organism, which is its expression—is never complete. In descending, the soul 'always leaves something of itself above.'1
In this way Plotinus expresses the idea that the universal nature of the soul is not extinguished, and that, however much it is forgotten, it is possible for us to become conscious of it again. For, after all, the discursive reason derives all the principles by the aid of which it judges and reasons, from the intuitive; and just in so far as we become conscious of these principles, we lift ourselves above the point of view of discursive reason. In other words, in grasping the principles that enable us to connect one thing with another, we grasp the unity which is presupposed in these principles. We thus realise that there is a *ufcuty of the intelligence with itself which is beyond the difference of subject and object, and for which that distinction, like all others, becomes transparent. In this unity of the intelligence, therefore, we now find our real self, and, in doing so, we detach ourselves from all the interests of the phenomenal world, even from the interest in our self as . one particular object in it. This movement of thought is closely akin to that which we observed in the Stoic philosophy, with only the difference that Plotmtis realised, as the Stoics did hot, that the point of view thus reached is one which excludes liv, 8, 8.
all the activities of the practical life. For when the distinction of the subject and the object is transcended, nothing is left but the purely contemplative consciousness which Aristotle ascribed to God, and which in the De Anima he declared to be a consciousness of all things in their forms, i.e. in that ideal reality that is beyond all change.
" In this way," says Plotinus, " we and all that is ours are carried back into real Being. . We rise to it, as that from which originally we sprang. We think intelligible objects and not merely their images or impressions, and in thinking them, we are identified with them. Thus we participate in true knowledge, being made one with its objects, not receiving them into ourselves, but rather being taken up into them. And the same is the case with the other souls as with our own. Hence, if we are in unity with the intelligence, we are in unity with each other, and so we are all one. When, on the other hand, we carry our view outside of the principle on which we depend, we lose consciousness of our unity and become like a number of faces which are turned outwards, though inwardly they are attached to one head. But if one, of us, like one of these faces, could turn round either by his own effort or by the aid of Athene, he would behold at once God, himself and the whole. At first, indeed, he might not be able to see himself as one with the whole; but soon he would find that there was no boundary he could fix for his separate self. He would, therefore, cease to draw lines of division between himself and the universe: and he would attain to the absolute whole, not by going forward to another place, but by abiding in that principle on which the whole universe is based."1
Plotinus, then, like Aristotle, regards discursive thought, which takes things in their separation and connects them externally with each other, as a limited and imperfect manifestation of the intelligence under the conditions of our finite existence. We cannot explain discursive reason, any more than we can explain intuitive reason, as a mere product or property of the bodily organism; but it is because a spiritual being is 'in the body' that he is obliged to think through images, and therefore to conceive things as externally related to each other in time and space. In like manner Plotinus thinks of all the impulses of our individual life, whether of Ovjmo? or of e7n6vju.[a, as closely connected with our physical nature. When, therefore, we rise to the principle on which the discursive intelligence rests, when we become aware of the unity that underlies all our ^consciousness of particular things, even of our own particular existence, we are already beginning to emancipate ourselves from the body and from the limits of finite individuality that are 1VI, 5, 7.
connected therewith. We are rising into a region in which the barriers that divide us from objects, and especially from other beings like ourselves, are thrown down, and in which each intelligence, in knowing itself, at once and intuitively knows all things. We are making a regress upon the* universal self, whose consciousness of self is in organic correlation with the consciousness of the not-self. We, therefore, transcend the difference of self and not-self, at least in the form in which that difference at first presents itself, as well as all the other differences that are subordinate to this. Further, as the intuitive unity of all things becomes consciously recognised, the discursive intelligence and its object, the world of time and space, gradually disappear from our view. We are raised into a world of pure light and harmony, into a region like the heaven of Dante, from which all darkness, confusion, and antagonism are excluded, because the whole is present in every part, and every part is transparent to all the others. We have thus found the reality of things in finding our true self, and the partial and distorted images of both which were due to their reflexion upon matter, vanish from our sight.
Eut, as we have seen, there is a still higher height which we may attain, and in which we may transcend even the transparent, division of the intuitive self-consciousness. For as the discursive rests upon the intuitive intelligence, so the intuitive intelligence
Was this article helpful?