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Plotinus - The Enneads

Damiani (Enneads:720-725) – Intellectual-Principle

Appendix I

quarta-feira 13 de setembro de 2023, por Cardoso de Castro


Out of the ocean of infinite possibilities present in the ineffable undifferenced intelligence of the One, there pours forth a radiant display of glorious revelations— the Divine Mind   and its Ideas. These luminous existences, emanating on the surface of the One’s voidness, exhibit the inner nature, the inherent perfection of the unique and unknowable God  .


The power of the One is so great that the Divine Mind   [Intellectual-Principle], though an “image One,” is itself authentic reality.... as the “outward” expression of the One, it paradoxically stands as a distinct hypostasis   midst the One without a second. [We will subsequently treat the terms Intellectual-Principle, Divine Mind, and Nous as interchangeable.]

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. (V.2.1)

The concentrated unity of the One is reflected in the Intellectual-Principle, which Plotinus   characterizes as no longer a unity but a “One-Many” (V.1.8) [and a “unity in duality” (V.6.1)].

... this is pure being in eternal actuality... everything, in that entire content, is Intellectual-Principle and Authentic-Existence.... 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 ... (V.1.4)

Authentic Being (divine substance) and Knowing (divine function) are the twofold nature of Intellectual-Principle. Although the One is beyond being and knowing, it grants the power of being and knowing to the Intellectual-Principle. Intellectual-Principle draws its “power to bring forth” from the Good, but “the Good bestows what itself [the Good] does not possess.” (VI.7.15) But Intellectual-Principle is also self-determining.

The Intellectual-Principle, thus, is informed of itself by the fact of being a multiple organ of vision ... in its outgoing to its object it is not (fully realized) 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... (V.3.10,11)

Prefigured as an “eye that has not yet seen,” Intellection is an impression of the One. Arising as an eye filled with vision, Intellectual-Principle is the entirety of knowledge and Ideas, a determination of the absolute infinity of the One. These two perspectives are simultaneous, like the stereoscopic vision of our eyes in which two images coalesce.

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 ... 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 ... (V.3.11)

Intellectual-Principle, itself originally included or prefigured in the One in a transcendent mode, has a “previous impression”—direct super-essential contact with Unity. The “successive impressions” which result from its self-determining vision are the Divine Ideas, which constitute its own nature as a distinct hypostasis.

The following picture illustrates Plotinus’ description of the Intellectual-Principle as a One-Many: the encompassing circle represents its Oneness and the many divisions are the Ideas, or “successive impressions” of unity. Although they are here drawn as distinct, imagine also that all the Ideas interpenetrate one another, much as the many notes of a musical chord permeate all of auditory space. The modes of Intelligence here portrayed are aspects of the whole Intellectual-Principle, as well   as the structure of specific instances of knowledge.

If we superimpose the picture above (Fig. 5) onto our image of fourfold reality (Fig. 4), the divisions of the circle represent the Ideas as the substantial aspect of the Intellectual-Principle, and the two rings of Being and Intellection indicate its active (functional) nature.

The various levels of Reality which are included in the ultimate Truth can and do maintain a distinct degree of Being because they are “ones” in their own right. Therefore, insofar as anything is a “one” or a unity, it has a principle that is indivisible   and without parts, a self-identity which does not enter into relationship with anything else ... The Intellectual-Principle is such a “one.” It is Intellection pure and simple, the ecstatic activity of Ideation: the thoughts that it thinks are the many-membered parts of itself. This activity of Ideation does not cancel out that uniqueness, its indivisible self-identity; it does not introduce any element of duality or predication into itself, but it does have many thoughts (parts) and these together [with its self-identity] constitute a whole. This oneness is both the same as and different from the sum of its parts. [See Plato’s Parmenides   for a detailed exploration of this logic of unity and participation.] This manifold unity of Intellection has an intrinsic and timeless order: “The First must be without form, and, if without form, then it is no Being; Being must have some definition and therefore be limited.” (V.5.6) Definition and order is determined by the principle which Plotinus calls Authentic Number.

The Authentic [Number] is that made manifest in the Forms and helping to bring them to be; primally it is the Number in the Authentic Being, inherent to it and preceding the Beings, serving to them as root, fount, first principle. (VI.6.9)

Authentic or Divine Number can be understood in the sense   used by the Pythagoreans, where each number is thought of as a wholeness, a quality, a way that unity is expressed. At the highest level, Number is concerned with the unfoldment and reintegration of all things from and into the One. Through the operation of Number, Intellectual-Principle’s indeterminate vision of Unity is determined and ordered as a simultaneous multiplicity of Ideas, unfolding in a hierarchy of forms:

Clearly Being is to be thought of as Number collective, while the Beings are Number unfolded: the Intellectual-Principle is Number moving within itself, while the Living-Form is Number container of the universe. (VI.6.9)

Thus Number determines the interrelation of Ideas among themselves and to the whole of Intellection and Life, so that each and every Idea   will reflect and duplicate the organization and structure of the entire Intellectual-Principle.

What, then, is that content [of the Intellectual-Principle]?
An Intellectual-Principle and an Intellective Essence, no Idea distinguishable from the Intellectual-Principle, each actually being that Principle. The Intellectual-Principle entire is the total of the Ideas, and each of them is the (entire) Intellectual-Principle in a special form. (V.9.8)

Divine Ideas in their totality are the Being of the Intellectual-Principle— substantial existences with power and intelligence. Each Idea is a form of the Good as apprehended in the vision of Intellectual-Principle. Ideas interpenetrate and commune—they are not isolated—but each idea is itself and not another. An Idea can be contracted into a central unity or essence in which all knowing and naming ceases, and can expand to indefinite living expressions. They are deific and dynamic powers, shaping the internality of all individual souls. Each instance or manifestation of an Idea participates in the authenticity of the Idea entire, but cannot exhaust the mystery of the Idea-essence. They are not bound to place and time, but can be present at every level of experience.

Any one of the Ideas can represent the unity of the Intellectual-Principle or Intellection; and each of the Ideas can unfold the profound depths of its possibilities. “Each of them is the (entire) Intellectual-Principle in a special form”—much as each authentic quality of our mind, such as justice, pervades the entire mind yet retains its unique character.

Of particular importance for us, as human beings, is what Plotinus calls the “Idea of Man”—expressed in the human realization that the One is immanent in Life. This Idea imparts uniqueness and intrinsic self-cognition   to the individual. It is a special version of the Intellectual-Principle, imprinted upon or within the soul   and determining it as human. This spark of the Nous within us is the divine channel for life, intelligence, and goodness: “This light shining within the Soul enlightens it; that is, it makes the Soul intellective, working it into likeness with itself, the light   above.” (V.3.8) Thus the Idea of Man is the higher knower within us, continuously operative at every level; it includes all that is necessary for its manifestation and actualization in innumerable individuals.

Take for example the Idea of Man; Man entire is found to contribute to it; he is in that idea in all his fullness including everything that from the beginning belonged to Man. If Man were not complete There, so that there were something to be added to the Idea, that additional must belong to a derivative: but Man exists from eternity and must therefore be complete; the man born is the derivative, (VI.7.2)

fig. 7

The sages who have plumbed the depths of that source of Wisdom which lies within their souls and ours, if we could attain the vision, have told us, as Plotinus does, of the blinding beauty of the Ideas, their living Power, and yet the essential mystery which is their core.

(Perfect Wisdom:) for all the Principles of this order, dwelling There, are as it were visible images projected from themselves, so that all becomes ‘an object of contemplation to contemplators immeasurably blessed.’ The greatness and power of the wisdom There we may know from this, that it embraces all the real Beings, and has made all and all follow it, and yet that it is itself those beings, which sprang into being with it, so that all is one and the essence There is wisdom, (V.8.4)

We do not possess the Ideas: rather they are the guiding principles or logoi   within our soul, drawing us to deeper participation and contemplation. “Contemplation and its object constitute a living thing, a Life, two inextricably one.” (VI.8.8) True cognition or consciousness   is authentic Being, not a derivative or effect, and every being as well as Being per se is consciousness—is knowing. For the individual seeker, the consequences of the union are profound. In order to attain self-knowledge we must participate in Nous: “by our part in true knowledge we are those Beings” for “to know without image is to be.” (VI.5.7) To know an Idea is to Be the Idea, for “in proportion to the truth with which the knowing faculty knows, it comes to identification with the object of its knowledge.” (IV.8.6)

The power of contemplation is to be brought to all experience. The world of Intelligence is not sundered from manifestation except by our mistaken perception. Amidst the flux of experience, Ideas provide meaning to the individual and its world.

In Nature, Contemplation, and the One (page 110), John Deck   explains:

His world of true being is not, except metaphorically, a world above the everyday world. It is the everyday world, not as experienced by sense, by opinion, or by discursive reasoning, but as known by intellect, the Noûs, the Knower.
Plotinus’ world of true being is, therefore, the real world of everyday experience when the latter is known by the best knowing power.

To the perception of the sage, the world of sense is known to be the unfoldment of Divine Ideas: “side by side with the primal   knowledge ... we have also as it were a sense-perception of their operation.” (I.4.10)

Ver online : Anthony Damiani