18. Tal vez se dirá que estas doctrinas nos alejan del cuerpo y nos hacen sentir odio hacia él, en tanto las nuestras retienen al alma a su lado. Este caso es semejante al de dos hombres que habitasen una hermosa casa : uno, dedicado a censurar la construcción y al arquitecto, pero sin dejar de permanecer en la casa; otro, despreocupado de la censura y afirmando que el arquitecto la ha construido con mucho arte. Este último espera, naturalmente, que llegue el tiempo de su marcha, en el que ya no tenga necesidad de la casa; el otro, en cambio, piensa que él es el más sabio y el mejor dispuesto para la marcha, porque sabe decir que las murallas han sido construidas con piedras sin vida y con maderos, a mucha distancia, por tanto, de las de la casa verdadera. Este hombre desconoce que no sobrelleva, como el otro, la realidad de sus propias necesidades, aunque no se disgusta con ellas y, antes bien, goza tranquilamente con la belleza de las piedras.
Si disponemos de un cuerpo conviene que permanezcamos en mansiones que han sido construidas por un alma buena y hermana de la nuestra, que tiene el poder de construir sin fatiga alguna. Esas gentes que designan con el nombre de hermanos a los hombres más viles, juzgan indigno dar este nombre al sol, a los astros del cielo y al alma del mundo; ¡tan ciega se muestra su lengua! Tal parentesco no parece apropiado para los malos, y en cuanto a los buenos no deberán ser un cuerpo, sino más bien un alma situada en un cuerpo, que pueda vivir en él de tal manera que se encuentre lo más cerca posible de la mansión del alma universal en el cuerpo del universo . Esto es, no conviene enfrentarse con los seres, ni tampoco someterse a las cosas externas que son gratas a nuestros sentidos, ni turbarse ante algo que nos resulte penoso. El alma del universo no puede ser alcanzada por nada; nadie, en verdad, llegará hasta ella. Nosotros, en este mundo, recibimos golpes que son rechazados por nuestra virtud; incluso los hacemos menores en virtud de nuestros grandes pensamientos. Pero, que estos mismos golpes no se originen por nuestra fuerza!
Cuanto más nos acerquemos al ser intocable, mejor imitaremos al alma del universo y a las almas de los astros; con la proximidad a estas almas, nos haremos también semejantes a ellas, contemplaremos lo mismo que ellas contemplan y estaremos preparados para todo esto por nuestra misma naturaleza y solicitud. Aunque para esas almas lo que ahora decimos ya es realmente posible desde el principio. Si dijesen que ellos son los únicos en poder contemplar, nada añadirían a su contemplación, como tampoco con pretender salir de sus cuerpos después de la muerte , pues las almas de los astros gobiernan eternamente el universo. Sin duda, son ignorantes, de lo que quiere decir "fuera del mundo" y desconocen a la vez cómo el alma del universo dirige a los seres sin vida.
Resulta, pues, lícito no tomar cuidado del propio cuerpo, hacerse puro, despreciar la muerte, saber de los seres superiores y tratar de buscarlos, sin que por ello envidiemos a los otros seres que también pueden buscarlos y los buscan, en efecto, eternamente, diciendo que no son capaces de hacerlo. Tampoco ha de ocurrimos lo mismo que a los que creen que los astros no se mueven, porque la sensación les dice que son inmóviles. Porque ni siquiera creerán alcanzar la naturaleza de los astros contemplándoles exteriormente, ya que en tal coyuntura las almas de éstos escapan a su vista.
 Mais, diront-ils peut-être, notre doctrine inspire de l’éloignement et de la haine pour le corps (165), tandis que la vôtre y attache l’âme. - C’est comme si deux hôtes habitaient ensemble une belle maison, que l’un en blâmât la disposition et l’architecte et y restât cependant, tandis que l’autre, au lieu de blâmer l’architecte, louerait son habileté, et attendrait le temps où il doit quitter cette maison, parce qu’il n’en aura plus besoin : le premier se croirait plus sage et mieux préparé à partir parce qu’il aurait appris à répéter que les murs sont composés de pierres et de poutres, objets inertes, que cette maison est loin de répondre à l’idée de la maison intelligible ; ne sachant pas que toute la différence qu’il y a entre lui et son compagnon, c’est que lui, il ne sait pas supporter des choses nécessaires, et que son compagnon [qui ne blâme pas cette maison] saura s’en éloigner sans regret parce qu’il n’aime qu’avec modération la beauté des édifices de pierre, Il faut bien, tant que nous avons un corps, demeurer dans ces maisons construites par l’Âme du monde (166), notre soeur bienveillante, qui a la puissance de faire de si grandes choses sans travail (167).
Les Gnostiques ne dédaignent pas d’appeler frères (168) les plus pervers des hommes, et ils refusent ce nom au soleil, aux autres dieux du ciel, à l’Âme du monde même, insensés qu’ils sont ! Sans doute, pour nous unir ainsi aux astres par les liens de la parenté, il faut que nous ne soyons plus pervers, que nous soyons devenus bons, qu’au lieu d’être des corps, nous soyons des âmes dans des corps, et que, autant que possible, nous habitions ces corps de la même manière que l’Âme universelle habite le corps de l’univers. Pour cela, il faut être ferme, ne pas se laisser charmer par les plaisirs de l’ouïe ni par ceux de la vue, n’être troublé par aucun revers (169). L’Âme du monde n’est troublée par rien, parce qu’elle est en dehors de toute atteinte. Mais nous, qui sommes ici-bas exposés aux coups de la fortune, repoussons-les par notre vertu, affaiblissons les uns, rendons les autres impuissants par notre constance et par notre grandeur d’âme (170). Quand nous nous serons ainsi rapprochés de cette puissance qui est en dehors de toute atteinte, de l’Âme de l’univers et des âmes des astres, nous tâcherons d’en être l’image et de pousser même cette ressemblance jusqu’à l’identité. Alors, bien disposés par la nature et par l’exercice, nous contemplerons ce que ces âmes contemplent dès le commencement. S’il est des hommes qui se vantent d’avoir le privilège de contempler seuls le monde intelligible (171), il ne s’ensuit pas qu’ils contemplent réellement ce monde plus que les autres hommes.
C’est tout aussi vainement qu’ils se glorifient de devoir quitter leurs corps quand ils auront cessé de vivre, tandis que les dieux ne le peuvent pas parce qu’ils remplissent toujours la même fonction dans le ciel. Ils ne parlent ainsi que parce qu’ils ignorent ce que c’est qu’être hors du corps, et de quelle manière l’Âme universelle gouverne tout entière ce qui est inanimé (172).
Oui, nous pouvons ne pas aimer le corps (173), devenir purs, mépriser la mort, connaître et rechercher les choses supérieures à celles d’ici-bas; mais ne portons pas envie pour cela aux autres hommes qui sont cap ables de poursuivre le même but et qui le poursuivent constamment ; ne les accusons pas d’en être incapables (174). Ne tombons pas dans la même erreur que ceux qui nient le mouvement des astres, parce que les sens les leur font voir immobiles : ne faisons pas comme les Gnostiques qui croient que l’âme des astres ne voit pas ce qui est extérieur parce qu’ils ne voient pas eux-mêmes cette âme apparaître extérieurement.
RECOGNITION OF THE BEAUTY OF THE BODY NEED NOT IMPLY ATTACHMENT THERETO; IT IS COMPATIBLE WITH RESIGNATION.
18. (Gnostics) however might object that their doctrine inspired revulsion from, and hate for the body, while (that of Plotinos ) really attached the soul to the body (by recognition of its beauty). Hardly. We may illustrate by two guests who dwelt together in a beautiful house. The first guest blamed the disposition of the plan, and the architect who constructed it, but nevertheless remained within it. The other guest, instead of blaming the architect, praised his skill, and awaited the time when he might leave this house, when he should no longer need it. The first guest would think himself wiser and better prepared to leave because he had learned to repeat that walls are composed of lifeless stones and beams, and that this house was far from truly representing the intelligible house. He would however not know that the only difference obtaining between him and his companion, is that he did not know how to support necessary things, while his companion (who did not blame the house) will be able to leave it without regret because he loved stone-buildings only very moderately. So long as we have a body we have to abide in these houses constructed by the (world) Soul, who is our beneficent sister, and who had the power to do such great things without any efort.
GNOSTICS ACKNOWLEDGE KINSHIP WITH DEPRAVED MEN, BUT REFUSE IT TO THE BEAUTIFUL UNIVERSE. OF WHICH WE SHOULD BE FAR PROUDER.
The Gnostics do not hesitate to call the most abandoned men their "brothers," but refuse this name to the sun , and the other deities of heaven, and to the very Soul of the world, fools that they are! Doubtless, to unite ourselves thus to the stars by the bonds of kindred, we must no longer be perverse, we must have become good, and instead of being bodies, we must be souls in these bodies; and, so far as possible, we must dwell within our bodies in the same manner as the universal Soul dwells within the body of the universe. To do this, one has to be firm, not allow oneself to be charmed by the pleasures of sight or hearing, and to remain untroubled by any reverse. The Soul of the world is not troubled by anything, because she is outside of the reach of all. We, however, who here below are exposed to the blows of fortune, must repel them by our virtue, weakening some, and foiling others by our constancy and greatness of soul. When we shall thus have approached this power which is out of the reach (of all exigencies), having approached the Soul of the universe and of the stars, we shall try to become her image, and even to increase this resemblance to the assimilation of fusion. Then, having been well disposed by nature and exercised, we also will contemplate what these souls have been contemplating since the beginning. We must also remember that the boast of some men that they alone have the privilege of contemplating the intelligible world does not mean that they really contemplate this world any more than any other men.’)
GNOSTICS WHO BOAST SUPERIORITY TO THE DIVINITIES WHO CANNOT LEAVE THEIR BODIES ARE IN, REALITY IGNORANT OF THE TRUE STATE OF AFFAIRS.
Vainly also do some (Gnostics) boast of having to leave their bodies when they will have ceased to live, while this is impossible to the divinities because they always fill the same function in heaven. They speak thus only because of their ignorance of what it is to be outside of the body, and of how the universal Soul in her entirety wisely governs what is inanimate.
THE JEALOUS DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE SPIRITUAL, PSYCHIC AND MATERIAL IS DUE CHIEFLY TO IGNORANCE OF -OTHER PEOPLE’S ATTAINMENTS.
We ourselves may very well not love the body, we may become pure, scorn death, and both recognize and follow spiritual things that are superior to earthly things. But on this account we should not be jealous of other men, who are not only capable of following the same goal, but who do constantly pursue it. Let us not insist that they are incapable of doing so. Let us not fall into the same error as those who deny the movement of the stars, because their senses show them to remain immovable. Let us not act as do the (Gnostics), who believe that the nature of the stars does not see what is external, because they themselves do not see that their own souls are outside.
XVIII. Perhaps, however, they will say that they by their arguments cause those who believe in them, to fly far from, and hate the body, but that our doctrines detain the soul in body. But this is just as if two persons dwelling in the same house, one of them should blame the furniture and the builder of it, and yet nevertheless stay in it; but the other should not blame either of these, but assert that the builder of it had constructed it in a most artificial manner, and should wait for the time as long as he dwells in it, in which he may be liberated, and may no longer be in want of a house. The former of these, however, is thought to be the wiser of the two, and more prepared to depart, because he knows that the house is composed of inanimate stones and wood, and is very far from being a true edifice, though he is ignorant of the great difference between bearing [properly], and not bearing things of a necessary nature; since he would not be indignant if he was moderately pleased with the beauty of the stones. It is necessary, however, that those who have a body should remain in the habitations which are fabricated by a sister beneficent soul, and who possesses an abundant power of fabricating without labour. Indeed the Gnostics think fit to call the vilest men their brethren, but refuse thus to denominate the sun, and the other stars; and with an insane mouth separate the soul of the world from an alliance with ours. While, therefore, we are bad, it is not indeed lawful to conjoin us with supernal natures; but then only this can take place , when we become worthy, since we are not bodies, but souls resident in bodies, and capable of dwelling in them in such a manner, as to approximate very nearly to the mode in which the soul of the universe inhabits the whole body of the world. This however, consists in being free from impulsion, in not yielding to externally-acceding pleasures, or visible objects, and in not being disturbed at any severe occurrence. The soul of the world, therefore, is not impelled ; for there is not any thing by which it can be. And we dwelling in this region of sense, may indeed by virtue repel the percussions of external objects, so as by magnitude and strength of decision, to diminish some of the percussions, and prevent others from taking place. But when we proximately accede to that which cannot be impelled, then we shall imitate the soul of the universe, and the soul of the stars, and becoming near through similitude, we shall hasten to be one and the same with them. Then also those things which were the objects of their vision from the first, will be ours, in consequence of being well prepared for this [felicitous event] both by nature and study. The Gnostics, however, will not, by saying that they alone are able to survey [divine natures] behold more of them on this account; nor because they assert that when they die they shall entirely lay aside the body, though this is not permitted to the souls that always adorn the heavens. For they say this through ignorance of the meaning of being out of the body, and of the manner in which the whole soul of the universe pays attention to that which is inanimate. It is possible therefore, not to be a lover of body, to become pure, to despise death, to have a knowledge of more excellent natures, and to make them the objects of pursuit; and also not to envy those who are able to pursue them, and always do so, as if they did not. Nor should we be affected in the same manner as those who fancy that the stars do not move, because sense announces to them that they stand still. For on this account also, the Gnostics fancy, that the nature of the stars does not survey the intelligibles that are as it were external to them, because they themselves do not see the soul of them externally subsisting.
18. But perhaps this school will maintain that, while their teaching leads to a hate and utter abandonment of the body, ours binds the Soul down in it.
In other words: two people inhabit the one stately house; one of them declaims against its plan and against its Architect, but none the less maintains his residence in it; the other makes no complaint, asserts the entire competency of the Architect and waits cheerfully for the day when he may leave it, having no further need of a house: the malcontent imagines himself to be the wiser and to be the readier to leave because he has learned to repeat that the walls are of soulless stone and timber and that the place falls far short of a true home; he does not see that his only distinction is in not being able to bear with necessity assuming that his conduct, his grumbling, does not cover a secret admiration for the beauty of those same "stones." As long as we have bodies we must inhabit the dwellings prepared for us by our good sister the Soul in her vast power of labourless creation.
Or would this school reject the word Sister? They are willing to address the lowest of men as brothers; are they capable of such raving as to disown the tie with the Sun and the powers of the Heavens and the very Soul of the Kosmos? Such kinship, it is true, is not for the vile; it may be asserted only of those that have become good and are no longer body but embodied Soul and of a quality to inhabit the body in a mode very closely resembling the indwelling. of the All-Soul in the universal frame. And this means continence, self-restraint, holding staunch against outside pleasure and against outer spectacle, allowing no hardship to disturb the mind . The All-Soul is immune from shock; there is nothing that can affect it: but we, in our passage here, must call on virtue in repelling these assaults, reduced for us from the beginning by a great conception of life, annulled by matured strength.
Attaining to something of this immunity, we begin to reproduce within ourselves the Soul of the vast All and of the heavenly bodies: when we are come to the very closest resemblance, all the effort of our fervid pursuit will be towards that goal to which they also tend; their contemplative vision becomes ours, prepared as we are, first by natural disposition and afterwards by all this training, for that state which is theirs by the Principle of their Being.
This school may lay claim to vision as a dignity reserved to themselves, but they are not any the nearer to vision by the claim - or by the boast that while the celestial powers, bound for ever to the ordering of the Heavens, can never stand outside the material universe, they themselves have their freedom in their death. This is a failure to grasp the very notion of "standing outside," a failure to appreciate the mode in which the All-Soul cares for the unensouled.
No: it is possible to go free of love for the body; to be clean-living, to disregard death; to know the Highest and aim at that other world; not to slander, as negligent in the quest, others who are able for it and faithful to it; and not to err with those that deny vital motion to the stars because to our sense they stand still - the error which in another form leads this school to deny outer vision to the Star-Nature, only because they do not see the Star-Soul in outer manifestation.
[To revile the visible universe and deny its goodness, and to refuse to admit kinship with the cosmic Soul and the souls of the stars, is no way to attain spiritual freedom, which we gain by practising virtue while remaining in the body and fully accepting our embodied condition as long as it endures.]
But perhaps they [the Gnostics] will maintain that their teaching makes men escape right away from the body in their hatred of it, but ours holds the soul down to it. This is like two people living in the same fine house, one of whom criticizes the building and the architect but stays there all the same; the other does not criticize, but says the architect has built it with the utmost skill, and waits for the time to come when he will go away and not need a house any longer. The first might think he was wiser and readier to depart, because he knows how to say that the walls are built of soulless stones and timber and are far inferior to the true dwelling-place, and does not know that he is only distinguished by not being able to bear what he must — unless he is just making a pretence of discontent, and has a secret affection for the beauty of the stones. As long as we have bodies we must stay in our houses, which have been built for us by a good sister soul which has great power to work without any toil or trouble. Or do these people think it right to call the lowest of men brothers, but refuse, in their Sibylline ravings, to call the sun and the stars of heaven brothers and the Soul of the universe sister? It is not right to bind oneself in brotherhood to the bad, but only to those who have become good and are not bodies, but souls in bodies, able to live in them in such a way that they are very close to the dwelling of the Soul of the All in the body of the universe. This means no clashing with or paying attention to the pleasures and sights which rush upon us from outside, and not being disturbed by any hardship. The Soul of the All is not troubled; it has nothing that can trouble it. We, while we are here, can repel our troubles by virtue and make some of them become less by greatness of mind and others not even troubles because of our strength. As we draw near to the completely untroubled state we can imitate the Soul of the universe and the souls of the stars and, coming to a close likeness to them, hasten on to the same goal and have the same objects of contemplation, being ourselves, too, well prepared for them by nature and training (but they have their contemplation from the beginning). Even if the Gnostics do say that they alone can contemplate, that does not make them any more contemplative, nor does it if they claim to go out of the universe when they die while the stars do not, but adorn heaven for ever. They say this through complete lack of understanding of what ’being outside’ really means, and how ’Universal Soul governs all that is soulless’. So one can be without affection for the body and pure, and despise death, and know what is better and pursue it, and not show ill-feeling against others who can and do always pursue it, as if they did not: there is no need to be like the people who think the stars do not move because their senses tell them they stand still. In the same way these people do not think that the natures of the stars see what is outside the material universe because they do not see that their souls come from outside.