Plotinus

Plotinus
c. 205
c. 270

Greek Philosopher, Theorized three principles: the One, the Intellect and the Soul

Author Quotes

When we look outside of that on which we depend we ignore our unity; looking outward we see many faces; look inward and all is one head. If a man could but be turned about, he would see at once God and himself and the All.

There is thus a converse in virtue of which the essential man outgrows Being, becomes identical with the Transcendent of Being. He that knows himself to be one with This, has in himself the likeness of the Supreme; if from that heightened self he can pass higher still? image to archetype? he has won the term of all his journeying.

Wherever it lies, under earth or over earth, the body will always rot.

Therefore must we ascend once more towards the Good, towards there where tend all souls. Anyone who has seen it knows what I mean, in what sense it is beautiful. As good it is desired and towards it desire advances. But only those reach it who rise to the intelligible realm, face it fully, stripped of the muddy vesture with which they were clothed in their descent....Those who have witnessed the manifestation of divine or supernatural realities can never again feel the old delight in bodily beauty.

Which will be an object of thought to the intellect, but in itself it will be neither thinker nor object of thought in the proper, authentic sense; for the object of thought is object for something else, and the intellect has its intellectual effort empty of content if it does not grasp and comprehend the object which it thinks.

Therefore we must ascend again towards the Good, the desired of every Soul. Anyone that has seen This, knows what I intend when I say that it is beautiful. Even the desire of it is to be desired as a Good. To attain it is for those that will take the upward path, who will set all their forces towards it, who will divest themselves of all that we have put on in our descent: ? so, to those that approach the Holy Celebrations of the Mysteries, there are appointed purifications and the laying aside of the garments worn before, and the entry in nakedness ? until, passing, on the upward way, all that is other than the God, each in the solitude of himself shall behold that solitary-dwelling Existence, the Apart, the Unmingled, the Pure, that from Which all things depend, for Which all look and live and act and know, the Source of Life and of Intellection and of Being.

World Soul and Individual Souls: There must be something prior to Soul because Soul is in the world and there must be something outside a world in which, all being corporeal and material, nothing has enduring reality: failing such a prior, neither man nor the Ideas would be eternal or have true identity. These and many other considerations establish the necessary existence of an Intellectual-Principle prior to Soul.

Therefore, since a rational principle came to be in something which was not rational, but an indefinite impulse and as obscure expression, what it produced was something not complete or sufficient, but defective, since it came into being from an indefinite impulse and a sufficient rational principle. So Eros is not a pure rational principle, since he has in himself an indefinite, irrational, unbounded impulse; for he will never be satisfied as long as he has in him the nature of the indefinite.

Wrong-doing from man to man is wrong in the doer and he is not to be absolved from responsibility; but as belonging to the established order of the universe is not a wrong even as regards the innocent sufferer; it is a thing that had to be, and if the sufferer is good, the issue is to his gain. For we cannot think that this ordered combination proceeds without God and justice, even though the reasons of things elude us, and to our ignorance the scheme presents matter of censure.

Things here are but signs that show to the wise how the Supreme God is known; the enlightened sage reading the sign may enter the holy place and make the vision real. This Term, attained only by those that have overpassed all, is the All-Transcending.

This All is universal power, of infinite extent and infinite in potency, a god so great that all his parts are infinite. Name any place, and he is already there.

This is the life of gods and of godlike and blessed men? liberation from the alien that besets us here, a life taking no pleasure in the things of earth? a flight of the alone to the Alone.

To make the existence and coherent structure of this Universe depend upon automatic activity and upon chance is against all good sense.

True fortitude is not to fear death; for death is nothing more than a certain separation of soul from body, and this he will not fear, who desires to be alone.

We are left wondering whence it came, from within or without; and when it has gone, we say, ?It was here. Yet no; it was beyond!? But we ought not to question whence; there is no whence, no coming or going in place; now it is seen and now not seen. We must not run after it, but fit ourselves for the vision and then wait tranquilly for its appearance, as the eye waits on the rising of the sun, which in its own time appears above the horizon ? out of the ocean, as the poets say ? and gives itself to our sight.

We must not run after it, but we must fit ourselves for the vision and then wait tranquilly for it, as the eye waits on the rising of the Sun which in its own time appears above the horizon and gives itself to our sight.

We need to assign the Senior Beauty, which is identical with the well and which derives the Intelligence which is beautiful in itself.

We should be spectators of murders, and all deaths, and takings and sackings of cities, as if they were on the stages of theatres, all changes of scenery and costume and acted wailings and weepings. For really here in the events of our lives it is not the soul within but the outside shadow of man which cries and moans and carries on in every sort of way on a stage which is the whole earth? Doings like these belong to a man who knows how to live only the lower and external life and is not aware that he is playing in his tears, even if they are serious tears.

What is this vision like? How is it attained? How will one see this immense beauty that dwells, as it were, in inner sanctuaries and comes not forward to be seen by the profane? Let him who can arise, withdraw into himself, forego all that is known by the eyes, turn aside forever from the bodily beauty that was once his joy. He must not hanker after the graceful shapes that appear in bodies, but know them for copies, for traceries, for shadows, and hasten away towards that which they bespeak. For if one pursue what is like a beautiful shape moving over water ? Is there not a myth about just such a dupe, how he sank into the depths of the current and was swept away to nothingness? Well, so too, one that is caught by material beauty and will not cut himself free will be precipitated, not in body but in soul, down into the dark depths loathed by The Intelligence where, blind even there in Hades, he will traffic only with shadows, there as he did here. ? We must close our eyes and invoke a new manner of seeing, a wakefulness that is the birthright of us all, though few put it to use. ?

When [we] see the beauty in bodies [we] must not run after them; we must know that they are images, traces, shadows and hurry away to that which they image.

Never stop working on your statue until the divine glory of virtue shines out on you, until you see self-mastery enthroned upon its holy seat.

The effects of the One are not poured out from him with the result that they diminish him; for there is no bulk; otherwise the things generated from him would be perishable. But as it is they are eternal, because their principle remains the same, not divided up into them but abiding as a whole. So they also abide; just as the light abides if the sun abides,

The world is knowable, harmonious, and good.

Newly awakened it is all too feeble to bear the ultimate splendor. Therefore the Soul must be trained ? to the habit of remarking, first, all noble pursuits, then the works of beauty produced not by the labor of the arts but by the virtue of men known for their goodness: lastly, you must search the souls of those that have shaped these beautiful forms. But how are you to see into a virtuous soul and know its loveliness? Withdraw into yourself and look. And if you do not find yourself beautiful yet, act as does the creator of a statue that is to be made beautiful: he cuts away here, he smoothes there, he makes this line lighter, this other purer, until a lovely face has grown upon his work. So do you also: cut away all that is excessive, straighten all that is crooked, bring light to all that is overcast, labor to make all one glow of beauty and never cease chiseling your statue, until there shall shine out on you from it the godlike splendor of virtue, until you shall see the perfect goodness surely established in the stainless shrine. When you know that you have become this perfect work, when you are self-gathered in the purity of your being, nothing now remaining that can shatter that inner unity, nothing from without clinging to the authentic man, when you find yourself wholly true to your essential nature, wholly that only veritable Light which is not measured by space, not narrowed to any circumscribed form nor again diffused as a thing void of term, but ever unmeasurable as something greater than all measure and more than all quantity ? when you perceive that you have grown to this, you are now become very vision: now call up all your confidence, strike forward yet a step ? you need a guide no longer ? strain, and see.

The evil that has overtaken them has its source in self-will, in the entry into birth, in the desire for self ownership. They conceived a pleasure in this freedom and largely indulged their own motion; thus they were hurried down the wrong path, and drifting further and further, came to lose even the thought of their origin in the Divine. Children wrenched young from home and brought up at a distance will fail in knowledge of their parents and themselves; in the same way the souls no longer discern either the Divinity or their own nature; ignorance of their rank brings self-depreciation; all their awe and admiration is for the alien, and clinging to this they have broken away as far as a soul may; their regard for the mundane and their disregard of themselves bring about their utter ignoring of the Divine.

Author Picture
First Name
Plotinus
Birth Date
c. 205
Death Date
c. 270
Bio

Greek Philosopher, Theorized three principles: the One, the Intellect and the Soul