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The Enneads of Plotinus


Fifth ennead:

  1. The three initial hypostases
  2. The origin and order of the beings following on the first
  3. The knowing hypostases and the transcendent
  4. How the secondaries rise from the first: and on the One
  5. That the intellectual beings are not outside the intellectual-principle: and on the nature of the good

The fifth ennead

First tractate: The three initial hypostases



What can it be that has brought the souls to forget the father, God, and, though members of the divine and entirely of that world, to ignore at once themselves and it?

The evil that has overtaken them has its source in self-will, in the entry into the sphere of process, and in the primal differentiation with the desire for self ownership. They conceived a pleasure in this freedom and largely indulged their own motion; thus they were hurried down the wrong path, and in the end, drifting further and further, they came to lose even the thought of their origin in the divine. A child wrenched young from home and brought up during many years at a distance will fail in knowledge of its father and of itself: The souls, in the same way, no longer discern either the divinity or their own nature; ignorance of their rank brings self-depreciation; they misplace their respect, honouring everything more than themselves; all their awe and admiration is for the alien, and, clinging to this, they have broken apart, as far as a soul may, and they make light of what they have deserted; their regard for the mundane and their disregard of themselves bring about their utter ignoring of the divine.

Admiring pursuit of the external is a confession of inferiority; and nothing thus holding itself inferior to things that rise and perish, nothing counting itself less honourable and less enduring than all else it admires could ever form any notion of either the nature or the power of God.

A double discipline must be applied if human beings in this pass are to be reclaimed, and brought back to their origins, lifted once more towards the supreme and One and first.

There is the method, which we amply exhibit elsewhere, declaring the dishonour of the objects which the soul holds here in honour; the second teaches or recalls to the soul its race and worth; this latter is the leading truth, and, clearly brought out, is the evidence of the other.

It must occupy us now for it bears closely on our enquiry to which it is the natural preliminary: The seeker is soul and it must start from a true notion of the nature and quality by which soul may undertake the search; it must study itself in order to learn whether it has the faculty for the enquiry, the eye for the object proposed, whether in fact we ought to seek; for if the object is alien the search must be futile, while if there is relationship the solution of our problem is at once desirable and possible.


Let every soul recall, then, at the outset the truth that soul is the author of all living things, that it has breathed the life into them all, whatever is nourished by earth and sea, all the creatures of the air, the divine stars in the sky; it is the maker of the sun; itself formed and ordered this vast heaven and conducts all that rhythmic motion; and it is a principle distinct from all these to which it gives law and movement and life, and it must of necessity be more honourable than they, for they gather or dissolve as soul brings them life or abandons them, but soul, since it never can abandon itself, is of eternal being.

How life was purveyed to the universe of things and to the separate beings in it may be thus conceived:

That great soul must stand pictured before another soul, one not mean, a soul that has become worthy to look, emancipate from the lure, from all that binds its fellows in bewitchment, holding itself in quietude. Let not merely the enveloping body be at peace, body's turmoil stilled, but all that lies around, earth at peace, and sea at peace, and air and the very heavens. Into that heaven, all at rest, let the great soul be conceived to roll inward at every point, penetrating, permeating, from all sides pouring in its light. As the rays of the sun throwing their brilliance on a lowering cloud make it gleam all gold, so the soul entering the material expanse of the heavens has given life, has given immortality: What was abject it has lifted up; and the heavenly system, moved now in endless motion by the soul that leads it in wisdom, has become a living and a blessed thing; the soul domiciled within, it takes worth where, before the soul, it was stark body—clay and water—or, rather, the blankness of matter, the absence of being, and, as an author says, "the execration of the gods."

The soul's nature and power will be brought out more clearly, more brilliantly, if we consider next how it envelops the heavenly system and guides all to its purposes: For it has bestowed itself on all that huge expanse so that every interval, small and great alike, all has been ensouled.

The material body is made up of parts, each holding its own place, some in mutual opposition and others variously interdependent; the soul is in no such condition; it is not whittled down so that life tells of a part of the soul and springs where some such separate portion impinges; each separate life lives by the soul entire, omnipresent in the likeness of the engendering father, entire in unity and entire in diffused variety. By the power of the soul the manifold and diverse heavenly system is a unit: Through soul this universe is a God: And the sun is a God because it is ensouled; so too the stars: And whatever we ourselves may be, it is all in virtue of soul; for "dead is viler than dung."

This, by which the gods are divine, must be the oldest God of them all: And our own soul is of that same ideal nature, so that to consider it, purified, freed from all accruement, is to recognise in ourselves that same value which we have found soul to be, honourable above all that is bodily. For what is body but earth, and, taking fire itself, what [but soul] is its burning power? So it is with all the compounds of earth and fire, even with water and air added to them?

If, then, it is the presence of soul that brings worth, how can a man slight himself and run after other things? You honour the soul elsewhere; honour then yourself.


The soul once seen to be thus precious, thus divine, you may hold the faith that by its possession you are already nearing God: In the strength of this power make upwards towards him: At no great distance you must attain: There is not much between.

But over this divine, there is still a diviner: grasp the upward neighbour of the soul, its prior and source.

Soul, for all the worth we have shown to belong to it, is yet a secondary, an image of the intellectual-principle: Reason uttered is an image of the reason stored within the soul, and in the same way soul is an utterance of the intellectual-principle: It is even the total of its activity, the entire stream of life sent forth by that principle to the production of further being; it is the forthgoing heat of a fire which has also heat essentially inherent. But within the supreme we must see energy not as an overflow but in the double aspect of integral inherence with the establishment of a new being. Sprung, in other words, from the intellectual- principle, soul is intellective, but with an intellection operation by the method of reasonings: For its perfecting it must look to that divine mind, which may be thought of as a father watching over the development of his child born imperfect in comparison with himself.

Thus its substantial existence comes from the intellectual- principle; and the reason within it becomes act in virtue of its contemplation of that prior; for its thought and act are its own intimate possession when it looks to the supreme intelligence; those only are soul-acts which are of this intellective nature and are determined by its own character; all that is less noble is foreign [traceable to matter] and is accidental to the soul in the course of its peculiar task.

In two ways, then, the intellectual-principle enhances the divine quality of the soul, as father and as immanent presence; nothing separates them but the fact that they are not one and the same, that there is succession, that over against a recipient there stands the ideal- form received; but this recipient, matter to the supreme intelligence, is also noble as being at once informed by divine intellect and uncompounded.

What the intellectual-principle must be is carried in the single word that soul, itself so great, is still inferior.


But there is yet another way to this knowledge:

Admiring the world of sense as we look out on its vastness and beauty and the order of its eternal march, thinking of the gods within it, seen and hidden, and the celestial spirits and all the life of animal and plant, let us mount to its archetype, to the yet more authentic sphere: There we are to contemplate all things as members of the intellectual—eternal in their own right, vested with a self- springing consciousness and life—and, presiding over all these, the unsoiled intelligence and the unapproachable wisdom.

That archetypal world is the true Golden age, age of kronos, who is the intellectual-principle as being the offspring or exuberance of God. For here is contained all that is immortal: Nothing here but is divine mind; all is God; this is the place of every soul. Here is rest unbroken: For how can that seek change, in which all is well; what need that reach to, which holds all within itself; what increase can that desire, which stands utterly achieved? All its content, thus, is perfect, that itself may be perfect throughout, as holding nothing that is less than the divine, nothing that is less than intellective. Its knowing is not by search but by possession, its blessedness inherent, not acquired; for all belongs to it eternally and it holds the authentic eternity imitated by time which, circling round the soul, makes towards the new thing and passes by the old. Soul deals with thing after thing—now socrates; now a horse: Always some one entity from among beings—but the intellectual-principle is all and therefore its entire content is simultaneously present in that identity: This is pure being in eternal actuality; nowhere is there any future, for every then is a now; nor is there any past, for nothing there has ever ceased to be; everything has taken its stand for ever, an identity well pleased, we might say, to be as it is; and everything, in that entire content, is intellectual- principle and authentic existence; and the total of all is intellectual- principle entire and being entire. Intellectual-principle by its intellective act establishes being, which in turn, as the object of intellection, becomes the cause of intellection and of existence to the intellectual-principle—though, of course, there is another cause of intellection which is also a cause to being, both rising in a source distinct from either.

Now while these two are coalescents, having their existence in common, and are never apart, still the unity they form is two- sided; there is intellectual-principle as against being, the intellectual agent as against the object of intellection; we consider the intellective act and we have the intellectual- principle; we think of the object of that act and we have being.

Such difference there must be if there is to be any intellection; but similarly there must also be identity [since, in perfect knowing, subject and object are identical.]

Thus the primals [the first "categories"] are seen to be: Intellectual-principle; existence; difference; identity: We must include also motion and rest: Motion provides for the intellectual act, rest preserves identity as difference gives at once a knower and a known, for, failing this, all is one, and silent.

So too the objects of intellection [the ideal content of the divine mind]—identical in virtue of the self-concentration of the principle which is their common ground—must still be distinct each from another; this distinction constitutes difference.

The intellectual cosmos thus a manifold, number and Quantity arise: Quality is the specific character of each of these ideas which stand as the principles from which all else derives.


As a manifold, then, this God, the intellectual-principle, exists within the soul here, the soul which once for all stands linked a member of the divine, unless by a deliberate apostasy.

Bringing itself close to the divine intellect, becoming, as it were, one with this, it seeks still further: What being, now, has engendered this God, what is the simplex preceding this multiple; what the cause at once of its existence and of its existing as a manifold; what the source of this number, this Quantity?

Number, Quantity, is not primal: Obviously before even duality, there must stand the unity.

The dyad is a secondary; deriving from unity, it finds in unity the determinant needed by its native indetermination: Once there is any determination, there is number, in the sense, of course, of the real [the archetypal] number. And the soul is such a number or quantity. For the primals are not masses or magnitudes; all of that gross order is later, real only to the sense-thought; even in seed the effective reality is not the moist substance but the unseen—that is to say number [as the determinant of individual being] and the reason-principle [of the product to be].

Thus by what we call the number and the dyad of that higher realm, we mean reason principles and the intellectual-principle: But while the dyad is, as regards that sphere, undetermined—representing, as it were, the underly [or matter] of the One—the later number [or Quantity]—that which rises from the dyad [intellectual- principle] and the One—is not matter to the later existents but is their forming-idea, for all of them take shape, so to speak, from the ideas rising within this. The determination of the dyad is brought about partly from its object—the One—and partly from itself, as is the case with all vision in the act of sight: Intellection [the act of the dyad] is vision occupied on the One.


But how and what does the intellectual-principle see and, especially, how has it sprung from that which is to become the object of its vision?

The mind demands the existence of these beings, but it is still in trouble over the problem endlessly debated by the most ancient philosophers: From such a unity as we have declared the One to be, how does anything at all come into substantial existence, any multiplicity, dyad, or number? Why has the primal not remained self-gathered so that there be none of this profusion of the manifold which we observe in existence and yet are compelled to trace to that absolute unity?

In venturing an answer, we first invoke god himself, not in loud word but in that way of prayer which is always within our power, leaning in soul towards him by aspiration, alone towards the alone. But if we seek the vision of that great being within the inner sanctuary—self-gathered, tranquilly remote above all else—we begin by considering the images stationed at the outer precincts, or, more exactly to the moment, the first image that appears. How the divine mind comes into being must be explained:

Everything moving has necessarily an object towards which it advances; but since the supreme can have no such object, we may not ascribe motion to it: Anything that comes into being after it can be produced only as a consequence of its unfailing self-intention; and, of course, we dare not talk of generation in time, dealing as we are with eternal beings: Where we speak of origin in such reference, it is in the sense, merely, of cause and subordination: Origin from the supreme must not be taken to imply any movement in it: That would make the being resulting from the movement not a second principle but a third: The movement would be the second hypostasis.

Given this immobility in the supreme, it can neither have yielded assent nor uttered decree nor stirred in any way towards the existence of a secondary.

What happened then? What are we to conceive as rising in the neighbourhood of that immobility?

It must be a circumradiation—produced from the supreme but from the supreme unaltering—and may be compared to the brilliant light encircling the sun and ceaselessly generated from that unchanging substance.

All existences, as long as they retain their character, produce—about themselves, from their essence, in virtue of the power which must be in them—some necessary, outward-facing hypostasis continuously attached to them and representing in image the engendering archetypes: Thus fire gives out its heat; snow is cold not merely to itself; fragrant substances are a notable instance; for, as long as they last, something is diffused from them and perceived wherever they are present.

Again, all that is fully achieved engenders: Therefore the eternally achieved engenders eternally an eternal being. At the same time, the offspring is always minor: What then are we to think of the all-perfect but that it can produce nothing less than the very greatest that is later than itself. The greatest, later than the divine unity, must be the divine mind, and it must be the second of all existence, for it is that which sees the One on which alone it leans while the first has no need whatever of it. The offspring of the prior to divine mind can be no other than that mind itself and thus is the loftiest being in the universe, all else following on it—the soul, for example, being an utterance and act of the intellectual-principle as that is an utterance and act of the One. But in soul the utterance is obscured, for soul is an image and must look to its own original: That principle, on the contrary, looks to the first without mediation—thus becoming what it is—and has that vision not as from a distance but as the immediate next with nothing intervening, close to the One as soul to it.

The offspring must seek and love the begetter; and especially so when begetter and begotten are alone in their sphere; when, in addition, the begetter is the highest good, the offspring [inevitably seeking its good] is attached by a bond of sheer necessity, separated only in being distinct.


We must be more explicit:

The intellectual-principle stands as the image of the One, firstly because there is a certain necessity that the first should have its offspring, carrying onward much of its quality, in other words that there be something in its likeness as the sun's rays tell of the sun. Yet the One is not an intellectual-principle; how then does it engender an intellectual-principle?

Simply by the fact that in its self-quest it has vision: This very seeing is the intellectual-principle. Any perception of the external indicates either sensation or intellection, sensation symbolized by a line, intellection by a circle... [corrupt passage].

Of course the divisibility belonging to the circle does not apply to the intellectual-principle; all, there too, is a unity, though a unity which is the potentiality of all existence.

The items of this potentiality the divine intellection brings out, so to speak, from the unity and knows them in detail, as it must if it is to be an intellectual principle.

It has besides a consciousness, as it were, within itself of this same potentiality; it knows that it can of itself beget an hypostasis and can determine its own being by the virtue emanating from its prior; it knows that its nature is in some sense a definite part of the content of that first; that it thence derives its essence, that its strength lies there and that its being takes perfection as a derivative and a recipient from the first. It sees that, as a member of the realm of division and part, it receives life and intellection and all else it has and is, from the undivided and partless, since that first is no member of existence, but can be the source of all on condition only of being held down by no one distinctive shape but remaining the undeflected unity.

[(cOrrupt)—thus it would be the entire universe but that...]

And so the first is not a thing among the things contained by the intellectual-principle though the source of all. In virtue of this source, things of the later order are essential beings; for from that fact there is determination; each has its form: What has being cannot be envisaged as outside of limit; the nature must be held fast by boundary and fixity; though to the intellectual beings this fixity is no more than determination and form, the foundations of their substantial existence.

A being of this quality, like the intellectual-principle, must be felt to be worthy of the all-pure: It could not derive from any other than from the first principle of all; as it comes into existence, all other beings must be simultaneously engendered—all the beauty of the ideas, all the gods of the intellectual realm. And it still remains pregnant with this offspring; for it has, so to speak, drawn all within itself again, holding them lest they fall away towards matter to be "brought up in the house of rhea" [in the realm of flux]. This is the meaning hidden in the mysteries, and in the myths of the gods: Kronos, as the wisest, exists before Zeus; he must absorb his offspring that, full within himself, he may be also an intellectual- principle manifest in some product of his plenty; afterwards, the myth proceeds, kronos engenders Zeus, who already exists as the [necessary and eternal] outcome of the plenty there; in other words the offspring of the divine intellect, perfect within itself, is soul [the life-principle carrying forward the ideas in the divine mind].

Now, even in the divine the engendered could not be the very highest; it must be a lesser, an image; it will be undetermined, as the divine is, but will receive determination, and, so to speak, its shaping idea, from the progenitor.

Yet any offspring of the intellectual-principle must be a reason-principle; the thought of the divine mind must be a substantial existence: Such then is that [soul] which circles about the divine mind, its light, its image inseparably attached to it: On the upper level united with it, filled from it, enjoying it, participant in its nature, intellective with it, but on the lower level in contact with the realm beneath itself, or, rather, generating in turn an offspring which must lie beneath; of this lower we will treat later; so far we deal still with the divine.


This is the explanation of Plato's triplicity, in the passage where he names as the primals the beings gathered about the king of all, and establishes a secondary containing the secondaries, and a third containing the tertiaries.

He teaches, also, that there is an author of the cause, that is of the intellectual-principle, which to him is the creator who made the soul, as he tells us, in the famous mixing bowl. This author of the causing principle, of the divine mind, is to him the good, that which transcends the intellectual-principle and transcends being: Often too he uses the term "the idea" to indicate being and the divine mind. Thus Plato knows the order of generation—from the good, the intellectual- principle; from the intellectual-principle, the soul. These teachings are, therefore, no novelties, no inventions of today, but long since stated, if not stressed; our doctrine here is the explanation of an earlier and can show the antiquity of these opinions on the testimony of Plato himself.

Earlier, parmenides made some approach to the doctrine in identifying being with intellectual-principle while separating real being from the realm of sense.

"Knowing and being are one thing he says, and this unity is to him motionless in spite of the intellection he attributes to it: To preserve its unchanging identity he excludes all bodily movement from it; and he compares it to a huge sphere in that it holds and envelops all existence and that its intellection is not an outgoing act but internal. Still, with all his affirmation of unity, his own writings lay him open to the reproach that his unity turns out to be a multiplicity.

The Platonic parmenides is more exact; the distinction is made between the primal One, a strictly pure unity, and a secondary One which is a One-many and a third which is a One- and-many; thus he too is in accordance with our thesis of the three kinds.


Anaxagoras, again, in his assertion of a mind pure and unmixed, affirms a simplex first and a sundered One, though writing long ago he failed in precision.

Heraclitus, with his sense of bodily forms as things of ceaseless process and passage, knows the One as eternal and intellectual.

In empedocles, similarly, we have a dividing principle, "strife," set against "friendship"—which is the One and is to him bodiless, while the elements represent matter.

Later there is aristotle; he begins by making the first transcendent and intellective but cancels that primacy by supposing it to have self-intellection. Further he affirms a multitude of other intellective beings—as many indeed as there are orbs in the heavens; one such principle as in—over to every orb—and thus his account of the intellectual realm differs from Plato's and, failing reason, he brings in necessity; though whatever reasons he had alleged there would always have been the objection that it would be more reasonable that all the spheres, as contributory to one system, should look to a unity, to the first.

We are obliged also to ask whether to aristotle's mind all intellectual beings spring from one, and that one their first; or whether the principles in the intellectual are many.

If from one, then clearly the intellectual system will be analogous to that of the universe of sense-sphere encircling sphere, with one, the outermost, dominating all—the first [in the intellectual] will envelop the entire scheme and will be an intellectual [or archetypal] cosmos; and as in our universe the spheres are not empty but the first sphere is thick with stars and none without them, so, in the intellectual cosmos, those principles of movement will envelop a multitude of beings, and that world will be the realm of the greater reality.

If on the contrary each is a principle, then the effective powers become a matter of chance; under what compulsion are they to hold together and act with one mind towards that work of unity, the harmony of the entire heavenly system? Again what can make it necessary that the material bodies of the heavenly system be equal in number to the intellectual moving principles, and how can these incorporeal beings be numerically many when there is no matter to serve as the basis of difference?

For these reasons the ancient philosophers that ranged themselves most closely to the school of pythagoras and of his later followers and to that of pherekudes, have insisted on this nature, some developing the subject in their writings while others treated of it merely in unwritten discourses, some no doubt ignoring it entirely.


We have shown the inevitability of certain convictions as to the scheme of things:

There exists a principle which transcends being; this is the One, whose nature we have sought to establish in so far as such matters lend themselves to proof. On the One follows immediately the principle which is at once being and the intellectual-principle. Third comes the principle, soul.

Now just as these three exist for the system of nature, so, we must hold, they exist for ourselves. I am not speaking of the material order—all that is separable—but of what lies beyond the sense realm in the same way as the primals are beyond all the heavens; I mean the corresponding aspect of man, what Plato calls the interior man.

Thus our soul, too, is a divine thing, belonging to another order than sense; such is all that holds the rank of soul, but [above the life-principle] there is the soul perfected as containing intellectual-principle with its double phase, reasoning and giving the power to reason. The reasoning phase of the soul, needing no bodily organ for its thinking but maintaining, in purity, its distinctive act that its thought may be uncontaminated—this we cannot err in placing, separate and not mingled into body, within the first intellectual. We may not seek any point of space in which to seat it; it must be set outside of all space: Its distinct quality, its separateness, its immateriality, demand that it be a thing alone, untouched by all of the bodily order. This is why we read of the universe that the demiurge cast the soul around it from without—understand that phase of soul which is permanently seated in the intellectual—and of ourselves that the charioteer's head reaches upwards towards the heights.

The admonition to sever soul from body is not, of course, to be understood spatially—that separation stands made in nature—the reference is to holding our rank, to use of our thinking, to an attitude of alienation from the body in the effort to lead up and attach to the over-world, equally with the other, that phase of soul seated here and, alone, having to do with body, creating, moulding, spending its care on it.


Since there is a soul which reasons on the right and good—for reasoning is an enquiry into the rightness and goodness of this rather than that—there must exist some permanent right, the source and foundation of this reasoning in our soul; how, else, could any such discussion be held? further, since the soul's attention to these matters is intermittent, there must be within us an intellectual-principle acquainted with that right not by momentary act but in permanent possession. Similarly there must be also the principle of this principle, its cause, God. This highest cannot be divided and allotted, must remain intangible but not bound to space, it may be present at many points, wherever there is anything capable of accepting one of its manifestations; thus a centre is an independent unity; everything within the circle has its term at the centre; and to the centre the radii bring each their own. Within our nature is such a centre by which we grasp and are linked and held; and those of us are firmly in the supreme whose collective tendency is there.


Possessed of such powers, how does it happen that we do not lay hold of them, but for the most part, let these high activities go idle—some, even, of us never bringing them in any degree to effect?

The answer is that all the divine beings are unceasingly about their own act, the intellectual-principle and its prior always self- intent; and so, too, the soul maintains its unfailing movement; for not all that passes in the soul is, by that fact, perceptible; we know just as much as impinges on the faculty of sense. Any activity not transmitted to the sensitive faculty has not traversed the entire soul: We remain unaware because the human being includes sense-perception; man is not merely a part [the higher part] of the soul but the total.

None the less every being of the order of soul is in continuous activity as long as life holds, continuously executing to itself its characteristic act: Knowledge of the act depends on transmission and perception. If there is to be perception of what is thus present, we must turn the perceptive faculty inward and hold it to attention there. Hoping to hear a desired voice, we let all others pass and are alert for the coming at last of that most welcome of sounds: So here, we must let the hearings of sense go by, save for sheer necessity, and keep the soul's perception bright and quick to the sounds from above.

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Second tractate: The origin and order of the beings following on the first



The One is all things and no one of them; the source of all things is not all things; all things are its possession—running back, so to speak, to it—or, more correctly, not yet so, they will be.

But a universe from an unbroken unity, in which there appears no diversity, not even duality?

It is precisely because that is nothing within the One that all things are from it: In order that being may be brought about, the source must be no being but being's generator, in what is to be thought of as the primal act of generation. Seeking nothing, possessing nothing, lacking nothing, the One is perfect and, in our metaphor, has overflowed, and its exuberance has produced the new: This product has turned again to its begetter and been filled and has become its contemPlator and so an intellectual- principle.

That station towards the one [the fact that something exists in presence of the One] establishes being; that vision directed on the One establishes the intellectual-principle; standing towards the One to the end of vision, it is simultaneously intellectual- principle and being; and, attaining resemblance in virtue of this vision, it repeats the act of the One in pouring forth a vast power.

This second outflow is a form or idea representing the divine intellect as the divine intellect represented its own prior, the One.

This active power sprung from essence [from the intellectual-principle considered as being] is soul.

Soul arises as the idea and act of the motionless intellectual- principle—which itself sprang from its own motionless prior—but the soul's operation is not similarly motionless; its image is generated from its movement. It takes fulness by looking to its source; but it generates its image by adopting another, a downward, movement.

This image of soul is sense and nature, the vegetal principle.

Nothing, however, is completely severed from its prior. Thus the human soul appears to reach away as far down as to the vegetal order: In some sense it does, since the life of growing things is within its province; but it is not present entire; when it has reached the vegetal order it is there in the sense that having moved thus far downwards it produces—by its outgoing and its tendency towards the less good—another hypostasis or form of being just as its prior (the loftier phase of the soul) is produced from the intellectual- principle which yet remains in untroubled self-possession.


To resume: There is from the first principle to ultimate an outgoing in which unfailingly each principle retains its own seat while its offshoot takes another rank, a lower, though on the other hand every being is in identity with its prior as long as it holds that contact.

In the case of soul entering some vegetal form, what is there is one phase, the more rebellious and less intellectual, outgone to that extreme; in a soul entering an animal, the faculty of sensation has been dominant and brought it there; in soul entering man, the movement outward has either been wholly of its reasoning part or has come from the intellectual-principle in the sense that the soul, possessing that principle as immanent to its being, has an inborn desire of intellectual activity and of movement in general.

But, looking more minutely into the matter, when shoots or topmost boughs are lopped from some growing thing, where goes the soul that was present in them? Simply, whence it came: Soul never knew spatial separation and therefore is always within the source. If you cut the root to pieces, or burn it, where is the life that was present there? In the soul, which never went outside of itself.

No doubt, despite this permanence, the soul must have been in something if it reascends; and if it does not, it is still somewhere; it is in some other vegetal soul: But all this means merely that it is not crushed into some one spot; if a soul-power reascends, it is within the soul-power preceding it; that in turn can be only in the soul- power prior again, the phase reaching upwards to the intellectual-principle. Of course nothing here must be understood spatially: Soul never was in space; and the divine intellect, again, is distinguished from soul as being still more free.

Soul thus is nowhere but in the principle which has that characteristic existence at once nowhere and everywhere.

If the soul on its upward path has halted midway before wholly achieving the supreme heights, it has a mid-rank life and has centred itself on the mid-phase of its being. All in that mid- region is intellectual-principle not wholly itself—nothing else because deriving thence [and therefore of that name and rank], yet not that because the intellectual-principle in giving it forth is not merged into it.

There exists, thus, a life, as it were, of huge extension, a total in which each several part differs from its next, all making a self- continuous whole under a law of discrimination by which the various forms of things arise with no effacement of any prior in its secondary.

But does this soul-phase in the vegetal order, produce nothing?

It engenders precisely the kind in which it is thus present: How, is a question to be handled from another starting-point.

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Third tractate: The knowing hypostases and the transcendent



Are we to think that a being knowing itself must contain diversity, that self-knowledge can be affirmed only when some one phase of the self perceives other phases, and that therefore an absolutely simplex entity would be equally incapable of introversion and of self-awareness?

No: A being that has no parts or phases may have this consciousness; in fact there would be no real self-knowing in an entity presented as knowing itself in virtue of being a compound—some single element in it perceiving other elements—as we may know our own form and entire bodily organism by sense-perception: Such knowing does not cover the whole field; the knowing element has not had the required cognisance at once of its associates and of itself; this is not the self-knower asked for; it is merely something that knows something else.

Either we must exhibit the self-knowing of an uncompounded being—and show how that is possible—or abandon the belief that any being can possess veritable self-cognition.

To abandon the belief is not possible in view of the many absurdities thus entailed.

It would be already absurd enough to deny this power to the soul or mind, but the very height of absurdity to deny it to the nature of the intellectual-principle, presented thus as knowing the rest of things but not attaining to knowledge, or even awareness, of itself.

It is the province of sense and in some degree of understanding and judgement, but not of the intellectual- principle, to handle the external, though whether the intellectual- principle holds the knowledge of these things is a question to be examined, but it is obvious that the intellectual-principle must have knowledge of the intellectual objects. Now, can it know those objects alone or must it not simultaneously know itself, the being whose function it is to know just those things? can it have self-knowledge in the sense [dismissed above as inadequate] of knowing its content while it ignores itself? can it be aware of knowing its members and yet remain in ignorance of its own knowing self? Self and content must be simultaneously present: The method and degree of this knowledge we must now consider.


We begin with the soul, asking whether it is to be allowed self-knowledge and what the knowing principle in it would be and how operating.

The sense-principle in it we may at once decide, takes cognisance only of the external; even in any awareness of events within the body it occupies, this is still the perception of something external to a principle dealing with those bodily conditions not as within but as beneath itself.

The reasoning-principle in the soul acts on the representations standing before it as the result of sense- perception; these it judges, combining, distinguishing: Or it may also observe the impressions, so to speak, rising from the intellectual-principle, and has the same power of handling these; and reasoning will develop to wisdom where it recognizes the new and late-coming impressions [those of sense] and adapts them, so to speak, to those it holds from long before—the act which may be described as the soul's reminiscence.

So far as this, the efficacy of the intellectual-principle in the soul certainly reaches; but is there also introversion and self- cognition or is that power to be reserved strictly for the divine mind?

If we accord self-knowing to this phase of the soul we make it an intellectual-principle and will have to show what distinguishes it from its prior; if we refuse it self-knowing, all our thought brings us step by step to some principle which has this power, and we must discover what such self-knowing consists in. If, again, we do allow self- knowledge in the lower we must examine the question of degree; for if there is no difference of degree, then the reasoning principle in soul is the intellectual-principle unalloyed.

We ask, then, whether the understanding principle in the soul has equally the power of turning inwards on itself or whether it has no more than that of comprehending the impressions, superior and inferior, which it receives.

The first stage is to discover what this comprehension is.


Sense sees a man and transmits the impression to the understanding. What does the understanding say? It has nothing to say as yet; it accepts and waits; unless, rather, it questions within itself "Who is this?"—someone it has met before—and then, drawing on memory, says, "socrates."

If it should go on to develop the impression received, it distinguishes various elements in what the representative faculty has set before it; supposing it to say "socrates, if the man is good," then, while it has spoken on information from the senses, its total pronouncement is its own; it contains within itself a standard of good.

But how does it thus contain the good within itself?

It is, itself, of the nature of the good and it has been strengthened still towards the perception of all that is good by the irradiation of the intellectual-principle on it; for this pure phase of the soul welcomes to itself the images implanted from its prior.

But why may we not distinguish this understanding phase as intellectual-principle and take soul to consist of the later phases from the sensitive downwards?

Because all the activities mentioned are within the scope of a reasoning faculty, and reasoning is characteristically the function of soul.

Why not, however, absolve the question by assigning self- cognisance to this phase?

Because we have allotted to soul the function of dealing—in thought and in multiform action—with the external, and we hold that observation of self and of the content of self must belong to intellectual-principle.

If any one says, "still; what precludes the reasoning soul from observing its own content by some special faculty?" he is no longer posting a principle of understanding or of reasoning but, simply, bringing in the intellectual-principle unalloyed.

But what precludes the intellectual-principle from being present, unalloyed, within the soul? Nothing, we admit; but are we entitled therefore to think of it as a phase of soul?

We cannot describe it as belonging to the soul though we do describe it as our intellectual-principle, something distinct from the understanding, advanced above it, and yet ours even though we cannot include it among soul-phases: It is ours and not ours; and therefore we use it sometimes and sometimes not, whereas we always have use of the understanding; the intellectual- principle is ours when we act by it, not ours when we neglect it.

But what is this acting by it? does it mean that we become the intellectual-principle so that our utterance is the utterance of the intellectual-principle, or that we represent it?

We are not the intellectual-principle; we represent it in virtue of that highest reasoning faculty which draws on it.

Still; we perceive by means of the perceptive faculty and are, ourselves, the percipients: May we not say the same of the intellective act?

No: Our reasoning is our own; we ourselves think the thoughts that occupy the understanding—for this is actually the We—but the operation of the intellectual-principle enters from above us as that of the sensitive faculty from below; the We is the soul at its highest, the mid-point between two powers, between the sensitive principle, inferior to us, and the intellectual principle superior. We think of the perceptive act as integral to ourselves because our sense-perception is uninterrupted; we hesitate as to the intellectual-principle both because we are not always occupied with it and because it exists apart, not a principle inclining to us but one to which we incline when we choose to look upwards.

The sensitive principle is our scout; the intellectual- principle our king.


But we, too, are king when we are moulded to the intellectual-principle.

That correspondence may be brought about in two ways: Either the radii from that centre are traced on us to be our law or we are filled full of the divine mind, which again may have become to us a thing seen and felt as a presence.

Hence our self-knowing comes to the knowing of all the rest of our being in virtue of this thing patently present; or by that power itself communicating to us its own power of self-knowing; or by our becoming identical with that principle of knowledge.

Thus the self-knower is a double person: There is the one that takes cognisance of the principle in virtue of which understanding occurs in the soul or mind; and there is the higher, knowing himself by the intellectual-principle with which he becomes identical: This latter knows the self as no longer man but as a being that has become something other through and through: He has thrown himself as one thing over into the superior order, taking with him only that better part of the soul which alone is winged for the intellectual act and gives the man, once established there, the power to appropriate what he has seen.

We can scarcely suppose this understanding faculty to be unaware that it has understanding; that it takes cognisance of things external; that in its judgements it decides by the rules and standards within itself held directly from the intellectual- principle; that there is something higher than itself, something which, moreover, it has no need to seek but fully possesses. What can we conceive to escape the self- knowledge of a principle which admittedly knows the place it holds and the work it has to do? It affirms that it springs from intellectual-principle whose second and image it is, that it holds all within itself, the universe of things, engraved, so to say, on it as all is held there by the eternal engraver. Aware so far of itself, can it be supposed to halt at that? Are we to suppose that all we can do is to apply a distinct power of our nature and come thus to awareness of that intellectual-principle as aware of itself? Or may we not appropriate that principle—which belongs to us as we to it—and thus attain to awareness, at once, of it and of ourselves? Yes: This is the necessary way if we are to experience the self- knowledge vested in the intellectual-principle. And a man becomes intellectual-principle when, ignoring all other phases of his being, he sees through that only and sees only that and so knows himself by means of the self—in other words attains the self-knowledge which the intellectual-principle possesses.


Does it all come down, then, to one phase of the self knowing another phase?

That would be a case of knower distinguished from known, and would not be self-knowing.

What, then, if the total combination were supposed to be of one piece, knower quite undistinguished from known, so that, seeing any given part of itself as identical with itself, it sees itself by means of itself, knower and known thus being entirely without differentiation?

To begin with, the distinction in one self thus suggested is a strange phenomenon. How is the self to make the partition? The thing cannot happen of itself. And, again, which phase makes it? The phase that decides to be the knower or that which is to be the known? Then how can the knowing phase know itself in the known when it has chosen to be the knower and put itself apart from the known? In such self- knowledge by sundering it can be aware only of the object, not of the agent; it will not know its entire content, or itself as an integral whole; it knows the phase seen but not the seeing phase and thus has knowledge of something else, not self-knowledge.

In order to perfect self-knowing it must bring over from itself the knowing phase as well: Seeing subject and seen objects must be present as one thing. Now if in this coalescence of seeing subject with seen objects, the objects were merely representations of the reality, the subject would not possess the realities: If it is to possess them it must do so not by seeing them as the result of any self-division but by knowing them, containing them, before any self-division occurs.

At that, the object known must be identical with the knowing act [or agent], the intellectual-principle, therefore, identical with the intellectual realm. And in fact, if this identity does not exist, neither does truth; the principle that should contain realities is found to contain a transcript, something different from the realities; that constitutes non-truth; truth cannot apply to something conflicting with itself; what it affirms it must also be.

Thus we find that the intellectual-principle, the intellectual realm and real being constitute one thing, which is the primal being; the primal intellectual-principle is that which contains the realities or, rather, which is identical with them.

But taking primal intellection and its intellectual object to be a unity, how does that give an intellective being knowing itself? an intellection enveloping its object or identical with it is far from exhibiting the intellectual-principle as self- knowing.

All turns on the identity. The intellectual object is itself an activity, not a mere potentiality; it is not lifeless; nor are the life and intellection brought into it as into something naturally devoid of them, some stone or other dead matter; no, the intellectual object is essentially existent, the primal reality. As an active force, the first activity, it must be, also itself, the noblest intellection, intellection possessing real being since it is entirely true; and such an intellection, primal and primally existent, can be no other than the primal principle of intellection: For that primal principle is no potentiality and cannot be an agent distinct from its act and thus, once more, possessing its essential being as a mere potentiality. As an act—and one whose very being is an act—it must be undistinguishably identical with its act: But being and the intellectual object are also identical with that act; therefore the intellectual-principle, its exercise of intellection and the object of intellection all are identical. Given its intellection identical with intellectual object and the object identical with the principle itself, it cannot but have self- knowledge: Its intellection operates by the intellectual act which is itself on the intellectual object which similarly is itself. It possesses self-knowing, thus, on every count; the act is itself; and the object seen in that act—self, is itself.


Thus we have shown that there exists that which in the strictest sense possesses self-knowing.

This self-knowing agent, perfect in the intellectual- principle, is modified in the soul.

The difference is that, while the soul knows itself as within something else, the intellectual-principle knows itself as self- depending, knows all its nature and character, and knows by right of its own being and by simple introversion. When it looks on the authentic existences it is looking on itself; its vision as its effective existence, and this efficacy is itself since the intellectual-principle and the intellectual act are one: This is an integral seeing itself by its entire being, not a part seeing by a part.

But has our discussion issued in an intellectual-principle having a persuasive activity [furnishing us with probability]?

No: It brings compulsion not persuasion; compulsion belongs to the intellectual-principle, persuasion to the soul or mind, and we seem to desire to be persuaded rather than to see the truth in the pure intellect.

As long as we were above, collected within the intellectual nature, we were satisfied; we were held in the intellectual act; we had vision because we drew all into unity—for the thinker in us was the intellectual-principle telling us of itself—and the soul or mind was motionless, assenting to that act of its prior. But now that we are once more here—living in the secondary, the soul—we seek for persuasive probabilities: It is through the image we desire to know the archetype.

Our way is to teach our soul how the intellectual-principle exercises self-vision; the phase thus to be taught is that which already touches the intellective order, that which we call the understanding or intelligent soul, indicating by the very name that it is already of itself in some degree an intellectual-principle or that it holds its peculiar power through and from that principle. This phase must be brought to understand by what means it has knowledge of the thing it sees and warrant for what it affirms: If it became what it affirms, it would by that fact possess self-knowing. All its vision and affirmation being in the supreme or deriving from it—there where itself also is—it will possess self-knowledge by its right as a reason- principle, claiming its kin and bringing all into accord with the divine imprint on it.

The soul therefore [to attain self-knowledge] has only to set this image [that is to say, its highest phase] alongside the veritable intellectual-principle which we have found to be identical with the truths constituting the objects of intellection, the world of primals and reality: For this intellectual-principle, by very definition, cannot be outside of itself, the intellectual reality: Self-gathered and unalloyed, it is intellectual-principle through all the range of its being—for unintelligent intelligence is not possible—and thus it possesses of necessity self-knowing, as a being immanent to itself and one having for function and essence to be purely and solely intellectual- principle. This is no doer; the doer, not self-intent but looking outward, will have knowledge, in some kind, of the external, but, if wholly of this practical order, need have no self- knowledge; where, on the contrary, there is no action—and of course the pure intellectual-principle cannot be straining after any absent good—the intention can be only towards the self; at once self-knowing becomes not merely plausible but inevitable; what else could living signify in a being immune from action and existing in intellect?


The contemplating of God, we might answer.

But to admit its knowing God is to be compelled to admit its self-knowing. It will know what it holds from God, what God has given forth or may; with this knowledge, it knows itself at the stroke, for it is itself one of those given things—in fact is all of them. Knowing God and his power, then, it knows itself, since it comes from him and carries his power on it; if, because here the act of vision is identical with the object, it is unable to see god clearly, then all the more, by the equation of seeing and seen, we are driven back on that self- seeing and self-knowing in which seeing and thing seen are undistinguishably one thing.

And what else is there to attribute to it?

Repose, no doubt; but, to an intellectual-principle, repose is not an abdication from intellect; its repose is an act, the act of abstention from the alien: In all forms of existence repose from the alien leaves the characteristic activity intact, especially where the being is not merely potential but fully realized.

In the intellectual-principle, the being is an act and in the absence of any other object it must be self-directed; by this self- intellection it holds its act within itself and on itself; all that can emanate from it is produced by this self-centering and self- intention; first—self-gathered, it then gives itself or gives something in its likeness; fire must first be self-centred and be fire, true to fire's natural act; then it may reproduce itself elsewhere.

Once more, then; the intellectual-principle is a self-intent activity, but soul has the double phase, one inner, intent on the intellectual-principle, the other outside it and facing to the external; by the one it holds the likeness to its source; by the other, even in its unlikeness, it still comes to likeness in this sphere, too, by virtue of action and production; in its action it still contemplates, and its production produces ideal- forms—divine intellections perfectly wrought out—so that all its creations are representations of the divine intellection and of the divine intellect, moulded on the archetype, of which all are emanations and images, the nearer more true, the very latest preserving some faint likeness of the source.


Now comes the question what sort of thing does the intellectual-principle see in seeing the intellectual realm and what in seeing itself?

We are not to look for an intellectual realm reminding us of the colour or shape to be seen on material objects: The intellectual antedates all such things; and even in our sphere the production is very different from the reason-principle in the seeds from which it is produced. The seed principles are invisible and the beings of the intellectual still more characteristically so; the intellectuals are of one same nature with the intellectual realm which contains them, just as the reason- principle in the seed is identical with the soul, or life-principle, containing it.

But the soul (considered as apart from the intellectual- principle) has no vision of what it thus contains, for it is not the producer but, like the reason-principles also, an image of its source: That source is the brilliant, the authentic, the primarily existent, the thing self-sprung and self-intent; but its image, soul, is a thing which can have no permanence except by attachment, by living in that other; the very nature of an image is that, as a secondary, it shall have its being in something else, if at all it exist apart from its original. Hence this image (soul) has not vision, for it has not the necessary light, and, if it should see, then, as finding its completion elsewhere, it sees another, not itself.

In the pure intellectual there is nothing of this: The vision and the envisioned are a unity; the seen is as the seeing and seeing as seen.

What, then, is there that can pronounce on the nature of this all-unity?

That which sees: And to see is the function of the intellectual-principle. Even in our own sphere [we have a parallel to this self-vision of a unity], our vision is light or rather becomes one with light, and it sees light for it sees colours. In the intellectual, the vision sees not through some medium but by and through itself alone, for its object is not external: By one light it sees another not through any intermediate agency; a light sees a light, that is to say a thing sees itself. This light shining within the soul enlightens it; that is, it makes the soul intellective, working it into likeness with itself, the light above.

Think of the traces of this light on the soul, then say to yourself that such, and more beautiful and broader and more radiant, is the light itself; thus you will approach to the nature of the intellectual-principle and the intellectual realm, for it is this light, itself lit from above, which gives the soul its brighter life.

It is not the source of the generative life of the soul which, on the contrary, it draws inward, preserving it from such diffusion, holding it to the love of the splendour of its prior.

Nor does it give the life of perception and sensation, for that looks to the external and to what acts most vigorously on the senses whereas one accepting that light of truth may be said no longer to see the visible, but the very contrary.

This means in sum that the life the soul takes thence is an intellective life, a trace of the life in the [divine] intellect, in which alone the authentic exists.

The life in the divine intellect is also an act: It is the primal light outlamping to itself primarily, its own torch; light-giver and lit at once; the authentic intellectual object, knowing at once and known, seen to itself and needing no other than itself to see by, self- sufficing to the vision, since what it sees it is; known to us by that very same light, our knowledge of it attained through itself, for from nowhere else could we find the means of telling of it. By its nature, its self- vision is the clearer but, using it as our medium, we too may come to see by it.

In the strength of such considerations we lead up our own soul to the divine, so that it poses itself as an image of that being, its life becoming an imprint and a likeness of the highest, its every act of thought making it over into the divine and the intellectual.

If the soul is questioned as to the nature of that intellectual- principle—the perfect and all-embracing, the primal self- knower—it has but to enter into that principle, or to sink all its activity into that, and at once it shows itself to be in effective possession of those priors whose memory it never lost: Thus, as an image of the intellectual-principle, it can make itself the medium by which to attain some vision of it; it draws on that within itself which is most closely resemblant, as far as resemblance is possible between divine intellect and any phase of soul.


In order, then, to know what the divine mind is, we must observe soul and especially its most God-like phase.

One certain way to this knowledge is to separate first, the man from the body—yourself, that is, from your body—next to put aside that soul which moulded the body, and, very earnestly, the system of sense with desires and impulses and every such futility, all setting definitely towards the mortal: What is left is the phase of the soul which we have declared to be an image of the divine intellect, retaining some light from that sun, while it pours downward on the sphere of magnitudes [that is, of matter] the light playing about itself which is generated from its own nature.

Of course we do not pretend that the sun's light [as the analogy might imply] remains a self-gathered and sun-centred thing: It is at once outrushing and indwelling; it strikes outward continuously, lap after lap, until it reaches us on our earth: We must take it that all the light, including that which plays about the sun's orb, has travelled; otherwise we would have a void expanse, that of the space—which is material—next to the sun's orb. The soul, on the contrary—a light springing from the divine mind and shining about it—is in closest touch with that source; it is not in transit but remains centred there, and, in likeness to that principle, it has no place: The light of the sun is actually in the air, but the soul is clean of all such contact so that its immunity is patent to itself and to any other of the same order.

And by its own characteristic act, though not without reasoning process, it knows the nature of the intellectual- principle which, on its side, knows itself without need of reasoning, for it is ever self- present whereas we become so by directing our soul towards it; our life is broken and there are many lives, but that principle needs no changings of life or of things; the lives it brings to being are for others not for itself: It cannot need the inferior; nor does it for itself produce the less when it possesses or is the all, nor the images when it possesses or is the prototype.

Anyone not of the strength to lay hold of the first soul, that possessing pure intellection, must grasp that which has to do with our ordinary thinking and thence ascend: If even this prove too hard, let him turn to account the sensitive phase which carries the ideal forms of the less fine degree, that phase which, too, with its powers, is immaterial and lies just within the realm of ideal-principles.

One may even, if it seem necessary, begin as low as the reproductive soul and its very production and thence make the ascent, mounting from those ultimate ideal principles to the ultimates in the higher sense, that is to the primals.


This matter need not be elaborated at present: It suffices to say that if the created were all, these ultimates [the higher] need not exist: But the supreme does include primals, the primals because the producers. In other words, there must be, with the made, the making source; and, unless these are to be identical, there will be need of some link between them. Similarly, this link which is the intellectual-principle demands yet a transcendent. If we are asked why this transcendent also should not have self- vision, our answer is that it has no need of vision; but this we will discuss later: For the moment we go back, since the question at issue is gravely important.

We repeat that the intellectual-principle must have, actually has, self-vision, firstly because it has multiplicity, next because it exists for the external and therefore must be a seeing power, one seeing that external; in fact its very essence is vision. Given some external, there must be vision; and if there be nothing external the intellectual-principle [divine mind] exists in vain. Unless there is something beyond bare unity, there can be no vision: Vision must converge with a visible object. And this which the seer is to see can be only a multiple, no undistinguishable unity; nor could a universal unity find anything on which to exercise any act; all, one and desolate, would be utter stagnation; in so far as there is action, there is diversity. If there be no distinctions, what is there to do, what direction in which to move? An agent must either act on the extern or be a multiple and so able to act on itself: Making no advance towards anything other than itself, it is motionless and where it could know only blank fixity it can know nothing.

The intellective power, therefore, when occupied with the intellectual act, must be in a state of duality, whether one of the two elements stand actually outside or both lie within: The intellectual act will always comport diversity as well as the necessary identity, and in the same way its characteristic objects [the ideas] must stand to the intellectual-principle as at once distinct and identical. This applies equally to the single object; there can be no intellection except of something containing separable detail and, since the object is a reason-principle [a discriminated idea] it has the necessary element of multiplicity. The intellectual-principle, thus, is informed of itself by the fact of being a multiple organ of vision, an eye receptive of many illuminated objects. If it had to direct itself to a memberless unity, it would be dereasoned: What could it say or know of such an object? The self-affirmation of [even] a memberless unity implies the repudiation of all that does not enter into the character: In other words, it must be multiple as a preliminary to being itself.

Then, again, in the assertion "I am this particular thing," either the "particular thing" is distinct from the assertor—and there is a false statement—or it is included within it, and, at once, multiplicity is asserted: Otherwise the assertion is "I am what I am," or "I am I."

If it be no more than a simple duality able to say "I and that other phase," there is already multiplicity, for there is distinction and ground of distinction, there is number with all its train of separate things.

In sum, then, a knowing principle must handle distinct items: Its object must, at the moment of cognition, contain diversity; otherwise the thing remains unknown; there is mere conjunction, such a contact, without affirmation or comprehension, as would precede knowledge, the intellect not yet in being, the impinging agent not percipient.

Similarly the knowing principle itself cannot remain simplex, especially in the act of self-knowing: All silent though its self-perception be, it is dual to itself. Of course it has no need of minute self-handling since it has nothing to learn by its intellective act; before it is [effectively] intellect, it holds knowledge of its own content. Knowledge implies desire, for it is, so to speak, discovery crowning a search; the utterly undifferentiated remains self- centred and makes no enquiry about that self: Anything capable of analysing its content, must be a manifold.


Thus the intellectual-principle, in the act of knowing the transcendent, is a manifold. It knows the transcendent in very essence but, with all its effort to grasp that prior as a pure unity, it goes forth amassing successive impressions, so that, to it, the object becomes multiple: Thus in its outgoing to its object it is not [fully realised] intellectual-principle; it is an eye that has not yet seen; in its return it is an eye possessed of the multiplicity which it has itself conferred: It sought something of which it found the vague presentment within itself; it returned with something else, the manifold quality with which it has of its own act invested the simplex.

If it had not possessed a previous impression of the transcendent, it could never have grasped it, but this impression, originally of unity, becomes an impression of multiplicity; and the intellectual- principle, in taking cognisance of that multiplicity, knows the transcendent and so is realized as an eye possessed of its vision.

It is now intellectual-principle since it actually holds its object, and holds it by the act of intellection: Before, it was no more than a tendance, an eye blank of impression: It was in motion towards the transcendental; now that it has attained, it has become intellectual-principle henceforth absorbed; in virtue of this intellection it holds the character of intellectual-principle, of essential existence and of intellectual act where, previously, not possessing the intellectual Object, it was not intellectual perception, and, not yet having exercised the intellectual act, it was not intellectual-principle.

The principle before all these principles is no doubt the first principle of the universe, but not as immanent: Immanence is not for primal sources but for engendering secondaries; that which stands as primal source of everything is not a thing but is distinct from all things: It is not, then, a member of the total but earlier than all, earlier, thus, than the intellectual-principle—which in fact envelops the entire train of things.

Thus we come, once more, to a being above the intellectual- principle and, since the sequent amounts to no less than the all, we recognise, again, a being above the all. This assuredly cannot be one of the things to which it is prior. We may not call it "intellect"; therefore, too, we may not call it "the good," if "the good" is to be taken in the sense of some one member of the universe; if we mean that which precedes the universe of things, the name may be allowed.

The intellectual-principle is established in multiplicity; its intellection, self-sprung though it be, is in the nature of something added to it [some accidental dualism] and makes it multiple: The utterly simplex, and therefore first of all beings, must, then, transcend the intellectual-principle; and, obviously, if this had intellection it would no longer transcend the intellectual- principle but be it, and at once be a multiple.


But why, after all, should it not be such a manifold as long as it remains one substantial existence, having the multiplicity not of a compound being but of a unity with a variety of activities?

Now, no doubt, if these various activities are not themselves substantial existences—but merely manifestations of latent potentiality—there is no compound; but, on the other hand, it remains incomplete until its substantial existence be expressed in act. If its substantial existence consists in its act, and this act constitutes multiplicity, then its substantial existence will be strictly proportioned to the extent of the multiplicity.

We allow this to be true for the intellectual-principle to which we have allotted [the multiplicity of] self-knowing; but for the first principle of all, never. Before the manifold, there must be the One, that from which the manifold rises: In all numerical series, the unit is the first.

But—we will be answered—for number, well and good, since the suite makes a compound; but in the real beings why must there be a unit from which the multiplicity of entities shall proceed?

Because [failing such a unity] the multiplicity would consist of disjointed items, each starting at its own distinct place and moving accidentally to serve to a total.

But, they will tell us, the activities in question do proceed from a unity, from the intellectual-principle, a simplex.

By that they admit the existence of a simplex prior to the activities; and they make the activities perdurable and class them as substantial existences [hypostases]; but as hypostases they will be distinct from their source, which will remain simplex; while its product will in its own nature be manifold and dependent on it.

Now if these activities arise from some unexplained first activity in that principle, then it too contains the manifold: If, on the contrary, they are the very earliest activities and the source and cause of any multiple product and the means by which that principle is able, before any activity occurs, to remain self- centred, then they are allocated to the product of which they are the cause; for this principle is one thing, the activities going forth from it are another, since it is not, itself, in act. If this be not so, the first act cannot be the intellectual-principle: The One does not provide for the existence of an intellectual-principle which thereupon appears; that provision would be something [an hypostasis] intervening between the One and the intellectual- principle, its offspring. There could, in fact, be no such providing in the One, for it was never incomplete; and such provision could name nothing that ought to be provided. It cannot be thought to possess only some part of its content, and not the whole; nor did anything exist to which it could turn in desire. Clearly anything that comes into being after it, arises without shaking to its permanence in its own habit. It is essential to the existence of any new entity that the first remain in self-gathered repose throughout: Otherwise, it moved before there was motion and had intellectual act before any intellection—unless, indeed, that first act [as motionless and without intelligence] was incomplete, nothing more than a tendency. And what can we imagine it lights on to become the object of such a tendency?

The only reasonable explanation of act flowing from it lies in the analogy of light from a sun. The entire intellectual order may be figured as a kind of light with the One in repose at its summit as its king: But this manifestation is not cast out from it: We may think, rather, of the One as a light before the light, an eternal irradiation resting on the intellectual realm; this, not identical with its source, is yet not severed from it nor of so remote a nature as to be less than real- being; it is no blind thing, but is seeing and knowing, the primal knower.

The One, as transcending intellect, transcends knowing: Above all need, it is above the need of the knowing which pertains solely to the secondary nature. Knowing is a unitary thing, but defined: The first is One, but undefined: A defined One would not be the One- absolute: The absolute is prior to the definite.


Thus the One is in truth beyond all statement: Any affirmation is of a thing; but the all-transcending, resting above even the most august divine mind, possesses alone of all true being, and is not a thing among things; we can give it no name because that would imply predication: We can but try to indicate, in our own feeble way, something concerning it: When in our perplexity we object, "then it is without self- perception, without self-consciousness, ignorant of itself"; we must remember that we have been considering it only in its opposites.

If we make it knowable, an object of affirmation, we make it a manifold; and if we allow intellection in it we make it at that point indigent: Supposing that in fact intellection accompanies it, intellection by it must be superfluous.

Self-intellection—which is the truest—implies the entire perception of a total self formed from a variety converging into an integral; but the transcendent knows neither separation of part nor any such enquiry; if its intellectual act were directed on something outside, then, the transcendent would be deficient and the intellection faulty.

The wholly simplex and veritable self-sufficing can be lacking at no point: Self-intellection begins in that principle which, secondarily self-sufficing, yet needs itself and therefore needs to know itself: This principle, by its self-presence, achieves its sufficiency in virtue of its entire content [it is the all]: It becomes thus competent from the total of its being, in the act of living towards itself and looking on itself.

Consciousness, as the very word indicates, is a conperception, an act exercised on a manifold: And even intellection, earlier [nearer to the divine] though it is, implies that the agent turns back on itself, on a manifold, then. If that agent says no more than "I am a being," it speaks [by the implied dualism] as a discoverer of the extern; and rightly so, for being is a manifold; when it faces towards the unmanifold and says, "I am that being," it misses both itself and the being [since the simplex cannot be thus divided into knower and known]: If it is [to utter] truth it cannot indicate by "being" something like a stone; in the one phrase multiplicity is asserted; for the being thus affirmed—[even] the veritable, as distinguished from such a mere container of some trace of being as ought not to be called a being since it stands merely as image to archetype—even this must possess multiplicity.

But will not each item in that multiplicity be an object of intellection to us?

Taken bare and single, no: But being itself is manifold within itself, and whatever else you may name has being.

This accepted, it follows that anything that is to be thought of as the most utterly simplex of all cannot have self-intellection; to have that would mean being multiple. The transcendent, thus, neither knows itself nor is known in itself.


How, then, do we ourselves come to be speaking of it?

No doubt we deal with it, but we do not state it; we have neither knowledge nor intellection of it.

But in what sense do we even deal with it when we have no hold on it?

We do not, it is true, grasp it by knowledge, but that does not mean that we are utterly void of it; we hold it not so as to state it, but so as to be able to speak about it. And we can and do state what it is not, while we are silent as to what it is: We are, in fact, speaking of it in the light of its sequels; unable to state it, we may still possess it.

Those divinely possessed and inspired have at least the knowledge that they hold some greater thing within them though they cannot tell what it is; from the movements that stir them and the utterances that come from them they perceive the power, not themselves, that moves them: In the same way, it must be, we stand towards the supreme when we hold the intellectual- principle pure; we know the divine mind within, that which gives being and all else of that order: But we know, too, that other, know that it is none of these, but a nobler principle than any- thing we know as being; fuller and greater; above reason, mind and feeling; conferring these powers, not to be confounded with them.


Conferring—but how? As itself possessing them or not? How can it convey what it does not possess, and yet if it does possess how is it simplex? And if, again, it does not, how is it the source of the manifold?

A single, unmanifold emanation we may very well allow—how even that can come from a pure unity may be a problem, but we may always explain it on the analogy of the irradiation from a luminary—but a multitudinous production raises question.

The explanation is that what comes from the supreme cannot be identical with it and assuredly cannot be better than it—what could be better than the One or the utterly transcendent? The emanation, then, must be less good, that is to say, less self-sufficing: Now what must that be which is less self- sufficing than the One? Obviously the not- One, that is to say, multiplicity, but a multiplicity striving towards unity; that is to say, a One-that-is-many.

All that is not One is conserved by virtue of the One, and from the One derives its characteristic nature: If it had not attained such unity as is consistent with being made up of multiplicity we could not affirm its existence: If we are able to affirm the nature of single things, this is in virtue of the unity, the identity even, which each of them possesses. But the all- transcendent, utterly void of multiplicity, has no mere unity of participation but is unity's self, independent of all else, as being that from which, by whatever means, all the rest take their degree of unity in their standing, near or far, towards it.

In virtue of the unity manifested in its variety it exhibits, side by side, both an all-embracing identity and the existence of the secondary: All the variety lies in the midst of a sameness, and identity cannot be separated from diversity since all stands as one; each item in that content, by the fact of participating in life, is a One-many: For the item could not make itself manifest as a One-and-all.

Only the transcendent can be that; it is the great beginning, and the beginning must be a really existent One, wholly and truly One, while its sequent, poured down in some way from the One, is all, a total which has participation in unity and whose every member is similarly all and one.

What then is the all?

The total of which the transcendent is the source.

But in what way is it that source? In the sense, perhaps, of sustaining things as bestower of the unity of each single item?

That too; but also as having established them in being.

But how? As having, perhaps, contained them previously?

We have indicated that, thus, the first would be a manifold.

May we think, perhaps, that the first contained the universe as an indistinct total whose items are elaborated to distinct existence within the second by the reason-principle there? That second is certainly an activity; the transcendent would contain only the potentiality of the universe to come.

But the nature of this contained potentiality would have to be explained: It cannot be that of matter, a receptivity, for thus the source becomes passive—the very negation of production.

How then does it produce what it does not contain? certainly not at haphazard and certainly not by selection. How then?

We have observed that anything that may spring from the One must be different from it. Differing, it is not One, since then it would be the source. If unity has given place to duality, from that moment there is multiplicity; for here is variety side by side with identity, and this imports quality and all the rest.

We may take it as proved that the emanation of the transcendent must be a not-One something other than pure unity, but that it is a multiplicity, and especially that it is such a multiplicity as is exhibited in the sequent universe, this is a statement worthy of deliberation: Some further enquiry must be made, also, as to the necessity of any sequel to the first.


We have, of course, already seen that a secondary must follow on the first, and that this is a power immeasurably fruitful; and we indicated that this truth is confirmed by the entire order of things since there is nothing, not even in the lowest ranks, void of the power of generating. We have now to add that, since things engendered tend downwards and not upwards and, especially, move towards multiplicity, the first principle of all must be less a manifold than any.

That which engenders the world of sense cannot itself be a sense-world; it must be the intellect and the intellectual world; similarly, the prior which engenders the intellectual-principle and the intellectual world cannot be either, but must be something of less multiplicity. The manifold does not rise from the manifold: The intellectual multiplicity has its source in what is not manifold; by the mere fact of being manifold, the thing is not the first principle: We must look to something earlier.

All must be grouped under a unity which, as standing outside of all multiplicity and outside of any ordinary simplicity, is the veritably and essentially simplex.

Still, how can a reason-principle [the intellectual], characteristically a manifold, a total, derive from what is obviously no reason-principle?

But how, failing such origin in the simplex, could we escape [what cannot be accepted] the derivation of a reason-principle from a reason-principle?

And how does the secondarily good [the imaged good] derive from the good, the absolute? What does it hold from the absolute good to entitle it to the name?

Similarity to the prior is not enough, it does not help towards goodness; we demand similarity only to an actually existent good: The goodness must depend on derivation from a prior of such a nature that the similarity is desirable because that prior is good, just as the similarity would be undesirable if the prior were not good.

Does the similarity with the prior consist, then, in a voluntary resting on it?

It is rather that, finding its condition satisfying, it seeks nothing: The similarity depends on the all-sufficiency of what it possesses; its existence is agreeable because all is present to it, and present in such a way as not to be even different from it [intellectual-principle is being].

All life belongs to it, life brilliant and perfect; thus all in it is at once life-principle and intellectual-principle, nothing in it aloof from either life or intellect: It is therefore self-sufficing and seeks nothing: And if it seeks nothing this is because it has in itself what, lacking, it must seek. It has, therefore, its good within itself, either by being of that order—in what we have called its life and intellect—or in some other quality or character going to produce these.

If this [secondary principle] were the good [the absolute], nothing could transcend these things, life and intellect: But, given the existence of something higher, this intellectual- principle must possess a life directed towards that transcendent, dependent on it, deriving its being from it, living towards it as towards its source. The first, then, must transcend this principle of life and intellect which directs thither both the life in itself, a copy of the reality of the first, and the intellect in itself which is again a copy, though of what original there we cannot know.


But what can it be which is loftier than that existence—a life compact of wisdom, untouched by struggle and error, or than this intellect which holds the universe with all there is of life and intellect?

If we answer "the making principle," there comes the question, "making by what virtue?" and unless we can indicate something higher there than in the made, our reasoning has made no advance: We rest where we were.

We must go higher—if it were only for the reason that the maker of all must have a self-sufficing existence outside of all things—since all the rest is patently indigent—and that everything has participated in the One and, as drawing on unity, is itself not unity.

What then is this in which each particular entity participates, the author of being to the universe and to each item of the total?

Since it is the author of all that exists, and since the multiplicity in each thing is converted into a self-sufficing existence by this presence of the One, so that even the particular itself becomes self-sufficing, then clearly this principle, author at once of being and of self-sufficingness, is not itself a being but is above being and above even self-sufficing.

May we stop, content, with that? No: The soul is yet, and even more, in pain. Is she ripe, perhaps, to bring forth, now that in her pangs she has come so close to what she seeks? No: We must call on yet another spell if anywhere the assuagement is to be found. Perhaps in what has already been uttered, there lies the charm if only we tell it over often? No: We need a new, a further, incantation. All our effort may well skim over every truth and through all the verities in which we have part, and yet the reality escape us when we hope to affirm, to understand: For the understanding, in order to its affirmation must possess itself of item after item; only so does it traverse all the field: But how can there be any such peregrination of that in which there is no variety?

All the need is met by a contact purely intellective. At the moment of touch there is no power whatever to make any affirmation; there is no leisure; reasoning on the vision is for afterwards. We may know we have had the vision when the soul has suddenly taken light. This light is from the supreme and is the supreme; we may believe in the presence when, like that other God on the call of a certain man, he comes bringing light: The light is the proof of the advent. Thus, the soul unlit remains without that vision; lit, it possesses what it sought. And this is the true end set before the soul, to take that light, to see the supreme by the supreme and not by the light of any other principle—to see the supreme which is also the means to the vision; for that which illumines the soul is that which it is to see just as it is by the sun's own light that we see the sun.

But how is this to be accomplished?

Cut away everything.

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Fourth tractate: How the secondaries rise from the first: and on the one



Anything existing after the first must necessarily arise from that first, whether immediately or as tracing back to it through intervenients; there must be an order of secondaries and tertiaries, in which any second is to be referred to the first, any third to the second.

Standing before all things, there must exist a simplex, differing from all its sequel, self-gathered not inter-blended with the forms that rise from it, and yet able in some mode of its own to be present to those others: It must be authentically a unity, not merely something elaborated into unity and so in reality no more than unity's counterfeit; it will debar all telling and knowing except that it may be described as transcending being—for if there were nothing outside all alliance and compromise, nothing authentically one, there would be no source. Untouched by multiplicity, it will be wholly self-sufficing, an absolute first, whereas any not-first demands its earlier, and any non-simplex needs the simplicities within itself as the very foundations of its composite existence.

There can be only one such being: If there were another, the two [as indiscernible] would resolve into one, for we are not dealing with two corporal entities.

Our One-first is not a body: A body is not simplex and, as a thing of process cannot be a first, the source cannot be a thing of generation: Only a principle outside of body, and utterly untouched by multiplicity, could be the first.

Any unity, then, later than the first must be no longer simplex; it can be no more than a unity in diversity.

Whence must such a sequent arise?

It must be an offspring of the first; for suppose it the product of chance, that first ceases to be the principle of all.

But how does it arise from the first?

If the first is perfect, utterly perfect above all, and is the beginning of all power, it must be the most powerful of all that is, and all other powers must act in some partial imitation of it. Now other beings, coming to perfection, are observed to generate; they are unable to remain self-closed; they produce: And this is true not merely of beings endowed with will, but of growing things where there is no will; even lifeless objects impart something of themselves, as far as they may; fire warms, snow chills, drugs have their own outgoing efficacy; all things to the utmost of their power imitate the source in some operation tending to eternity and to service.

How then could the most perfect remain self-set—the first good, the power towards all, how could it grudge or be powerless to give of itself, and how at that would it still be the source?

If things other than itself are to exist, things dependent on it for their reality, it must produce since there is no other source. And further this engendering principle must be the very highest in worth; and its immediate offspring, its secondary, must be the best of all that follows.


If the intellectual-principle were the engendering source, then the engendered secondary, while less perfect than the intellectual-principle, would be close to it and similar to it: But since the engendering source is above the intellectual-principle, the secondary can only be that principle.

But why is the intellectual-principle not the generating source?

Because [it is not a self-sufficing simplex]: The act of the intellectual-principle is intellection, which means that, seeing the intellectual object towards which it has turned, it is consummated, so to speak, by that object, being in itself indeterminate like sight [a vague readiness for any and every vision] and determined by the intellectual object. This is why it has been said that "out of the indeterminate dyad and the One arise the ideas and the numbers": For the dyad is the intellectual- principle.

Thus it is not a simplex; it is manifold; it exhibits a certain composite quality—within the intellectual or divine order, of course—as the principle that sees the manifold. It is, further, itself simultaneously object and agent of intellection and is on that count also a duality: And it possesses besides another object of intellection in the Order following on itself.

But how can the intellectual-principle be a product of the intellectual Object?

In this way: The intellectual object is self-gathered [self- compact] and is not deficient as the seeing and knowing principle must be—deficient, mean, as needing an object—it is therefore no unconscious thing: All its content and accompaniment are its possession; it is self-distinguishing throughout; it is the seat of life as of all things; it is, itself, that self-intellection which takes place in eternal repose, that is to say, in a mode other than that of the intellectual- principle.

But if something comes to being within an entity which in no way looks outside itself—and especially within a being which is the sum of being—that entity must be the source of the new thing: Stable in its own identity, it produces; but the product is that of an unchanged being: The producer is unchangeably the intellectual object, the product is produced as the intellectual act, an act taking intellection of its source—the only object that exists for it—and so becoming intellectual-principle, that is to say, becoming another intellectual being, resembling its source, a reproduction and image of that.

But how from amid perfect rest can an act arise?

There is in everything the act of the essence and the act going out from the essence: The first act is the thing itself in its realized identity, the second act is an inevitably following outgo from the first, an emanation distinct from the thing itself.

Thus even in fire there is the warmth comported by its essential nature and there is the warmth going instantaneously outward from that characterizing heat by the fact that the fire, remaining unchangeably fire, utters the act native to its essential reality.

So it is in the divine also: Or rather we have there the earlier form of the double act: The divine remains in its own unchanging being, but from its perfection and from the act included in its nature there emanates the secondary or issuing act which—as the output of a mighty power, the mightiest there is—attains to real being as second to that which stands above all being. That transcendent was the potentiality of the all; this secondary is the all made actual.

And if this is all things, that must be above and outside of all, so, must transcend real being. And again, if that secondary is all things, and if above its multiplicity there is a unity not ranking among those things, once more this unity transcends real being and therefore transcends the intellectual-principle as well. There is thus something transcending intellectual-principle, for we must remember that real being is no corpse, the negation of life and of intellection, but is in fact identical with the intellectual- principle. The intellectual- principle is not something taking cognisance of things as sensation deals with sense objects existing independently of sense: On the contrary, it actually is the things it knows: The ideas constituting them it has not borrowed: Whence could it have taken them? No: It exists here together with the things of the universe, identical with them, making a unity with them; and the collective knowledge [in the divine mind] of the immaterial is the universe of things.

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Fifth tractate: That the intellectual beings are not outside the nature of the intellectual-principle: and on the nature of the good



The intellectual-principle, the veritably and essentially intellective, can this be conceived as ever falling into error, ever failing to think reality?

Assuredly no: It would no longer be intelligent and therefore no longer intellectual-principle: It must know unceasingly—and never forget; and its knowledge can be no guesswork, no hesitating assent, no acceptance of an alien report. Nor can it call on demonstration or, we are told it may at times act by this or, I method, at least there must be something patent to it in virtue of its own nature. In actual fact reason tells us that all its knowledge is thus inherent to it, for there is no means by which to distinguish between the spontaneous knowledge and the other. But, in any case, some knowledge, it is conceded, is inherent to it. Whence are we to understand the certainty of this knowledge to come to it or how do its objects carry the conviction of their reality?

Consider sense-knowledge: Its objects seem most patently certified, yet the doubt returns whether the apparent reality may not lie in the states of the percipient rather than in the material before him; the decision demands intelligence or reasoning. Besides, even granting that what the senses grasp is really contained in the objects, none the less what is thus known by the senses is an image: Sense can never grasp the thing itself; this remains for ever outside.

Now, if the intellectual-principle in its act—that is in knowing the intellectual—is to know these its objects as alien, we have to explain how it makes contact with them: Obviously it might never come on them, and so might never know them; or it might know them only on the meeting: Its knowing, at that, would not be an enduring condition. If we are told that the intellectual-principle and the intellectual Objects are linked in a standing unity, we demand the description of this unity.

Next, the intellections would be impressions, that is to say not native act but violence from without: Now how is such impressing possible and what shape could the impressions bear?

Intellection, again, becomes at this a mere handling of the external, exactly like sense-perception. What then distinguishes it unless that it deals with objects of less extension? And what certitude can it have that its knowledge is true? Or what enables it to pronounce that the object is good, beautiful, or just, when each of these ideas is to stand apart from itself? The very principles of judgement, by which it must be guided, would be [as ideas] excluded: With objects and canons alike outside it, so is truth.

Again; either the objects of the intellectual-principle are senseless and devoid of life and intellect or they are in possession of intellect.

Now, if they are in possession of intellect, that realm is a union of both and is truth. This combined intellectual realm will be the primal intellect: We have only then to examine how this reality, conjoint of intellectual-principle and its object, is to be understood, whether as combining self-united identity with yet duality and difference, or what other relation holds between them.

If on the contrary the objects of intellectual-principle are without intelligence and life, what are they? They cannot be premises, axioms or predicates: As predicates they would not have real existence; they would be affirmations linking separate entities, as when we affirm that justice is good though justice and good are distinct realities.

If we are told that they are self-standing entities—the distinct beings justice and good—then [supposing them to be outside] the intellectual realm will not be a unity nor be included in any unity: All is sundered individuality. Where, then, are they and what spatial distinction keeps them apart? How does the intellectual-principle come to meet with them as it travels round; what keeps each true to its character; what gives them enduring identity; what conceivable shape or character can they have? They are being presented to us as some collection of figures, in gold or some other material substance, the work of some unknown sculptor or graver: But at once the intellectual- principle which contemplates them becomes sense-perception; and there still remains the question how one of them comes to be justice and another something else.

But the great argument is that if we are to allow that these objects of intellection are in the strict sense outside the intellectual-principle, which, therefore, must see them as external, then inevitably it cannot possess the truth of them.

In all it looks on, it sees falsely; for those objects must be the authentic things; yet it looks on them without containing them and in such knowledge holds only their images; that is to say, not containing the authentic, adopting phantasms of the true, it holds the false; it never possesses reality. If it knows that it possesses the false, it must confess itself excluded from the truth; if it fails of this knowledge also, imagining itself to possess the truth which has eluded it, then the doubled falsity puts it the deeper into error.

It is thus, I suppose, that in sense-perception we have belief instead of truth; belief is our lief; we satisfy ourselves with something very different from the original which is the occasion of perception.

In fine, there would be on the hypothesis no truth in the intellectual-principle. But such an intellectual-principle would not be truth, nor truly an intellectual-principle. There would be no intellectual-principle at all [no divine mind]: Yet elsewhere truth cannot be.


Thus we may not look for the intellectual objects [the ideas] outside of the intellectual-principle, treating them as impressions of reality on it: We cannot strip it of truth and so make its objects unknowable and non-existent and in the end annul the intellectual-principle itself. We must provide for knowledge and for truth; we must secure reality; being must become knowable essentially and not merely in that knowledge of quality which could give us a mere image or vestige of the reality in lieu of possession, intimate association, absorption.

The only way to this is to leave nothing out side of the veritable intellectual-principle which thus has knowledge in the true knowing [that of identification with the object], cannot forget, need not go wandering in search. At once truth is there, this is the seat of the authentic existents, it becomes living and intellective: These are the essentials of that most lofty principle; and, failing them, where is its worth, its grandeur?

Only thus [by this inherence of the ideas] is it dispensed from demonstration and from acts of faith in the truth of its knowledge: It is its entire self, self-perspicuous: It knows a prior by recognising its own source; it knows a sequent to that prior by its self-identity; of the reality of this sequent, of the fact that it is present and has authentic existence, no outer entity can bring it surer conviction.

Thus veritable truth is not accordance with an external; it is self-accordance; it affirms and is nothing other than itself and is nothing other; it is at once existence and self-affirmation. What external, then, can call it to the question, and from what source of truth could the refutation be brought? Any counter affirmation [of truth] must fall into identity with the truth which first uttered itself; brought forward as new, it has to appear before the principle which made the earlier statement and to show itself identical with that: For there is no finding anything truer than the true.


Thus we have here one identical principle, the intellect, which is the universe of authentic beings, the truth: As such it is a great god or, better, not a god among gods but the godhead entire. It is a god, a secondary god manifesting before there is any vision of that other, the supreme which rests over all, enthroned in transcendence on that splendid pediment, the nature following close on it.

The supreme in its progress could never be borne forward on some soulless vehicle nor even directly on the soul: It will be heralded by some ineffable beauty: Before the great king in his progress there comes first the minor train, then rank by rank the greater and more exalted, closer to the king the kinglier; next his own honoured company until, last among all these grandeurs, suddenly appears the supreme monarch himself, and all—unless indeed for those who have contented themselves with the spectacle before his coming and gone away—prostrate themselves and hail him.

In that royal progress the king is of another order from those that go before him, but the king in the supreme is no ruler over externs; he holds that most just of governances, rooted in nature, the veritable kingship, for he is king of truth, holding sway by all reason over a dense offspring his own, a host that shares his divinity, king over a king and over kings and even more justly called father of Gods.

[interpolation: Zeus (universal soul) is in this a symbol of him, Zeus who is not content with the contemplation of his father (kronos, divine intellect) but looks to that father's father (to Ouranos, the transcendent) as what may be called the divine energy working to the establishment of a real being.]


We have said that all must be brought back to a unity: This must be an authentic unity, not belonging to the order in which multiplicity is unified by participation in what is truly a One; we need a unity independent of participation, not a combination in which multiplicity holds an equal place: We have exhibited, also, the intellectual realm and the intellectual-principle as more closely a unity than the rest of things, so that there is nothing closer to the One. Yet even this is not the purely One.

This purely One, essentially a unity untouched by the multiple, this we now desire to penetrate if in any way we may.

Only by a leap can we reach to this One which is to be pure of all else, halting sharp in fear of slipping ever so little aside and impinging on the dual: For if we fail of the centre, we are in a duality which does not even include the authentic One but belongs on both sides, to the later order. The One does not bear to be numbered in with anything else, with a one or a two or any such quantity; it refuses to take number because it is measure and not the measured; it is no peer of other entities to be found among them; for thus, it and they alike would be included in some container and this would be its prior, the prior it cannot have. Not even essential [ideal or abstract] number can belong to the One and certainly not the still later number applying to quantities; for essential number first appears as providing duration to the divine intellection, while quantitative number is that [still later and lower] which furnishes the Quantity found in conjunction with other things or which provides for Quantity independent of things, if this is to be thought of as number at all. The principle which in objects having quantitative number looks to the unity from which they spring is a copy [or lower phase] of the principle which in the earlier order of number [in essential or ideal number] looks to the veritable One; and it attains its existence without in the least degree dissipating or shattering that prior unity: The dyad has come into being, but the precedent monad still stands; and this monad is quite distinct within the dyad from either of the two constituent unities, since there is nothing to make it one rather than the other: Being neither, but simply that thing apart, it is present without being inherent.

But how are the two unities distinct and how is the dyad a unity, and is this unity the same as the unity by which each of the constituents is one thing?

Our answer must be that the unity is that of a participation in the primal unity with the participants remaining distinct from that in which they partake; the dyad, in so far as it is one thing, has this participation, but in a certain degree only; the unity of an army is not that of a single building; the dyad, as a thing of extension, is not strictly a unit either quantitatively or in manner of being.

Are we then to take it that the monads in the pentad and decad differ while the unity in the pentad is the same as that in the decad?

Yes, in the sense in which, big and little, ship is one with ship, army with army, city with city; otherwise, no. But certain difficulties in this matter will be dealt with later.


We return to our statement that the first remains intact even when other entities spring from it.

In the case of numbers, the unit remains intact while something else produces, and thus number arises in dependence on the unit: Much more then does the unit, the One, remain intact in the principle which is before all beings; especially since the entities produced in its likeness, while it thus remains intact, owe their existence to no other, but to its own all-sufficient power.

And just as there is, primarily or secondarily, some form or idea from the monad in each of the successive numbers—the later still participating, though unequally, in the unit—so the series of beings following on the first bear, each, some form or idea derived from that source. In number the participation establishes Quantity; in the realm of being, the trace of the One establishes reality: Existence is a trace of the One—our word for entity may probably be connected with that for unity.

What we know as being, the first sequent on the One, advanced a little outward, so to speak, then chose to go no further, turned inward again and comes to rest and is now the reality and hearth [ousia and hestia] of the universe. Pressing [with the rough breathing] on the word for being [on] we have the word "hen" [one], an indication that in our very form of speech we tell, as far as may be, that being [the weaker] is that which proceeds from [the stronger] the One. Thus both the thing that comes to be and being itself are carriers of a copy, since they are outflows from the power of the primal One: This power sees and in its emotion tries to represent what it sees and breaks into speech "On"; "einai"; "ousia," "hestia" [existent: Existence: Essence: Hestia or hearth], sounds which labour to express the essential nature of the universe produced by the travail of the utterer and so to represent, as far as sounds may, the origin of reality.


All this, however, we may leave to individual judgement: To proceed:

This produced reality is an ideal form—for certainly nothing springing from the supreme can be less—and it is not a particular form but the form of all, beside which there is no other; it follows that the first must be without form, and, if without form, then it is no being; being must have some definition and therefore be limited; but the first cannot be thought of as having definition and limit, for thus it would be not the source but the particular item indicated by the definition assigned to it. If all things belong to the produced, which of them can be thought of as the supreme? Not included among them, this can be described only as transcending them: But they are being and the beings; it therefore transcends being.

Note that the phrase transcending being assigns no character, makes no assertion, allots no name, carries only the denial of particular being; and in this there is no attempt to circumscribe it: To seek to throw a line about that illimitable nature would be folly, and anyone thinking to do so cuts himself off from any slightest and most momentary approach to its least vestige.

As one wishing to contemplate the intellectual nature will lay aside all the representations of sense and so may see what transcends the sense-realm, in the same way one wishing to contemplate what transcends the intellectual attains by putting away all that is of the intellect, taught by the intellect, no doubt, that the transcendent exists but never seeking to define it.

Its definition, in fact, could be only "the indefinable": What is not a thing is not some definite thing. We are in agony for a true expression; we are talking of the untellable; we name, only to indicate for our own use as best we may. And this name, the One, contains really no more than the negation of plurality: Under the same pressure the pythagoreans found their indication in the symbol "apollo" [a= not; pollon= of many] with its repudiation of the multiple. If we are led to think positively of the One, name and thing, there would be more truth in silence: The designation, a mere aid to enquiry, was never intended for more than a preliminary affirmation of absolute simplicity to be followed by the rejection of even that statement: It was the best that offered, but remains inadequate to express the nature indicated. For this is a principle not to be conveyed by any sound; it cannot be known on any hearing but, if at all, by vision; and to hope in that vision to see a form is to fail of even that.


Consider the act of ocular vision:

There are two elements here; there is the form perceptible to the sense and there is the medium by which the eye sees that form. This medium is itself perceptible to the eye, distinct from the form to be seen, but the cause of the seeing; it is perceived at the one stroke in that form and on it and, hence, is not distinguished from it, the eye being held entirely by the illuminated object. When on the contrary this medium presents itself alone it is seen directly—though even then actual sight demands some solid base; there must be something besides the medium which, unless embracing some object, eludes perception; thus the light inherent to the sun would not be perceived but for the solidity of the mass. If it is objected that the sun is light entire, this would only be a proof of our assertion: No other visible form will contain light which must, then, have no other property than that of visibility, and in fact all other visible objects are something more than light alone.

So it is with the act of vision in the intellectual principle.

This vision sees, by another light, the objects illuminated by the first principle: Setting itself among them, it sees veritably; declining towards the lower nature, that on which the light from above rests, it has less of that vision. Passing over the visible and looking to the medium by which it sees, then it holds the light and the source of light.

But since the intellectual-principle is not to see this light as something external we return to our analogy; the eye is not wholly dependent on an outside and alien light; there is an earlier light within itself, a more brilliant, which it sees sometimes in a momentary flash. At night in the darkness a gleam leaps from within the eye: Or again we make no effort to see anything; the eyelids close; yet a light flashes before us; or we rub the eye and it sees the light it contains. This is sight without the act, but it is the truest seeing, for it sees light whereas its other objects were the lit not the light.

It is certainly thus that the intellectual-principle, hiding itself from all the outer, withdrawing to the inmost, seeing nothing, must have its vision—not of some other light in some other thing but of the light within itself, unmingled, pure, suddenly gleaming before it;


So that we are left wondering whence it came, from within or without; and when it has gone, we say, "it was here. Yet no; it was beyond!" but we ought not to question whence; there is no whence, no coming or going in place; now it is seen and now not seen. We must not run after it, but fit ourselves for the vision and then wait tranquilly for its appearance, as the eye waits on the rising of the sun, which in its own time appears above the horizon—out of the ocean, as the poets say—and gives itself to our sight.

This principle, of which the sun is an image, where has it its dawning, what horizon does it surmount to appear?

It stands immediately above the contemplating intellect which has held itself at rest towards the vision, looking to nothing else than the good and beautiful, setting its entire being to that in a perfect surrender, and now tranquilly filled with power and taking a new beauty to itself, gleaming in the light of that presence.

This advent, still, is not by expectation: It is a coming without approach; the vision is not of something that must enter but of something present before all else, before the intellect itself made any movement. Yet it is the intellect that must move, to come and to go—going because it has not known where it should stay and where that presence stays, the nowhere contained.

And if the intellect, too, could hold itself in that nowhere—not that it is ever in place; it too is uncontained, utterly unplaced—it would remain for ever in the vision of its prior, or, indeed, not in vision but in identity, all duality annulled. But it is intellect [having a sphere of its own] and, when it is to see, it must see by that in it which is not intellect [by its divinest power].

No doubt it is wonderful that the first should thus be present without any coming, and that, while it is nowhere, nowhere is it not; but wonderful though this be in itself, the contrary would be more wonderful to those who know. Of course neither this contrary nor the wonder at it can be entertained. But we must explain:


Everything brought into being under some principle not itself is contained either within its maker or, if there is any intermediate, within that: Having a prior essential to its being, it needs that prior always, otherwise it would not be contained at all. It is the order of nature: The last in the immediately preceding lasts, things of the order of the firsts within their prior- firsts, and so thing within thing up to the very pinnacle of source.

That source, having no prior, cannot be contained: Uncontained by any of those other forms of being, each held within the series of priors, it is orbed round all, but so as not to be pointed off to hold them part for part; it possesses but is not possessed. Holding all—though itself nowhere held—it is omnipresent, for where its presence failed something would elude its hold. At the same time, in the sense that it is nowhere held, it is not present: Thus it is both present and not present; not present as not being circumscribed by anything; yet, as being utterly unattached, not inhibited from presence at any point. That inhibition would mean that the first was determined by some other being; the later series, then, would be without part in the supreme; God has his limit and is no longer self-governed but mastered by inferiors.

While the contained must be where its container is, what is uncontained by place is not debarred from any: For, imagine a place where it is not and evidently some other place retains it; at once it is contained and there is an end of its placelessness.

But if the "nowhere" is to stand and the ascription of a "where," implying station in the extern, is to fall, then nothing can be left void; and at once—nothing void, yet no point containing—God is sovereignly present through all. We cannot think of something of God here and something else there, nor of all God gathered at some one spot: There is an instantaneous presence everywhere, nothing containing and nothing left void, everything therefore fully held by the divine.

Consider our universe. There is none before it and therefore it is not, itself, in a universe or in any place—what place was there before the universe came to be?—its linked members form and occupy the whole. But soul is not in the universe, on the contrary the universe is in the soul; bodily substance is not a place to the soul; soul is contained in intellectual-principle and is the container of body. The intellectual-principle in turn is contained in something else; but that prior principle has nothing in which to be: The first is therefore in nothing, and, therefore, nowhere. But all the rest must be somewhere; and where but in the first?

This can mean only that the first is neither remote from things nor directly within them; there is nothing containing it; it contains all. It is the good to the universe if only in this way, that towards it all things have their being, all dependent on it, each in its mode, so that thing rises above thing in goodness according to its fuller possession of authentic being.


Still, do not, I urge you, look for the good through any of these other things; if you do, you will see not itself but its trace: You must form the idea of that which is to be grasped cleanly standing to itself not in any combination, the unheld in which all have hold: For no other is such, yet one such there must be.

Now it is clear that we cannot possess ourselves of the power of this principle in its concentrated fulness: So to do one must be identical with it: But some partial attainment is within our reach.

You who make the venture will throw forward all your being but you will never tell it entire—for that, you must yourself be the divine intellect in act—and at your utmost success it will still pass from you or, rather, you from it. In ordinary vision you may think to see the object entire: In this intellective act, all, less or more, that you can take to mind you may set down as the good.

It is the good since, being a power [being effective outwardly], it is the cause of the intelligent and intellective life as of life and intellect: For these grow from it as from the source of essence and of existence, the source as being One, simplex and first because before it was nothing. All derives from this: It is the origin of the primal movement which it does not possess and of the repose which is but its absence of need; for neither rest nor movement can belong to that which has no place in which either could occur; centre, object, ground, all are alike unknown to it, for it is before all. Yet its being is not limited; what is there to set bounds to it? Nor, on the other hand, is it infinite in the sense of magnitude; what place can there be to which it must extend, or why should there be movement where there is no lacking? All its infinitude resides in its power: It does not change and will not fail; and in it all that is unfailing finds duration.


It is infinite also by right of being a pure unity with nothing towards which to direct any partial content. Absolutely One, it has never known measure and stands outside of number, and so is under no limit either in regard to any extern or within itself; for any such determination would bring something of the dual into it. And having no constituent parts it accepts no pattern, forms no shape.

Reason recognising it as such a nature, you may not hope to see it with mortal eyes, nor in any way that would be imagined by those who make sense the test of reality and so annul the supremely real. For what passes for the most truly existent is most truly non-existent—the thing of extension least real of all—while this unseen first is the source and principle of being and sovereign over reality.

You must turn appearances about or you will be left void of God. You will be like those at the festivals who in their gluttony cram themselves with things which none going to the gods may touch; they hold these goods to be more real than the vision of the god who is to be honoured and they go away having had no share in the sanctities of the shrine.

In these celebrations of which we speak, the unseen god leaves those in doubt of his existence who think nothing patent but what may be known to the flesh: It happens as if a man slept a life through and took the dream world in perfect trust; wake him, and he would refuse belief to the report of his open eyes and settle down to sleep again.


Knowing demands the organ fitted to the object; eyes for one kind, ears for another: Similarly some things, we must believe, are to be known by the intellectual-principle in us. We must not confuse intellection with hearing or seeing; this would be trying to look with the ears or denying sound because it is not seen. Certain people, we must keep in mind, have forgotten that to which, from the beginning onwards, their longing and effort are pointed: For all that exists desires and aspires towards the supreme by a compulsion of nature, as if all had received the oracle that without it they cannot be.

The perception of beauty and the awe and the stirring of passion towards it are for those already in some degree knowing and awakened: But the good, as possessed long since and setting up a natural tendency, is inherently present to even those asleep and brings them no wonder when some day they see it, since it is no occasional reminiscence but is always with them though in their drowse they are not aware of it: The love of beauty on the contrary sets up pain when it appears, for those that have seen it must pursue. This love of beauty then is later than the love of good and comes with a more sophisticated understanding; hence we know that beauty is a secondary: The more primal appetition, not patent to sense, our movement towards our good, gives witness that the good is the earlier, the prior.

Again; all that have possessed themselves of the good feel it sufficient: They have attained the end: But beauty not all have known and those that have judge it to exist for itself and not for them, as in the charm of this world the beauty belongs only to its possessor.

Then, too, it is thought enough to appear loveable whether one is so or not: But no one wants his good in semblance only. All are seeking the first as something ranking before aught else, but they struggle venomously for beauty as something secondary like themselves: Thus some minor personage may perhaps challenge equal honour with the king's right-hand man on pretext of similar dependence, forgetting that, while both owe their standing to the monarch, the other holds the higher rank.

The source of the error is that while both the good and the beautiful participate in the common source, the One precedes both; and that, in the supreme also, the good has no need of the beautiful, while the beautiful does need the good.

The good is gentle and friendly and tender, and we have it present when we but will. Beauty is all violence and stupefaction; its pleasure is spoiled with pain, and it even draws the thoughtless away from the good as some attraction will lure the child from the father's side: These things tell of youth. The good is the older—not in time but by degree of reality—and it has the higher and earlier power, all power in fact, for the sequent holds only a power subordinate and delegated of which the prior remains sovereign.

Not that God has any need of his derivatives: He ignores all that produced realm, never necessary to him, and remains identically what he was before he brought it into being. So too, had the secondary never existed, he would have been unconcerned, exactly as he would not have grudged existence to any other universe that might spring into being from him, were any such possible; of course no other such could be since there is nothing that has not existence once the all exists.

But God never was the all; that would make him dependent on the universe: Transcending all, he was able at once to make all things and to leave them to their own being, he above.


The supreme, as the absolute good and not merely a good being or thing, can contain nothing, since there is nothing that could be its good.

Anything it could contain must be either good to it or not good; but in the supremely and primally good there can be nothing not good; nor can the absolute good be a container to the good: Containing, then, neither the good nor the not good it contains nothing and, containing nothing, it is alone: It is void of all but itself.

If the rest of being either is good—without being the absolute good—or is not good, while on the other hand the supreme contains neither what is good nor what is not good, then, containing nothing, it is the good by that very absence of content.

Thus we rob it of its very being as the absolute good if we ascribe anything to it, existence or intellect or goodness. The only way is to make every denial and no assertion, to feign no quality or content there but to permit only the "it is" in which we pretend to no affirmation of non-existent attribute: There is an ignorant praise which, missing the true description, drags in qualities beneath the real worth and so abases; philosophy must guard against attaching to the supreme what is later and lower: Moving above all that order, it is the cause and source of all these, and is none of them.

For, once more, the nature of the good is not such as to make it all things or a thing among all: That would range it under the same classification with them all and it would differ, thus, only by its individual quality, some specialty, some addition. At once it becomes not a unity but a duality; there is one common element not good and another element that is good; but a combination so made up of good and not good cannot be the purely good, the primarily good; the primarily good must be that principle in which the better element has more effectively participated and so attained its goodness. Any good thing has become so by communion; but that in which it has communion is not a thing among the things of the all; therefore the good is not a thing of the all.

Since there is this good in any good thing—the specific difference by which the combination becomes good—it must enter from elsewhere than the world of things: That source must be a good absolute and isolated.

Thus is revealed to us the primarily existent, the good, above all that has being, good unalloyed, containing nothing in itself, utterly unmingling, all-transcending, cause of all.

Certainly neither being nor beauty springs from evil or from the neutral; the maker, as the more consummate, must surpass the made.

Enneads of Plotinus, END MATTER

Enneads of Plotinus, LITERATURE  


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