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ENÉADAS

Plotino - Tratado 33,9 (II, 9, 9) — Contra a arrogância dos gnósticos que se creem superiores e privilegiados

Enéada II, 9, 9

domingo 19 de junho de 2022, por Cardoso de Castro

Capítulo 9: Contra a arrogância dos gnósticos que se creem superiores e privilegiados.

  • 1-26. Não é preciso se ofuscar dos males e das injustiças daqui de baixo.
  • 26-64. Não é preciso se crer o melhor, pois as realidades e divindades nos superam.
  • 64-75. Todo os homens têm necessidade da providência divina.
  • 75-83. Um grande número de seres aspiram ao inteligível e o alcançam.

Míguez

9. Si la riqueza, la pobreza y todas las desigualdades de este tipo son motivo de censura, es porque se desconoce ante todo que el hombre virtuoso no busca la igualdad en tales asuntos, ni piensa que las gentes ricas puedan tener alguna superioridad sobre los simples particulares, sino que da por bueno que los demás disfruten de tal inclinación. Este hombre comprende perfectamente que existan dos clases de vida, una la de los hombres virtuosos, y otra la de la mayoría de los hombres; la de los hombres virtuosos está dirigida a lo más alto, la de los hombres terrestres resulta ser de dos especies: una de ellas manifiesta su recuerdo de la virtud y participa de algún modo en el bien; otra, la de la masa despreciable, se muestra muy clara en el ejemplo de los artesanos, cuya vida se hace necesaria para los hombres virtuosos. Sí un hombre puede convertirse en homicida y otro, por su misma impotencia, puede llegar a ser vencido por los placeres, ¿qué de admirable encontraremos en estas faltas, que no han de atribuirse a la inteligencia sino a unas almas de lo más infantiles? Si se produce una lucha con vencedores y vencidos, ¿cómo no va a estar bien así? Si un hombre comete injusticia con vosotros, ¿qué perjuicio puede derivarse para la parte inmortal? Y si otro realiza un homicidio, ¿no es eso precisamente lo que queréis? He aquí que si acumuláis censuras, no deberíais permanecer necesariamente como ciudadanos de este mundo.

Si, por otra parte, se reconoce que hay aquí justicia y castigo, ¿cómo formular justos reproches a una ciudad que otorga a cada uno lo que merece? Es claro que aquí no se condena la virtud y, por otra parte, el vicio es despreciado convenientemente. No solamente contemplamos imágenes de los dioses, sino que ellos mismos mantienen vigilancia desde lo alto y, según se dice, serán fácilmente absueltos por los hombres; no en vano llevan todas las cosas en orden desde el principio al fin y dan a cada uno, en la alternativa de sus vidas, el destino que realmente le conviene, consecuencia lógica de sus vidas anteriores. El que esto desconoce formula juicios precipitados sobre las cosas y se muestra muy rudo en lo que atañe a los dioses.

Claro que resulta necesario llegar a convertirse en el mejor posible. Pero, ¿hemos de pensar que nos encontramos solos para alcanzar esta perfección? Con tal pensamiento nada de ello conseguiríamos; pues hay otros hombres que son perfectos, lo mismo que hay demonios entre, los buenos, e incluso más, dioses que habitan en este mundo y que contemplan el mundo inteligible; por encima de todos encontramos al jefe del universo, el alma verdaderamente feliz. Después de ésta, nuestro himno se dirigirá a los dioses inteligibles y, por encima de ellos, al que se aparece como el gran rey de los seres inteligibles, testimonio de su misma grandeza por la pluralidad de los dioses. Porque no reducir la divinidad a un solo dios y mostrarla, en cambio, multiplicada, como ella misma se manifiesta, esto es conocer el poder de Dios que, cuando permanece tal cual es, produce en verdad todos esos dioses que dependen de él, existen por él y provienen de él.

Este mundo sensible también existe por él y mira hacia él, e igualmente todos los dioses, cada uno de los cuales profetiza a los hombres y manifiesta cual un oráculo todo lo que es querido de aquellos. Resulta completamente natural, sin embargo, que no sean el mismo Dios; pero, si queréis despreciarlos y envaneceros de que no sois inferiores, os diré en primer lugar que, cuanto mas superior se es, mejor disposición se muestra hacia todas las cosas y hacia los hombres. Así, pues, conviene que nos mostremos mesurados, sin manifestar aspereza alguna ni elevamos más allá de lo que nuestra naturaleza nos permite; hemos de pensar que hay lugar para otros al lado de Dios y que no debemos encontrarnos solos con él, como si volásemos en sueños, privándonos de convertirnos en un dios en la medida que ello es posible al alma humana. Cosa realmente posible para ella en tanto la conduzca la inteligencia; porque el hecho de sobrepasar la inteligencia es ya alejarse de ella. Los hombres insensatos se dejan convencer en seguida, al escuchar palabras como éstas: "Serás superior a todos, no sólo a los hombres sino también a los dioses". Muy grande es, pues, la presunción de los hombres, ya se trate de seres insignificantes, mesurados o de simples particulares, cuando oyen que se les dice: "Eres hijo de Dios, y los demás, a los que tú admirabas, no son hijos de Dios, ni siquiera los astros a los que honramos por tradición; tú solo, sin realizar esfuerzo alguno, Y eres incluso superior al cielo". Los demás le alabarán a coro, cual si se tratase de un hombre que no sabiendo contar y encontrándose entre hombres como él oyese que tenía mil codos. ¿No creería este hombre, en efecto, que tiene mil codos? Si oyese que los demás tienen cinco codos, es claro que sólo se imaginaría el número mil como un número muy grande.

Si Dios provee todas estas cosas, ¿por qué iba a descuidar el conjunto del mundo en el cual os encontráis? Aduciréis que no dispone de tiempo libre para contemplarlo y que no le está permitido mirar hacia abajo; pero, ¿por qué al mirar hacia vosotros no mira fuera de sí y lo hace en cambio al mirar al mundo en que vosotros estáis? Parece evidente que si no mira fuera de sí para atender al cuidado del mundo, tampoco mirará por vosotros. ¿Es que los hombres no tienen necesidad de él? Pero el mundo sí que le necesita y conoce de este modo su propio orden; e igualmente, cuantos viven en él conocen para qué se encuentran en este mundo y en el mundo inteligible. También los hombres que son amados por Dios sobrellevan tranquilamente cuanto resulta de los movimientos del universo; consideran, en este sentido, no lo que es grato a cada uno, sino lo que conviene al conjunto del universo, honrando así a cada cual en razón de su mérito y buscando siempre lo que, en la medida de lo posible, buscan todos los seres — muchos son, desde luego, los seres que tienden a este fin, y de ellos se tornan felices quienes lo alcanzan, en tanto los demás tienen el destino que más les conviene — , sin concederse a sí mismos el poder que necesitan.

Declarar que se posee un bien, no significa que se le posea; muchos incluso, a sabiendas de que no lo poseen, dicen que lo poseen y se hacen a esa ilusión, como si ellos solos fuesen los únicos en poseerlo, cosa que no ocurre así.

Bouillet

[9] On se plaint de la pauvreté et de l’inégale répartition des richesses entre les hommes : c’est qu’on ignore que le sage ne souhaite pas l’égalité dans de telles choses, qu’ il ne croit pas que le riche ait l’avantage sur le pauvre, le prince sur le sujet (86). Il laisse ces opinions au vulgaire, et sait qu’il y a deux espèces de vie : celle des gens vertueux, qui s’élèvent au degré suprême [de la perfection] et au monde intelligible ; et celle des hommes vulgaires et terrestres, qui elle-même est double : car tantôt ils songent à la vertu et participent quelque peu au bien, tantôt ils ne forment qu’une foule vile, et ne sont que des machines, destinées à satisfaire les premiers besoins des gens vertueux (87) . Si un homme commet un homicide, s’il a la faiblesse de s’abandonner aux voluptés, ne nous étonnons pas de voir tomber ainsi en faute, non des intelligences, mais des âmes qui se conduisent comme des jeunes gens inexpérimentés. Cette vie, dit-on, est une lutte (88) où l’on est vainqueur ou vaincu. N’est-elle pas par cela même bien ordonnée? On te fait tort ? Que t’importe puisque tu es immortel.. On te met à mort? Tu as le sort que tu désires. Crois-tu avoir lieu de te plaindre de cette cité ? Rien ne t’oblige à y rester (89). II y a d’ailleurs évidemment ici-bas des peines et des récompenses. Quel motif donc a-t-on de se plaindre d’une cité où s’exerce ainsi la justice distributive, où la vertu est honorée, où le vice reçoit le châtiment qu’il mérite (90) ?

Non seulement il y a ici-bas des statues des dieux (91), mais les dieux eux-mêmes abaissent leurs regards sur nous ; ils n’encourent de notre part aucun reproche mérité, comme on le reconnaît; ils conduisent tout avec ordre du commencement à la fin ; ils donnent à chacun le sort qui lui convient et qui est en harmonie avec ses antécédents dans ses existences successives (κατὰ ἀμοιβὰς βίων) (92). Tout homme qui ne le sait pas est dans l’ignorance la plus grossière des choses divines. Efforce-toi de devenir aussi ben que possible, mais ne t’imagine pas que tu en es seul capable (93) ; car alors tu ne serais plus bon, Il y a aussi d’autres hommes [que toi] qui sont bons ; il y a des démons qui sont excellents ; bien plus, il y a des dieux qui, tout en habitant cet univers, contemplent le monde intelligible (94), et sont encore meilleurs que les démons. enfin, il y a au–dessus de tout l’Âme bienheureuse qui gouverne l’univers. Honore donc les dieux intelligibles, et par-dessus tout le grand roi du monde intelligible (95), dont nous voyons la grandeur se manifester surtout dans la multitude des dieux,
Ce n’est pas en ramenant toutes choses l’unité, c’est en expliquant la grandeur développée par Dieu lui–même, qu’on montre la connaissance que l’on a de la puissance divine : car [Dieu manifeste sa puissance] quand, tout en restant ce qu’il est, il produit beaucoup de dieux qui dépendent de lui, qui sont de lui et par lui ; par là, ce monde tient de lui l’existence, et le contemple avec tous les dieux qui annoncent aux hommes les décrets divins et leur révèlent ce qui leur plaît (96). Si ces dieux ne sont pas ce qu’est Dieu, c’est là une chose conforme à la nature.

Si tu prétends mépriser ces dieux et t’estimer toi-même, dans l’idée que tu ne leur es pas inférieur, apprends d’abord que l’homme le meilleur est toujours celui qui se montre le plus modeste dans ses rapports avec tous les dieux et avec les hommes, ensuite qu’on doit ne songer à sa dignité qu’avec mesure, sans insolence, ne prétendre s’élever qu’au rang que la nature humaine peut atteindre, ne pas croire qu’il n’y a pas de place auprès de la divinité pour tous les autres hommes, ne pas rêver follement qu’on peut seul y aspirer (97), et priver par cela même son âme de la faculté de devenir semblable à Dieu dans la mesure où elle le peut (98), Or elle ne le peut qu’autant que l’intelligence la guide; vouloir s’élever au-dessus de l’intelligence (99), c’est tomber au-dessous. Il y a des hommes assez insensés pour croire sans réflexion des assertions de ce genre : « [Par l’initiation à la Gnose], tu seras meilleur, non seulement que tous les hommes, mais encore que tous les dieux. » Car ces gens sont gonflés d’orgueil (100), et l’homme qui était auparavant modeste, simple, humble, devient plein d’arrogance quand il s’entend dire : « Tu es enfant de Dieu ; les autres hommes que tu honorais ne sont pas ses enfants, non plus que les astres dont le culte a été professé par les anciens. Toi, sans travail, tu es meilleur que le ciel lui-même (101). » Puis les autres viennent applaudir à ces paroles. C’est comme si un homme qui ne saurait pas compter entendait dire, au milieu d’une foule d’hommes aussi ignorants que lui, qu’il a mille coudées et que les autres n’en ont que cinq ; il ne saurait ce que signifie le nombre de mille coudées, mais il le regarderait comme fort grand.

Les Gnostiques admettent que Dieu s’occupe des hommes. Comment donc peut-il [ainsi qu’ils le prétendent] négliger le monde qui les contient? Est-ce parce qu’il n’a pas le loisir de le regarder ? Alors il ne doit pas regarder ce qui est au-dessous de lui [par conséquent, les hommes]. S’il regarde les hommes, pourquoi ne regarderait-il pas aussi ce qui les entoure, le monde qui les contient ? Si, pour ne pas regarder le monde, il ne regarde pas ce qui entoure les hommes, il ne doit pas regarder les hommes eux-mêmes. - Mais les hommes n’ont pas besoin qu’il regarde le monde. - Le monde a besoin que Dieu le regarde. Dieu connaît l’ordre du monde, les hommes qui s’y trouvent et la condition qu’ils y occupent (102). Les amis de Dieu supportent avec douceur tout ce qui résulte du cours de l’univers, quand il leur survient un accident qui en est une conséquence nécessaire (103) . [Ils ont raison] : car il faut envisager ce qui arrive, non par rapport à soi seul, mais par rapport à l’ensemble ; honorer chacun selon son mérite; aspirer toujours à Celui auquel aspirent tous les êtres qui en sont capables [au Bien] ; être persuadé que beaucoup d’êtres, ou plutôt, que tous les êtres y aspirent, que ceux qui l’atteignent sont heureux, que les autres obtiennent le sort qui convient à leur nature ; enfin ne pas se croire seul capable d’arriver au bonheur (104). Pour posséder un bien, il ne suffit pas d’affirmer qu’on le possède il y a beaucoup d’hommes qui, sachant parfaitement qu’ils n’ont pas un bien, se vantent néanmoins de le posséder, qui croient le posséder quand Ils ne le possèdent pas, ou le posséder seuls quand ils sont les seuls qui ne le possèdent pas.

Guthrie

THE INEQUALITY OF RICHES IS OF NO MOMENT TO AN ETERNAL BEING.

9. No one would complain of poverty and the unequal distribution of wealth if one realized that the sage does not seek equality in such things, because he does not consider that the rich man has any advantage over the poor man, the prince over the subject. The sage leaves such opinions to commonplace people, for he knows that there are two kinds of life; that of the virtuous who achieve the supreme degree (of perfection) and the intelligible world, and that of common earthly men. Even the latter life is double; for though at times they do think of virtue, and participate somewhat in the good, at other times they form only a vile crowd, and are only machines, destined to satisfy the primary needs of virtuous people. There is no reason to be surprised at a man committing a murder, or, through weakness, yielding to his passions, when souls, that behave like young, inexperienced persons, not indeed like intelligences, daily behave thus. It has been said that this life is a struggle in which one is either victor or vanquished. But is not this very condition a proof of good arrangement? What does it matter if you are wronged, so long as you are immortal? If you be killed, you achieve the fate that you desired. If you have reason to complain of how you are treated in some particular city, you can leave it. Besides, even here below, there evidently are rewards and punishments. Why then complain of a society within which distributive justice is exercised, where virtue is honored, and where vice meets its deserved punishment?

MOREOVER THIS WORLD CONTAINS TRADITIONS OF DIVINITY.

Not only are there here below statues of the divinities, but even the divinities condescend to look on us, leading everything in an orderly manner from beginning to end, and they apportion to each the fate that suits him, and which harmonizes with his antecedents in his successive existences. This is unknown only to persons who are most vulgarly ignorant of divine things. Try therefore to become as good as you can, but do not on that account imagine that you alone are capable of becoming good; for then you would no longer be good. Other men (than you) are good; there are most excellent (ministering spirits called) guardians; further, there are deities who, while inhabiting this world, contemplate the intelligible world, and are still better than the guardians. Further still is the blissful (universal) Soul that manages the universe. Honor therefore the intelligible divinities, and above all the great King of the intelligible world, whose greatness is especially manifested in the multitude of the divinities.

TRUE KNOWLEDGE SHOWN NOT BY UNIFICATION, BUT REVELATION OF DIVINE POWER.

It is not by reducing all things to unity, but by setting forth the greatness developed by the divinity itself, that one manifests his knowledge of divine power. The Divinity (manifests His power) when, though remaining what He is, He produces many divinities which depend on Him, which proceed from Him, and exist by Him. In this way this world holds existence from Him, and contemplates Him along with all the divinities which announce to men the divine decrees, and who reveal to them whatever pleases them. These stars must not be blamed for not being what the divinity is, for they only represent their nature.

MODESTY IS A PART OF GOODNESS; PRIDE IS FOLLY.

If, however, you pretend to scorn these (stars that are considered) divinities, and if you hold yourself in high esteem, on the plea that you are not far inferior to them, learn first that the best man is he who is most modest in his relations with divinities and men. In the second place, learn that one should think of the divinity only within limits, without insolence, and not to seek to rise to a condition that is above human possibilities. It is unreasonable to believe that there is no place by the side of the divinity for all other men, while impudently proposing alone to aspire to that dignity. This by itself would deprive the Soul of the possibility of assimilation to the Divinity to the limit of her receptivity. This the Soul cannot attain unless guided by Intelligence. To pretend to rise above Intelligence, is to fall short of it. There are people insane enough to believe, without reflection, claims such as the following ("By initiation into secret knowledge, or gnosis), you will be better, not only than all men, but even than all the deities." These people are swollen with pride; and men who before were modest, simple and humble, become arrogant on hearing themselves say, "You are a child of the divinity; the other men that you used to honor are not his children, any more than the stars who were worshipped by the ancients. You yourself, without working, are better than heaven itself." Then companions crowd around him, and applaud his utterance. He resembles a man who, though not knowing how to count, should, in the midst of a crowd of men, equally ignorant with him, hear it said by somebody that he was a thousand feet high while others were only five feet high. He would not realize what was meant by a thousand feet, but he would consider this measure very great.

OTHER GNOSTIC INCONSISTENCIES.

(Gnostics) admit that the Divinity interests Himself in men. How then could He (as they insist), neglect the world that contains them? Could this be the case because He lacked the leisure to look after it? In this case He would lack the leisure to look after anything beneath Him (including men also). On the other hand, if He do care for men, that care would include the world that surrounds and contains them. If He ignored what surrounded men, in order to ignore the world, He would thereby also ignore the men themselves. The objection that men do need that the Divinity should care for the world (is not true), for the world does need the care of the Divinity. The Divinity knows the arrangement of the world, the men it contains, and their condition therein. The friends of the Divinity support meekly all that results necessarily therefrom. (They are right), for that which happens should be considered not only from one’s own standpoint, but also from that of the totality of circumstances. Each (person or thing) should be considered from his place (in the scale of existence); one should ever aspire to Him to whom aspire all beings capable of (the Good); one should be persuaded that many beings, or rather that all beings, aspire thereto; that those who attain to Him are happy, while the others achieve a fate suitable to their nature; finally, one should not imagine oneself alone capable of attaining happiness. Mere assertion of possession does not suffice for real possession thereof. There are many men who, though perfectly conscious that they do not possess some good, nevertheless boast of its possession, or who really believe they do possess it, when the opposite is the true state of affairs; or that they exclusively possess it when they are the only ones who do not possess it.

Taylor

IX. If, however, some one should blame wealth and poverty, and the inequality in the dispensation of every thing of this kind, in the first place, such a one is ignorant that the worthy man does not seek for equality in such like particulars; nor is of opinion that those who possess many things, have more [of good;] nor that rulers are better than private individuals, but suffers others to make such things as these the objects of their pursuit. He also knows that the present life is twofold, the one being that of worthy men, but the other that of the multitude. And that the life of worthy men tends to the summit, and that "which is on high ; but that the life which is merely human is again twofold, the one kind being mindful of virtue, and participating of a certain good, but the other pertaining to the vile rabble and to artificers, who administer to the necessities of more worthy men. But if one man slays another, or is vanquished by pleasure, through imbecility of mind, what is there wonderful in this, since the guilt is not in intellect, but in souls that are of a puerile nature ? And if this should happen to be an exercise of the victors and the vanquished, how is it possible that this also should not subsist rightly ? But if you should be injured, what dreadful thing is there in this to an immortal nature? And if you kill another [instead of being killed yourself,] you have what you wish. If, however, you still blame the administration of things, there is no necessity for you to continue any longer in life. But it is acknowledged that there are judicial decisions here, and punishments. How, therefore, is it right to blame a city for distributing to every one according to his desert, since virtue is honoured in it, and vice has its appropriate disgrace? There are, likewise, in the world, not only statues of the Gods, but the Gods themselves, beholding from on high, who easily, as it is said, escape the accusations of men, since they conduct all things in order from the beginning to the end, and distribute an appropriate allotment to every one, conformable to the mutations of lives, and to actions in a pre-existent state ; of which he who is ignorant, is of all men the most rash and rustic in divine concerns. It is requisite, however, that you should endeavour to become a most excellent character, and not think that you alone are able to become so; for thus you will not yet" be most excellent. But you ought to be persuaded that there are other transcendently good men, and also good daemons ; and much more Gods, who dwell in this world, and look to that which is intelligible; and especially that there is that most blessed soul the leader and ruler of this universe. From hence also, it is proper that you should celebrate the intelligible Gods; and besides all these, the great king which is there, and should demonstrate that the magnitude of his nature especially consists in the multitude of Gods. For it is the province of those who know the power of God, not to contract this power into one, but to show that the amplitude of divinity is as great as he himself has demonstrated it to be; since remaining that which he is, he has produced many Gods, all of whom are suspended from, and subsist through and by him. This world, likewise, is through him, and wholly looks to his divinity, as does also each of the Gods, who prophetically announce to men what they there behold, and by oracles unfold their will.

If, however, the Gods that proceed from, are not the same with the first God, this very thing also is according to nature. But if you wish to despise superior beings, and arrogantly extol yourself as not inferior to them, in the first place [it should be remembered,] that by how much more excellent any one is, by so much the more is he benevolently disposed towards all other beings, and towards mankind. And in the next place, it is proper to have a moderate conception of our own dignity, and unaccompanied with any rusticity: exalting ourselves only so far as our nature is able to ascend; conceiving that there is also a place with divinity for others, as well as for ourselves, and not, as if flying in a dream, arrange ourselves alone immediately after the highest God; and thus deprive ourselves of that power by which it is possible for the soul of man to become a God. But this is possible so far as intellect is the leader of the soul. To attempt, however, to pass beyond intellect, is to fall from intellect. But stupid men are persuaded when they suddenly hear such sounds as these: " You are better, not only than all other men, but also than the Gods" For there is much arrogance among men [of the present time]. And he who prior to this was humble and modest, and a man of no consequence, becomes exalted beyond measure when he is told, " You are the son of God, but other men whom you formerly admired, are not the sons of God; as neither are those beings which men honour conformably to the rites of their ancestors. It may be shown, however, without any labour, that you are more excellent than the heavens themselves." [1] Others, also, vociferate the same things. Just as if some one in the company of many persons who knew not how to numerate, should hear it said that he was a thousand cubits in height. If, therefore, he should think himself so tall as this, but should hear that other men were five cubits in height, he would only have a confused imagination that a thousand was a great number.

Farther still, they acknowledge that the providence of God is attentive to human concerns. Why, therefore, does he neglect the whole world, of which we are a part ? If it is because he is not at leisure to look to it, neither therefore is it lawful for him to survey that which is inferior and us. Why also, while he surveys us, does he not behold that which is external; and thus look to the world in which we are contained ? But if he does not look to that which is external, in order that he may not see the world, neither will he behold us. Divinity, however, knows the order of the world, and the manner in which men who are contained in it subsist. Those, also, who are dear to divinity, bear mildly whatever happens to them from the world, if any thing necessarily befalls them from the motion of all things. For it is not proper to look to what is pleasing to an individual, but we should direct our attention to the universe, and honour every one according to his desert; hastening to that goal to which all things that are able hasten, and by the attainment of which they become blessed; some things as far as they have ability obtaining an allotment adapted to their nature. Nor should any man ascribe this ability to himself alone. For it does not follow that a man possesses what he pretends to possess; since many assert they possess that of which they know they are destitute, and also fancy they have a thing when they have it not, and that they alone are the possessors of that which they alone do not possess.

MacKenna

9. Wealth and poverty, and all inequalities of that order, are made ground of complaint. But this is to ignore that the Sage demands no equality in such matters: he cannot think that to own many things is to be richer or that the powerful have the better of the simple; he leaves all such preoccupations to another kind of man. He has learned that life on earth has two distinct forms, the way of the Sage and the way of the mass, the Sage intent upon the sublimest, upon the realm above, while those of the more strictly human type fall, again, under two classes, the one reminiscent of virtue and therefore not without touch with good, the other mere populace, serving to provide necessaries to the better sort.

But what of murder? What of the feebleness that brings men under slavery to the passions?

Is it any wonder that there should be failing and error, not in the highest, the intellectual, Principle but in Souls that are like undeveloped children? And is not life justified even so if it is a training ground with its victors and its vanquished?

You are wronged; need that trouble an immortal? You are put to death; you have attained your desire. And from the moment your citizenship of the world becomes irksome you are not bound to it.

Our adversaries do not deny that even here there is a system of law and penalty: and surely we cannot in justice blame a dominion which awards to every one his due, where virtue has its honour, and vice comes to its fitting shame, in which there are not merely representations of the gods, but the gods themselves, watchers from above, and - as we read - easily rebutting human reproaches, since they lead all things in order from a beginning to an end, allotting to each human being, as life follows life, a fortune shaped to all that has preceded - the destiny which, to those that do not penetrate it, becomes the matter of boorish insolence upon things divine.

A man’s one task is to strive towards making himself perfect - though not in the idea - really fatal to perfection - that to be perfect is possible to himself alone.

We must recognize that other men have attained the heights of goodness; we must admit the goodness of the celestial spirits, and above all of the gods - those whose presence is here but their contemplation in the Supreme, and loftiest of them, the lord of this All, the most blessed Soul. Rising still higher, we hymn the divinities of the Intellectual Sphere, and, above all these, the mighty King of that dominion, whose majesty is made patent in the very multitude of the gods.

It is not by crushing the divine unto a unity but by displaying its exuberance - as the Supreme himself has displayed it - that we show knowledge of the might of God, who, abidingly what He is, yet creates that multitude, all dependent on Him, existing by Him and from Him.

This Universe, too, exists by Him and looks to Him - the Universe as a whole and every God within it - and tells of Him to men, all alike revealing the plan and will of the Supreme.

These, in the nature of things, cannot be what He is, but that does not justify you in contempt of them, in pushing yourself forward as not inferior to them.

The more perfect the man, the more compliant he is, even towards his fellows; we must temper our importance, not thrusting insolently beyond what our nature warrants; we must allow other beings, also, their place in the presence of the Godhead; we may not set ourselves alone next after the First in a dream-flight which deprives us of our power of attaining identity with the Godhead in the measure possible to the human Soul, that is to say, to the point of likeness to which the Intellectual-Principle leads us; to exalt ourselves above the Intellectual-Principle is to fall from it.

Yet imbeciles are found to accept such teaching at the mere sound of the words "You, yourself, are to be nobler than all else, nobler than men, nobler than even gods." Human audacity is very great: a man once modest, restrained and simple hears, "You, yourself, are the child of God; those men whom you used to venerate, those beings whose worship they inherit from antiquity, none of these are His children; you without lifting a hand are nobler than the very heavens"; others take up the cry: the issue will be much as if in a crowd all equally ignorant of figures, one man were told that he stands a thousand cubic feet; he will naturally accept his thousand cubits even though the others present are said to measure only five cubits; he will merely tell himself that the thousand indicates a considerable figure.

Another point: God has care for you; how then can He be indifferent to the entire Universe in which you exist?

We may be told that He is too much occupied to look upon the Universe, and that it would not be right for Him to do so; yet, when He looks down and upon these people, is He not looking outside Himself and upon the Universe in which they exist? If He cannot look outside Himself so as to survey the Kosmos, then neither does He look upon them.

But they have no need of Him?

The Universe has need of Him, and He knows its ordering and its indwellers and how far they belong to it and how far to the Supreme, and which of the men upon it are friends of God, mildly acquiescing with the Kosmic dispensation when in the total course of things some pain must be brought to them - for we are to look not to the single will of any man but to the universe entire, regarding every one according to worth but not stopping for such things where all that may is hastening onward.

Not one only kind of being is bent upon this quest, which brings bliss to whatsoever achieves, and earns for the others a future destiny in accord with their power. No man, therefore, may flatter himself that he alone is competent; a pretension is not a possession; many boast though fully conscious of their lack and many imagine themselves to possess what was never theirs and even to be alone in possessing what they alone of men never had.


[1Of this most stupid and arrogant opinion was the slashing Dr. Bentley, as Pope calls him, as is evident from the following extract: "Nor do we count it any absurdity, that such a vast and immense universe should be made for the sole use of such mean and unworthy creatures as the children of men. For if we consider the dignity of an intelligent being, and put that in the scales against brute inanimate matter, we may affirm, without over-valuing human nature, that the soul of one virtuous and religious man, is of greater worth and excellency than the sun and his planets, and all the stars in the world." See Bentley’s 8th Sermon at Boyle’s Lectures.