m rests iipon an absolute unity, which maintains itself through all the assertion and negation of difference which are essential to self-consciousness; and of this unity we must become conscious, if we would truly know ourselves. Unfortunately in attempting thus to turn back on its own ultimate presupposition, the mind finds itself engaged in what seems a self-contradictory task; for, the very effort of thought to realise its own principle, separates it from that principle, and produces a new division, which seems incapable of being referred to the unity which it is trying to grasp. We thus appear to be repelled from the unity by the very effort we make to approach it; for we are seeking ■ to reach an identity above all difference by means of an intelligence to which the difference of subject and object is essential. To reach that unity, therefore^ we must transcend even self-consciousness, and become nothing in order that we may find all things in God. Tor, in this ease also, Plotinus will not allow that we can attain to the higher, if we carry anything of the lower with us, and our intelligence must empire in the love with which it grasps its object. His words are these: " When the soul becomes intelligence it possesses and thinks the intelligible, but when it, has intuition of God it abandons everything else. It is like a visitor introduced into a lordly dwelling, who for a while is content to gaze upon its varied beauties, but who forgets them all when the master of the house presents himself; for the master, he finds, is no mere statue or ornament for a moment's wonder, but a presence that demands all attention for himself alone. Upon him, therefore, the visitor will steadfastly fix his eyes till, in the continuous intensity of his contemplation, he no longer sees the object he contemplates, but his vision becomes, as it were, incorporate therewith. Thus, what was at first a mere object of sight, becomes an inward seeing which shuts out even the memory of everything else he has ever seen. In order, however, to make the simile exact we must think of the master of the house not as a man, but as a God, and, again, we must think of this God as not merely appearing to the eyes of the visitor, but as filling his soul: for this, alone will fitly illustrate the difference between that lower power of intelligence by which it contemplates what is in itself and that higher power by which, in a flash of intuition and inspiration, it grasps that which is beyond itself, first seeing it, and then becoming one with what it sees. And, while the former is the vision of an intelligence which still is in possession of itself, the latter is the intuition of an intelligence which is transported beyond itself by love. For it is just when it has drunk of this nectar which deprives it of understanding, that it is reduced by love to that simple unity of being which is the perfect satisfaction of our souls "1 JVI, 7, 35.
Observe further that, while Plotinus speaks of the soul divesting itself of all that divides it from God, even of thought, he does not hold that in doing so it is going out of itself to something strange or foreign; for God, in his view, is not £ far from any one of us,' but on the contrary, we truly come to ourselves only as we lose ourselves in him. " God," says Plotinus, " is external to nothing and to no one, but is present even with those who do not know him: though they escape out of him, or rather out of themselves, and, therefore, are not able to see him from whom they have exiled themselves. Having thus lost themselves, how can they find another being ? A child who is frenzied and out of his mind will not know his father. But he who has learnt to know himself, will know also the Being from whom he comes." 1 Hence it is only needful to remove the division we have ourselves produced in order to be at one with God. In an earlier lecture, I quoted the passage of Plotinus where he compares men to a chorus, which, though it encircles the choragus, yet sings out of tune when it turns away from him and looks outward to .other things, but which, when it turns to him, sings in perfect harmony because it makes him its centre. God is our centre, from whom to separate ourselves is to be in discord with ourselves and with all things; while to be in direct 1VI, 9, 7.
communion with him is to attain perfect harmony and peace with ourselves and with the universe. The result, then, is that the ascent of man, as Plotinus describes it, is not an ascent into some region from which he was at first entirely separated; it is his ascent into himself, into self-consciousness, and, finally, into a consciousness of, or rather a contact with God, as that unity of our being which is even deeper than the self.
On this we may remark, in the first place, that Plotinus clearly recognises the distinction between what is potential in man and what is actually realised in him; and, secondly, that in the main, though not entirely, this distinction coincides with the distinction between the unconscious and the conscious—between that which man is and that which he realises himself to be. Up to a certain point at least, what is actualised in man is what he is for himself \ and when we speak of anything in him of which he is not conscious, we are pointing rather to what he may become, than to what he actually is. From this point of view, we cannot give him credit, or at least full credit, for anything that goes beyond his own "view of himself, and of the world to which he is related. He is what he thinks himself, and thinks himself what he is. Hence Plotinus maintains that men, as men, are identified with the discursive reason and its products, meaning that in their ordinary consciousness they know them selves and others only as beings who are external to each other in space and changing in time; and that, therefore, if we regard their actual attainments in this stage, we must look upon them as beings who are limited to this kind of existence and this kind of consciousness. Yet Plotinus holds equally that they have in them, involved in this very consciousness, a higher potentiality, and that to realise it, they do not need to be transformed, but only to be developed. They do not need to go out of themselves, but rather, so to speak, into themselves, or, in other words, to become conscious of their own real nature. Or, rather, if we are to put it exactly as Plotinus puts it, the process is not a development of something new, but rather a recovery of what they have lost. Their rise to .something better is a return to their native origin; it is deliverance from a yoke to which they have subjected themselves; it is the removal of an illusion which hides them from their own eyes. > On the other hand, while the way upward for man is the way to a deeper consciousness of himself than that which he at first possesses, there is open to him also a way downward which involves the gradual darkening and extinction of that consciousness of himself which, as man, he still retains. The soul, by indulgence in sensuous passions, may immerse itself more and more completely in the material body, till the light of discursive reason dies out into the obscure sensations and instincts of the animal, and till even these are lost in the unconscious movements of the nutritive and reproductive life of the plant. For Plotinus—as against the view of Aristotle that each soul is relative to a particular organism—recurs to the Pythagorean or Platonic idea of transmigration. The soul, he argues, is everything potentially, and, therefore, can become anything. It can pass through all the grades of being from the lowest to the highest: it can ascend up to the absolute One, and it can descend till all consciousness, even in the form of sensitive feeling, is extinguished in it.
So far the ascent of man seems to be the development of a clearer self-consciousness, and his descent the obscuration of the self-consciousness he possesses. But this, in the view of Plotinus, holds good only within very narrow limits. For, in the first place, even the rise to what Plotinus describes as the purer self-consciousness of intelligence seems to involve the disappearance of self-consciousness in the ordinary sense of the word; since in the pure intuition of reason all memory and imagination, as well as all discourse of reason, are lost. The remembrance of the events of the earthly life of the individual and all circumstances attaching to his transitory individuality, must vanish from the consciousness that sees all things sub specie aeternitatis. Nor, indeed, can there remain in it any thought of the partis
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