Tuesday, February 7, 2012

More on Plotinus on the Gods

Fourth Ennead, Fourth Tractate, Section 45:

Thus this universe of ours is a wonder of power and wisdom, everything by a noiseless road coming to pass according to a law which none may elude– which the base man never conceives though it is leading him, all unknowingly, to that place in the All where his lot must be cast– which the just man knows, and, knowing, sets out to the place he must, understanding, even as he begins the journey, where he is to be housed at the end, and having the good hope that he will be with Gods.

Fifth Ennead, Eighth Tractate, Section 3:

For assuredly all the Gods are august and beautiful in a beauty beyond our speech. And what makes them so? Intellect; and especially Intellect operating within them [the divine sun and stars] to visibility. It is not through the loveliness of their corporeal forms: even those that have body are not Gods by that beauty; it is in virtue of Intellect that they, too, are Gods, and as Gods beautiful. They do not veer between wisdom and folly: in the immunity of Intellect unmoving and pure, they are wise always, all–knowing, taking cognisance not of the human but of their own being and of all that lies within the contemplation of Intellect. Those of them whose dwelling is in the heavens, are ever in this meditation– what task prevents them?– and from afar they look, too, into that further heaven by a lifting of the head. The Gods belonging to that higher Heaven itself, they whose station is upon it and in it, see and know in virtue of their omnipresence to it. For all There is heaven; earth is heaven, and sea heaven; and animal and plant and man; all is the heavenly content of that heaven: and the Gods in it, despising neither men nor anything else that is there where all is of the heavenly order, traverse all that country and all space in peace.

Sixth Ennead, Fourth Tractate, Section 14:

Before we had our becoming Here we existed There, men other than now, some of us Gods: we were pure souls, Intelligence inbound with the entire of reality, members of the Intellectual, not fenced off, not cut away, integral to that All.

Sixth Ennead, Seventh Tractate, Section 1:

God, or some one of the Gods, in sending the souls to their birth, placed eyes in the face to catch the light and allotted to each sense the appropriate organ, providing thus for the safety which comes by seeing and hearing in time and, seeking or avoiding under guidance of touch.

Sixth Ennead, Eighth Tractate

Section 1:
Can there be question as to whether the Gods have voluntary action? Or are we to take it that, while we may well enquire in the case of men with their combination of powerlessness and hesitating power, the Gods must be declared omnipotent, not merely some things but all lying at their nod? Or is power entire, freedom of action in all things, to be reserved to one alone, of the rest some being powerful, others powerless, others again a blend of power and impotence?

All this must come to the test: we must dare it even of the Firsts and of the All–Transcendent and, if we find omnipotence possible, work out how far freedom extends. The very notion of power must be scrutinized lest in this ascription we be really making power identical with Essential Act, and even with Act not yet achieved.

Section 3:

We have traced self–disposal to will, will to reasoning and, next step, to right reasoning; perhaps to right reasoning we must add knowledge, for however sound opinion and act may be they do not yield true freedom when the adoption of the right course is the result of hazard or of some presentment from the fancy with no knowledge of the foundations of that rightness.

Taking it that the presentment of fancy is not a matter of our will and choice, how can we think those acting at its dictation to be free agents? Fancy strictly, in our use, takes it rise from conditions of the body; lack of food and drink sets up presentments, and so does the meeting of these needs; similarly with seminal abundance and other humours of the body. We refuse to range under the principle of freedom those whose conduct is directed by such fancy: the baser sort, therefore, mainly so guided, cannot be credited with self–disposal or voluntary act. Self–disposal, to us, belongs to those who, through the activities of the Intellectual–Principle, live above the states of the body. The spring of freedom is the activity of Intellectual–Principle, the highest in our being; the proposals emanating thence are freedom; such desires as are formed in the exercise of the Intellectual act cannot be classed as involuntary; the Gods, therefore, that live in this state, living by Intellectual–Principle and by desire conformed to it, possess freedom.