The Enneads

By Plotinus

Stephen MacKenna, Translator


By E. R. Dodds

It is right that the reader should be told something of the author of this translation, and of the circumstances in which it was conceived and produced. Stephen MacKenna (1872-1934) is still remembered by a few people as an impassioned and quixotic Irish patriot, and by many as the most enchanting talker — both of sense and of nonsense — whom they have ever known. But he was also one of that great line of unprofessional scholars whose labours have enriched our literature — men who worked with no eye to academic preferment or financial reward, but because they thought the work important.

He came to Greek scholarship by a very unusual route. His father, a soldier of fortune and unsuccessful man of letters, died when Stephen was twelve, leaving a brood of young children and a widow in straitened circumstances. The boy received something of a classical education at Ratcliffe College in Leicestershire; then he was placed in a Dublin bank. After a few years he left this uncongenial security to seek a precarious livelihood as a journalist in Paris and to fight as a volunteer with the Greek army in the Greco-Turkish war of 1897. At thirty-five he had made a considerable name in journalism, first as a special correspondent of the New York World and later as its European representative and head of its Paris office. But he had long been conscious that his true vocation lay elsewhere. While still a bank clerk he had published an English version of the Imitatio Christi, and in 1902 he began to work on a translation of Marcus Aurelius. The latter was never completed; but in 1905, when he was reporting on the abortive ‘first revolution’ in Russia, he bought in St. Petersburg Creuzer’s Oxford text of Plotinus, and in Moscow the Didot edition. And on his thirty-sixth birthday he confided to his private journal that to translate and interpret Plotinus seemed to him ‘really worth a life’. A few months earlier he had resigned his lucrative Paris appointment; now he settled in Dublin and endeavoured, while earning his living as a leader-writer, to fit himself for his self-imposed task not only by hard work on the Greek language and on Greek philosophy but by long and patient study of the masters of English prose style.

“To translate and interpret Plotinus seemed to him ‘really worth a life’.”

For MacKenna believed the translation of a great work of literature or philosophy to be a sacred responsibility which demanded, and deserved, a man’s utmost effort. The translator, in his view, must not rest until he had transferred every nuance of his author’s meaning, emotional as well as logical, into the idiom of another language — an idiom which must be rich, flexible, dignified, and, above all, -xi- contemporary. The finished version would necessarily be ‘free’, but with a freedom which must be based, as he expressed it, on a rigorous ‘preservitude’, and must be justified by the achievement of a closer fidelity to the spirit of the original than any literal rendering could hope to attain.

To translate any of the bulkier Greek writers in this fashion might well be a lifework. But the obstacles in the way of so translating Plotinus were, and are, peculiarly great.* Not only are his thought and expression exceptionally difficult, but the usual aids to understanding, on which the translator of a major classical author can normally rely, are in this case almost completely lacking. There is still no index verborum to Plotinus, no substantial study of his style or syntax, and no philosophical commentary worthy of the name in any language. More serious still, the establishment of a trustworthy Greek text has only recently begun, with the publication of the first volume of MM. Henry and Schwyzer’s monumental edition. And while translations of a sort had been attempted before MacKenna by various unqualified and partially qualified persons, there was none among his predecessors from whom he could hope to get any real light on obscure passages. (The English versions of Thomas Taylor (1787-1834, incomplete) and K. S. Guthrie (1918) are worthless for this purpose. Probably MacKenna’s only considerable debt is to the German of H. F. Mueller (1878-80), a painstaking literal rendering, but one which too often merely reproduces the obscurity of the original.) Nor could he expect much more from contemporary professional scholars. The leading German authority on Plotinus was probably not far out in his estimate when he observed in 1930 that ‘there are today perhaps only twenty or thirty men alive who can read this author after a fashion’. (Richard Harder, in the preface to the first volume of his German translation.) If the last quarter of a century can show some increase in the size of this curious élite, that is largely due — so far, at least, as this country is concerned — to the interest aroused by MacKenna’s pioneering achievement.

Behind his translation lies the patient and often agonized labour of more than twenty years. He soon discovered that he could not effectively serve two masters, Plotinus and daily journalism; and from 1912 onwards the adventurous generosity of the late Sir Ernest Debenham made it just possible for him to choose Plotinus. But in the years that followed he had to struggle not only with increasing poverty but with almost continuous ill health and with moods of deep intellectual discouragement: ‘I doubt if there are agonies’, he wrote once, ‘this side crime or perhaps cancer, more cruel than that of literary and intellectual effort that will not work out to achievement’. I have told this story in full elsewhere, and will not repeat it here. (Journal and Letters of Stephen MacKenna, edited with a Memoir by E. R. Dodds (Constable, 1936).) When the final volume appeared in 1930 MacKenna was a worn-out man; he had judged the undertaking ‘worth a life’, and the price had been paid. -xii-

“When the final volume appeared in 1930 MacKenna was a worn-out man; he had judged the undertaking ‘worth a life’, and the price had been paid.”

His work must in my opinion rank as one of the very few great translations produced in our time. Even as a contribution to pure scholarship it is something of which any man of learning might well be proud: there are many places where MacKenna’s intuitive sympathy with his author has enabled him to come closer to Plotinus’ thought than any other interpreter has done. And it is a consistently honest rendering; MacKenna would never evade a decision on the meaning of a passage by a retreat into vagueness or ambiguity. In point of general faithfulness it has, I think, been surpassed only by two recent continental versions Harder’s German and Cilento’s Italian. (The most important of the improvements due to these scholars have been incorporated by Mr. Page in this edition.) Its claim to permanence, however, rests not on its scholarship in the narrow sense of that term) but on other qualities, which the learned too often lack: on the deep religious feeling which gives warmth and dignity to the style; on the steady avoidance of cliche, no less than the sudden illumination of the vivid phrases; and on the sensitive workmanship of the long shapely sentences which, as the poet ‘A. E.’ said in a review, ‘keep their upward flight like great slow-moving birds’. In the more technical passages MacKenna’s vigorous and lucid English is in fact greatly preferable to the crabbed and often careless Greek of the original; and where Plotinus soars, he conveys far better than any other translator that sense of ‘great doors flung open suddenly’ of which he spoke in one of his letters.

The original edition — whose luxurious format was Debenham’s choice, not MacKenna’s — has for some years been out of print and hard to come by. The decision to reissue the work in a more convenient and less expensive dress would certainly have commended itself to the translator. And he would, I know, have appreciated the editorial care which has been bestowed on the present edition by my friend and former pupil B. S. Page, who collaborated with him in the translation of the Sixth Ennead. In letters written near the end of his life he made it clear that in his own view the work would gain much by revision, and that he would be glad to see this carried out by a professionally trained scholar particularly one whose taste and judgement he had learned to trust, as he had Mr. Page’s. -xiii-

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Preface to the Second Edition

By B. S. Page

This translation of Plotinus first appeared in five volumes between 1917 and 1930, and was published by the Medici Society. The first volume (1917; reprinted 1926) comprised Porphyry‘s Life, the first Ennead, and a translation of the extracts from Plotinus in Ritter and Preller’s source-book of Greek philosophy; the second volume (1921) presented the third and the second Enneads in that order; the third (1924), fourth (1926), and fifth (1930) volumes contained respectively the fourth, fifth, and sixth Enneads. The title-page of the fifth volume placed beside the name of Stephen MacKenna that of the signatory of this preface, who was responsible for the translation of the first three tractates of the sixth Ennead; he also revised the remainder of the volume, but the responsibility here remained with MacKenna.

When the present publishers did me the honour of inviting me to prepare this second edition, I thought at first merely of correcting misprints and other oversights: a translation which was also a creative work of literature had a special claim to be read in the purest possible text, and the removal of surface-blemishes would be a palpable gain to the many readers attracted by the beauty of its style. Yet the fact could not be ignored that MacKenna regarded himself as first and foremost an interpreter of Plotinus: he was acutely disappointed when the translation was praised for its style rather than criticized for its content: ‘the notices the first volume of this series received were more flattering than helpful’; and he promised that ‘modifications suggested by such comment’ would be noted in the final volume — a promise which only failing strength prevented him from fulfilling. If he had lived, he would have been eager to take account of the new translations, the special studies, and the first volume of a new critical edition, which together have amounted almost to a Plotinian renascence in the last thirty years.

My second plan was to provide in an appendix alternative renderings of passages which it seemed likely that MacKenna would have wished to reconsider for one reason or another and particularly in view of the findings of more recent scholarship. These alternative renderings were to be restricted to phrases and sentences where another interpretation was almost certainly preferable and would, moreover, appreciably modify one’s conception of Plotinus’ doctrine or comprehension of his logical procedure. Smaller divergencies might be passed over in silence, and, in general, change would only be suggested when a significant improvement could be readily obtained. Thus alterations in the basic terminology were ruled out from the start; interpretations were sometimes allowed to stand where, though probability seemed to be against them, a plausible defence could be made; and in a number of densely -xv- opaque passages, which still harass the translator of Plotinus, the temptation had to be resisted of substituting one uncertainty for another.

These restraining principles imposed themselves with even greater force when it was finally decided, though not without reluctance, to take the further step of incorporating the corrections in the text. Neither the student nor the more general reader could be suppose relish the task of reading the book in two places at once, and the very idea seemed strangely incompatible with MacKenna’s ceaseless striving for lucidity and elegance of presentation: besides, he was no friend of the scholiast, and would not easily have consented to have his version of Plotinus used as itself a text for notes and variants. The hazards of revision have not been underestimated, and I have been at constant pains to keep MacKenna’s words so far as was possible: students may properly judge that alteration could have gone further, but the one criticism I have been particularly anxious to avoid is that I have made changes light-heartedly and without good reason.

That several hundred modifications* have nevertheless been admitted — though a great many of these involve a mere word or two — will not surprise readers who know the history and the present state of Plotinian studies. Plotinus began with one great handicap and created another: he wrote some six centuries after the classical age of Greek prose, and his method of composition resulted in a style so personal as to baffle the most learned critic among his own contemporaries. Scholarship has not taken kindly to this twofold eccentricity: apart from Ficino’s translation — a product of the Florentine academy at the end of the fifteenth century — and a printer’s rather than a scholar’s text which constituted the edito princeps at the end of the sixteenth he was, though not unknown to philosophers, all but neglected by scholars until the great age of German classical scholarship in the nineteenth century. Even then he was apt to be treated with critical impatience or to fall into the hands of scholars of less than the front rank. When MacKenna began his work there was no truly critical text, no commentary except Creuzer’s of 1835 (to which, as Housman said of Mayor’s Juvenal, one resorts for other things but not for help in difficulties), a few general expository works of value but hardly any studies of special themes or of single tractates, no grammar, no lexicon. MacKenna’s was virtually the first complete English translation: Thomas Taylor’s version was far from complete, and he rightly decided to ignore it; K. S. Guthrie’s (4 volumes, London, 1918 — of American origin) he mentions as having arrived ‘too late to serve in the preparation of this second volume’, but it could hardly have helped him and I have found no evidence that he used it for the later volumes. There were at hand French and German translations: Bouillet’s was good in its day, and is still of use; Müller’s was the work of a devotee, careful but uninspired, and literal enough to reproduce most of the obscurities in the original and add many of its own.

(* About a quarter of the total are in VI. 1-3.)-xvi-

In a generation the landscape has been notably transformed; a vast field remains for detailed cultivation, but the ground has been well gone over: MacKenna has been followed by three other well-equipped translators, and the outlook of today is very different from that which confronted the pioneer of 1917. Emile Bréhier has published in the well-known Budé series a new text, together with a French translation en regard and short introductions — becoming longer as the work proceeded — to the separate tractates. The completion of the seven volumes within fourteen years (1924-38) was an astonishing achievement (especially as Bréhier was simultaneously publishing a large and successful history of European philosophy), but the work everywhere shows signs of haste: the text is not soundly based, the translation — though often acute and mostly serviceable — has a tendency to degenerate into paraphrase; the introductions, however, are valuable and original, and especially helpful in analysing the arguments and relating them to their historical setting. Harder’s German translation was published in five volumes between 1930 and 1937; complementary volumes of explanatory notes were expected to follow but unfortunately have not yet appeared. The translation itself is the most notable contribution to the detailed understanding of Plotinus since Ficino; following the original closely but not slavishly, it is based on a highly perceptive knowledge of Greek in general and Plotinus’ Greek in particular a combination too rarely found in the annals of Plotinian scholarship. Cilento’s Italian translation (three volumes in four) dates from 1947 to 1949; it includes a critical commentary specifying and often discussing the manuscript variants, and every page bears evidence of a thorough and deeply sympathetic study of Plotinus’ text; a careful, candid, and eloquent version, it properly owes much to Harder but starts from an independent and very conservative view of the textual tradition. The true emblem of the new era is no doubt the critical text, of which the first volume was published in 1951, by Paul Henry and Hans-Rudolf Schwyzer — an edition for the first time founded on a comprehensive study of the tradition and giving in a methodical and trustworthy form all and not merely some of the relevant evidence. Such knowledge is indispensable for detailed work on text and interpretation, and when the edition is complete, translators can feel that a main source of bewilderment has been forever removed: difficulties enough will remain, but the area in which their solution can be found will have been limited.

This preface is followed by full extracts from the explanatory material which appeared at the end of the several volumes of the first edition. I have, however, omitted the translation (avowedly ‘somewhat rough-and-ready’) of the extracts from Ritter and Preller, since a better introduction to the system of Plotinus can now be found in any of the books of selections mentioned in the Select Bibliography (Appendix I). I have also restored the order of the Enneads and therefore cancelled -xvii- MacKenna’s note defending rather half-heartedly the reversal of that order as regards Enneads II and III. I have, on the other hand, provided in Appendix II a concordance of the systematic and the chronological sequences, both of which go back to Porphyry (Life of Plotinus, chapters 24 and 4-6); and readers will find that valuable insights are to be gained from following the chronological sequence, though a striking development of thought in the manner now generally attributed to Plato is not to be expected in a writer whose literary activity started only in his fiftieth year and covered no more than seventeen years altogether. Appendix III contains a selection of references to Plotinus’ sources: a verbal knowledge of certain texts, mainly Platonic and Aristotelian, is often indispensable to the understanding of the argument, and though MacKenna excused himself from giving chapter and verse on the ground that the passages from Plato were well known, it has nevertheless been thought that readers would welcome the convenience of precise references.

I am indebted to previous translators, and especially to Richard Harder: I have long held his work in high admiration, and in preparing this edition I have regularly compared my versions with his and rarely differed from him without hesitation. Henry and Schwyzer’s epoch-making recension I have naturally had by me in revising the first three Enneads, but I have been limited in my use of it by the self-denying ordinances already mentioned. I am glad, as MacKenna would have been, to acknowledge the assistance of the most careful and thorough of his critics in print, Professor J. H. Sleeman, and I have borrowed a number of his renderings. My greatest and constant debt is to Professor E. R. Dodds, who first introduced me to MacKenna and who has encouraged and advised me in the preparation of this edition; he has improved my work at many points and suggested interpretations which I have adopted. Errors and misjudgements are my own: I have tried to avoid them, but the task I have undertaken is abundantly strewn with pitfalls, and I can only hope that I have succeeded enough to make this edition acceptable to a new generation of readers of Plotinus and of Stephen MacKenna.

B. S. Page


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Extracts From the Explanatory Matter in the First Edition

I. The Text

The text on which this translation has been made is that of Richard Volkmann (Teubner, Leipzig, 1883): occasionally a reading has been adopted from the text variations or spacious commentary given in the three-volume edition of Friedrich Creuzer (Oxford, 1835): very rarely the translator has been driven to venture an emendation of his own.

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II. Previous Translations

The present translation has been scrupulously compared, clause by clause, over and over again, with those undermentioned:

The Latin of Ficino (in Creuzer’s edition).

The French of M. N. Bouillet (three vols., Paris, 1875, etc.): A complete version; often inaccurate, often only vaguely conveying the meaning; furnished with the most copious and fascinating notes and commentary. To the elucidation of Plotinus’ general themes Bouillet brings illustrations from the entire range of religious and mystical thought, beginning with the earliest thinkers, minutely comparing Plato, borrowing from the Fathers of the Church, from works of the Eastern mysticism, from the Kabbalah, from the medieval theologians, from Malebranche, Spinoza, Leibnitz, Bossuet, Thomassin, etc. He also uses Macrobius very effectively.

The German of Hermann Friedrich Mueller (2 vols., Berlin: Weidmann, 1878-80): This valuable translation is described by its author as ‘literal, but scarcely palatable unless taken in conjunction with the Greek text’: both statements are true: in parts the version is even meaningless without a close study of the original.

The German of Otto Kiefer (2 vols., Diederichs: Jena and Leipzig, 1905): This is a book of selections, very extensive, purporting, indeed, to omit only what is judged to be out of date, futile, or incomprehensible in the original: it is substantially a Mueller made very much more readable with often improvement in sense and sometimes, it is to be feared, a deterioration.

(The translator upon reading some of the treatises translated into English by Thomas Taylor decided, for reasons mainly literary, that -xix- the work of this devoted pioneer would not be helpful in the present undertaking: it has, therefore, not been used in any part of this work except possibly by indirect suggestion from the quotations made occasionally in the commentaries of Bouillet and Creuzer.)

III. Method of the Present Translation

Inevitably the present translator has sometimes differed from all his predecessors, as they have sometimes differed each from all the others: he hopes it will not be thought an insolence in him to remark that his rendering of any given passage is not to be tested finally by the authority of any of these scholars, still less by any preconceived idea of Plotinus’ meaning or by any hasty memory of controversy and decisions as to the peculiar uses of words in Plato or Aristotle. The text of the Enneads may be taken to be very fairly well established, but it would be absurd to suppose that as yet Plotinus, so little cautious or consistent in verbal expression, yields his precise meaning, or full content, as Plato, for example, may be supposed now to do after the scholarly scrutiny of generations. It may, indeed, be said with a rough truth that Plotinus’ terms, shifting at best and depending upon context and again upon the context of the context, are never to be more carefully examined than when they seem to be most true to the Platonic or Aristotelian uses: the confusion is a constant pitfall: Plotinus was pouring a quite new wine into very old bottles. Plotinus is often to be understood rather by swift and broad rushes of the mind — the mind trained to his methods — than by laborious word-racking investigation: we must know him through and through before we can be quite sure of his minuter meanings anywhere: there must be many a scholar at work yet, many an order of mind, before we can hope to have a perfectly true translation of the Enneads in any language. The present worker must have made mistakes, some perhaps that to himself will one day appear inexcusable: his one consolation is that the thing he will that day welcome from other hands has most certainly passed through his own, and been deliberately rejected. Where he appears most surely to have sinned against the light, it is most sure that he has passed through an agony of hesitation.

People seem always anxious to know whether a work of translation is what they call literal; the important question is rather whether it is faithful: the present work pretends to be faithful — and, if we must be precise, literary rather than literal. This is not to say that it is a paraphrase.

Probably every translator from the classic tongues sets out gaily in the firm purpose of achieving the impossible, of making a crib that shall also be a piece of sound and flowing idiomatic writing; and certainly many critics demand the miracle. Some years ago, on the publication of a preliminary specimen of this present venture, one very highly -xx- accomplished scholar wrote complaining with utter seriousness of an English past tense which had dared to translate a ‘frequentative aorist’ of the Greek original; he had apparently never asked himself whether an English past may not be as frequentative as any Greek aorist: in any case, readers who desire their translations to serve as an unfailing treasury of illustrations to ‘X. on Greek Idioms’ are not asked to like this version.

Again, various arbitrary principles, laid down by translators of a formally precise school, have been quite ignored here. For example, it has been decreed that ‘one word must translate one word’, and this in a double application:

§ 1. That if, for example, the word φύσις is once translated Nature, φύσις must stand as Nature at every repetition, never Kind or Essence, or Being or any other word which happens, in a particular context, to be equally clear and precise or even imperative in English to the sense and connexion of thought.

§ 2. That φύσις for example, may never betranslated by such a double as ‘Nature or Hypostasis’, δόξα, for example, never by such a double as ‘Opinion’ or ‘Seeming-Knowledge’, still less, as several times here, by ‘Ordinary Mentation’, with or without an alternative or an addition.

All such bans have been treated here as belonging to the childish pedantry of a game of skill, not to the serious task of conveying to the reader a grave body of foreign thought. Probably in every writer — certainly in Plotinus — such a word as φύσις, such a word as θεός, or again θεῖος, may carry in connotation not merely two but three or four or more notions, any one of which may at a given moment be the dominant, though not necessarily to the utter exclusion of the others. Plotinus has some score of words, technical terms, which he uses in very varying applications where no single fixed English word or even combination of words would always carry his meaning. The translator has in this whole matter adopted the principle of using such a variety of terms, single or double or upon occasion triple, as will exactly cover or carry the idea which appears in the original; he has arrogated to himself almost the entire freedom of a philosophic writer in English who uses his words with an absolute loyalty, of course, to his thought but with never a moment’s scruple as to the terms in which he happened to convey or indicate a given notion five pages back. In other words the present translator has not thought of his probable readers as glossary-bound pedants but as possessed of the living vision which can follow a stream of thought by the light of its vivid movement.

Other theorists of translation desire that a version should represent the style of the original writer: this notion is tempting and may often be safely achieved but not, the present writer ventures to say, in the case of Plotinus, or perhaps in the case of any writer whose main preoccupation is less with artistic expression than with the enunciation -xxi- of cardinal and very gravely important ideas. Longinus, as may be learned from Porphyry’s Life-sketch of Plotinus, so Tittle grasped Plotinus’ manner or expression as to judge ruinously erroneous the most faithful transcripts that could be: a version which should reproduce such a style as disconcerted and misled the most widely read contemporary critic of Greek letters would not be a translation in any useful sense of the word, or at least would not be English or would not be readable.

The present translation, therefore, has been executed on the basic ideal of carrying Plotinus’ thought — its strength and its weakness alike — to the mind of the reader of English; the first aim has been the utmost attainable clearness in the faithful, full, and unalloyed expression of the meaning; the second aim, set a long way after the first, has been the reproduction of the splendid soaring passages with all their warmth and light. Nothing whatever has been, consciously, added or omitted with such absurd purpose as that of heightening either the force of the thought or the beauty of the expression — except in so far as force and beauty demand a clarity which sometimes must be, courageously, imposed upon the most negligent, probably, of the great authors of the world.

(Added in volume 2: In simple honesty to such readers as do not consult the original, the translator feels obliged to state that he does not pretend to be perfectly satisfied that he has himself understood every passage of which he has been obliged to present a rendering: he has in no case passed for publication any passage or phrase which does not appear to him to carry a clear sense in English and a sense possible in view at once of the text and of Plotinus’ general thought; he has been scrupulous in frankly committing himself; but there are at least three or four places in which he feels himself to be as probably wrong as right, places in which either the text is disordered or Plotinus, as often, was inattentive to the normal sequence, or even — verbally at least — to the general consistency, of his thought.

For the present it appears that the best service to Plotinian studies is to dare to be tentative and to beg critics to collaborate in the clearing of dark passages: the notices the first volume of this series received were more flattering than helpful. Modifications suggested by such comment will be noted in the final volume.

Readers are reminded that ‘we read’ translates ‘he says’ of the text, and always indicates a reference to Plato, whose name does not appear in the translation except where it was written by Plotinus: and that all matter shown in brackets is added by the translator for clearness’ sake, and therefore is not canonical. Nothing but what is judged to be quite obviously present in the text appears without this warning sign.)

IV. Terminology

The six Enneads — six sets of Nine treatises — do not constitute or include a formal step-by-step statement or demonstration of the -xxii- Plotinian doctrine: the entire system is assumed in each of the separate treatises, which take the form of special developments or demonstrations of significant points, not chapters in one work of consecutive exposition.

Hence, failing a previous knowledge of the main doctrines, almost any of the treatises must appear incomprehensible or, worse, be radically misunderstood; the terminology, simple enough in itself, becomes dishearteningly mysterious or gravely misleading.

A serious misapprehension may be caused, to take one instance among several, by incautiously reading into terms used by Plotinus meanings or suggestions commonly conveyed by those words in the language of modern philosophy or religion; on the other hand, there is in places almost a certainty of missing these same religious or philosophical implications or connotations where to the initiate the phrase of Plotinus conveys them intensely.

Thus it is not easy, without knowledge and the training of habit, to quiver with any very real rapture over the notion of becoming ‘wholly identified with the Intellectual-Principle’: when it is understood and at each moment deeply realized that ‘The Intellectual-Principle’ is the highest accessible ‘Person’ of the Godhead, is very God, is the Supreme Wisdom immanent within the human soul and yet ineffably superior to all the Universe besides, then perhaps we may feel the great call to the devotion that has such a reward.

We must, then, learn at the very beginning what are the main lines of the Plotinian explanation of the Heavens and the Earth and the Human-Being if we are to obtain from our author, our temporary Master, the depth of his philosophical meaning and the warmth of his religious fervour.

It is not possible to cram the Plotinian system unhurt into a confined space: to be brief is necessarily to be inaccurate: what follows is merely a rough chart intended to give the first essential orientation, to indicate the great highways in their main course and to name the commanding landmarks: it is the natural and necessary introduction to the Terminology, nothing more.

The Divine Names

The system of Plotinus is a system of necessary Emanation, Procession, or Irradiation accompanied by necessary Aspiration or Reversion-to-Source: all the forms and phases of Existence flow from the Divinity and all strive to return Thither and to remain There.

This Divinity is a graded Triad.

Its three Hypostases — or in modern religious terminology, ‘Persons’ are, in the briefest description:

1. The One, or First Existent.

2. The Divine Mind, or First Thinker and Thought. -xxiv-

3. The All-Soul, or First and Only Principle of Life. Of all things the governance and the existence are in these Three.

§ 1. The One

The First Hypostasis of the Supreme Divine Triad is variously named: often it is simply ‘The First’. Envisaged logically, or dialectically, it is The One. Morally seen, it is The Good; in various other uses or aspects it is The Simple, The Absolute, The Transcendence, The Infinite, The Unconditioned; it is sometimes The Father.

It is unknowable: its nature — or its Super-Nature, its Supra-Existence — is conveyed theoretically by the simple statement that it transcends all the knowable, practically most often by negation of all Quality: thus if we call it the Good, we do not intend any formal affirmation of a quality within itself; we mean only that it is the Goal or Term to which all aspires. When we affirm existence of it, we mean no more than that it does not fall within the realm of non-existents; it transcends even the quality of Being.

It is not the Creator: it is scarcely even to be rightly called the First-Cause: its lonely majesty rejects all such predication of action: in this realm of the unknowable the First-Cause is, strictly, a lower principle than The First, which is not to be spoken of in any terms of human thought.

We may utter no more of it — and then under infinite reserve, appealing always to a deep sense behind the words than that in an ineffable Supra-Existence it exists, that in an ineffable Super-Act it acts, that it is everywhere in the sense that without its Supra-Existence nothing could be, that it is nowhere in that it is loftily alien from all else. In so far as language and all the unconquerable force of human thought drive us to speak of it as a Cause, we must keep in mind that it is so only in that its Perfection implies an Act, a production, or, in a metaphor basic with Plotinus, a ‘generation’ of something other than Itself: for Existence or Supra-Existence comports expressive Act. The most perfect form of expressive Act is Thought or Intellection: the Divine Existence, or Supra-Existence, produces, therefore, a Divine-Thought or Intellection.

§ 2. The Intellectual-Principle

This Divine-Thought is, of course, a Real-Being, the first ‘thing’ of whom existence may, if only in some vaguer sense, be affirmed: it is an Intelligence, or rather is the Universal-Intelligence. As the act, off-spring, and image of The First, it is a sort of mediation to us of the Unknowable One. It is in the Greek named ὁ νους, which has often, perhaps not very happily, been translated Divine-Mind, sometimes Divine Intelligence or Divine-Intellection: in the present translation -xxiv- it is most often conveyed by the rather clumsy term, found in practice expressive and convenient, ‘The Intellectual-Principle’. In the English, it must be noted, as in the Greek, the same term is used for the parallel Principle and Act in man: in both realms, the divine and human, the Intellectual-Principle connotes the highest really knowable: often therefore to absorb the full mystical or religious suggestion of a passage the reader will find it expedient to re-translate, i.e. to substitute temporarily for the term ‘Intellectual-Principle’, the term Spirit, or despite the awkward clash, even the term ‘Supreme-Soul’.

With this νοῦς, or Divine-Mind or Divine-Intellection, or Divine-Intellectual-Principle, begins the existence of Plurality or Complexity, or Multiplicity: the Divine Mind contains, or rather is, τὰ νοητά = the Intellectual-Universe or Intelligible Universe, often known as The Intelligible or The Intelligibles.

The Intellectual or Intelligible Universe is the Totality of the Divine-Thoughts, generally known, in the phrase familiar in Platonism, as The Ideas.

The Ideas, or Divine-Thoughts, are Real-Beings, Intelligences, Powers: they are the eternal Originals, Archetypes, Intellectual-Forms of all that exists in the lower spheres. In certain aspects this sphere of the Intelligibles would be best named The Spiritual Universe: Caird agrees with Whittaker in finding it closely like Dante’s conception of the circle of angels and blessed spirits gathered in contemplation and service round the throne of God.

The Intellectual or Intelligible Universe contains, or even in some sense is, all particular minds or intelligences and these in their kinds are images, representations, phantasms, ‘shadows’ of this Universal or Divine Mind. All the phases of existence — down even to Matter, the ultimate, the lowest faintest image of Real-Being — all are ‘ideally’ present from eternity in this Realm of the divine Thoughts, this Totality of the Supreme Wisdom or ‘Mentation’.

The Supreme Intellectual-Principle cannot be unproductive: accompanying its Act of Thought there is what we may, coarsely, indicate as an Act of Act: the Divine-Thinking engenders a power apt to the realization of its Thought, apt that is to ‘Creation’: this engendered power is the Third Hypostasis of the Divine Triad.

§ 3. The All-Soul

The Third Hypostasis of the Divine-Triad is, then, the All-Soul, or Universal Soul or Soul of the All: it is the eternal emanation and image of the Second Hypostasis, the Intellectual-Principle.

As the Divine-Intellectual-Principle has, to our own view, two Acts — that of upward contemplation of The One and that of ‘generation’ towards the lower — so the All-Soul has two Acts: it at once contemplates the Intellectual-Principle and ‘generates’ in the bounty of its own -xxv- perfection the lower possible. Thus we have often in the Enneads a verbal partition of the All-Soul; we hear of the Leading-Principle of the Soul, or the Celestial Soul, concentrated in contemplation of its superior, and the Lower Soul, called also the Nature-Looking and Generative Soul, whose operation it is to generate or fashion the lower, the material Universe upon the model of the Divine-Thoughts, the ‘Ideas’ laid up within the Divine-Mind: this lower principle in the Soul is sometimes called the Logos of the Universe; or the ‘Reason-Principle’ of the Universe. The All-Soul is the mobile cause of movement as well as of Form: more directly than the two superior or ‘earlier’ Hypostases of the Divine-Triad it is the eternal cause of the existence, eternal existence, of the Cosmos, or ‘World’, or material or sense-grasped Universe, which is the Soul’s Act and emanation, image and ‘shadow’. It is the Creator, therefore, and the Vital-Principle of all that is lower, or ‘later’ than the Divine-Triad. In a sense that need not be here minutely elaborated the All-Soul includes, and is, All-the-Souls: for the first rough practical purposes of the average reader, it may be conveniently indicated in a stanza, by Richard Watson Dixon:

There is a soul above the soul of each,
A mightier soul, which yet to each belongs:
There is a sound made of all human speech,
And numerous as the concourse of all songs:
And in that soul lives each, in each that soul,
Tho’ all the ages are its life-time vast;
Each soul that dies, in its most sacred whole
Receiveth life that shall for ever last.

The Divine-Triad as a Unity

The Three Hypostases of the Supreme-Being are, of course, quite frequently spoken of collectively as one transcendent Being or one Divine Realm: sometimes, even, where one of the Three is definitely named, the entire context shows that the reference is not to the Hypostasis actually named but to the Triad collectively or to one of the two not named: thus where the All-Soul is specified in a moral connexion the reference may really be to The First, to The Good; and where the connexion is rather intellectual than moral or merely dynamic, the All-Soul may be used as a comprehensive term for the Godhead with a real reference to the Second Hypostasis, to Divine-Mind.

The Triad, it must never under any stress be forgotten, is The Divinity, and each Hypostasis is Divine: the All-Soul, as Jules Simon well remarks, is the expression of the outgoing energy of the Divinity as the Intellectual-Principle is the expression of the Godhead’s self-pent Thought or Vision.

The Divinity is communicated and approached by the channel of any one of the three Hypostases. The Intellectual-Principle has its Act -xxvi- about The First, towards Which it ‘looks’ in eternal ‘contemplation’, while, of its lavishness, it engenders the Vital-Principle or Soul; similarly the All-Soul ceaselessly looks’ towards the Intellectual-Principle, while, of its lavish energy, it engenders or creates all the lower, down to the lowest form of being in the visible universe. Thus the Divinity is communicated to all things. Now this action within the Divine-Circle is reflected by a parallel action in the lower Cosmos. All ‘Nature’, even in the lowest, is in ceaseless Contemplation and Aspiration: while every being, until the ultimate possible is reached, tends to engender an image of itself, it tends also to rejoin the next highest, of which it is itself a shadow or lower manifestation: even Matter, all but outcast from the sphere of Being and unable to engender, has the power of receiving form and is, thereby, tending feebly towards Authentic-Existence, towards Soul and Mind, and so is linked, distantly, with the Divine.

The Gods and Daimones {Blessed Spirits}

‘The Gods’ are frequently mentioned in the Enneads: the words are generally little more than a fossil survival, an accident of language not a reality of thought. Where, however, Plotinus names Ouranos (Caelus), Kronos (Saturn), Zeus (Jupiter), he indicates the three Hypostases of the Divine-Being: this is part of his general assumption that all his system is contained already in the most ancient knowledge of the world.

Where we meet ‘The Gods’ without any specification we are to understand, according to the context: sometimes the entire Divine Order; sometimes the Divine-Thoughts, The Ideas or Archetypes; sometimes exalted Beings vaguely understood to exist above man as ministers of the Supreme; sometimes the stars and earth, thought of, at least in their soul-part, as Divine-Beings; sometimes the words indicate, vaguely, the souls of lofty men; sometimes there is some vague, sleepy acceptance of the popular notion of the Olympian personalities.

The Daimones are, strictly speaking, lofty powers beneath the Gods: in practice they are often confounded with the Gods: the same word is translated here, according to context and English connotation, by Supernals, Celestials, Divine Spirits, Blessed Spirits.

Man: His Nature, Powers, and Destiny

Porphyry’s arrangement of the Enneads has, at least, this one advantage that Plotinus’ work opens for us with a tract dealing mainly — and not inadequately or, on the whole, obscurely — with the Nature of Man: here then we may be very summary.

The Third Hypostasis of the Divinity — the All-Soul, the Universal Life-Principle — includes, and is, all the souls: the human soul is, therefore, the All-Soul: but it is the All-Soul set into touch with the lower: -xxvii- it is the All-Soul particularized for the space, at least, of the mortal life of man.

This particularization is necessarily a limitation: it sets bounds: it comports a provisory application to this rather than that; we may, therefore, discern phases of the All-Soul in us. These phases or images of the Divine-Soul are found to be three; they are:

1. The Intellective-Soul, or Intuitive, Intellectual, or Intelligent Soul, or the Intellectual-Principle of the Soul.

2. The Reasoning-Soul.

3. The Unreasoning-Soul.

§ 1. The Intellective-Soul is impassible, all but utterly untouched by Matter, forever in the nature of things separated from the body: its Act is the act of Intellection, or Intuition, or True-Knowing of Real Existences: it has its being in eternal Contemplation of the Divine: this Act of the Intellective-Soul, identical with the Intellectual-Principle in Man, is, however, not perceived by the Man except when, by a life of philosophical morality (Sanctity or Proficienthood), he has identified his entire being with this his highest principle.

§ 2. The Reasoning-Soul is the principle of the characteristic human life: to live by the First Soul, the Intellectual-Principle, is to live as a God; in this second Soul we have the principle that constitutes the normal nature of man. This Reasoning-Soul is separable from the body but not separated. Its Act is ‘Discursive-Reasoning’; it knows, not in the instantaneous, unmeditated, entirely adequate True-Knowing of the First Soul but step by step, arriving by the way of doubt and of logic at a knowledge which is even at best imperfect: in its lower action we have as its result ‘doxa’, the untranslatable word usually rendered ‘Opinion’ — in this translation represented according to context, by ‘Surface-Knowledge’, by ‘Ordinary Mentation’, by Sense-Knowing or Sense-Knowledge, or the like.

This second phase of the human soul also possesses the three faculties known as Will, Intellectual-Imagination, and Intellectual-Memory. The Intellectual-Imagination and Intellectual-Memory, distinct from the lower Imagination and Memory, deal with the intellectual element of sensation, presenting sensations, as it were, to the higher faculty for judgement and for the uses of the semi-divine life of philosophic Man.

§ 3. The last phase of the Soul, the Unreasoning-Soul, is the Principle of Animal-Life: it constitutes, in conjunction with the body, the Animal as distinct from the Man; here for reasons of emotional connotation or clearness this phase of the soul conjoined with the body has been said to produce not ‘The Animal’ but ‘The Animate’ or ‘The Animate-Entity’. This conjunction is also called by Plotinus the ‘Two-together’, usually translated here as the Couplement.

The faculties of this ‘Unreasoning-Soul’ or of the ‘Couplement’ are the Sensible (or sense-grasping) imagination and sensible Memory, the -xxiii- appetites rooted in the flesh, passivity or the faculty of sensation, and the vegetative, nutritive, and generative faculties.

This last soul, or phase of the All-Soul, represents in man the very lowest ‘strength’ or the Divinity except for the Matter which is organized by the All-Soul into the form of the body: this last soul, in other words, represents the bare fact of life, going as low as the life of the plant.

The word Soul used of man often conveys, in Plotinus’ practice, the idea of the highest in man, what we should be apt to call Spirit; sometimes, where the notion is mainly of intellectual operation, Mind will be the nearest translation; very often ‘Life-Principle’ is the nearest.


As in Man before the organization or shaping by the All-Soul, so everywhere else there is Matter, always the same: there is a certain tendency to think of Matter as being ‘material’, e.g. in man as flesh or clay, in the world at large as some sort of powdery beginning or residue of things: this misconception must be carefully guarded out. ‘Matter’, says Jules Simon, ‘is rather a demand of thought than a reality of existence’: this perhaps to state the case rashly, but it is certainly nearer to the true conception than is the notion the word conveys to the uninstructed mind.

Matter is the last, lowest, and least emanation of the creative power of the All-Soul, or rather it is a little lower than that even: it is, to speak roughly, the point at which the creative or generative power comes to a halt; it is the Ultimate Possible, it is almost Non-Being; it would be Non-Being except that Absolute Non-Being is non-existent, impossible in a world emanating from the bounty of Being: often no doubt it is called Non-Being but this is not in strict definition but as a convenient expression of its utter, all-but-infinite remoteness from the Authentic-Existence to which, in the long line of descent, it owes its origins.

We are to think of it — as is indicated in the tract on Evil (I. 8) — as invisible, imperceptible to any sense, unknowable by any reach of the mind except by its negation of all that the mind can however feebly grasp, as utterly outside of the realm of form except in so far as feebly it stretches towards some determination in the universal pining of all things towards the Goodness and Wisdom from which however remotely all have sprung.


In so far as Evil exists, the root of evil is in Matter; but Evil does not exist; all that exists, in a half-existence, is the last effort of The Good, the point at which The Good ceases because, so to speak, endlessness has all but faded out to an end. If this seem too violent a paradox to be even mentioned amongst us, we must remember that it is to some degree -xxix- merely metaphorical, like so much in Plotinus: it is the almost desperate effort to express a combined idea that seems to be instinctive in the mind of man, the idea that Good is all-reaching and yet that it has degrees, that an infinitely powerful Wisdom exists and operates and casts an infinite splendour on all its works while we ourselves can see, or think we see, its failures or the last and feeblest rays of its light.


The existence, or half-existence, of Matter brings about the necessity of morality. The Divine perfection is above morality, is ‘unmoral’; the purely material is below morality; morality is for man; man — being divine at his topmost pitch and ‘human’ at the mean, and brute below that and merely vegetative below that and merely Matter in the lowest range of his nature — man, if he is to reach his good, the desired of every being, must ‘what in him is dark illumine, what is low raise and support’, if he is to rise to the height of his great argument, become what his highest is, attain his eternally destined Term.

The Term and the Way

His Way is indicated in many sumptuous passages of the Enneads — it is coldly charted for him in the tractate on Dialectic, I. 3. The Term is more richly described in the famous sixth tract of the same First Ennead: the main need, the cry, of man’s nature is to become actually, as he is always potentially, Divine: all his faculties, images each of its next highest, culminate in the Intellectual-Principle or Intellective-Principle, the Intuitional or True-knowing Faculty; and his duty, or rather his happiness, his blessedness, his deepest inner voice, is to labour his entire being into identification with this, the Divine in him: through this inner Divine, in an ecstasy away from all the lower and, first, from all that links him to Matter, he may even in this life attain to the ‘possession’ of the God-head in an ineffable act of identification, becoming Uniate, one with God, actually God, and foretasting the blessedness of the final Return after which he is for all the space of eternity to be with the God-head, to be Divine, or to be God.

Minor Points of Terminology

Authentic-Existent, -Existents, -Existence represent what is usually conveyed by the English philosophical term Real-Being. This choice was made, mainly, on considerations of literary convenience: an original writer can so play with his sentence-construction as to avoid the awkward clash between the noun and participle; a translator works more freely when there is no possibility of this clash.

It happens, moreover, that the adopted term is in itself better, at least -xxx- for Plotinian uses: Real-Being carries some undesirable suggestion of the purely abstract; ‘The Authentic-Existent’ comports something of the notion of Person or Individuality in an august sense and, so, is oiten, though not by any means always, nearer to the Plotinian notion. The need of some such departure from the customary term was suggested by Mr. Meade’s use of the emphatic ‘That which is’ for the same notion; Mr. Meade’s term was rejected only because it sounds a little grandiose, does not pack conveniently into every sentence, and has no handy plural.

As for Plotinus’ use of the idea, it must be pointed out that it represents most often the very superlative of altitude but sometimes is employed in a derogatory sense: the Sphere of Existence is often The Intellectual-and-Intelligible-Cosmos, Divine Mind, or in general The Divine; sometimes, however, it means the realm of process or of ‘Becoming’, as opposed to the stately immobility of the Divine Beings, then considered as collectively Supra-Existents.

Sensation and Sense-Perception are used, almost indifferently, for any action or passive-state by which man experiences the material world or any of its manifestations or representations.

Act, with the capital, usually translates the difficult word ἐνέργεια and stands for the Expression of the Identity of any being or for its characteristic function, an expression and function which may, often, be entirely within, the very reverse of any operation upon the outer.

In general, Capitalization implies some more or less important technical use of a word.

‘There’ — ‘In The Supreme’ — ‘In The Beyond’ and other similar words or phrases translate at convenience the word ἐκει used by Plotinus for the Divine Sphere, the Intelligible World.

The Proficient translates of ὁ σπουδαιος, and means the achieved Mystic, the Adept, almost the ‘Uniate’, the human being who has become ‘wholly the Divine’.

Philosophy in Plotinus often means not Metaphysics but the Act or State of the Uniate: it might, often, without much fault of tone, be taken as the equivalent of 1, Sanctity, and 2, the Mystic Way.

Earlier and Later refer to order of emanation and therefore convey the rank of nearness or farness with regard to the Divine.

‘We Read’ represents the ‘He says’ with which Plotinus, like the Pythagoreans referring to their own Master, quotes or paraphrases Plato. Where Plato is mentioned by name the name appears in this translation. It has not been judged necessary to give chapter and verse for the Platonic references since the passages are invariably those which have most entered into controversy or into literary allusion.

‘Elsewhere’ and similar phrases may puzzle the reader: it must be -xxxi- remembered that we are reading the treatises in the order not of Plotinus’ writing but of Porphyry’s editing: an allusion or demonstration referred to in this First Ennead may be contained in the Sixth.

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From volume 1: It would not be right to close … without some expression of the translator’s deep obligation to Mr. Ernest R. Debenham, whose interest in Plotinus and friendly offices in the publishing world have resulted in the production of this version of the First Ennead.

From volume 2: In several cases of perplexity the translator consulted Mr. E. R. Dodds … and profited greatly by his advice: in at least two cases he has adopted readings from a revised text projected by Mr. Dodds. …

The translator finds that in his first volume he inadvertently made far too little of the kindly offices of Mr. Ernest R. Debenham, who most generously undertook the entire financial burden of the work: his deepest thanks are here offered for the service by which he is enabled to realize the dominant desire of his life.

From volume 3: The translator desires to acknowledge the generous help afforded him by Mr. E. R. Dodds … who has examined and criticized the translation of this Fourth Ennead throughout. In a very large number of passages the translator has adopted interpretations originally proposed by Mr. Dodds. At the same time he wishes to make it clear that Mr. Dodds is in no sense responsible for the accuracy of the rendering as a whole.

From volume 5: Mr. MacKenna desires to offer his sincerest apologies for the long delay in the publication of this concluding volume. After persistent effort he was forced to recognize that the adequate handling of this Sixth Ennead was beyond his competence and that his only resource was to call in expert assistance. He was fortunate in securing the services of Mr. B. S. Page, with whose help the work was speedily concluded. Mr. Page has translated the first three Tractates making some concessions to the terminology adopted in the previous volumes and has subjected the translation of the remaining six to minute revision, correcting errors and making valuable suggestions. It is to be clearly understood, however, that Mr. Page accepts no responsibility for the final form of this part of the work. …

The warmest thanks of the translator and of all who have been served by the translation of Plotinus here completed are due to Mr. E. R. Debenham, without whose initiative and munificent aid it could not have appeared.

Mr. Page wishes to express his deep sense of obligation to Professor E. R. Dodds, who has always been ready to discuss with him difficulties of reading and interpretation; several passages are translated in the light of Professor Dodds’s suggestions.

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by Paul Henry, S.J.

I. Socrates and the Soul

Plotinus holds a very important place in the history of thought — important in philosophy, more important in theology and in the development of mysticism.

Heir to the great philosophies of the ancient world, those of Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics, he borrowed from all of them the insights which he needed, but without surrendering at any point the dominant influence of Platonism. Eclectic in appearance but powerfully unified by the strength of a single pervading impulse, his system has, by various channels often obscure and often indirect, come to be and remained one of the guiding forces in the thought of the West, whether Christian or secular, from Augustine and Scotus Eriugena to Dean Inge and Bergson. He is the last great philosopher of antiquity, and yet in more than one respect, and notably in the stress which he places on the autonomy of spirit, he is a precursor of modern times.

He is in the West the founder of that speculative mysticism which expresses in intellectual or rather supra-intellectual and ‘negative’ categories the stages and states of union with the Absolute. It is a mysticism wholly philosophical, transposed into a new key which is specifically Plotinian; and it differs very greatly from the mysticism of St. Paul or St. John with which through the centuries it runs parallel or combines, often almost unconsciously, though at times also it is in conflict with the Gospel mysticism.

Porphyry published the works of his master Plotinus (204-70) at the beginning of the fourth century (about 304) — that is to say, just when Christianity was about to become under Constantine the official religion of the Empire and when, above all, Christian thought was about to reflect in the full light of day, through its theologians and in its Councils, upon the Biblical revelation and to set itself the task, while remaining faithful to that revelation, of expressing it in new terms.

Ten centuries of the Middle Ages, though knowing nothing of the Enneads of Plotinus, remained paradoxically enough, if only through the mediation of St. Augustine and the pseudo-Dionysius, closely dependent upon his thought. Of St. Thomas Aquinas Dean Inge could write, not without exaggeration but with some plausibility, that he was nearer to Plotinus than to the real Aristotle.

The Renaissance, in the person of Marsilio Ficino, rediscovered his works and was enthralled by his teaching. Later, such religious thinkers -xxxiii- as the Cambridge Platonists, such philosophers as Berkeley and Hegel, such poets as Novalis and Goethe interested themselves in him and contributed by this interest towards the creation of an atmosphere in which his works, having been edited, translated, and explained, are no more obscure than those of the many-sided Aristotle or of their common master, the ‘divine’ Plato.

It is not the aim of this Introduction to discuss for their own sake the themes, even the essential themes, of Plotinus’ thought: the thing has been excellently done many times already. (For example: W. R. Inge, The Philosophy of Plotinus, 3rd ed., London, 1929; R. Arnou, Le Désir de Dieu dans la philosophic de Plotin, Paris, 1921; E. Bréhier, La Philosophie de Plotin, Paris, 1951; A. H. Armstrong, The Architecture of the Intelligible Universe in the Philosophy of Plotinus, Cambridge, 1940; An Introduction to Ancient Philosophy, London, 1947; H.-R. Schwyzer, art. ‘Plotinos’, in Pauly-Wissowa-Kroll, Realenzyklopadie der klass. Altertumswissenschaft, xxi, 1951, cols. 471-592; M. de Gandillac, La Sagesse de Plotin, Paris, 1952; P. Courcelle, ‘Travaux néoplatoniciens’, in the Actes du Congrès Budé 1953 de Tours et de Poitiers, Paris, 1954, pp. 227-54. I cannot stress enough what my narrative owes to the works of my collaborators and friends, A. H. Armstrong and H.-R. Schwyzer, especially in connexion with the difficult problem of Plotinus’ sources. My debt extends far beyond the explicit references.) The most we can do is to seize upon certain controversial but characteristic points which may help us to determine his proper historical setting. It may, in other words, be of interest to consider him as a link in an unbroken chain which extends from Plato to Bergson, as a thinker inspired by his predecessors and by ‘the god who is in him’ and in turn inspiring many of those who came after him. At the risk of often simplifying extremely complex problems — yet καλὸς ὁ κίνδυνος (The risk is less acute than it would otherwise have been, since my friend B. S. Page has been good enough to translate and revise the text of this Introduction.) — and without being able always to exhibit the detailed reasons in support of opinions sometimes summarily expressed, we have to try to uncover the time-honoured themes which were inherited from Greece and above all from Plato, were transmuted by the prevailing interests of Plotinus’ own epoch and by his personal genius, and which went on to impress themselves deeply upon certain abiding traditions of Western thought.

If he had been able to foresee and to measure in advance his influence on the Christian or dechristianized West, he would have attributed it entirely to the exceptional, and indeed, in his view, unique value of the authentic Platonism of Plato — a Plato not transmuted and transposed but rediscovered and revitalized. It is not rare for great philosophers to claim the authority of an illustrious predecessor and to ensure his survival through the power of their own creative genius acting in a spirit of loyalty without servility: Aristotelianism itself, in a sense the most formidable adversary of Plato and of his ‘disciple’ Plotinus, lives on in large areas of Western thought and notably in Western theology through the influence of St. Thomas Aquinas, who, it may be added, was perhaps more strongly tinged with Platonism than he often himself realized. Perhaps it is a characteristic of certain great philosophers of originality and power to associate themselves closely with a great -xxxiv- predecessor whose work they can recapture without merely reproducing it and can transcend while never abandoning it. It is perhaps this creative loyalty which gives to the term philosophia perennis whatever meaning it may possess. Plotinus, Augustine, and St. Thomas occupy in this respect similar positions in the history of thought, and perhaps we may include in their company Plato himself if we remember his obscure but well-attested relationship with the Pythagoreans and Socrates.

Since it is largely through Christian thought that Plotinus, like Aristotle, has influenced the thought of the West, we shall expect not only to underline the continuity of Plotinus’ Hellenism with Christian thought but also to indicate where, in crucial matters, they part company. It will then be seen, even though the point cannot be elaborated, how in certain respects Christian values, secularized and detached from their original context, sometimes revert to the pure rationalism or the mystical rationalism of Plotinus’ Platonism, and sometimes, as in certain types of phenomenology and existentialism, remain, on the philosophical plane, nearer to the Aristotelian and Judaeo-Christian tradition than to the Greek ‘idealism’ of Plato and Plotinus.

I. Socrates and the Soul

It is not easy to state precisely what Plotinus owes to Socrates. Socrates’ teaching is difficult to reconstitute, and Plotinus, even more than ourselves, knew it only through the Dialogues of Plato, so that his debt to Socrates is a debt to Plato. Moreover, he scarcely refers to him and never invokes his authority.

If it is true that ‘Socrates was perhaps the first man in Europe who had a clear and coherent conception of the soul as we understand it, that is as the moral and intellectual personality, the responsible agent in knowing and acting rightly or wrongly’, (Armstrong, Introduction, p. 29.) then Plotinus, along with almost the whole of Greek philosophy and with Plato in particular, owes to Socrates the very centre of his thought. At the close of his career, in his treatise on Man (I. i), he observes that, whether we adhere to the Platonic tradition in which the body is the soul’s instrument or to the Aristotelian in which the soul is the body’s form or act, the essential human being as identified with what we should nowadays call his ‘ego’ or ‘self’ (αὐτός) is never the composite (body-soul) but always the soul. (1. 1, i, 22-25; cf. Plato, Alcib. i. 130c; Aristotle, Nic. Ethic. x. 7, 1178a 2-3.) Thus, at one stroke, Plotinus is in opposition to the Biblical and Judaeo-Christian conception which declines to recognize any fundamental opposition, even a logical one, between soul and body. (Cf. C. Tresmontant, Essai sur la pensée hébratque, Paris, 1953, pp. 96-97.)

The conception of the soul as the seat of the personality prepares the way for Christianity, and the fact that Plotinus, following Socrates and Plato, concentrates his teaching on this cardinal point goes perhaps some way to explain the deep-seated influence which he exercised on the first -xxxv- Christian thinkers and on the mystical tradition of the West. Nevertheless, this very idealism, this spiritual egotism accentuates the difference between even a Hellenized form of Christianity and Hellenism pure and simple. Neither Socrates nor Plato took sufficient note of the will-factor. In their teaching there is no place — as moreover there is none in Aristotle — for sin and plenary responsibility. In this matter Plotinus strove — unsuccessfully, as he realized — to bring harmony into the contradictory affirmations of Plato: (Cf. IV. 8, i, 17 sqq.) on the one hand, the soul is free, self-impelled, responsible in its ‘fall’ and in the desire to belong to itself, isolated from the whole and from its source; on the other hand, its descent is necessary for ensuring the government, life, and ordering of the universe. Briefly, we have the categorical assertion, without any adequate explanation, of the αὐτός and the κόσμος, the ego and the universal order.

The central doctrine of Socrates is that virtue is knowledge. Plotinus agrees. The Intellect, with which the soul in the higher phase of its life is identified, is without sin and strictly incapable of sinning. ‘Vice is not a perversion of intelligence, but a condition in which this activity is absent or dormant. Wrongdoing is not so much rebellion and defiance as bewilderment and weariness.’ (These expressions are taken from Jean Trouillard, ‘L’impeccabilite de l’esprit selon Plotin’, in Revue de l’Histoire des Religions, 1953, pp. 19-28.) Where wrongdoing simply does not exist, (The ‘daring’, τόλμα, mentioned at V. i, i, 4, comes neither from Socrates nor from Plato, though it is Greek. For parallels see our critical edition, Henry-Schwyzer, Plotini opera, ii., Paris, 1957.) there can of course be no place either for pardon and expiation or for salvation. Such notions or values imply an absolute freedom which Plotinus denies to the soul and denies to the divinity, whether as identified with the One which is his Absolute or with the Intellect and the Universal Soul. ‘Penance and repentance give place to forgetfulness. The contrast with the Biblical revelation and with certain lines of thought in the Ancient Near East is complete.’ (Trouillard, pp. 19-28.) Where the Christian sees tragic contradiction, the Neoplatonist diagnoses a weakness or incapacity. It is significant that Plotinian mysticism, although so negative and so demanding, acknowledges neither disquiet nor anguish nor ‘the darkness’ nor the ‘night of the spirit’ of Paul, of Gregory of Nyssa, of Augustine, of Teresa of Avila, of John of the Cross. Denudation is not sacrifice. ‘For the Alexandrian’ — as for Socrates — ‘complete attention and perfect consent, far from being the conditions of sin, make any offence impossible.’ (Trouillard, pp. 19-28.) Spirit cannot sin. ‘Wrongdoing in Plotinus is perhaps allied to the Buddhist conception of wrongdoing or to Spinoza’s doctrine of the inadequate idea.’ (Trouillard, pp. 19-28.)

Furthermore, despite a number of Stoicizing affirmations to the contrary and the adoption of the doctrine of universal ‘sympathy’, man is for Plotinus fundamentally isolated. He is not, as he is for Aristotle and perhaps even for Plato in the Laws, a ‘political animal’. There are not -xxxvi- in the Enneads ‘deux sources de la morale et de la religion’. In the pursuit of happiness, in the search for God, society has no place. The sage is a monad, basically unrelated to any other monad. No solidarity exists of man with man, whether in good or in evil. How different from Judaism and Christianity, in which the doctrine of original sin, so difficult for Greek rationalism, plays a fundamental part!

Finally, salvation is not to be achieved. It is achieved. For its realization it is enough that the individual should become conscious of what he is already in his inmost nature, where Intellect which is beyond the virtues identifies itself with true being and with the idea which one forms of the self, of the world, and of God. The anchoritism of the soul and of God excludes at once all sacramentalism and all true history of becoming. The latent actuality of salvation and the cold transcendence of God make it impossible, in terms of Plotinian Socraticism, to conceive of any genuine doctrine of grace.

This sort of outlook, which is really not so much arrogant as individualist and intellectualist, has strongly influenced — and in view of the Gospel message, perhaps unduly — some Christian ascetics who, following in the footsteps of Plotinus, have sought salvation in flight and union with God in solitude.

By and large, however, that Socratic heritage which is the conviction of the existence and supreme dignity of the human soul as a traveller in eternity and an amphibian hovering between two worlds — the heritage which was rethought by Plato and transposed by Plotinus into a mysticism more rational or rationalistic than religious was on the way to cementing a centuries-long alliance with the Gospel revelation and, through it, with virtually all the great philosophies of the West — philosophies which, though often freed from theological tutelage, were nevertheless born on Christian soil — the philosophies, let us say, of Thomas Aquinas and of Spinoza, of Descartes and of Kant. It is only in our own day that we see influential schools of empiricism and behaviourism, Marxism, logical positivism, existentialism all deviating from the Platonic tradition and from Christian intellectualism — a deviation which is perhaps their only common denominator.

2. The ‘Ideas’ and the ‘God’ of Plato

Plotinus would have been surprised at being thought of as the founder of a new school, Neoplatonism. He considered himself a Platonist pure and simple, without prefix or qualification — in other words, as an interpreter and follower of Plato. (Among the Dialogues those most frequently cited are first the Timaeus, and then the Republic, the Phaedo, the Phaedrus, the Symposium, the Theaetetus, the Philebus, the Sophist, the Parmenides. There are few references to the works of Plato’s youth in which he sets problems rather than solves them, and fewer still to the Laws.) Plato, in his view, possessed the truth, the whole truth. In his polemic against the Gnostics he accuses them either of plagiarizing Plato or, when they abandon him to ‘split hairs’ and -xxxvii- invent new doctrines, of ‘departing from the truth’ (II. 9. 6). That Plotinus’ claim was sincere is not in doubt, however much it may astonish us, finding as we do a different system implicit in the Enneads and also a different spirit from that of the Dialogues. Where Plato presents us with the stages of a thought forever inquiring and forever moving beyond itself, Plotinus finds achieved results. Dialectic becomes metaphysics; what was dynamic takes on the garb of fixity, though the breath of mystical aspiration which dominates the Enneads confers its own powerful impulse upon the whole. A small number of texts, almost always the same, are torn from their context, erected into axioms — ϕησίν which normally has Plato for its subject is almost an αὐτός ἔϕα — and then, strung together often fancifully, are organized to form a body of doctrine. On occasion, however, Plotinus, falling back into the role of interpreter, can recognize in Plato obscurities, hesitations, contradictions, (Cf., for example, IV. 8, 7, 27-28.) though only in rare cases is he willing or able to strike out on a line of his own.

Three essential points of doctrine in Plato are essential also for Plotinus. Subject to important corrections and amplifications, they remain fundamental in the philosophical tradition of the West, whether this tradition has remained Christian or become secularized. If Plato lives on, it is largely in a Plotinian context and therefore with a new accent. If Plato and Plotinus are still alive, it is in a great measure because Christianity, finding a natural ally in Platonic idealism, has taken over its principal doctrines, though not without rethinking them.

First, there is the clear distinction between the world of eternity and the world of time, between the Ideas and the sensible, between here and beyond. This relaxed dualism, which is different from radical dualism, whether Gnostic or Manichaean, is later to enter the lists against, but through the doctrine of creation to achieve a fusion with, the relaxed monism, different from pantheism, of Semitic and Biblical thought.

Then there is the doctrine, going back to Socrates, of the immateriality and immortality of the soul. Here again Christian reflection is almost as much opposed to Plato and Plotinus as it is inspired by them.

Finally, there is the doctrine of the absolute transcendence of God, located beyond even the Ideas and being.

On these three ‘dogmas’ Christianity and Platonism at once agree and disagree, with a tension between them which would be unthinkable without the existence of a deep-rooted affinity.

§ 1. The two worlds. The distinction and opposition between the ‘intelligible world’* and the ‘sensible world’,† which are nevertheless bound together by ‘participation’, is an axiom which Plotinus feels no need to demonstrate but which he stresses many times over.4‡

(* II. 4, 4, 8; III. 8, 11, 36. This phrase is not found in Plato, who speaks however of ‘the intelligible place’ (Rep. 509d, 517b) and perhaps of ‘the intelligible god’ (Tim. 92c).)

(† IV. 8, i, 49, V. i, 4, i.)

(‡ VI. 5, 2, 8-16; cf. Plato, Tim. 27b and Rep. 509d.)

The -xxxviii- intelligible world, with the three principal hypostases which mark the grades in its structure, represents for Plotinus the sphere of the divine realities. (V. i, 7, 48.) All the idealism, all the essentialism of the Christian tradition of philosophy and of the secular metaphysical systems which derive from it is here found in embryo, and neither the creationist doctrine of the East, nor the dogma of the Incarnation and of Sacramentalism, nor the rediscovery of Aristotle who brought the forms back into things, will ever prevent this schema from remaining fundamental and inspiring reflection, asceticism, and speculative mysticism. Would it be going too far to suggest that Kant’s distinction between the ‘phenomenon’ and the ‘noumenon’, in spite of significant differences, descends from this tradition?

§ 2. The immateriality of the soul. The belief that the soul is immaterial was far from being shared by all the Greeks. In this respect Plato, Aristotle, and Plotinus are fairly isolated from the main Greek tradition and a long way from that rarefied materialism which Armstrong calls ‘the pneumatic type of thought’ and which, envisaging the soul as tenuous matter, has representatives through the whole range of Greek thought from Homer to the Stoics, not to mention the Manichaeans who were not Greeks at all, and which lingers on in Tertullian.

The Socrates of the Phaedo had taken up the cause of the immortality of the soul. In Plotinus’ very first treatise, On Beauty (I. 6) — one of the simplest and most attractive and undoubtedly the most read of all his works — he follows Plato in locating the essence of beauty, even of sensible beauty, not in symmetry of parts, as the Stoics had done, but in a non-material principle, in participation in the ideal beauty of the intelligible world, and by this device the theme of idealism becomes associated with that of relaxed dualism. His second treatise On the immortality of the soul (IV. 7) re-employs, once more against the Stoics but also against the Pythagorean doctrine of the soul as a harmony and the Aristotelian theory of the soul as an entelechy, the essential theme of the Phaedo which it justifies by a scholastic (almost Scholastic) discussion of the utter immateriality of the soul — a discussion which contains, as Bréhier observes, ‘a storehouse of arguments destined to be used by every future spiritualist’. (Plotin, Texte et Traduction, Notice to IV. 7, p. 179.)

Without going so far as to include Aristotle among the materialists, Plotinus attacks him vigorously on two grounds. He rejects his doctrine of the soul as the body’s form (entelechy, i.e. act or actuality of the body) and emphasizes by implication the radical difference between spiritual and physical — a difference which was to dominate very largely the ethical and metaphysical teaching of the Western world up to the time of St. Thomas and the integration of Aristotelian psychology, together with a good deal of Aristotelian ethics, into Christian thought. Along with Plato, Plotinus clings firmly to the personal individuality of souls and their survival after death, at least in the sense that, separated -xxxix- from the body, a soul can receive punishments and rewards in the afterlife. Aristotle, immaterialist though he is, is far from being equally clear and categorical on this point, as medieval and modern controversies have shown plainly enough. Christian thought will follow Plato and Plotinus in this matter, without however accepting the doctrine of metempsychosis, which is bound up with a particular conception of time and eternity, of creation and or history which the Biblical revelation found it difficult to assimilate. Similarly, Christianity, like Platonism, will look to absolute standards, indeed often to God Himself, for the laws of conduct, whereas Aristotelian empiricism, unless corrected, is inclined to lead towards relativism and scientific humanism. (A. H. Armstrong, The Greek Philosophical Background of the Psychology of St. Thomas, Aquinas Paper no. 19 (Blackfriars), Oxford, 1952, p. 12.)

A vital role is assigned by Plotinus to the inner experience, the return upon oneself, which is described in the wonderful opening of the treatise IV. 8: ‘Often I awaken to myself and escape from the body’. … In the equation between contemplation and action lies the very centre of Plotinus’ metaphysics; here beats ‘the very heart of his system’. (V. Cilento, ‘La contemplazione secondo Plotino’, in La Parola del Passato, 1950, p. 206.)

“Plotinus’ starting-point is not nature but soul.”

No doubt ‘the warm feeling of inwardness’, (Ibid., p. 198.) which marks the essay On Contemplation (III. 8), is common at this period to Neoplatonism, to Gnosticism, and to Christianity, whose affinities have been more and more closely observed in our day, only to make us increasingly aware of their irreducible antagonism. (See G. Quispel, Die Gnosis als Weltreligion, Zurich, 1951.) Plotinus is always nearer to Plato than to Aristotle; his metaphysics therefore is not so much meta-physics as meta-psychology, and his theodicy leads not from the movement of the spheres to the unmoved mover, but from the soul’s desire to that One which alone can satisfy it. His starting-point is not nature but soul. The soul, an ‘amphibian’ (IV. 4, 4.) and a traveller, re-ascends through the power of dialectic to Intellect, and then by a process of purification, of utter simplification arrives at the point of contact with the pure and simple Absolute, the One. It is multivalent in its nature, and without leaving the intelligible world it makes a constant passage to and fro, and so again descends to consciousness and the world of experience. In contrast with the Gospel, Plotinus does not go so far as to conceive the soul in opposition to the world of sin (since in point of fact he recognizes neither sin nor salvation), but on the other hand he is without awareness of any true eschatology, and is no more concerned with a doctrine of the resurrection of the body than the Areopagites addressed by St. Paul. (Acts xvii. 32.) He pours scorn on the Gnostics and by implication on the Christians, who in this respect were their allies, for making man the centre of the universe and the subject of a redemption, but he stands with the Gnostics against the Christians in maintaining that the soul must rely on its own unaided efforts to reach the goal of its destiny. -xl-

Plotinus’ system is never explicit; it is not articulated into theorems as is the case with Proclus, or into questions as with St. Thomas, but is throughout implicitly present as a totality in each particular theme. Its characteristic feature is the intimate conjunction, amounting to fusion, of two problems, the religious and the philosophical — the problem of the soul, of its ‘actuality’, its states and its experiences, and the problem of the world, its objects and their rational explanation. What is new, even in the doctrine, which is usually considered typically Plotinian, of the three hypostases, the One, Intellect, and Soul, is not the letter, but the spirit: it is the notion of making the ‘Ideas’ states of being of the Intellect and no longer distinct objects, of bringing the very subject of thought into the intelligible world, of considering the hypostases less as entities than as spiritual attitudes. (The account of this synthesis given by E. Bréhier, La Philosophie de Plotin, p. 23 and pp. 182-7, and in the Notices of his edition of the Enneads is generally accepted by critics and is likely to remain standard. See also Zeller, Die Philosophic der Griechen, iii. 24 (1903), p. 473 (objective and subjective aspect); O. Becker, Plotin und das Problem der geistigen Aneignung, 1940; P. O. Kristeller, Der Begriff der Seele in der Ethik des Plotins, 1929, p. 3; H.-R. Schwyzer, ‘Die zweifache Sicht in der Philosophie Plotins’, in Museum Helveticum, i, 1944, pp. 87-09, and art. ‘Plotinos’, in Realenz. xxi, 1951, cols. 548-50; M. de Gandillac, La Sagesse de Plotin, chap. viii.) His theology is a synthesis of cosmogony (kosmos = world) and psychogony (psyche = soul). Without ceasing to obey the commands of reason, Plotinus is in his most philosophical passages constantly borne along by a deep mystical impulse; as a result ‘his religious thought is as much opposed to ordinary representations of the universe in the salvation religions as his philosophical thought is to Greek rationalism’. (E. Bréhier, La Philosophie de Plotin, p. 185.) He hardly ever appeals to his own personal experience, (Two allusions, in the third person, in I. 6, 7, 2 and VI. 9, 4, 16, and probably the opening sentence of IV. 8, in the first person. Cf. pp. xl, xlv.) and though he may sometimes adopt the style of the devotional diatribe, we are far removed from the pulsating Confessions of St. Augustine, in which philosophical problems and problems of the inner life are inextricably interwoven. The last words of Plotinus, which are not, as has been believed through the centuries, a disclosure of his own dying thoughts but a maxim bequeathed to the living as a legacy, (Cf. P. Henry, ‘La derniere parole de Plotin’, in Studi Classici e Orientali, vol. ii, Pisa, 1953, pp. 113-30.) sum up and express with his customary perspicuity and tact the one concern of the philosopher and the spiritual director: ‘Strive to bring back the god in yourselves to the Divine in the universe.’ (Porphyry, Vita Plotini, 2, 26.)

“Strive to bring back the god in yourselves to the Divine in the universe.”

§ 3. The transcendence of God. Plotinus identifies as a matter of course (For example, II. 9, 1, 5.) the Good of the Republic (Rep. vi. 509b) and the absolute One of the first hypothesis of the Parmenides (Parm. 137-42.) This identification which, in the words of Plato, situates the Good ‘beyond being’ and which denies to the One all multiplicity — be it only virtual and logical, a multiplicity of names, -xli- attributes, forms, or aspects — constitutes the basis of the ‘negative theology’ which, in Plotinus and in his disciples, plays so great a part in the doctrine of God and of the mystical experience.

The problem of sources is here particularly difficult. The true thought of Plato on the nature of his god and of his ‘religion’ is still a matter of controversy. Moreover, the philosophers who form the connecting links between Plato and Plotinus are very imperfectly known, especially the middle Platonists whose works, read by Plotinus, have since perished. We do not even know what he owed to the inspiration of Ammonius Saccas, his teacher. The problem is none the less of considerable importance. The reply which we give to the question of the origin of the Plotinian doctrine of the three hypostases, the One, Intellect, and Soul, largely determines the significance and bearing of this doctrine in the Enneads and consequently the extent of Plotinus’ real originality and his place in the history of ideas.

The question may take either of two forms, which must be carefully distinguished from each other. To whom did Plotinus believe himself to be indebted for his doctrine? To whom was he in fact indebted — in other words, what is the true source of the theory of the three hypostases and of the transcendent One?

The answer to the first question is perfectly clear. (On the whole of what follows see the important article by E. R. Dodds, ‘The Parmenides of Plato and the origin of the Neoplatonic One’, in Class. Quart. xx, 1928, pp. 129-42, the additions and corrections supplied by H.-R. Schwyzer, art. ‘Plotinos’, in Realenz. xxi, 1951, cols. 553-4, and the valuable observations of E. Bréhier in the Notices to the treatises V. 1 (p. 13), V. 3 (pp. 46-47), V. 5 (p. 88), VI. 4-5 (pp. 166-8), VI. 7 (pp. 62-65).) In one of his very first treatises and one of the most revealing of all, On the three principal hypostases (V. 1), which Porphyry placed somewhat astutely at the beginning of the ‘theological’ Ennead (Vita, 25, 32.) and which is the treatise most often quoted by the Fathers of the Church, (Notably, next to Eusebius of Caesarea, by Basil and Augustine, Cyril and Theodoret.) Plotinus explicitly connects the distinction between the One, Intellect, and Soul with the three ‘ones’ of the first three hypotheses of the Parmenides and asserts emphatically that his doctrine is not new and that it is in complete agreement with Plato, who, he adds, is ‘more precise’ than the Parmenides of history. (V, 1, 8, 10 and 23-27.) Furthermore, he associates the doctrine thus interpreted with an obscure passage in Plato’s Second Letter, which he often quotes, and indeed once misquotes, and in which reference is made to three ranks of precedence among the higher realities. By combining these passages, no doubt unwarrantably, with others in the Timaeus and with the well-known passage in the Republic (VI. 509b), (V, 1, 8, 1-8.) he obtains his hierarchy of the intelligible world.

Plotinus remains consistently faithful to this interpretation and this -xlii- systematization. In fact, a series of key-phrases in the Enneads recall, by their close and almost word-for-word parallelism, phrases of the first? two hypotheses of the Parmenides (though not the third), and the God of Plotinus, in contrast with the Intellect, is therefore described, with whatever justice to Plato’s genuine thought, in terms which are Platonic.

The One is the One and nothing else, and even to assert that it ‘is’ or that it is ‘One’ is false, (V. 4, i, 8; VI. 7, 38, i; cf. Parm. 1410 12.) since it is beyond being or essence. (V. i, 8, 8 = Rep. vi. 509b 9.) No ‘name’ can apply to it; it eludes all definition, all knowledge; (V. 4, 1, 9-10 = Parm. 142a 3-4.) it can neither be perceived nor thought. (V. 5, 6, 12; V. 3, 14, 2.) It is not in movement, nor is it at rest. (V. 5, 10, 16 = Parm. 139b 3.) It is infinite, without limits, and since it has no parts, it is without structure and without form. (V. 5, 11, 3 = Parm. 137d 3-8.)

The second hypostasis, as distinct from the first which transcends it, is extracted exegetically from the second hypothesis of the Parmenides, and it is to this that the predicates of being and thought belong, predicates often contrary but ‘dialectically’ combined. The same expressions return, but they are influenced by a new factor. In contradistinction from the One par excellence, Intellect is a One-in-Many (VI. 6, 13, 52 = Parm. 144e 5.) (the Soul being in turn a One-and-Many); (V. 1, 8, 26 = Parm. 144e 5.) it is at once in movement and at rest; (II. 2, 3, 20 = Parm. 145e 7.) infinite like the One but infinite in a different way and for the reason that its essence is broken up into an infinity of parts (VI. 2, 22, 4 = Parm. 144e 4.) which are each identical with Intellect as a whole and which have nevertheless the power of remaining severally distinct. (VI. 9, 6, 1-9.)

III. Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics: One Absolute, Three Hypostases

In the same treatise, V. 1, Plotinus attacks Aristotle’s assertion that the first principle, transcendent and intelligible, thinks itself — an assertion which in his view is tantamount to abrogating its primacy. (V. 1, 9; 7-9.) Here Plotinus goes back directly to Parmenides (Diels-Kranz, Vorsak 6 28b 3; V. 1, 8, 17.) and to his dictum that ‘to think and to be are the same thing’, and he is thus able to establish, beneath the One which is their cause, Intellect, the Intelligible, Being, and Essence, all on the same level. (V. 9, 3-5.) If he fails to find the identity of Intellect and Being explicitly affirmed by Plato, he can on the other hand infer from the Republic that the Ideas are essences, (V. 8, 5, 24; cf. Rep. vi. 507b and 509b.) can identify the ‘animal-in-itself’ of the Timaeus (39e; cf. III. 9, 1, 5 and V. 9, 9, 7.) with his own Intellect, and, proceeding along this road, can read into the Dialogues what is specifically -xliii- an Aristotelian doctrine. For, in the last resort, it is without a doubt to Aristotle rather than to Plato (Cf. E. Bréhier, Histoire de la philosophie, t. i, 1928, p. 456; H.-R. Schwyzer, Realenz. xxi, 1951, col. 555; P. Courcelle, ‘Travaux neoplatoniciens’, in the Actes du Congrès Budé 1953 de Tours et de Poitiers, Paris, 1954, p. 228.) that he owes the fundamental principle that the thought par excellence is self-thought, in which intelligence and intelligible coincide. (Metaph. Λ 7, 1072b 20-22.) We have here, as is well known, one of the most characteristic descriptions of the unmoved First Mover, Aristotle’s Absolute, (Ibid. 9, 1074b 34.) which is as indifferent to, and as distant and detached from, the world of man as is the One of the Enneads.

If we recall that the soul of the world, the third hypostasis, while being transcendent to the sensible world, is yet the seat of Providence and that it exhibits certain features which remind us of the immanent God of the Stoics, (Cf. A. H. Armstrong, Introduction, pp. 123-5; H.-R. Schwyzer, Realenz, xxi, col. 564, 16-27.) we may be tempted to say that the three Plotinian hypostases are, roughly, the three Gods or Absolutes of the three great philosophies which preceded him, Platonism, Aristotelianism, Stoicism, though always transposed into a Platonic key and connected, rightly or wrongly, with entities in the Dialogues. The One, on this assumption, would be the God of Plato, the Good of the Republic identified with the absolute One of the Parmenides. The thought which thinks itself and in which Being and Intellect coincide would be the first principle of Aristotle. Lastly, the soul of the world would conjure up certain features of the Absolute of the Stoics, the vital principle immanent in the world.

Dean Inge is in error, historically, philosophically, and theologically, when he implies (The Philosophy of Plotinus, vol. ii, p. 204, p. 82 n. 3, and p. 115.) that there are in the Enneads virtually three gods and three absolutes: the soul of the world being the God to whom we pray for our temporal needs; the Intellect, which is the God of spiritual progress, of eternal life, and of celestial happiness; the One, which is the ineffable divinity (Godhead rather than God) of the mystics rapt into ecstasy. It seems extremely difficult to discover this separation of a single and identical Goodness, of a single and identical Absolute, either in the writings of the great religious thinkers or in the souls of simple men of faith. It is clear also that the One is alone the Absolute for Plotinus, that it corresponds with whatever or whoever we call God, whether we are philosophers, theologians, or miners. Nevertheless, it is true that the attributes which Christianity concentrates on a single being, its Triune God with three equal persons, are distributed by Plotinus among three hypostases which are at once distinct and unequal, the One being the source of all things, the Intellect the seat of self-thought and of the unchanging Ideas, the Soul of the world the seat of Providence, though it is far less a personal and voluntary power than an immanent and necessary order in the evolution of beings and events. -xliv-

IV. Structure and Vocabulary of the Mystical Experience

To describe the path which leads to the mystical union Plotinus uses three metaphysical metaphors and a thought-pattern which is not metaphorical.

§ 1. The road is an ascent, a movement upwards from below. The increase of intensity and of concentration is a rise; the dispersion and diminution of the experience is a fall. This is clear from the first lines of the treatise on Dialectic (I. 3). The manner of speech is common to almost all the mystics and even penetrates the language of everyday; spatial terms like ‘above’ and ‘below’, ‘high’ and ‘low’ express not spatial relations, not even bare reality, but a scale of values. When he speaks of voices, he establishes an equivalence between ‘the best of sounds’ and ‘the sounds from on high’ (V. 1, 12). Plotinus is perfectly aware that this ‘movement’ is not local, but metaphysical and moral. Olympiodorus, citing the most celebrated words of Plotinus which had been cited by Ambrose and Augustine before him and which place the matter in the right focus, adds tersely: ‘not in space but through one’s life’. (In Plat. Gorg. L 2, p. 240. 20 Norvin: οὐ τοπικῶς, ἀλλὰ διὰ τῆς ζωῆς.) When to describe the mystical union Plotinus has recourse to the notion of ‘presence’ — one of the most fundamental notions in the mystic’s vocabulary — he writes: ‘Thus the Supreme as containing no otherness is ever present with us; we with it when we put otherness away. It is not that the Supreme reaches out to us seeking our communion; we reach towards the Supreme; it is we that become present’ (VI. 9, 8, 33-36). The supreme presence is at the summit of the ascent; but this ascent is psychological and moral. It is also within, since to be present to the Other is to be at the centre of oneself.

§ 2. The second metaphor, spatial also but without the emphasis on value, contrasts the ‘external’ with the ‘internal’. The two schemes are combined in the opening of the treatise IV. 8 on the Soul’s Descent: ‘Lifted out of the body into myself; becoming external to all things and self-centred; … yet, there comes the moment of descent from intellection to reasoning. …’ (Note particularly: εἰς ἐμαυτὸν ἐκ τοῦ σώματος … τῶν μὲν ἄλλων ἔξω ἐμαυτὸν δὲ εἴσω … ὑπὲρ πᾶν … ἱδρύσας … ἀπορῶ πῶς … καταβαίνω. Cf. I. 6, 8, 4-5.) If the judgement of value is not expressed in the terminology itself, it is frequently associated with it, as at the end of V. 8, 13, 21-22: ‘Our self-knowledge is our beauty; in self-ignorance we are ugly.’ The equation between ‘inferior’ and ‘interior’, ‘knowledge of oneself’ and ‘knowledge of God’ — a mystical development of the idea of ‘know thyself’ — is not peculiar to Plotinus; it is found, for example, in Clement of Alexandria: (Paed. iii. i.) ‘if a man knows himself, he shall know God’. Augustine (Confess, vii. x. 16.) is thinking of Plotinus (I. 6, 9, 7) when he -xlv- writes: ‘Thus invited to retreat into myself, I penetrated to the inmost part of my being … and I saw shining above my spirit an unchangeable light.’ (Henry, Plotin et l’Occident, p. 112.) Through Augustine the theme continued to dominate all Christian mysticism; (Arnou, Le Désir de Dieu, pp. 191-7.) Richard of St. Victor expresses it with great force:

‘In the spirit of man the “summit” is one with the inmost recess … through the ecstasy of the spirit we are transported beyond (supra) ourselves or within (intra) ourselves into the contemplation of things divine.’ (‘In humano procul dubio animo idem est summum quod intimum … per mentis excessum supra sive intra nosmetipsos in divinorum contemplationem rapimur.’ Beni mai. 23 = PL 196. 167.)

In the two famous passages (I. 6 fin., VI. 9 fin.) which describe the summit of the ecstasy in the vivid language of the mystery-religions, the theme of inwardness is presented in terms of a progressive penetration into the interior of the sanctuary, and here again penetration and elevation go together:

‘He has risen beyond beauty; he has overpassed even the choir of the virtues; he is like one who, having penetrated the inner sanctuary, leaves the temple images behind him … When the soul begins to mount, it comes not to something alien but to its very self’ (VI. 9, 11, 17-20, 38-39).

The corollary of this conception dominates the whole Plotinian doctrine of mystical purification. To purify is to remove what has attached itself from outside to the inmost self. In I. 6, 9 the initiate is invited to polish the statue which represents his true being, and to do this by removing all that is superfluous, adventitious, external (also called ‘difference’ and ‘otherness’ in relation to the logical order of the one and the many). ‘When you know that you have become the perfect work, when you are self-gathered in the purity of your own being, nothing now remaining that can shatter that inner unity, nothing from without clinging to the authentic man, … now call up all your confidence, move upwards (ἀναβεβηκώς) yet a step — you need a guide no longer — strain and see.’ The whole ‘method, technique, training’ (I. 3, 1, 1), ‘device and manner’ (I. 6, 8, 1) is summarized in the categorical imperative of Plotinian mysticism: ‘Cut away everything’ — the last words of the treatise V. 3. And this ‘everything’ includes equally the sensible and corporeal realities which are exterior and inferior, and the multiplicity of concepts and ideas, also conceived as exterior and inferior to the pure unity of self-with-self and self-with-God. Arnou (Op. cit., p. 202.) makes the profound observation that while ‘purification might be conceived either as a material separation or as a detachment of the will, Plotinus, by assigning to the will a thoroughly unobtrusive role, is reduced to a conception which, in spite of his denials, comes very near to a material separation’.

A further result of this same conception is that salvation is not something to be achieved, but is achieved once and for all. (See above, p. xxxvii.) Once the external -xlvi- has been removed and the inferior left behind, once the ‘difference’ has been resolved, union is attained.

§ 3. The third metaphor is that of a return to one’s origins. This metaphor is closely bound up with Plotinian metaphysics and bears the characteristic hallmark of his system. The flight is an Odyssey, a return to father and fatherland (I. 6, 8, 16). The fatherland is the place from which we come and to which we return (8, 21). The father is he from whom we take our leave, and the conception of father in Plotinus carries, it would seem, none of the emotional or religious connotations which the Christian world is accustomed to associate with it, but is rigorously synonymous with such exclusively metaphysical terms as ‘principle’, ‘cause’, or even ‘source’ and ‘root’ (VI. 9, 9, 1-2; cf. 9, 18-19).

The metaphysical equivalence of the first two metaphors, elevation and introversion, is accepted by Christian mysticism. The combination of these two with that of the ‘return’ is not — except in the very wide sense that God is the creator and the origin of the human soul. In Plotinus it is quite a different matter. Every being is constituted by means of a two-way dynamism which is dialectically simultaneous, the departure from the principle immediately prior and superior and the return to that same principle. As a result any being, whether the universal Intellect or the individual soul, while it is not actually identical with its principle — this would be excluded by the law of diminishing causality — nevertheless exists in its self-identity only in the measure in which it is in an immediate relationship of union with and dependence upon its principle. In consequence ‘the being which knows itself will know also that from which it comes’ (VI. 9, 7). Introversion is in the strictest sense reversion (or return upon one’s principle), and since the principle is always superior to the product, which derives from it and depends upon it, introversion is also elevation. The three metaphors coincide in a technical term whose significance is at once metaphysical and mystical — the term ‘conversion’ (ἐπιστροϕή). On the subject of Intellect Plotinus writes: ‘Its conversion upon itself is a conversion upon the Principle.’ (VI. 9, 2, 35 εἰς ἑαυτὸν γὰρ ἐπιστρέϕων εἰς ἀρχὴν ἐπιστρέϕει. On the various uses of ‘conversion’ and all the references see P. Aubin, ‘L’Image dans l’oeuvre de Plotin’, in Rech. Scienc. Relig. xli, 1953, pp. 373-7.) This in fact constitutes its supreme mystical experience, because it is the foundation of its metaphysical structure: ‘There is no other way of stating Intellectual-Principle than as that which, holding itself in the presence of the Good and First and looking towards That, Is self-present also, self-knowing and knowing itself as All-Being’ (VI. 9, 2, 40).

Only the One escapes this triple movement, since it is the end of the movement. It cannot rise upwards, because it is already at the summit; neither can it descend in the emanation of those beings which go forth from it; it remains where it is, in itself. It cannot go inwards since it is -xlvii- the centre of all inwardness. (Cf. I. 1,1,23.) It is, finally, incapable of conversion, (ἐπιστροϕή) in other words of return upon its origin, since it is without origin, being by definition the Principle from which all proceeds and to which all returns.

§ 4. The fourth pattern of thought which underlies the whole of Plotinian mysticism and in particular the ecstatic union of the soul with the One is not metaphorical but purely dialectical: it is the antithesis of the many and the one. This final pattern is superimposed upon the other three and gives them their metaphysical consistency.

The union with God is unity, and it is a double unity: (a) unity of the being with itself by means of the return inwards and the eradication of all that belongs ‘below’, all that is ‘external’; (b) unity of the being with its first principle, the One, in which all duality — even the logical duality of subject and object in the self-thinking being — has necessarily disappeared. Numerous passages, including all the main descriptions of the mystical ecstasy, insist on the fact that these two unifications coincide. We may cite a passage whose general meaning is clear and significant enough, though its highly involved construction makes any translation of it hazardous:

‘This Highest cannot be divided and allotted, must remain intangible but not bound to space; it may be present at many points, wheresoever there is anything capable of accepting one of its manifestations: thus a centre is an independent unity; everything within the circle has its term in the centre; and to the centre the radii bring each their own. Within our nature is such a centre by which we grasp and are linked and held; and those of us are firmly in the Supreme, whose collective tendency is There’ (V. 1, 11, 7-15).

A final passage will show how the four fundamental themes interlace around the metaphor of the centre, one of the most characteristic metaphors of Plotinian metaphysics and mysticism:

‘Every soul that knows its history is aware, also, that its movement, unthwarted, is not that of an outgoing line; its natural course may be likened to that in which a circle turns not upon some external but upon its own centre, the point to which it owes its rise. The soul’s movement will be about its source; to this it will hold, poised intent towards that unity to which all souls should move and the divine souls always move, divine in virtue of that movement; for to be god is to be integral with the Supreme; what stands away is man still multiple, or beast’ (VI. 9, 8, 1-10; cf. 10, 11-20).

The subsequent sentence shows that if the unity of the soul with itself goes pari passu with the unity of the soul with the One, the soul in the ecstasy does not for that reason lose its identity in the One — in other words, that Plotinian mysticism is not pantheistic: ‘Is then the “centre” of our souls the Principle for which we are seeking? We must -xlviii- look yet further: we must admit a Principle in which all these centres coincide.’

The vocabulary of the mystical union is rich and varied. Plotinus continues to call it ‘vision’ and ‘contemplation’, terms derived from the vocabulary of knowledge, but prefers either terms deriving from the theme of unity (VI. 9, 11, 6: μὴ ἑωραμένον, ἀλλʹ ἡνωμένον.) or those which indicate presence and contact. (VI. 9, 10, 11-12: ὄψεται μᾶλλον δὲ συνέσται.)

The terms used in the treatment of the unity-theme are bold and challenging, as Plotinus recognizes (VI. 9, 10, 13, and 11, 12): ‘the two are one’; the subject becomes, so to say, another; is no longer itself; ceases to belong to itself. On the same theme we find a host of variations upon identity (VI. 9, 8, 28), upon absence of difference and otherness (8, 32), upon tranquillity (11, 13-14) and stability (11, 15), upon simplification (11, 24), upon solitude (11, 13). It is significant that the Enneads, as we read them in the arrangement of Porphyry, end with the words: ‘the passing of the solitary to the solitary’.

The theme of presence and contact is also frequent. In one page alone (VI. 9, 8) each of these terms is used half a dozen times. Actually we have here a variant of the fundamental theme of unity, but it is noteworthy that a Greek philosopher should prefer, in describing the mystical union, expressions which are more appropriate to the sense of touch (ἁϕή, VI. 9, 11, 24) than to the sense of vision. To the same concrete and tactile phraseology belong two groups of complementary expressions, ‘the giving of the self’ (11, 23), which marks the activity and tension of the subject, and the terms ‘rapture’ (ἀρπασθείς) and ‘enthusiasm’ (11, 12), which mark his relative passivity, a passivity at least which does not imply any corresponding initiative or activity on the part of the object of contemplation. It is doubtful whether we ought to apply to this ‘rapture’ the term ἔκστασις, which is very rarely found in Plotinus and does not necessarily bear the sense which it bore for Philo and which it will later receive from the Christian mystics, the sense of ‘ecstasy’: MacKenna prudently translates, ‘a going forth from the self’, in which the voluntary tension is emphasized at the expense of the passivity and malleability.

All these terms and all these themes have been taken over by the great speculative mystics of the Western world, on whom the influence direct and indirect of Plotinus and his school has been considerable. Two profound differences, perceptible even in their vocabulary, nevertheless separate Christian from Plotinian mysticism: the doctrine of grace, with the cognate doctrine of prayer, and the doctrine of anguish and of the mystical ‘darkness’.

While Plotinus often describes the ecstasy in terms of ‘vision’ and makes frequent use of the metaphor of light, especially to mark the immediacy of the vision (V. 3, 17, 34: ἐϕάψασθαι ϕωτὸς ἐκείνου καὶ αὐτῷ αὐτὸ θεάσασθαι. The same immediacy is affirmed in non-metaphorical language at VI. 9, 11, 31 ἀρχῇ ἀρχὴν ὁρᾷ. We find here one of the origins of the thesis of Christian theology on the ‘visio Dei per essentiam’.) and so to express once again the unity of the -xlix- subject and the object of contemplation, his use of the terms ‘apparition’ and ’manifestation’ is rare. In a passage which is imaginative rather than exact, the One ‘appears’ as the king at the end of an advancing precession: he appears ‘suddenly’, an expression borrowed from Plato (Sympos. 210e 4.) and applied more than once to the supreme vision (V. 3, 17, 29; V. 5, 7, 35; VI. 7, 36, 18). It would be possible to look in these two terms for an indication of the idea of grace (The text which is nearest to this idea is V. 5, 8, 1-9.) and of self-giving on the part of the One; but the idea is utterly foreign to Plotinus’ thought. If the vision is ‘sudden’, the reason is that it comes at the end of a dialectical process in which the One itself plays no part; if it ‘appears’, it is not in the sense of revealing itself. It remains within itself, extraneous and indifferent to all that comes after it.

Plotinus sometimes speaks of prayer, and can even do so in a mystical context describing the relationship of the soul with the One; but, as the passage itself proves, (V. 1, 6, 9-11: Θεὸν αὐτὸν ἐπικαλεσαμένοις οὐ λόγῳ γεγωνῷ, ἀλλὰ τῇ ψυχῇ ἐκτεινασιν ἑαυτοὺς εἰς εὐχὴν πρὸς ἐκεῖιον.) ‘prayer’ is a tension of the soul, the final leap in the dialectical process; it is not an appeal, not an expectation; it is neither the effect nor the occasion of a movement of grace or inclination on the part of God.

In the passage of Augustine’s Confessions which is most directly inspired by the Enneads and in which the parallelism of movement, ideas, and vocabulary is particularly close and constant, the words of Plotinus are: ‘Now call up all your confidence; you need a guide no longer; strain and see.’ And Augustine, quoting from the Psalm, writes: ‘I entered even into my inward self, Thou being my Guide, and able I was, for Thou wert become my Helper’ (tr. Pusey). (Confess. VII. x. 16, ‘intravi in intima mea duce te, et potui quoniam factus es adiutor meus’; cf. Enn. I. 6, 9.) In this inversion of a thought essential to Plotinus lies all the distance between Neoplatonic and Christian mysticism.

Linked with the doctrine of sin and of grace (though it is not possible here to give the detailed evidence) is the doctrine of ‘anguish’ and of the mystical ‘darkness’ which will dominate the great contemplatives of the West from Gregory of Nyssa and the pseudo-Dionysius to the Cloud of Unknowing, to Nicholas of Cusa’s Docta Ignorantia, to the Dark Night of the Soul of John of the Cross.

Plotinus does indeed speak of ‘anguish’ and ‘travail’, but if the soul is ‘multiple’ and consequently in some sense divided, it is certainly not divided against itself. There is nothing in the Enneads to recall chapter 7 of the Epistle to the Romans with its insistence that man can fail in what he wills. The soul, for Plotinus, is able by purification, by the cutting away of everything, to choose at any time the level on which it will live. -l-

The absence of the notion of ‘darkness’ is more significant still, because more unexpected. It seems to be called for by the logic of the system as another aspect of the negative theology, (We may observe that Augustine, who is more Pauline than Plotinian when it comes to describing the man divided against himself, ignores almost completely the negative theology and mysticism. This is another sign or his independence and originality.) and it seems also to be presupposed by the very abundance of mystical imagery drawn from the field of light. Yet it is simply not there. The fact is that if for Plotinus the One is truly transcendent (and no one doubts that it is) the pagan philosopher did not know the specifically religious attitude of adoration; if some characteristics of his God belong to the category of the fascinosum, more belong to that of the tremendun. The One is within reach of the philosopher not so much because it is interior to man’s mind (Cf. V. 1, 10, 5 sqq.) as because the union does not presuppose either the One’s spontaneous movement of love, grace, and mercy or man’s consciousness of his sinful and divided self.

If the influence of Plotinus on the Christian mysticism of the West and of the East was incalculable, it remains true nevertheless that the principal and specific source of Christian mysticism is the Biblical revelation. -li-

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On the Life of Plotinus and the Arrangement of His Work

by Porphyry

§ 1. Plotinus, the philosopher our contemporary, seemed ashamed of being in the body.

So deeply rooted was this feeling that he could never be induced to tell of his ancestry, his parentage, or his birthplace.

He showed, too, an unconquerable reluctance to sit to a painter of a sculptor, and when Amelius persisted in urging him to allow of a portrait being made he asked him, ‘Is it not enough to carry about this image in which nature has enclosed us? Do you really think I must also consent to leave, as a desired spectacle to posterity, an image of the image?’

In view of this determined refusal Amelius brought his friend Carterius, the best artist of the day, to the Conferences, which were open to every comer, and saw to it that by long observation of the philosopher he caught his most striking personal traits. From the impressions thus stored in mind the artist drew a first sketch; Amelius made various suggestions towards bringing our the resemblance, and in this way, without the knowledge of Plotinus, the genius of Carterius gave us a lifelike portrait.

§ 2. Plotinus was often distressed by an intestinal complaint, but declined clysters, pronouncing the use of such remedies unbecoming in an elderly man: in the same way he refused such medicaments as contain any substance taken from wild beasts or reptiles: all the more, he remarked, since he could not approve of eating the flesh of animals reared for the table.

He abstained from the use of the bath, contenting himself with a daily massage at home: when the terrible epidemic carried off his masseurs he renounced all such treatment: in a short while he contracted malign diphtheria.

During the time I was about him there was no sign of any such malady, but after I sailed for Sicily the condition grew acute: his intimate, Eustochius, who was with him till his death, told me, on my return to Rome, that he became hoarse, so that his voice quite lost its clear and sonorous note, his sight grew dim and ulcers formed on his hands and feet.

As he still insisted on addressing everyone by word of mouth, his -1- condition prompted his friends to withdraw from his society: he therefore left Rome for Campania, retiring to a property which had belonged to Zethos, an old friend of his at this time dead. His wants were provided in part out of Zethos’ estate, and for the rest were furnished form Minturnae, where Castricius’ property lay.

Of Plotinus’ last moments Eustochius has given me an account.

He himself was staying at Puteoli and was late in arriving: when he at last came, Plotinus said: ‘I have been a long time waiting for you; I am striving to give back the Divine in myself to the Divine in the All.’ As he spoke a snake crept under the bed on which he lay and slipped away into a hole in the wall: at the same moment Plotinus died.

This was at the end of the second year of the reign of Claudius (A.D. 270), and, as Eustochius tells me, Plotinus was then sixty-six, I myself was at Lilybaeum at the time, Amelius at Apamea in Syria, Castricius at Rome; only Eustochius was by his side.

Counting sixty-six years back from the second year of Claudius, we can fix Plotinus’ birth at the thirteenth year of Severus (A.D. 204-5); but he never disclosed the month or day. This was because he did not desire any birthday sacrifice or feast; yet he himself sacrificed on the traditional birthdays of Plato and of Socrates, afterwards giving a banquet at which every member of the circle who was able was expected to deliver an address.

§ 3. Despite his general reluctance to talk of his own life, some few details he did often relate to us in the course of conversation. Thus he told how, at the age of eight, when he was already going to school, he still clung about his nurse and loved to bare her breasts and take suck: one day he was told he was a ‘perverted imp’, and so was shamed out of the trick.

At twenty-seven he was caught by the passion for philosophy: he was directed to the most highly reputed professors to be found at Alexandria; but he used to come from their lectures saddened and discouraged. A friend to whom he opened his heart divined his temperamental craving and suggested Ammonius, whom he had not yet tried. Plotinus went, heard a lecture, and exclaimed to his comrade: ‘This was the man I was looking for.’

From that day he followed Ammonius continuously, and under his guidance made such progress in philosophy that he became eager to investigate the Persian methods and the system adopted among the Indians. It happened that the Emperor Gordian was at that time preparing his campaign against Persia; Plotinus joined the army and went on the expedition. He was then thirty-eight, for he had passed eleven entire years under Ammonius. When Gordian was killed in Mesopotamia, it was only with great difficulty that Plotinus came off safe to Antioch.

At forty, in the reign of Philip, he settled in Rome. -2-

Erennius, Origen, and Plotinus had made a compact not to disclose any of the doctrines which Ammonius had revealed to them. Plotinus kept faith, and in all his intercourse with his associates divulged nothing of Ammonius’ system. But the compact was broken, first by Erennius and then by Origen following suit: Origen, it is true, put in writing nothing but the treatise On the Spirit-Beings, and in Gallienus’ reign that entitled The King the Sole Creator. Plotinus himself remained a long time without writing, but he began to base his Conferences on what he had gathered from his studies under Ammonius. In this way, writing nothing but constantly conferring with a certain group of associates, he passed ten years.

He used to encourage his hearers to put questions, a liberty which, as Amelius told me, led to a great deal of wandering and futile talk.

Amelius had entered the circle in the third year of Philip’s reign, the third, too, of Plotinus’ residence in Rome, and remained about him until the first year of Claudius, twenty-four years in all. He had come to Plotinus after an efficient training under Lysimachus: in laborious diligence he surpassed all his contemporaries; for example, he transcribed and arranged nearly all the works of Numenius, and was not far from having most of them off by heart. He also took notes of the Conferences and wrote them out in something like a hundred treatises which he has since presented to Hostilianus Hesychius of Apamea, his adopted son.

§ 4. I myself arrived from Greece in the tenth year of Gallienus’ reign, accompanied by Antonius of Rhodes, and found Amelius an eighteen-years’ associate of Plotinus, but still lacking the courage to write anything except for the notebooks, which had not reached their century. Plotinus, in this tenth year of Gallienus, was about fifty-nine: when I first met him I was thirty.

From the first year of Gallienus Plotinus had begun to write upon such subjects as had arisen at the Conferences: when I first came to know him in this tenth year of the reign he had composed twenty-one treatises.

They were, as I was able to establish, by no means given about freely. In fact the distribution was still grudging and secret; those that obtained them had passed the strictest scrutiny.

Plotinus had given no titles to these treatises; everybody headed them for himself: I cite them here under the titles which finally prevailed, quoting the first words of each to facilitate identification. (These first words are of course omitted and the Ennead reference is added.)

1. On Beauty (I.6)
2. On the Immortality of the Soul (IV.7)
3. On Fate (III.1)
4. On the Essence of the Soul (IV.2) -3-
5. On the Intellectual-Principle, on the Ideas, and on the Authentic-Existent (V.9)
6. On the Descent of the Soul into Bodies (IV.8)
7. How the Post-Primal derives from the Primal; and on The One (V.4)
8. Whether all the Souls are One (IV.9)
9. On the Good or the One (VI.9)
10. On the Three Primal Hypostases (V.1)
11. On the Origin and Order of the Post-Primals (V.2)
12. On the Two Orders of Matter (II.4)
13. Various Questions (III.4)
14. On the Circular Movement (II.2)
15. On our Tutelary Spirit (III.4)
16. On the Reasoned Dismissal (I.9)
17. On Quality (II.6)
18. Whether there are Ideas even of Particulars (V.7)
19. On the Virtues (I.2)
20. On Dialectic (I.3)
21. Why the Soul is described as Intermediate between the Existent having parts and the undisparted Existent (IV.1)

These are the twenty-one treatises which, as I have said, Plotinus had already written, by his fifty-ninth year, when I first came to him.

§ 5. I had been, it is true, in Rome a little before this tenth year of Gallienus, but at that time Plotinus was taking a summer holiday, engaging merely in conversation with his friends. After coming to know him I passed six years in close relation with him. Many question were threshed out in the Conferences of those six years and, under persuasion from Amelius and myself, he composed two treatises to establish:
22, 23. That the Authentic-Existent is universally an integral, self-indentical Unity (VI.4,5)

In immediate succession to these he composed two more: one is entitled:
24. That there is no Intellectual Act in the Principle which transcends the Authentic-Existent; and on the Nature that has the Intellectual Act Primally and that which has it Secondarily (V.6)

The other:
25. On Potentiality and Actuality (II.5)

After these come the following twenty:
26. On the Impassibility of the Bodiless (III.6)
27. On the Soul, First (IV.3)
28. On the Soul, Second (IV.4) -4-
29. On the Soul, Third; or, How We See (IV.5) 30. On Contemplation (III.8)
31. On Intellectual Beauty (V.8)
32. That the Intelligibles are not outside the Intellectual-Principle; and on the Good (V.5)
33. Against the Gnostics (II.9)
34. On Numbers (VI.6)
35. Why Distant Objects appear Small (II.8)
36. Whether Happiness depends upon Extension of Time (I.5)
37. On Coalescence (II.7)
38. How the Multitude of Ideas Exists; and on the Good (VI.7)
39. On Free-Will (VI.8)
40. On the World (II.1)
41. On Sensation and Memory (IV.6)
42. On the Kinds of Being, First (VI.6)
43. On the Kinds of Being, Second (VI.2)
44. On the Kinds of Being, Third (VI.3)
45. On Eternity and Time (III.7)

Thus we have twenty-four treatises composed during the six years of my association with him and dealing, as the titles indicate, with such problems as happened to arise at the Conferences; add the twenty-one composed before my arrival, and we have accounted for forty-five treatises.

§ 6. The following five more Plotinus wrote and sent to me while I was living in Sicily, where I had gone about the fifteenth year of Gallienus:
46. On Happiness (I.4)
47. On Providence, First (III.2)
48. On Providence, Second (III.3)
49. On the Conscious Hypostases and the All-Transcending (V.3)
50. On Love (III.5)

These five he sent me in the first year of Claudius: in the early months of the second year, shortly before his death, I received the following four:
51. On Evil (I.8)
52. Whether the Stars have Causal Operation (II.3)
53. On the Animate (I.1)
54. On Happiness (I.7)

Adding these nine to the forty-five of the first and second sets we have a total of fifty-four treatises.

According to the time of writing — early manhood, vigorous prime, worn-out constitution — so the tractates vary in power. The first twenty-one pieces manifest a slighter capacity, the talent being not yet matured to the fulness of nervous strength. The twenty-four produced in the mid-period display the utmost reach of the powers, and except -5- for the short treatises among them, attain the highest perfection. The last nine were written when the mental strength was already waning, and of these the last four show less vigour even than the five preceding.

§ 7. Plotinus had a large following. Notable among the more zealous students, really devoted to philosophy, was Amelius of Tuscany, whose family name was Gentilianus. Amelius preferred to call himself Amerius, changing L for R, because, as he explained, it suited him better to be named from Amereia, Unification, then from Ameleia, Indifference.

The group included also one Paulinus, a doctor of Scythopolis, whom Amelius used to call Mikkalos in allusion to his blundering habit of mind.

Among closer personal friends was Eustochius of Alexandria, also a doctor, who came to know Plotinus towards the end of his life, and attended him until his death: Eutochius consecrated himself exclusively to Plotinus’ system and became a veritable philosopher.

Then there was Zoticus, at once critic and poet, who has amended the text of Antimachus’ works and is the author of an exquisite poem upon the Atlantis story: is sight failed, and he died a little before Plotinus, as also did Paulinus.

Another friend was Zethos, an Arabian by descent, who married a daughter of Ammonius’ friend Theodosius. Zethos, too, was a doctor. Plotinus was deeply attached to him and was always trying to divert him from the political career in which he stood high. Plotinus was on the most familiar terms with him, and used to stay with him at his country place, six miles from Minturnae, a property which had formerly belonged to Castricius Firmus.

Castricius was excelled by none of the group in appreciation of the finer side of life: he venerated Plotinus; he devoted himself in the most faithful comradeship to Amelius in every need, and was in all matters as loyal to myself as though I were his own brother.

This was another example of a politician venerating the philosopher. There were also among Plotinus’ hearers not a few members of the Senate, amongst whom Marcellus Orontius and Sabinillus showed the greatest assiduity in philosophical studies.

Another Senator, Rogatianus, advanced to such detachment from political ambitions that he gave up all his property, dismissed all his slaves, renounced every dignity, and, on the point of taking up his praetorship, the lictors already at the door, refused to come out or to have anything to do with the office. He even abandoned his own house, spending his time here and there at this friends’ and acquaintances’, sleeping and eating with them and taking, at that, only one meal every other day. He had been a victim of gout, carried in a chair, but this new regime of abstinence and abnegation restored his health: he had been unable to stretch out his hands; he came to use them as freely as men living by manual labour. Plotinus took a great liking to Rogatianus and -6- frequently praised him very highly, holding him up as a model to those aiming at the philosophical life.

Then there was Serapion, an Alexandrian, who began life as a professional orator and later took to the study of philosophy, but was never able to conquer the vices of avarice and usury.

I myself, Porphyry of Tyre, was one of Plotinus’ very closest friends, and it was to me he entrusted the task of revising his writings.

§ 8. Such revision was necessary: Plotinus could not bear to go back on his work even for one re-reading; and indeed the condition of his sight would scarcely allow it: his handwriting was slovenly; he misjoined his words; he cared nothing about spelling; his one concern was for the idea: in these habits, to our general surprise, he remained unchanged to the very end.

He used to work out his design mentally from first to last: when he came to set down his ideas, he wrote out at one jet all he had stored in mind as though he were copying from a book.

Interrupted, perhaps, by someone entering on business, he never lost hold of his plan; he was able to meet all the demands of the conversation and still keep his own train of thought clearly before him; when he was free again, he never looked over what he had previously written — his sight, it has been mentioned, did not allow of such re-reading — but he linked on what was to follow as if no distraction had occurred.

Thus he was able to live at once within himself and for others; he never relaxed from his interior attention unless in sleep; and even his sleep was kept light be an abstemiousness that often prevented him taking as much as a piece of bread, and by this unbroken concentration upon his own highest nature.

§ 9. Several women were greatly attached to him, amongst them Gemina, in whose house he lived, and her daughter, called Gemina, too, after the mother, and Amphiclea, the wife Ariston, son Iamblichus; all three devoted themselves assiduously to philosophy.

Not a few men and women of position, on the approach of death, had left their boys and girls, with all their property, in his care, feeling that with Plotinus for guardian the children would be in holy hands. His house therefore was filled with lads lasses, amongst them Potamon, in whose education he took such interest as often to hear the boy recite verses of his own composition.

He always found time for those that came to submit returns of the children’s property, and he looked closely to the accuracy of the accounts: ‘Until the young people take to philosophy,’ he used to say, ‘their fortunes and revenues must be kept intact for them.’ And yet all this labour and thought over the worldly interests of so many people never interrupted, during waking hours, his intention towards the Supreme. -7-

He was gentle, and always at the call of those having the slightest acquaintance with him. After spending twenty-six years in Rome, acting, too, as arbiter in many differences, he had never made an enemy of any citizen.

§ 10. Among those making profession of Philosophy at Rome was one Olympius, an Alexandrian, who had been for a little while a pupil of Ammonius.

This man’s jealous envy showed itself in continual insolence, and finally he grew so bitter that he even ventured sorcery, seeking to crush Plotinus by star-spells. But he found his experiments recoiling upon himself, and he confessed to his associates that Plotinus possessed ‘a mighty soul, so powerful, as to be able to hurl every assault back upon those that sought his ruin’. Plotinus had felt the operation and declared that at that moment Olympius’ ‘limbs were convulsed and his body shrivelling like a money-bag pulled tight’. Olympius, perceiving on several attempts that he was endangering himself rather than Plotinus, desisted.

In fact Plotinus possessed by birth something more than is accorded to other men. An Egyptian priest who had arrived in Rome and, through some friend, had been presented to the philosopher, became desirous of displaying his powers to him, and he offered to evoke a visible manifestation of Plotinus’ presiding spirit. Plotinus readily consented and the evocation was made in the Temple of Isis, the only place, they say, which the Egyptian could find pure in Rome.

At the summons a Divinity appeared, not a being of the spirit-ranks, and the Egyptian exclaimed: ‘You are singularly graced; the guiding-spirit within you is not of the lower degree but a God.’ It was not possible, however, to interrogate or even to contemplate this God any further, for the priest’s assistant, who had been holding the birds to prevent them flying away, strangled them, whether through jealousy or in terror. Thus Plotinus had for indwelling spirit a Being of the more divine degree, and he kept his own divine spirit unceasingly intent upon that inner presence. It was this preoccupation that led him to write his treatise upon Our Tutelary Spirit, an essay in the explanation of the differences among spirit-guides.

Amelius was scrupulous in observing the day of the New-Moon and other holy-days, and once asked Plotinus to join in some such celebration: Plotinus refused: ‘It is for those Beings to come to me, not for me to go to them.’ What was in his mind in so lofty an utterance we could not explain to ourselves and we dared not ask him.

§ 11. He had a remarkable penetration into character.

Once a valuable necklace was stolen from Chione, who was living in honourable widowhood with her children in the same house as Plotinus: -8- the servants were called before him: he scrutinized them all, then indicated one: ‘This man is the thief.’ The man was whipped but for some time persisted in denial: finally, however, he confessed, and restored the necklace.

Plotinus foretold also the future of each of the children in the household: for instance, when questioned as to Polemon’s character and destiny he said: ‘He will be amorous and short-lived’: and so it proved.

I myself at one period had formed the intention of ending my life; Plotinus discerned my purpose; he came unexpectedly to my house where I had secluded myself, told me that my decision sprang not from reason but from mere melancholy and advised me to leave Rome. I obeyed and left for Sicily, which I chose because I heard that one Probus, a man of scholarly repute, was living there not far from Lilybaeum. Thus I was induced to abandon my first intention but was prevented from being with Plotinus between that time and his death.

§ 12. The Emperor Gallienus and his wife Salonina greatly honoured and venerated Plotinus, who thought to turn their friendly feeling to some good purpose. In Campania there had once stood, according to tradition, a City of Philosophers, a ruin now; Plotinus asked the Emperor to rebuild this city and to make over the surrounding district to the new-founded state; the population was to live under Plato’s laws: the city was to be called Platonopolis; and Plotinus undertook to settle down there with his associates. He would have had his way without more ado but that opposition at court, prompted by jealousy, spite, or some such paltry motive, put an end to the plan.

§ 13. At the Conferences he showed the most remarkable power of going to the heart of a subject, whether in exposition or in explanation, and his phrasing was apt; but he made mistakes in certain words; for example, he said ‘anamnemisketai’ for ‘anamimnesketai’ — just such errors as he committed in his writing.

When he was speaking his intellect visibly illuminated his face: always of winning presence, he became at these times still more engaging: a slight moisture gathered on his forehead; he radiated benignity.

He was always as ready to entertain objections as he was powerful in meeting them. At one time I myself kept interrogating him during three days as to how the soul is associated with the body, and he continued explaining; a man called Thaumasius entered in the midst of our discussions; the visitor was more interested in the general drift of the system than in particular points, and said he wished to hear Plotinus expounding some theory as he would in a set treatise, but that he could not endure Porphyry’s questions and answers: Plotinus asked, ‘But if we cannot first solve the difficulties Porphyry raises what could go into the treatise?’ -9-

§ 14. In style Plotinus is concise, dense with thought, terse, more lavish of ideas than of words, most often expressing himself with a fervid inspiration. He followed his own path rather than that of tradition, but in his writings both the Stoic and Peripatetic doctrines are sunk; Aristotle’s Metaphysics, especially, is condensed in them, all but entire.

He had a thorough theoretical knowledge of Geometry, Mechanics, Optics, and Music, though it was not in his temperament to go practically into these subjects.

At the Conferences he used to have treatises by various authors read aloud — among the Platonists it might be Severus of Cronius, Numenius, Gaius, or Atticus; and among the Peripatetics Aspasius, Alexander, Adrastus, or some such writer, at the call of the moment. But it was far from his way to follow any of these authors blindly; he took a personal, original view, applying Ammonius’ method to the investigation of every problem.

He was quick to absorb; a few words sufficed him to make clear the significance of some profound theory and so to pass on. After hearing Longinus’ work On Causes and his Antiquary, he remarked: ‘Longinus is a man of letters, but in no sense a philosopher.’

One day Origen came to the conference-room; Plotinus blushed deeply and was on the point of bringing his lecture to an end; when Origen begged him to continue, he said: ‘The zest dies down when the speaker feels that his hearers have nothing to learn from him.’

§ 15. Once on Plato’s feast I read a poem, ‘The Sacred Marriage’; my piece abounded in mystic doctrine conveyed in veiled words and was couched in terms of enthusiasm; someone exclaimed: ‘Porphyry has gone mad’; Plotinus said to me so that all might hear: ‘You have shown yourself at once poet, philosopher and hierophant.’

The orator Diophanes one day read a justification of the Alcibiades of Plato’s Banquet and maintained that the pupil, for the sake of advancement in virtue, should submit to the teacher without reserve, even to the extent of carnal commerce: Plotinus started up several times to leave the room but forced himself to remain; on the breaking up of the company he directed me to write a refutation. Diophanes refused to lend me his address and I had to depend on my recollection of his argument; but my refutation, delivered before the same audience, delighted Plotinus so much that during the very reading he repeatedly quoted: ‘So strike and be a light to men.’

When Eubulus, the Platonic Successor, wrote from Athens, sending treatises on some questions in Platonism. Plotinus had the writings put into my hands with instructions to examine them and report to him upon them.

He paid some attention to the principles of Astronomy though he did not study the subject very deeply on the mathematical side. He went more searchingly into Horoscopy; when once he was convinced -10- that its results were not to be trusted he had no hesitation in attacking the system frequently both at the Conferences and in his writings.

§ 16. Many Christians of this period — amongst them sectaries who had abandoned the old philosophy, men of the schools of Adelphius and Aquilinus — had possessed themselves of works by Alexander of Libya, by Philocomus, by Demostratus, and by Lydus, and exhibited also Revelations bearing the names of Zoroaster, Zostrianus, Nicotheus, Allogenes, Mesus, and others of that order. Thus they fooled many, themselves fooled first; Plato, according to them, had failed to penetrate into the depth of Intellectual Being.

Plotinus frequently attacked their position at the Conferences and finally wrote the treatise which I have headed Against the Gnostics: he left to us of the circle the task of examining what he himself passed over. Amelius proceeded as far as a fortieth treatise in refutation of the book of Zostrianus: I myself have shown on many counts that the Zoroastrian volume is spurious and modern, concocted by the sectaries in order to pretend that the doctrines they had embraced were those of the ancient sage.

§ 17. Some of the Greeks began to accuse Plotinus of appropriating the ideas of Numenius. Amelius, being informed of this charge by the Stoic and Platonist Trypho, challenged it in a treatise which he entitled The Difference between the Doctrines of Plotinus and Numenius. He dedicated the work to me, under the name of Basileus (or King). This really is my name; it is equivalent to Porphyry (Purple-robed) and translates the name I bear in my own tongue; for I am called Malchos, like my father, and ‘Malchos’ would give ‘Basileus’ in Greek. Longinus, in dedicating his work On Impulse to Cleodamus and myself, addressed us as ‘Cleodamus and Malchus’, just as Numenius translated the Latin ‘Maximus’ into its Greek equivalent ‘Megalos’.

Here follows Amelius’ letter:

‘Amelius to Basileus, with all good wishes.

‘You have been, in your own phrase, pestered by the persistent assertion that our friend’s doctrine is to be traced to Numenius of Apamea. Now, if it were merely for those illustrious personages who spread this charge, you may be very sure I would never utter a word in reply. It is sufficiently clear that they are actuated solely by the famous and astonishing facility of speech of theirs when they assert, at one moment, that he is an idle babbler, next that he is a plagiarist, and finally that his plagiarisms are feeble in the extreme. Clearly in all this we have nothing but scoffing and abuse.

‘But your judgement has persuaded me that we should profit by this occasion firstly to provide ourselves with a useful memorandum of the doctrines that have won our adhesion, and secondly to bring about a -11- more complete knowledge of the system — long celebrated thought it be — to the glory of our friend, a man so great as Plotinus.

‘Hence I now bring you the promised Reply, executed, as you and your self know, in three days. You must judge it with reasonable indulgence; this is no orderly and elaborate defence composed in step-by-step correspondence with the written indictment: I have simply set down, as they occurred to me, my recollections of our frequent discussions. You will admit, also, that it is by no means easy to grasp the meaning of a writer who (like Numenius), now credited with the opinion we also hold, varies in the terms he uses to express the one idea.

‘If I have falsified any essential of the doctrine, I trust to your good nature to set me right: I am reminded of the phrase in the tragedy: A busy man and far from the teachings of our master I must needs correct and recant. Judge how much I wish to give you pleasure. Good health.’

§ 18. This letter seemed worth insertion as showing, not merely that some contemporary judgement pronounced Plotinus to be parading on the strength of Numenius’ ideas, but that he was even despised as a word-spinner.

The fact is that these people did not understand his teaching: he was entirely free from all the inflated pomp of the professor: his lectures had the air of conversation, and he never forced upon his hearers the severely logical substructure of his thesis.

I myself, when I first heard him, had the same experience. It led me to combat his doctrine in a paper in which I tried to show that the Intelligibles exist outside of the Intellectual-Principle. He had my work read to him by Amelius: at the end he smiled and said: ‘You must clear up these difficulties, Amelius: Porphyry doesn’t understand our position.’ Amelius wrote a tract of considerable length ‘In answer to Porphyry’s Objections’; I wrote a reply to the reply: Amelius replied to my reply; at my third attempt I came, though even so with difficulty, to grasp the doctrine: then only, I was converted, wrote a recantation, and read it before the circle. From that time on I was entrusted with Plotinus’ writings and sought to stir in the master himself the ambition of organizing his doctrine and setting it down in more extended form. Amelius, too, under my prompting, was encouraged in composition.

§ 19. Longinus’ estimate of Plotinus, formed largely upon indications I myself had given him in my letters, will be gathered from the following extract from one of his to me. He is asking me to leave Sicily and join him in Phoenicia, and to bring Plotinus’ works with me. He says:

‘And send them at your convenience or, better, bring them; for I can never cease urging you to give the road towards us the preference over any other. If there is no better reason — and what intellectual gain can you anticipate form a visit to us? — at least there are old acquaintances and the mild climate which would do you good in the weak state of -12- health you report. Whatever else you may be expecting, do not hope for anything new of my own, or even for the earlier works which you tell me you have lost; for there is a sad dearth of copyists here. I assure you it has taken me all this time to complete my set of Plotinus, and it was done only by calling off my scribe from all his routine work, and keeping him steadily to this one task.

‘I think that now, with what you have sent me, I have everything, though in a very imperfect state, for the manuscript is exceeding faulty. I had expected our friend Amelius to correct the scribal errors, but he evidently had something better to do. The copies are quite useless to me; I have been especially eager to examine the treatises On the Soul and On the Authentic-Existent, and these are precisely the most corrupted. It would be a great satisfaction to me if you would send me faithful transcripts for collation and return — though again I suggest to you not to send but to come in person, bringing me the correct copies of these treatises and of any that Amelius may have passed over. All that he brought with him I have been careful to make my own: how could I be content not to possess myself of all the writings of a man so worthy of the deepest veneration?

‘I repeat, what I have often said in your presence and in your absence, as on that occasion when you were at Tyre, that while much of the theory does not convince me, yet I am filled with admiration and delight over the general character of the work, the massive thinking of the man, the philosophic handling of problems; in my judgement investigators must class Plotinus’ work with that holding the very highest rank.’

§ 20. This extended quotation from the most acute of the critics of our day — a writer who has passed judgement on nearly all his contemporaries — serves to show the estimate he came to set upon Plotinus of whom, at first, misled by ignorant talk, he had held a poor opinion.

His notion, by the way, that the transcripts he acquired from Amelius were faulty sprang from his misunderstanding of Plotinus’ style and phraseology; if there were ever any accurate copies, these were they, faithful reproductions from the author’s own manuscript.

Another passage from the work of Longinus, dealing with Amelius, Plotinus, and other metaphysicians of the day, must be inserted here to give a complete view of the opinion formed upon these philosophers by the most authoritative and most searching of critics. The work was entitled On the End: in Answer to Plotinus and Gentilianus Amelius. It opens with the following preface:

‘In our time, Marcellus, there have been many philosophers — especially in our youth — for there is a strange scarcity at present. When I was a boy, my parents’ long journeys gave me the opportunity of seeing all the better-known teachers; and in later life those that still lived became known to me as my visits to this and that city and people brought me where they happened to live.


‘Some of these undertook the labour of developing their theories in formal works and so have bequeathed to the future the means of profiting by their services. Others thought they had done enough when they had convinced their own immediate hearers of the truth of their theories.

‘First of those that have written. Among the Platonists there are Euclides, Democritus, Proclinus the philosopher of the Troad, and the two who still profess philosophy at Rome, Plotinus and his friend Gentilianus Amelius. Among the Stoics there are Themistocles and Phoibion and the two who flourished only a little while ago, Annius and Medius. And there is the Peripatetic, Heliodorus of Alexandria.

‘For those that have not written, there are among the Platonists Ammonius and Origen, two teachers whose lectures I myself attended during a long period, men greatly surpassing their contemporaries in mental power; and there are the Platonic Successors at Athens, Theodotus and Eubulus.

‘No doubt some writing of a metaphysical order stands to the credit of this group: Origen wrote On Spirit-Beings, Eubulus On the Philebus and Gorgias, and the objections urged by Aristotle to Plato’s Republic; but this is not enough to class either of them with systematic authors. This was side-play; authorship was not in the main plan of their careers.

‘Among Stoic teachers that refrained from writing we have Herminus and Lysimachus, and the two living at Athens, Musonius and Athenaeus; among Peripatetics, Ammonius and Ptolemaeus. The two last were the most accomplished scholars of their time, Ammonius especially being unapproached in breadth of learning; but neither produced any systematic work; we have from them merely verses and duty-speeches; and these I cannot think to have been preserved with their consent; they did not concern themselves about formal statement of their doctrine, and it is not likely they would wish to be known in after times by compositions of so trivial a nature.

‘To return to the writers; some of them, like Euclides, Democritus, and Proclinus, confined themselves to the mere compilation and transcription of passages from earlier authorities. Others diligently worked over various minor points in the investigations of the ancients, and put together books dealing with the same subjects. Such were Annius, Medius, and Phoibion, the last especially choosing to be distinguished for style rather than for systematic thinking. In the same class must be ranked Heliodorus; his writings contribute nothing to the organization of the thought which he found to his hand in the teaching of earlier workers.

‘Plotinus and Gentilianus Amelius alone display the true spirit of authorship; they treat of a great number of questions and they bring a method of their own to the treatment.

‘Plotinus, it would seem, set the principles of Pythagoras and of Plato -14- in a clearer light than anyone before him; on the same subjects, Numenius, Cronius, Moderatus, and Thrasyllus fall far short of him in precision and fullness. Amelius set himself to walk in Plotinus’ steps and adopted most of Plotinus’ opinions; his method, however, was diffuse an, unlike his friend, he indulges in an extravagance of explanation.

‘Only these two seem to me worth study. What profit can anyone expect from troubling the works of any of the others to the neglect of the originals on which they drew? They bring us nothing of their own, not even a novel augment, much less a leading idea, and are too unconcerned even to set side by side the most generally adopted theories or to choose the better among them.

‘My own method has been different; as for example when I replied to Gentilianus upon Plato’s treatment of Justice and in a review I undertook of Plotinus’ work On the Ideas. This latter was in the form of a reply to Basileus of Tyre, my friend as theirs. He had preferred Plotinus’ system to mine and had written several works in the manner of his master, amongst them a treatise supporting Plotinus’ theory of the Idea against that which I taught. I endeavoured, not, I think, unsuccessfully, to show that his change of mind was mistaken.

‘In these two essays I have ranged widely over the doctrines of this school, as also in my Letter to Amelius which, despite the simple title with which I contented myself, has the dimensions of a book, being a reply to a treatise he addressed to me from Rome under the title On Plotinus’ Philosophic Method.’

§ 21. This Preface leaves no doubt of Longinus’ final verdict: he ranks Plotinus and Amelius above all authors of his time in the multitude of questions they discuss; he credits them with an original method of investigation: in his judgement they by no means took their system from Numenius or gave a first place to his opinions, but followed the Pythagorean and Platonic schools; finally he declares the writings of Numenius, Cronius, Moderatus, and Thrasyllus greatly inferior in precision and fullness to those of Plotinus.

Notice, by the way, that while Amelius is described as following in Plotinus’ footsteps, it is indicated that his temperamental prolixity led him to delight in an extravagance of explanation foreign to his master: in the reference to myself, though I was then only at the beginning of my association with Plotinus — ‘Basileus of Tyre, my friend as theirs, who has written a good deal, has taken Plotinus as his model’ — Longinus recognizes that I entirely avoided Amelius’ unphilosophical prolixity and made Plotinus’ manner my standard.

Such a pronouncement upon the value of Plotinus’ work, coming from so great an authority, the first of critics then as now, must certainly carry weight, and I may remark that if I had been able to confer with him, during such a visit as he proposed, he would not have written to combat doctrines which he had not thoroughly penetrated. -15-

§ 22. But why talk, to use Hesiod’s phrase, ‘About Oak and Rock’? If we are to accept the evidence of the wise — who could be wiser than a God? And here the witness is the same God that said with truth:

‘I have numbered the sands and taken the measure of the sea;
I understand the dumb and hear where there has been no speech.’

Apollo was consulted by Amelius, who desired to learn where Plotinus’ soul had gone. And Apollo, who uttered of Socrates that great praise, ‘Of all men, Socrates the wisest’ — you shall hear what a full and lofty oracle Apollo rendered upon Plotinus.

I raise an undying song, to the memory of a gently friend, a hymn of praise woven to the honey-sweet tones of my lyre under the touch of the golden plectrum.

The Muses, too, I call to lift the voice with me in strains of many-toned exultation, in passion ranging over all the modes of song:

even as of old they raised the famous chant to the glory of Aeacides in the immortal ardours of the Homeric line.

Come, then, Sacred Chorus, let us intone with one great sound the utmost of all song, I Phoebus, Bathychaites, singing in the midst.

Celestial! Man at first but now nearing the diviner ranks! the bonds of human necessity are loosed for you and, strong of heart, you beat your eager way from out the roaring tumult of the fleshly life to the shores of that wave-washed coast free from the thronging of the guilty, thence to take the grateful path of the sinless soul:

where glows the splendour of God, where Right is throned in the stainless place, far from the wrong that mocks at law.

Oft-times as you strove to rise above the bitter waves of this blood-drenched life, above the sickening whirl, toiling in the mid-most of the rushing flood and the unimaginable turmoil, oft-times, from the Ever-Blessed, there was shown to you the Term still close at hand:

Oft-times, when your mind thrust out awry and was like to be rapt down unsanctioned paths, the Immortals themselves prevented, guiding you on the straightgoing way to the celestial spheres, pouring down before you a dense shaft of light that your eyes might see from amid the mournful gloom.

Sleep never closed those eyes: high above the heavy murk of the mist you held them; tossed in the welter, you still had vision; still you saw sights many and fair not granted to all that labour in wisdom’s quest.

But now that you have cast the screen aside, quitted the tomb that held your lofty soul, you enter at once the heavenly consort:

where fragrant breezes play, where all is unison and winning tenderness and guileless joy, and the place is lavish of the nectar-streams the unfailing Gods bestow, with the blandishments of the Loves, and delicious airs, and tranquil sky:

where Minos and Rhadamanthus dwell, great brethren of the -16- golden race of mighty Zeus; where dwell the just Aeacus, and Plato, consecrated power, and stately Pythagoras and all else that form the Choir of Immortal Love, that share their parentage with the most blessed spirits, there where the heart is ever lifted in joyous festival.

O Blessed One, you have fought your many fights; now, crowned with unfading life, your days are with the Ever-Holy.

Rejoicing Muses, let us stay our song and the subtle windings of our dance; thus much I could but tell, to my golden lyre, of Plotinus, the hallowed soul.

§ 23. Good and kindly, singularly gentle and engaging: thus the oracle presents him, and so in fact we found him. Sleeplessly alert — Apollo tells — pure of soul, ever striving towards the divine which he loved with all his being, he laboured strenuously to free himself and rise above the bitter waves of this blood-drenched life: and this is why to Plotinus — God-like and lifting himself often, by the ways of meditation and by the methods Plato teaches in the Banquet, to the first and all-transcendent God — that God appeared, the God who has neither shape nor form but sits enthroned above the Intellectual-Principle and all the Intellectual-Sphere.

‘There was shown to Plotinus the Term ever near’: for the Term, the one end, of his life was to become Uniate, to approach to the God over all: and four times, during the period I passed with him, he achieved this Term, by no mere latent fitness but by the ineffable Act.

‘To this God, I also declare, I Porphyry, that in my sixty-eighth year I too was once admitted and I entered into Union. We are told that often when he was leaving the way, the Gods set him on the true path again, pouring down before him a dense shaft of light; here we are to understand that in his writing he was overlooked and guided by the divine powers.

‘In this sleepless vision within and without’, the oracle says, ‘your eyes have beheld sights many and fair not vouchsafed to all that take the philosophic path’: contemplation in man may sometimes be more than human, but compare it with the True-Knowing of the Gods and, wonderful though it be, it can never plunge into the depths their divine vision fathoms.

Thus far the Oracle recounts what Plotinus accomplished and to what heights he attained while still in the body: emancipated from the body, we are told how he entered the celestial circle where all is friendship, tender delight, happiness, and loving union with God, where Minos and Rhadamanthus and Aeacus, the sons of God, are enthroned as judges of souls — not, however, to hold him to judgement but as welcoming him to their consort to which are bidden spirits pleasing to the Gods — Plato, Pythagoras, and all the people of the Choir of Immortal Love, there where the blessed spirits have their birth-home and live in days filled full of ‘joyous festival’ and made happy by the Gods. -17-

§ 24. I have related Plotinus’ life; something remains to tell of my revision and arrangement of his writings. This task he himself had imposed upon me during his lifetime and I had pledged myself to him and to the circle to carry it out.

I judged that in the case of treatises which, like these, had been issued without consideration of logical sequence it was best to disregard the time-order.

Apollodorus, the Athenian, edited in ten volumes the collected works of Epicharmus, the comedy writer; Andronicus, the Peripatetic, classified the works of Aristotle and of Theoophrastus according to subject, bringing together the discussions of related topics: I have adopted a similar plan.

I had fifty-four treatises before me: I divided them into six sets of nine, an arrangement which pleased me by the happy combination of the perfect number six with the nines: to each such ennead I assigned matter of one general nature, leading off with the themes presenting the least difficulty.

The First Ennead, on this method, contains the treatises of a more ethical tendency:
1. On the Animate and the Man.
2. On the Virtues.
3. On Dialectic.
4. On Happiness.
5. Whether Happiness depends on Extension of Time.
6. On Beauty.
7. On the Primal Good and Secondary forms of Good.
8. On Evil.
9. On the Reasoned Withdrawal from Life.

The Second Ennead, following the more strictly ethical First, is physical, containing the disquisitions on the world and all that belongs to the world:

1. On the World.
2. On the Circular Movement.
3. Whether the Stars have Causal Operation.
4. On the Two Orders of Matter.
5. On Potentiality and Actuality.
6. On Quality and Form.
7. On Coalescence.
8. Why Distant Objects appear Small.
9. Against those Declaring the Creator of the World, and the World itself, to be Evil.

The Third Ennead, still keeping to the World, discusses the philosophical implications of some of its features:

1. On Fate. -18-
2. The First Treatise on Providence.
3. The Second Treatise on Providence.
4. On Our Tutelary Spirit.
5. On Love.
6. On the Impassibility of the Bodiless.
7. On Eternity and Time.
8. On Nature, Contemplation, and The One.
9. Various Questions.

§ 25. These first three Enneads constitute in my arrangement one self-contained section.

The treatise on Our Tutelary Spirit is placed in the Third Ennead because this Spirit is not discussed as it is in itself, and the essay by its main content falls into the class dealing with the origin of man. Similar reasons determined the inclusion in this set of the treatise on Love. That on Eternity and Time is placed in this Third Ennead in virtue of its treatment of Time: that on Nature, Contemplation, and The One, because of the discussion of Nature contained in it.

Next to the two dealing with the world comes the Fourth Ennead containing the treatises dealing with the Soul:

1. On the Essence of the Soul (I)
2. On the Essence of the Soul (II)
3. Questions referring to the Soul (I)
4. Questions referring to the Soul (II)
5. Questions referring to the Soul (III)
6. On Sensation and Memory.
7. On the Immortality of the Soul.
8. On the Descent of the Soul into Bodies.
9. Whether all Souls are One.

The Fifth Ennead — following upon that dealing with the Soul — contains the treatises upon the Intellectual-Principle, each of which had also some reference to the All-Transcending and to the Intellectual-Principle in the Soul, and to the Ideas:

1. On the three Primal Hypostases.
2. On the Origin and Order of the Post-Primals.
3. On the Conscious Hypostases and the All-Transcending.
4. How the Post-Primal derives from the Primal, and on the One.
5. That the Intelligibles are not outside the Intellectual-Principle, and on the Good.
6. That there is no Intellectual Act in the Principle which transcends the Authentic-Existent; and on the Nature that has the Intellectual Act Primally and that which has it Secondarily.
7. Whether there are Ideas even of Particulars.
8. On Intellectual Beauty.
9. On the Intellectual-Principle, on the Ideas, and on the Authentic-Existent. -19-

§ 26. These Fourth and Fifth Enneads, again, I have arranged in the form of one distinct section.

The last Ennead, the Sixth, constitutes one other section, so that we have the entire work of Plotinus in three sections, the first containing three Enneads, the second two, the third one Ennead.

The content of the third section, that is of the Sixth Ennead, is as follows:

1, 2, 3. On the Kinds of Being.
4, 5. That the Authentic-Existent, on and identical, is everywhere present, integrally.
6. On Numbers.
7. How the Multitude of Ideas Exists; and on the Good.
8. On Free-Will and the Will of the One.
9. On the Good, or The One.

Thus, in sum, I have arranged the fifty-four treatises, constituting Plotinus’ entire work, into six sets of nine: to some of the treatises I have further added commentaries — irregularly, as friends asked for enlightenment on this or that point; finally for all the treatises, except that on Beauty, which was not to hand, I have written Summaries which follow the chronological order: in this department of my work besides the Summaries will be found Developments; the numbering of these also adopts the chronological order.

Now I have only to go once more through the entire work, see to the punctuation, and correct any verbal errors; what else has solicited my attention, the reader will discover for himself. -20-

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Appendix I. Select Bibliography

A. Works mentioned in the various volumes of the First Edition

MacKenna made no attempt at a complete bibliography but mentioned books which he had used and found helpful. The mention is partly acknowledgement of an obligation, partly advice to the reader. Not all the titles are repeated here but only those of books which bear closely on the interpretation of Plotinus and which may still be considered to have value for that purpose.

Editions and Translations

See also pages xix-xx.

Guthrie (K. S.). Plotinus’ Complete Works. 4 vols. Bell, 1918. Mentioned in volume 2: ‘came too late to serve in the preparation of this second volume’.

Selections (In Translation)

Dodds (E. R.). Select Passages Illustrating Neoplatonism. S.P.C.K., 1923.
Mentioned in volumes 3, 4, and 5, with record of ‘constant obligation’ and ‘indebtedness’.


Simon (J.). Histoire de l’ecole d’Alexandrie. 2 vols. Paris, 1843-5.

Vacherot (E.). Histoire critique de l’ecole d’Alexandrie. 3 vols. Paris, 1846-51.

Richter (A.). Neuplatonische Studien. 5 parts. Halle, 1864-7.

Heinze (M.). Die Lehre vom Logos in der griechischen Philosophie. Oldenburg, 1872.
Pages 306-33 on the logos in Plotinus.

Whittaker (T.). The Neoplatonists. Cambridge University Press, 1901.
See B (Supplementary Bibliographical Note) below.

Caird (E.). The Evolution of Theology in the Greek Philosophers. 2 vols. Glasgow: MacLehose, 1904.
‘This book, written in the loftiest spirit, contains some exquisite fragments from the Enneads.’ Volume 4 records ‘constant obligation’.

Guyot (H.). L’Infinite divine depuis Philon jusqu’ à Plotin. Paris, 1906.

Fuller (B. A. G.). The Problem of Evil in Plotinus. Cambridge University Press, 1912.

Inge (W. R.). The Philosophy of Plotinus. 2 vols. Longmans, 1918.
Mentioned in volume 2 as ‘a work fascinating in detail and henceforth -626- the necessary foundation to English speakers of all serious study of Plotinus’. Volumes 4 and 5 record ‘constant obligation’ and ‘indebtedness’. See B (Supplementary Bibliographical Note) below.

Nebel (G.). Plotins Kategorien der intelligiblen Welt. Tubingen, 1929.
Mentioned in volume 5 as of particular use in the translation of Ennead VI, 1-3.

B. Supplementary Bibliographical Note

The following list contains only a selection of recent works likely to be of special interest to the reader of this translation. A comprehensive bibliography of works relating to Plotinus has been compiled by Bert Mariën and is included in the final volume of Cilento’s translation.


Plotin: Ennéades: texte établi et traduit par Émile Bréhier. 6 vols. in 7. Paris, 1924-38.

Plotini Opera: ediderunt Paul Henry et Hans-Rudolf Schwyzer. Tomus I.: Porphyrii vita Plotini; Enneades I-III. Paris, 1951-9.
The edition will be complete in three volumes, of which the last will comprise a lexicon by J.H. Sleeman, revised by the editors and G. Pollet.
An editio minor is being published in the Oxford Classical Texts; Tomus I: Porphyrii vita Plotini; Enneades I-III. Oxford, 1964.

Plotinus: with an Ebglish translation by A.H. Armstrong. 6 vols. Loeb Classical Library. London 1966.
Volumes 1-3 so far oublished, containing the Vita and Enneads I-III. In volume 1 the text ‘is substantially that of the major edition of Professor P. Henry and Dr. H.-R. Schwyzer,’ but takes account of later changes and corrections made by these editors. From volume 2 it will generally correspond with the minor edition of Henry and Schwyzer.


Armstrong: see above (Editions).

Bréhier: see above (Editions).

Plotins Schriften: übersetzt von Richard Harder. Neubearbeitung mit griechischen Lesetext und Ammerkungen. 5 vols. (in 11) Hamburg, 1956-67.
Follows the chronological arrangement. Volume I revised by Harder himself, the remainder after his death by W. Marg (Vita), R. Beutler, and W. Theiler.

Plotino. Enneadi: prima versione integra e commentario critico di Vincenzo Cilento. 3 vols. in 4. Bari, 1 947-9.

Selections (In Translation)

Turnbull (G. H.). The Essence of Plotinus; extracts …based on the translation of Stephen MacKenna. New York, 1934.
Gives condensed versions of thirty-four tractates, following the Ennead-order. Often departs in detail from MacKenna and sometimes with a gain in accuracy.

Katz (J.). The Philosophy of Plotinus: representative books from the Enneads. New York, 1950.
Complete translation of twelve tractates.

Armstrong (A. H.). Plotinus. Allen & Unwin, 1953.
Short extracts arranged in a systematic order.

O'Brien (E.). The Essential Plotinus. New York, 1964.
Complete translation of ten tractates.


Two standard works mentioned by MacKenna have appeared in later and definitive editions:

Whittaker (T.). The Neoplatonists. 2nd ed. Cambridge University Press, 1918. -627-

Inge (W. R.). The Philosophy of Plotinus. 3rd ed. 2 vols. Longmans, 1929.

Arnou (R.). Le Désir de Dieu dans la philosophie de Plotin. Paris, 1921. 2nd ed., Rome, 1967.

Heinemann (F.). Plotin. Leipzig, 1921.

Henry (P.). Plotin et l’Occident. Louvain, 1934.

Armstrong (A. H.). Architecture of the Intelligible Universe in the Philosophy of Plotinus. Cambridge University Press, 1940. Reprint, Amsterdam, 1967.

Katz (J.). Plotinus’ Search for the Good.New York, 1950.

Bréhier (E.). La Philosophie de Plotin. 2nd ed. Paris, 1951. Also English translation (with additional material) by J. Thmas,. Chicago, 1958.

Gandillac (M. De). La Sagesse de Plotin. Paris, 1952. 2nd ed., 1966.

Trouillard (J.) La procession plotinienne. Paris, 1955.

La purification plotinienne. Paris, 1955.

Hadot (P.). Plotin, ou la simplicité du regard. Paris, 1963.

Armstrong (A. H.) editor. Cambridge History of Late Greek and Early Medieval Philosophy. Cambridge, 1967. Especially part 3, Plotinus, by A. H. Armstrong.

Deck, (J.N.) Nature, Contemplation and The One: A Study in the Philosophy of Plotinus. Toronto, 1967.

Rist, (J.M.). Plotinus: The Road to Reality. Cambridge, 1967. -628-

The best summary account of present factual knowledge about Plotinus will be found (in German) in the article ‘Plotinos’ by H.-R. Schwyzer in Paulys Realenzyklopadie der klassischen Altertumsivissenschaft, vol. 21 (1951). This may be supplemented by Le Sources de Plotin (Entretiens sur l'Antiqué Classique, Tome 5), Vandœuvres-Genève (Fondation Hardt), 1960: papers and discussions by leading scholars (in French, German and Italian, as well as English) at a conference held in 1957. -629-

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Appendix II. The Chronological Order

Concordance of the Systematic and Chronological Orders of the Tractates

 chron.   Enn.   chron.   Enn.   chron.   Enn.   chron.   Enn. 
 I. 6 
 IV. 7 
 III. 1 
 IV. 2 
 V. 9 
 IV. 8 
 V. 4 
 IV. 9 
 V. 1 
 V. 2 
 II. 4 
 III. 9 
 II. 2 
 III. 4  
 I. 9  
 II. 6 
 V. 7 
 I. 2  
 I. 3  
 IV. 1 
 VI. 4  
 VI. 5 
 V. 6  
 II. 5 
 III. 6  
 IV. 3  
 IV. 4  
 IV. 5 
 III. 8 
 V. 8 
 V. 5 
 II. 9 
 VI. 6 
 II. 8 
 I. 5 
 II. 7 
 VI. 7 
 VI. 8 
 II. 1 
 IV. 6 
 VI. 1 
 VI. 2 
 VI. 3 
 III. 7  
 I. 4  
 III. 2 
 III. 3 
 V. 3 
 III. 5 
 I. 8 
 II. 3 
 I. 1 
 I. 7 

 Enn.   chron.   Enn.   chron.   Enn.   chron. 
 I. 1 
 I. 2 
 I. 3 
 I. 4 
 I. 5 
 I. 6 
 I. 7 
 I. 8 
 I. 9 
 II. 1 
 II. 2 
 II. 3 
 II. 4 
 II. 5 
 II. 6 
 II. 7 
 II. 8 
 II. 9 
 III. 1 
 III. 2 
 III. 3 
 III. 4 
 III. 5 
 III. 6 
 III. 7 
 III. 8 
 III. 9 

 Enn.   chron.   Enn.   chron.   Enn.   chron. 
 IV. 1 
 IV. 2 
 IV. 3 
 IV. 4 
 IV. 5 
 IV. 6 
 IV. 7 
 IV. 8 
 IV. 9 
 V. 1 
 V. 2 
 V. 3 
 V. 4 
 V. 5 
 V. 6 
 V. 7 
 V. 8 
 V. 9 
 VI. 1 
 VI. 2 
 VI. 3 
 VI. 4 
 VI. 5 
 VI. 6 
 VI. 7 
 VI. 8 
 VI. 9 

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Appendix III. Sources of Quotations

Plotinus’ text is full of reminiscences of previous writers and especially of Plato and Aristotle. References by name are comparatively few, but many more or less exact quotations from Plato are introduced by ϕησίν (‘we read’). Sources are here given of the quotations and of a selection only of the reminiscences, where these are judged to be of special importance for elucidating the argument of a chapter or a whole tractate.

In the references which follow the name of Plato is omitted: only the name of the dialogue is given, followed by the conventional divisions by numbered pages of the Stephanus edition and letters indicating the parts of a page: e.g. Timaeus 353. The numbers and letters will be found in the margins of the current (fourth) edition of Jowett’s translation.

References to Aristotle bear his name and appear in the accepted form of numerals and letters referring to page, column, and line of Bekker’s Berlin edition: e.g. Aristotle, De Anima 408b 1-29. This form of reference is given in the margins of the Oxford complete translation.

References to the pre-Socratic philosophers and to the Stoics are to the fragment-numbers in Diels-Kranz (6th edition) and von Arnim respectively. More abundant references will be found in Bréhier’s edition and in the apparatus fontium of Henry and Schwyzer’s edition.

I. i, c. i (and passim) Aristotle, De Anima 408b 1-29.

4 a natural body: ibid. 412a 27-28. it is absurd: ibid. 408b 12-13.
8 we read: Timaeus 35a.
12 we read of the Soul: Republic 611 c-612a. the poet: Homer, Odyssey xi. 601-3.

I. 2, c. 1 (and passim) Theaetetus 176ab.

3 To Plato: Phaedo 82ab.
purifications: ibid. 69c.

I. 3, c. 1 (and passim) Republic 531d-534e; Symposium 210a-d.

as we read: Phaedrus 248d.
5 we read: Philebus 58d.

I. 4, c. 1 Aristotle, Nic. Ethics 1098b 21.

16 Plato rightly taught: Theaetetus 176b.

I. 5, c. 1 (and passim) Aristotle, Nic. Ethics 1100a 10-1101a 21. -630-

I. 6, c. 1 Almost everyone: particularly the Stoics (A. III. 279, 472).

2 (and passim) Phaedrus 247c-254b; Symposium 210a-211e; Phaedo 64c-69c.
8 ‘Let us flee…’: Homer, Iliad ii. 140.

I. 7, c. 1 Aristotle, Nic. Ethics 1177a 12-17, 1094a 3.

I. 8, c. 2 with the King of All: Letters ii. 312e.

4 we read: Phaedrus 256b.
6 the teaching: Theaetetus 176a.
7 the Ancient Kind: cf. Statesman 273b.
in the passage: Timaeus 41b.
13 going down to Hades: Republic 534c.

I. 9, c. 1 ‘You will not dismiss…’: perhaps taken from an oracle.

II. 1, c. 2 he asks: Republic 530b; cf. Timaeus 28a-c.

To Aristotle: Aristotle, De caelo 270b 21-22.
4 Aristotle is right: Aristotle, Meteorologica 340b 23, 341b 22.
5 The reason is given by Plato: Timaeus 69c, 41a.
6 Timaeus pronounced: ibid. 31!), 4oa.
with Timaeus: 32b.
No doubt Timaeus speaks: 31 b.
7 follow Plato: ibid. 55e.
we read: ibid. 39b.
;elsewhere: Theaetetus 208d.
light, which he distinguishes: Timaeus 58c.
Plato’s word: ibid. 31b, 60b.

II. 2, c. 1 Ibid. 34a.

2 Plato attributes: ibid. 40ab.

II. 3, c. 9 To Plato: Republic 616c.

In the Timaeus: 69cd.
the rest, we read: Symposium 202d.
13 Phaedrus 246a-e.
15 According to Plato: Republic 617de.

II. 4, c. i (and passim) The Stoics conceived of matter as having extension but no qualities (A. II. 309).

6 (and passim) Timaeus 49a-52c.
10 Plato’s meaning: ibid. 52b.
14 Anyone maintaining: Aristotle, Physics 192a 3-4.

II. 7, c. 1 (and passim) ‘Complete transfusion’ was a Stoic theory (A. II. 463).

II. 9, c. 6 the ascent from the cave: Republic 514a-517c.

From Plato: Phaedo 111c- 114c.
from the Timaeus: 396. -631-
17 Plato who inveighs: Phaedo 66b.
in the Gods…no grudging: Timaeus 29e.

III. 1, c. 2 The four theories mentioned in this chapter and criticized in chapters 3-7 are respectively Epicurean, Stoic, that of the astrologers, and another variety of Stoic.

III. 2, c. 13 Adrasteia: Phaedrus 248c.

III. 3, c. 4 we read: Timaeus 42c.

III, 4, Title: Phaedo 107d.

c. 2 that we read: Phaedrus 246b.
Those that have maintained…we read…: Phaedo 81d-82b.
3 (and passim) ibid. 107d; Republic 617e-620d.
4 we read: Timaeus 33c.
5 The Timaeus indicates: 90a.
6 the passage (in the Phaedo): 107d.
the spindle of Necessity: Republic 616c.

III. 5, c. 1 (and passim) Symposium 202d, 206de.

2 by Plato: Phaedrus 249d, 265c.
in the Banquet: Symposium 203c.
To us Aphrodite is twofold: ibid. 180d.
5 in the Symposium: 203bc.
8 in the Phaedrus: 246e.
elsewhere: Letters ii. 312e.
in the Philebus: 30d.

III. 6, c. 7 (and passim) Timaeus 49a-52c.

11 Plato: ibid. 50bc.
12 Plato’s conception: ibid. 52a.
devises a metaphor: ibid. 50a.
Plato speaks of Matter: ibid. 51b.
13 said to elude form: ibid. 49e.
the receptacle and nurse: ibid. 49a.
as again we read: ibid. 49e, 52ab.
14 (Poverty)…Poros: Symposium 203b.
19 as to a Mother: Timaeus 50d, 51a.

III. 7, c. 2 we read: ibid. 37d.

3 Essence…, Movement…, Repose…, Difference…, Identity: Sophist 254d-255d.
6 that Plato…wrote those words: Timaeus 37d.
‘He was good’: ibid. 29e.
9 A Number: Aristotle, Physics 219b 2.
12 as we read: Timaeus 38b.
we read also: ibid. 38c, 39b.
the Demiurge (in the Timaeus): 39bc. -632-

III. 8, c. 5 The Charioteer: Phaedrus 247e.

III. 9, c. 1 we read (in the Timaeus): 39e.

Reality — we read: cf. Republic 508d; Phaedrus 248b.
3 hence Plato: Timaeus 34b.

IV. 1, c. i ‘Formed from…’: ibid. 35a.

IV. 2, c. 2 the profound passage: ibid.

IV. 3, c. 1 adduce Plato: Philebus 30a.

the dictum: Phaedrus 246b.
6 secondary and tertiary souls: Timaeus 4 id.
7 in the Timaeus: ibid.
we read: Phaedrus 246bc.
8 we read: Republic 620a.
14 blending the clay: Hesiod, Works and Days 61.
19 The indivisible phase: Timaeus 35a.
22 Plato therefore is wise: ibid. 34b.
23 ibid. 69d-70b.
27 the Shade of Hercules: Homer, Odyssey xi. 601-3.

IV. 4, c. 9 But Zeus: Phaedrus 246e; Philebus 30d.

15 we read: Timaeus 52b.
22 Plato seems: ibid. 36c.
that other passage: ibid. 40c.
24 we read: ibid. 33c.
43 where we read: Alcibiades i. 1 323.
45 transpose the cords: Laws 644de.

IV. 7, c. 2 (and passim) The materialistic theory of soul is of course Stoic; that of the Entelechy (85) Aristotelian.

85 a natural organic body: Aristotle, De Anima 412a 27-28.
10 Phaedo 69a-c, 79d-80a; Phaedrus 247d.
‘Farewell: I am…’: Empedocles (DK. 31b 112).

IV. 8, c. 1 the illustrious Plato: Phaedo 62b; Republic 514a; Phaedrus 246c-249b; Timaeus 34b, 29e, 30b, 39e.

2 how we come to read: Phaedrus 246c.
these starry bodies are declared: Timaeus 38c.
4 by Plato: ibid. 41de.

V. i, c. 2 as an author says: Homer, Iliad xx. 65.

‘dead is viler than dung’: Heraclitus (DK. 22B96).
4 the Primals: Sophist 254d-255d.
7 in the Timaeus: 39e.
8 in the passage: Letters ii. 312e.
He teaches also: Philebus 30c, 27b; Timaeus 37a, 41d; Republic 509b. -633-
‘Knowing and Being…’: Parmenides (DK. 28B3).
The Platonic Parmenides: Parmenides 137c-142a (primal);
142b-155e (secondary); 155e-157b (third).
9 there is Aristotle: Metaphysics 1072a26, b20, 1073a 32-34.
10 what Plato calls: Republic 589a.
we read of the universe: Timaeus 34b.
and of ourselves: Phaedrus 248a, 249c.
The admonition: Phaedo 67c.

V. 3, c. 1 ( and passim) Aristotle, Metaphysics 1072b 20.

V. 5, c. 5 Essence, Hestia: Cratylus 401cd.

V. 8, c. 4 ‘live at ease’: Homer, Iliad vi. 138.

Plato glances: Phaedrus 247d.
7 we read: ibid. 246c.
8 Plato: Timaeus 37c.
10 in the Phaedrus myth: Phaedrus 246c-250b.

V. 9, c. 2 ibid. 248d; Symposium 210b-c.

5 ‘Intellection and Being are identical’: Parmenides (DK. 28B3).
in the immaterial: Aristotle, De Anima 430a 3-5.
‘I sought myself’: Heraclitus (DK. 22B101).
reminiscence: Phaedo 72e.
9 indicated by Plato: Timaeus 39e.

VI. 1, c. 1 (and passim) Aristotle, Categories 1a1-11b15. [Applies also to VI. 2 and VI. 3.]

16 in the expression: Aristotle, Physics 186a15-16.
25 The four categories are Stoic (A. II. 369).

VI. 2, c. 1 stated by Plato: Sophist 244b-245e.

Being…Becoming: Timaeus
7 Sophist 254d-255d.
the One-Being: cf. Parmenides 142b.
22 the pregnant words of Plato: Timaeus 39e.
the difficult words of Plato: Parmenides 144b.
the meaning of the words: Philebus 16e.

VI. 3, c. 4 (and passim) See on VI. 1, c. 1.

11 we may quote: Hippias Major 289a.
16 in Plato’s view: Republic 525b-531c; Philebus 56c-57d.

VI. 4-5, Title: Parmenides 131b.

VI. 4, c. 4 ‘Being neighbours Being’; ‘all holds together’: from Parmenides (DK. 28B8, 25) and Anaxagoras (DK. 59B1) respectively.

VI. 5, c. 9 soul…a self-increasing number: Xenocrates (Heinze, fr. 60). -634-

10 Love waiting at the door: cf. Symposium 203d.
‘shared by all’: Heraclitus (DK. 2261 13).
12 ‘in many guises seek our cities’: Homer, Odyssey xvii. 486.

VI. 6, c. 2 ‘Number of the Infinite’: cf. Parmenides 144a.

4 Plato: Timaeus 47a.
there is the passage: Parmenides 144a.
6 in immaterial objects: Aristotle, De Anima 430a 3-5.
16 we read: Timaeus 36e.
17 there is the passage: ibid. 39c.

VI. 7, c. 1 ibid. 44d-45b.

5 Plato’s definition: Alcibiades i. 130a-d.
6 in the sense of Plato: Symposium 202d-203a.
11 Plato says: Epinomis 984cd.
14 we read: cf. Timaeus 52e.
15 we read: Republic 508e.
19 Cf. Aristotle, Nic. Ethics 1094a2.
25 Plato in the Philebus: 21e-22a (and passim).
30 ‘Drunk with nectar’…: Symposium 203b; Phaedrus 247a; Homer, Iliad v. 426.
we read of: Philebus 64b-66b.
36 we read: Republic 505a.
37 As Plato rightly says: ibid. 508e-509b.
39 Plato dealing with: Sophist 248e-249a.
42 in that true saying: Letters ii. 312e.

VI. 8, c. 1 (and passim} Aristotle, Nic. Ethics 1109b30-1112a17.

6 we read: Republic 518de.
18 ‘necessary’ and ‘appropriate’: Statesman 284e.

VI. 9, c. 4 ‘Not to be told’: cf. Parmenides 142a.

7 Minos: Homer, Odyssey xix. 178-9.
God — we read: the reference is not known and may even be non-existent, since Plotinus’ text is at this point insecure. The sentiment is Stoic rather than Platonic.
9 the myth: Symposium 2O3b-e; cf. 180de. -635-

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Plotinus of Lycopolis
Born 205 A.D. at Lycopolis in Egypt, according to Eunapius; died near Rome 270 A.D.
Platonist philosopher in Late Antiquity,
regarded as the Father of Neoplatonism

“Whenever I look into Plotinus I feel always all the old trembling fevered longing: it seems to me that I must be born for him, and that somehow someday I must have nobly translated him: my heart, untravelled, still to Plotinus turns and drags at each remove a lengthening chain. It seems to me that him alone of authors I understand by inborn sight. ”
~ Stephen MacKenna


Plotinus. The Enneads, Stephen Mackenna, trans.; 4th ed. rev.; B.S. Page; Foreword, E. R. Dodds; Introduction, Paul Henry, S. J. New York: Pantheon Books, 1969. (Faber & Faber, Ltd.; Oxford: University Press, 1917-1930. This text is in the public domain.)

MacKenna, Stephen (1936). Dodds, E. R. (ed.). Journals and Letters of Stephen MacKenna. London: Constable & Company Ltd.

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