cular self as such. Hence the self of which the pure intelligence is conscious is simply the pure subjective unity of thought to which all objects are referred; and in this sphere objects are known only through the changeless ideas that are realised in them. The objects of such a pure intellectual consciousness are not the things of the immediate experience of the finite individual; and the self of which it is conscious in apprehending them is not the empirical self. Plotinus, indeed, asserts that in this pure consciousness the individuality of every particular intelligence is still preserved. But it is hard to see what this can mean. For, even at this stage the movement of ascent seems to be, not the rise to a higher self-consciousness—in which all that was present in the lower sphere is reasserted, though with a new light thrown upon it—but the recoil upon a simple intuition in which all that concerns the limited individual life is left out. It is a movement towards a more abstract, and not towards a fuller and more concrete, view of things.
And this holds still more obviously of the last movement of ascent to the immediate experience of the absolute One. Plotinus himself confesses that this, if it be in one sense a progress to a deeper experience, is yet a movement away from all definite consciousness either of the self or of its objects; and he even goes so far as to compare
the indefinable and indeterminate nature of matter which is below knowledge with the equally indefinable nature of the One which is above it "As it is asserted of matter that it must have none of the qualities of things in itself, if it is to receive equally the impressions of them all, so and in a much more absolute way, must the soul become formless, if nothing is to hinder it from being filled and enlightened by the nature which is before all others."1 Are we then to say that the whole process of spiritual ascent is not a movement to a more full and concrete consciousness of reality, but simply a movement of abstraction, in which, one after another, every feature of the world we know disappears till nothing is left ? And is the "presence deeper than knowledge" in which it ends only another name for the disappearance of the soul and all its contents in the absolute unity ?
On this point two things have to be said. The first is, that the religious man's realisation of the deepest truth often takes a form which might without much inaccuracy be described as a "presence deeper than knowledge," or at least deeper than his knowledge. In other words, in contrast with his ordinary dispersed and changing experience of finite things, the religious man has an immediate consciousness of a permanent power and presence of the divine, on which he rests, but which he is unable 1YI, 9, 7*
to measure. And when he tries to define what he experiences, expression seems to fail him. Sometimes, like a _ Hebrew prophet, he uses the highest images he can think of, only to declare their inadequacy ; at other times he takes refuge in negatives to get rid of the apparent limitation of every affirmation. As in Dante's vision the whole universe was gathered round a central point in God, who yet at the same time was conceived as an infinite circumference embracing all things, so in the worshipper's heart God contains, and yet transcends, everything; and the double aspect of God as the One in whom all is lost, and yet the One in whom all is found, seems to be expressible only by asserting the failure . of all expression. Thus what is really the deepest and fullest of all our experiences is apt to adopt the language of Agnosticism, in order to convey a meaning that seems too great for any form of words.
But, in the second place, we have to observe, that when the man who is thus inspired by " thoughts beyond the reaches of this soul," declares that he knows nothing, he means the very opposite of what he says. He does not mean that his mind is empty, but that it is too full; and his revolt against the idea of knowledge is caused by his realising a deeper unity, and so a greater completeness of being, than that which is consciously present to him in what he ordinarily calls knowledge. . He seems, therefore, to leave such knowledge behind him, as having no relation to the higher object that fills his soul, Nor does he realise that it is from the common consciousness of things and experience that he starts, and that his highest vision or intuitive feeling would have no meaning if it did not reflect back its light on the ordinary world of experience, and enable him, however imperfectly, to reconstitute his view of that world in accordance with " the pattern showed him in the Mount." For it is, after all, with materials . derived from the world of sense that we must build up our New Jerusalem; and the Divine Being whom we oppose to everything else, would be a mere abstraction, if we did not somehow refer all that is finite to him.
If once this truth be realised, it comes to be seen that the religious movement upwards cannot be a mere movement of abstraction; and that, if it be in one aspect a via negativa, yet its negations always have a positive behind them. The defect of Mysticism, and especially of the Mysticism of Plotinus, is that it does not discern this; and that,, therefore—if we follow out its characteristic waj of thought to the logical result—it ends in a false isolation, at once of the God worshipped and of the spirits that worship him. For the whole way upwards is described as one. in which the spirit divests itself of one element of its life after another in order to adapt itself to the nature of the object with which it seeks to be united. In this sense, Plotinus compares the true mystic to one who, before entering into a shrine, has to purify himself from all the defilements of the world, and even to strip off all his garments, that he may leave behind him whatever is unworthy of or alien to the god. So must man in his upward progress divest himself of everything finite, even of things which in the lower plane of finite life were good and useful. Thus practical morality is regarded by Plotinus as simply a process of purification (Kaôapo-tç), by which the body and its passions are got rid of ; and when once the cleansing is complete, the ethical life with all its virtues is to be left behind. Thus the practical gives way to the contemplative Hfe, which, as we have seen, is Emptied of all reference to the experience of the individual in this world. And, finally, even the contemplative life itself has to make way for an ecstasy, M wfnch the soul is stripped of everything except the feeling of the divine. The ultimate result is a religion which, just because it has substituted itself for ill other interests, has ceased to be the consecration of all action and all knowledge, and which, in being set against both, loses all its value even as a religion.
From this it appears where the error of Plotinus lies. It liés, not in the regressive dialectic by which he reaches higher and higher points of view, but in the fact that the higher point of view is taken at each regress to exclude the lower and not to enable us to correct the results won from it. It may give some additional force to this criticism, if we remark that the successive steps of the ascending movement of the thought of Plotinus have a close analogy to the stages in the development of the idealistic philosophy of Germany—an analogy which, however, conceals a profound difference of method. Thus both these movements begin in a perception of the defects of the ordinary consciousness, in so far as it conceives all objects as externally related to each other, and takes even the self as one particular object among others. And they both seek to correct this defect by calling attention to the universality of the self, to which in knowledge all objects are referred. When, therefore, Plotinus* referred back the discursive to the intuitive reason, he was making the same kind of reflective regress upon the conditions of experience as that which was afterwards made by Kant when he brought to light what he called the Transcendental Unity of Apperception— when, in other words, he showed how the unity of the self is implied in all determination of objects as such. We may add that Kant made substantially the same mistake as Plotinus, when he regarded that relation of the world of experience to the self as showing that the world of experience is merely phenomenal. For thus Kant was led to isolate the hare unity of thought with itself from the unity of experience which depends upon it, in the same way that Plotinus severs the intuitive from the discursive reason.
The true lesson, as was shown by Kant's idealistic successors, was simply that we must not view any object as complete in itself apart from the mind that knows it Hence, as Fichte already contended, the world of experience—which we at first take as a world of independent individual things conditioned by time and space and acting externally upon each other, a world whose elements are bound to each other only by external necessity—must ultimately be regarded as an organic system, which is so essentially related to the intelligence that all its parts and changes are phases in the self-determined life of that intelligence. In like manner, if Plotinus were right in regarding the perfect unity of intuitive reason as the presupposition of »even our discursive knowledge of the world of sense, the inference is that the idea of the former must be taken, not as excluding the idea of the latter, jrat as enabling us to reinterpret it. In other words, the spiritual world must be regarded, not as another world to which we ascend by leaving the natural world behind us, but as simply the natural world viewed in relation to its principle.
Lastly, the regress of Plotinus upon the One viewed as an absolute unity—transcending even the division of subject and object which is found in the pure intelligence—is very similar to the step which Schelling took when he rose above the subjective Absolute of Fichte's earlier philosophy. For as soon as it had been proved that there is a real correlation between subject and object so that the consciousness of each implies the other, it became necessary to conceive the unity, to which the world is referred, as transcending the opposition between them. And the analogy may be carried farther. For Schelling, at least in his earlier writings, seemed to regard that unity as a centre of indifference, an Absolute of which nothing could be said, though it is the source both of the ideal and the real world, both of spirit and nature. It, however, soon became visible to Hegel, if not to Schelling himself, that the unity cannot thus be separated from the difference which presupposes It, but that both the real and the ideal process must be reinterpreted from the higher point of view of that unify. In other words, the idea of God would lose all meaning, if He were taken as simply a unity transcending all finite and particular existence, and not as a Being who realises himself in the whole process of nature and spirit
It thus appears that modern philosophy has retraced the ascending path of Plotinus, and indeed, of the wttöfe ancient philosophy which gathers to a climax in him. But the result is different, because in each step of this ascent the endeavour of modern philosophy has been, not to set the higher view of things in opposition to the lower, but rather to reconstitute the latter by means of the former. In other words, the ultimate tendency of modern philosophy has been not to separate spirit from nature, and God from both, but to see God as the principle from whom both come, of whom both in their difference and relation are the manifestation, and to whom through the whole process of their existence they return.
It appears, then, that the movement of Greek philosophy toward a deeper and deeper self-consciousness, ends, owing to the method of abstraction it follows, % the absolute negation of all consciousness. In other words, it is just because it separates the higher from tie lower point of view instead of using the former to correct the latter, that, ultimately, it empties the higher point of view of all its positive meaning. Eor, when ifce intuitive unity of self-consciousness, with its ideal ^fference of the subject and the object self, is torn away feom the discourse of reason with its external synthesis, and when the unity beyond the difference of self-consciousness in its turn is torn away even from its transparent difference, the ascent is made in such a way that the path of descent is absolutely barred. She irpSrrov >Jret/<$o? of this method may be already detected in Aristotle's conception of the purely contemplative life of God from which all essential reference to the world was excluded. But, while Aristotle was content to take the world for granted, Plotinus was forced to face the difficulty of its origin. And, as we have seen, he could find no ground for the existence of anything other than God, except in the idea of a natural necessity by which the higher, though it® activity is and can only be directed to itself, produces some lower copy of its own nature. But, in thus making the universe an accident, produced, indeed, by the divine, yet not because God is essentially self-manifesting, but only because it is somehow necessary, Plotinus practically revives the old Greek doctrine which puts fate above the gods. In other words, he escapes making matter independent of God, only to subject God to a natural law which is independent of himself. Thus Plotinus implicitly denies, what he seeks above all to affirm, that God is all in all, the source and end of all things.
And we must further note what is at least one ©f his motives for this denial He is solicitous to guard against attributing deliberation or design to God in the creation of the world, because this would throw upon God the responsibility for all the evils and imperfections that are found in it. God creates because He cannot be and not create, and, therefore, the universe may be described as eternally, begotten.
Moreover, when it is begotten, it is not God that seeks it, but it that seeks God; klvgl co? ipwjuievov, as Aristotle had said.1 Thus Plotinus involves himself in more than all the difficulties of the Aristotelian doctrine, which transfers the cause of motion from the object of love to the lover. Nor can the difficulty be removed by conceiving such love as a mere want» which is satisfied by the influence coming from its object Love, indeed, is a want, but it is also a principle of activity that reaches beyond the want to its satisfaction-; and the being in whom it is has a principle of movement in himself, and cannot be conceived as a mere matter for a form that comes from without A fortiori the Being who is the ultimate source as well as the object of all love cannot be conceived as having no love in himself. Thus God must be regarded not simply as creating beings other than himself, but as realising himself in his creatures; for if not, their relation to him will be accidental and external, and He will n©t be their God. Thus the philosophy of Plotinus is the condemnation of the Greek dualism, just because it is he who carries it to its utmost point. It is the proof that we cannot so emphasise the transcendence of God in relation to his universe as to deny his
1 111 VI, 8, 15, Plotinus says, ipdcr/xiov real ¿pus 6 avrbs ml avrov iptas, but in this passage he is avowedly using language which he admits to be not strictly accurate.
immanence therein, without ultimately being led to the absolute denial that He is its God at all Or, to put the same truth in its particular application, we cannot deny that God is essentially related to man, without also denying that man is essentially related to God.
Now, it may, I think, be shown that the doctrine which finds the universe, and especially the doctrine which finds humanity, in God, was implicit in Christianity from the first, and that it found expression in the development of Christian doctrine. At the same time, as it was by the aid of Greek philosophy, and especially of Neo-Platonism, that that doctrine was developed, it was impossible that the dualism which was so deeply rooted in Greek philosophy should not greatly influence that development. And we find, as a matter of fact, that this was so, and that, as a consequence, the very doctrine of reconciliation became itself the parent of a new dualism which deeply affected Christianity all through the middle ages, and has not ceased to affect it down to the present'day.
Into this, however, as it lies beyond our present subject, we cannot yet enter. But it may help to deepen our view of the difficulty if, in the next lecture, we examine the way in which Plotinus deals with the problem of evil, and how, in doing so, he and his followers were brought into collision with Übte Christian Church.
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