act that the sin is in their own; if they were not agents they could not sin.

The necessity [held to underlie human wickedness] is not an outer force [actually compelling the individual], but exists only in the sense of a universal relationship.

Nor is the force of the celestial movement such as to leave us powerless: If the universe were something outside and apart from us it would stand as its makers willed so that, once the gods had done their part, no man, however impious, could introduce anything contrary to their intention. But, as things are, efficient act does come from men: given the starting principle, the secondary line, no doubt, is inevitably completed; but each and every principle contributes towards the sequence. Now men are principles, or, at least, they are moved by their characteristic nature towards all that is good, and that nature is a principle, a freely acting cause.


Are we, then, to conclude that particular things are determined by necessities rooted in nature and by the sequence of causes, and that everything is as good as anything can be?

No: The reason-principle is the sovereign, making all: It wills things as they are and, in its reasonable act, it produces even what we know as evil: It cannot desire all to be good: An artist would not make an animal all eyes; and in the same way, the reason-principle would not make all divine; it makes Gods but also celestial spirits, the intermediate order, then men, then the animals; all is graded succession, and this in no spirit of grudging but in the expression of a reason teeming with intellectual variety.

We are like people ignorant of painting who complain that the colours are not beautiful everywhere in the picture: But the artist has laid on the appropriate tint to every spot. Or we are censuring a drama because the persons are not all heroes but include a servant and a rustic and some scurrilous clown; yet take away the low characters and the power of the drama is gone; these are part and parcel of it.


Suppose this universe were the direct creation of the reason- principle applying itself, quite unchanged, to matter, retaining, that is, the hostility to partition which it derives from its prior, the intellectual principle—then, this its product, so produced, would be of supreme and unparalleled excellence. But the reason-principle could not be a thing of entire identity or even of closely compact diversity; and the mode in which it is here manifested is no matter of censure since its function is to be all things, each single thing in some distinctive way.

But has it not, besides itself entering matter, brought other beings down? Has it not for example brought souls into matter and, in adapting them to its creation, twisted them against their own nature and been the ruin of many of them? and can this be right?

The answer is that the souls are, in a fair sense, members of this reason-principle and that it has not adapted them to the creation by perverting them, but has set them in the place here to which their quality entitles them.


And we must not despise the familiar observation that there is something more to be considered than the present. There are the periods of the past and, again, those in the future; and these have everything to do with fixing worth of place.

Thus a man, once a ruler, will be made a slave because he abused his power and because the fall is to his future good. Those that have money will be made poor—and to the good poverty is no hindrance. Those that have unjustly killed, are killed in turn, unjustly as regards the murderer but justly as regards the victim, and those that are to suffer are thrown into the path of those that administer the merited treatment.

It is not an accident that makes a man a slave; no one is a prisoner by chance; every bodily outrage has its due cause. The man once did what he now suffers. A man that murders his mother will become a woman and be murdered by a son; a man that wrongs a woman will become a woman, to be wronged.

Hence arises that awesome word "adrasteia" [the inevadable retribution]; for in very truth this ordinance is an adrasteia, justice itself and a wonderful wisdom.

We cannot but recognize from what we observe in this universe that some such principle of order prevails throughout the entire of existence—the minutest of things a tributary to the vast total; the marvellous art shown not merely in the mightiest works and sublimest members of the all, but even amid such littleness as one would think providence must disdain: The varied workmanship of wonder in any and every animal form; the world of vegetation, too; the grace of fruits and even of leaves, the lavishness, the delicacy, the diversity of exquisite bloom; and all this not issuing once, and then to die out, but made ever and ever anew as the transcendent beings move variously over this earth.

In all the changing, there is no change by chance: There is no taking of new forms but to desirable ends and in ways worthy of divine powers. All that is divine executes the act of its quality; its quality is the expression of its essential being: And this essential being in the divine is the being whose activities produce as one thing the desirable and the just—for if the good and the just are not produced there, where, then, have they their being?


The ordinance of the cosmos, then, is in keeping with the intellectual principle. True, no reasoning went to its creation, but it so stands that the keenest reasoning must wonder—since no reasoning could be able to make it otherwise—at the spectacle before it, a product which, even in the kinds of the partial and particular sphere, displays the divine intelligence to a degree in which no arranging by reason could express it. Every one of the ceaselessly recurrent types of being manifests a creating reason-principle above all censure. No fault is to be found unless on the assumption that everything ought to come into being with all the perfection of those that have never known such a coming, the eternals. In that case, things of the intellectual realm and things of the realm of sense must remain one unbroken identity for ever.

In this demand for more good than exists, there is implied a failure to recognize that the form allotted to each entity is sufficient in itself; it is like complaining because one kind of animal lacks horns. We ought to understand both that the reason- principle must extend to every possible existent and, at the same time, that every greater must include lesser things, that to every whole belong its parts, and that all cannot be equality unless all part is to be absent.

This is why in the Over-World each entity is all, while here, below, the single thing is not all [is not the universe but a "self"]. Thus too, a man, an individual, in so far as he is a part, is not humanity complete: But wherever there is associated with the parts something that is no part [but a divine, an intellectual being], this makes a whole of that in which it dwells. Man, man as partial thing, cannot be required to have attained to the very summit of goodness: If he had, he would have ceased to be of the partial order. Not that there is any grudging in the whole towards the part that grows in goodness and dignity; such an increase in value is a gain to the beauty of the whole; the lesser grows by being made over in the likeness of the greater, by being admitted, as it were, to something of that greatness, by sharing in that rank, and thus even from this place of man, from man's own self, something gleams forth, as the stars shine in the divine firmament, so that all appears one great and lovely figure—living or wrought in the furnaces of craftsmanship—with stars radiant not only in the ears and on the brow but on the breasts too, and wherever else they may be displayed in beauty.


These considerations apply very well to things considered as standing alone: But there is a stumbling-block, a new problem, when we think of all these forms, permanent and ceaselessly produced, in mutual relationship.

The animals devour each other: Men attack each other: All is war without rest, without truce: This gives new force to the question how reason can be author of the plan and how all can be declared well done.

This new difficulty is not met by the former answer; that all stands as well as the nature of things allows; that the blame for their condition falls on matter dragging them down; that, given the plan as we know it, evil cannot be eliminated and should not be; that the matter making its presence felt is still not supreme but remains an element taken in from outside to contribute to a definite total, or rather to be itself brought to order by reason.

The divine reason is the beginning and the end; all that comes into being must be rational and fall at its coming into an ordered scheme reasonable at every point. Where, then, is the necessity of this bandit war of man and beast?

This devouring of kind by kind is necessary as the means to the transmutation of living things which could not keep form for ever even though no other killed them: What grievance is it that when they must go their despatch is so planned as to be serviceable to others?

Still more, what does it matter when they are devoured only to return in some new form? It comes to no more than the murder of one of the personages in a play; the actor alters his make-up and enters in a new role. The actor, of course, was not really killed; but if dying is but changing a body as the actor changes a costume, or even an exit from the body like the exit of the actor from the boards when he has no more to say or do, what is there so very dreadful in this transformation of living beings one into another?

Surely it is much better so than if they had never existed: That way would mean the bleak quenching of life, precluded from passing outside itself; as the plan holds, life is poured copiously throughout a universe, engendering the universal things and weaving variety into their being, never at rest from producing an endless sequence of comeliness and shapeliness, a living pastime.

Men directing their weapons against each other—under doom of death yet neatly lined up to fight as in the pyrrhic sword-dances of their sport—this is enough to tell us that all human intentions are but play, that death is nothing terrible, that to die in a war or in a fight is but to taste a little beforehand what old age has in store, to go away earlier and come back the sooner. So for misfortunes that may accompany life, the loss of property, for instance; the loser will see that there was a time when it was not his, that its possession is but a mock boon to the robbers, who will in their turn lose it to others, and even that to retain property is a greater loss than to forfeit it.

Murders, death in all its guises, the reduction and sacking of cities, all must be to us just such a spectacle as the changing scenes of a play; all is but the varied incident of a plot, costume on and off, acted grief and lament. For on earth, in all the succession of life, it is not the soul within but the shadow outside of the authentic man, that grieves and complains and acts out the plot on this world stage which men have dotted with stages of their own constructing. All this is the doing of man knowing no more than to live the lower and outer life, and never perceiving that, in his weeping and in his graver doings alike, he is but at play; to handle austere matters austerely is reserved for the thoughtful: The other kind of man is himself a futility. Those incapable of thinking gravely read gravity into frivolities which correspond to their own frivolous nature. Anyone that joins in their trifling and so comes to look on life with their eyes must understand that by lending himself to such idleness he has laid aside his own character. If socrates himself takes part in the trifling, he trifles in the outer socrates.

We must remember, too, that we cannot take tears and laments as proof that anything is wrong; children cry and whimper where there is nothing amiss.


But if all this is true, what room is left for evil? Where are we to place wrong-doing and sin?

How explain that in a world organized in good, the efficient agents [human beings] behave unjustly, commit sin? and how comes misery if neither sin nor injustice exists?

Again, if all our action is determined by a natural process, how can the distinction be maintained between behaviour in accordance with nature and behaviour in conflict with it?

And what becomes of blasphemy against the divine? The blasphemer is made what he is: A dramatist has written a part insulting and maligning himself and given it to an actor to play.

These considerations oblige us to state the logos [the reason- principle of the universe] once again, and more clearly, and to justify its nature.

This reason-principle, then—let us dare the definition in the hope of conveying the truth—this logos is not the intellectual principle unmingled, not the absolute divine intellect; nor does it descend from the pure soul alone; it is a dependent of that soul while, in a sense, it is a radiation from both those divine hypostases; the intellectual principle and the soul—the soul as conditioned by the intellectual principle engender this logos which is a life holding restfully a certain measure of reason.

Now all life, even the least valuable, is an activity, and not a blind activity like that of flame; even where there is not sensation the activity of life is no mere haphazard play of movement: Any object in which life is present, and object which participates in life, is at once enreasoned in the sense that the activity peculiar to life is formative, shaping as it moves.

Life, then, aims at pattern as does the pantomimic dancer with his set movements; the mime, in himself, represents life, and, besides, his movements proceed in obedience to a pattern designed to symbolize life.

Thus far to give us some idea of the nature of life in general.

But this reason-principle which emanates from the complete unity, divine mind, and the complete unity life [= soul]—is neither a uniate complete life nor a uniate complete divine mind, nor does it give itself whole and all-including to its subject. [by an imperfect communication] it sets up a conflict of part against part: It produces imperfect things and so engenders and maintains war and attack, and thus its unity can be that only of a sum-total not of a thing undivided. At war with itself in the parts which it now exhibits, it has the unity, or harmony, of a drama torn with struggle. The drama, of course, brings the conflicting elements to one final harmony, weaving the entire story of the clashing characters into one thing; while in the logos the conflict of the divergent elements rises within the one element, the reason-principle: The comparison therefore is rather with a harmony emerging directly from the conflicting elements themselves, and the question becomes what introduces clashing elements among these reason-principles.

Now in the case of music, tones high and low are the product of reason-principles which, by the fact that they are principles of harmony, meet in the unit of harmony, the absolute harmony, a more comprehensive principle, greater than they and including them as its parts. Similarly in the universe at large we find contraries—white and black, hot and cold, winged and wingless, footed and footless, reasoning and unreasoning—but all these elements are members of one living body, their sum-total; the universe is a self-accordant entity, its members everywhere clashing but the total being the manifestation of a reason-principle. That one reason-principle, then, must be the unification of conflicting reason-principles whose very opposition is the support of its coherence and, almost, of its being.

And indeed, if it were not multiple, it could not be a universal principle, it could not even be at all a reason-principle; in the fact of its being a reason-principle is contained the fact of interior difference. Now the maximum of difference is contrariety; admitting that this differentiation exists and creates, it will create difference in the greatest and not in the least degree; in other words, the reason-principle, bringing about differentiation to the uttermost degree, will of necessity create contrarieties: It will be complete only by producing itself not in merely diverse things but in contrary things.


The nature of the reason-principle is adequately expressed in its act and, therefore, the wider its extension the nearer will its productions approach to full contrariety: Hence the world of sense is less a unity than is its reason-principle; it contains a wider multiplicity and contrariety: Its partial members will, therefore, be urged by a closer intention towards fullness of life, a warmer desire for unification.

But desire often destroys the desired; it seeks its own good, and, if the desired object is perishable, the ruin follows: And the partial thing straining towards its completing principle draws towards itself all it possibly can.

Thus, with the good we have the bad: We have the opposed movements of a dancer guided by one artistic plan; we recognize in his steps the good as against the bad, and see that in the opposition lies the merit of the design.

But, thus, the wicked disappear?

No: Their wickedness remains; simply, their role is not of their own planning.

But, surely, this excuses them?

No; excuse lies with the reason-principle—and the reason-principle does not excuse them.

No doubt all are members of this principle but one is a good man, another is bad—the larger class, this—and it goes as in a play; the poet while he gives each actor a part is also using them as they are in their own persons: He does not himself rank the men as leading actor, second, third; he simply gives suitable words to each, and by that assignment fixes each man's standing.

Thus, every man has his place, a place that fits the good man, a place that fits the bad: Fach within the two orders of them makes his way, naturally, reasonably, to the place, good or bad, that suits him, and takes the position he has made his own. There he talks and acts, in blasphemy and crime or in all goodness: For the actors bring to this play what they were before it was ever staged.

In the dramas of human art, the poet provides the words but the actors add their own quality, good or bad—for they have more to do than merely repeat the author's words—in the truer drama which dramatic genius imitates in its degree, the soul displays itself in a part assigned by the creator of the piece.

As the actors of our stages get their masks and their costume, robes of state or rags, so a soul is allotted its fortunes, and not at haphazard but always under a reason: It adapts itself to the fortunes assigned to it, attunes itself, ranges itself rightly to the drama, to the whole principle of the piece: Then it speaks out its business, exhibiting at the same time all that a soul can express of its own quality, as a singer in a song. A voice, a bearing, naturally fine or vulgar, may increase the charm of a piece; on the other hand, an actor with his ugly voice may make a sorry exhibition of himself, yet the drama stands as good a work as ever: The dramatist, taking the action which a sound criticism suggests, disgraces one, taking his part from him, with perfect justice: Another man he promotes to more serious roles or to any more important play he may have, while the first is cast for whatever minor work there may be.

Just so the soul, entering this drama of the universe, making itself a part of the play, bringing to its acting its personal excellence or defect, set in a definite place at the entry and accepting from the author its entire role—superimposed on its own character and conduct—just so, it receives in the end its punishment and reward.

But these actors, souls, hold a peculiar dignity: They act in a vaster place than any stage: The author has made them masters of all this world; they have a wide choice of place; they themselves determine the honour or discredit in which they are agents since their place and part are in keeping with their quality: They therefore fit into the reason-principle of the universe, each adjusted, most legitimately, to the appropriate environment, as every string of the lyre is set in the precisely right position, determined by the principle directing musical utterance, for the due production of the tones within its capacity. All is just and good in the universe in which every actor is set in his own quite appropriate place, though it be to utter in the darkness and in tartarus the dreadful sounds whose utterance there is well.

This universe is good not when the individual is a stone, but when everyone throws in his own voice towards a total harmony, singing out a life—thin, harsh, imperfect, though it be. The syrinx does not utter merely one pure note; there is a thin obscure sound which blends in to make the harmony of syrinx music: The harmony is made up from tones of various grades, all the tones differing, but the resultant of all forming one sound.

Similarly the reason-principle entire is One, but it is broken into unequal parts: Hence the difference of place found in the universe, better spots and worse; and hence the inequality of souls, finding their appropriate surroundings amid this local inequality. The diverse places of this sphere, the souls of unequal grade and unlike conduct, are wen exemplified by the distinction of parts in the syrinx or any other instrument: There is local difference, but from every position every string gives forth its own tone, the sound appropriate, at once, to its particular place and to the entire plan.

What is evil in the single soul will stand a good thing in the universal system; what in the unit offends nature will serve nature in the total event—and still remains the weak and wrong tone it is, though its sounding takes nothing from the worth of the whole, just as, in another order of image, the executioner's ugly office does not mar the well-governed state: Such an officer is a civic necessity; and the corresponding moral type is often serviceable; thus, even as things are, all is well.


Souls vary in worth; and the difference is due, among other causes, to an almost initial inequality; it is in reason that, standing to the reason-principle, as parts, they should be unequal by the fact of becoming separate.

We must also remember that every soul has its second grade and its third, and that, therefore, its expression may take any one of three main forms. But this point must be dealt with here again: The matter requires all possible elucidation.

We may perhaps think of actors having the right to add something to the poet's words: The drama as it stands is not perfectly filled in, and they are to supply where the author has left blank spaces here and there; the actors are to be something else as well; they become parts of the poet, who on his side has a foreknowledge of the word they will add, and so is able to bind into one story what the actors bring in and what is to follow.

For, in the all, the sequences, including what follows on wickedness, become reason-principles, and therefore in right reason. Thus: From adultery and the violation of prisoners the process of nature will produce fine children, to grow, perhaps, into fine men; and where wicked violence has destroyed cities, other and nobler cities may rise in their place.

But does not this make it absurd to introduce souls as responsible causes, some acting for good and some for evil? If we thus exonerate the reason-principle from any part in wickedness do we not also cancel its credit for the good? Why not simply take the doings of these actors for representative parts of the reason-principle as the doings of stage-actors are representative parts of the stage-drama? Why not admit that the reason-principle itself includes evil action as much as good action, and inspires the precise conduct of all its representatives? Would not this be all the more plausible in that the universal drama is the completer creation and that the reason-principle is the source of all that exists?

But this raises the question: "What motive could lead the logos to produce evil?"

The explanation, also, would take away all power in the universe from souls, even those nearest to the divine; they would all be mere parts of a reason-principle.

And, further—unless all reason-principles are souls—why should some be souls and others exclusively reason-principles when the all is itself a soul?

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Third tractate: On providence (2)



What is our answer?

All events and things, good and evil alike, are included under the universal reason-principle of which they are parts—strictly "included" for this universal idea does not engender them but encompasses them.

The reason-principles are acts or expressions of a universal soul; its parts [I.e., events good and evil] are expressions of these soulparts.

This unity, soul, has different parts; the reason-principles, correspondingly, will also have their parts, and so, too, will the ultimates of the system, all that they bring into being.

The souls are in harmony with each other and so, too, are their acts and effects; but it is harmony in the sense of a resultant unity built out of contraries. All things, as they rise from a unity, come back to unity by a sheer need of nature; differences unfold themselves, contraries are produced, but all is drawn into one organized system by the unity at the source.

The principle may be illustrated from the different classes of animal life: There is one genus, horse, though horses among themselves fight and bite and show malice and angry envy: So all the others within the unity of their kind; and so humanity.

All these types, again, can be ranged under the one kind, that of living things; objects without life can be thought of under their specific types and then be resumed under the one kind of the "non- living"; if we choose to go further yet, living and non-living may be included under the one kind, "beings," and, further still, under the source of being.

Having attached all to this source, we turn to move down again in continuous division: We see the unity fissuring, as it reaches out into universality, and yet embracing all in one system so that with all its differentiation it is one multiple living thing—an organism in which each member executes the function of its own nature while it still has its being in that One Whole; fire burns; horse does horse work; men give, each the appropriate act of the peculiar personal quality—and on the several particular kinds to which each belongs follow the acts, and the good or evil of the life.


Circumstances are not sovereign over the good of life, for they are themselves moulded by their priors and come in as members of a sequence. The leading-principle holds all the threads while the minor agents, the individuals, serve according to their own capacities, as in a war the generalissimo lays down the plan and his subordinates do their best to its furtherance. The universe has been ordered by a providence that may be compared to a general; he has considered operations, conditions and such practical needs as food and drink, arms and engines of war; all the problem of reconciling these complex elements has been worked out beforehand so as to make it probable that the final event may be success. The entire scheme emerges from the general's mind with a certain plausible promise, though it cannot cover the enemy's operations, and there is no power over the disposition of the enemy's forces: But where the mighty general is in question whose power extends over all that is, what can pass unordered, what can fail to fit into the plan?


For, even though the I is sovereign in choosing, yet by the fact of the choice the thing done takes its place in the ordered total. Your personality does not come from outside into the universal scheme; you are a part of it, you and your personal disposition.

But what is the cause of this initial personality?

This question resolves itself into two: Are we to make the creator, if creator there is, the cause of the moral quality of the individual or does the responsibility lie with the creature?

Or is there, perhaps, no responsibility? after all, none is charged in the case of plants brought into being without the perceptive faculties; no one is blamed because animals are not all that men are—which would be like complaining that men are not all that gods are. Reason acquits plant and animal and, their maker; how can it complain because men do not stand above humanity?

If the reproach simply means that man might improve by bringing from his own stock something towards his betterment we must allow that the man failing in this is answerable for his own inferiority: But if the betterment must come not from within the man but from without, from his author, it is folly to ask more than has been given, as foolish in the case of man as in plant and animal.

The question is not whether a thing is inferior to something else but whether in its own kind it suffices to its own part; universal equality there cannot be.

Then the reason-principle has measured things out with the set purpose of inequality?

Certainly not: The inequality is inevitable by the nature of things: The reason-principle of this universe follows on a phase of the soul; the soul itself follows on an intellectual principle, and this intellectual principle is not one among the things of the universe but is all things; in all things, there is implied variety of things; where there is variety and not identity there must be primals, secondaries, tertiaries and every grade downward. Forms of life, then, there must be that are not pure soul but the dwindling of souls enfeebled stage by stage of the process. There is, of course, a soul in the reason-principle constituting a living being, but it is another soul [a lesser phase], not that [the supreme soul] from which the reason-principle itself derives; and this combined vehicle of life weakens as it proceeds towards matter, and what it engenders is still more deficient. Consider how far the engendered stands from its origin and yet, what a marvel!

In sum nothing can secure to a thing of process the quality of the prior order, loftier than all that is product and amenable to no charge in regard to it: The wonder is, only, that it reaches and gives to the lower at all, and that the traces of its presence should be so noble. And if its outgiving is greater than the lower can appropriate, the debt is the heavier; all the blame must fall on the unreceptive creature, and providence be the more exalted.


If man were all of one piece—I mean, if he were nothing more than a made thing, acting and acted on according to a fixed nature—he could be no more subject to reproach and punishment than the mere animals. But as the scheme holds, man is singled out for condemnation when he does evil; and this with justice. For he is no mere thing made to rigid plan; his nature contains a principle apart and free.

This does not, however, stand outside of providence or of the reason of the all; the Over-World cannot be dependent on the World of sense. The higher shines down on the lower, and this illumination is providence in its highest aspect: The reason- principle has two phases, one which creates the things of process and another which links them with the higher beings: These higher beings constitute the over- providence on which depends that lower providence which is the secondary reason-principle inseparably united with its primal: The two—the major and minor providence—acting together produce the universal woof, the one all-comprehensive providence.

Men possess, then, a distinctive principle: But not all men turn to account all that is in their nature; there are men that live by one principle and men that live by another or, rather, by several others, the least noble. For all these principles are present even when not acting on the man—though we cannot think of them as lying idle; everything performs its function.

"But," it will be said, "what reason can there be for their not acting on the man once they are present; inaction must mean absence?"

We maintain their presence always, nothing void of them.

But surely not where they exercise no action? If they necessarily reside in all men, surely they must be operative in all—this principle of free action, especially.

First of all, this free principle is not an absolute possession of the animal kinds and is not even an absolute possession to all men.

So this principle is not the only effective force in all men?

There is no reason why it should not be. There are men in whom it alone acts, giving its character to the life while all else is but necessity [and therefore outside of blame].

For [in the case of an evil life] whether it is that the constitution of the man is such as to drive him down the troubled paths or whether [the fault is mental or spiritual in that] the desires have gained control, we are compelled to attribute the guilt to the substratum [something inferior to the highest principle in man]. We would be naturally inclined to say that this substratum [the responsible source of evil] must be matter and not, as our argument implies, the reason-principle; it would appear that not the reason-principle but matter were the dominant, crude matter at the extreme and then matter as shaped in the realized man: But we must remember that to this free principle in man [which is a phase of the all soul] the substratum [the direct inferior to be moulded] is [not matter but] the reason- principle itself with whatever that produces and moulds to its own form, so that neither crude matter nor matter organized in our human total is sovereign within us.

The quality now manifested may be probably referred to the conduct of a former life; we may suppose that previous actions have made the reason-principle now governing within us inferior in radiance to that which ruled before; the soul which later will shine out again is for the present at a feebler power.

And any reason-principle may be said to include within itself the reason-principle of matter which therefore it is able to elaborate to its own purposes, either finding it consonant with itself or bestowing on it the quality which makes it so. The reason-principle of an ox does not occur except in connection with the matter appropriate to the ox- kind. It must be by such a process that the transmigration, of which we read takes place; the soul must lose its nature, the reason-principle be transformed; thus there comes the ox-soul which once was man.

The degradation, then, is just.

Still, how did the inferior principle ever come into being, and how does the higher fall to it?

Once more—not all things are firsts; there are secondaries and tertiaries, of a nature inferior to that of their priors; and a slight tilt is enough to determine the departure from the straight course. Further, the linking of any one being with any other amounts to a blending such as to produce a distinct entity, a compound of the two; it is not that the greater and prior suffers any diminution of its own nature; the lesser and secondary is such from its very beginning; it is in its own nature the lesser thing it becomes, and if it suffers the consequences, such suffering is merited: All our reasonings on these questions must take account of previous living as the source from which the present takes its rise.


There is, then a providence, which permeates the cosmos from first to last, not everywhere equal, as in a numerical distribution, but proportioned, differing, according to the grades of place—just as in some one animal, linked from first to last, each member has its own function, the nobler organ the higher activity while others successively concern the lower degrees of the life, each part acting of itself, and experiencing what belongs to its own nature and what comes from its relation with every other. Strike, and what is designed for utterance gives forth the appropriate volume of sound while other parts take the blow in silence but react in their own especial movement; the total of all the utterance and action and receptivity constitutes what we may call the personal voice, life and history of the living form. The parts, distinct in kind, have distinct functions: The feet have their work and the eyes theirs; the understanding serves to one end, the intellectual principle to another.

But all sums to a unity, a comprehensive providence. From the inferior grade downwards is fate: The upper is providence alone: For in the intellectual cosmos all is reason-principle or its priors-divine mind and unmingled soul-and immediately on these follows providence which rises from divine mind, is the content of the unmingled soul, and, through this soul, is communicated to the sphere of living things.

This reason-principle comes as a thing of unequal parts, and therefore its creations are unequal, as, for example, the several members of one living being. But after this allotment of rank and function, all act consonant with the will of the gods keeps the sequence and is included under the providential government, for the reason-principle of providence is god-serving.

All such right-doing, then, is linked to providence; but it is not therefore performed by it: Men or other agents, living or lifeless, are causes of certain things happening, and any good that may result is taken up again by providence. In the total, then, the right rules and what has happened amiss is transformed and corrected. Thus, to take an example from a single body, the providence of a living organism implies its health; let it be gashed or otherwise wounded, and that reason-principle which governs it sets to work to draw it together, knit it anew, heal it, and put the affected part to rights.

In sum, evil belongs to the sequence of things, but it comes from necessity. It originates in ourselves; it has its causes no doubt, but we are not, therefore, forced to it by providence: Some of these causes we adapt to the operation of providence and of its subordinates, but with others we fail to make the connection; the act instead of being ranged under the will of providence consults the desire of the agent alone or of some other element in the universe, something which is either itself at variance with providence or has set up some such state of variance in ourselves.

The one circumstance does not produce the same result wherever it acts; the normal operation will be modified from case to case: Helen's beauty told very differently on paris and on idomeneus; bring together two handsome people of loose character and two living honourably and the resulting conduct is very different; a good man meeting a libertine exhibits a distinct phase of his nature and, similarly, the dissolute answer to the society of their betters.

The act of the libertine is not done by providence or in accordance with providence; neither is the action of the good done by providence—it is done by the man—but it is done in accordance with providence, for it is an act consonant with the reason- principle. Thus a patient following his treatment is himself an agent and yet is acting in accordance with the doctor's method inspired by the art concerned with the causes of health and sickness: What one does against the laws of health is one's act, but an act conflicting with the providence of medicine.


But, if all this be true, how can evil fall within the scope of seership? The predictions of the seers are based on observation of the universal circuit: How can this indicate the evil with the good?

Clearly the reason is that all contraries coalesce. Take, for example, shape and matter: The living being [of the lower order] is a coalescence of these two; so that to be aware of the shape and the reason-principle is to be aware of the matter on which the shape has been imposed.

The living-being of the compound order is not present [as pure and simple idea] like the living being of the intellectual order: In the compound entity, we are aware, at once, of the reason-principle and of the inferior element brought under form. Now the universe is such a compound living thing: To observe, therefore, its content is to be aware not less of its lower elements than of the providence which operates within it.

This providence reaches to all that comes into being; its scope therefore includes living things with their actions and states, the total of their history at once overruled by the reason- principle and yet subject in some degree to necessity.

These, then, are presented as mingled both by their initial nature and by the continuous process of their existence; and the seer is not able to make a perfect discrimination setting on the one side providence with all that happens under providence and on the other side what the substrate communicates to its product. Such discrimination is not for a man, not for a wise man or a divine man: One may say it is the prerogative of a god. Not causes but facts lie in the seer's province; his art is the reading of the scriptures of nature which tell of the ordered and never condescend to the disorderly; the movement of the universe utters its testimony to him and, before men and things reveal themselves, brings to light what severally and collectively they are.

Here conspires with there and there with here, elaborating together the consistency and eternity of a cosmos and by their correspondences revealing the sequence of things to the trained observer—for every form of divination turns on correspondences. Universal interdependence, there could not be, but universal resemblance there must. This probably is the meaning of the saying that correspondences maintain the universe.

This is a correspondence of inferior with inferior, of superior with superior, eye with eye, foot with foot, everything with its fellow and, in another order, virtue with right action and vice with unrighteousness. Admit such correspondence in the all and we have the possibility of prediction. If the one order acts on the other, the relation is not that of maker to thing made—the two are coeval—it is the interplay of members of one living being; each in its own place and way moves as its own nature demands; to every organ its grade and task, and to every grade and task its effective organ.


And since the higher exists, there must be the lower as well. The universe is a thing of variety, and how could there be an inferior without a superior or a superior without an inferior? We cannot complain about the lower in the higher; rather, we must be grateful to the higher for giving something of itself to the lower.

In a word, those that would like evil driven out from the all would drive out providence itself.

What would providence have to provide for? certainly not for itself or for the good: When we speak of a providence above, we mean an act on something below.

That which resumes all under a unity is a principle in which all things exist together and the single thing is all. From this principle, which remains internally unmoved, particular things push forth as from a single root which never itself emerges. They are a branching into part, into multiplicity, each single outgrowth bearing its trace of the common source. Thus, phase by phase, there in finally the production into this world; some things close still to the root, others widely separate in the continuous progression until we have, in our metaphor, bough and crest, foliage and fruit. At the one side all is one point of unbroken rest, on the other is the ceaseless process, leaf and fruit, all the things of process carrying ever within themselves the reason-principles of the upper sphere, and striving to become trees in their own minor order and producing, if at all, only what is in strict gradation from themselves.

As for the abandoned spaces in what corresponds to the branches these two draw on the root, from which, despite all their variance, they also derive; and the branches again operate on their own furthest extremities: Operation is to be traced only from point to next point, but, in the fact, there has been both inflow and outgo [of creative or modifying force] at the very root which, itself again, has its priors.

The things that act on each other are branchings from a far- off beginning and so stand distinct; but they derive initially from the one source: All interaction is like that of brothers, resemblant as drawing life from the same parents.

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Fourth tractate: Our tutelary spirit



Some existents [absolute unity and intellectual-principle] remain at rest while their hypostases, or expressed-idea, come into being; but, in our view, the soul generates by its motion, to which is due the sensitive faculty—that in any of its expression- forms—nature and all forms of life down to the vegetable order. Even as it is present in human beings the soul carries its expression-form [hypostasis] with it, but is not the dominant since it is not the whole man (humanity including the intellectual principal, as well): In the vegetable order it is the highest since there is nothing to rival it; but at this phase it is no longer reproductive, or, at least, what it produces is of quite another order; here life ceases; all later production is lifeless.

What does this imply?

Everything the soul engenders down to this point comes into being shapeless, and takes form by orientation towards its author and supporter: Therefore the thing engendered on the further side can be no image of the soul, since it is not even alive; it must be an utter indetermination. No doubt even in things of the nearer order there was indetermination, but within a form; they were undetermined not utterly but only in contrast with their perfect state: At this extreme point we have the utter lack of determination. Let it be raised to its highest degree and it becomes body by taking such shape as serves its scope; then it becomes the recipient of its author and sustainer: This presence in body is the only example of the boundaries of higher existents running into the boundary of the lower.


It is of this soul especially that we read "all soul has care for the soulless"—though the several souls thus care in their own degree and way. The passage continues—"soul passes through the entire heavens in forms varying with the variety of place"—the sensitive form, the reasoning form, even the vegetative form—and this means that in each "place" the phase of the soul there dominant carries out its own ends while the rest, not present there, is idle.

Now, in humanity the lower is not supreme; it is an accompaniment; but neither does the better rule unfailingly; the lower element also has a footing, and man, therefore, lives in part under sensation, for he has the organs of sensation, and in large part even by the merely vegetative principle, for the body grows and propagates: All the graded phases are in a collaboration, but the entire form, man, takes rank by the dominant, and when the life-principle leaves the body it is what it is, what it most intensely lived.

This is why we must break away towards the high: We dare not keep ourselves set towards the sensuous principle, following the images of sense, or towards the merely vegetative, intent on the gratifications of eating and procreation; our life must be pointed towards the intellective, towards the intellectual- principle, towards God.

Those that have maintained the human level are men once more. Those that have lived wholly to sense become animals—corresponding in species to the particular temper of the life—ferocious animals where the sensuality has been accompanied by a certain measure of spirit, gluttonous and lascivious animals where all has been appetite and satiation of appetite. Those who in their pleasures have not even lived by sensation, but have gone their way in a torpid grossness become mere growing things, for this lethargy is the entire act of the vegetative, and such men have been busy be-treeing themselves. Those, we read, that, otherwise untainted, have loved song become vocal animals; kings ruling unreasonably but with no other vice are eagles; futile and flighty visionaries ever soaring skyward, become highflying birds; observance of civic and secular virtue makes man again, or where the merit is less marked, one of the animals of communal tendency, a bee or the like.


What, then, is the spirit [guiding the present life and determining the future]?

The spirit of here and now.

And the god?

The god of here and now.

Spirit, God; this in act within us, conducts every life; for, even here and now, it is the dominant of our nature.

That is to say that the dominant is the spirit which takes possession of the human being at birth?

No: The dominant is the prior of the individual spirit; it presides inoperative while its secondary acts: So that if the acting force is that of men of the sense-life, the tutelary spirit is the rational being, while if we live by that rational being, our tutelary spirit is the still higher being, not directly operative but assenting to the working principle. The words "You shall yourselves choose" are true, then; for by our life we elect our own loftier.

But how does this spirit come to be the determinant of our fate?

It is not when the life is ended that it conducts us here or there; it operates during the lifetime; when we cease to live, our death hands over to another principle this energy of our own personal career.

That principle [of the new birth] strives to gain control, and if it succeeds it also lives and itself, in turn, possesses a guiding spirit [its next higher]: If on the contrary it is weighed down by the developed evil in the character, the spirit of the previous life pays the penalty: The evil-liver loses grade because during his life the active principle of his being took the tilt towards the brute by force of affinity. If, on the contrary, the man is able to follow the leading of his higher spirit, he rises: He lives that spirit; that noblest part of himself to which he is being led becomes sovereign in his life; this made his own, he works for the next above until he has attained the height.

For the soul is many things, is all, is the above and the beneath to the totality of life: And each of us is an intellectual cosmos, linked to this world by what is lowest in us, but, by what is the highest, to the divine intellect: By all that is intellective we are permanently in that higher realm, but at the fringe of the intellectual we are fettered to the lower; it is as if we gave forth from it some emanation towards that lower, or, rather some act, which however leaves our diviner part not in itself diminished.


But is this lower extremity of our intellective phase fettered to body for ever?

No: If we turn, this turns by the same act.

And the soul of the all—are we to think that when it turns from this sphere its lower phase similarly withdraws?

No: For it never accompanied that lower phase of itself; it never knew any coming, and therefore never came down; it remains unmoved above, and the material frame of the universe draws close to it, and, as it were, takes light from it, no hindrance to it, in no way troubling it, simply lying unmoved before it.

But has the universe, then, no sensation? "it has no sight," we read, since it has no eyes, and obviously it has not ears, nostrils, or tongue. Then has it perhaps such a consciousness as we have of our own inner conditions?

No: Where all is the working out of one nature, there is nothing but still rest; there is not even enjoyment. Sensibility is present as the quality of growth is, unrecognized. But the nature of the World will be found treated elsewhere; what stands here is all that the question of the moment demands.


But if the presiding spirit and the conditions of life are chosen by the soul in the overworld, how can anything be left to our independent action here?

The answer is that very choice in the over-world is merely an allegorical statement of the soul's tendency and temperament, a total character which it must express wherever it operates.

But if the tendency of the soul is the master-force and, in the soul, the dominant is that phase which has been brought to the fore by a previous history, then the body stands acquitted of any bad influence on it? The soul's quality exists before any bodily life; it has exactly what it chose to have; and, we read, it never changes its chosen spirit; therefore neither the good man nor the bad is the product of this life?

Is the solution, perhaps, that man is potentially both good and bad but becomes the one or the other by force of act?

But what if a man temperamentally good happens to enter a disordered body, or if a perfect body falls to a man naturally vicious?

The answer is that the soul, to whichever side it inclines, has in some varying degree the power of working the forms of body over to its own temper, since outlying and accidental circumstances cannot overrule the entire decision of a soul. Where we read that, after the casting of lots, the sample lives are exhibited with the casual circumstances attending them and that the choice is made on vision, in accordance with the individual temperament, we are given to understand that the real determination lies with the souls, who adapt the allotted conditions to their own particular quality.

The Timaeus indicates the relation of this guiding spirit to ourselves: It is not entirely outside of ourselves; is not bound up with our nature; is not the agent in our action; it belongs to us as belonging to our soul, but not in so far as we are particular human beings living a life to which it is superior: Take the passage in this sense and it is consistent; understand this spirit otherwise and there is contradiction. And the description of the spirit, moreover, as "the power which consummates the chosen life," is, also, in agreement with this interpretation; for while its presidency saves us from falling much deeper into evil, the only direct agent within us is some thing neither above it nor equal to it but under it: Man cannot cease to be characteristically man.


What, then, is the achieved sage?

One whose act is determined by the higher phase of the soul.

It does not suffice to perfect virtue to have only this spirit [equivalent in all men] as cooperator in the life: The acting force in the sage is the intellective principle [the diviner phase of the human soul] which therefore is itself his presiding spirit or is guided by a presiding spirit of its own, no other than the very divinity.

But this exalts the sage above the intellectual principle as possessing for presiding spirit the prior to the intellectual principle: How then does it come about that he was not, from the very beginning, all that he now is?

The failure is due to the disturbance caused by birth—though, before all reasoning, there exists the instinctive movement reaching out towards its own.

On instinct which the sage finally rectifies in every respect?

Not in every respect: The soul is so constituted that its life- history and its general tendency will answer not merely to its own nature but also to the conditions among which it acts.

The presiding spirit, as we read, conducting a soul to the underworld ceases to be its guardian—except when the soul resumes [in its later choice] the former state of life.

But, meanwhile, what happens to it?

From the passage [in the Phaedo] which tells how it presents the soul to judgement we gather that after the death it resumes the form it had before the birth, but that then, beginning again, it is present to the souls in their punishment during the period of their renewed life—a time not so much of living as of expiation.

But the souls that enter into brute bodies, are they controlled by some thing less than this presiding spirit? No: Theirs is still a spirit, but an evil or a foolish one.

And the souls that attain to the highest?

Of these higher souls some live in the world of sense, some above it: And those in the world of sense inhabit the sun or another of the planetary bodies; the others occupy the fixed sphere [above the planetary] holding the place they have merited through having lived here the superior life of reason.

We must understand that, while our souls do contain an intellectual cosmos they also contain a subordination of various forms like that of the cosmic soul. The world soul is distributed so as to produce the fixed sphere and the planetary circuits corresponding to its graded powers: So with our souls; they must have their provinces according to their different powers, parallel to those of the World soul: Each must give out its own special act; released, each will inhabit there a star consonant with the temperament and faculty in act within and constituting the principle of the life; and this star or the next highest power will stand to them as God or more exactly as tutelary spirit.

But here some further precision is needed.

Emancipated souls, for the whole period of their sojourn there above, have transcended the spirit-nature and the entire fatality of birth and all that belongs to this visible world, for they have taken up with them that hypostasis of the soul in which the desire of earthly life is vested. This hypostasis may be described as the distributable soul, for it is what enters bodily forms and multiplies itself by this division among them. But its distribution is not a matter of magnitudes; wherever it is present, there is the same thing present entire; its unity can always be reconstructed: When living things—animal or vegetal—produce their constant succession of new forms, they do so in virtue of the self-distribution of this phase of the soul, for it must be as much distributed among the new forms as the propagating originals are. In some cases it communicates its force by permanent presence the life principle in plants for instance—in other cases it withdraws after imparting its virtue—for instance where from the putridity of dead animal or vegetable matter a multitudinous birth is produced from one organism.

A power corresponding to this in the all must reach down and co-operate in the life of our world—in fact the very same power.

If the soul returns to this sphere it finds itself under the same spirit or a new, according to the life it is to live. With this spirit it embarks in the skiff of the universe: The "spindle of necessity" then takes control and appoints the seat for the voyage, the seat of the lot in life.

The universal circuit is like a breeze, and the voyager, still or stirring, is carried forward by it. He has a hundred varied experiences, fresh sights, changing circumstances, all sorts of events. The vessel itself furnishes incident, tossing as it drives on. And the voyager also acts of himself in virtue of that individuality which he retains because he is on the vessel in his own person and character. Under identical circumstances individuals answer very differently in their movements and acts: Hence it comes about that, be the occurrences and conditions of life similar or dissimilar, the result may differ from man to man, as on the other hand a similar result may be produced by dissimilar conditions: This (personal answer to incident) it is that constitutes destiny.

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Fifth tractate: On love



What is love? A god, a celestial spirit, a state of mind? Or is it, perhaps, sometimes to be thought of as a God or spirit and sometimes merely as an experience? And what is it essentially in each of these respects?

These important questions make it desirable to review prevailing opinions on the matter, the philosophical treatment it has received and, especially, the theories of the great Plato who has many passages dealing with love, from a point of view entirely his own.

Plato does not treat of it as simply a state observed in souls; he also makes it a spirit-being so that we read of the birth of eros, under definite circumstances and by a certain parentage.

Now everyone recognizes that the emotional state for which we make this "love" responsible rises in souls aspiring to be knit in the closest union with some beautiful object, and that this aspiration takes two forms, that of the good whose devotion is for beauty itself, and that other which seeks its consummation in some vile act. But this generally admitted distinction opens a new question: We need a philosophical investigation into the origin of the two phases.

It is sound, I think, to find the primal source of love in a tendency of the soul towards pure beauty, in a recognition, in a kinship, in an unreasoned consciousness of friendly relation. The vile and ugly is in clash, at once, with nature and with God: Nature produces by looking to the good, for it looks towards Order—which has its being in the consistent total of the good, while the unordered is ugly, a member of the system of evil—and besides nature itself, clearly, springs from the divine realm, from good and beauty; and when anything brings delight and the sense of kinship, its very image attracts.

Reject this explanation, and no one can tell how the mental state rises and where are its causes: It is the explanation of even copulative love which is the will to beget in beauty; nature seeks to produce the beautiful and therefore by all reason cannot desire to procreate in the ugly.

Those that desire earthly procreation are satisfied with the beauty found on earth, the beauty of image and of body; it is because they are strangers to the archetype, the source of even the attraction they feel towards what is lovely here. There are souls to whom earthly beauty is a leading to the memory of that in the higher realm and these love the earthly as an image; those that have not attained to this memory do not understand what is happening within them, and take the image for the reality. Once there is perfect self-control, it is no fault to enjoy the beauty of earth; where appreciation degenerates into carnality, there is sin.

Pure love seeks the beauty alone, whether there is reminiscence or not; but there are those that feel, also, a desire of such immortality as lies within mortal reach; and these are seeking beauty in their demand for perpetuity, the desire of the eternal; nature teaches them to sow the seed and to beget in beauty, to sow towards eternity, but in beauty through their own kinship with the beautiful. And indeed the eternal is of the one stock with the beautiful, the eternal-nature is the first shaping of beauty and makes beautiful all that rises from it.

The less the desire for procreation, the greater is the contentment with beauty alone, yet procreation aims at the engendering of beauty; it is the expression of a lack; the subject is conscious of insufficiency and, wishing to produce beauty, feels that the way is to beget in a beautiful form. Where the procreative desire is lawless or against the purposes of nature, the first inspiration has been natural, but they have diverged from the way, they have slipped and fallen, and they grovel; they neither understand whither love sought to lead them nor have they any instinct to production; they have not mastered the right use of the images of beauty; they do not know what the authentic beauty is.

Those that love beauty of person without carnal desire love for beauty's sake; those that have—for women, of course—the copulative love, have the further purpose of self-perpetuation: As long as they are led by these motives, both are on the right path, though the first have taken the nobler way. But, even in the right, there is the difference that the one set, worshipping the beauty of earth, look no further, while the others, those of recollection, venerate also the beauty of the other world while they, still, have no contempt for this in which they recognize, as it were, a last outgrowth, an attenuation of the higher. These, in sum, are innocent frequenters of beauty, not to be confused with the class to whom it becomes an occasion of fall into the ugly—for the aspiration towards a good degenerates into an evil often.

So much for love, the state.

Now we have to consider love, the god.


The existence of such a being is no demand of the ordinary man, merely; it is supported by theologians and, over and over again, by Plato to whom eros is child of aphrodite, minister of beautiful children, inciter of human souls towards the supernal beauty or quickener of an already existing impulse thither. All this requires philosophical examination. A cardinal passage is that in the symposium where we are told eros was not a child of aphrodite but born on the day of aphrodite's birth, penia, poverty, being the mother, and poros, possession, the father.

The matter seems to demand some discussion of aphrodite, since in any case eros is described as being either her son or in some association with her. Who then is aphrodite, and in what sense is love either her child or born with her or in some way both her child and her birth-fellow?

To us aphrodite is twofold; there is the heavenly aphrodite, daughter of Ouranos or heaven: And there is the other the daughter of Zeus and dione, this is the aphrodite who presides over earthly unions; the higher was not born of a mother and has no part in marriages for in heaven there is no marrying.

The heavenly aphrodite, daughter of kronos who is no other than the intellectual principle—must be the soul at its divinest: Unmingled as the immediate emanation of the unmingled; remaining ever above, as neither desirous nor capable of descending to this sphere, never having developed the downward tendency, a divine hypostasis essentially aloof, so unreservedly an authentic being as to have no part with matter—and therefore mythically "the unmothered" justly called not celestial spirit but God, as knowing no admixture, gathered cleanly within itself.

Any nature springing directly from the intellectual principle must be itself also a clean thing: It will derive a resistance of its own from its nearness to the highest, for all its tendency, no less than its fixity, centres on its author whose power is certainly sufficient to maintain it above.

Soul then could never fall from its sphere; it is closer held to the divine mind than the very sun could hold the light it gives forth to radiate about it, an outpouring from itself held firmly to it, still.

But following on kronos—or, if you will, on heaven, the father of kronos—the soul directs its act towards him and holds closely to him and in that love brings forth the eros through whom it continues to look towards him. This act of the soul has produced an hypostasis, a real-being; and the mother and this hypostasis—her offspring, noble love gaze together on divine mind. Love, thus, is ever intent on that other loveliness, and exists to be the medium between desire and that object of desire. It is the eye of the desirer; by its power what loves is enabled to see the loved thing. But it is first; before it becomes the vehicle of vision, it is itself filled with the sight; it is first, therefore, and not even in the same order—for desire attains to vision only through the efficacy of love, while love, in its own act, harvests the spectacle of beauty playing immediately above it.


That love is a hypostasis [a "person"] a real-being sprung from a real-being—lower than the parent but authentically existent—is beyond doubt.

For the parent-soul was a real-being sprung directly from the act of the hypostasis that ranks before it: It had life; it was a constituent in the real-being of all that authentically is—in the real- being which looks, rapt, towards the very highest. That was the first object of its vision; it looked towards it as towards its good, and it rejoiced in the looking; and the quality of what it saw was such that the contemplation could not be void of effect; in virtue of that rapture, of its position in regard to its object, of the intensity of its gaze, the soul conceived and brought forth an offspring worthy of itself and of the vision. Thus; there is a strenuous activity of contemplation in the soul; there is an emanation towards it from the object contemplated; and eros is born, the love which is an eye filled with its vision, a seeing that bears its image with it; eros taking its name, probably, from the fact that its essential being is due to this horasis, this seeing. Of course love, as an emotion, will take its name from love, the person, since a real- being cannot but be prior to what lacks this reality. The mental state will be designated as love, like the hypostasis, though it is no more than a particular act directed towards a particular object; but it must not be confused with the absolute love, the divine being. The eros that belongs to the supernal soul must be of one temper with it; it must itself look aloft as being of the household of that soul, dependent on that soul, its very offspring; and therefore caring for nothing but the contemplation of the gods.

Once that soul which is the primal source of light to the heavens is recognized as an hypostasis standing distinct and aloof it must be admitted that love too is distinct and aloof though not, perhaps, so loftily celestial a being as the soul. Our own best we conceive as inside ourselves and yet something apart; so, we must think of this love—as essentially resident where the unmingling soul inhabits.

But besides this purest soul, there must be also a soul of the all: At once there is another love—the eye with which this second soul looks upwards—like the supernal eros engendered by force of desire. This aphrodite, the secondary soul, is of this universe—not soul unmingled alone, not soul, the absolute, giving birth, therefore, to the love concerned with the universal life; no, this is the love presiding over marriages; but it, also, has its touch of the upward desire; and, in the degree of that striving, it stirs and leads upwards the souls of the young and every soul with which it is incorporated in so far as there is a natural tendency to remembrance of the divine. For every soul is striving towards the good, even the mingling soul and that of particular beings, for each holds directly from the divine soul, and is its offspring.


Does each individual soul, then, contain within itself such a love in essence and substantial reality?

Since not only the pure all-soul but also that of the universe contain such a love, it would be difficult to explain why our personal soul should not. It must be so, even, with all that has life.

This indwelling love is no other than the spirit which, as we are told, walks with every being, the affection dominant in each several nature. It implants the characteristic desire; the particular soul, strained towards its own natural objects, brings forth its own eros, the guiding spirit realizing its worth and the quality of its being.

As the all-soul contains the universal love, so must the single soul be allowed its own single love: And as closely as the single soul holds to the all-soul, never cut off but embraced within it, the two together constituting one principle of life, so the single separate love holds to the all-love. Similarly, the individual love keeps with the individual soul as that other, the great love, goes with the all- soul; and the love within the all permeates it throughout so that the one love becomes many, showing itself where it chooses at any moment of the universe, taking definite shape in these its partial phases and revealing itself at its will.

In the same way we must conceive many aphrodites in the all, spirits entering it together with love, all emanating from an aphrodite of the all, a train of particular aphrodites dependent on the first, and each with the particular love in attendance: This multiplicity cannot be denied, if soul be the mother of love, and aphrodite mean soul, and love be an act of a soul seeking good.

This love, then, leader of particular souls to the good, is twofold: The love in the loftier soul would be a god ever linking the soul to the divine; the love in the mingling soul will be a celestial spirit.


But what is the nature of this spirit—of the supernals in general?

The spirit-kind is treated in the symposium where, with much about the others, we learn of eros—love—born to penia—poverty—and poros—possession—who is son of metis—resource—at aphrodite's birth feast.

But to take Plato as meaning, by eros, this universe—and not simply the love native within it—involves much that is self-contradictory.

For one thing, the universe is described as a blissful god and as self-sufficing, while this "love" is confessedly neither divine nor self-sufficing but in ceaseless need.

Again, this cosmos is a compound of body and soul; but aphrodite to Plato is the soul itself, therefore aphrodite would necessarily—he a constituent part of eros, dominant member! A man is the man's soul, if the world is, similarly, the world's soul, then aphrodite, the soul, is identical with love, the cosmos! And why should this one spirit, love, be the universe to the exclusion of all the others, which certainly are sprung from the same essential-being? Our only escape would be to make the cosmos a complex of supernals.

Love, again, is called the dispenser of beautiful children: Does this apply to the universe? Love is represented as homeless, bedless and barefooted: Would not that be a shabby description of the cosmos and quite out of the truth?


What then, in sum, is to be thought of love and of his "birth" as we are told of it?

Clearly we have to establish the significance, here, of poverty and possession, and show in what way the parentage is appropriate: We have also to bring these two into line with the other supernals since one spirit nature, one spirit essence, must characterize all unless they are to have merely a name in common.

We must, therefore, lay down the grounds on which we distinguish the gods from the celestials—that is, when we emphasize the separate nature of the two orders and are not, as often in practice, including these spirits under the common name of Gods.

It is our teaching and conviction that the gods are immune to all passion while we attribute experience and emotion to the celestials which, though eternal beings and directly next to the gods, are already a step towards ourselves and stand between the divine and the human.

But by what process was the immunity lost? What in their nature led them downwards to the inferior?

And other questions present themselves.

Does the intellectual realm include no member of this spirit order, not even one? And does the cosmos contain only these spirits, God being confined to the intellectual? Or are there gods in the sub- celestial too, the cosmos itself being a God, the third, as is commonly said, and the powers down to the moon being all Gods as well?

It is best not to use the word "celestial" of any being of that realm; the word "God" may be applied to the essential- celestial—the autodaimon—and even to the visible powers of the universe of sense down to the moon; Gods, these too, visible, secondary, sequent on the gods of the intellectual realm, consonant with them, held about them, as the radiance about the star.

What, then, are these spirits?

A celestial is the representative generated by each soul when it enters the cosmos.

And why, by a soul entering the cosmos?

Because soul pure of the cosmos generates not a celestial spirit but a God; hence it is that we have spoken of love, offspring of aphrodite the pure soul, as a God.

But, first what prevents every one of the celestials from being an eros, a love? And why are they not untouched by matter like the Gods?

On the first question: Every celestial born in the striving of the soul towards the good and beautiful is an eros; and all the souls within the cosmos do engender this celestial; but other spirit-beings, equally born from the soul of the all, but by other faculties of that soul, have other functions: They are for the direct service of the all, and administer particular things to the purpose of the universe entire. The soul of the all must be adequate to all that is and therefore must bring into being spirit powers serviceable not merely in one function but to its entire charge.

But what participation can the celestials have in matter, and in what matter?

Certainly none in bodily matter; that would make them simply living things of the order of sense. And if, even, they are to invest themselves in bodies of air or of fire, the nature must have already been altered before they could have any contact with the corporeal. The pure does not mix, unmediated, with body—though many think that the celestial-kind, of its very essence, comports a body aerial or of fire.

But why should one order of celestial descend to body and another not? The difference implies the existence of some cause or medium working on such as thus descend. What would constitute such a medium?

We are forced to assume that there is a matter of the intellectual Order, and that beings partaking of it are thereby enabled to enter into the lower matter, the corporeal.


This is the significance of Plato's account of the birth of love.

The drunkenness of the father poros or possession is caused by nectar, "wine yet not existing"; love is born before the realm of sense has come into being: Penia had participation in the intellectual before the lower image of that divine realm had appeared; she dwelt in that sphere, but as a mingled being consisting partly of form but partly also of that indetermination which belongs to the soul before she attains the good and when all her knowledge of reality is a fore-intimation veiled by the indeterminate and unordered: In this state poverty brings forth the hypostasis, love.

This, then, is a union of reason with something that is not reason but a mere indeterminate striving in a being not yet illuminated: The offspring love, therefore, is not perfect, not self- sufficient, but unfinished, bearing the signs of its parentage, the undirected striving and the self-sufficient reason. This offspring is a reason-principle but not purely so; for it includes within itself an aspiration ill- defined, unreasoned, unlimited—it can never be sated as long as it contains within itself that element of the indeterminate. Love, then, clings to the soul, from which it sprung as from the principle of its being, but it is lessened by including an element of the reason-principle which did not remain self-concentrated but blended with the indeterminate, not, it is true, by immediate contact but through its emanation. Love, therefore, is like a goad; it is without resource in itself; even winning its end, it is poor again.

It cannot be satisfied because a thing of mixture never can be so: True satisfaction is only for what has its plenitude in its own being; where craving is due to an inborn deficiency, there may be satisfaction at some given moment but it does not last. Love, then, has on the one side the powerlessness of its native inadequacy, on the other the resource inherited from the reason- kind.

Such must be the nature and such the origin of the entire spirit Order, each—like its fellow, love—has its appointed sphere, is powerful there, and wholly devoted to it, and, like love, none is ever complete of itself but always straining towards some good which it sees in things of the partial sphere.

We understand, now, why good men have no other love other eros of life—than that for the absolute and authentic good, and never follow the random attractions known to those ranged under the lower spirit kind.

Each human being is set under his own spirit-guides, but this is mere blank possession when they ignore their own and live by some other spirit adopted by them as more closely attuned to the operative part of the soul in them. Those that go after evil are natures that have merged all the love-principles within them in the evil desires springing in their hearts and allowed the right reason, which belongs to our kind, to fall under the spell of false ideas from another source.

All the natural loves, all that serve the ends of nature, are good; in a lesser soul, inferior in rank and in scope; in the greater soul, superior; but all belong to the order of being. Those forms of love that do not serve the purposes of nature are merely accidents attending on perversion: In no sense are they real- beings or even manifestations of any reality; for they are no true issue of soul; they are merely accompaniments of a spiritual flaw which the soul automatically exhibits in the total of disposition and conduct.

In a word; all that is truly good in a soul acting to the purposes of nature and within its appointed order, all this is real- being: Anything else is alien, no act of the soul, but merely something that happens to it: A parallel may be found in false mentation, notions behind which there is no reality as there is in the case of authentic ideas, the eternal, the strictly defined, in which there is at once an act of true knowing, a truly knowable object and authentic existence—and this not merely in the absolute, but also in the particular being that is occupied by the authentically knowable and by the intellectual-principle manifest in every several form.

In each particular human being we must admit the existence of the authentic intellective act and of the authentically knowable object—though not as wholly merged into our being, since we are not these in the absolute and not exclusively these—and hence our longing for absolute things: It is the expression of our intellective activities: If we sometimes care for the partial, that affection is not direct but accidental, like our knowledge that a given triangular figure is made up of two right angles because the absolute triangle is so.


But what are we to understand by this Zeus with the garden into which, we are told, poros or Wealth entered? And what is the garden?

We have seen that the aphrodite of the myth is the soul and that poros, Wealth, is the reason-principle of the universe: We have still to explain Zeus and his garden.

We cannot take Zeus to be the soul, which we have agreed is represented by aphrodite.

Plato, who must be our guide in this question, speaks in the Phaedrus of this God, Zeus, as the Great leader—though elsewhere he seems to rank him as one of three—but in the philebus he speaks more plainly when he says that there is in Zeus not only a royal soul, but also a royal intellect.

As a mighty intellect and soul, he must be a principle of cause; he must be the highest for several reasons but especially because to be king and leader is to be the chief cause: Zeus then is the intellectual principle. Aphrodite, his daughter, issue of him, dwelling with him, will be soul, her very name aphrodite [= the habra, delicate] indicating the beauty and gleam and innocence and delicate grace of the soul.

And if we take the male gods to represent the intellectual powers and the female gods to be their souls—to every intellectual principle its companion soul—we are forced, thus also, to make aphrodite the soul of Zeus; and the identification is confirmed by priests and theologians who consider aphrodite and hera one and the same and call aphrodite's star the star of hera.


This poros, possession, then, is the reason-principle of all that exists in the intellectual realm and in the supreme intellect; but being more diffused, kneaded out as it were, it must touch soul, be in soul, [as the next lower principle].

For, all that lies gathered in the intellect is native to it: Nothing enters from without; but "poros intoxicated" is some power deriving satisfaction outside itself: What, then, can we understand by this member of the supreme filled with nectar but a reason- principle falling from a loftier essence to a lower? This means that the reason-principle on "the birth of aphrodite" left the intellectual for the soul, breaking into the garden of Zeus.

A garden is a place of beauty and a glory of wealth: All the loveliness that Zeus maintains takes its splendour from the reason-principle within him; for all this beauty is the radiation of the divine intellect on the divine soul, which it has penetrated. What could the Garden of Zeus indicate but the images of his being and the splendours of his glory? And what could these divine splendours and beauties be but the ideas streaming from him?

These reason-principles—this poros who is the lavishness, the abundance of beauty—are at one and are made manifest; this is the nectar-drunkenness. For the nectar of the gods can be no other than what the god-nature essentially demands; and this is the reason pouring down from the divine mind.

The intellectual principle possesses itself to satiety, but there is no "drunken" abandonment in this possession which brings nothing alien to it. But the reason-principle—as its offspring, a later hypostasis—is already a separate being and established in another realm, and so is said to lie in the garden of this Zeus who is divine mind; and this lying in the garden takes place at the moment when, in our way of speaking, aphrodite enters the realm of being.


"Our way of speaking"—for myths, if they are to serve their purpose, must necessarily import time-distinctions into their subject and will often present as separate, powers which exist in unity but differ in rank and faculty; they will relate the births of the unbegotten and discriminate where all is one substance; the truth is conveyed in the only manner possible, it is left to our good sense to bring all together again.

On this principle we have, here, soul dwelling with the divine intelligence, breaking away from it, and yet again being filled to satiety with the divine ideas—the beautiful abounding in all plenty, so that every splendour become manifest in it with the images of whatever is lovely—soul which, taken as one all, is aphrodite, while in it may be distinguished the reason-principles summed under the names of plenty and possession, produced by the downflow of the nectar of the over realm. The splendours contained in soul are thought of as the garden of Zeus with reference to their existing within life; and poros sleeps in this garden in the sense of being sated and heavy with its produce. Life is eternally manifest, an eternal existent among the existences, and the banqueting of the gods means no more than that they have their being in that vital blessedness. And love—"born at the banquet of the gods"—has of necessity been eternally in existence, for it springs from the intention of the soul towards its best, towards the good; as long as soul has been, love has been.

Still this love is of mixed quality. On the one hand there is in it the lack which keeps it craving: On the other, it is not entirely destitute; the deficient seeks more of what it has, and certainly nothing absolutely void of good would ever go seeking the good.

It is said then to spring from poverty and possession in the sense that lack and aspiration and the memory of the ideal principles, all present together in the soul, produce that act towards the good which is love. Its mother is poverty, since striving is for the needy; and this poverty is matter, for matter is the wholly poor: The very ambition towards the good is a sign of existing indetermination; there is a lack of shape and of reason in that which must aspire towards the good, and the greater degree of effort implies the lower depth of materiality. A thing aspiring towards the good is an ideal-principle only when the striving [with attainment] will leave it still unchanged in kind: When it must take in something other than itself, its aspiration is the presentment of matter to the incoming power.

Thus love is at once, in some degree a thing of matter and at the same time a celestial, sprung of the soul; for love lacks its good but, from its very birth, strives towards it.

Enneads of Plotinus, END MATTER

Enneads of Plotinus, LITERATURE  


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