The Six Enneads
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The Six Enneads.
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The Six Enneads
Written 250 A.C.E.
Translated by Stephen Mackenna and B. S. Page
ON THE KOSMOS OR ON THE HEAVENLY SYSTEM.
1. We hold that the ordered universe, in its material mass,
has existed for ever and will for ever endure: but simply to refer this
perdurance to the Will of God, however true an explanation, is utterly
The elements of this sphere change; the living beings of earth
pass away; only the Ideal-form [the species] persists: possibly a similar
process obtains in the All.
The Will of God is able to cope with the ceaseless flux and escape
of body stuff by ceaselessly reintroducing the known forms in new substances,
thus ensuring perpetuity not to the particular item but to the unity of
idea: now, seeing that objects of this realm possess no more than duration
of form, why should celestial objects, and the celestial system itself,
be distinguished by duration of the particular entity?
Let us suppose this persistence to be the result of the all-inclusiveness
of the celestial and universal- with its consequence, the absence of any
outlying matter into which change could take place or which could break
in and destroy.
This explanation would, no doubt, safeguard the integrity of the
Whole, of the All; but our sun and the individual being of the other heavenly
bodies would not on these terms be secured in perpetuity: they are parts;
no one of them is in itself the whole, the all; it would still be probable
that theirs is no more than that duration in form which belongs to fire
and such entities.
This would apply even to the entire ordered universe itself. For
it is very possible that this too, though not in process of destruction
from outside, might have only formal duration; its parts may be so wearing
each other down as to keep it in a continuous decay while, amid the ceaseless
flux of the Kind constituting its base, an outside power ceaselessly restores
the form: in this way the living All may lie under the same conditions
as man and horse and the rest man and horse persisting but not the individual
of the type.
With this, we would have no longer the distinction of one order,
the heavenly system, stable for ever, and another, the earthly, in process
of decay: all would be alike except in the point of time; the celestial
would merely be longer lasting. If, then, we accepted this duration of
type alone as a true account of the All equally with its partial members,
our difficulties would be eased- or indeed we should have no further problem-
once the Will of God were shown to be capable, under these conditions and
by such communication, of sustaining the Universe.
But if we are obliged to allow individual persistence to any definite
entity within the Kosmos then, firstly, we must show that the Divine Will
is adequate to make it so; secondly, we have to face the question, What
accounts for some things having individual persistence and others only
the persistence of type? and, thirdly, we ask how the partial entities
of the celestial system hold a real duration which would thus appear possible
to all partial things.
2. Supposing we accept this view and hold that, while things
below the moon's orb have merely type-persistence, the celestial realm
and all its several members possess individual eternity; it remains to
show how this strict permanence of the individual identity- the actual
item eternally unchangeable- can belong to what is certainly corporeal,
seeing that bodily substance is characteristically a thing of
The theory of bodily flux is held by Plato no less than by the
other philosophers who have dealt with physical matters, and is applied
not only to ordinary bodies but to those, also, of the heavenly
"How," he asks, "can these corporeal and visible entities continue
eternally unchanged in identity?"- evidently agreeing, in this matter also,
with Herakleitos who maintained that even the sun is perpetually coming
anew into being. To Aristotle there would be no problem; it is only accepting
his theories of a fifth-substance.
But to those who reject Aristotle's Quintessence and hold the material
mass of the heavens to consist of the elements underlying the living things
of this sphere, how is individual permanence possible? And the difficulty
is still greater for the parts, for the sun and the heavenly
Every living thing is a combination of soul and body-kind: the
celestial sphere, therefore, if it is to be everlasting as an individual
entity must be so in virtue either of both these constituents or of one
of them, by the combination of soul and body or by soul only or by body
Of course anyone that holds body to be incorruptible secures the
desired permanence at once; no need, then, to call on a soul or on any
perdurable conjunction to account for the continued maintenance of a living
But the case is different when one holds that body is, of itself,
perishable and that Soul is the principle of permanence: this view obliges
us to the proof that the character of body is not in itself fatal either
to the coherence or to the lasting stability which are imperative: it must
be shown that the two elements of the union envisaged are not inevitably
hostile, but that on the contrary [in the heavens] even Matter must conduce
to the scheme of the standing result.
3. We have to ask, that is, how Matter, this entity of ceaseless
flux constituting the physical mass of the universe, could serve towards
the immortality of the Kosmos.
And our answer is "Because the flux is not outgoing": where there
is motion within but not outwards and the total remains unchanged, there
is neither growth nor decline, and thus the Kosmos never
We have a parallel in our earth, constant from eternity to pattern
and to mass; the air, too, never fails; and there is always water: all
the changes of these elements leave unchanged the Principle of the total
living thing, our world. In our own constitution, again, there is a ceaseless
shifting of particles- and that with outgoing loss- and yet the individual
persists for a long time: where there is no question of an outside region,
the body-principle cannot clash with soul as against the identity and endless
duration of the living thing.
Of these material elements- for example- fire, the keen and swift,
cooperates by its upward tendency as earth by its lingering below; for
we must not imagine that the fire, once it finds itself at the point where
its ascent must stop, settles down as in its appropriate place, no longer
seeking, like all the rest, to expand in both directions. No: but higher
is not possible; lower is repugnant to its Kind; all that remains for it
is to be tractable and, answering to a need of its nature, to be drawn
by the Soul to the activity of life, and so to move to in a glorious place,
in the Soul. Anyone that dreads its falling may take heart; the circuit
of the Soul provides against any declination, embracing, sustaining; and
since fire has of itself no downward tendency it accepts that guiding without
resistance. The partial elements constituting our persons do not suffice
for their own cohesion; once they are brought to human shape, they must
borrow elsewhere if the organism is to be maintained: but in the upper
spheres since there can be no loss by flux no such replenishment is
Suppose such loss, suppose fire extinguished there, then a new
fire must be kindled; so also if such loss by flux could occur in some
of the superiors from which the celestial fire depends, that too must be
replaced: but with such transmutations, while there might be something
continuously similar, there would be, no longer, a Living All abidingly
4. But matters are involved here which demand specific investigation
and cannot be treated as incidental merely to our present problem. We are
faced with several questions: Is the heavenly system exposed to any such
flux as would occasion the need of some restoration corresponding to nourishment;
or do its members, once set in their due places, suffer no loss of substance,
permanent by Kind? Does it consist of fire only, or is it mainly of fire
with the other elements, as well, taken up and carried in the circuit by
the dominant Principle?
Our doctrine of the immortality of the heavenly system rests on
the firmest foundation once we have cited the sovereign agent, the soul,
and considered, besides, the peculiar excellence of the bodily substance
constituting the stars, a material so pure, so entirely the noblest, and
chosen by the soul as, in all living beings, the determining principle
appropriates to itself the choicest among their characteristic parts. No
doubt Aristotle is right in speaking of flame as a turmoil, fire insolently
rioting; but the celestial fire is equable, placid, docile to the purposes
of the stars.
Still, the great argument remains, the Soul, moving in its marvellous
might second only to the very loftiest Existents: how could anything once
placed within this Soul break away from it into non-being? No one that
understands this principle, the support of all things, can fail to see
that, sprung from God, it is a stronger stay than any
And is it conceivable that the Soul, valid to sustain for a certain
space of time, could not so sustain for ever? This would be to assume that
it holds things together by violence; that there is a "natural course"
at variance with what actually exists in the nature of the universe and
in these exquisitely ordered beings; and that there is some power able
to storm the established system and destroy its ordered coherence, some
kingdom or dominion that may shatter the order founded by the
Further: The Kosmos has had no beginning- the impossibility has
been shown elsewhere- and this is warrant for its continued existence.
Why should there be in the future a change that has not yet occurred? The
elements there are not worn away like beams and rafters: they hold sound
for ever, and so the All holds sound. And even supposing these elements
to be in ceaseless transmutation, yet the All persists: the ground of all
the change must itself be changeless.
As to any alteration of purpose in the Soul we have already shown
the emptiness of that fancy: the administration of the universe entails
neither labour nor loss; and, even supposing the possibility of annihilating
all that is material, the Soul would be no whit the better or the
5. But how explain the permanence There, while the content
of this sphere- its elements and its living things alike- are
The reason is given by Plato: the celestial order is from God,
the living things of earth from the gods sprung from God; and it is law
that the offspring of God endures.
In other words, the celestial soul- and our souls with it- springs
directly next from the Creator, while the animal life of this earth is
produced by an image which goes forth from that celestial soul and may
be said to flow downwards from it.
A soul, then, of the minor degree- reproducing, indeed, that of
the Divine sphere but lacking in power inasmuch as it must exercise its
creative act upon inferior stuff in an inferior region- the substances
taken up into the fabric being of themselves repugnant to duration; with
such an origin the living things of this realm cannot be of strength to
last for ever; the material constituents are not as firmly held and controlled
as if they were ruled immediately by a Principle of higher
The heavens, on the contrary, must have persistence as a whole,
and this entails the persistence of the parts, of the stars they contain:
we could not imagine that whole to endure with the parts in flux- though,
of course, we must distinguish things sub-celestial from the heavens themselves
whose region does not in fact extend so low as to the
Our own case is different: physically we are formed by that [inferior]
soul, given forth [not directly from God but] from the divine beings in
the heavens and from the heavens themselves; it is by way of that inferior
soul that we are associated with the body [which therefore will not be
persistent]; for the higher soul which constitutes the We is the principle
not of our existence but of our excellence or, if also of our existence,
then only in the sense that, when the body is already constituted, it enters,
bringing with it some effluence from the Divine Reason in support of the
6. We may now consider the question whether fire is the
sole element existing in that celestial realm and whether there is any
outgoing thence with the consequent need of renewal.
Timaeus pronounced the material frame of the All to consist primarily
of earth and fire for visibility, earth for solidity- and deduced that
the stars must be mainly composed of fire, but not solely since there is
no doubt they are solid.
And this is probably a true account. Plato accepts it as indicated
by all the appearances. And, in fact, to all our perception- as we see
them and derive from them the impression of illumination- the stars appear
to be mostly, if not exclusively, fire: but on reasoning into the matter
we judge that since solidity cannot exist apart from earth-matter, they
must contain earth as well.
But what place could there be for the other elements? It is impossible
to imagine water amid so vast a conflagration; and if air were present
it would be continually changing into fire.
Admitting [with Timaeus; as a logical truth] that two self-contained
entities, standing as extremes to each other need for their coherence two
intermediaries; we may still question whether this holds good with regard
to physical bodies. Certainly water and earth can be mixed without any
such intermediate. It might seem valid to object that the intermediates
are already present in the earth and the water; but a possible answer would
be, "Yes, but not as agents whose meeting is necessary to the coherence
of those extremes."
None the less we will take it that the coherence of extremes is
produced by virtue of each possessing all the intermediates. It is still
not proven that fire is necessary to the visibility of earth and earth
to the solidarity of fire.
On this principle, nothing possesses an essential-nature of its
very own; every several thing is a blend, and its name is merely an indication
of the dominant constituent.
Thus we are told that earth cannot have concrete existence without
the help of some moist element- the moisture in water being the necessary
adhesive- but admitting that we so find it, there is still a contradiction
in pretending that any one element has a being of its own and in the same
breath denying its self-coherence, making its subsistence depend upon others,
and so, in reality, reducing the specific element to nothing. How can we
talk of the existence of the definite Kind, earth- earth essential- if
there exists no single particle of earth which actually is earth without
any need of water to secure its self-cohesion? What has such an adhesive
to act upon if there is absolutely no given magnitude of real earth to
which it may bind particle after particle in its business of producing
the continuous mass? If there is any such given magnitude, large or small,
of pure earth, then earth can exist in its own nature, independently of
water: if there is no such primary particle of pure earth, then there is
nothing whatever for the water to bind. As for air- air unchanged, retaining
its distinctive quality- how could it conduce to the subsistence of a dense
material like earth?
Similarly with fire. No doubt Timaeus speaks of it as necessary
not to the existence but to the visibility of earth and the other elements;
and certainly light is essential to all visibility- we cannot say that
we see darkness, which implies, precisely, that nothing is seen, as silence
means nothing being heard.
But all this does not assure us that the earth to be visible must
contain fire: light is sufficient: snow, for example, and other extremely
cold substances gleam without the presence of fire- though of course it
might be said that fire was once there and communicated colour before
As to the composition of water, we must leave it an open question
whether there can be such a thing as water without a certain proportion
But how can air, the yielding element, contain
Fire, again: is earth perhaps necessary there since fire is by its
own nature devoid of continuity and not a thing of three
Supposing it does not possess the solidity of the three dimensions,
it has that of its thrust; now, cannot this belong to it by the mere right
and fact of its being one of the corporeal entities in nature? Hardness
is another matter, a property confined to earth-stuff. Remember that gold-
which is water- becomes dense by the accession not of earth but of denseness
or consolidation: in the same way fire, with Soul present within it, may
consolidate itself upon the power of the Soul; and there are living beings
of fire among the Celestials.
But, in sum, do we abandon the teaching that all the elements enter
into the composition of every living thing?
For this sphere, no; but to lift clay into the heavens is against
nature, contrary to the laws of her ordaining: it is difficult, too, to
think of that swiftest of circuits bearing along earthly bodies in its
course nor could such material conduce to the splendour and white glint
of the celestial fire.
7. We can scarcely do better, in fine, than follow
In the universe as a whole there must necessarily be such a degree
of solidity, that is to say, of resistance, as will ensure that the earth,
set in the centre, be a sure footing and support to the living beings moving
over it, and inevitably communicate something of its own density to them:
the earth will possess coherence by its own unaided quality, but visibility
by the presence of fire: it will contain water against the dryness which
would prevent the cohesion of its particles; it will hold air to lighten
its bulky matters; it will be in contact with the celestial fire- not as
being a member of the sidereal system but by the simple fact that the fire
there and our earth both belong to the ordered universe so that something
of the earth is taken up by the fire as something of the fire by the earth
and something of everything by everything else.
This borrowing, however, does not mean that the one thing taking-up
from the other enters into a composition, becoming an element in a total
of both: it is simply a consequence of the kosmic fellowship; the participant
retains its own being and takes over not the thing itself but some property
of the thing, not air but air's yielding softness, not fire but fire's
incandescence: mixing is another process, a complete surrender with a resultant
compound not, as in this case, earth- remaining earth, the solidity and
density we know- with something of fire's qualities
We have authority for this where we read:
"At the second circuit from the earth, God kindled a light": he is
speaking of the sun which, elsewhere, he calls the all-glowing and, again,
the all-gleaming: thus he prevents us imagining it to be anything else
but fire, though of a peculiar kind; in other words it is light, which
he distinguishes from flame as being only modestly warm: this light is
a corporeal substance but from it there shines forth that other "light"
which, though it carries the same name, we pronounce incorporeal, given
forth from the first as its flower and radiance, the veritable "incandescent
body." Plato's word earthy is commonly taken in too depreciatory a sense:
he is thinking of earth as the principle of solidity; we are apt to ignore
his distinctions and think of the concrete clay.
Fire of this order, giving forth this purest light, belongs to
the upper realm, and there its seat is fixed by nature; but we must not,
on that account, suppose the flame of earth to be associated with the beings
of that higher sphere.
No: the flame of this world, once it has attained a certain height,
is extinguished by the currents of air opposed to it. Moreover, as it carries
an earthy element on its upward path, it is weighed downwards and cannot
reach those loftier regions. It comes to a stand somewhere below the moon-
making the air at that point subtler- and its flame, if any flame can persist,
is subdued and softened, and no longer retains its first intensity, but
gives out only what radiance it reflects from the light
And it is that loftier light- falling variously upon the stars;
to each in a certain proportion- that gives them their characteristic differences,
as well in magnitude as in colour; just such light constitutes also the
still higher heavenly bodies which, however, like clear air, are invisible
because of the subtle texture and unresisting transparency of their material
substance and also by their very distance.
8. Now: given a light of this degree, remaining in the upper
sphere at its appointed station, pure light in purest place, what mode
of outflow from it can be conceived possible?
Such a Kind is not so constituted as to flow downwards of its own
accord; and there exists in those regions no power to force it down. Again,
body in contact with soul must always be very different from body left
to itself; the bodily substance of the heavens has that contact and will
show that difference.
Besides, the corporeal substance nearest to the heavens would be
air or fire: air has no destructive quality; fire would be powerless there
since it could not enter into effective contact: in its very rush it would
change before its attack could be felt; and, apart from that, it is of
the lesser order, no match for what it would be opposing in those higher
Again, fire acts by imparting heat: now it cannot be the source
of heat to what is already hot by nature; and anything it is to destroy
must as a first condition be heated by it, must be brought to a pitch of
heat fatal to the nature concerned.
In sum, then, no outside body is necessary to the heavens to ensure
their permanence- or to produce their circular movement, for it has never
been shown that their natural path would be the straight line; on the contrary
the heavens, by their nature, will either be motionless or move by circle;
all other movement indicates outside compulsion. We cannot think, therefore,
that the heavenly bodies stand in need of replenishment; we must not argue
from earthly frames to those of the celestial system whose sustaining soul
is not the same, whose space is not the same, whose conditions are not
those which make restoration necessary in this realm of composite bodies
always in flux: we must recognise that the changes that take place in bodies
here represent a slipping-away from the being [a phenomenon not incident
to the celestial sphere] and take place at the dictate of a Principle not
dwelling in the higher regions, one not powerful enough to ensure the permanence
of the existences in which it is exhibited, one which in its coming into
being and in its generative act is but an imitation of an antecedent Kind,
and, as we have shown, cannot at every point possess the unchangeable identity
of the Intellectual Realm.
THE HEAVENLY CIRCUIT.
1. But whence that circular movement?
In imitation of the Intellectual-Principle.
And does this movement belong to the material part or to the Soul?
Can we account for it on the ground that the Soul has itself at once for
centre and for the goal to which it must be ceaselessly moving; or that,
being self-centred it is not of unlimited extension [and consequently must
move ceaselessly to be omnipresent], and that its revolution carries the
material mass with it?
If the Soul had been the moving power [by any such semi-physical
action] it would be so no longer; it would have accomplished the act of
moving and have brought the universe to rest; there would be an end of
this endless revolution.
In fact the Soul must be in repose or at least cannot have spatial
movement; how then, having itself a movement of quite another order, could
it communicate spatial movement?
But perhaps the circular movement [of the Kosmos as soul and body]
is not spatial or is spatial not primarily but only
What, by this explanation, would be the essential movement of the
A movement towards itself, the movement of self-awareness, of self-intellection,
of the living of its life, the movement of its reaching to all things so
that nothing shall lie outside of it, nothing anywhere but within its
The dominant in a living thing is what compasses it entirely and
makes it a unity.
If the Soul has no motion of any kind, it would not vitally compass
the Kosmos nor would the Kosmos, a thing of body, keep its content alive,
for the life of body is movement.
Any spatial motion there is will be limited; it will be not that
of Soul untrammelled but that of a material frame ensouled, an animated
organism; the movement will be partly of body, partly of Soul, the body
tending to the straight line which its nature imposes, the Soul restraining
it; the resultant will be the compromise movement of a thing at once carried
forward and at rest.
But supposing that the circular movement is to be attributed to
the body, how is it to be explained, since all body, including fire [which
constitutes the heavens] has straightforward motion?
The answer is that forthright movement is maintained only pending
arrival at the place for which the moving thing is destined: where a thing
is ordained to be, there it seeks, of its nature, to come for its rest;
its motion is its tendence to its appointed place.
Then, since the fire of the sidereal system has attained its goal,
why does it not stay at rest?
Evidently because the very nature of fire is to be mobile: if it
did not take the curve, its straight line would finally fling it outside
the universe: the circular course, then, is imperative.
But this would imply an act of providence?
Not quite: rather its own act under providence; attaining to that realm,
it must still take the circular course by its indwelling nature; for it
seeks the straight path onwards but finds no further space and is driven
back so that it recoils on the only course left to it: there is nothing
beyond; it has reached the ultimate; it runs its course in the regions
it occupies, itself its own sphere, not destined to come to rest there,
existing to move.
Further, the centre of a circle [and therefore of the Kosmos] is
distinctively a point of rest: if the circumference outside were not in
motion, the universe would be no more than one vast centre. And movement
around the centre is all the more to be expected in the case of a living
thing whose nature binds it within a body. Such motion alone can constitute
its impulse towards its centre: it cannot coincide with the centre, for
then there would be no circle; since this may not be, it whirls about it;
so only can it indulge its tendence.
If, on the other hand, the Kosmic circuit is due to the Soul, we
are not to think of a painful driving [wearing it down at last]; the soul
does not use violence or in any way thwart nature, for "Nature" is no other
than the custom the All-Soul has established. Omnipresent in its entirety,
incapable of division, the Soul of the universe communicates that quality
of universal presence to the heavens, too, in their degree, the degree,
that is, of pursuing universality and advancing towards
If the Soul halted anywhere, there the Kosmos, too, brought so
far, would halt: but the Soul encompasses all, and so the Kosmos moves,
Yet never to attain?
On the contrary this very motion is its eternal
Or, better; the Soul is ceaselessly leading the Kosmos towards itself:
the continuous attraction communicates a continuous movement- not to some
outside space but towards the Soul and in the one sphere with it, not in
the straight line [which would ultimately bring the moving body outside
and below the Soul], but in the curving course in which the moving body
at every stage possesses the Soul that is attracting it and bestowing itself
If the soul were stationary, that is if [instead of presiding over
a Kosmos] it dwelt wholly and solely in the realm in which every member
is at rest, motion would be unknown; but, since the Soul is not fixed in
some one station There, the Kosmos must travel to every point in quest
of it, and never outside it: in a circle, therefore.
2. And what of lower things? [Why have they not this
[Their case is very different]: the single thing here is not an all
but a part and limited to a given segment of space; that other realm is
all, is space, so to speak, and is subject to no hindrance or control,
for in itself it is all that is.
As a self, each is a personal whole, no doubt; but as member of the
universe, each is a partial thing.
But if, wherever the circling body be, it possesses the Soul, what
need of the circling?
Because everywhere it finds something else besides the Soul [which
it desires to possess alone].
The circular movement would be explained, too, if the Soul's power
may be taken as resident at its centre.
Here, however, we must distinguish between a centre in reference
to the two different natures, body and Soul.
In body, centre is a point of place; in Soul it is a source, the
source of some other nature. The word, which without qualification would
mean the midpoint of a spheric mass, may serve in the double reference;
and, as in a material mass so in the Soul, there must be a centre, that
around which the object, Soul or material mass, revolves.
The Soul exists in revolution around God to whom it clings in love,
holding itself to the utmost of its power near to Him as the Being on which
all depends; and since it cannot coincide with God it circles about
Why then do not all souls [i.e., the lower, also, as those of men
and animals] thus circle about the Godhead?
Every Soul does in its own rank and place.
And why not our very bodies, also?
Because the forward path is characteristic of body and because all
the body's impulses are to other ends and because what in us is of this
circling nature is hampered in its motion by the clay it bears with it,
while in the higher realm everything flows on its course, lightly and easily,
with nothing to check it, once there is any principle of motion in it at
And it may very well be that even in us the Spirit which dwells
with the Soul does thus circle about the divinity. For since God is omnipresent
the Soul desiring perfect union must take the circular course: God is not
Similarly Plato attributes to the stars not only the spheric movement
belonging to the universe as a whole but also to each a revolution around
their common centre; each- not by way of thought but by links of natural
necessity- has in its own place taken hold of God and
3. The truth may be resumed in this way:
There is a lowest power of the Soul, a nearest to earth, and this is
interwoven throughout the entire universe: another phase possesses sensation,
while yet another includes the Reason which is concerned with the objects
of sensation: this higher phase holds itself to the spheres, poised towards
the Above but hovering over the lesser Soul and giving forth to it an effluence
which makes it more intensely vital.
The lower Soul is moved by the higher which, besides encircling
and supporting it, actually resides in whatsoever part of it has thrust
upwards and attained the spheres. The lower then, ringed round by the higher
and answering its call, turns and tends towards it; and this upward tension
communicates motion to the material frame in which it is involved: for
if a single point in a spheric mass is in any degree moved, without being
drawn away from the rest, it moves the whole, and the sphere is set in
motion. Something of the same kind happens in the case of our bodies: the
unspatial movement of the Soul- in happiness, for instance, or at the idea
of some pleasant event- sets up a spatial movement in the body: the Soul,
attaining in its own region some good which increases its sense of life,
moves towards what pleases it; and so, by force of the union established
in the order of nature, it moves the body, in the body's region, that is
As for that phase of the Soul in which sensation is vested, it,
too, takes its good from the Supreme above itself and moves, rejoicingly,
in quest of it: and since the object of its desire is everywhere, it too
ranges always through the entire scope of the universe.
The Intellectual-Principle has no such progress in any region;
its movement is a stationary act, for it turns upon
And this is why the All, circling as it does, is at the same time
ARE THE STARS CAUSES?
1. That the circuit of the stars indicates definite events
to come but without being the cause direct of all that happens, has been
elsewhere affirmed, and proved by some modicum of argument: but the subject
demands more precise and detailed investigation for to take the one view
rather than the other is of no small moment.
The belief is that the planets in their courses actually produce
not merely such conditions as poverty, wealth, health and sickness but
even ugliness and beauty and, gravest of all, vices and virtue and the
very acts that spring from these qualities, the definite doings of each
moment of virtue or vice. We are to suppose the stars to be annoyed with
men- and upon matters in which men, moulded to what they are by the stars
themselves, can surely do them no wrong.
They will be distributing what pass for their good gifts, not out
of kindness towards the recipients but as they themselves are affected
pleasantly or disagreeably at the various points of their course; so that
they must be supposed to change their plans as they stand at their zeniths
or are declining.
More absurdly still, some of them are supposed to be malicious
and others to be helpful, and yet the evil stars will bestow favours and
the benevolent act harshly: further, their action alters as they see each
other or not, so that, after all, they possess no definite nature but vary
according to their angles of aspect; a star is kindly when it sees one
of its fellows but changes at sight of another: and there is even a distinction
to be made in the seeing as it occurs in this figure or in that. Lastly,
all acting together, the fused influence is different again from that of
each single star, just as the blending of distinct fluids gives a mixture
unlike any of them.
Since these opinions and others of the same order are prevalent,
it will be well to examine them carefully one by one, beginning with the
2. Are these planets to be thought of as soulless or
Suppose them, first, to be without Soul.
In that case they can purvey only heat or cold- if cold from the stars
can be thought of- that is to say, any communication from them will affect
only our bodily nature, since all they have to communicate to us is merely
corporeal. This implies that no considerable change can be caused in the
bodies affected since emanations merely corporeal cannot differ greatly
from star to star, and must, moreover, blend upon earth into one collective
resultant: at most the differences would be such as depend upon local position,
upon nearness or farness with regard to the centre of influence. This reasoning,
of course, is as valid of any cold emanation there may be as of the
Now, what is there in such corporeal action to account for the
various classes and kinds of men, learned and illiterate, scholars as against
orators, musicians as against people of other professions? Can a power
merely physical make rich or poor? Can it bring about such conditions as
in no sense depend upon the interaction of corporeal elements? Could it,
for example, bring a man such and such a brother, father, son, or wife,
give him a stroke of good fortune at a particular moment, or make him generalissimo
Next, suppose the stars to have life and mind and to be effective
by deliberate purpose.
In that case, what have they suffered from us that they should,
in free will, do us hurt, they who are established in a divine place, themselves
divine? There is nothing in their nature of what makes men base, nor can
our weal or woe bring them the slightest good or ill.
3. Possibly, however, they act not by choice but under stress
of their several positions and collective figures?
But if position and figure determined their action each several
one would necessarily cause identical effects with every other on entering
any given place or pattern.
And that raises the question what effect for good or bad can be
produced upon any one of them by its transit in the parallel of this or
that section of the Zodiac circle- for they are not in the Zodiacal figure
itself but considerably beneath it especially since, whatever point they
touch, they are always in the heavens.
It is absurd to think that the particular grouping under which
a star passes can modify either its character or its earthward influences.
And can we imagine it altered by its own progression as it rises, stands
at centre, declines? Exultant when at centre; dejected or enfeebled in
declension; some raging as they rise and growing benignant as they set,
while declension brings out the best in one among them; surely this cannot
We must not forget that invariably every star, considered in itself,
is at centre with regard to some one given group and in decline with regard
to another and vice versa; and, very certainly, it is not at once happy
and sad, angry and kindly. There is no reasonable escape in representing
some of them as glad in their setting, others in their rising: they would
still be grieving and glad at one and the same time.
Further, why should any distress of theirs work harm to
No: we cannot think of them as grieving at all or as being cheerful
upon occasions: they must be continuously serene, happy in the good they
enjoy and the Vision before them. Each lives its own free life; each finds
its Good in its own Act; and this Act is not directed towards
Like the birds of augury, the living beings of the heavens, having
no lot or part with us, may serve incidentally to foreshow the future,
but they have absolutely no main function in our regard.
4. It is again not in reason that a particular star should
be gladdened by seeing this or that other while, in a second couple, such
an aspect is distressing: what enmities can affect such beings? what causes
of enmity can there be among them?
And why should there be any difference as a given star sees certain
others from the corner of a triangle or in opposition or at the angle of
Why, again, should it see its fellow from some one given position
and yet, in the next Zodiacal figure, not see it, though the two are actually
And, the cardinal question; by what conceivable process could they
affect what is attributed to them? How explain either the action of any
single star independently or, still more perplexing, the effect of their
We cannot think of them entering into compromises, each renouncing
something of its efficiency and their final action in our regard amounting
to a concerted plan.
No one star would suppress the contribution of another, nor would
star yield to star and shape its conduct under suasion.
As for the fancy that while one is glad when it enters another's
region, the second is vexed when in its turn it occupies the place of the
first, surely this is like starting with the supposition of two friends
and then going on to talk of one being attracted to the other who, however,
abhors the first.
5. When they tell us that a certain cold star is more benevolent
to us in proportion as it is further away, they clearly make its harmful
influence depend upon the coldness of its nature; and yet it ought to be
beneficent to us when it is in the opposed Zodiacal
When the cold planet, we are told, is in opposition to the cold,
both become meanacing: but the natural effect would be a
And we are asked to believe that one of them is happy by day and
grows kindly under the warmth, while another, of a fiery nature, is most
cheerful by night- as if it were not always day to them, light to them,
and as if the first one could be darkened by night at that great distance
above the earth's shadow.
Then there is the notion that the moon, in conjunction with a certain
star, is softened at her full but is malignant in the same conjunction
when her light has waned; yet, if anything of this order could be admitted,
the very opposite would be the case. For when she is full to us she must
be dark on the further hemisphere, that is to that star which stands above
her; and when dark to us she is full to that other star, upon which only
then, on the contrary, does she look with her light. To the moon itself,
in fact, it can make no difference in what aspect she stands, for she is
always lit on the upper or on the under half: to the other star, the warmth
from the moon, of which they speak, might make a difference; but that warmth
would reach it precisely when the moon is without light to us; at its darkest
to us it is full to that other, and therefore beneficent. The darkness
of the moon to us is of moment to the earth, but brings no trouble to the
planet above. That planet, it is alleged, can give no help on account of
its remoteness and therefore seems less well disposed; but the moon at
its full suffices to the lower realm so that the distance of the other
is of no importance. When the moon, though dark to us, is in aspect with
the Fiery Star she is held to be favourable: the reason alleged is that
the force of Mars is all-sufficient since it contains more fire than it
The truth is that while the material emanations from the living
beings of the heavenly system are of various degrees of warmth- planet
differing from planet in this respect- no cold comes from them: the nature
of the space in which they have their being is voucher for
The star known as Jupiter includes a due measure of fire [and warmth],
in this resembling the Morning-star and therefore seeming to be in alliance
with it. In aspect with what is known as the Fiery Star, Jupiter is beneficent
by virtue of the mixing of influences: in aspect with Saturn unfriendly
by dint of distance. Mercury, it would seem, is indifferent whatever stars
it be in aspect with; for it adopts any and every character.
But all the stars are serviceable to the Universe, and therefore
can stand to each other only as the service of the Universe demands, in
a harmony like that observed in the members of any one animal form. They
exist essentially for the purpose of the Universe, just as the gall exists
for the purposes of the body as a whole not less than for its own immediate
function: it is to be the inciter of the animal spirits but without allowing
the entire organism and its own especial region to run riot. Some such
balance of function was indispensable in the All- bitter with sweet. There
must be differentiation- eyes and so forth- but all the members will be
in sympathy with the entire animal frame to which they belong. Only so
can there be a unity and a total harmony.
And in such a total, analogy will make every part a
6. But that this same Mars, or Aphrodite, in certain aspects
should cause adulteries- as if they could thus, through the agency of human
incontinence, satisfy their own mutual desires- is not such a notion the
height of unreason? And who could accept the fancy that their happiness
comes from their seeing each other in this or that relative position and
not from their own settled nature?
Again: countless myriads of living beings are born and continue
to be: to minister continuously to every separate one of these; to make
them famous, rich, poor, lascivious; to shape the active tendencies of
every single one- what kind of life is this for the stars, how could they
possibly handle a task so huge?
They are to watch, we must suppose, the rising of each several
constellation and upon that signal to act; such a one, they see, has risen
by so many degrees, representing so many of the periods of its upward path;
they reckon on their fingers at what moment they must take the action which,
executed prematurely, would be out of order: and in the sum, there is no
One Being controlling the entire scheme; all is made over to the stars
singly, as if there were no Sovereign Unity, standing as source of all
the forms of Being in subordinate association with it, and delegating to
the separate members, in their appropriate Kinds, the task of accomplishing
its purposes and bringing its latent potentiality into
This is a separatist theory, tenable only by minds ignorant of
the nature of a Universe which has a ruling principle and a first cause
operative downwards through every member.
7. But, if the stars announce the future- as we hold of
many other things also- what explanation of the cause have we to offer?
What explains the purposeful arrangement thus implied? Obviously, unless
the particular is included under some general principle of order, there
can be no signification.
We may think of the stars as letters perpetually being inscribed
on the heavens or inscribed once for all and yet moving as they pursue
the other tasks allotted to them: upon these main tasks will follow the
quality of signifying, just as the one principle underlying any living
unit enables us to reason from member to member, so that for example we
may judge of character and even of perils and safeguards by indications
in the eyes or in some other part of the body. If these parts of us are
members of a whole, so are we: in different ways the one law
All teems with symbol; the wise man is the man who in any one thing
can read another, a process familiar to all of us in not a few examples
of everyday experience.
But what is the comprehensive principle of co-ordination? Establish
this and we have a reasonable basis for the divination, not only by stars
but also by birds and other animals, from which we derive guidance in our
All things must be enchained; and the sympathy and correspondence
obtaining in any one closely knit organism must exist, first, and most
intensely, in the All. There must be one principle constituting this unit
of many forms of life and enclosing the several members within the unity,
while at the same time, precisely as in each thing of detail the parts
too have each a definite function, so in the All each several member must
have its own task- but more markedly so since in this case the parts are
not merely members but themselves Alls, members of the loftier
Thus each entity takes its origin from one Principle and, therefore,
while executing its own function, works in with every other member of that
All from which its distinct task has by no means cut it off: each performs
its act, each receives something from the others, every one at its own
moment bringing its touch of sweet or bitter. And there is nothing undesigned,
nothing of chance, in all the process: all is one scheme of differentiation,
starting from the Firsts and working itself out in a continuous progression
8. Soul, then, in the same way, is intent upon a task of
its own; alike in its direct course and in its divagation it is the cause
of all by its possession of the Thought of the First Principle: thus a
Law of Justice goes with all that exists in the Universe which, otherwise,
would be dissolved, and is perdurable because the entire fabric is guided
as much by the orderliness as by the power of the controlling force. And
in this order the stars, as being no minor members of the heavenly system,
are co-operators contributing at once to its stately beauty and to its
symbolic quality. Their symbolic power extends to the entire realm of sense,
their efficacy only to what they patently do.
For our part, nature keeps us upon the work of the Soul as long
as we are not wrecked in the multiplicity of the Universe: once thus sunk
and held we pay the penalty, which consists both in the fall itself and
in the lower rank thus entailed upon us: riches and poverty are caused
by the combinations of external fact.
And what of virtue and vice?
That question has been amply discussed elsewhere: in a word, virtue
is ours by the ancient staple of the Soul; vice is due to the commerce
of a Soul with the outer world.
9. This brings us to the Spindle-destiny, spun according
to the ancients by the Fates. To Plato the Spindle represents the co-operation
of the moving and the stable elements of the kosmic circuit: the Fates
with Necessity, Mother of the Fates, manipulate it and spin at the birth
of every being, so that all comes into existence through
In the Timaeus, the creating God bestows the essential of the Soul,
but it is the divinities moving in the kosmos [the stars] that infuse the
powerful affections holding from Necessity our impulse and our desire,
our sense of pleasure and of pain- and that lower phase of the Soul in
which such experiences originate. By this statement our personality is
bound up with the stars, whence our Soul [as total of Principle and affections]
takes shape; and we are set under necessity at our very entrance into the
world: our temperament will be of the stars' ordering, and so, therefore,
the actions which derive from temperament, and all the experiences of a
nature shaped to impressions.
What, after all this, remains to stand for the
The "We" is the actual resultant of a Being whose nature includes,
with certain sensibilities, the power of governing them. Cut off as we
are by the nature of the body, God has yet given us, in the midst of all
this evil, virtue the unconquerable, meaningless in a state of tranquil
safety but everything where its absence would be peril of
Our task, then, is to work for our liberation from this sphere,
severing ourselves from all that has gathered about us; the total man is
to be something better than a body ensouled- the bodily element dominant
with a trace of Soul running through it and a resultant life-course mainly
of the body- for in such a combination all is, in fact, bodily. There is
another life, emancipated, whose quality is progression towards the higher
realm, towards the good and divine, towards that Principle which no one
possesses except by deliberate usage but so may appropriate, becoming,
each personally, the higher, the beautiful, the Godlike, and living, remote,
in and by It- unless one choose to go bereaved of that higher Soul and
therefore, to live fate-bound, no longer profiting, merely, by the significance
of the sidereal system but becoming as it were a part sunken in it and
dragged along with the whole thus adopted.
For every human Being is of twofold character; there is that compromise-total
and there is the Authentic Man: and it is so with the Kosmos as a whole;
it is in the one phase a conjunction of body with a certain form of the
Soul bound up in body; in the other phase it is the Universal Soul, that
which is not itself embodied but flashes down its rays into the embodied
Soul: and the same twofold quality belongs to the Sun and the other members
of the heavenly system.
To the remoter Soul, the pure, sun and stars communicate no baseness.
In their efficacy upon the [material] All, they act as parts of it, as
ensouled bodies within it; and they act only upon what is partial; body
is the agent while, at the same time, it becomes the vehicle through which
is transmitted something of the star's will and of that authentic Soul
in it which is steadfastly in contemplation of the Highest.
But [with every allowance to the lower forces] all follows either
upon that Highest or rather upon the Beings about It- we may think of the
Divine as a fire whose outgoing warmth pervades the Universe- or upon whatsoever
is transmitted by the one Soul [the divine first Soul] to the other, its
Kin [the Soul of any particular being]. All that is graceless is admixture.
For the Universe is in truth a thing of blend, and if we separate from
it that separable Soul, the residue is little. The All is a God when the
divine Soul is counted in with it; "the rest," we read, "is a mighty spirit
and its ways are subdivine."
10. If all this be true, we must at once admit signification,
though, neither singly nor collectively, can we ascribe to the stars any
efficacy except in what concerns the [material] All and in what is of their
We must admit that the Soul before entering into birth presents
itself bearing with it something of its own, for it could never touch body
except under stress of a powerful inner impulse; we must admit some element
of chance around it from its very entry, since the moment and conditions
are determined by the kosmic circuit: and we must admit some effective
power in that circuit itself; it is co-operative, and completes of its
own act the task that belongs to the All of which everything in the circuit
takes the rank and function of a part.
11. And we must remember that what comes from the supernals
does not enter into the recipients as it left the source; fire, for instance,
will be duller; the loving instinct will degenerate and issue in ugly forms
of the passion; the vital energy in a subject not so balanced as to display
the mean of manly courage, will come out as either ferocity or faint-heartedness;
and ambition... in love...; and the instinct towards good sets up the pursuit
of semblant beauty; intellectual power at its lowest produces the extreme
of wickedness, for wickedness is a miscalculating effort towards
Any such quality, modified at best from its supreme form, deteriorates
again within itself: things of any kind that approach from above, altered
by merely leaving their source change further still by their blending with
bodies, with Matter, with each other.
12. All that thus proceeds from the supernal combines into
a unity and every existing entity takes something from this blended infusion
so that the result is the thing itself plus some quality. The effluence
does not make the horse but adds something to it; for horse comes by horse,
and man by man: the sun plays its part no doubt in the shaping, but the
man has his origin in the Human-Principle. Outer things have their effect,
sometimes to hurt and sometimes to help; like a father, they often contribute
to good but sometimes also to harm; but they do not wrench the human being
from the foundations of its nature; though sometimes Matter is the dominant,
and the human principle takes the second place so that there is a failure
to achieve perfection; the Ideal has been attenuated.
13. Of phenomena of this sphere some derive from the Kosmic
Circuit and some not: we must take them singly and mark them off, assigning
to each its origin.
The gist of the whole matter lies in the consideration that Soul
governs this All by the plan contained in the Reason-Principle and plays
in the All exactly the part of the particular principle which in every
living-thing forms the members of the organism and adjusts them to the
unity of which they are portions; the entire force of the Soul is represented
in the All, but, in the parts, Soul is present only in proportion to the
degree of essential reality held by each of such partial objects. Surrounding
every separate entity there are other entities, whose approach will sometimes
be hostile and sometimes helpful to the purpose of its nature; but to the
All taken in its length and breadth each and every separate existent is
an adjusted part, holding its own characteristic and yet contributing by
its own native tendency to the entire life-history of the
The soulless parts of the All are merely instruments; all their
action is effected, so to speak, under a compulsion from outside
The ensouled fall into two classes. The one kind has a motion of
its own, but haphazard like that of horses between the shafts but before
their driver sets the course; they are set right by the whip. In the Living-Being
possessed of Reason, the nature-principle includes the driver; where the
driver is intelligent, it takes in the main a straight path to a set end.
But both classes are members of the All and co-operate towards the general
The greater and most valuable among them have an important operation
over a wide range: their contribution towards the life of the whole consists
in acting, not in being acted upon; others, but feebly equipped for action,
are almost wholly passive; there is an intermediate order whose members
contain within themselves a principle of productivity and activity and
make themselves very effective in many spheres or ways and yet serve also
by their passivity.
Thus the All stands as one all-complete Life, whose members, to
the measure in which each contains within itself the Highest, effect all
that is high and noble: and the entire scheme must be subordinate to its
Dirigeant as an army to its general, "following upon Zeus"- it has been
said- "as he proceeds towards the Intelligible Kind."
Secondary in the All are those of its parts which possess a less
exalted nature just as in us the members rank lower than the Soul; and
so all through, there is a general analogy between the things of the All
and our own members- none of quite equal rank.
All living things, then- all in the heavens and all elsewhere-
fall under the general Reason-Principle of the All- they have been made
parts with a view to the whole: not one of these parts, however exalted,
has power to effect any alteration of these Reason-Principles or of things
shaped by them and to them; some modification one part may work upon another,
whether for better or for worse; but there is no power that can wrest anything
outside of its distinct nature.
The part effecting such a modification for the worse may act in
It may set up some weakness restricted to the material frame. Or
it may carry the weakness through to the sympathetic Soul which by the
medium of the material frame, become a power to debasement, has been delivered
over, though never in its essence, to the inferior order of being. Or,
in the case of a material frame ill-organized, it may check all such action
[of the Soul] upon the material frame as demands a certain collaboration
in the part acted upon: thus a lyre may be so ill-strung as to be incapable
of the melodic exactitude necessary to musical effect.
14. What of poverty and riches, glory and
In the case of inherited fortune, the stars merely announce a rich
man, exactly as they announce the high social standing of the child born
to a distinguished house.
Wealth may be due to personal activity: in this case if the body
has contributed, part of the effect is due to whatever has contributed
towards the physical powers, first the parents and then, if place has had
its influence, sky and earth; if the body has borne no part of the burden,
then the success, and all the splendid accompaniments added by the Recompensers,
must be attributed to virtue exclusively. If fortune has come by gift from
the good, then the source of the wealth is, again, virtue: if by gift from
the evil, but to a meritorious recipient, then the credit must be given
to the action of the best in them: if the recipient is himself unprincipled,
the wealth must be attributed primarily to the very wickedness and to whatsoever
is responsible for the wickedness, while the givers bear an equal share
in the wrong.
When the success is due to labour, tillage for example, it must
be put down to the tiller, with all his environment as contributory. In
the case of treasure-trove, something from the All has entered into action;
and if this be so, it will be foreshown- since all things make a chain,
so that we can speak of things universally. Money is lost: if by robbery,
the blame lies with the robber and the native principle guiding him: if
by shipwreck, the cause is the chain of events. As for good fame, it is
either deserved and then is due to the services done and to the merit of
those appraising them, or it is undeserved, and then must be attributed
to the injustice of those making the award. And the same principle holds
is regards power- for this also may be rightly or unrightly placed- it
depends either upon the merit of the dispensers of place or upon the man
himself who has effected his purpose by the organization of supporters
or in many other possible ways. Marriages, similarly, are brought about
either by choice or by chance interplay of circumstance. And births are
determined by marriages: the child is moulded true to type when all goes
well; otherwise it is marred by some inner detriment, something due to
the mother personally or to an environment unfavourable to that particular
15. According to Plato, lots and choice play a part [in
the determination of human conditions] before the Spindle of Necessity
is turned; that once done, only the Spindle-destiny is valid; it fixes
the chosen conditions irretrievably since the elected guardian-spirit becomes
accessory to their accomplishment.
But what is the significance of the Lots?
By the Lots we are to understand birth into the conditions actually
existent in the All at the particular moment of each entry into body, birth
into such and such a physical frame, from such and such parents, in this
or that place, and generally all that in our phraseology is the
For Particulars and Universals alike it is established that to
the first of those known as the Fates, to Clotho the Spinner, must be due
the unity and as it were interweaving of all that exists: Lachesis presides
over the Lots: to Atropos must necessarily belong the conduct of mundane
Of men, some enter into life as fragments of the All, bound to
that which is external to themselves: they are victims of a sort of fascination,
and are hardly, or not at all, themselves: but others mastering all this-
straining, so to speak, by the head towards the Higher, to what is outside
even the Soul- preserve still the nobility and the ancient privilege of
the Soul's essential being.
For certainly we cannot think of the Soul as a thing whose nature
is just a sum of impressions from outside- as if it, alone, of all that
exists, had no native character.
No: much more than all else, the Soul, possessing the Idea which
belongs to a Principle, must have as its native wealth many powers serving
to the activities of its Kind. It is an Essential-Existent and with this
Existence must go desire and act and the tendency towards some
While body and soul stand one combined thing, there is a joint
nature, a definite entity having definite functions and employments; but
as soon as any Soul is detached, its employments are kept apart, its very
own: it ceases to take the body's concerns to itself: it has vision now:
body and soul stand widely apart.
16. The question arises what phase of the Soul enters into
the union for the period of embodiment and what phase remains distinct,
what is separable and what necessarily interlinked, and in general what
the Living-Being is.
On all this there has been a conflict of teaching: the matter must
be examined later on from quite other considerations than occupy us here.
For the present let us explain in what sense we have described the All
as the expressed idea of the Governing Soul.
One theory might be that the Soul creates the particular entities
in succession- man followed by horse and other animals domestic or wild:
fire and earth, though, first of all- that it watches these creations acting
upon each other whether to help or to harm, observes, and no more, the
tangled web formed of all these strands, and their unfailing sequences;
and that it makes no concern of the result beyond securing the reproduction
of the primal living-beings, leaving them for the rest to act upon each
other according to their definite natures.
Another view makes the soul answerable for all that thus comes
about, since its first creations have set up the entire
No doubt the Reason-Principle [conveyed by the Soul] covers all
the action and experience of this realm: nothing happens, even here, by
any form of haphazard; all follows a necessary order.
Is everything, then, to be attributed to the act of the
To their existence, no doubt, but not to their effective action;
they exist and they know; or better, the Soul, which contains the engendering
Reason-Principle, knows the results of all it has brought to pass. For
whensoever similar factors meet and act in relation to each other, similar
consequences must inevitably ensue: the Soul adopting or foreplanning the
given conditions accomplishes the due outcome and links all into a
All, then, is antecedent and resultant, each sequent becoming in
turn an antecedent once it has taken its place among things. And perhaps
this is a cause of progressive deterioration: men, for instance, are not
as they were of old; by dint of interval and of the inevitable law, the
Reason-Principles have ceded something to the characteristics of the
The Soul watches the ceaselessly changing universe and follows all
the fate of all its works: this is its life, and it knows no respite from
this care, but is ever labouring to bring about perfection, planning to
lead all to an unending state of excellence- like a farmer, first sowing
and planting and then constantly setting to rights where rainstorms and
long frosts and high gales have played havoc.
If such a conception of Soul be rejected as untenable, we are obliged
to think that the Reason-Principles themselves foreknew or even contained
the ruin and all the consequences of flaw.
But then we would be imputing the creation of evil to the Reason-Principles,
though the arts and their guiding principle do not include blundering,
do not cover the inartistic, the destruction of the work of
And here it will be objected that in All there is nothing contrary
to nature, nothing evil.
Still, by the side of the better there exists also what is less
Well, perhaps even the less good has its contributory value in
the All. Perhaps there is no need that everything be good. Contraries may
co-operate; and without opposites there could be no ordered Universe: all
living beings of the partial realm include contraries. The better elements
are compelled into existence and moulded to their function by the Reason-Principle
directly; the less good are potentially present in the Reason-Principles,
actually present in the phenomena themselves; the Soul's power had reached
its limit, and failed to bring the Reason-Principles into complete actuality
since, amid the clash of these antecedent Principles, Matter had already
from its own stock produced the less good.
Yet, with all this, Matter is continuously overruled towards the
better; so that out of the total of things- modified by Soul on the one
hand and by Matter on the other hand, and on neither hand as sound as in
the Reason-Principles- there is, in the end, a Unity.
17. But these Reason-Principles, contained in the Soul,
are they Thoughts?
And if so, by what process does the Soul create in accordance with
It is upon Matter that this act of the Reason is exercised; and
what acts physically is not an intellectual operation or a vision, but
a power modifying matter, not conscious of it but merely acting upon it:
the Reason-Principle, in other words, acts much like a force producing
a figure or pattern upon water- that of a circle, suppose, where the formation
of the ring is conditioned by something distinct from that force
If this is so, the prior puissance of the Soul [that which conveys
the Reason-Principles] must act by manipulating the other Soul, that which
is united with Matter and has the generative function.
But is this handling the result of calculation?
Calculation implies reference. Reference, then, to something outside
or to something contained within itself? If to its own content, there is
no need of reasoning, which could not itself perform the act of creation;
creation is the operation of that phase of the Soul which contains Ideal-Principles;
for that is its stronger puissance, its creative part.
It creates, then, on the model of the Ideas; for, what it has received
from the Intellectual-Principle it must pass on in turn.
In sum, then, the Intellectual-Principle gives from itself to the
Soul of the All which follows immediately upon it: this again gives forth
from itself to its next, illuminated and imprinted by it; and that secondary
Soul at once begins to create, as under order, unhindered in some of its
creations, striving in others against the repugnance of
It has a creative power, derived; it is stored with Reason-Principles
not the very originals: therefore it creates, but not in full accordance
with the Principles from which it has been endowed: something enters from
itself; and, plainly, this is inferior. The issue then is something living,
yes; but imperfect, hindering its own life, something very poor and reluctant
and crude, formed in a Matter that is the fallen sediment of the Higher
Order, bitter and embittering. This is the Soul's contribution to the
18. Are the evils in the Universe necessary because it is
of later origin than the Higher Sphere?
Perhaps rather because without evil the All would be incomplete.
For most or even all forms of evil serve the Universe- much as the poisonous
snake has its use- though in most cases their function is unknown. Vice
itself has many useful sides: it brings about much that is beautiful, in
artistic creations for example, and it stirs us to thoughtful living, not
allowing us to drowse in security.
If all this is so, then [the secret of creation is that] the Soul
of the All abides in contemplation of the Highest and Best, ceaselessly
striving towards the Intelligible Kind and towards God: but, thus absorbing
and filled full, it overflows- so to speak- and the image it gives forth,
its last utterance towards the lower, will be the creative
This ultimate phase, then, is the Maker, secondary to that aspect
of the Soul which is primarily saturated from the Divine Intelligence.
But the Creator above all is the Intellectual-Principle, as giver, to the
Soul that follows it, of those gifts whose traces exist in the Third
Rightly, therefore, is this Kosmos described as an image continuously
being imaged, the First and the Second Principles immobile, the Third,
too, immobile essentially, but, accidentally and in Matter, having
For as long as divine Mind and Soul exist, the divine Thought-Forms
will pour forth into that phase of the Soul: as long as there is a sun,
all that streams from it will be some form of Light.
MATTER IN ITS TWO KINDS.
1. By common agreement of all that have arrived at the conception
of such a Kind, what is known as Matter is understood to be a certain base,
a recipient of Form-Ideas. Thus far all go the same way. But departure
begins with the attempt to establish what this basic Kind is in itself,
and how it is a recipient and of what.
To a certain school, body-forms exclusively are the Real Beings;
existence is limited to bodies; there is one only Matter, the stuff underlying
the primal-constituents of the Universe: existence is nothing but this
Matter: everything is some modification of this; the elements of the Universe
are simply this Matter in a certain condition.
The school has even the audacity to foist Matter upon the divine
beings so that, finally, God himself becomes a mode of Matter- and this
though they make it corporeal, describing it as a body void of quality,
but a magnitude.
Another school makes it incorporeal: among these, not all hold
the theory of one