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The Enneads of Plotinus


Fourth ennead:

  1. Perception and memory
  2. The immortality of the soul
  3. The soul's descent into body
  4. Are all souls one?

Sixth tractate: Perception and memory



Perceptions are no imprints, we have said, are not to be thought of as seal-impressions on soul or mind: Accepting this statement, there is one theory of memory which must be definitely rejected.

Memory is not to be explained as the retaining of information in virtue of the lingering of an impression which in fact was never made; the two things stand or fall together; either an impression is made on the mind and lingers when there is remembrance, or, denying the impression, we cannot hold that memory is its lingering. Since we reject equally the impression and the retention we are obliged to seek for another explanation of perception and memory, one excluding the notions that the sensible object striking on soul or mind makes a mark on it, and that the retention of this mark is memory.

If we study what occurs in the case of the most vivid form of perception, we can transfer our results to the other cases, and so solve our problem.

In any perception we attain by sight, the object is grasped there where it lies in the direct line of vision; it is there that we attack it; there, then, the perception is formed; the mind looks outward; this is ample proof that it has taken and takes no inner imprint, and does not see in virtue of some mark made on it like that of the ring on the wax; it need not look outward at all if, even as it looked, it already held the image of the object, seeing by virtue of an impression made on itself. It includes with the object the interval, for it tells at what distance the vision takes place: How could it see as outlying an impression within itself, separated by no interval from itself? Then, the point of magnitude: How could the mind, on this hypothesis, define the external size of the object or perceive that it has any—the magnitude of the sky, for instance, whose stamped imprint would be too vast for it to contain? And, most convincing of all, if to see is to accept imprints of the objects of our vision, we can never see these objects themselves; we see only vestiges they leave within us, shadows: The things themselves would be very different from our vision of them. And, for a conclusive consideration, we cannot see if the living object is in contact with the eye, we must look from a certain distance; this must be more applicable to the mind; supposing the mind to be stamped with an imprint of the object, it could not grasp as an object of vision what is stamped on itself. For vision demands a duality, of seen and seeing: The seeing agent must be distinct and act on an impression outside it, not on one occupying the same point with it: Sight can deal only with an object not inset but outlying.


But if perception does not go by impression, what is the process?

The mind affirms something not contained within it: This is precisely the characteristic of a power—not to accept impression but, within its allotted sphere, to act.

Besides, the very condition of the mind being able to exercise discrimination on what it is to see and hear is not, of course, that these objects be equally impressions made on it; on the contrary, there must be no impressions, nothing to which the mind is passive; there can be only acts of that in which the objects become known.

Our tendency is to think of any of the faculties as unable to know its appropriate object by its own uncompelled act; to us it seems to submit to its environment rather than simply to perceive it, though in reality it is the master, not the victim.

As with sight, so with hearing. It is the air which takes the impression, a kind of articulated stroke which may be compared to letters traced on it by the object causing the sound; but it belongs to the faculty, and the soul-essence, to read the imprints thus appearing before it, as they reach the point at which they become matter of its knowledge.

In taste and smell also we distinguish between the impressions received and the sensations and judgements; these last are mental acts, and belong to an order apart from the experiences on which they are exercised.

The knowing of the things belonging to the intellectual is not in any such degree attended by impact or impression: They come forward, on the contrary, as from within, unlike the sense-objects known as from without: They have more emphatically the character of acts; they are acts in the stricter sense, for their origin is in the soul, and every concept of this intellectual order is the soul about its act.

Whether, in this self-vision, the soul is a duality and views itself as from the outside—while seeing the intellectual- principal as a unity, and itself with the intellectual-principle as a unity—this question is investigated elsewhere.


With this prologue we come to our discussion of memory.

That the soul, or mind, having taken no imprint, yet achieves perception of what it in no way contains need not surprise us; or rather, surprising though it is, we cannot refuse to believe in this remarkable power.

The soul is the reason-principle of the universe, ultimate among the intellectual beings—its own essential nature is one of the beings of the intellectual realm—but it is the primal reason- principle of the entire realm of sense.

Thus it has dealings with both orders—benefited and quickened by the one, but by the other beguiled, falling before resemblances, and so led downwards as under spell. Poised midway, it is aware of both spheres.

Of the intellectual it is said to have intuition by memory on approach, for it knows them by a certain natural identity with them; its knowledge is not attained by besetting them, so to speak, but by in a definite degree possessing them; they are its natural vision; they are itself in a more radiant mode, and it rises from its duller pitch to that greater brilliance in a sort of awakening, a progress from its latency to its act.

To the sense-order it stands in a similar nearness and to such things it gives a radiance out of its own store and, as it were, elaborates them to visibility: The power is always ripe and, so to say, in travail towards them, so that, whenever it puts out its strength in the direction of what has once been present in it, it sees that object as present still; and the more intent its effort the more durable is the presence. This is why, it is agreed, children have long memory; the things presented to them are not constantly withdrawn but remain in sight; in their case the attention is limited but not scattered: Those whose faculty and mental activity are busied on a multitude of subjects pass quickly over all, lingering on none.

Now, if memory were a matter of seal-impressions retained, the multiplicity of objects would have no weakening effect on the memory. Further, on the same hypothesis, we would have no need of thinking back to revive remembrance; nor would we be subject to forgetting and recalling; all would lie engraved within.

The very fact that we train ourselves to remember shows that what we get by the process is a strengthening of the mind: Just so, exercises for feet and hands enable us to do easily acts which in no sense contained or laid up in those members, but to which they may be fitted by persevering effort.

How else can it be explained that we forget a thing heard once or twice but remember what is often repeated, and that we recall a long time afterwards what at first hearing we failed to hold?

It is no answer to say that the parts present themselves sooner than the entire imprint—why should they too be forgotten?—[there is no question of parts, for] the last hearing, or our effort to remember, brings the thing back to us in a flash.

All these considerations testify to an evocation of that faculty of the soul, or mind, in which remembrance is vested: The mind is strengthened, either generally or to this particular purpose.

Observe these facts: Memory follows on attention; those who have memorized much, by dint of their training in the use of leading indications [suggestive words and the like], reach the point of being easily able to retain without such aid: Must we not conclude that the basis of memory is the soul-power brought to full strength?

The lingering imprints of the other explanation would tell of weakness rather than power; for to take imprint easily is to be yielding. An impression is something received passively; the strongest memory, then, would go with the least active nature. But what happens is the very reverse: In no pursuit to technical exercises tend to make a man less the master of his acts and states. It is as with sense-perception; the advantage is not to the weak, the weak eye for example, but to that which has the fullest power towards its exercise. In the old, it is significant, the senses are dulled and so is the memory.

Sensation and memory, then, are not passivity but power.

And, once it is admitted that sensations are not impressions, the memory of a sensation cannot consist in the retention of an impression that was never made.

Yes: But if it is an active power of the mind, a fitness towards its particular purpose, why does it not come at once—and not with delay—to the recollection of its unchanging objects?

Simply because the power needs to be poised and prepared: In this it is only like all the others, which have to be readied for the task to which their power reaches, some operating very swiftly, others only after a certain self- concentration.

Quick memory does not in general go with quick wit: The two do not fall under the same mental faculty; runner and boxer are not often united in one person; the dominant idea differs from man to man.

Yet there could be nothing to prevent men of superior faculty from reading impressions on the mind; why should one thus gifted be incapable of what would be no more than a passive taking and holding?

That memory is a power of the soul [not a capacity for taking imprint] is established at a stroke by the consideration that the soul is without magnitude.

And—one general reflection—it is not extraordinary that everything concerning soul should proceed in quite other ways than appears to people who either have never enquired, or have hastily adopted delusive analogies from the phenomena of sense, and persist in thinking of perception and remembrance in terms of characters inscribed on plates or tablets; the impossibilities that beset this theory escape those that make the soul incorporeal equally with those to whom it is corporeal.

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Seventh tractate: The immortality of the soul


Whether every human being is immortal or we are wholly destroyed, or whether something of us passes over to dissolution and destruction, while something else, that which is the true man, endures for ever—this question will be answered here for those willing to investigate our nature.

We know that man is not a thing of one only element; he has a soul and he has, whether instrument or adjunct in some other mode, a body: This is the first distinction; it remains to investigate the nature and essential being of these two constituents.

Reason tells us that the body as, itself too, a composite, cannot for ever hold together; and our senses show us it breaking up, wearing out, the victim of destructive agents of many kinds, each of its constituents going its own way, one part working against another, perverting, wrecking, and this especially when the material masses are no longer presided over by the reconciling soul.

And when each single constituent is taken as a thing apart, it is still not a unity; for it is divisible into shape and matter, the duality without which bodies at their very simplest cannot cohere.

The mere fact that, as material forms, they have bulk means that they can be lopped and crushed and so come to destruction.

If this body, then, is really a part of us, we are not wholly immortal; if it is an instrument of ours, then, as a thing put at our service for a certain time, it must be in its nature passing.

The sovereign principle, the authentic man, will be as form to this matter or as agent to this instrument, and thus, whatever that relation be, the soul is the man.


But of what nature is this sovereign principle?

If material, then definitely it must fall apart; for every material entity, at least, is something put together.

If it is not material but belongs to some other kind, that new substance must be investigated in the same way or by some more suitable method.

But our first need is to discover into what this material form, since such the soul is to be, can dissolve.

Now: Of necessity life is inherent to soul: This material entity, then, which we call soul must have life ingrained within it; but [being a composite as by hypothesis, material] it must be made up of two or more bodies; that life, then, will be vested, either in each and all of those bodies or in one of them to the exclusion of the other or others; if this be not so, then there is no life present anywhere.

If any one of them contains this ingrained life, that one is the soul. But what sort of an entity have we there; what is this body which of its own nature possesses soul?

Fire, air, water, earth, are in themselves soulless—whenever soul is in any of them, that life is borrowed—and there are no other forms of body than these four: Even the school that believes there are has always held them to be bodies, not souls, and to be without life.

None of these, then, having life, it would be extraordinary if life came about by bringing them together; it is impossible, in fact, that the collocation of material entities should produce life, or mindless entities mind.

No one, moreover, would pretend that a mere chance mixing could give such results: Some regulating principle would be necessary, some cause directing the admixture: That guiding principle would be—soul.

Body—not merely because it is a composite, but even were it simplex—could not exist unless there were soul in the universe, for body owes its being to the entrance of a reason- principle into matter, and only from soul can a reason-principle come.


Anyone who rejects this view, and holds that either atoms or some entities void of part coming together produce soul, is refuted by the very unity of soul and by the prevailing sympathy as much as by the very coherence of the constituents. Bodily materials, in nature repugnant to unification and to sensation, could never produce unity or self-sensitiveness, and soul is self- sensitive. And, again, constituents void of part could never produce body or bulk.

Perhaps we will be asked to consider body as a simple entity [disregarding the question of any constituent elements]: They will tell us, then, that no doubt, as purely material, it cannot have a self-springing life—since matter is without quality—but that life is introduced by the fact that the matter is brought to order under forming-idea. But if by this forming-idea they mean an essential, a real being, then it is not the conjoint of body and idea that constitutes soul: It must be one of the two items and that one, being [by hypothesis] outside of the matter, cannot be body: To make it body would simply force us to repeat our former analysis.

If on the contrary they do not mean by this forming-idea a real being, but some condition or modification of the matter, they must tell us how and whence this modification, with resultant life, can have found the way into the matter: For very certainly matter does not mould itself to pattern or bring itself to life.

It becomes clear that since neither matter nor body in any mode has this power, life must be brought on the stage by some directing principle external and transcendent to all that is corporeal.

In fact, body itself could not exist in any form if soul-power did not: Body passes; dissolution is in its very nature; all would disappear in a twinkling if all were body. It is no help to erect some one mode of body into soul; made of the same matter as the rest, this soul body would fall under the same fate: Of course it could never really exist: The universe of things would halt at the material, failing something to bring matter to shape.

Nay more: Matter itself could not exist: The totality of things in this sphere is dissolved if it be made to depend on the coherence of a body which, though elevated to the nominal rank of "soul," remains air, fleeting breath [the stoic pneuma, rarefied matter, "spirit" in the lower sense], whose very unity is not drawn from itself.

All bodies are in ceaseless process of dissolution; how can the cosmos be made over to any one of them without being turned into a senseless haphazard drift? This pneuma—orderless except under soul—how can it contain order, reason, intelligence? But: given soul, all these material things become its collaborators towards the coherence of the cosmos and of every living being, all the qualities of all the separate objects converging to the purposes of the universe: Failing soul in the things of the universe, they could not even exist, much less play their ordered parts.


Our opponents themselves are driven by stress of fact to admit the necessity of a prior to body, a higher thing, some phase or form of soul; their "pneuma" [finer-body or spirit] is intelligent, and they speak of an "intellectual fire"; this "fire" and "spirit" they imagine to be necessary to the existence of the higher order which they conceive as demanding some base, though the real difficulty, under their theory, is to find a base for material things whose only possible base is, precisely, the powers of soul.

Besides, if they make life and soul no more than this "pneuma," what is the import of that repeated qualification of theirs "in a certain state," their refuge when they are compelled to recognize some acting principle apart from body? If not every pneuma is a soul, but thousands of them soulless, and only the pneuma in this "certain state" is soul, what follows? Either this "certain state," this shaping or configuration of things, is a real being or it is nothing.

If it is nothing, only the pneuma exists, the "certain state" being no more than a word; this leads imperatively to the assertion that matter alone exists, soul and God mere words, the lowest alone is.

If on the contrary this "configuration" is really existent—something distinct from the underlie or matter, something residing in matter but itself immaterial as not constructed out of matter, then it must be a reason-principle, incorporeal, a separate nature.

There are other equally cogent proofs that the soul cannot be any form of body.

Body is either warm or cold, hard or soft, liquid or solid, black or white, and so on through all the qualities by which one is different from another; and, again, if a body is warm it diffuses only warmth, if cold it can only chill, if light its presence tells against the total weight which if heavy it increases; black, it darkens; white, it lightens; fire has not the property of chilling or a cold body that of warming.

Soul, on the contrary, operates diversely in different living beings, and has quite contrary effects in any one: Its productions contain the solid and the soft, the dense and the sparse, bright and dark, heavy and light. If it were material, its quality—and the colour it must have—would produce one invariable effect and not the variety actually observed.


Again, there is movement: All bodily movement is uniform; failing an incorporeal soul, how account for diversity of movement? Predilections, reasons, they will say; that is all very well, but these already contain that variety and therefore cannot belong to body which is one and simplex, and, besides, is not participant in reason—that is, not in the sense here meant, but only as it is influenced by some principle which confers on it the qualities of, for instance, being warm or cold.

Then there is growth under a time-law, and within a definite limit: How can this belong strictly to body? Body can indeed be brought to growth, but does not itself grow except in the sense that in the material mass a capacity for growing is included as an accessory to some principle whose action on the body causes growth.

Supposing the soul to be at once a body and the cause of growth, then, if it is to keep pace with the substance it augments, it too must grow; that means it must add to itself a similar bodily material. For the added material must be either soul or soulless body: If soul, whence and how does it enter, and by what process is it adjoined [to the soul which by hypothesis is body]; if soulless, how does such an addition become soul, falling into accord with its precedent, making one thing with it, sharing the stored impressions and notions of that initial soul instead, rather, of remaining an alien ignoring all the knowledge laid up before?

Would not such a soulless addition be subject to just such loss and gain of substance, in fact to the non-identity, which marks the rest of our material mass?

And, if this were so, how explain our memories or our recognition of familiar things when we have no stably identical soul?

Assume soul to be a body: Now in the nature of body, characteristically divisible, no one of the parts can be identical with the entire being; soul, then, is a thing of defined size, and if curtailed must cease to be what it is; in the nature of a quantitative entity this must be so, for, if a thing of magnitude on diminution retains its identity in virtue of its quality, this is only saying that bodily and quantitatively it is different even if its identity consists in a quality quite independent of quantity.

What answer can be made by those declaring soul to be corporeal? Is every part of the soul, in any one body, soul entire, soul perfectly true to its essential being? And may the same be said of every part of the part? If so, the magnitude makes no contribution to the soul's essential nature, as it must if soul [as corporeal] were a definite magnitude: It is, as body cannot be, an "all-everywhere," a complete identity present at each and every point, the part all that the whole is.

To deny that every part is soul is to make soul a compound from soulless elements. Further, if a definite magnitude, the double limit of larger or smaller, is to be imposed on each separate soul, then anything outside those limits is no soul.

Now, a single coition and a single sperm suffice to a twin birth or in the animal order to a litter; there is a splitting and diverging of the seed, every diverging part being obviously a whole: Surely no honest mind can fail to gather that a thing in which part is identical with whole has a nature which transcends quantity, and must of necessity be without quantity: Only so could it remain identical when quantity is filched from it, only by being indifferent to amount or extension, by being in essence something apart. Thus the soul and the reason-principles are without quantity.


It is easy to show that if the soul were a corporeal entity, there could be no sense-perception, no mental act, no knowledge, no moral excellence, nothing of all that is noble.

There can be no perception without a unitary percipient whose identity enables it to grasp an object as an entirety.

The several senses will each be the entrance point of many diverse perceptions; in any one object there may be many characteristics; any one organ may be the channel of a group of objects, as for instance a face is known not by a special sense for separate features, nose, eyes; etc., but by one sense observing all in one act.

When sight and hearing gather their varying information, there must be some central unity to which both report. How could there be any statement of difference unless all sense- impressions appeared before a common identity able to take the sum of all?

This there must be, as there is a centre to a circle; the sense- impressions converging from every point of occurrence will be as lines striking from a circumference to what will be a true centre of perception as being a veritable unity.

If this centre were to break into separate points—so that the sense-impressions fell on the two ends of a line—then, either it must reknit itself to unity and identity, perhaps at the mid-point of the line, or all remains unrelated, every end receiving the report of its particular field exactly as you and I have our distinct sense experiences.

Suppose the sense-object be such a unity as a face: All the points of observation must be brought together in one visual total, as is obvious since there could be no panorama of great expanses unless the detail were compressed to the capacity of the pupils.

Much more must this be true in the case of thoughts, partless entities as they are, impinging on the centre of consciousness which [to receive them] must itself be void of part.

Either this or, supposing the centre of consciousness to be a thing of quantity and extension, the sensible object will coincide with it point by point of their co-expansion so that any given point in the faculty will perceive solely what coincides with it in the object: And thus nothing in us could perceive any thing as a whole.

This cannot be: The faculty entire must be a unity; no such dividing is possible; this is no matter in which we can think of equal sections coinciding; the centre of consciousness has no such relation of equality with any sensible object. The only possible ratio of divisibility would be that of the number of diverse elements in the impinging sensation: Are we then to suppose that each part of the soul, and every part of each part, will have perception? Or will the part of the parts have none? That is impossible: Every part, then, has perception; the [hypothetical] magnitude, of soul and each part of soul, is infinitely divisible; there will therefore be in each part an infinite number of perceptions of the object, and therefore an infinitude of representations of it at our centre of consciousness.

If the sentient be a material entity sensation could only be of the order of seal-impressions struck by a ring on wax, in this case by sensible objects on the blood or on the intervenient air.

If, at this, the impression is like one made in liquids—as would be reasonable—it will be confused and wavering as on water, and there can be no memory. If the impressions are permanent, then either no fresh ones can be stamped on the occupied ground—and there can be no change of sensations—or, others being made, the former will be obliterated; and all record of the past is done away with.

If memory implies fresh sensations imposed on former ones, the earlier not barring their way, the soul cannot be a material entity.


We come to the same result by examining the sense of pain. We say there is pain in the finger: The trouble is doubtless in the finger, but our opponents must admit that the sensation of the pain is in the centre of consciousness. The suffering member is one thing, the sense of suffering is another: How does this happen?

By transmission, they will say: The psychic pneuma [= the semi-material principle of life] stationed at the finger suffers first; and stage by stage the trouble is passed on until at last it reaches the centre of consciousness.

But on this theory, there must be a sensation in the spot first suffering pain, and another sensation at a second point of the line of transmission, another in the third and so on; many sensations, in fact an unlimited series, to deal with one pain; and at the last moment the centre of consciousness has the sensation of all these sensations and of its own sensation to boot. Or to be exact, these serial sensations will not be of the pain in the finger: The sensation next in succession to the suffering finger will be of pain at the joint, a third will tell of a pain still higher up: There will be a series of separate pains: The centre of consciousness will not feel the pain seated at the finger, but only that impinging on itself: It will know this alone, ignore the rest and so have no notion that the finger is in pain.

Thus: Transmission would not give sensation of the actual condition at the affected spot: It is not in the nature of body that where one part suffers there should be knowledge in another part; for body is a magnitude, and the parts of every magnitude are distinct parts; therefore we need, as the sentient, something of a nature to be identical to itself at any and every spot; this property can belong only to some other form of being than body.


It can be shown also that the intellectual act would similarly be impossible if the soul were any form of body.

If sensation is apprehension by means of the soul's employment of the body, intellection cannot be a similar use of the body or it would be identical with sensation. If then intellection is apprehension apart from body, much more must there be a distinction between the body and the intellective principle: Sensation for objects of sense, intellection for the intellectual object. And even if this be rejected, it must still be admitted that there do exist intellections of intellectual objects and perceptions of objects not possessing magnitude: How, we may then ask, can a thing of magnitude know a thing that has no magnitude, or how can the partless be known by means of what has parts? We will be told "by some partless part." but, at this, the intellective will not be body: For contact does not need a whole; one point suffices. If then it be conceded—and it cannot be denied—that the primal intellections deal with objects completely incorporeal, the principle of intellection itself must know by virtue of being, or becoming, free from body. Even if they hold that all intellection deals with the ideal forms in matter, still it always takes place by abstraction from the bodies [in which these forms appear] and the separating agent is the intellectual- principle. For assuredly the process by which we abstract circle, triangle, line or point, is not carried through by the aid of flesh or matter of any kind; in all such acts the soul or mind must separate itself from the material: At once we see that it cannot be itself material. Similarly it will be agreed that, as beauty and justice are things without magnitude, so must be the intellective act that grasps them.

When such non-magnitudes come before the soul, it receives them by means of its partless phase and they will take position there in partless wise.

Again: If the soul is a body, how can we account for its virtues—moral excellence [sophrosyne], justice, courage and so forth? all these could be only some kind of rarefied body [pneuma], or blood in some form; or we might see courage as a certain resisting power in that pneuma; moral quality would be its happy blending; beauty would lie wholly in the agreeable form of impressions received, such comeliness as leads us to describe people as attractive and beautiful from their bodily appearance. No doubt strength and grace of form go well enough with the idea of rarefied body; but what can this rarefied body want with moral excellence? On the contrary its interest would lie in being comfortable in its environments and contacts, in being warmed or pleasantly cool, in bringing everything smooth and caressing and soft around it: What could it care about a just distribution?

Then consider the objects of the soul's contemplation, virtue and the other intellectual forms with which it is occupied; are these eternal or are we to think that virtue rises here or there, helps, then perishes? These things must have an author and a source and there, again, we are confronted by something perdurable: The soul's contemplation, then, must be of the eternal and unchanging, like the concepts of geometry: If eternal and unchanging, these objects are not bodies: And that which is to receive them must be of equivalent nature: It cannot therefore be body, since all body-nature lacks permanence, is a thing of flux.


A. [sometimes appearing as 9] there are those who insist on the activities observed in bodies—warming, chilling, thrusting, pressing—and class soul with body, as it were to assure its efficacy. This ignores the double fact that the very bodies themselves exercise such efficiency by means of the incorporeal powers operating in them, and that these are not the powers we attribute to soul: Intellection, perception, reasoning, desire, wise and effective action in all regards, these point to a very different form of being.

In transferring to bodies the powers of the unembodied, this school leaves nothing to that higher order. And yet that it is precisely in virtue of bodiless powers that bodies possess their efficiency is clear from certain reflections:

It will be admitted that quality and quantity are two different things, that body is always a thing of quantity but not always a thing of quality: Matter is not qualified. This admitted, it will not be denied that quality, being a different thing from quantity, is a different thing from body. Obviously quality could not be body when it has not quantity as all body must; and, again, as we have said, body, any thing of mass, on being reduced to fragments, ceases to be what it was, but the quality it possessed remains intact in every particle—for instance the sweetness of honey is still sweetness in each speck—this shows that sweetness and all other qualities are not body.

Further: If the powers in question were bodies, then necessarily the stronger powers would be large masses and those less efficient small masses: But if there are large masses with small while not a few of the smaller masses manifest great powers, then the efficiency must be vested in something other than magnitude; efficacy, thus, belongs to non-magnitude. Again; matter, they tell us, remains unchanged as long as it is body, but produces variety on accepting qualities; is not this proof enough that the entrants [with whose arrival the changes happen] are reason-principles and not of the bodily order?

They must not remind us that when pneuma and blood are no longer present, animals die: These are necessary no doubt to life, but so are many other things of which none could possibly be soul: And neither pneuma nor blood is present throughout the entire being; but soul is.


B. (10) if the soul is body and permeates the entire body- mass, still even in this entire permeation the blending must be in accord with what occurs in all cases of bodily admixing.

Now: If in the admixing of bodies neither constituent can retain its efficacy, the soul too could no longer be effective within the bodies; it could but be latent; it will have lost that by which it is soul, just as in an admixture of sweet and bitter the sweet disappears: We have, thus, no soul.

Two bodies [I.e., by hypothesis, the soul and the human body] are blended, each entire through the entirety of the other; where the one is, the other is also; each occupies an equal extension and each the whole extension; no increase of size has been caused by the juncture: The one body thus inblended can have left in the other nothing undivided. This is no case of mixing in the sense of considerable portions alternating; that would be described as collocation; no; the incoming entity goes through the other to the very minutest point—an impossibility, of course; the less becoming equal to the greater; still, all is traversed throughout and divided throughout. Now if, thus, the inblending is to occur point by point, leaving no undivided material anywhere, the division of the body concerned must have been a division into (geometrical) points: An impossibility. The division is an infinite series—any material particle may be cut in two—and the infinities are not merely potential, they are actual.

Therefore body cannot traverse anything as a whole traversing a whole. But soul does this. It is therefore incorporeal.


C. (11) We come to the theory that this pneuma is an earlier form, one which on entering the cold and being tempered by it develops into soul by growing finer under that new condition. This is absurd at the start, since many living beings rise in warmth and have a soul that has been tempered by cold: Still that is the theory—the soul has an earlier form, and develops its true nature by force of external accidents. Thus these teachers make the inferior precede the higher, and before that inferior they put something still lower, their "habitude." it is obvious that the intellectual-principle is last and has sprung from the soul, for, if it were first of all, the order of the series must be, second the soul, then the nature-principle, and always the later inferior, as the system actually stands.

If they treat God as they do the intellectual- principle—as later, engendered and deriving intellection from without—soul and intellect and God may prove to have no existence: This would follow if a potentiality could not come to existence, or does not become actual, unless the corresponding actuality exists. And what could lead it onward if there were no separate being in previous actuality? Even on the absurd supposition that the potentially existent brings itself to actuality, it must be looking to some term, and that must be no potentiality but actual.

No doubt the eternally self-identical may have potentiality and be self-led to self-realization, but even in this case the being considered as actualized is of higher order than the being considered as merely capable of actualization and moving towards a desired term.

Thus the higher is the earlier, and it has a nature other than body, and it exists always in actuality: Intellectual-principle and soul precede nature: Thus, soul does not stand at the level of pneuma or of body.

These arguments are sufficient in themselves, though many others have been framed, to show that the soul is not to be thought of as a body.


D. (12) soul belongs, then, to another nature: What is this? Is it something which, while distinct from body, still belongs to it, for example a harmony or accord?

The pythagorean school holds this view thinking that the soul is, with some difference, comparable to the accord in the strings of a lyre. When the lyre is strung a certain condition is produced on the strings, and this is known as accord: In the same way our body is formed of distinct constituents brought together, and the blend produces at once life and that soul which is the condition existing on the bodily total.

That this opinion is untenable has already been shown at length. The soul is a prior [to body], the accord is a secondary to the lyre. Soul rules, guides and often combats the body; as an accord of body it could not do these things. Soul is a real being, accord is not. That due blending [or accord] of the corporeal materials which constitute our frame would be simply health. Each separate part of the body, entering as a distinct entity into the total, would require a distinct soul [its own accord or note], so that there would be many souls to each person. Weightiest of all; before this soul there would have to be another soul to bring about the accord as, in the case of the musical instrument, there is the musician who produces the accord on the strings by his own possession of the principle on which he tunes them: Neither musical strings nor human bodies could put themselves in tune.

Briefly, the soulless is treated as ensouled, the unordered becomes orderly by accident, and instead of order being due to soul, soul itself owes its substantial existence to order—which is self- caused. Neither in the sphere of the partial, nor in that of Wholes could this be true. The soul, therefore, is not a harmony or accord.


E. (13) We come to the doctrine of the entelechy, and must enquire how it is applied to soul.

It is thought that in the conjoint of body and soul the soul holds the rank of form to the matter which here is the ensouled body—not, then, form to every example of body or to body as merely such, but to a natural organic body having the potentiality of life.

Now; if the soul has been so injected as to be assimilated into the body as the design of a statue is worked into the bronze, it will follow that, on any dividing of the body, the soul is divided with it, and if any part of the body is cut away a fragment of soul must go with it. Since an entelechy must be inseparable from the being of which it is the accomplished actuality, the withdrawal of the soul in sleep cannot occur; in fact sleep itself cannot occur. Moreover if the soul is an entelechy, there is an end to the resistance offered by reason to the desires; the total [of body and entelechy-soul] must have one-uniform experience throughout, and be aware of no internal contradiction. Sense- perception might occur; but intellection would be impossible. The very upholders of the entelechy are thus compelled to introduce another soul, the intellect, to which they ascribe immortality. The reasoning soul, then, must be an entelechy—if the word is to be used at all—in some other mode.

Even the sense-perceiving soul, in its possession of the impressions of absent objects, must hold these without aid from the body; for otherwise the impression must be present in it like shape and images, and that would mean that it could not take in fresh impressions; the perceptive soul, then, cannot be described as this entelechy inseparable from the body. Similarly the desiring principle, dealing not only with food and drink but with things quite apart from body; this also is no inseparable entelechy.

There remains the vegetal principle which might seem to suggest the possibility that, in this phase, the soul may be the inseparable entelechy of the doctrine. But it is not so. The principle of every growth lies at the root; in many plants the new springing takes place at the root or just above it: It is clear that the life-principle, the vegetal soul, has abandoned the upper portions to concentrate itself at that one spot: It was therefore not present in the whole as an inseparable entelechy. Again, before the plant's development the life-principle is situated in that small beginning: If, thus, it passes from large growth to small and from the small to the entire growth, why should it not pass outside altogether?

An entelechy is not a thing of parts; how then could it be present partwise in the partible body?

An identical soul is now the soul of one living being now of another: How could the soul of the first become the soul of the latter if soul were the entelechy of one particular being? Yet that this transference does occur is evident from the facts of animal metasomatosis.

The substantial existence of the soul, then, does not depend on serving as form to anything: It is an essence which does not come into being by finding a seat in body; it exists before it becomes also the soul of some particular, for example, of a living being, whose body would by this doctrine be the author of its soul.

What, then, is the soul's being? If it is neither body nor a state or experience of body, but is act and creation: If it holds much and gives much, and is an existence outside of body; of what order and character must it be? clearly it is what we describe as veritable essence. The other order, the entire corporeal kind, is process; it appears and it perishes; in reality it never possesses being, but is merely protected, in so far as it has the capacity, by participating in what authentically is.


(14) Over against that body, stands the principle which is self-caused, which is all that neither enters into being nor passes away, the principle whose dissolution would mean the end of all things never to be restored if once this had ceased to be, the sustaining principle of things individually, and of this cosmos, which owes its maintenance and its ordered system to the soul.

This is the starting point of motion and becomes the leader and provider of motion to all else: It moves by its own quality, and every living material form owes life to this principle, which of itself lives in a life that, being essentially innate, can never fail.

Not all things can have a life merely at second hand; this would give an infinite series: There must be some nature which, having life primally, shall be of necessity indestructible, immortal, as the source of life to all else that lives. This is the point at which all that is divine and blessed must be situated, living and having being of itself, possessing primal being and primal life, and in its own essence rejecting all change, neither coming to be nor passing away.

Whence could such a being arise or into what could it disappear: The very word, strictly used, means that the thing is perdurable. Similarly white, the colour, cannot be now white and now not white: If this "white" were a real being it would be eternal as well as being white: The colour is merely white but whatever possesses being, indwelling by nature and primal, will possess also eternal duration. In such an entity this primal and eternal being cannot be dead like stone or plank: It must be alive, and that with a life unalloyed as long as it remains self- gathered: When the primal being blends with an inferior principle, it is hampered in its relation to the highest, but without suffering the loss of its own nature since it can always recover its earliest state by turning its tendency back to its own.


(15) that the soul is of the family of the diviner nature, the eternal, is clear from our demonstration that it is not material: Besides it has neither shape or colour nor is it tangible. But there are other proofs.

Assuming that the divine and the authentically existent possesses a life beneficent and wise, we take the next step and begin with working out the nature of our own soul.

Let us consider a soul, not one that has appropriated the unreasoned desires and impulses of the bodily life, or any other such emotion and experience, but one that has cast all this aside, and as far as possible has no commerce with the bodily. Such a soul demonstrates that all evil is accretion, alien, and that in the purged soul the noble things are immanent, wisdom and all else that is good, as its native store.

If this is the soul once it has returned to its self, how deny that it is the nature we have identified with all the divine and eternal? Wisdom and authentic virtue are divine, and could not be found in the chattel mean and mortal: What possesses these must be divine by its very capacity of the divine, the token of kinship and of identical substance.

Hence, too, any one of us that exhibits these qualities will differ but little as far as soul is concerned from the supernals; he will be less than they only to the extent in which the soul is, in him, associated with body.

This is so true that, if every human being were at that stage, or if a great number lived by a soul of that degree, no one would be so incredulous as to doubt that the soul in man is immortal. It is because we see everywhere the spoiled souls of the great mass that it becomes difficult to recognize their divinity and immortality.

To know the nature of a thing we must observe it in its unalloyed state, since any addition obscures the reality. Clear, then look: Or, rather, let a man first purify himself and then observe: He will not doubt his immortality when he sees himself thus entered into the pure, the intellectual. For, what he sees is an intellectual-principle looking on nothing of sense, nothing of this mortality, but by its own eternity having intellection of the eternal: He will see all things in this intellectual substance, himself having become an intellectual cosmos and all lightsome, illuminated by the truth streaming from the good, which radiates truth on all that stands within that realm of the divine.

Thus he will often feel the beauty of that word "farewell: I am to you an immortal God," for he has ascended to the supreme, and is all one strain to enter into likeness with it.

If the purification puts the human into knowledge of the highest, then, too, the science latent within becomes manifest, the only authentic knowing. For it is not by running hither and thither outside of itself that the soul understands morality and right conduct: It learns them of its own nature, in its contact with itself, in its intellectual grasp of itself, seeing deeply impressed on it the images of its primal state; what was one mass of rust from long neglect it has restored to purity.

Imagine living gold: It files away all that is earthy about it, all that kept it in self-ignorance preventing it from knowing itself as gold; seen now unalloyed it is at once filled with admiration of its worth and knows that it has no need of any other glory than its own, triumphant if only it be allowed to remain purely to itself.


(16) What intelligent mind can doubt the immortality of such a value, one in which there is a life self-springing and therefore not to be destroyed?

This is at any rate a life not imported from without, not present in the mode of the heat in fire—for if heat is characteristic of the fire proper, it certainly is adventitious to the matter underlying the fire; or fire, too, would be everlasting—it is not in any such mode that the soul has life: This is no case of a matter underlying and a life brought into that matter and making it into soul [as heat comes into matter and makes it fire].

Either life is essential reality, and therefore self- living—the very thing we have been seeking—and undeniably immortal: Or it, too, is a compound and must be traced back through all the constituents until an immortal substance is reached, something deriving movement from itself, and therefore debarred from accepting death.

Even supposing life could be described as a condition imposed on matter, still the source from which this condition entered the matter must necessarily be admitted to be immortal simply by being unable to take into itself the opposite of the life which it conveys.

Of course, life is no such mere condition, but an independent principle, effectively living.


(17) a further consideration is that if every soul is to be held dissoluble the universe must long since have ceased to be: If it is pretended that one kind of soul, our own for example, is mortal, and another, that of the all, let us suppose, is immortal, we demand to know the reason of the difference alleged.

Each is a principle of motion, each is self-living, each touches the same sphere by the same tentacles, each has intellection of the celestial order and of the super-celestial, each is seeking to win to what has essential being, each is moving upwards to the primal source.

Again: The soul's understanding of the absolute forms by means of the visions stored up in it is effected within itself; such perception is reminiscence; the soul then must have its being before embodiment, and drawing on an eternal science, must itself be eternal.

Every dissoluble entity, that has come to be by way of groupment, must in the nature of things be broken apart by that very mode which brought it together: But the soul is one and simplex, living not in the sense of potential reception of life but by its own energy; and this can be no cause of dissolution.

But, we will be told, it tends to destruction by having been divided (in the body) and so becoming fragmentary.

No: The soul, as we have shown, is not a mass, not a quantity.

May not it change and so come to destruction?

No: The change that destroys annuls the form but leaves the underlying substance: And that could not happen to anything except a compound.

If it can be destroyed in no such ways, it is necessarily indestructible.


(18) but how does the soul enter into body from the aloofness of the intellectual?

There is the intellectual-principle which remains among the intellectual beings, living the purely intellective life; and this, knowing no impulse or appetite, is for ever stationary in that realm. But immediately following on it, there is that which has acquired appetite and, by this accruement, has already taken a great step outward; it has the desire of elaborating order on the model of what it has seen in the intellectual-principle: Pregnant by those beings, and in pain to the birth, it is eager to make, to create. In this new zest it strains towards the realm of sense: Thus, while this primal soul in union with the soul of the all transcends the sphere administered, it is inevitably turned outward, and has added the universe to its concern: Yet in choosing to administer the partial and exiling itself to enter the place in which it finds its appropriate task, it still is not wholly and exclusively held by body: It is still in possession of the unembodied; and the intellectual-principle in it remains immune. As a whole it is partly in body, partly outside: It has plunged from among the primals and entered this sphere of tertiaries: The process has been an activity of the intellectual-principle, which thus, while itself remaining in its identity, operates throughout the soul to flood the universe with beauty and penetrant order—immortal mind, eternal in its unfailing energy, acting through immortal soul.


(19) as for the souls of the other living beings, fallen to the degree of entering brute bodies, these too must be immortal. And if there is in the animal world any other phase of soul, its only possible origin, since it is the life-giver, is, still, that one principle of life: So too with the soul in the vegetal order.

All have sprung from one source, all have life as their own, all are incorporeal, indivisible, all are real-beings.

If we are told that man's soul being tripartite must as a compound entity be dissolved, our answer shall be that pure souls on their emancipation will put away all that has fastened to them at birth, all that increment which the others will long retain.

But even that inferior phase thus laid aside will not be destroyed as long as its source continues to exist, for nothing from the realm of real being shall pass away.


(20) thus far we have offered the considerations appropriate to those asking for demonstration: Those whose need is conviction by evidence of the more material order are best met from the abundant records relevant to the subject: There are also the oracles of the gods ordering the appeasing of wronged souls and the honouring of the dead as still sentient, a practice common to all mankind: And again, not a few souls, once among men, have continued to serve them after quitting the body and by revelations, practically helpful, make clear, as well, that the other souls, too, have not ceased to be.

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Eighth tractate: The soul's descent into body



Many times it has happened: Lifted out of the body into myself; becoming external to all other things and self- encentered; beholding a marvellous beauty; then, more than ever, assured of community with the loftiest order; enacting the noblest life, acquiring identity with the divine; stationing within it by having attained that activity; poised above whatever within the intellectual is less than the supreme: Yet, there comes the moment of descent from intellection to reasoning, and after that sojourn in the divine, I ask myself how it happens that I can now be descending, and how did the soul ever enter into my body, the soul which, even within the body, is the high thing it has shown itself to be.

Heraclitus, who urges the examination of this matter, tells of compulsory alternation from contrary to contrary, speaks of ascent and descent, says that "change reposes," and that "it is weariness to keep toiling at the same things and always beginning again"; but he seems to teach by metaphor, not concerning himself about making his doctrine clear to us, probably with the idea that it is for us to seek within ourselves as he sought for himself and found.

Empedocles—where he says that it is law for faulty souls to descend to this sphere, and that he himself was here because he turned a deserter, wandered from God, in slavery to a raving discord—reveals neither more nor less than pythagoras and his school seem to me to convey on this as on many other matters; but in his case, versification has some part in the obscurity.

We have to fall back on the illustrious Plato, who uttered many noble sayings about the soul, and has in many places dwelt on its entry into body so that we may well hope to get some light from him.

What do we learn from this philosopher?

We will not find him so consistent throughout that it is easy to discover his mind.

Everywhere, no doubt, he expresses contempt for all that is of sense, blames the commerce of the soul with body as an enchainment, an entombment, and upholds as a great truth the saying of the mysteries that the soul is here a prisoner. In the cavern of Plato and in the cave of empedocles, I discern this universe, where the breaking of the fetters and the ascent from the depths are figures of the wayfaring toward the intellectual realm.

In the Phaedrus he makes a failing of the wings the cause of the entry to this realm: And there are periods which send back the soul after it has risen; there are judgements and lots and fates and necessities driving other souls down to this order.

In all these explanations, he finds guilt in the arrival of the soul at body, but treating, in the Timaeus, of our universe he exalts the cosmos and entitles it a blessed god, and holds that the soul was given by the goodness of the creator to the end that the total of things might be possessed of intellect, for thus intellectual it was planned to be, and thus it cannot be except through soul. There is a reason, then, why the soul of this all should be sent into it from God: In the same way the soul of each single one of us is sent, that the universe may be complete; it was necessary that all beings of the intellectual should be tallied by just so many forms of living creatures here in the realm of sense.


Enquiring, then, of Plato as to our own soul, we find ourselves forced to enquire into the nature of soul in general—to discover what there can be in its character to bring it into partnership with body, and, again, what this cosmos must be in which, willing unwilling or in any way at all, soul has its activity.

We have to face also the question as to whether the creator has planned well or ill...... Like our souls, which it may be, are such that governing their inferior, the body, they must sink deeper and deeper into it if they are to control it.

No doubt the individual body—though in all cases appropriately placed within the universe—is of itself in a state of dissolution, always on the way to its natural terminus, demanding much irksome forethought to save it from every kind of outside assailant, always gripped by need, requiring every help against constant difficulty: But the body inhabited by the World- soul—complete, competent, self-sufficing, exposed to nothing contrary to its nature—this needs no more than a brief word of command, while the governing soul is undeviatingly what its nature makes it wish to be, and, amenable neither to loss nor to addition, knows neither desire nor distress.

This is how we come to read that our soul, entering into association with that complete soul and itself thus made perfect, walks the lofty ranges, administering the entire cosmos, and that as long as it does not secede and is neither inbound to body nor held in any sort of servitude, so long it tranquilly bears its part in the governance of the all, exactly like the world-soul itself; for in fact it suffers no hurt whatever by furnishing body with the power to existence, since not every form of care for the inferior need wrest the providing soul from its own sure standing in the highest.

The soul's care for the universe takes two forms: There is the supervising of the entire system, brought to order by deedless command in a kindly presidence, and there is that over the individual, implying direct action, the hand to the task, one might say, in immediate contact: In the second kind of care the agent absorbs much of the nature of its object.

Now in its comprehensive government of the heavenly system, the soul's method is that of an unbroken transcendence in its highest phases, with penetration by its lower power: At this, God can no longer be charged with lowering the all-soul, which has not been deprived of its natural standing and from eternity possesses and will unchangeably possess that rank and habit which could never have been intruded on it against the course of nature but must be its characteristic quality, neither failing ever nor ever beginning.

Where we read that the souls or stars stand to their bodily forms as the all to the material forms within it—for these starry bodies are declared to be members of the soul's circuit—we are given to understand that the star-souls also enjoy the blissful condition of transcendence and immunity that becomes them.

And so we might expect: Commerce with the body is repudiated for two only reasons, as hindering the soul's intellective act and as filling with pleasure, desire, pain; but neither of these misfortunes can befall a soul which has never deeply penetrated into the body, is not a slave but a sovereign ruling a body of such an order as to have no need and no shortcoming and therefore to give ground for neither desire nor fear.

There is no reason why it should be expectant of evil with regard to such a body nor is there any such preoccupied concern, bringing about a veritable descent, as to withdraw it from its noblest and most blessed vision; it remains always intent on the supreme, and its governance of this universe is effected by a power not calling on act.


The human soul, next;

Everywhere we hear of it as in bitter and miserable durance in body, a victim to troubles and desires and fears and all forms of evil, the body its prison or its tomb, the cosmos its cave or cavern.

Now this does not clash with the first theory [that of the impassivity of soul as in the all]; for the descent of the human soul has not been due to the same causes [as that of the all- soul.]

All that is intellectual-principle has its being—whole and all—in the place of intellection, what we call the intellectual cosmos: But there exist, too, the intellective powers included in its being, and the separate intelligences—for the intellectual- principle is not merely one; it is one and many. In the same way there must be both many souls and one, the one being the source of the differing many just as from one genus there rise various species, better and worse, some of the more intellectual order, others less effectively so.

In the intellectual-principle a distinction is to be made: There is the intellectual-principle itself, which like some huge living organism contains potentially all the other forms; and there are the forms thus potentially included now realized as individuals. We may think of it as a city which itself has soul and life, and includes, also, other forms of life; the living city is the more perfect and powerful, but those lesser forms, in spite of all, share in the one same living quality: Or, another illustration, from fire, the universal, proceed both the great fire and the minor fires; yet all have the one common essence, that of fire the universal, or, more exactly, participate in that from which the essence of the universal fire proceeds.

No doubt the task of the soul, in its more emphatically reasoning phase, is intellection: But it must have another as well, or it would be undistinguishable from the intellectual-principle. To its quality of being intellective it adds the quality by which it attains its particular manner of being: Remaining, therefore, an intellectual-principle, it has thenceforth its own task too, as everything must that exists among real beings.

It looks towards its higher and has intellection; towards itself and conserves its peculiar being; towards its lower and orders, administers, governs.

The total of things could not have remained stationary in the intellectual cosmos, once there was the possibility of continuous variety, of beings inferior but as necessarily existent as their superiors.


So it is with the individual souls; the appetite for the divine intellect urges them to return to their source, but they have, too, a power apt to administration in this lower sphere; they may be compared to the light attached upwards to the sun, but not grudging its presidency to what lies beneath it. In the intellectual, then, they remain with soul-entire, and are immune from care and trouble; in the heavenly sphere, absorbed in the soul-entire, they are administrators with it just as kings, associated with the supreme ruler and governing with him, do not descend from their kingly stations: The souls indeed [as distinguished from the cosmos] are thus far in the one place with their overlord; but there comes a stage at which they descend from the universal to become partial and self-centred; in a weary desire of standing apart they find their way, each to a place of its very own. This state long maintained, the soul is a deserter from the all; its differentiation has severed it; its vision is no longer set in the intellectual; it is a partial thing, isolated, weakened, full of care, intent on the fragment; severed from the whole, it nestles in one form of being; for this, it abandons all else, entering into and caring for only the one, for a thing buffeted about by a worldful of things: Thus it has drifted away from the universal and, by an actual presence, it administers the particular; it is caught into contact now, and tends to the outer to which it has become present and into whose inner depths it henceforth sinks far.

With this comes what is known as the casting of the wings, the enchaining in body: The soul has lost that innocency of conducting the higher which it knew when it stood with the all- soul, that earlier state to which all its interest would bid it hasten back.

It has fallen: It is at the chain: Debarred from expressing itself now through its intellectual phase, it operates through sense, it is a captive; this is the burial, the encavernment, of the soul.

But in spite of all it has, for ever, something transcendent: By a conversion towards the intellective act, it is loosed from the shackles and soars—when only it makes its memories the starting point of a new vision of essential being. Souls that take this way have place in both spheres, living of necessity the life there and the life here by turns, the upper life reigning in those able to consort more continuously with the divine intellect, the lower dominant where character or circumstances are less favourable.

All this is indicated by Plato, without emphasis, where he distinguishes those of the second mixing-bowl, describes them as "parts," and goes on to say that, having in this way become partial, they must of necessity experience birth.

Of course, where he speaks of God sowing them, he is to be understood as when he tells of God speaking and delivering orations; what is rooted in the nature of the all is figuratively treated as coming into being by generation and creation: Stage and sequence are transferred, for clarity of exposition, to things whose being and definite form are eternal.


It is possible to reconcile all these apparent contradictions—the divine sowing to birth, as opposed to a voluntary descent aiming at the completion of the universe; the judgement and the cave; necessity and free choice—in fact the necessity includes the choice-embodiment as an evil; the empedoclean teaching of a flight from God, a wandering away, a sin bringing its punishment; the "solace by flight" of heraclitus; in a word a voluntary descent which is also voluntary.

All degeneration is no doubt involuntary, yet when it has been brought about by an inherent tendency, that submission to the inferior may be described as the penalty of an act.

On the other hand these experiences and actions are determined by an external law of nature, and they are due to the movement of a being which in abandoning its superior is running out to serve the needs of another: Hence there is no inconsistency or untruth in saying that the soul is sent down by God; final results are always to be referred to the starting point even across many intervening stages.

Still there is a twofold flaw: The first lies in the motive of the soul's descent [its audacity, its tolma], and the second in the evil it does when actually here: The first is punished by what the soul has suffered by its descent: For the faults committed here, the lesser penalty is to enter into body after body—and soon to return—by judgement according to desert, the word judgement indicating a divine ordinance; but any outrageous form of ill-doing incurs a proportionately greater punishment administered under the surveillance of chastising daimons.

Thus, in sum, the soul, a divine being and a dweller in the loftier realms, has entered body; it is a god, a later phase of the divine: But, under stress of its powers and of its tendency to bring order to its next lower, it penetrates to this sphere in a voluntary plunge: If it turns back quickly, all is well; it will have taken no hurt by acquiring the knowledge of evil and coming to understand what sin is, by bringing its forces into manifest play, by exhibiting those activities and productions which, remaining merely potential in the unembodied, might as well never have been even there, if destined never to come into actuality, so that the soul itself would never have known that suppressed and inhibited total.

The act reveals the power, a power hidden, and we might almost say obliterated or nonexistent, unless at some moment it became effective: In the world as it is, the richness of the outer stirs us all to the wonder of the inner whose greatness is displayed in acts so splendid.


Something besides a unity there must be or all would be indiscernibly buried, shapeless within that unbroken whole: None of the real beings [of the intellectual cosmos] would exist if that unity remained at halt within itself: The plurality of these beings, offspring of the unity, could not exist without their own nexts taking the outward path; these are the beings holding the rank of souls.

In the same way the outgoing process could not end with the souls, their issue stifled: Every kind must produce its next; it must unfold from some concentrated central principle as from a seed, and so advance to its term in the varied forms of sense. The prior in its being will remain unalterably in the native seat; but there is the lower phase, begotten to it by an ineffable faculty of its being, native to soul as it exists in the supreme.

To this power we cannot impute any halt, any limit of jealous grudging; it must move for ever outward until the universe stands accomplished to the ultimate possibility. All, thus, is produced by an inexhaustible power giving its gift to the universe, no part of which it can endure to see without some share in its being.

There is, besides, no principle that can prevent anything from partaking, to the extent of its own individual receptivity in the nature of good. If therefore matter has always existed, that existence is enough to ensure its participation in the being which, according to each receptivity, communicates the supreme good universally: If on the contrary, matter has come into being as a necessary sequence of the causes preceding it, that origin would similarly prevent it standing apart from the scheme as though it were out of reach of the principle to whose grace it owes its existence.

In sum: The loveliness that is in the sense-realm is an index of the nobleness of the intellectual sphere, displaying its power and its goodness alike: And all things are for ever linked; the one order intellectual in its being, the other of sense; one self- existent, the other eternally taking its being by participation in that first, and to the full of its power reproducing the intellectual nature.


The kind, then, with which we are dealing is twofold, the intellectual against the sensible: Better for the soul to dwell in the intellectual, but, given its proper nature, it is under compulsion to participate in the sense-realm also. There is no grievance in its not being, through and through, the highest; it holds mid-rank among the authentic existences, being of divine station but at the lowest extreme of the intellectual and skirting the sense-known nature; thus, while it communicates to this realm something of its own store, it absorbs in turn whenever—instead of employing in its government only its safeguarded phase—it plunges in an excessive zeal to the very midst of its chosen sphere; then it abandons its status as whole soul with whole soul, though even thus it is always able to recover itself by turning to account the experience of what it has seen and suffered here, learning, so, the greatness of rest in the supreme, and more clearly discerning the finer things by comparison with what is almost their direct antithesis. Where the faculty is incapable of knowing without contact, the experience of evil brings the dearer perception of good.

The outgoing that takes place in the intellectual-principle is a descent to its own downward ultimate: It cannot be a movement to the transcendent; operating necessarily outwards from itself, wherein it may not stay inclosed, the need and law of nature bring it to its extreme term, to soul—to which it entrusts all the later stages of being while itself turns back on its course.

The soul's operation is similar: Its next lower act is this universe: Its immediate higher is the contemplation of the authentic existences. To individual souls such divine operation takes place only at one of their phases and by a temporal process when from the lower in which they reside they turn towards the noblest; but that soul, which we know as the all-soul, has never entered the lower activity, but, immune from evil, has the property of knowing its lower by inspection, while it still cleaves continuously to the beings above itself; thus its double task becomes possible; it takes thence and, since as soul it cannot escape touching this sphere, it gives hither.


And—if it is desirable to venture the more definite statement of a personal conviction clashing with the general view—even our human soul has not sunk entire; something of it is continuously in the intellectual realm, though if that part, which is in this sphere of sense, hold the mastery, or rather be mastered here and troubled, it keeps us blind to what the upper phase holds in contemplation.

The object of the intellectual act comes within our ken only when it reaches downward to the level of sensation: For not all that occurs at any part of the soul is immediately known to us; a thing must, for that knowledge, be present to the total soul; thus desire locked up within the desiring faculty remains unknown except when we make it fully ours by the central faculty of perception, or by the individual choice or by both at once. Once more, every soul has something of the lower on the body side and something of the higher on the side of the intellectual- principle.

The soul of the all, as an entirety, governs the universe through that part of it which leans to the body side, but since it does not exercise a will based on calculation as we do—but proceeds by purely intellectual act as in the execution of an artistic conception—its ministrance is that of a labourless overpoising, only its lowest phase being active on the universe it embellishes.

The souls that have gone into division and become appropriated to some thing partial have also their transcendent phase, but are preoccupied by sensation, and in the mere fact of exercising perception they take in much that clashes with their nature and brings distress and trouble since the object of their concern is partial, deficient, exposed to many alien influences, filled with desires of its own and taking its pleasure, that pleasure which is its lure.

But there is always the other, that which finds no savour in passing pleasure, but holds its own even way.

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Ninth tractate: Are all souls one?



That the soul of every individual is one thing we deduce from the fact that it is present entire at every point of the body—the sign of veritable unity—not some part of it here and another part there. In all sensitive beings the sensitive soul is an omnipresent unity, and so in the forms of vegetal life the vegetal soul is entire at each several point throughout the organism.

Now are we to hold similarly that your soul and mine and all are one, and that the same thing is true of the universe, the soul in all the several forms of life being one soul, not parcelled out in separate items, but an omnipresent identity?

If the soul in me is a unity, why need that in the universe be otherwise seeing that there is no longer any question of bulk or body? And if that, too, is one soul and yours, and mine, belongs to it, then yours and mine must also be one: And if, again, the soul of the universe and mine depend from one soul, once more all must be one.

What then in itself is this one soul?

First we must assure ourselves of the possibility of all souls being one as that of any given individual is.

It must, no doubt, seem strange that my soul and that of any and everybody else should be one thing only: It might mean my feelings being felt by someone else, my goodness another's too, my desire, his desire, all our experience shared with each other and with the (one- souled) universe, so that the very universe itself would feel whatever I felt.

Besides how are we to reconcile this unity with the distinction of reasoning soul and unreasoning, animal soul and vegetal?

Yet if we reject that unity, the universe itself ceases to be one thing and souls can no longer be included under any one principle.


Now to begin with, the unity of soul, mine and another's, is not enough to make the two totals of soul and body identical. An identical thing in different recipients will have different experiences; the identity man, in me as I move and you at rest, moves in me and is stationary in you: There is nothing stranger, nothing impossible, in any other form of identity between you and me; nor would it entail the transference of my emotion to any outside point: When in any one body a hand is in pain, the distress is felt not in the other but in the hand as represented in the centralizing unity.

In order that my feelings should of necessity be yours, the unity would have to be corporeal: Only if the two recipient bodies made one, would the souls feel as one.

We must keep in mind, moreover, that many things that happen even in one same body escape the notice of the entire being, especially when the bulk is large: Thus in huge sea-beasts, it is said, the animal as a whole will be quite unaffected by some membral accident too slight to traverse the organism.

Thus unity in the subject of any experience does not imply that the resultant sensation will be necessarily felt with any force on the entire being and at every point of it: Some transmission of the experience may be expected, and is indeed undeniable, but a full impression on the sense there need not be.

That one identical soul should be virtuous in me and vicious in someone else is not strange: It is only saying that an identical thing may be active here and inactive there.

We are not asserting the unity of soul in the sense of a complete negation of multiplicity—only of the supreme can that be affirmed—we are thinking of soul as simultaneously one and many, participant in the nature divided in body, but at the same time a unity by virtue of belonging to that Order which suffers no division.

In myself some experience occurring in a part of the body may take no effect on the entire man but anything occurring in the higher reaches would tell on the partial: In the same way any influx from the all on the individual will have manifest effect since the points of sympathetic contact are numerous—but as to any operation from ourselves on the all there can be no certainty.


Yet, looking at another set of facts, reflection tells us that we are in sympathetic relation to each other, suffering, overcome, at the sight of pain, naturally drawn to forming attachments; and all this can be due only to some unity among us.

Again, if spells and other forms of magic are efficient even at a distance to attract us into sympathetic relations, the agency can be no other than the one soul.

A quiet word induces changes in a remote object, and makes itself heard at vast distances—proof of the oneness of all things within the one soul.

But how reconcile this unity with the existence of a reasoning soul, an unreasoning, even a vegetal soul?

[it is a question of powers]: The indivisible phase is classed as reasoning because it is not in division among bodies, but there is the later phase, divided among bodies, but still one thing and distinct only so as to secure sense-perception throughout; this is to be classed as yet another power; and there is the forming and making phase which again is a power. But a variety of powers does not conflict with unity; seed contains many powers and yet it is one thing, and from that unity rises, again, a variety which is also a unity.

But why are not all the powers of this unity present everywhere?

The answer is that even in the case of the individual soul described, similarly, as permeating its body, sensation is not equally present in all the parts, reason does not operate at every point, the principle of growth is at work where there is no sensation—and yet all these powers join in the one soul when the body is laid aside.

The nourishing faculty as dependent from the all belongs also to the all-soul: Why then does it not come equally from ours?

Because what is nourished by the action of this power is a member of the all, which itself has sensation passively; but the perception, which is an intellectual judgement, is individual and has no need to create what already exists, though it would have done so had the power not been previously included, of necessity, in the nature of the all.


These reflections should show that there is nothing strange in that reduction of all souls to one. But it is still necessary to enquire into the mode and conditions of the unity.

Is it the unity of origin in a unity? And if so, is the one divided or does it remain entire and yet produce variety? And how can an essential being, while remaining its one self, bring forth others?

Invoking God to become our helper, let us assert, that the very existence of many souls makes certain that there is first one from which the many rise.

Let us suppose, even, the first soul to be corporeal.

Then [by the nature of body] the many souls could result only from the splitting up of that entity, each an entirely different substance: If this body-soul be uniform in kind, each of the resultant souls must be of the one kind; they will all carry the one form undividedly and will differ only in their volumes. Now, if their being souls depended on their volumes they would be distinct; but if it is ideal-form that makes them souls, then all are, in virtue of this idea, one.

But this is simply saying that there is one identical soul dispersed among many bodies, and that, preceding this, there is yet another not thus dispersed, the source of the soul in dispersion which may be thought of as a widely repeated image of the soul in unity—much as a multitude of seals bear the impression of one ring. By that first mode the soul is a unit broken up into a variety of points: In the second mode it is incorporeal. Similarly if the soul were a condition or modification of body, we could not wonder that this quality—this one thing from one source—should be present in many objects. The same reasoning would apply if soul were an effect [or manifestation] of the conjoint.

We, of course, hold it to be bodiless, an essential existence.


How then can a multitude of essential beings be really one?

Obviously either the one essence will be entire in all, or the many will rise from a one which remains unaltered and yet includes the one—many in virtue of giving itself, without self- abandonment, to its own multiplication.

It is competent thus to give and remain, because while it penetrates all things it can never itself be sundered: This is an identity in variety.

There is no reason for dismissing this explanation: We may think of a science with its constituents standing as one total, the source of all those various elements: Again, there is the seed, a whole, producing those new parts in which it comes to its division; each of the new growths is a whole while the whole remains undiminished: Only the material element is under the mode of part, and all the multiplicity remains an entire identity still.

It may be objected that in the case of science the constituents are not each the whole.

But even in the science, while the constituent selected for handling to meet a particular need is present actually and takes the lead, still all the other constituents accompany it in a potential presence, so that the whole is in every part: Only in this sense [of particular attention] is the whole science distinguished from the part: All, we may say, is here simultaneously effected: Each part is at your disposal as you choose to take it; the part invites the immediate interest, but its value consists in its approach to the whole.

The detail cannot be considered as something separate from the entire body of speculation: So treated it would have no technical or scientific value; it would be childish divagation. The one detail, when it is a matter of science, potentially includes all. Grasping one such constituent of his science, the expert deduces the rest by force of sequence.

[as a further illustration of unity in plurality] the geometrician, in his analysis, shows that the single proposition includes all the items that go to constitute it and all the propositions which can be developed from it.

It is our feebleness that leads to doubt in these matters; the body obscures the truth, but there all stands out clear and separate.

Enneads of Plotinus, END MATTER

Enneads of Plotinus, LITERATURE  


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