Lectuke Twentyfourth

the world-soul as mediator between the sensible and intelligible worlds.

Iff the last lecture we were considering the way in which Plotinus deals with the Absolute One as an exclusive unity to which we rise by negation of all finitude and difference, and which, from this point of view, is opposed to everything else, while yet it has to be conceived as the source from which everything else flows. And I pointed out that these two aspects of the One, as an all-exclusive unity and yet as the fountain of all existence, are not reconciled by Plotinus, but that be hides from others and from himself the difficulty of reconciling them, by alternating between the language of exact thought and the language of imagination, generally using the former when he is following the way upwards from the worlds of sense and intelligence to the One, and the latter when he is seeking to throw light on the process* downwards from the One to the intelligible and sensible worlds. This formal difference in the mode of expression only imperfectly conceals the contradiction which arises, when the Absolute, to which all being and thought are related, is yet conceived as not in any sense relating itself to them. We have here in an intensified form a difficulty which had already risen in the Aristotelian philosophy, when God was defined as a' purely contemplative activity, while yet He was at the same time conceived as the beginning and end, the first and final cause, of the universe. In Plotinus, this difficulty is doubled; for he regards God, the supreme unity, as lifted above even the contemplative activity of pure intelligence; while at the same time he has to explain how the Absolute Being, whose activity, so fair as it is active, has no object but itself, should yet be the centre from which all being and thought are radiated. Further, we have to remember that this difficulty repeats itself at every stage of the hierarchy of existence. For while Plotinus always upholds the principle that a thing, so far as it is perfect^ occupies itself only with itself or with that which is above itself, yet he equally maintains that it is just through this self-directed activity that it ■ gives rise to a lower kind of being, which is its image or imperfect copy. To understand Plotinus is in great measure to discern the reasons which made him maintain this apparently contradictory doctrine.

Now I have already indicated how it is that he is so anxious to maintain the isolation of the divine unity, and to deny that it can have any outwardly directed activity. As the last great exponent of Greek dualism, he finds himself unable to think of any outgoing or transewnt activity of God, because in his view such activity would involve want and imperfection in God. He is ready, indeed, to repeat ' Plato's words that the Divine Being can have no envy in him, which should prevent the good that is in himself from flowing out to his creatures:1 but it is impossible for Plotinus to admit that God is occupied with them, or with anything but hi-mself. Hence for want of the conception of God as a self-revealing spirit, Plotinus is obliged to fall back upon the unexplained necessity, of which I have already spoken, that the highest being should produce an image or imperfect copy of , itself, which again in its turn gives rise to a still less perfect image, until at last we reach the lowest and most unreal of all existences.

Frequently this relation of the higher to the lower is represented as one of form to matter. From this point of view the first external product of the One is said to be an ideal matter in the shape of a potential intelligence; and this, by turning to the One that is its source, becomes developed into an active or

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