Hegel’s Lectures on the History of Philosophy
Part One: Greek Philosophy. Third Period. The Neo-Platonists
The unity of self-consciousness and Being appears in more philosophical and intelligent form in the Alexandrian School. which constitutes the most important, and at the same time the most characteristic form of philosophy pertaining to this sphere. For Alexandria had for some time past, mainly through the Ptolemies, become the principal seat of the sciences. Here, as if in their centre-point, all the popular religions and mythologies of the East and West, and likewise their history, came into touch and intermingled with one another in various forms and shapes. Religions were compared with one another: in each of them there was, on the one hand, a searching for and putting together of that which was contained also in the other, and, on the other hand, there was the more important task of reading into the popular conceptions of religion a deeper meaning, and of giving to them a universal allegorical signification. This endeavour has doubtless given birth to much that is dim and mystical; its purer product is the Alexandrian Philosophy. The bringing together of the philosophies naturally succeeded better than those Connections which, on the side of religion, are only the mystic products of a Reason that as yet is unintelligible to itself.
For while in fact there is but one Idea in Philosophy, it annuls by its own means the special form which it has adopted, the one-sidedness in which it expresses itself. In Scepticism had been reached this negative stage of seeing annulled the definite modes of Being in which the Absolute was posited.
Since the form of philosophy which arose in Alexandria did not attach itself to any of the earlier philosophic schools, but recognized all the different systems of philosophy, and more especially the Pythagorean, Platonic, and Aristotelian, to be in their various forms but one, it was frequently asserted to be Eclecticism. Brucker (Hist. crit. phil. T. II., p. 193) is the first to do so, as I have found, and Diogenes Laertius gave him the occasion thereto, by speaking (Proemium, § 21) of a certain Potamo of Alexandria, who not so very long before (pro oligou) had selected from the different philosophies their principal maxims and the best of their teaching. Then Diogenes goes on to quote several passages from Potamo, saying that this writer had produced an eclectic philosophy; but these maxims drawn from Aristotle, Plato, and the Stoics are not of importance, and the distinguishing characteristics of the Alexandrians cannot be recognized therein. Diogenes is also earlier than the Alexandrian School; but Potamo, according to Suidas (s. v. Potamwn, T. III., p. 161), was tutor of the stepsons of Augustus, and for the instructor of princes eclecticism is a very suitable creed. Therefore, because this Potamo is an Alexandrian, Brucker has bestowed on the Alexandrian philosophy the name of Eclectic; but that is neither consistent with fact, nor is it. true to history. Eclecticism is something to be utterly condemned, if it is understood in the sense of one thing being taken out of this philosophy, and another thing out of that philosophy, altogether regardless of their consistency or connection, as when a garment is patched together of pieces of different colours or stuffs. Such an eclecticism gives nothing but an aggregate which lacks all inward consistency. Eclectics of this kind are sometimes ordinary uncultured men, in whose heads the most contradictory ideas find a place side by side, without their ever bringing these thoughts together and becoming conscious of the contradictions involved; sometimes they are men of intelligence who act thus with their eyes open, thinking that they attain the best when, as they say, they take the good from every system, and so provide themselves with a vade mecum of reflections, in which they have everything good except consecutiveness of thought, and consequently thought itself. An eclectic philosophy is something that is altogether meaningless and inconsequent: and such a philosophy the Alexandrian philosophy is not. In France the Alexandrians are still called Eclectics; and there, where système is synonymous with narrowness of views, and where indeed one must have the name which sounds least systematic and suspicious, that may be borne with.
In the better sense of the word the Alexandrians may, however, very well be called eclectic philosophers, though it is quite superfluous to give them this designation at all. For the Alexandrians took as their groundwork the philosophy of Plato, but availed themselves of the general development of Philosophy, which after Plato they became acquainted with through Aristotle and all the following philosophies, and especially through the Stoics; that is to say, they reinstated it, but as invested with a higher culture. Therefore we find in them no refutation of the views of the philosophers whom they quote. To this higher culture there more especially belongs the deeper principle that absolute essence must be apprehended as self-consciousness, that its very essence is to be self-consciousness, and that it is therefore in the individual consciousness. This is not to be understood as signifying that God is a Spirit who is outside of the world and outside self-consciousness, as is often said, but as indicating that His existence as self-conscious spirit is really self-consciousness itself. The Platonic universal, which is in thought, accordingly receives the signification of being as such absolute essence. In the higher sense a wider point of view as regards the Idea thus signifies its concretely blending into one the preceding principles, which contain only single one-sided moments of the Idea. This really indicates a deeper knowledge of the philosophical Idea which is known concretely in itself, so that the more abstract principles are contained in the deeper form of the Idea. For after some divergence has taken place in the past it must from time to time come about that the implicit identity of the divergent views is recognized, so that difference has force only as form. In this sense even Plato is eclectic, since he harmonized Pythagoras, Heraclitus, and Parmenides; and the Alexandrians are also thus eclectics, seeing that they were just as much Pythagoreans as Platonists and Aristotelians; the only thing is that this term always at once calls up the idea of an arbitrary selection.
All earlier philosophies could therefore find a place in that of the Alexandrians. For in Alexandria the Ptolemies had attracted to themselves science and the learned, partly by reason of their own interest in science, and partly on account of the excellence of their institutions. They founded the great and celebrated library for which the Greek translation of the Old Testament was made; after Caesar had destroyed it, it was again restored. There was also there a museum, or what would nowadays be called an Academy of Science, where philosophers and men of special learning received payments of money, and had no other duties than that of prosecuting scientific study. In later times such foundations were instituted in Athens also, and each philosophic school had its own public establishment,’ without favour being shown to one philosophy or to the other. Thus the Neo-Platonic philosophy arose beside the others, and partly upon their ruins, and overshadowed the rest, until finally all earlier systems were merged therein. It, therefore, did not constitute an individual philosophical school similar to those which went before; but, while it united them all in itself, it had as its leading characteristic the study of Plato, of Aristotle, and of the Pythagoreans.
With this study was combined an interpretation of the writings of these men, which aimed at exhibiting their philosophic ideas in their unity; and the principal mode in which the Neo-Platonic teachers carried on and elaborated Philosophy consisted in their explaining the various philosophical works, especially the writings of Plato and Aristotle, or giving sketches of these philosophies. These commentaries on the early philosophers were either given in lectures or written; and many of them have come down to us, some in the number being excellent. Aristotle’s works were commented on by Alexander Aphrodisiensis, Andronicus Rhodius, Nicolaus Damascenus, and also Porphyrius. Plato had as commentators Numenius and Maximus Tyrius. Other Alexandrians combined a commentary on Plato with study of the other philosophic maxims or philosophies, and managed to grasp the point of unity of the various modes of the Idea very successfully. The best commentaries date from this period; most of the works of Proclus are commentaries on single dialogues of Plato and similar subjects. This school has the further peculiarity of expressing speculation as actual divine Being and life, and, therefore, it makes this appear to be mystical and magical.
Ammonius Saccas, that is, the sack-bearer, is named as one of the first or most celebrated teachers of this school; he died A.D. 243.1 But we have none of his writings, nor have any traditions regarding his philosophy come down to us. Among his very numerous disciples Ammonius had many men celebrated in other branches of science, for example, Longinus and Origen; it is, however, uncertain if this were the Christian Father of that name. But his most renowned disciple in philosophy is Plotinus, through whose writings as they are preserved to us we derive our chief knowledge of the Neo-Platonic philosophy. The systematized fabric of this philosophy is, indeed, ascribed to him by those who came after, and this philosophy is known specially as his philosophy.
As the disciples of Ammonius had, by their master’s desire, made an agreement not to commit his philosophy to writing, it was not until late in life that Plotinus wrote; or, rather., the works received from him were published after his death by Porphyrius, one of his disciples. From the same disciple we have an account of the life of Plotinus; what is remarkable in it is that the strictly historical facts recounted are mixed up with a great variety of marvellous episodes. This is certainly the period when the marvellous plays a prominent part; but when the pure system of Philosophy, the pure meaning of such a man, is known, it is impossible to express all one’s astonishment at anecdotes of this kind. Plotinus was an Egyptian; he was born at Lycopolis about A.D. 205, in the reign of Septimius Severus . After he had attended the lectures of many teachers of Philosophy, he became melancholy and absorbed in thought; at the age of eight and twenty he came to Ammonius, and, finding here at last what satisfied him., he remained for eleven years under his instruction. As at that time wonderful accounts of Indian and Brahminical wisdom were being circulated, Plotinus set out on his way to Persia in the army of the Emperor Gordian; but the campaign ended so disastrously that Plotinus did not attain his object, and had difficulty even in procuring his own safety. At the age of forty he proceeded to Rome, and remained there until his death, twenty-six years later. In Rome his outward demeanour was most remarkable; in accordance with the ancient Pythagorean practice, he refrained from partaking of flesh, and often imposed fasts on himself; he wore, also, the ancient Pythagorean dress. As a public lecturer, however, he gained a high reputation among all classes. The Emperor of those days, Gallienus, whose favour Plotinus enjoyed, as well as that of the Empress, is said to have been inclined to hand over to him a town in Campania, where he thought to realize the Platonic Republic. The ministers, however, prevented the carrying out of this plan, and therein they showed themselves men of sense, for in such an outlying spot of the Roman Empire, and considering the utter change in the human mind since Plato’s days, when another spiritual principle had of necessity to make itself universal, this was an enterprise which was far less calculated than in Plato’s time to bring honour to the Platonic Republic. It does little credit to the sagacity of Plotinus that this idea ever entered into his head; but we do not exactly know if his plan were limited to the Platonic Republic, or if it did not admit of some extension or modification thereof. Of course an actual Platonic state was contrary to the nature of things; for the Platonic state is free and independent, which such an one as this, within the Roman Empire, could of course not be. Plotinus died at Rome, in the sixty-sixth year of his age, A.D. 270.
The writings of Plotinus are originally for the most part answers given as occasion required to questions proposed by his auditors; he committed them to writing during the last sixteen years of his life, and Porphyrius edited them some time later. In his teaching Plotinus; adopted, as has been already mentioned, the method of commenting in his lectures on the writings of various earlier philosophers. The writings of Plotinus are known as Enneads, and are six in number, each of them containing nine separate treatises. We thus have altogether fifty-four of such treatises or books, which are subdivided into many chapters; it is consequently a voluminous work. The books do not, however, form a connected whole; but in each book, in fact, there are special matters brought forward and philosophically handled; and it is thus laborious to go through them. The first Ennead has for the most part a moral character; the first book proposes the question of what animals are, and what man is; the second deals with the virtues; the third with dialectic; the fourth with happiness (peri eudaimoniaς); the fifth investigates whether happiness consists in protraction of time (paratasei cronou); the sixth speaks of the beautiful; the seventh of the highest (prwtou) good and of the other goods; the eighth inquires into the origin of evil; the ninth treats of a rational departure from life. Other Enneads are of a metaphysical nature. Porphyrius says in his Life of Plotinus (pp. 3-5, 9, 17-19) that they are unequal. He states that twenty-one of these books were already in written form before he came to Plotinus, which was when the latter was fifty-nine years of age; and in that year and the five following, which Porphyrius spent with Plotinus as his disciple, other four-and-twenty were added. During the absence of Porphyrius in Sicily, Plotinus wrote nine more books., in the last years before his death, which later books are weaker. Creuzer is preparing to bring out an edition of Plotinus. To give an account of him would be a difficult task, and would amount to a systematic explanation. The mind of Plotinus hovers over each of the particular matters that he deals with; he treats them rationally and dialectically, but traces them all back to one Idea. Many beautiful detached quotations could be made from Plotinus, but as there is in his works a continual repetition of certain leading thoughts, the reading of them is apt to prove wearisome. Since then it is the manner of Plotinus to lead the particular, which he makes his starting-point, always back again to the universal, it is possible to grasp the ideas of Plotinus from some of his books, knowing that the reading of those remaining would not reveal to us any particular advance. Plato’s ideas and expressions are predominant with him, but we find also many very lengthy expositions quite in the manner of Aristotle; for he makes constant use of terms borrowed from Aristotle force, energy, &c. — and their relations are essentially the object of his meditations. The main point is that he is not to be taken as placing Plato and Aristotle in opposition; on the contrary, he went so far as to adopt even the Logos of the Stoics.
It is very difficult to give a systematic account of his philosophy. For it is not the aim of Plotinus, as it was of Aristotle, to comprehend objects in their special determinations, but rather to emphasize the truth of the substantial in them as against the phenomenal. The point of greatest importance and the leading characteristic in Plotinus is his high, pure enthusiasm for the elevation of mind to what is good and true, to the absolute. He lays hold of knowledge, the simply ideal, and of intellectual thought, which implicitly life, but not silent nor sealed. His whole philosophy is on the one hand metaphysics, but the tendency which is therein dominant is not so much an anxiety to explain and interpret and comprehend what forces itself on our attention as reality, or to demonstrate the position and the origin of these individual objects, and perhaps, for instance, to offer a deduction of matter, of evil; but rather to separate the mind from these externals, and give it its central place in the simple, clear Idea. The whole tenor of his philosophy thus leads up to virtue and to the intellectual contemplation of the eternal, as source of the same; so that the soul is brought to happiness of life therein. Plotinus then enters to some extent on special considerations of virtue, with the view of cleansing the soul from passions, from false and impure conceptions of evil and destiny, and also from incredulity and superstition, from astrology and magic and all their train. This gives some idea of the general drift of his teaching.
If we now go on to consider the philosophy of Plotinus in detail, we find that there is no longer any talk of the criterion, as with the Stoics and Epicureans, — that is all settled; but a strenuous effort is made to take up a position in the centre of things, in pure contemplation, in pure thought. Thus what with the Stoics and Epicureans is the aim, the unity of the soul with itself in untroubled peace, is here the point of departure; Plotinus takes up the position of bringing this to pass in himself as a condition of ecstasy (ekstasiς), as he calls it, or as an inspiration. Partly in this name and partly in the facts themselves, a reason has been found for calling Plotinus a fanatic and visionary, and this is the cry universally raised against this philosophy; to this assertion the fact that for the Alexandrian school all truth lies in reason and comprehension alone, presents a very marked antithesis and contradiction.
And firstly, with regard to the term ecstasy, those who call Plotinus a fanatic associate with the idea nothing but that condition into which crazy Indians, Brahmins, monks and nuns fall, when, in order to bring about an entire retreat into themselves, they seek to blot out from their minds all ordinary ideas and all perception of reality; thus this in some measure exists as a permanent and fixed condition; and again as a steady gaze into vacuity it appears as light or as darkness, devoid of motion, distinction, and, in a word, of thought. Fanaticism like this places truth in an existence which stands midway between reality and the Notion, but is neither the one nor the other, — and therefore only a creature of the imagination. From this view of ecstasy, however, Plotinus is far removed.
But in the second place there is something in the thing itself which has contributed to bring upon him this reproach, and it is this, that very often the name of fanaticism is given to anything that transcends sensuous consciousness or the fixed notions of the finite understanding, which in their limitation are held to constitute real existence. Partly, however, the imputation is due to the manner in which Plotinus speaks in general of Notions, spiritual moments as such, as if they had a substantial existence of their own. That is to say, Plotinus sometimes introduces sensuous modes, modes of ordinary conception, into the world of Notions, and sometimes he brings down Ideas into the sphere of the sensuous, since, for instance, he utilizes the necessary relations of things for purposes of magic. For the magician is just he who attributes to certain words and particular sensuous signs a universal efficacy, and who attempts by prayers, &c, to lift them up to the universal. Such a universal this is not, however, in itself, in its own nature: universality is only attributed to it; or the universal of thought has not yet given itself therein a universal reality, while the thought, the act of a hero is the true, the universal, whose effects and whose means have equal greatness and universality. In a certain sense therefore the Neo-Platonists have well deserved the reproach of fanaticism., for in the biographies of the great teachers of this school, Plotinus, Porphyrius and Iamblichus we certainly find much recounted that comes under the category of miracle-working and sorcery, just as we found it in the case of Pythagoras (Vol. 1. p. 200). Upholding as they did the belief in the gods of heathendom, they asserted in reference to the worship of images that these really were filled with the divine power and presence. Thus the Alexandrian school cannot be altogether absolved from the charge of superstition. For in the whole of that period of the world’s history, among Christians and heathen alike, the belief in miracle-working prevailed, because the mind, absorbed in itself and filled with astonishment at the infinite power and majesty of this self, paid no heed to the natural connection of events, and made the interference of a supreme power seem easy. But what the philosophers taught is utterly remote therefrom; except the quite theoretical observation regarding the images of the gods which we mentioned above, the writings of Plotinus contain nothing in any way related thereto.
He then who gives the name of fanaticism to every effort of the soul to rise to the supersensuous, to every belief that man can have in the virtuous, the noble, the divine, the eternal, to every religious conviction, — may count the Neo-Platonists as being fanatics; but fanaticism is in this case an empty name employed only by the dull finite understanding, and by unbelief in all that is high and noble. If we, however, give the name of fanatics to those who rise to speculative truths which contradict the categories of the finite understanding, the Alexandrians have indeed incurred this imputation, but with quite equal reason may the Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy be also termed fanaticism. For Plato most certainly speaks with enthusiasm of the elevation of the spirit into thought, or rather the Platonic enthusiasm proper consists in rising into the sphere of the movement of thought. Those who are convinced that the absolute essence in thought is not thought itself, constantly reiterate that God is beyond consciousness, and that the thought of Him is the notion of One whose existence or reality is nevertheless an utterly different thing; just as, when we think of or imagine an animal or a stone, our notion or imagination is something quite different from the animal itself, — which is making this last to be the truth. But we are not speaking of this or that animal perceived by our senses, but of its essential reality, and this is the Notion of it. The essential reality of the animal is not present as such in the animal of our senses, but as being one with the objective individuality, as a mode of that universal; as essence it is our Notion, which indeed alone is true, whereas what the senses perceive is negative. Thus our Notion of absolute essence is the essence itself, when it is the Notion of absolute essence, not of something else. But this essence does not seem to be co-extensive with the idea of God; for He is not only Essence or His Notion, but His existence. His existence, as pure essence, is our thought of Him; but His real existence is Nature. In this real existence the ‘I’ is that which has the faculty of individual thought; it belongs to this existence as a moment present in it, but does not constitute it. From the existence of essence as essence we must pass over to existence, to real existence as such. As such, God is doubtless a Beyond to individual self-consciousness., that is to say, of course, in the capacity of essence or pure thought; thus to a certain extent He, as individual reality, is Nature which is beyond thought. But even this objective mode comes back into essence, or the individuality of consciousness is overcome. Therefore what has brought upon Plotinus the reproach of fanaticism is this, that he had the thought of the essence of God being Thought itself and present in Thought. As the Christians said that He was once present to sensuous perception at a certain time and in a certain place — but also that He ever dwells in His people and is their Spirit — so Plotinus, said that absolute essence is present in the self-consciousness that thinks, and exists in it as essence, or Thought itself is the Divine.
In farther defining the relation of individual self-consciousness to the knowledge of absolute essence, Plotinus asserts (Ennead. VI. 1. 7, e. 35, 36) that the soul which withdraws from the corporeal and loses every conception but that of pure essence brings itself nigh to the Deity. The principle of the philosophy of Plotinus is therefore the Reason which is in and for itself. The condition of ecstasy through which alone that which has true Being comes to be known, is named by Plotinus (Ennead. VI. 1. 9, e. 11) a simplification of the soul, through which it is brought into a state of blissful repose, because its object is itself simple and at rest. But it is evident that we are not to imagine this simplification of self-consciousness to be a condition of fanaticism, seeing that even an immediate knowledge of God such as this is a thinking of Him and a comprehension of Him, and not a vacant feeling, or what is quite as vacant, an intuition. This withdrawal of the soul from the body takes place through pure thought; thought ifs the activity and at the same time the object. It is thus a tranquil state, without any wild turmoil of the blood or of the imagination. Ecstasy is not a mere rapturous condition of the senses and fancy, but rather a passing beyond the content of sensuous consciousness; it is pure thought that is at home with itself, and is its own object. Plotinus often speaks of this condition in the same way as in the following passage: “Often when I out of the body awaken to myself, and am beyond the other,” the external, “and have entered into my inmost nature, and have a wondrous intuition., and live a godlike life,” &c.’ In this way Plotinus certainly approaches to the intuitive point of view. Yet his figurative mode of expression separates itself still more from the, in great measure, confused mythical ideas. The Idea of the philosophy of Plotinus is thus an intellectualism or a higher idealism, which indeed from the side of the Notion is not yet a perfect idealism; that of which Plotinus becomes conscious in his ecstasy is, however, philosophic thought, speculative Notions and Ideas.
As for the determinate principle of Plotinus, the objective, the content, which is at home with itself in this ecstasy, in this Being of Thought — this content, as regards its chief moments in the universal, is that already dealt with. The three principles are for him the One, the noun and the soul.
a. The first. the absolute, the basis, is here, as with Philo, pure Being, the unchangeable, which is the basis end the cause of all Being that appears, whose potentiality is not apart from its actuality, but is absolute actuality in itself. It is the unity which is likewise essence, or unity as the essence of all essence. The true principle is not the multiplicity of present Being, the ordinary substantiality of things, according to which each appears as one separated from the others, for really and truly their unity is their essence. This unity is, properly speaking, not All; for All is nothing but the result of the units, the comprehension of them — forming the basis, as they do, as essence — in a unity which is strange to them. Nor is it before all; for it is not different from the all in actual existence, since otherwise it would again be only something thought.’ The later unity, as regulative of the Reason, has the force of a subjective principle; but Plotinus establishes it as the highest objectivity, as Being.
This unity has no multiplicity in it, or multiplicity is not implicit; unity is only as it was for Parmenides and Zeno, absolute, pure Being; or else the absolute Good, in the sense in which the absolute was spoken of in the writings of Plato and especially in those of Aristotle. In the first place, what is the Good? — “It is that on which all depends (anhrthtai), and which all things desire (efietai) also according to Aristotle — “and have as principle, and which they are all in want of, while itself it has lack of nothing, is sufficient for itself, and is the measure and limit of all, which out of itself gives the nouς and essence (ousian) and soul and life, and the activity of reason (peri noun eneregeian). And up to this point all is beautiful, but it is more than beautiful (uperkaloς) and better than the best (epekeina twn aristwn), the superlatively good, bearing free rule, exercising royal rights in Thought (basileuwn en tw nohtw). But it is itself by no means that whose principle it is. For when thou hast said “the Good,” add nothing thereto, and think of nothing beyond. When thou hast abrogated Being itself, and takest it in this wise, astonishment will seize thee; and, making this thy aim and resting therein, thou wilt understand it and its greatness by what is derived from it. And when thou hast Being thus before thee, and regardest it in this purity, wonder will lay hold of thee.”
Of absolute Being Plotinus then asserted that it is unknowable which Philo also said — and that it remains in itself. On this point Plotinus expatiates at great length, and frequently recurs to the fact that the soul must really first attain to the thought of this unity through negative movement, which is something different from mere assertion, and is rather sceptical movement which makes trial of all predicates and finds nothing except this One. All such predicates as Being and substance do not conform to it in the opinion of Plotinus; for they express some determination or other. There is no sensation, no thought, no consciousness; for in all these there lies a distinction. Because the determination of the One is the main point, with Plotinus the Good is the aim for subjective thought as well at; for practical; but although the Good is the absolutely free, it is nevertheless without resolution and will; for will has in it the distinction of itself and the Good.
That Being is and remains God, and is not outside of Him, but is His very self: “Absolute unity upholds things that they fall not asunder; it is the firm bond of unity in all, penetrating all — bringing together and unifying things which in mutual opposition were in danger of separation. We term it the One and the Good. It neither is, nor is it something, nor is it anything, but it is over all. All these categories are negatived; it has no magnitude, is not infinite. It is the middle point of the universe, the eternal source of virtue and the origin of divine love, around which all moves, by which every thing directs its course, in which nouς and self-consciousness. ever have their beginning and their end. To this substance Plotinus leads back everything; it alone is the true, and in all remains simply identical with itself.
But out of this First all proceeds, owing to its revealing itself; that is the connection with creation and all production. But the Absolute cannot be conceived as creative, if it is determinate as an abstract, and is not rather comprehended as the One which has energy in itself. This transition to the determinate is thus not made by Plotinus philosophically or dialectically, but the necessity of it is expressed in representations and images. Thus he says (Ennead. III. 1. 8, e. 9) of the nouς, his second principle, “The one absolute Good is a source which has no other principle, but is the principle for all streams, so that it is not swallowed up by these, but as source remains at rest in itself,” and thus contains these streams as such in itself; so that they, “flowing out in one direction and another, have yet not flowed away, but know whence and whither they are flowing.”
This distinction is the point to which Plotinus often returns, and this advance from the unrevealed to the revelation, this production, is a point of importance.
b. Now what is first begotten by this Unity, the Son, is finite understanding (nouς), the second Divine Being, the other principle. Here the main difficulty confronts us — the task known and recognized long years ago — the comprehension of how the One came to the decision to determine itself; and the endeavour to elucidate this fact still constitutes the essential point of interest. The ancients did not frame this question in the definite form in which we have it; but they nevertheless occupied themselves with it. For the nouς is nothing more or less than the selffinding of self; it is the pure duality (duaς), itself and its object; it contains all that is thought, it is this distinction, but pure distinction that remains at the same time identical with itself. Simple unity is, however, the First. Plotinus thus also says in a somewhat Pythagorean fashion that things are as numbers in this logoς. “But number is not the First, for unity is not a number. The first number is the two, but as indeterminate duality; and the one is what determines it; the two is also the soul. Number is the solid; what sensuous perception takes to be existent, is a later development.”
Plotinus has here (Ennead. V. 1. 1, e. 6) all sorts of modes of representation in order to make clear to himself the development out of the One: “How then this process is accomplished, how out of unity proceed two and plurality in general — if we would know how to express this, we must call on God, not, however, with audible voice, but pouring out our soul in prayer to Him; this we can do only by coming all alone to Him who is alone. He who contemplates must retire into his secret heart as into a temple, and remain there at rest, being elevated above all things, and in such contemplation as admits of no change.” This is always the mood of the thinking soul, to which Plotinus exhorts and would lead everything back. In this pure thought or contemplation the nouς is actual; and this is divine activity itself.
Plotinus continues: “This production is not a movement nor a change; change and what comes to pass through change, the changeable, we arrive at only in the third place; “change implies other-Being and is directed to something else, nouς is still the remaining at home with self of meditation. “The finite understanding originating thus from absolute essence, yet without change, is the immediate reflection of the same; it is not established by an act of will or a resolution. But God,” as One, the Good, “is the immovable; and production is a light proceeding from Him who endures. The One sheds light round about Himself; the finite understanding flows from Him, the enduring one, just as the light from the sun encircles it. All things which are permanent give forth and diffuse from their substance an essence which is dependent upon them;” or, as Plotinus really says, it is identical with them. “As fire diffuses warmth, and snow cold, around itself, but especially as the fragrance of things clings round them,” so does nouς, like light, diffuse Being around. “That which has come to perfection passes into the emanation, into the circle of light,” spreads a fragrance around. For this going forth (proodon) or production, Plotinus also employs the image of overflowing, whereby, however., the One remains simply one. “Because it is complete in itself, without anything lacking, it overflows; and this overflow is what is produced. This that is produced merely, however, returns to the One,” the Good., “which is its object, content and fulfilling; and this is finite understanding,” — this the reversion of what is produced to the original unity. “The first state of Being that is restful is absolute essence, and finite understanding is the contemplation of this essence; “or it comes into existence by means of the first essence, through return upon itself, seeing itself, by its being a seeing seeing. The light shed around is a contemplation of the One; this reflection of self on self (epistrefein) is then thought, or the nouς is this movement in a circle (epistrofh).
These are the main principles of Plotinus; and he has in this way truly determined the nature of the Idea in all its moments. Only there is a difficulty here which makes us pause; and it is found in this development. We can imagine the infinite disclosing itself in a variety of ways; in later times there has been much talk of an issuingforth from God, which, however, is still a sensuous conception or something quite immediate. The necessity of self-disclosure is not expressed thereby, for it is stated only as something having come to pass. That the Father begets the eternal Son satisfies the imagination; the Idea is according to its content quite correctly conceived as the Trinity, and this is an important matter. But although these determinations are true, the form of the immediacy of movement is at the same time neither sufficient nor satisfying for the Notion. For because the Becoming of the simple unity, as the abrogation of all predicates, is that same absolute negativity which is implicitly the production of itself, we must not begin with unity and only then pass over into duality, but we must grasp them both as one. For, according to Plotinus, the object of the finite understanding is clearly nothing which is alien or opposite to this or to itself; the manifold Ideas are alone the content of the same. God therefore through distinction and extension is likewise a return to Himself, that is, this very duality is simply in the unity, and is its object. What is thought is not outside of nouς, in thought nouς merely possesses itself as thinking. The object of thought, that to which thought turns back, is absolute unity; into this, however, as such, there is no forcing a way, and it is not determined, but remains the unknown. Since thinking is, however, only the fact of having itself as object, it has thus already an object which contains mediation and activity, or, to speak generally, duality in itself. This is Thought as the thought of Thought. Or in the perfecting of this thought in itself, inasmuch as it is its own object, there lies for Plotinus the first and truly intellectual world, which thus stands to the world of sense in such a relation that the latter is only a distant imitation of the former. Things, looked at as they exist in this absolute Thought, are their own Notions and essence (logoi); and these are the patterns of sensuous existences, as Plato also expressed it.
That the nature of thought is to think itself, is a quite Aristotelian definition. But with Plotinus and the Alexandrians it is likewise the case that the true universe, the intellectual world, is produced from thought; what Plato termed the Ideas, is here the understanding that forms, the intelligence that produces, which is actual in that which is produced, and has itself as object, thinks itself. Of the relation of these many Notions in the understanding, Plotinus states that they are present there, just as the elements are present in a thing, and therefore not as mutually indifferent species, but as being diverse and yet entirely one. They are not indifferent through space, but only differ through an inner difference, that is, not in the manner of existent parts. The finite understanding is thereby expressed as negative unity. But it is utterly inappropriate when the relation of the elements which constitute a thing is defined as that of the parts of which the whole consists, and each of which is absolute — for instance, when it is represented that in a crystal, water, flint, &c, are still present as such. Their Being is really neutrality, in which each of them is abrogated as indifferent and existent: therefore their unity is negative unity, the inner essence, the principle of individuality as containing in itself elements that differ.
c. The world that changes, which is subject to difference, arises from this, that the multiplicity of these forms is not only implicitly in the understanding, but they also exist for it in the form of its object. Further, there is for it a three-fold mode of thinking: in the first place it thinks the unchangeable, its unity, as object. This first mode is the simple undifferentiated contemplation of its object, or it is light; not matter, but pare form, activity. Space is the abstract pure continuity of this activity of light, not the activity itself, but the form of its uninterruptedness. The understanding, as the thought of this light, is itself light, but light real in itself, or the light of light.’ In the second place the understanding thinks the difference between itself and essence; the differentiated multiplicity of the existent is object for it. It is the creation of the world; in it everything has its determinate form in regard to everything else, and this constitutes the substance of things. Since, in the third place, substantiality or permanency in the faculty of thought is determination, its production, or the flowing out of all things from it, is of such a nature that it remains filled with all things, or likewise absorbs all immediately. It is the abrogation of these differences, or the passing over from one to another; this is its manner of thinking itself, or it is object to itself in this fashion. This is change; thinking has thus the three principles in it. Inasmuch as nouς thinks of itself as changing, but yet in change remaining simple and at home with itself, the subject of its thought is life as a whole; and the fact of its establishing its moments as existing in opposition to each other is the true, living universe. This turning round on itself of the outflow from itself, this thinking of itself, is the eternal creation of the world.’ It is plain that in these thoughts of Plotinus the Being-another, the foreign element, is abrogated, existent things are implicitly Notions. The Divine understanding is the thinking of them, and their existence is nothing else than this very fact of their being the object of thought of the Divine understanding; they are moments of thought and, for this very reason, of Being. Plotinus thus distinguishes in nouς thinking (nouς), the object thought of (nohton), and thought (nohsiς), so that nouς is one, and at the same time all; but thought is the unity of what had been distinguished. We would term thought not so much unity as product; yet even thought, that is, the subject, soars upwards to God. The distinction between thought and an external God is thus doubtless at an end; for this reason the Neo-Platonists are accused of being visionaries, and in truth they do themselves propound wondrous things.
a. Plotinus now goes on to describe the third principle, the soul: “Nouς is eternally active in exactly the same way as now. The movement to it and around it is the activity of the soul. Reason (logoς), which passes from it to the soul, confers on the soul a power of thought, placing nothing between them. Thinking (nouς) is not a manifold; thinking is simple, and consists in the very fact of thinking. The true nouς (not ours, as it is found, for instance, in desire) thinks in thoughts, and the object of its thought is not beyond it; for it if; itself the object of its thought, has of necessity itself in thought and sees itself; and sees itself not as non-thinking, but as thinking. Our soul is partly in the eternal” (light), “a part of the universal soul; this itself is in part in the eternal, and flows out thence, remaining in contemplation of itself, without any designed regulation. The embellishment of the whole gives to every corporeal object what in view of its determination and nature it is capable of carrying out, just as a central fire diffuses warmth all around it. The One must not be solitary, for were it so all things would be hidden, and would have no form present in them; nothing of what exists would exist if the One stood by itself, neither would there be the multitude of existent things, produced by the One, if those who have attained to the order of souls had not received the power to go forth. Similarly souls must not exist alone, as if what is produced through them should not appear, for in every nature it is immanent to make and bring to light something in conformity with itself, as the seed does from an undivided beginning. There is nothing to prevent all from having a share in the nature of the Good.” Plotinus leaves the corporeal and sensuous ou one side, as it were, and does not take pains to explain it, his sole and constant aim being to purify therefrom, in order that the universal soul and our soul may not be thereby endangered.
b. Plotinus speaks, moreover, of the principle of the sensuous world, which is matter, and with which the origin of evil is closely connected. He dwells much on this subject of matter in his philosophy. Matter is the non-existent (ouk on), which presents an image of the existent. Things differ in their pure form, the difference that distinguishes them; the universal of difference is the negative, and this is matter. As Being is the first absolute unity, this unity of the objective is the pure negative; it lacks all predicates and properties, figure, &c It is thus itself a thought or pure Notion, and indeed the Notion of pure indeterminateness; or it is universal potentiality without energy. Plotinus describes this pure potentiality very well, and defines it as the negative principle. He says, “Brass is a statue only in potentiality; for in what is not permanent, the possible, as we have seen, was something utterly different. But when the grammarian in potentiality becomes the grammarian in actuality, the potential is the same as the actual. The ignorant man may be a grammarian, as it were by accident (kata sumbebhkoς), and it is not in virtue of his present ignorance that he has the possibility of knowledge. It is for the very reason of its possessing a certain measure of knowledge that the soul which is actual attains to what it was potentially. It would not be inappropriate to give the name of form and idea to energy, in so far as it exists as energy and not as mere potentiality — not simply as energy, but as the energy of something determinate. For we might give the name more properly, perhaps, to another energy, namely that which is opposed to the potentiality which leads to actuality, for the possible has the possibility of being something else in actuality. But through possibility the possible has also in itself actuality, just as skill has the activity related thereto, and as bravery has brave action. When in the object of thought (en tois nohtoiς) there is no matter, — as in the case of something existing in potentiality — and it does not become something that does not yet exist, nor something that changes into something else, nor something that — itself permanent — produces another, or emerging from itself permits another to exist in its place — in that case we have then no mere potential but the existent, which has eternity and not time. Should we consider matter to be there as form, as even the soul, although a form, is matter in respect to what is different? But, speaking generally, matter is not in actuality, it is what exists in potentiality. Its Being only announces a Becoming, so that its Being has always to do with future Being. That which is in potentiality is thus not something, but everything;” energy alone is determinate. “Matter consequently always leans towards something else, or is a potentiality for what follows; it is left behind as a feeble and dim image that cannot take shape. Is it then an image in respect to reality, and therefore a deception? This is the same as a true deception, this is the true non-existent;” it is untrue by reason of energy. “That is therefore not existent in actuality which has its truth in the non-existent;” it exists not in truth, for “it has its Being in non-Being. If you take away from the false its falseness, you take away all the existence that it has. Similarly, if you introduce actuality into that which has its Being and its essence in potentiality, you destroy the cause of its substance (upostasewς), because Being consisted for it in potentiality. If we would therefore retain matter uninjured, we must ‘keep it as matter; apparently we must therefore say that it is only in potentiality, in order that it may remain what it is.”
In accordance with this, therefore, Plotinus (Ennead. III. 1. 6, e. 7, 8) defines it: “Matter is truly non-existent, a motion which abrogates itself, absolute unrest, yet itself at rest — what is opposed in itself; it is the great which is small, the small which is great, the more which is less, the less which is more. When defined in one mode, it is really rather the opposite; that is to say, when looked at and fixed, it is not fixed and escapes, or when not fixed it is fixed — the simply illusory.” Matter itself is therefore imperishable; there is nothing into which it can change. The Idea of change is itself imperishable, but what is implied in this Idea is changeable. This matter is nevertheless not without form; and we have seen that the finite understanding has a third relationship to its object, namely in reference to differences. As now this relation and alteration, this transition, is the life of the universe, the universal soul of the same, its Being is in like manner not a change which takes place in the understanding, for its Being is its being the immediate object of thought through the understanding.
g. The Evil likewise, as contrasted with the Good, now begins to be the object of consideration, for the question of the origin of evil must always be a matter of interest to the human consciousness. These Alexandrians set up as matter the negative of thought, but since the consciousness of the concrete mind entered in, the abstract negative is apprehended in this concrete fashion as within the mind itself, therefore as the mentally negative. Plotinus regards this question of evil from many sides; but thoughtful consideration of this subject does not yet go very far. The following conceptions are those that prevail at this time: “’the Good is nouς, but not the understanding in the sense it used to bear for us, which from a pre-supposition both satisfies itself and understands what is said. to it, which forms a conclusion and from what follows draws up a theory, and from the consequence comes to a knowledge of what is, having now obtained something not formerly possessed; for before this its knowledge was empty, although it was understanding. But nouς, as we now understand it, contains all things in itself, is all things, and is at home with itself; it has all things while not having them,” because it is in itself ideal. “But it does not possess all in the sense in which we regard what we possess as something different or alien from ourselves; what is possessed is not distinguished from itself. For it is each thing and everything and not confounded, but absolute. What partakes of the same does not partake of all things at once, but partakes in so far as it can. Nous is the first energy and the first substance of the soul, which has activity in regard thereto. The soul, externally revolving round nouς, contemplating it and gazing into its depths, beholds God by means of it; and this is the life of the gods, free from evil and filled with blessedness” — in so far as the intelligence which goes forth from itself has in its difference to do only with itself, and remains in its divine unity. “If it remained thus constant there would be no evil. But there are goods of the first and second and third rank, all surrounding the King over all; and He is the originator of all good, and all is His, and those of the second rank revolve round the second, and those of the third round the third. If this is the existent and something even higher than the existent, evil is not included in what is existent or higher than the existent; for this is the good. Nothing remains then but that evil, if it exists, is in the non-existent, as a form of the non-existent — but the non-existent not as altogether non. existent, but only as something other than the existent.” Evil is no absolute principle independent of God, as the Manichĉans held it to be. “'It is not nonexistent in the same way that motion and rest are existent, but is like an image of the existent, or non-existent in an even greater degree; it is the sensuous universe.” Thus evil has its root in the non-existent.
In the eighth book of the first Ennead Plotinus says (e. 9, 3, 4, 7): “But how is evil recognized? It is owing to thought turning away from itself that matter arises; it exists only through the abstraction of what is other than itself. What remains behind when we take away the Ideas is, we say, matter; thought accordingly becomes different, the opposite of thought, since it dares to direct itself on that which is not within its province. Like the eye turning away from the light in order to see the darkness which in the light it does not see — and this is a seeing which yet is non-seeing — so thought experiences the opposite of what it is, in order that it may see what is opposed to itself.” This abstract other is nothing but matter, and it is also evil; the seeing of the less measure is nothing but a non-seeing. “The sensuous in regard to measure, or the limited, is the less measure, the boundless, the undefined, unresting, insatiable, the utterly deficient; such is not accidental to it, but its substance.” Its aim is always Becoming; we cannot say that it is, but only that it is always about to be. “The soul which makes nouς its aim is pure, holds off matter and all that is indeterminate and measureless. But why then, when there is the Good , is there also necessarily Evil? Because there must be matter in the whole, because the whole necessarily consists of opposites. It would not be there, if matter were not present; the nature of the world is compounded of nouς and necessity. To be with the gods means to, be in thought; for they are immortal. We may also apprehend the necessity of evil in this wise: As the Good cannot exist alone, matter is a counterpart to the Good, necessary to its production. Or we might also say that Evil is that which by reason of constant deterioration and decay has sunk until it can sink no lower; but something is necessary after the first, so that the extreme is also necessary. But that is matter, which has no longer any element of good in it; and this is the necessity of evil.
With Plotinus, as with Pythagoras, the leading of the soul to virtue is also an important subject. Plotinus has for this reason blamed the Gnostics frequently, especially in the ninth book of the second Ennead (e. 15), because “they make no mention at all of virtue and the Good, nor of how they may be reached, and the soul rendered better and purer. For no purpose is served by saying, ‘Look unto God;’ it must also be shown how we can succeed in causing man thus to behold God. For it may be asked, What is to prevent a man from beholding, while at the same time he refrains from the gratification of no desire, and allows anger to take possession of him? Virtue, which sets a final end before itself and dwells in the soul with wisdom, manifests God; but without true virtue God is an empty word.” The Gnostics limit truth to the mental and intellectual; to this mere intellectuality Plotinus declares himself distinctly opposed, and holds firmly to the essential connection of the intelligible and the real. Plotinus honoured the heathen gods, attributing to them a deep meaning and a profound efficacy. He says in the same treatise (c. 16), “It is not by despising the world and the gods in it, and all else that is beautiful, that man attains to goodness. The wicked man holds the gods in contempt, and it is only when he has completely reached this stage that he becomes utterly depraved. The above-mentioned reverence of the Gnostics for the intelligible gods (nohtous qeouς) is nothing corresponding with this (asumpaqhs an genoito) that is to say, there is no harmony between thoughts and the real world, when one does not go beyond the object of thought. “He who loves anything loves also all things related to the same, therefore also the children of the father whom he loves. Every soul is the daughter of this father. But souls in the heavenly spheres are more intelligible, and better, and far more nearly related to the higher Power than our souls are. For how could this world of reality be cut off from that higher sphere? Those who despise that which is related thereto know it only in name. How could it be pious to believe that Divine providence (pronoia) does not reach to matters here below? Why is God not also here? For how otherwise could He know what takes place within this sphere? Therefore He is universally present, and:is in this world, in whatever way it be, so that the world participates in Him. If He is at a distance from the world, He is at a distance also from us, and you could say nothing of Him or of what He produces. This world also partakes of Him , and is not forsaken by Him, and never will be so. For the whole partakes of the divine much more than the pan does, and the world-soul shares in it to a still greater degree. The Being and the rationality of the world are a proof of this.”
In this we have the main ideas on which the intellectualism of Plotinus is based., the general conceptions to which everything particular is led back; the instances in which this is done are often, however, figurative. What, in the first place, is lacking in them, as we have already remarked, is the Notion. Severance, emanation, effluence or process, emergence, occurrence, are words which in modern times have also had to stand for much, but in fact nothing is expressed by them. Scepticism and dogmatism, as consciousness or knowledge, establish the opposition of subjectivity and objectivity. Plotinus has rejected it, has soared upwards into the highest region, into the Aristotelian thought of Thought; he has much more in common with Aristotle than with Plato, and thereby he is not dialectic, nor does he proceed out of himself, nor as consciousness does he go back out of himself into himself again. With this, in the second place, there is connected the fact that the further descent either to nature or to manifested consciousness, even when expressed as the operation of the higher soul, yet contains much that is arbitrary, and is devoid of the necessity of the Notion; for that which ought to be defined in Notions is expressed in many-coloured pictures, in the form of a reality; and this, to say the least, is a useless and inadequate expression. I quote one example only: our soul belongs not only to the sphere of the finite understanding, where it was perfect, happy, lacking nothing; its power of thought alone belongs to the first, the finite understanding. Its power of motion, or itself looked on as life, had as its source the intelligent world-soul, but sensation had its source in the soul of the world of sensation.
That is to say, Plotinus makes the first world-soul to be the immediate activity of the finite understanding, which is an object to itself; it is pure soul above the sublunar region, and dwells in the upper heaven of the fixed stars. This world-soul has power to originate; from it again there flows an entirely sensuous soul. The desire of the individual and particular soul separated from the whole gives it a body; this it receives in the higher region of the heavens. With this body it obtains fancy and memory. At last it repairs to the soul of the sensible world; and from this it acquires sensation, desires, and the life that is vegetative in nature.
This declension, this further step towards the corporeality of the soul, is described by the followers of Plotinus as if the soul sank from the Milky Way and the Zodiac into the orbits of planets which have their place lower down, and in each of these it receives new powers, and in each begins also to exercise these powers. In Saturn the soul first acquires the power of forming conclusions with regard to things; in Jupiter it receives the power of effectiveness of the will; in Mars, affections and impulses; in the Sun, sensation, opinion, and imagination; in Venus, sensuous desires aiming at the particular; in the Moon, lastly, the power of production.’ In such a way as this Plotinus makes into a particular existence for the spiritual the very things that he declares to be, on the one hand, intelligible moments. The soul which only has desires is the beast; that which only vegetates, which has only power of reproduction, is the plant. But what we spoke of above are not particular conditions of mind, outside of the universal spirit, in the world-spirit’s particular stages of its self-consciousness regarding itself; and Saturn and Jupiter have nothing further to do with it. When they in their potency are expressed as moments of the soul, this is not a whit better than when each of them was supposed to express a particular metal. As Saturn expresses lead, Jupiter tin, and so forth, so Saturn also expresses argumentation, Jupiter will, &c It is doubtless easier to say that Saturn corresponds with lead, &c, that it is the power of drawing conclusions, or that it represents lead and the power of drawing conclusions, or anything else you like, instead of expressing its Notion, its essence. The above is a comparison with a thing that in like manner does not express a Notion, but is apparent to the senses, which is laid hold of out of the air, or rather indeed from the ground. Such representations are warped and false; for if we say that this is lead, we mean thereby the essence or the implicitness of lead, with which the soul has an affinity; but this is no longer the sensuous Being which is known as lead, nor has this moment of such a state any reality for the soul.
Porphyry and Iamblichus, who have already been mentioned as the biographers of Pythagoras (Vol. I. p. 197), are distinguished followers of Plotinus. The first, a Syrian, died in 304: the latter, likewise of Syria, in the year 333. Amongst other works by Porphyrius, we possess an “'Introduction to the Organon of Aristotle on Genera, Species, and Judgments,” in which his logic is propounded in its principal elements. This work is one which has at all times been the text-book of Aristotelian Logic, and also an authority from which the knowledge of its form has been derived; and our ordinary books of logic contain little more than what is found in this Introduction. The fact that Porphyry devoted himself to logic shows that a determinate form of thought was coming into favour with the Neo-Platonists; but this is something pertaining altogether to the understanding and very formal. Thus we herd have the characteristic fact that with the Neo-Platonists the logic of the understanding, the quite empiric treatment of the sciences, is found in conjunction with the entirely speculative Idea, and in respect of practical life with a belief in theurgy, the marvellous and strange;: in his life of Plotinus, Porphyry, indeed, describes him a miracle-worker, which statement we, however, must set aside as appertaining to literature.
Iamblichus evinces more mistiness and confusion still he certainly was a teacher highly esteemed in his time, so that he even received the name of divine instructor; but his philosophic writings form a compilation without much specially to characterize them, and his biography of Pythagoras does not do much credit to his understanding. It was likewise in the Pythagorean philosophy that the Neo-Platonists gloried, and more particularly they revived the form of number-determination which pertains to it. In Iamblichus thought sinks into imagination, the intellectual universe to a kingdom of demons and angels with a classification of the same, and speculation comes down to the methods of magic., The Neo-Platonists called this theurgy (qeourgia); for in the miracle speculation, the divine Idea, is, so to speak, brought into immediate contact with actuality, and not set. forth in a universal way. As to the work De mysteries Egyptiorum, it is not known for certain whether it had Iamblichus as its author or not; later on Proclus makes great ado concerning him, and testifies that he was indebted to Iamblichus for his main ideas.’
Proclus, a later Neo-Platonist who has still to be mentioned, is more important. He was born in 412 at Constantinople, but carried on his studies and spent most of his life with Plutarchus in Athens, where he also died in 485. His life is written by Marinus, in a style similar to that of the biographies just mentioned. According to this his parents came from Xanthus in Lycia, a district of Asia Minor; and since Apollo and Minerva were the tutelary deities of this town, he rendered grateful worship to them. They, themselves, vouchsafed to him., as their favourite, particular regard and personal manifestations; indeed, he was healed of an illness by Apollo touching his head; by Minerva, however, he was called upon to go to Athens. First of all he went to Alexandria to study rhetoric and philosophy, and then to Athens, to be with Plutarchus and Syrianus, the Platonists. Here he first studied Aristotelian and then Platonic philosophy. Above all the daughter of Plutarchus, Asclepigenia, initiated him into the profound secrets of philosophy; she, as Marinus assures us, was the only individual at that time who retained the knowledge, transmitted to her by her father, of the mystic ceremonies and of the whole theurgic discipline. Proclus studied everything pertaining to the mysteries, the Orphic hymns, the writings of Hermes, and religious institutions of every kind, so that, wherever he went, he understood the ceremonies of the pagan worship ‘better than the priests who were placed there for the purpose of performing them. Proclus is said to have had himself initiated into all the pagan mysteries. He himself kept all the religious festivals and observances pertaining to nations the most various; he was even familiar with the Egyptian form of worship, observed the Egyptian days of purification and festivals, and spent certain fast days in offering up prayers and praise. Proclus himself composed many hymns — of which we still possess some that are very beautiful — both in honour of the better known divinities and of those whose fame is entirely local. Of the circumstance that he — “the most God-fearing man” — had dealings with so many religions, he himself says: “I It is not fitting for a philosopher to be minister (qerapeuthn) to the worship of one town or of what pertains to the few, for he should be the universal hierophant of the whole world.” He considered Orpheus to be the originator of all Greek theology, and set a specially high value on the Orphic and Chaldaic oracles. It was in Athens that he taught. Of course his biographer, Marinus, relates the most marvellous things about him, that he brought down rain from heaven and tempered great heat, that he stilled the earthquake, healed diseases, and beheld visions of the divine.
Proclus led a most intellectual life; he was a profoundly speculative man, and the scope of his knowledge was very great. In his case, as also in that of Plotinus, the contrast between the insight of such philosophers and what. their disciples relate of them in biographies, must strike one very forcibly, for of the wonders described by the biographers few traces are to be found in the works of the subjects themselves. Proclus left behind him a great number of writings, many of which we now possess; he was the author of several mathematical works which we also have, such as that on the Sphere. His more important philosophic works are the Commentaries on Plato’s Dialogues, certain of which have been published from time to time; that on the Timĉus was the most famous. But several were only found in manuscript, and of these Cousin issued in Paris the Commentaries on the Alcibiades (Vols. II. III.), and the Parmenides (Vols. IV.-VI.) for the first time. The first volume of Cousin’s edition contains some writings by Proclus which now exist only in Latin, on Freedom, Providence, and Evil. Works separately published are his important writings, The Platonic Theology (eis thn Platwnos qeologian) and his Theological Elements (stoiceiwsis qeologikh); the latter short work Creuzer has had re-published, as also some of the before-mentioned Commentaries.
Proclus lived, so to speak, in the worship of science. We cannot fail to see in him great profundity of perception, and greater capacity for working a matter out and clearness of expression than are found in Plotinus; scientific development also advanced with him, and on the whole he possesses an excellent manner of expression. His philosophy, like that of Plotinus, has the form of a Commentary on Plato; his book “On the Theology of Plato,” is in this respect his most interesting work. The main ideas of his philosophy may easily be recognized from this work, which possesses many difficulties for this reason in particular, that in it the pagan gods are considered, and philosophic significations derived from them. But he distinguishes himself entirely from Plotinus by the fact that with him the Neo-Platonic philosophy, as a whole, has at least reached a more systematic order, and also a more developed form; thus in his Platonic theology especially (dialectic as the work undoubtedly is) a more distinct progression and distinction between the spheres in the Idea is to be found, than is noticeable in Plotinus. His philosophy is an intellectual system; we must see how we can work it out. His way of putting it is not perfectly clear, but leaves much to be desired.
Proclus differs first of all from Plotinus in not making Being his principle or purely abstract moment, but by beginning from unity, and for the first time understanding Being or subsistence as the third; thus to him everything has a much more concrete form. But the self-development of this unity is not made the necessity of the Notion with Proclus any more than with Plotinus; we must once for all give up seeking here for the Notion of disunion. Proclus (Theol. Plat. II. p. 95) says, “’the one is in itself inexpressible and unknowable; but it is comprehended from its issuing forth and retiring into itself.” Proclus in the same place (pp. 107, 108) defines this self-differentiation, the first characteristic of unity, as a production (paragein) a going forth (proodoς), and also as a representation or demonstration. The relation to difference of the unity which brings forth is, however, not an issuing forth from self, for an issuing forth Would be a change, and unity would be posited as no more self-identical. Hence through its bringing forth unity suffers no loss or diminution, for it is the thought that suffers no deterioration through the creation of a determinate thought, but remains the same, and also receives what is brought forth into itself. As far as this goes, the Notion is, properly speaking, no clearer than with Plotinus.
What distinguishes Plotinus is his more profound study of the Platonic dialectic; in this way he occupies himself in his Platonic theology with the most acute and far-reaching dialectic of the One. It is necessary for him to demonstrate the many as one and the one as many, to show forth the forms which the One adopts. But it is a dialectic which to a greater or less extent is externally worked out, and which is most wearisome. But while with Plato these pure notions of unity, multiplicity, Being, &c, appear naturally, and so to speak devoid of other significance than that which they immediately possess (for we designate them as universal ideas which are present in our thought), with Proclus they have another and higher meaning; and hence it comes to pass that, as we have seen (pp. 59,60), he found in the apparently negative result of the Platonic Parmenides the nature of absolute existence particularly and expressly recognized. Proclus now shows, according to the Platonic dialectic, how all determinations, and particularly that of multiplicity, are resolved into themselves and return into unity. What to the conceiving consciousness is one of its Most important truths — that many substances exist, or that the many things, each of which is termed a one, and hence substance, exist in truth in themselves — is lost in this dialectic, and the result ensues that only unity is true existence, all other determinations are merely vanishing magnitudes, merely moments, and thus their Being is only an immediate thought. But since we now ascribe no substantiality, no proper Being to a thought, all such determinations are only moments of a thing in thought. The objection at this point made and constantly maintained against the Neo-Platonists and Proclus is this, that certainly for thought everything goes back within unity, but that this is a logical unity alone, a unity of thought and not of actuality, and that consequently there can be no arguing from the formal to actuality. From this they say it by no means follows that all actual things are not actual substances, that they have not different principles independent of one another. and even that they are not different substances, each of which is separated from the other and in and for itself. That is to say, this contradiction always begins the whole matter over again when it says of actuality that it is something implicit, for those who do this call actuality a thing, a substance, a one — which last are merely thoughts; in short they always again bring forward, as something implicitly existent, that whose disappearance or non-implicitude has been already demonstrated.
But in this regard Proclus displays great sagacity in a remark he makes on the manner in which this mode of production appears in the Parmenides of Plato, who shows in a negative way in this Dialogue that if the existence of unity is affirmed, the existence of multiplicity, &c, must be denied. Respecting these negations (apofaseiς) Proclus now says (Theol. Plat. II. pp. 108, 109) that they do not signify an abrogation of the content (sterhtikai twn upokeimenwn) of which they are predicated, but are the creation of determinatives in accordance with their opposites (gennhtikai twn oion antikeimenwn). “Thus if Plato shows that the first is not many, this has the significance that the many proceed from the first; if he shows that it is not a whole, it proves that the fact of being a whole proceeds from it. The mode (tropoς) of negations is thus to be taken as perfection which remains in unity, issues forth from everything, and is in an inexpressible and ineffable preponderance of simplicity. On the other hand, God must likewise be derived from these negations; else there would be no Notion (logoς) of them, and also no negation. The Notion of the inexpressible revolves round itself, never resting, and it strives with itself; “i.e. the one implies its determinations ideally, the whole is contained in the one. Multiplicity is not taken empirically and then merely abrogated; the negative, as dividing, producing, and active, not merely contains what is privative, but also affirmative determinations. In this way the Platonic dialectic wins for Proclus a positive significance; through dialectic he would lead all differences back to unity. With this dialectic of the one and many Proclus makes much ado, more especially in his famous elementary doctrines. The submersion of everything in unity remains, however, merely beyond this unity, instead of which this very negativity must really be grasped as signifying its production.
That which brings forth, according to Proclus, furthermore brings forth through a superfluity of power. There certainly also is a bringing forth through want; all need, all desire, for example, becomes cause through want; and its bringing forth is its satisfaction. The end here is incomplete, and the energy arises from the endeavour to complete itself, so that only in production the need becomes less, the desire ceases to be such, or its abstract Being-for-self disappears. Unity, on the other hand, goes forth out of itself through the superfluity of potentiality, and this superabundant potentiality is actuality generally: this reflection of Proclus is quite Aristotelian. Hence the coming forth of the unity consists in the fact that it multiplies itself, pure number comes forth; but this multiplication does not negate or diminish that first unity, but rather takes place in the method of unity (eniaiwς). The many partakes of the unity, but the unity does not partake of multiplicity.’ The absolute unity which multiplies itself into many ones has consequently generated multiplicity as it is in these ones. Proclus makes use of a many-sided dialectic to show that the many does not exist in itself, is not the creator of the many, that everything goes back into unity, and thus unity is also the originator of the many. It is, however, not made clear how this is the negative relation of the one to itself; what we see is then a manifold dialectic, which merely passes backwards and forwards over the relationship of the one to the many.
To Proclus an important characteristic of this progression is the fact that it takes place through analogy, and what is dissimilar to the truth is the further removed from the same. The many partakes of unity, but it is in a measure likewise not one, but dissimilar to one. But since the many is also similar to what produces it, it likewise has unity as its essence; hence the many are independent unities (enadeς). They contain the principle of unity within themselves, for if as being many they are likewise different., they are, so to speak, only many for a third, being in and for themselves unities. These unities again beget others which must, however, be less perfect, for the effect is not exactly like the cause, that which is brought forth is not quite similar to what brings it forth. These next unities are wholes, i.e., they are no longer real unities, unities in themselves, since in them the unity is only an accident. But because things themselves are in their synthetic nature merely wholes because their souls bind them together, they are dissimilar to the first unity, and cannot be immediately united to it. The abstractly conceived multiplicity is thus their mean; multiplicity is analogous to absolute unity, and is that which unites unity with the whole universe. Pare multiplicity makes the different elements like one another, and hence unites them to unity; but things only have similarity to unity. Thus things that are begotten ever remove themselves more and more from unity, and partake of it less and less.
The further determination of the Idea is known as the trinity (triaς). Of this Proclus (Theol. Plat. III. p. 140) first of all gives the abstract definition that its three forms are three gods, and now we have more especially to find out how he defined the trinity. This trinity is certainly interesting in the Neo-Platonists, but it is specially so in the cue of Proclus, because he did not leave it in its abstract moments. For he again considers these three abstract determinations of the absolute, each on its own account, as a totality of triunity, whereby he obtains one real trinity. Thus in the whole there are three spheres, separated from one another, which constitute the totality, but in such a way that each has again to be considered as complete and concrete in itself; and this must be acknowledged as a perfectly correct point of view which has been reached. Because each of these differences in the Idea, as remaining in unity with itself, is really again the whole of these moments, there are different orders in production; and the whole is the process of the three totalities establishing themselves in one another as identical. It will be shown directly which orders these are, and Proclus occupies himself much with these, because he tries to demonstrate the different powers again in them, Proclus is hence much more detailed, and he went much further than did Plotinus; it may indeed be said that in this respect we find in him the most excellent and best that was formulated by any of the Neo-Platonists.
As regards the further details of his trinity there are, according to his account, three abstract moments present in it, which are worked out in his Platonic theology — the one, the infinite and the limitation; the last two we have likewise seen in Plato (p. 68). The first, God, is just the absolute unity already frequently discussed, which by itself is unknowable and undisclosed, because it is a mere abstraction; it can only be known that it is an abstraction, since it is not yet activity. This unity is the super-substantial (uperousion), and in the second place its first production is the many ones (enadeς) of things, pure numbers. In these we have the thinking principles of things, through which they partake of absolute unity; but each partakes of it only through a single individual unity, through the one, while souls do so through thought-out, universal unities. To this Proclus refers the forms of ancient mythology. That is to say, as he calls that first unity God, he calls these numerous unities of thought that flow from it, gods, but the following moments are likewise so called. He says, (Institut. theol. e. 162): “The, gods are named in accordance with what depends upon the orders (taxewn); hence it is possible to know from this their unknowable substances, which constitute their determinate nature. For everything divine is inexpressible on its own account and unknowable as forming part of the inexpressible one; but from differentiation, from change, it comes to pass that we know its characteristics. Thus there are gods capable of being known, which radiate true Being; hence true Being is the knowable divine, and the incommunicable is made manifest for the nouς. “But there always remains a compulsion to represent mythology in the determinateness of the Notion. These gods or unities do not correspond to the order of things in such a way that there are just as many and such unities (enadeς) or gods as there are things; for these unities only unite things with the absolute unity. The third is just the limit which holds these unities (enadeς) together, and constitutes their unity with the absolute unity; the limit asserts the unity of the many and the one.
This is better expressed by what follows, in which Proclus takes up the three fundamental principles — the limit, the infinite and what is mingled — of Plato’s Philebus, because the opposition is thus more clearly determined; and therefore these appear to be the original gods. But to such abstractions the name gods is not applicable, for it is as returning that we first of all see them as divine. Proclus says (Theol. Plat. III. pp. 133-134): “From that first limit (peraς),” the absolute one, “things have (exhrthtai) union, entirety and community,” the principle of individuality, “and divine measure. All separation and fertility and what makes for multiplicity, on the contrary, rest on the first infinitude (apeiron);” the infinite is thus quantity, the indeterminate, just as Plato in the Philebus calls the infinite the evil, and pleasure the untrue, because no reason is present in it (pp. 68, 69). “Hence when we speak of the process of anything divine, it is implied that in the individuals it remains steadfastly one, and only progresses towards infinitude,” continuity as self-production, “and has at the same time the one and multiplicity present in it — the former from the principle of limitation, and the latter from the principle of infinitude. In all opposition which is found in species that are divine, what is more excellent belongs to limitation, and what is less excellent to the infinite. From these two principles everything derives its progress until it steps forth into Being. Thus the eternal, in so far as it is measure as intellectual, partakes of limitation, but in so far as it is the cause of unceasing effort after Being, of infinitude. Thus the understanding in so far as it has the standard (paradeigmatika metra) within it, is a product of limitation; in so far as it eternally produces everything, it has undiminished capacity for infinitude.” Multiplicity as Notion, not as the many, is itself unity; it is duality, or the determinateness which stands over against indeterminateness. Now according to Proclus (Theol. Plat. III. p. 137) the third is a whole, the unity of determinate and indeterminate, or that which is mingled (mikton). “This is first of all everything existent, a monad of many possibilities, a completed reality, a many in one (en polla).” The expression “mingled” is not very suitable, is indeed faulty, because mixture at first expresses only an external union, while here the concrete, the unity of opposites, and even more the subjective, is properly speaking indicated.
Now if we consider further the nature of what is mingled we find the three triads likewise, for each of those three abstract principles is itself a similar complete triad, but under one of these particular forms. Proclus says (Theol. Plat. III. p. 135); “The first Being (to prwtrws on) is the mingled, the unity of the triad with itself; it is the Being of the life as well as of the understanding. The first of what is mingled is the first of all existence, the life and the spirit are the two other orders; everything is consequently in triads. These three triads determine themselves thus as absolute Being, life and spirit; and they are spiritual and to be grasped in thought.” According to this only the intelligible world is true for Proclus. But that Proclus did not make the understanding proceed immediately from the unity, is the second point in which he differs from Plotinus; in this Proclus is more logical, and he follows Plato more closely. His sequence is excellent, and he is right in placing the understanding, as the richer, last, since it is not until after the development of the moments which are present in life that the understanding springs forth, and from it in turn the soul.’ Proclus says (Theol. Plat. I. pp. 21, 22, 28) that certainly in the first unity all agree, but that Plotinus makes the thinking nature appear just after the unity; yet the instructor of Proclus, who led him into all divine truth, limited better this indefinite way of looking at things adopted by the ancients, and differentiated this disorderly confusion of various orders into a comprehensible plan, and succeeded in satisfactorily following and maintaining the distinction of determinations. As a matter of fact we find more distinction and clearness in Proclus than in the turbidity of Plotinus; he is quite correct in recognizing the nouς as the third, for it is, that which turns back.
Regarding the relationship of the three orders Proclus now expresses himself in the passage already quoted (Theol. Plat. III. pp. 135-136) thus: “These three are themselves really contained in the existent, for in it is substance, life, the nouς and what is the culminating point of all existence (akroths twn ontwn),” the individuality of the self, the existent on its own account, the subjective, the point of negative unity. “The life that is grasped by thought is the very centre-point of existence. But the understanding is the limit of the existent, and it is thought as known (o nohtos nouς), for in what is thought is thinking, and in thinking what is thought. But in what is thought thinking is in the mode of thought, (nohtwς), in thinking what is thought is in the mode of thinking (noerwς). Substance is the enduring element in existence and that which is interwoven with the first principles and which does not proceed from the one.” The second, “the life, is however that which proceeds from the principles and is born with infinite capacity;” it is itself the whole totality in the determination of infinitude., so that it is a concrete manifold. “The understanding is, again, the limit which leads back once more to the principles, brings about conformity with the principle, and accomplishes an intellectual circle. Now since it is a three-fold in itself, in part it is the substantial in itself, in part the living, in part the intellectual, but everything is substantially contained in it, and hence it is the foremost in existence, that which is united from the first principles.” That is the first reality. Excellent! “I call it substance, since the first substance (autoousia) is supreme over all existence and is, so to speak, the monad of everything. The understanding itself is that which knows., but life is thinking, and Being is just what is thought. Now if the whole of what exists is mingled, but the first existence (to autoon) is substance, the substance that comes from the three principles (ufistamenh) is mingled. What is mingled is thus substance as thought; it is from God, from whom also come the infinite and limitation. There are thus four moments, since what is mingled is the fourth.” The first is the monad, the absolute one, then come the many which themselves are units, the infinite of Plato; the third is limitation. The one is clearly all-penetrating, remaining at home with itself, all-embracing; it does not thus appear as one of the three moments, for Proclus adds a fourth which then likewise appears as the third moment, since it is the totality. “This united one is not only derived from those principles which are according to the one, but it also goes forth from them and is three-fold.” It is one trinity and three trinities. The limit and the infinite are, according to Proclus (Theol. Plat. III. pp. 138, 139), before substance and again in it; and this unity of moments is what comes first in all existence (prwtisth ousia). In the abstract trinity everything is thus contained in itself. Proclus says (Theol. Plat. III. pp. 139, 140): “The truly existent has the trinity of Beauty, Truth, and Symmetry in itself” (this is the way in which, like Plato, he names these three triads), “Beauty for order, Truth for parity, and Symmetry for the unity of what is joined together. Symmetry gives the cause that the existent is unity; Truth, that it is Being; Beauty, that it is thought.” Proclus shows that in each of the three triads, limit, the unlimited, and that which is mingled, are contained; each order is thus the same, but set forth in one of the three forms which constitute the first triad.
a. Proclus says (Theol. Plat. III. p. 140): “Now this is the first triad of all that is thought — the limit, the infinite, and that which is mingled. The limit is God going forth to the culminating point of thought from the uncommunicable and first God, measuring and determining everything, admitting all that is paternal and coherent, and the unblemished race of gods. But the infinite” (quantity) “is the inexhaustible potentiality of this God, that which makes all productions and orders to appear, and the whole infinitude, the primeval essence as well as the substantial, and even the ultimate matter. What is mingled is, however, the first and highest order (diakosmoς) of the gods, and it is that which holds everything concealed in itself, completed in accordance with the intelligible and all-embracing triad, comprehending in simple form the cause of all that exists, and establishing in the first objects of thought the culminating point which is derived from the wholes.” The first order is thus in its culminating point the abstract substance in which the three determinations as such are shut up without development and maintained in strict isolation; this pure reality is in so far the undisclosed. It is the greatest height reached by thought and likewise really the turning back, as this likewise appears in Plotinus; and this first begets in its culminating point the second order which in the whole is life, and culminates in its turn in the nouς.
b. This second triad is placed in the determination of the infinite. On making this stop forward Proclus (Theol. Plat. III. pp. 141, 142) breaks into a transport of bacchanalian ecstasy, and says, “After this first triad which remains in unity, let us now in hymns praise the second which proceeds from this, and is brought to pass through the abolition of that which comes before it. As the first unity begets the culminating point of existence, the middle unity begets the middle existence; for it is likewise begetting and self-retaining.” In the second order three moments again appear as before: “Here the principle or the first is the substance which was the completion of the first triad; the second, which was there the infinite, is here potentiality (dunamiς). The unity of both these is Life (zwh),” the centre, or what gives determinateness to the whole order; “the second existence is life as thought, for in the most external thought Ideas have their subsistence (upostasin). The second order is a triad analogous to the first, for the second is likewise a God.” The relationship of these trinities is hence this: “As the first triad is everything, but is so intellectually (nohtwς) and as proceeding immediately from the one (eniaiwς), and remaining within limits (peratoeidwς), so the second is likewise everything, but in living fashion and in the principle of infinitude (zwtikws kai apeiroeidwς), and similarly the third has proceeded after the manner of what is mingled. Limitation determines the first trinity, the unlimited the second, the concrete (mikton) the third. Each determination of unity, the one placed beside the other, also explains the intelligible order of gods; each contains all three moments subordinate to itself, and each is this trinity set f orth under one of these moments.” These three orders are the highest gods; later on, we find in Proclus (in Timĉum, pp. 291, 299) four orders of gods appearing.
c. Proclus comes (Theol. Plat. III. p. 143) to the third triad, which is thought itself as such, the nouς: “The third monad places round itself the nouς as thought, and fills it with divine unity; it places the middle between itself and absolute existence, fills this last by means of the middle and turns it to itself. This third triad does not resemble cause (kat aitian), like the first existence, nor does it reveal the all like the second; but it is all as act and expression (ekfanwς); hence it is also the limit of all that is thought. The first triad remains concealed in limit itself, and has all subsistence of intellectuality fixed in it. The second is likewise enduring, and at the same time steps forward; “the living appears, but is in so doing led back to unity. “The third after progression shifts and turns the intelligible limit back to the beginning, and bends the order back into itself; for the understanding is the turning back to what is thought” (to unity), “and the giving of conformity with it. And all this is one thought, one Idea: persistence, progression and return.” Each is a totality on its own account, but all three are led back into one. In the nods the first two triads are themselves only moments; for spirit is just the grasping in itself of the totality of the first two spheres. “Now these three trinities announce in mystic form the entirely unknown (agnwston) cause of the first and unimparted (ameqektou) God,” who is the principle of the first unity, but is manifested in the three: “the one has inexpressible unity, the second the superfluity of all powers, but the third the perfect birth of all existence.” In this the mystic element is that these differences which are determined as totalities, as gods, become comprehended as one. The expression “mystic"often appears with the Neo-Platonists. Thus Proclus for example says (Theol. Plat. III. p. 131): “Let us once more obtain initiation into the mysteries (mustagwgian) of the one.” Mysticism is just this speculative consideration of Philosophy, this Being in thought, this self-satisfaction and this sensuous perception. However, musthrion has not to the Alexandrians the meaning that it has to us, for to them it indicates speculative philosophy generally. The mysteries in Christianity have likewise been to the understanding an incomprehensible secret, but because they are speculative, reason comprehends them, and they are not really secret, for they have been revealed.
In conclusion, Proclus institutes a comparison between these triads. “In the first order the concrete is itself substance, in the second it is life, and in the third the thought that is known.” Proclus calls substance likewise Estia, the fixed, the principle. “The first trinity is the God of thought (qeos nohtoς); the second the thought of and thinking (qeos nohtos kai noeroς)” the active; “the third the” pure, “thinking God (qeos noeroς),” who is in himself this return to unity in which, as return, all three are contained; for “God is the whole in them.” These three are thus clearly the absolute one, and this then constitutes one absolute concrete God. “God knows the divided as undivided, what pertains to time as timeless, what is not necessary as necessary, the changeable as unchangeable, and, speaking generally, all things more excellently than in accordance with their order. Whose are the thoughts, his also are the substances, because the thought of every man is identical with the existence of every man, and each is both the thought and the existence,” and so on.
These are the principal points in the theology of Proclus, and it only remains to us to give some external facts. The individuality of consciousness is partially in the form of an actuality, as magic and theurgy; this often appears among the Neo-Platonists and with Proclus, and is called making a god. The element of theurgy is thus brought into relation with the heathen divinities: “The first and chief names of the gods, one must admit, are founded in the gods themselves. Divine thought makes names of its thoughts, and finally shows the images of the gods; each name gives rise, so to speak, to an image of a god. Now as theurgy through certain symbols calls forth the unenvying goodness of God to the light of the images of the artist, the science of thought makes the hidden reality of God appear through the uniting and separating of the tones.” Thus the statues and pictures of artists show the inward speculative thought, the being replete with the divinity that brings itself into externality; thus the consecration of images is likewise represented. This connecting fact — that the Neo-Platonists have even inspired the mythical element with the divine is thereby expressed, so that in images, &c, the divine power is present. Nevertheless I have only wished to call this moment to mind because it plays a great part at this particular time.
In Proclus we have the culminating point of the Neo-Platonic philosophy; this method in philosophy is carried into later times, continuing even through the whole of the Middle Ages. Proclus had several successors who were scholarchs at Athens — Marinus, his biographer, and then Isidorus of Gaza, and finally Damascius. Of the latter we still possess some very interesting writings; he was the last teacher of the Neo-Platonic philosophy in the Academy. For in 529 A.D. the Emperor Justinian caused this school to be closed, and drove all heathen philosophers from his kingdom: amongst these was Simplicius, a celebrated commentator on Aristotle, several of whose commentaries are not yet printed. They sought and found protection and freedom in Persia under Chosrois. After some time they ventured to return to the Roman Empire, but they could no longer form any school at Athens; thus as far as its external existence is concerned, the heathen philosophy went utterly to ruin. Eunapius treats of this last period, and Cousin has dealt with it in a short treatise. Although the Neo-Platonic school ceased to exist outwardly, ideas of the Neo-Platonists, and specially the philosophy of Proclus, were long maintained and preserved in the Church; and later on we shall on several occasions refer to it. In the earlier, purer, mystical scholastics we find the same ideas as are seen in Proclus, and until comparatively recent times, when in the Catholic Church God is spoken of in a profound and mystical way, the ideas expressed are Neo-Platonic.
In the examples given by us perhaps the best of the Neo-Platonic philosophy is found; in it the world of thought has, so to speak, consolidated itself, not as though the Neo-Platonists had possessed this world of thought alongside of a sensuous world, for the sensuous world has disappeared and the whole been raised into spirit, and this whole has been called God and His life in it. Here we witness a great revolution, and with this the first period, that of Greek philosophy, closes. The Greek principle is freedom as beauty, reconciliation in imagination, natural free reconciliation that is immediately realized, and thus represents an Idea in sensuous guise. Through philosophy thought, however, desires to tear itself away from what is sensuous, for philosophy is the constitution of thought into a totality beyond the sensuous and the imaginary. Herein is this simple progression contained, and the points of view which we have noticed are, as cursorily surveyed, the following.
First of all we saw the abstract in natural form: then abstract thought in its immediacy, and thus the one, Being. These are pure thoughts, but thought is not yet comprehended as thought; for us these thoughts are merely universal thoughts to which the consciousness of thought is still lacking. Socrates is the second stage, in which thought appears as self, the absolute is the thought of itself; the content is not only determined, e.g. Being, the atom, but is concrete thought, determined in itself and subjective. The self is the most simple form of the concrete, but it is still devoid of content; in as far as it is determined it is concrete, like the Platonic Idea. This content, however, is only implicitly concrete and is not yet known as such; Plato, beginning with what is given, takes the more determinate content out of sensuous perception. Aristotle attains to the highest idea; the thought about thought takes the highest place of all; but the content of the world is still outside of it. Now in as far as this manifold concrete is led back to the self as to the ultimate simple unity of the concrete, or, on the other band, the abstract principle has content given to it, we saw the systems of dogmatism arising. That thought of thought is in Stoicism the principle of the whole world, and it has made the attempt to comprehend the world as thought. Scepticism, on the other hand, denies all content, for it is self-consciousness, thought, in its pure solitude with itself, and likewise reflection on that beginning of pre-suppositions. In the third place the absolute is known as concrete, and this is as far as Greek philosophy goes. That is to say, while in the system of Stoics the relation of difference to unity is present only as an “ought,” as an inward demand, without the identity coming to pass, in the Neo-Platonist school the absolute is finally set forth in its entirely concrete determination, the Idea consequently as a trinity, as a trinity of trinities, so that these ever continue to emanate more and more. But each sphere is a trinity in itself, so that each of the abstract moments of this triad is itself likewise grasped m a totality. Only that which manifests itself, and therein retains itself as the one, is hold to be true. The Alexandrians thus represent the concrete totality in itself, and they have recognized the nature of spirit; they have, however, neither gone forth from the depths of infinite subjectivity and its absolute chasm, nor have they grasped the absolute, or, if we will, abstract freedom of the “I” as the infinite value of the subject.
The Neo-Platonic standpoint is thus not a philosophic freak, but a forward advance on the part of the human mind, the world and the world-spirit. The revelation of God has not come to it as from an alien source. What we here consider so dry and abstract is concrete. “Such rubbish,” it is said, “as we consider when in our study we see philosophers dispute and argue, and settle things this way and that at will, are verbal abstractions only.” No, no; they am the deeds of the world-spirit, gentlemen, and therefore of fate. The philosophers are in so doing nearer to God than those nurtured upon spiritual crumbs; they read or write the orders as they receive them in the original. they are obliged to continue writing on. Philosophers are the initiated ones — those who have taken part in the advance which has been made into the inmost sanctuary; others have their particular interests — this dominion, these riches, this girl. Hundreds and thousands of years are required by the world-spirit to reach the point which we attain more quickly, because we have the advantage of having objects which are past and of dealing with abstraction.
1. If we were to translate this by “in the intelligible world,” the expression would be misleading; for “the world” is nowhere. Neither may we say, “intelligible things,” as if there were things of some other kind; such distinctions and definitions are nowhere found.
2. Instead of M in the sentence ou gar dei to eipein we should certainly read dh, or something of the kind.
3. It is doubtful whether the kai should not be omitted, so that akroths twn ontwn would stand in apposition to nouς.
Translated by E.S. Haldane and Frances H. Simson, published by K. Paul Trench, Trübner in 1894.
Hegel-by-HyperText Home Page @ marxists.org