Plotinus the most prominent and celebrated of the Neo-Platonic philosophers, the most elaborate and authoritative exponent of the school of Alexandria, was the most transcendental of the ancient transcendentalists, and was mainly instrumental in transforming into the Pantheism of Iamblichus and Proclus the doctrine deduced through many successions from Plato.
Life. — The outlines of the career of Plotinus have already been given, and have been accompanied with a brief notice of his opinions, under SEE NEO-PLATOISM.
The esteem in which the sage of Lycopolis was held by his contemporaries is shown by the application to him of the current proverb, "The productions of Egypt are few, but they are great." His asceticism led him to regard his body, the casket of his soul, with such contempt that he would never suffer his likeness to be taken. His pupil Amelius, however, introduced the painter Carterius to his lectures, who was thus enabled to take a portrait of him from memory, without his knowledge. His philosophical temperament is further illustrated by his dying words, addressed to Eustochius, "I am striving to reunite what is divine in me to the pure divinity which reigns throughout the universe." When he expired, a dragon rushed from under his bed, and escaped through a hole in the wall. Amelius inquired of the Delphic oracle, not yet entirely dumb, "What has become of him?" and was informed, in a string of loose hexameters, that he dwelt with Minos, Rhadamanthus, Abacus, Pythagoras, and other blessed spirits, in the contemplation of the Deity, to whom he had been conjoined in ecstatic union four times during life. After the biographical notice already given, it only remains to give a somewhat fuller account of his writings, and a more extended and connected exposition of his views.
Writings. — The philosophy of the Neo-Platonic school of Alexandria, founded by Ammonius Saccas, was an exclusive cult, designed to be a secret and privileged possession for the training and elevation of an elect body of theorists and enthusiasts. The seal of reticence having been broken by Herennius, his fellow disciple, Plotinus deemed that there was no longer either obligation or expediency in endeavoring to preserve the secrets of the new speculation, and accordingly promulgated it by oral lectures at Rome, continued for twenty-five years, and by treatises written at various times during this long course of instruction. His exposition was, however, so curt, intricate, and obscure; so full of inapprehensible subtleties and impalpable distinctions, that he was under the necessity of invoking the aid of his pupils to interpret and to develop his doctrine. He thus employed his veteran disciple, Amelius, to combat the repugnances and to remove the doubts of the neophyte Porphyry. All the earlier writers who have occasion to mention Plotinus speak of his brief, terse, thought-oppressed, oracular style; and the few among the moderns who have had the patience and have taken the pains to wade through his tantalizing compositions must have often re-echoed the ancient censures. The sublimation of the recondite thought is rendered more evanescent by the dryness of the phraseology and the niggardliness of words. The difficulty of the compressed and indistinct utterance is made more difficult by the abundance of the nebulous thought. Yet through all the clouds of utterance and of contemplation gleams continually a more than earthly radiance, which lights up the darkness, and converts the dim, disjointed, spasmodic communications into exquisite revelations of supernal purity and beauty, and into wonderful graces, which are equally without art, in violation of art, and beyond art. The intense flame of passionate love illumines dialectical subtleties and scholastic formulas in the Letters of Eloise and Abelard; and the ethereal splendor of "the heavenly love," which fills his whole intellectual being, frequently clothes with its own light the technical phrases, the visionary abstractions, and the jagged points of the diction of Plotinus. Knowledge with him is intuition: he sees the divine and the eternal by the influx and the communion of the divine: he is himself in turn apprehended, rather than understood, by an immediate contact between his own rapt spirit and the enkindled intelligence of his readers. He says that in the pure universe of the intelligible there are neither "discourse of reason" nor the voices of speech, but only immediate knowledge by sympathetic community of thought (οὑ δὲ δὴ φωναῖς οιμαι χρῆσθαι νομιστέον, ἐν μὲν τῷ νοητῷ οὔσας καὶ πάμπαν...γιγνώσκοιεν δ᾿ ¨ν καὶ τὰ παῤ ἀλλήλων ἐν συνέσει, Enn. 4, 3:18). There is something of the same inspiration by contact and association which quickens and assimilates the eager intellect, and enables us to divine and appropriate rather than to understand the mystic communications of Plotinus. He seems himself to have been fully aware of the vagueness and unintelligibility of his compositions. They were bursts of sudden revelation, gushing out in hasty, spontaneous expression. The weakness of his sight, and the feverish impatience of his overteeming mind, prevented him from recasting what he had once committed to parchment. He, therefore, entrusted to Porphyry, a rhetorician trained in the school of Longinus, the onerous task of collecting, revising, and coordinating his works. Porphyry undertook the office with reverence, and discharged it with affectionate fidelity. Plotinus had already produced and disseminated among his acolytes twenty-one books, when Porphyry came to Rome and attached himself to him: he added twenty-four during the six years that Porphyry attended his instructions, and he sent nine for revision to Porphyry, in his Sicilian retreat, during the last period of his life. It is probable that these books did not embrace all the philosophical lucubrations of the master, but that there were other treatises or essays in various stages of development, which were left behind, or were preserved as notes or memoranda in the hands of the disciples-like the college notes of the lectures of Niebuhr, Sir William Hamilton, and many others, which have been expanded and published to complete or to extend the lessons of the preceptors. Of such materials there are ample evidences in the surviving remains of Plotinus, the greater part of which appears as brief and undeveloped jottings, often as bare hints, while numerous passages have been elaborated with great care, and are expressed with adequate precision, fullness, and accesses of rugged grace. Porphyry collected fifty-four essays of various dimensions, which, in imitation of the Platonic Trilogies and Tetralogies, he arranged in six series of nine each, to which he gave the name of Enneads; being guided in their combination and disposition by the agreement or affinity of their topics, and in their succession by the ascending progress from human observation and experience, through the constituent principles of abstract nature, to ontology and theology. This is not the line of systematic exposition, nor is it, in its execution, the strict order of discovery. The whole body is irregular and confused; incomplete and often incoherent in its members; undeveloped and fragmentary in the exposition of the several parts. There are a few sufficiently thorough discussions: On Beauty (Enn. 1, 6); On Nature and the One (Enn. 3, 8); On Psychical Problems (Enn. 4. 3-5); On the Species of Existence (Enn. 4, 1- 3); and On Unity and Multiformity (Enn. 6, 4-5); to which may be added On the Essential Good (Enn. 6, 7 and 9). That there was a definite system in the mind of Plotinus may be readily admitted, for there is a general congruity of thought pervading the whole collection, and his characteristic principles were entertained from the first. This system might possibly be reproduced in its substantial integrity by a liberal employment of conjecture and logical evolution. Such a system may have been propounded by Plotinus in his oral course-though, from his remains and from the testimony of antiquity, we may safely conclude that even the instructions to the school were marked by the absence of method, consecution, perspicuity, and proportion. The written expansions of his doctrine appear to have been determined by transitory contingencies-the doubts of his scholars, the cavils of opponents, the apparent urgency of particular questions, as in the papers Against the Gnostics (Enn. 2, 9). Yet even what was written in this disconnected manner was composed at various times, in diverse moods, and left in different degrees of completion. None of the books can be regarded as a just, rounded, and complete essay. They are, for the most part, a collection of remarks upon discontinuous points, associated with a common subject of inquiry, thus resembling the Pensees, like those of Pascal, which were for a long time a favorite but imperfect form of enunciation with French thinkers. This, however, does not exhaust the impediments to any coherent and satisfactory ordination of the productions of Plotinus. There is no reason to suppose that all his written remains were in a condition to be made available. There is reason to believe that other materials besides those employed by Porphyry, either in his form of synoptical abridgments or of formal tractates, were in the hands of other disciples. In view of all the difficulties of his position, so far as they can now be ascertained and appreciated, there is a concert of opinion among scholars and critics that the procedure of Porphyry was judicious, and that no better plan of arrangement could have been adopted than the aggregation of the fragmentary materials in accordance with the loose bond of coherence supplied by similarity of subject, although this plan utterly disregards the chronological order of their production, and shuffles confusedly together the writings of very distinct periods. Less inconvenience would result from this disorder, if there had been entire constancy and consistency in the development of his speculation; but in his earlier career Plotinus was much influenced by the tenets of Nulmenius; in his maturer life he acquired greater independence of thought, but inclined most closely to the teachings and tendencies of Plato; and in his later years he gave evidence of diminished power of intellect. What could be done to correct or compensate for the confusion of the text was supplied by the Sentences of Porphyry, which gave an abstract of the doctrine, but these have come down to us only in a sadly mangled form.
In the arrangement of Porphyry, SEE NEO-PLATONISM, the logical order is disturbed, and in a great measure inverted. The last two Enneads are the most characteristic, and in some respects the most important for the estimation of the philosophy of Plotinus. The first Ennead is noted by Porphyry as pre-eminently ethical (being occupied with τὰ ἠθικώτερα, or
τὰς ἠθικωτέρας ὑποθέσεις). The recension of Porphyry was not the only promulgation of the lectures of Plotinus. Three other publications have been specified, and other copies of special parts of his philosophy may have been circulated. As soon as he commenced reducing his views to writing, demands for copies were made upon him by his followers, and these exemplars would naturally be multiplied and disseminated to some extent. We know that some of his productions were sent in his lifetime from Rome to Syria, to the rhetorician Longinus. These loose and flying sheets would soon be lost after the more complete body of his doctrine became accessible. This, however, is acknowledged to have existed in two forms-that issued with authority by Porphyry, and another presentation by Eustochius, a pupil who attended the deathbed of his teacher. These two versions are alone recognized by Creuzer, the accepted authority for all matters connected with the text and interpretation of Plotinus. These recensions did not agree either in the distribution of the matter or in all the details of doctrine. The Eustochian edition was still in existence in the Byzantine period, but has since perished, and has left the Porphyrian text as the sole representative of Plotinus. This exemplar is, however, believed by Creuzer to have received additions and alterations from the concurrent copy of the Eustochian rolls.
We would remark, before proceeding to the consideration of the peculiar philosophy of Plotinus, that neither he, nor the sect of which he was the expositor, contemplated the institution of a distinct, original type of speculation. The Neo-Platonists were the continuators of the Platonic Academy-drifted far, it may be, from the ancient shores. Their distinctive purpose was to conciliate Aristotle with Plato, and to harmonize with both the teachings of Pythagoras, and the asceticism which had flowed to Alexandria from Oriental sources. The energies of the teachers of the new and modified doctrine would thus be not equally expended over all parts of any complete system, but concentrated on the subjects of conciliation, the exposition of those leading principles which furnished the means of reconcilement, and their development in accordance with the scheme of agreement. Aspasius, Alexander, and Adrastus were read in the school and commented upon by Plotinus to the last, in company with Severus, Numenius, and other Platonists or Neo-Platonists. Thus is given a further explanation of both the incompleteness of the Neo-Platonic doctrine in Plotinus, and also of the inevitable difficulty of affording a clear, compact, and methodical exposition of that doctrine.
Philosophy. — The definition of metaphysics by the schoolmen as the branch of knowledge treating of abstract being and its modifications (De Ente, Enztibus et Entium affectibus) is more applicable to the daring reveries of Plotinus than to any other scheme of speculation. For, whether we regard the term as having been originally invented by Theophrastus to designate inquiries outside of physics and subsequent to them, or beyond physics and transcending them, it is almost exclusively in this dim and unbounded region that the reflections and imaginations of Plotinus disport themselves. With the ordinary topics of English-speaking philosophy he scarcely concerns himself. He rises from the earth like the skylark, and rarely pours forth his song till he is lost from sight in the clouds, and commingles his notes with the mysterious voices of the upper air. The account given of his writings would preclude any expectation of a complete or detailed body of doctrine. His work was fragmentary and without order. Death seized the reaper in the midst of his harvest. His instruction must at all times have been broken and unsystematic, because it was merely the supplement and modification of opinions already current. He deals only with those sublimities of speculation-apices coyitabiles— which aid him in harmonizing the teachings of Plato, Aristotle, Parmenides, and Pythagoras, in developing their conclusions into a still higher range of thought, and in applying this development to the purification of the intellect and to the purgation of the heart. It is extremely difficult to breathe in this rarefied atmosphere. The pilgrim of the Alpine Club is oppressed and dizzied by the tenuity of the air on the heights of Mont Blanc or of Ararat; and the brain whirls in those extreme altitudes of speculation, where words become too hard and narrow for their contents, and language is only the symbolism of unutterable thoughts.
Whether, then, we consider the character of the investigations, the form in which they appear, their limitation to the highest and most insoluble problems, their incompleteness, or their discontinuity, it is a task of the greatest difficulty to present a clear, orderly, and coherent view of the philosophy of Plotinus. Within the space at command, all that can be attempted will be a rapid outline of his most distinctive positions, in what appears to be their natural dependence.
Creuzer condenses his summary of the Plotinian doctrine into three theses:
'1. There is a Supreme One whence all things proceed, which cannot be fitly declared by the thought or name of Essence or Being, yet is the fountain and original of all essences, and therefore of being itself.
'2. What is One in the ultimate apprehension becomes twofold in Mind (Νοῦς) and through Mind. For Mind, turning towards that Supreme One and regarding it, establishes difference, generates ideas, and produces the commencements of definite thought.
'3. The Soul (of the world) being turned towards the Mind and regarding it, develops the diversity and multiplicity of things which are discoverable in the sensible universe. The universal aggregate of things sensible cannot, however, be conceived as unity, if the Supreme Mind be excluded, nor can it be thought of as One. Mind cannot form for itself the idea of the absolute One, without the original One and the Good; that is, without the author and father of Mind itself, and of all things; that is, without the Supreme" (Proleg. in Plotin. § 9, p. 24-25, ed. Paris).
These three propositions correspond in a loose and indistinct way with the three principles of the intelligible universe assumed by Plotinus: the Absolute Good, the Supreme Intelligence, and the Soul of the Universe. From these three all other intelligences descend by gradual differentiations. and all sensible things by distinct creation. These three constitute the Neo- Platonic trinity: the Good, which is the father of all, the Mind (Νοῦς) or absolute Reason (Λόγος), and the animating Spirit, or universal soul (Enn. 2, 9:1; 5, 1, 7; 2, 1; 8:12). The second and third of these principles, and all other things in their orderly subordination, which possess active potencies in themselves, derive their power of acting and their rule of action from the contemplation and imitation of the superior essences in which they participate, and which they apprehend by intuition of the Divine, ever indwelling, informing, and inworking (συμπαθὲς δὴ πᾶν τοῦτο τὸ ἕν, Enn. 4, 4, 32; νοῦς συνημμένος τῇ ἁπάσῃ οὐσίᾷ, 6, 4, 14; ἐσμὲν ἕκαστος κόσμος νοητός, 3, 4:3). High and chief over all intelligences, intelligibles, and sensibles is the absolute, eternal, unchanging, self- sustaining One (Enn. 6, 9:3). This is the Absolute Good, and is wholly ineffable, being dimly apprehensible only by the purest and highest efforts of the most depurated intuition (Enn. 2, 9:1; 6:8:8; 9:3, 4; ὑπὲρ ἐπιστήμην δεῖ δραμεῖν). The One and the Good (which are one) is before and above being, and before and above mind, or the intelligence (ὑπερβεβηκὸς τὴν τοῦ νοῦ φύσιν...τὸ ἐπέκεινα νοῦ, καὶ ἐπέκεινα οὐσίας, Enn2. 5, 1, 8). That the One is above the Νοῦς is a fundamental doctrine with Plotinus, which he professes to deduce from Plato. This One and Good is the Father of all things, the universal God, existing in all, moving through all, and embracing all (ž ν πάντα τὰ ὄντα, Lann. 6, 5, 1; 5, 2, 1).
This doctrine unquestionably presents the appearance of Pantheism, and approximates to it, especially when taken in connection with the Scala Intellibilis Ascensus ad Unum, or progress towards the incommunicable union with the Universal Good. In Proclus it can scarcely be distinguished from Pantheism (ἐν ἑνὶ πάντα καὶ ἀμερῆ ἣνωται ἀλλήλοις· καὶ φοιτᾶ'/ πάντα διὰ πάντων, Inst. Theolog. § 186). In Plotinus it is different. He carefully preserves the distinction between the One and the Many, between the Supreme Good and all its immediate and derivative products. He does not ascribe personality to the Divine One except by metaphor; but he avoids attributing to the Divine Being either the evolution or the absorption of the universe, and he accords to man personality, freewill, and responsibility (Enn. 3, 4:5-7). He distinguishes between the agent in producing all things, and the all which is produced (Enn. 3, 8:8, 9). But there is confusion in his utterances, if not contradiction; though he may be credited with a more earnest anxiety to escape pantheistic extravagances than can be accorded to his Christian admirer, translator, and paraphrast, Marsilius Ficinus (q.v.). According to Plato, genuine knowledge is intuitive: according to Plotinus, it is immediate—the union of the knowing and the known; and the knowledge of the Godhead is only by direct communion (παρουσία, Enn. 6:9:47; 3, 6:18; 5, 5, 1; 3, 1-3; 6:2; 9:13). It is no wonder, then, that the meaning of Plotinus should be often obscure and ambiguous, and that it should be declared by Marsilius Ficinus to be discoverable, not by sense or human reason, but only by a more sublime capacity of intelligence (Plotini. Opera. Exhort. ad Auditores, etc.). This may afford some palliation for any indistinctness of the present exposition. It is due to a logical necessity rather than to a theological presumption that Plotinus asserts being to be posterior to the One, for he attaches being inseparably to the three hypostases of divinity which constitutes his three principles. It is an attempt to develop with entire internal consistency the Pythagorean doctrine of numbers, and the Platonic thesis of the One and the Many (Enn. 6, 6, 9). The Unum is Ens and Summa-um Esessential and primordial Being. There is no separation or division between them, but only a theoretical and shadowy antecedence and sequence-out of time, irrespective of time, and beyond time.
The second principle of Plotinus is Mind-the intelligence per se—the Universal Reason (Νοῦς). The One, or the Good, projects a perpetual effulgence of itself, without loss of integrity or diminution of totality (περίλαμψις ἐξ αὐτοῦ) the image of its archetype (εἰκόνα ἐκείνου λέγομεν ειναι τὸν νοῦν). This yearns unceasingly for its original (ποθεῖ δὲ πᾶν τὸ γεννῆσαν τὸ γεννηθέν, καὶ τοῦτο ἀγαπᾶ'/, καὶ μάλιστα ὅταν ωσι μόνοι τὸ γεννῆσαν καὶ τὸ γεγεννημένον). The desire provokes an inclination or conversion of the offspring to its parent, of the similitude to its exemplar; and this reflection or bending back is itself' the Divine Mind, Intelligence, Universal Reason, whence all reason and thought are engendered (τῇ ἐπιστροφῇ πρὸς αὐτὸ ἑώρα· ἡ δὲ ὅρασις αὕτη νους, Enn. 5, 1, 6, 7). The Divine Mind embraces the eternal ideas which constitute the intelligible universe, and which it contemplates in the One. These are not types or shadows of things, but archetypes and perennial truths, whence all things sensible derive their essential constitution, and the broken and imperfect truth which they contain. It is a second cardinal tenet of Plotinus, in which he diverges from Plato, that ideas are immanent in the Divine Mind, and not extrinsic to it (Enn. 5, 1, 1, 2).
From Mind issues Soul-the universal spirit-the soul of the universe (ψυχὴν γεννᾶ'/ νοῦς). It dwells in the universal reason, as the universal reason dwells in the One (Enn. 5, 1, 7). The soul turns partly to the Divine Mind whence it proceeds, and contemplates the ideas presented there. It turns partly towards the sensible universe, which it fashions after the ideas. All souls are not contained in the universal soul-a doctrine espoused by Amelius, which amounts to Pantheism. There is a genuine plurality and hierarchy of souls, derived from the scull of the universe, not by separation or division, but by deliberate and intelligent production (Enn. 4:2, 2; 9:1). These three— the One, the Mind, the Soul-constitute the trinity of Plotinus. These three are one in essence, though distinct in function and in origin, and are all divine. From them, by the inaugurating potency of the first, by the presentations and concurrence of the second, and by the permanent creative energy of the third, all the order and beauty and variety and harmony of the universe are produced. But the universe is twofold: the intelligible, archetypal and eternal (ἀένναος ουσα φύσις, οὐ ῥέουσα); and that which is the image and adumbration of the archetype, the Sensible, factitious and transitory (οὐγὰρ μένει, ἀλλὰ ῥεῖ ἡ σώματος φύσις πᾶσα, Enn. 4, 4:5; 7:8; comp. 5, 1, 6; 9:9). In the intelligible universe are only incorporeal ideas. It is the ideal world. In the sensible universe souls are incorporated in bodies, and distributed through them (Enn. 3, 4:1). The term souls is used by Plotinus with much greater latitude than would now be sanctioned, and is extended to irrational animals and plants, and even to the blind motions, chemical or physical, of organic and inorganic matter. The souls which actuate bodies descend from the realm of the intelligible, first to the sensible heavens, where they assume corporeal vesture, and thence proceed by successive declensions to lower and lower incorporations (Enn. 4:3, 15). Yet the soul in its separable state retains its immortal essence and divine character (θεῖον τὸ χρῆμα αὐτῆς καὶ θαυμαστόν, καὶ τῶν ὑπρὲ τὰ χρήματα φύσεων, Enn. 4:2, 1; 3, 22). This demission of souls is not necessarily a penalty or a retribution-not a banishment from God, as Empedocles said was his case; but it is the fulfilment of the object of creation, that all things might be perfect according to their perfectibilities, and that the sensible world might be the complete but inadequate reproduction of all things in the intelligible world (Enn. 4, 8:1).
These are the leading principles of the philosophy of Plotinus. They are extensions and sublimations of the tenets of Plato, to whom there is continually an implicit, and often an express reference ("Platonem ipsum sub Plotini persona loquentem," Mars. Ficin. ad Audit.). In accordance with them, and with the endeavor to conciliate Platonism with Aristotelism and the elder schools, the several topics discussed in the Enneads are developed with such modifications and expansions of previous doctrine as were deemed requisite. Continual lacunae of course occur-both from the incompleteness of the remains and the absence of system in the procedure; but it is probable that most of these were designed to be supplied by reference to the body of the Platonic teachings. They may be certainly supplied in this manner, so far as is necessary to establish a general coherence between the several positions. With the execution of such a task we have no concern at present, our object being strictly limited to the exhibition of the distinctive characteristics of Plotinus.
The sensible world is occupied with body; and body is produced by the union of ideas with matter. The shadowy and attenuated nature of matter in the conception of Plato and the Platonists has already been exhibited. SEE PLATONIC PHILOSOPHY. It is the ultimate subject or substratum from which all bodies are formed: it is so entirely divested of all properties and accidents, which are the means of differentiation, it is such a pure residuum, or caput mortuno, that it is designated by Plotinus Bathos, the Depth-that which lies so low down in the constitution of body, so remote from apprehension, as to be accepted as its ultimate foundation. It is the lowest extreme, as the One is the highest. It is eminently characteristic of Plotinus that he recognizes matter in the intelligible universe (Enn. 2, 4, 1- 7; 6,7, 33), probably as one of the necessary primordial rerun. Body, which is the first and simplest product from matter, is an infinite, indeterminate something, having three dimensions, unlimited, not truly existent, and yet more than nothing. The One is of course indivisible: body is essentially divisible and mutable, being patient of endless alterations and alternations.
The sensible universe and its component members in all their multiplicity and variety are created by the Spirit, by the infusion of appropriate spirits, and the union of appropriate ideas with body, or a determinate portion of matter. The idea moulds its subject matter, differentiates it, individualizes (or individuates) it, animates it; dwelling and moving in it, or rather itself inhabited by its material partner. It is here that the conciliation of Plato and Aristotle is most thoroughly attained by Plotinus, the Platonic ideas being identified in their plastic function with the Aristotelian forms. These forms, or specific natures, descend by a regular concatenated series from the Universal Mind, which is the fountain of forms (Enn. 5, 9:3, 5, 8; 6:8:1). Everything, then, in the sensible world consists of the Corporeal and the ideal, in unutterable commixture— the union being transitory-the corporeal being subject to endless change, the ideal being immortal and unalterable in its essence. The perfection of everything consists in the completeness with which it appropriates and manifests the idea belonging to it, and thereby approximates in its own particular order of being to the One and the Good. Everything seeks its own perfection, everything turns to its own idea; and the original conversion of the first divine effluence, Mind, towards its fountain, the Good, is imitated throughout every grade in the descending scale of existence to the last and most rudimentary exhibitions of form. There is a dull, inert antagonism, a sullen insubordination in matter, which resists the process of this perfection: not a decided malignancy, such as is ascribed to it by Plato, but a resilience which generates physical evil, as moral evil is produced by defect of essential goodness, and by deflection and aberrancy from the good. The operation of spirit or mind upon matter, of souls in their several degrees upon body, has been the stumbling-block of all philosophies, and was an insoluble enigma to Descartes and the Cartesians. Plotinus imagines a kind of pre-established harmony, like Leibnitz, but admits, also, a divine and concurrent grace (προαιρέσεις συνεργούς...ὁ δαίμων συνεργὸς εἰς πλήρωσιν αὐτῶν...τὰ συμπεσόντα τάδε πάντως ἀναγκαῖον τὴν ῎Ατροπον ἐπάγειν, Enn. 2, 3, 15; 4:3, 13; 4:3, 9). All this is only Platonism developed; but the development is pressed to originality when Plotinus retraces the process of being, and ascends from the lowest forms to the source of all form, the One, Great, Good, which is all in all.
All derivative being turns to the superior being whence it proceeds, and to the inferior being which proceeds from it, by a constant and loving libration that directs its attention both to the exemplar above and to the product of imitation below. Hence results the best of worlds possible (Enn. 2, 3, 18; 2, 9:8; 3, 2, 1-3), not pure from blemishes and blurs, in consequence of the inevitable contamination and peroration through conjunction with matter, and the limitations occasioned by material restraint, but ever involving the ideas proceeding from the divine intelligence, and ever seeking, with a multitudinous concord of aspirations, to attain the primordial perfection of the appropriate ideas, in the whole and in the parts; and thus to return to that communion and union with the One, the Good, and the true or real, from whence they have descended. The perfection of every nature, which every nature undepraved desires, is this assimilation to the divine. In aesthetics and in the works of art, this gives us the interpretation of beauty and of the beautiful; in life and conduct it explains and prescribes virtue and holiness and sanctification.
The essence of the doctrine of Plotinus is contained and charmingly displayed in his theory of beauty (Enn. 1, 6), and might be reproduced in its chief lines from it. A sagacious and just instinct has often led to the publication of this treatise by itself: for it is not only the most satisfactory and complete appreciation of the beautiful, it is also a miniature of the philosophy of Plotinus; and his theory of beauty is the counterpart and complement of his theory of righteousness (Enn. 3, 5, 1). Of course, only the briefest abstract of' this part of his speculations can be offered here. The simplest and most elementary form of beauty is the beauty of colors, sounds, forms; but the same principles are involved in every species of beauty. The sense of beauty arises from the joyous recognition in objects of sense of the perfections of the idea embodied in them (τὸ δὲ κάλλος εὐμορφία τις ἐν τύποις, Enn. 4:7:8; 1, 6:1). It is an immediate and instinctive perception, which discerns in the excellence of the form (the Aristotelian form is nearly equivalent to idea, and signifies essential character, not outward shape), the presence, the perfection, and the participation of the divine reason and purpose in the creation; for the eternal is kindred with the beautiful (τὸ ἀϊvδιον συγγενὲς τῷ καλῷ, Enn. 5, 3, 1). The form, the idea, the design of God, revealed to the clear intelligence and quickened affection, constitutes beauty, both as producing cause and as produced emotion. Corporeal beauties, or things beautiful to sense, are only veils, shadows, spectral images of real beauty, and derive their power of communicating delight from the intellectual or transmundane beauty which they obscure even more than they display (Enn. 1, 6, 3,5). Intellectual beauty, or beauty in the intelligible world, is the pure effluence of God (Enn. 3, 8, 10; 5, 1); the perfect, beneficent plan of the good, accordant with the absolute excellence of the Divine Being (ἡ καλλονὴ ἐκεῖ νοητοῦ ἀγαθοῦ φύσις, Enn. 6, 7. 33). As the whole energies of the soul are directed towards the good for which it was constituted (Enn. 1, 7, 1; Procl. Inst. Theolog. § 209), its eager appetencies are instinctively excited by every manifestation of the good. The sense of beauty becomes both purified and intensified as the intelligent and sympathetic soul ascends nearer to the thought of the divine mind, and to the vision of the excellences and glories of the Divine (Enn. 1, 6:6). Thence all ideas proceed: thither all forms aspire; and "the power of beauty is the bloom of the universal beauty, which creates all beauty, generating it, and making it more beautiful from the redundancy of the beauty in the Divine, which is the beginning and the end of all beauty" (Enn. 6, 7, 32). The whole nature of beauty, therefore, consists in the immediate and loving apprehension of the goodness and wisdom and excellence of the Creator, as imperfectly shown in the incomplete perfections of parts of the creation. Whence is this faculty of recognition derived? It comes from the yearning of all spirit for the beautiful and the good and the divine. It is sustained, elevated, and illumined by the influx of the beautiful-by the epiphany in the soul of the splendors and loveliness of God. As the eye sees the sun by the light which proceeds from it, so the soul recognizes goodness by the goodness which God gives, and beauty by the apt sense and sensibility which are communicated from the source of all beauty-the beautiful in itself (φῶς ἄρα φῶς ὁρᾶ, οὑ δἰ ἄλλου, Enn. 5, 3, 6, et Mars. Ficin. ad loc. 5, 5, 7). Thus all things are suspended from the Divine, and are filled with divinity (πάντα ἐξῆπται τῶν θεῶν. Μέστα παντα θεῶν, Procl. Inst. Theology § 145, 146).
This explanation may appear vague and visionary; but the philosophy of Plotinus can find no other mode of expression for its transcendental reveries. It is, however, no more indistinct than the language of more prosaic intellects in regard to the like subjects. It accords with the declarations of Avicenna and Averroes, of Duns Scotus and S. Thomas Aquinas, of Leibnitz and of Coleridge (Scot. In Sentent. 2, 11:1, tom. 6 ps. 2, p. 652-5; S. Thom. Aquin. Summa. Theolog. 1, 89; 1, 3; 79, 4; 84, 5; Leibn. Princ. Philos. ad Pr. Eugen. § 42; Coleridge, Aids to Reflection, p. 242, 264, note).
Beauty thus connects itself immediately with the search after the first or supreme Good (Enn. 2, 9:8); and in its grades of ascension is a sure progress towards its apprehension. "Since all things are beautiful, and in some sort full of delight, all creatures of this sensible world lead the wise and contemplative mind to the Eternal God: they are the shadows, the echoes, and the pictures; the traces, the images, and the visions of that effectuating, exemplifying, and ordaining Artist" (S. Bonaventura, Itin. Mentis cad Deum, 100. 7; comp. Rog. Bacon, Opus Tertium, c. 64, p. 266).
"Ipse vocat nostros animos ad sidera mundus" (Manilii Astrionom. 4, 912).
Ugliness is defect of the idea and its inadequate realization. It corresponds to physical and moral evil, and indicates a falling away (πτῶμα τῆς ψυχῆς) from the goodness which was designed in the creation (Enn. 1, 6, 8, 9; 8, 14). The perfection of every nature is this re-assimilation to the divine. In the expressions of Plotinus with regard to human souls and man's duties there are frequent echoes of the contemporaneous Christianity which he opposed-exquisite utterances of religious fervor, in which Platonism seems to lose itself in the beauties of the new religion (Enn. 6, 9; 3, 2, 2, 5; 4, 6; 5, 1, 2; 3, 8, etc.). The highest aim of the spirit is access or reunion to God, which can be accomplished only through the constant intervention and co-operation of the Divinity (σπουδαῖος συνεργοῦντα ἑαυτῷ τὸν δαίμονα ἔχων, Enn. 4, 4, 6; comp. 1Th 2:13; Eph 2:18; Ro 8:11,16). For it is "God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Php 2:13). All things from the highest to the lowest turn by native constitution to the more excellent nature whence they are derived, and the love within their soul seeks union with their original above. This universal conversion, permeating all things, binds the whole universe in an attitude of affectionate regard to the One and the Supreme Good, which is the Creator and the desire of all (Procl. 1omst. Theolog. § 57). In the lover of all righteousness, in man spiritualized and filled with the desire of holiness, it becomes ecstatic elevation and intimate communion with the Spirit of the Divine. "We are not cut off; or separated from God. We breathe the One, whose breath is our life, and we are preserved. This support is not given at one moment, and withdrawn at another, but is ever present for our guidance. Nay, more, we incline to the Good, and to the happiness above. There the soul is at rest and beyond ill, ascending to our true country, to the place which is pure of all evils. For the soul filled with God produces beauty and righteousness and virtue. God is its beginning and its end-its beginning, because it descends from him; its end, because he is the Good to which it aspires. There is the heavenly Love, and every soul is love. The soul, in its pure nature, is possessed with the love of God, and longs for union with him, as a virgin nurses the love of the beautiful for the beautiful. Thus the life of good and godly and happy men is a transport from the things of earth— a life uncharmed by things below -the flight of the single and solitary soul to the only One" (Enn. 6, 9, 9, 11).
For such sublimities of enthusiasm no language will suffice but the rapt Greek of Plotinus or the fervid Latin of Marsilius Ficinus, and even these faint and fail beneath the divine burden of the thought.
Literature. — See the references under the art. SEE NEOPLATONISM, and add: Plotini Platonicorum Coryphaei, Opera quoe exstant omnsia. Per celeberimum illum Marsilium Ei'cinum, Florent. Ex antiquissimis Codicibus Latine translata et eruditissimis Commentcariis illustrata, etc., Basilese, Impensis Ludovici Regis (1615, fol.); Plotini Opera Omnia (ed. Kreuzer, Oxon. 1835, 3 vols. 8vo); Plotini Enneades (ed. Creuzer and Moser, Par. 1855, 1 vol. 8vo); Porphyrius. Plotii Vita; Taylor, Thomas, "The Platonist," Select Works of Plotinus (London, 1817, 8vo); Cousin, Ouvres de Plotin (Par.); Steinhart, apud Pauly, Real-Encyklop. 5, 2; Kirchner, Die Philosophie des Plotinus (Halle, 1854); Valentiner, Plotin und seine Enneatden (1864); Richter, Neu-platonische Studien (Ialle, 1864-7); Neander, Christian Dognms; Ballr, Dreieinikeitslehre, 2, 207 sq.; Nourisson, Pensees Humaines, p. 134 sq.; Lecky, Rationalism, 1, 240; Westminster Rev. 1868, Oct. p. 246. (G.F.H.)