The Nature Of Man And His Relation To

The subordination-system of Plotinus described in the last lecture is closely connected with his view of man: for man is a microcosm in which all the grades of reality are repeated, as it were on a reduced scale. His nature reaches up to the Absolute, and down to the animal and the plant. His soul, bound up though it is With the existence, and occupied with the care, of a particular body, yet derives its life from a universal intelligence, which in its turn rests on the absolute unity. He is dependent on the sensations of his physical organism for the material of his thought, and he is therefore liable to be enslaved by the appetites of the animal, and even by obscure instincts that spring out of the nature he has in common with the plants: yet he is capable, like Plato's philosopher, of becoming a

' spectator of all time and existence/ and even of von. ii. t rising beyond the life of intelligence into immediate contact with the divine. He is thus a sort of amphibious being who belongs to both worlds, and who therefore can climb up to the highest and sink to the lowest. His peculiar sphere, however, lies in the middle region between sense and intelligence, the region of discursive thought, which receives contributions from both.1 By virtue of this discursive reason he, on the one hand, makes judgments and inferences, in which he distinguishes and connects the images derived from sense, while, on the other hand, he takes cognisance of ideas coming to him from above, from the pure intelligence; and he is able to recognise the agreement or disagreement of the former with the latter—a process which Plato called reminiscence. "Thus when sense apprehends the image of a man and supplies this image to discursive reason, discursive reason may simply accept the image for what it is: or if the individual has been formerly met with, it may ask itself ' Who is this ? * and it may answer by the aid of memory thatf It is Socrates': or it may go on to evolve the content of the image and distinguish the different elements in it. Or, again, going beyond all this, it may raise the question whether Socrates is good, and then, though sense may furnish

^■This view is closely connected with the ideas of Aristotle expressed in the JDe Anima (see Vol. I, p. 283 seq.). The first book pf the iirjst $nnea$ is almost a commentary on the De Anima.

the subject matter, or object of thought, it is from itself that the soul derives the criterion of goodness which it uses in its answer. And if it be asked whence it gets this criterion, we must say that it has in: itself the form of good, and that the light of intelligence which shines upon it gives it the power of grasping such forms; for this part of the soul is pure, and therefore receives into itself the impressions of the intuitive reason. ... It appears, then, that we are identified not with the intuitive, but with the discursive reason, while the products of the activity of the intuitive reason come to us from above and those of sense from beneath; and that which constitutes our self is the predominant part of the soul, which stands midway between the two powers, the higher atid the lower, both of which we may call ' ours' but must not identify with our self."1

Yet, on the other hand, we have to remember that this identification of the self with the discursive reason merely represents the ordinary or average self-consciousness of man, in which he is not aware either of the heights or of the depths of his own being. Pwelling-in this sphere of thought, man is conscious of himself as a particular individual in relation to, and distinction from other individuals who appear to be.external to him and to each other; and his mind moves from one to another of these particular things 1Y, 3, 3.

or beings, determining them severally, or in relation to each other, by the categories of the finite. As so conscious of himself in his finite individuality, man regards himself as one with a particular bodily organism; and he is immersed in cares for its preservation, so that it is hard for him to raise his eyes above the immediate concerns of his earthly life, or to realise that he has a higher nature than the things of sense to which his attention is directed. Hence he is unable to recognise that they are but appearances which come and go with the passing hour, while he has the roots of his being in that which is eternal. He is, as it were, imprisoned in his individual life, and subjected to the conditions of time and space, like the objects he perceives around him; and his love of himself takes the form of a desire to assert himself against all others, to prevail over them in the struggle for existence, and to gain for himself the greatest amount of satisfaction for his sensuous appetites or his earthly ambition.

Plotinus contends, however, that this narrow, and limited existence is not due to the essential nature of the soul; it is the result of a fall from its original estate. Moreover, it is the act' of the soul itself that has separated it from the universal life of reason and imprisoned it in mortality. In its self-will, it has sought to be something for itself; and it is just this self-seeking which has confined it to a particular finite form of existence and identified it with an animal body, and thus shut it out from the universal or divine life in which there is no ' mine ' and ' thine/ but everyone possesses the whole and is possessed by it. The soul has chosen the unrest of time in place of the peace of eternity ; it has chosen spatial division and externality in place of that presence of all to all and in all which is the characteristic of the life of spirit. For " what," asks Plotinus, " has made the soul forget its divine Father ? How is it that being of a divine nature and born of God, it has come to be ignorant of itself as well as of him? The beginning of evil was its audacious revolt, its fall into the region of becoming and difference, its desire to be something for itself. When it has once tasted of the pleasures of self-will, it makes large use of its power of determining itself as it pleases; and thus is carried so far away from the principle of its being that it loses all consciousness of its original. Such souls are like children torn away from their parents and brought up in a foreign country, till they have forgotten what they themselves are, and who are their parents. Thus seeing neither God nor themselves, they are degraded by ignorance of their kinship. They have learnt, indeed, to honour everything rather than themselves, to spend all wonder and reverence and affection upon external things, and to break, so far as they can, all the ties that bound them to the divine. Their ignorance of God is bound up with their admiration of such things, and with their contempt for themselves. For he who pursues and admires that which is alien to himself, ipso facto confesses his own inferiority; and believing himself to be lower than the things of this world, he regards himself as the most degraded and transitory of all the creatures that come into being and pass away, and the thought of the nature and power of God is entirely banished from his mind."1

Our ordinary consciousness, of self, then, is the consciousness of being one among many others, external to them as they are to us, and in constant rivalry with them for the limited satisfactions of appetite and ambition; but this is not a consciousness of the real self, and hence it is not a consciousness of God, who is, so to speak, the deepest ground of the self. It is the consciousness of one who in seeking to save his life has lost it, in seeking to be an independent self-sustained being has become divorced not only from God but from himself. But, according to Plotinus, this descent into finitude—this identification of the soul with a particular individuality, and with the bodily

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