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Plotinus - The Enneads

Damiani (Enneads:726-730) – Soul

Appendix I

quinta-feira 14 de setembro de 2023, por Cardoso de Castro


Soul as a continuous essence can be pictured as a ring passing through the four levels of substantial intelligence represented by the four quadrants.

Our venerable friend and guide reveals that he has penetrated into the mysteries of soul, its greatness and wonder, its graded powers and divinity. This is not a knowledge by acquaintance—the intellect’s capacity for remembering created concepts—but a knowledge that goes beyond the imagination’s formulation of thoughts, beyond even the categories of thought. For the capacity of the lower mind   to formulate thoughts and concepts is objective to the experience of the sage. We are now speaking of the sage’s intimacy with the innermost recesses of his being...
The grandeur and sublimity of this principle [Soul] cannot be retold but must be experienced ... Nor can the reading of mystical literature be accepted as a substitute for such inner experience ... This unobjectifiable and immaterial principle, which is illuminating the ego’s functioning, is to be differentiated from it and isolated in the meditational practices.... What is required is an intimacy and a recognition of this pure principle as our “Isness. ”

When Plotinus   considers Soul as inseparable from the One and the Intellectual-Principle, he does so in order to emphasize its transcendence and inconceivability—a mysterious Void. But looked at as a distinct essence, Soul is living intelligence, the outgoing activity of the Supreme, and our inner divinity.

... Soul does not take its essence from its ultimates [i.e., its lowest reaches] or from its parts, but from the Primals; it has its source in the First and thence, along an unhindered path, it flows into a total of things, conferring grace ... (IV.4.10)

Because of its scope and diversity of activity, Soul is in some sense   the most complex of the primals. A brief outline will help to reveal the hierarchy implicit in Plotinus’ exposition of Soul. This overview will organize our understanding of the many meanings of the term Soul as used in the Enneads, so that we may place individual passages in a proper context.

Soul is a single essence with distinct aspects: it flows from the infinite nature of the One, through Absolute Soul, Universal   Soul, Cosmic and human individual souls.

A single Existent, it makes itself many by what we may call its motion: it is one entire, but by its striving, so to speak, to contemplate itself, it is a plurality; for we may imagine that it cannot bear to be a single Existent, when it has the power to be all that it in fact is. The cause of its appearing as many is this contemplation, and its purpose is the Act of the Intellect... (VI.2.6)

Soul as a continuous essence can be pictured as a ring passing through the four levels of substantial intelligence represented by the four quadrants.

At the highest level we must understand Soul as an indivisible   aspect of the One itself. Here the formless form of the unsullied Life [the unity of Soul] may be recognized as the transcendent paradigm or immaculate version of this principle from which flows a whole hierarchy.

From the One’s perfection there radiates the life of the Intellectual-Principle, Absolute Soul, which is the recipient of all the Ideas. Just as the life of the Intellectual-Principle is determined by all the Ideas, so reciprocally are all the Ideas made living and permanent possibilities or presences within the Intellectual by Soul.

And before the particular Soul there is another Soul, a universal, and, before that, an Absolute-Soul, which is the Life existing in the Intellectual-Principle before Soul came to be and therefore rightly called (as the Life in the Divine) the Absolute-Soul, (V.9.14)

Considered most precisely as the Intellect of the Soul  , Absolute Soul is an eternal Presence, totally and unextendedly present in the Now  : “Life—instantaneously entire” (III.7.3), Soul as passive perfection. It does not descend, for as descending it would annul its own Perfection. Yet the super-abundance of Soul gives of itself ceaselessly; it is the “entire stream of life sent forth by that Principle.” (V.1.3)

The primal   phase of the Soul—inhabitant of the Supreme and, by its participation in the Supreme, filled and illuminated—remains unchangeably There; but in virtue of that first participation ... a secondary phase ... goes forth ceaselessly as Life streaming from Life— But, travel as far as it may, it never draws that first part of itself from the place whence the outgoing began ... (III.8.5)

The next hierarchical level of Soul... is the Soul of the Universe [Universal Soul] or the Demiurge: Zeus  .

But Zeus—ordering all, governor, guardian, and disposer, possessor for ever of the ‘kingly soul’ and the ‘kingly intellect’, bringing all into being by his providence, and presiding over things as they come... unfolding the periods of the Cosmos ... Zeus knows his own unlimited life, and, in that knowledge, knows the activity that flows from him to the Cosmos; but he knows it in its unity not in its process. (IV.4.9)

The ordering principle is twofold; there is the principle known to us as the Demiurge and there is the Soul of the All [Universal Manifestation]; we apply the appellation Zeus sometimes to the Demiurge and sometimes to the principle conducting the universe, (IV.4.10)

Here Soul is the principle of Universal manifestation and it is referred to as twofold: on the one hand, eternally contemplating the Ideas or the wisdom of God  , a timeless and abiding wisdom, and on the other hand organizing the past traces of universal manifestation into a basic or primitive plan of the universe to be [which Plotinus calls the Reason-Principle of the Universe (cf. III.3.3 and III.2.16)]. This vast and cosmic sweep of its intellectual fabrication is referred to as the “tentative illumining of Matter.” (VI.7.7)

Finally we come to individual souls, and in this category are included cosmic, planetary, and human souls. Although Plotinus distinguishes different kinds of soul by their power, wisdom, and relation to the manifest universe, he points out that all souls have their source in and are direct emanations of the Divine Mind.

In the Intellectual Cosmos dwells Authentic Essence, with the Intellectual-Principle (Divine Mind) as the noblest of its content, but containing also souls, since every soul in this lower sphere has come thence.... Soul, there without distinction and partition, has yet a nature lending itself to divisional existence ... (IV.1.1)

Here, Soul or Mind is included in an undifferentiated unity and ... has a tendency or desire towards secession. We may also rephrase this in accordance with his previous statements that what is authentically real has an outwardly facing hypostasis   [and that] what is perfect engenders and the eternally perfect engenders eternally. We may take this to mean that Absolute Soul eternally engenders souls. Each and every soul, offspring of the Absolute Soul, is similar to but not identical with its prior.

Thus the gist of the matter is established: one soul the source of all; the many founded in that one, on the analogy of the Intellectual-Principle; those many are at once divided and undivided; that Soul which abides in the Supreme is the one expression or Logos   of the Intellectual-Principle, and from it spring other Reason-Principles, partial but immaterial... (IV.3.5)

It is this emanation, this thought of the Mind of God—our Absolute Self— that must be investigated, for this is the key to the mysteries. This unit of Being-Life-Consciousness   goes forth, “formed from the undivided essence and the essence divided among bodies.” (IV.1.1) We may refer to this... as the individual soul or mind ... our absolute individuality... [Continuing in IV.1.1:]

... this description of Soul must therefore mean that it has phases above and below, that it is attached to the Supreme and yet reaches down to this sphere, like a radius from a centre.
Thus it is that, entering this realm, it possesses still the vision inherent to that superior phase in virtue of which it unchangingly maintains its integral nature. Even here it is not exclusively the partible soul: it is still the impartible as well  : what in it knows partition is parted without partibility... (IV.1.1)

Regardless with what it is occupied, with the idea   of the universe or a body within it, soul gives itself to either or both “without abdicating its unity.” (IV.2.1) In other words, its omnipresence does not fragment its identity, for it is at once both divisible and indivisible.

... its divisibility lies in its presence at every point of the recipient, but it is indivisible as dwelling entire in the total and entire in any part.
To have penetrated this idea is to know the greatness of the Soul and its power, the divinity and wonder of its being, as a nature transcending the sphere of Things. (IV.2.1)

The recitation of these words is not a guarantee that the meaning accompanies their repetition. Plotinus is referring here to the mystical experience of this illuminating principle as egoless Being-Consciousness ... both a one or unity and “multi-present” in its graded powers.

There is, therefore, no escape: soul is, in the degree indicated, one and many, parted and impartible. We cannot question the possibility of a thing being at once a unity and multi-present, since to deny this would be to abolish the principle which sustains and administers the universe... (IV.2.2)

This conception of Soul or mind maybe likened to a transparent crystalline sphere of life-radiating consciousness, which is a reflex or emanation from the Absolute Soul. The individual souls are associated with the light   of the Cosmic Soul, and in this undivided awareness the souls hold together, not separated by any boundaries, and indifferently referred to as one or many.

... each separate life lives by the Soul entire, omnipresent in the likeness of the engendering father  , entire in unity and entire in diffused variety, (V.1.2)

Plotinus describes each individual soul as omnipresent, indivisible in its unity; as indivisible, it manifests the entire heavenly system as a unit within itself. If this point is not seized, any interpretation of his epistemology will go astray. The life of each unit soul is the medium   in which this reality [the Ideas] is being manifested. [This point will be developed in the Nature section.]

It is this unit soul, the God within us, that maybe referred to as our soul, our ultimate individuality and the true knower. It is man made in the image of God. ... this formless and infinite consciousness of the unit soul gets contracted and starts on a journey of self-realization. This contracted consciousness may be referred to as an impersonal or witnessing consciousness, and is associated with the planetary mind from which it receives the image of the World-Idea.

... we are not to think of it as going forth from itself (losing its unity by any partition): the fact is simply that the element within it, [soul] which is apt to entrance into body, has the power of immediate projection any whither ... (IV.3.8)

Soul or mind is “reduced” and will ultimately become identified with bodily vehicles that are being fabricated for its use in order to experience the sensible [world], i.e., complete its contemplation.

Soul is living consciousness: simultaneously transcendent and immanent as our very awareness. Based on this distinction of formless infinite consciousness and embodying consciousness, each individual unit of life has potentially two kinds of knowledge: insight   and understanding.

For Plotinus, the unit soul or mind is a double knower—that is, it has self-cognition  , undifferentiated being-consciousness [insight], which includes cognition of its source or origin. The lower knower or secondary phase—that is, the faculty of understanding and reasoning—will evolve by its journey through the cosmic circuit which is providing the circumstances, situations, and events that educe its potential and make it actual through experience.

Ver online : Anthony Damiani