What God is according to Plato
In disputing concerning daemons, I can bear the opposition of arguments, I can endure the contention, and do not think that the conduct of him, who doubts with himself, or with another, concerning the existence, essence, and magnitude of a daemoniacal nature, is in any respect dire, erroneous, and absurd. For here indeed the name is uncertain [see note 1]; the essence of that which is investigated is unapparent, and its power is the subject of doubt. But now, in speaking of divinity, how shall I act? By what beauty of words, by what light from the clearest appellations, or by what harmony of composition, shall I be able to exhibit to myself and others, that which is now investigated? For if Plato, who was the most eloquent of all men, even though compared with Homer himself, is not, in what he says respecting divinity, sufficiently understood by every one, but there are those who enquire of others what the opinion of Plato was on this subject - if this be the case, he who is endued but with a small portion of intellect, will scarcely dare to engage in this investigation; unless we wish to imitate the conduct of him who should procure necessary drink for one thirsty, not from a pure and abundant fountain though present - a fountain to the sight most pleasant, to the taste most sweet, and for nutrition most prolific; but from a fountain debile, and in no respect to be compared with the former. Just as they say the owl is affected, whose eyes are darkened by the sun, but who searches for the light proceeding from fire in the night. For he who, on perusing the writings of Plato, requires another mode of diction, or to whom the light proceeding from thence appears to be obscure, and to participate in the smallest degree of clear splendour, such a one will never see the sun when it rises, nor the mild radiance of the moon, nor Hesperus when it sets, nor Lucifer anticipating the morning light.
But let us stop a little: for I now nearly perceive what the peculiarity is of the present discourse; since it resembles that which is found in the diggers of metallic mines. For these when they perforate the earth, and dig up gold, have no accurate knowledge of the nature of gold, but this is the province of those who examine it by fire. I indeed assimilate the first acquaintance with the writings of Plato to the discovery of crude gold. That which is consequent to this requires another art, which, examining what is received, and purifying it by reason as by fire, is now able to use the pure and tried gold. If, therefore, the vein of truth is manifest to us, and this magnificent and abundant, but we require another art, for the purpose of examining what is received, let us invoke the assistance of this art in the present inquiry, what divinity is according to Plato.
If then this art, being gifted with speech, should ask us, whether, not believing that there is any thing divine in nature, and not having any conception whatever of divinity, we engage in this investigation? or whether we accord with Plato; or possessing certain peculiar opinions of our own, we conceive that he thought differently on this subject? And let us suppose, on confessing the latter to be the case, that this art should think fit to ask us what we assert the nature of divinity to be. What then shall we say God is, in reply? Shall we say that he has round shoulders, a dark complexion, and curled hair? [cf Odyssey xix 246] The answer would be ridiculous; even though you should characterize Jupiter in a sublimer manner, by ascribing to him dark eye-brows [cf Iliad i 528] and golden hair, through which he shakes the heavens. For painters and statuaries, poets and philosophers, prophetically deliver every thing of this kind through penury of vision, imbecility of explication, and darkness of judgment, in consequence of being elevated by imagination, as much as possible, to that which appears to be most beautiful. But if you should call an assembly of the arts, and command all of them collectively, by one decree, to give an answer respecting divinity, do you think that the painter would say one thing, and the statuary another, and that the poet would speak differently from the philosopher? So far from it, that by Jupiter, the Scythian and Grecian, the Persian and Hyperborean, would not in this respect dissent from each other. But in every thing else, you will see men disagreeing in their opinions. For neither good nor evil, neither the deformed nor the beautiful, are the same to all: since law and justice are divulsed and lacerated, through extreme dissonance of opinion. For not only family dissents from family in these particulars, but city with city, and house with house, man with man, and even man with himself. For
Such is the mind of all the earthly race,
As parent Jove diurnally imparts.
(Odyssey xviii 135)
In such a mighty contest, sedition and discord, you will see one according law and assertion in all the earth, that there is one God, the king and father of all things, and many gods [see note 2], sons of God, ruling together with him. This the Greek says, and the barbarian says, the inhabitant of the continent, and he who dwells near the sea, the wise and the unwise. And if you proceed as far as to the utmost shores of the ocean, there also there are gods, rising very near to some, and setting very near to others. Do you think that Plato opposes, or prescribes laws contrary to these, and that he does not accord with this most beautiful assertion, and most true affection of the human mind? What is this? The eye says it is the sun. What is that? The ear says it is thunder. What are these things thus flourishing and beautiful, these revolutions and mutations, the various temperament of the air, the generations of animals, and the nature of fruits? The soul says, that all these are the works of divinity; it desires the artificer and predicts his art. And if through the whole of time, there have been two or three atheists, grovelling and insensate men, whose eyes wander, whose ears are deceived, whose souls are mutilated, a race irrational, barren, and useless, resembling a timid lion, an ox without horns, a bird without wings, yet even from such a race as this you will be persuaded that there is something divine. For this they unwillingly know, and unwillingly assert; although you deprive divinity of good with Leucippus, though you subject him to human passions with Democritus, though you change his nature with Strato, though you ascribe to him pleasure with Epicurus, though you deny his existence with Diagoras, though you acknowledge that you are ignorant what he is with Protagoras. Let us, however, dismiss those who were unable to arrive at truth entire and whole, but sought it in obscure and winding paths. But with respect to ourselves, what shall we do, or what shall we say, since we obliquely behold the footsteps of deity, but do not meet with his image? Ulysses, indeed, when he landed on a foreign coast, ascended a lofty hill, from whence be could perceive the vestiges of the inhabitants, and learn,
If rustic, insolent, unjust the race,
Or friends to strangers, and of pious mind.
(Odyssey vi 120)
Shall not we also, ascending by reasoning into a certain elevated part of the soul, dare to survey the footsteps of deity [see note 3], that we may discover where he resides, and what is his nature? We must, however, be satisfied with an obscure vision. I wish indeed that I had an oracle from Jupiter or Apollo, and which would answer neither obliquely, nor dubiously; for then I would interrogate the god, not concerning the kettle of Cržsus [see note4], the most stupid of kings, and the most unfortunate of cooks, nor concerning the measures of the sea, or the number of the sands. I should also neglect inquiries more weighty than these, such as, the Medes are making an irruption, how shall I defend myself? For without the advice of the god, I should have three-oared gallies. Nor should I ask, how shall I take Sicily, which I design to invade? For though the god should not impede, Sicily is large. But let the Delphic Apollo clearly answer my inquiries respecting Jupiter, or let Jupiter himself answer for himself, or some interpreter of the god from the academy, an attic and prophetic man. He will answer therefore as follows:
Since the human soul has two instruments of perception, the one simple, which we call intellect, the other various, manifold, and mutable, which we call the senses; these two are conjoined in operation, but separated in essence. But as is the relation of these to each other, such also is that of the objects of which these are instruments; and that which is intelligible, differs from that which is sensible, as much as intellect from sense. Of these, the sensible essence from our daily converse with it, is more known; but intelligibles are indeed unknown to the multitude [see note 5], but are naturally more known than sensibles. For animals and plants, stones and voices, vapours and odours, figures and colours, being collected by custom, and mingled with our daily associations, suborn the soul, and persuade it to think that nothing else besides these has any subsistence. But the intelligible being liberated from the contact and adhesion of these, is itself by itself the natural object of intellectual vision. Intellect, however, though implanted in the whole soul, is dilacerated, disturbed, and prevented from energizing in quiet by the senses, so that it cannot perceive its proper spectacles. To which we may add, that it is so persuaded by popular allurements, as to accord with the informations of the senses, and believe that there is nothing besides things visible and audible, and the objects of the smell, the taste, and the touch. As, therefore, at a banquet full of agreeable odours, where the wine is poured in abundance, accompanied with the sound of flutes and pipes, with singing and fumigations, he must be a man of great temperance, who is able to collect, contract, and turn his senses from the alluring scene to sobriety and moderation; in like manner, in this garrulity of the senses, it is difficult to find an intellect, sober, and able to look to the proper objects of its vision. Besides, since the nature of the senses is multiform, and in a perpetual flux and reflux, the soul suffers, in conjunction with it, all various mutations; so that as often as she betakes herself to an intelligible essence, which is firm and stable, she is unable to perceive it with security, in consequence of being agitated by tempest and tumult. Just as it happens to those who on leaving a ship tread on firm land; for they are scarcely able to stand, through the disorderly motion and agitation to which they have been accustomed, by the fluctuation of the waves.
In which, therefore, of these natures shall we place divinity? Must it not be in that which is stable and firm, and which is liberated from this flux and mutation? For how can any thing be established, unless divinity supports its nature? But if you require to be led as it were by the hand, to the whole of this knowledge, follow reason, who will instruct you, by giving a two- fold division to natures which are more known, and by always dividing the more honourable of these, till you arrive at that which is now investigated. Of things, therefore, some are inanimate, and others are animated. And the inanimate are stones, wood, and such like particulars; but the animated are plants and animals. The animated, likewise, is more excellent than the inanimate division. But of that which is animated, one part is plantal and the other sensitive. And again, the sensitive is more excellent than the plantal part. But of the sensitive, one part is rational and the other irrational; and the rational excels the irrational. In the rational soul also, because the whole is as it were a certain aggregate, consisting of the nutritive, the sensitive, the motive, and the passive, the intellective part excels the rest. As that which is animated, therefore, is to that which is inanimate, so is the intellective soul to the whole soul; and hence it is evident that the intellective soul is more excellent than that which is collected from all these. Where, therefore, among these, shall we rank divinity? Shall we place him in the aggregate? Let us predict better things. It remains, therefore, that ascending as it were into a lofty tower by reasoning, we should establish divinity in ruling intellect itself. [See note 6] But here I see a twofold intellect; one naturally adapted to energize intellectually, though it does not thus energize; the other naturally adapted, and which does energize intellectually. This last, however, is not yet perfect, unless you assign to it perpetual intellection, and assert that it understands all things at once, and not different things at different times: so that the intellect will be most complete, which understands always, and all things, and at once.
If you are willing, let us illustrate what has been said by comparing the divine intellect to sight, and the human to discourse. For the emission of the visual rays is most rapid, immediately attracting the sense of the visible object; but the energy of discourse is similar to leisurely walking. Or rather let us assimilate the divine intellect to the sight of the sun, which with comprehensive view sees every part of the earth at once, but the human, to the progression of the sun, at different times occupying different parts of the universe. Such an intellect the angel of the academy [Plato] assigns to the generator and father of all things. His name, indeed, he does not tell, for he knew it not; nor his colour, for he saw it not; nor his magnitude, for he reached it not. These natures are objects of perception to flesh and the eyes; but the divinity is itself invisible to the eyes, ineffable to the voice, intangible to flesh, inaudible to the hearing, and is alone visible through similitude, and audible through alliance, to the most beautiful, pure, intellectual, elevated, and ancient part of the soul; through collected vision being seen a collected whole. As, therefore, he who desires to see the sun, does not endeavour to obtain this vision by hearing, and as he who delights in the harmony of voice, does not pursue it with his eyes; but the sight indeed loves colours, and the hearing audibles, in like manner intellect sees and hears intelligibles.
And this is indeed the aenigma of the Syracusian poet, Epicharmus,
'Tis mind alone that sees and hears.
How, therefore, does intellect see, and how does it hear? If with an erect and robust soul it surveys that incorruptible light, and is not involved in darkness, nor depressed to earth, but closing the ears, and turning from the sight and the other senses, converts itself to itself. If forgetting terrene lamentations and sighs, pleasure and glory, honour and dishonour, it commits the guidance of itself to true reason and robust love, reason pointing out the road, and presiding love, by persuasion and bland allurements, alleviating the labours of the journey. But to intellect approaching thither and departing from things below, whatever presents itself is clear, and perfectly splendid, and is a prelude to the nature of divinity; and in its progression indeed, it hears the nature of God, but having arrived thither, it sees him. The end, however, of this journey is not heaven, nor the bodies it contains (though these indeed are beautiful and divine, as being the accurate and genuine progeny of divinity, and harmonizing with that which is most beautiful) but it is requisite to pass even beyond these, till we arrive at the supercelestial place, the plain of truth, and the serenity which is there;
Nor clouds, nor rain, nor winter, there are found,
But a white splendour spreads its radiance round.
(Odyssey iv 566, vi 43)
where no corporeal passion disturbs the vision, such as here disturbs the miserable soul, and hurls her from contemplation, by its uproar and tumult. For who can perceive divinity amidst the perturbation arising from such a multitude of desires, and monstrous cares? It is no more possible than in a noisy and discordant democracy, to understand the law and the words of the archon.
The man who speaks in uproar, who can hear?
For the soul, falling into this tumult, and giving herself to be borne along by its immense waves, swims in a scarcely navigable sea, till she is succoured by philosophy, who casts her reasonings under her, as Leucothea her fillet under Ulysses. How then is it possible to emerge and perceive divinity? You will indeed perceive him wholly when you are called to him. But you will be called at no very distant period. Expect the call. Age will come conducting you thither, and Death, which he who is timid deplores, and when it approaches, dreads, but which the lover of divinity joyfully expects, and boldly receives. But if even now you desire to learn his nature, how can any one relate it? For divinity is indeed beautiful, and the most splendid of all beautiful things. Yet he is not a beautiful body, but that whence beauty flows into body; nor a beautiful meadow, but that whence the meadow is beautiful. The beauty of a river and the sea, of heaven and the gods it contains, all this beauty flows from thence, as from a perpetual and incorruptible fountain. So far as every thing participates of this, it is beautiful, stable, and safe; and so far as it falls off from this, it is base, dissipated, and corrupted. If these things are sufficient, you have seen God. If not, after what manner may he be enigmatically described? Do not attribute to him either magnitude, or colour, or figure, or any other property of matter, but act like the lover, who should denudate a beautiful body, which is concealed from the view by many and various garments, that it may be clearly seen. Let this also be now done by you; and by the reasoning energy, take away this surrounding scene, and this busy employment of the eyes, and then behold that which remains; for it is that very thing which you desire.
But if you are imbecile, with respect to the vision of the father and demiurgus of all things, it may suffice you at present to survey his works, and adore his offspring, which are many, and all various; and not those only which the Bžotian poet [Hesiod, see his Works and Days, v 252] enumerates. For there are not only thirty thousand gods, the sons and friends of God, but the multitude of divine essences is innumerable; partly consisting of the natures of the stars in the heavens, and partly of daemoniacal essences in aether. But I wish to indicate to you what I have said, by a more perspicuous image. Conceive a mighty empire, and powerful kingdom, in which all things voluntarily assent to the best and most honourable of kings. But let the boundary [see note 7] of this empire be, not the river Halys, nor the Hellespont, nor the Mžotis, nor the shores of the ocean, but heaven and earth; that above, and this beneath: heaven, like a circular infrangible wall of brass, comprehending every thing in its embrace; and earth like a prison in which noxious bodies are bound; while the mighty king himself, stably seated, as if he were law, imparts to the obedient the safety which he contains in himself. The associates of this empire are many visible, and many invisible gods, some of them encircling the vestibules themselves, as messengers of a nature most allied to the king, his domestics and the associates of his table; but others being subservient to these, and again others possessing a still more subordinate nature. You see a succession and an order of dominion descending from divinity to the earth.
* * * * * ENDNOTES
1. Concerning the name and essence of a daemoniacal nature, see the end notes to Dissertation 26, On the Daemon of Socrates. I shall only observe in this place, that we have a clearer knowledge of divinity, than of those intermediate beings which connect the human with a divine nature; because the light of superior principles irradiates more strongly through sublimity of power than that of such as are subordinate; just as with respect to corporeal vision, we do not perceive many things situated on the earth; but we see the inerractic sphere, and the stars it contains, through the powerful light which they emit.
2. This dogma may be said to be coeval with the universe; and though at certain periods, and in certain places, it may be derided from the prevalence of unscientific conception, yet those periods will always be inconsiderable, and those places barbarous, when compared with the periods and countries in which it will be embraced. Agreeably to this, Aristotle, in the 8th chapter of the 12th book of his Metaphysics, [xii 8 1074 b1 -14] has the following remarkable passage. "Our ancestors," says he, "and men of great antiquity, have left us a tradition, involved in fable, that the first essences are Gods, and that the divinity comprehends the whole of nature. The rest indeed is fabulously introduced, for the purpose of persuading the multitude, enforcing the laws, and benefiting human life. For they ascribe to the first essences a human form, and speak of them as resembling other animals, and assert other things similar and consequent to these. But if among these assertions, any one separating the rest, retains only the first, viz. that they considered the first essences to be Gods, he will think it to be divinely said; and it may be probably inferred, that as every art and philosophy has been invented as often as possible, and has again perished, these opinions also of the ancients have been preserved, as relics to the present time. Of the opinions of our fathers, therefore, and men of the highest antiquity, thus much only is manifest to us." The reader who is desirous of obtaining scientific conviction of this most important of all truths, may consult the note to my translation of this chapter of Aristotle's Metaphysics, my Introduction to the Parmenides of Plato, and above all, to my translation of Proclus' Elements of Theology. (TTS vol. I).
3. Shall not we also ascending by reasoning into a certain elevated part of the soul dare to survey the footsteps of deity, etc
That the reader, whose intellectual eye is capable of gaining a glimpse of the ineffable principle of things, may see what are the steps which will scientifically lead him to this most arduous and most felicitous vision, the following extract from the General Introduction to my translation of Plato's Works, is earnestly recommended to his most serious attention. This, as well as other extracts from the above-mentioned work, are given in these additional notes, not only on account of their great excellence and importance, all of them being derived from ancient sources, but also for the sake of those who have not that work in their possession.
Let us therefore investigate what is the ascent to the ineffable, and after what manner it is accomplished according to Plato, from the last of things, following the profound and most inquisitive Damascius as our leader in this arduous investigation. Let our discourse also be common to other principles, and to things proceeding from them to that which is last; and let us, beginning from that which is perfectly effable, and known to sense, ascend to the ineffable, and establish in silence, as in a port, the parturitions of truth concerning it. Let us then assume the following axiom, in which, as in a secure vehicle, we may safely pass from hence thither. I say, therefore, that the unindigent is naturally prior to the indigent. For that which is in want of another, is naturally adapted from necessity to be subservient to that of which it is indigent. But if they are mutually in want of each other, each being indigent of the other in a different respect, neither of them will be the principle. For the unindigent is most adapted to that which is truly the principle. And if it is in want of any thing, according to this, it will not be the principle. It is, however, necessary that the principle should be this very thing, the principle alone. The unindigent, therefore, pertains to this, nor must it by any means be acknowledged that there is any thing prior to it. This, however, would be acknowledged, if it had any connection with the indigent.
Let us then consider body, that is a triply extended substance, endued with quality; for this is the first thing effable by us, and is sensible. Is this then the principle of things? But it is two things, body, and quality which is in body as a subject. Which of these, therefore, is by nature prior? For both are indigent of their proper parts: and that also which is in a subject is indigent of the subject. Shall we say then that body itself is the principle and the first essence? But this is impossible. For in the first place, the principle will not receive any thing from that which is posterior to itself. But body, we say, is the recipient of quality. Hence quality, and a subsistence in conjunction with it, are not derived from body, since quality is present with body as something different. And in the second place, body is every way divisible, its several parts are indigent of each other, and the whole is indigent of all the parts. As it is indigent, therefore, and receives its completion from things which are indigent, it will not be entirely unindigent.
Farther still, if it is not one but united, it will require, as Plato says, the connecting one. It is likewise something common and formless, being as it were a certain matter. It requires therefore ornament, and the possession of form, that it may not be merely body, but a body with a certain particular quality; as for instance, a fiery or earthly body, and in short, body adorned and invested with a particular quality. Hence the things which accede to it finish and adorn it. Is then that which accedes the principle? But this is impossible. For it does not abide in itself, nor does it subsist alone, but is in a subject, of which also it is indigent. If, however, some one should assert, that body is not a subject, but one of the elements in each, as for instance, animal in horse and man, thus also each will be indigent of the other, viz. this subject and that which is in the subject; or rather the common element, animal, and the peculiarities, as the rational and irrational, will be indigent. For elements are always indigent of each other, and that which is composed from elements is indigent of the elements. In short, this sensible nature, and which is so manifest to us, is neither body; for this does not of itself move the senses; nor quality; for this does not possess an interval commensurate with sense. Hence, that which is the object of sight, is neither body nor colour; but coloured body, or colour corporalized, is that which is motive of the sight, and universally that which is sensible, which is body with a particular quality, is motive of sense. From hence it is evident that the thing which excites the sense is something incorporeal. For if it was body, it would not yet be the object of sense. Body therefore requires that which is incorporeal, and that which is incorporeal, body. For an incorporeal nature is not of itself sensible. It is however different from body, because these two possess prerogatives different from each other, and neither of these subsists prior to the other; but being elements of one sensible thing, they are present with each other; the one imparting interval to that which is void of interval, but the other introducing to that which is formless, sensible variety invested with form. In the third place, neither are both these together the principle; since they are not unindigent. For they stand in need of their proper elements, and of that which conducts them to the generation of one form. For body cannot effect this, since it is of itself impotent, nor quality, since it is not able to subsist separate from the body in which it is, or together with which it has its being. The composite therefore either produces itself, which is impossible, for it does not converge to itself, but the whole of it is multifariously dispersed, or it is not produced by itself, and there is some other principle prior to it.
Let it then be supposed to be that which is called nature, being a principle of motion and rest, in that which is moved and at rest, essentially and not according to accident. For this is something more simple, and is fabricative of composite forms. If, however, it is in the things fabricated, and does not subsist separate from nor prior to them, but stands in need of them for its being, it will not be unindigent; though it possesses something transcendent with respect to them, viz. the power of fashioning and fabricating them. For it has its being together with them, and has in them an inseparable subsistence; so that when they are it is, and is not when they are not, and this in consequence of perfectly verging to them, and not being able to sustain that which is appropriate. For the power of increasing, nourishing, and generating similars, and the one prior to these three, viz. nature, is not wholly incorporeal, but is nearly a certain quality of body, from which it alone differs, in that it imparts to the composite to be inwardly moved and at rest. For the quality of that which is sensible imparts that which is apparent in matter, and that which falls on sense. But body imparts interval every way extended; and nature, an inwardly proceeding natural energy, whether according to place only, or according to nourishing, increasing, and generating things similar. Nature however is inseparable from a subject, and is indigent so that it will not be in short the principle, since it is indigent of that which is subordinate. For it will not be wonderful, if being a certain principle it is indigent of the principle above it; but it would be wonderful, if it were indigent of things posterior to itself, and of which it is supposed to be the principle. By the like arguments we may show that the principle cannot be irrational soul, whether sensitive, or orectic. For if it appears that it has something separate, together with impulsive and gnostic energies, yet at the same time, it is bound in body, and has something inseparable from it; since it is not able to convert itself to itself, but its energy is mingled with its subject. For it is evident that its essence is something of this kind; since if it were liberated, and in itself free, it would also evince a certain independent energy, and would not always be converted to body; but sometimes it would be converted to itself. Or, though it were always converted to body, yet it would judge and explore itself. The energies therefore of the multitude of mankind, though they are conversant with externals, yet at the same time they exhibit that which is separate about them. For they consult how they should engage in them, and observe that deliberation is necessary, in order to effect or be passive to apparent good, or to decline something of the contrary. But the impulses of other irrational animals are uniform and spontaneous, are moved together with the sensible organs, and require the senses alone that they may obtain from sensibles the pleasurable, and avoid the painful. If, therefore, the body communicates in pleasure and pain, and is affected in a certain respect by them, it is evident that the psychical energies (i.e. energies belonging to the soul) are exerted, mingled with bodies, and are not purely psychical, but are also corporeal; for perception is of the animated body, or of the soul corporalized, though in such perception the psychical idiom predominates over the corporeal; just as in bodies the corporeal idiom has dominion according to interval and subsistence. As the irrational soul therefore has its being in something different from itself, so far it is indigent of the subordinate. But a thing of this kind will not be the principle.
Prior then to this essence, we see a certain form separate from a subject, and converted to itself, such as is the rational nature. Our soul, therefore, presides over its proper energies, and corrects itself. This however would not be the case, unless it was converted to itself. And it would not he converted to itself, unless it had a separate essence. It is not, therefore, indigent of the subordinate. Shall we then say, that it is the most perfect principle? But it does not at once exert all its energies, but is always indigent of the greater part. The principle, however, wishes to have nothing indigent. But the rational nature is an essence in want of its own energies. Some one, however, may say that it is an eternal essence, and has never failing essential energies, always concurring with its essence, according to the self-moved and ever vital, and that it is therefore unindigent, and will be the principle. To this we reply, that the whole soul is one form and one nature, partly unindigent and partly indigent; but the principle is perfectly unindigent. Soul, therefore, and which exerts mutable energies, will not be the most proper principle. Hence it is necessary that there should be something prior to this, which is in every respect immutable, according to nature, life, and knowledge, and according to all powers and energies, such as we assert an eternal and immutable essence to be, and such as is much-honoured intellect, to which Aristotle having ascended, thought he had discovered the first principle. For what can be wanting to that which perfectly comprehends in itself its own plenitudes, and of which neither addition nor ablation changes any thing belonging to it? Or is not this also, one and many, whole and parts, containing in itself, things first, middle, and last? The subordinate plenitudes also stand in need of the more excellent, and the more excellent of the subordinate, and the whole of the parts. For the things related are indigent of each other, and what are first of what are last, through the same cause; for it is not of itself that which is first. Besides, the one here is indigent of the many, because it has its subsistence in the many. Or it may be said, that this one is collective of the many, and this not by itself, but in conjunction with them. Hence there is much of the indigent in this principle. For since intellect generates in itself its proper plenitudes, from which the whole at once receives its completion, it will be itself indigent of itself, not only that which is generated of that which generates, but also that which generates of that which is generated, in order to the whole completion of that which wholly generates itself. Farther still, intellect understands and is understood, is intellective of, and intelligible to itself, and both these. Hence the intellectual is indigent of the intelligible, as of its proper object of desire; and the intelligible is in want of the intellectual, because it wishes to be the intelligible of it. Both also are indigent of either, since the possession is always accompanied with indigence, in the same manner as the world is always present with matter. Hence a certain indigence is naturally co-essentialized with intellect, so that it cannot be the most proper principle. Shall we therefore, in the next place, direct our attention to the most simple of beings, which Plato calls the `one being'? For as there is no separation there throughout the whole, nor any multitude, or order, or duplicity, or conversion to itself, what indigence will there appear to be in the perfectly united? And especially what indigence will there be of that which is subordinate? Hence the great Parmenides ascended to this most safe principle, as that which is most unindigent. Is it not, however, here necessary to attend to the conception of Plato, that the united is not The One Itself, but that which is passive to it? [See Plato's Sophista] And this being the case, it is evident that it ranks after The One; for it is supposed to be the united, and not The One Itself. If also being is composed from the elements bound and infinity, as appears from the Philebus of Plato, where he calls it that which is mixed, it will be indigent of its elements. Besides, if the conception of being, is different from that of being united, and that which is a whole is both united and being, these will be indigent of each other, and the whole which is called one being is indigent of the two. And though the one in this is better than being, yet this is indigent of being, in order to the subsistence of one being. But if being here supervenes the one, as it were form in that which is mixed and united, just as the idiom of man in that which is collectively rational-mortal- animal, thus also the one will be indigent of being. If however, to speak more properly the one is twofold, this being the cause of the mixture, and subsisting prior to being, but that conferring rectitude on being - if this be the case, neither will the indigent perfectly desert this nature. After all these, it may be said that The One will be perfectly unindigent. For neither is it indigent of that which is posterior to itself for its subsistence, since the truly one is by itself separated from all things; nor is it indigent of that which is inferior or more excellent in itself; for there is nothing in it besides itself; nor is it in want of itself. But it is one, because neither has it any duplicity with respect to itself. For not even the relation of itself to itself must be asserted of the truly one; since it is perfectly simple. This, therefore, is the most unindigent of all things. Hence this is the principle and the cause of all; and this is at once the first of all things. If these qualities, however, are present with it, it will not be The One. Or may we not say that all things subsist in The One according to The One? And that both these subsist in it, and such other things as we predicate of it, as for instance, the most simple, the most excellent, the most powerful, the preserver of all things, and the good itself? If these things however are thus true of The One, it will thus also be indigent of things posterior to itself, according to those very things which we add to it. For the principle is, and is said to be the principle of things proceeding from it, and the cause is the cause of things caused, and the first is the first of things arranged posterior to it. [For a thing cannot be said to be a principle or cause without the subsistence of the things of which it is the principle or cause.] Hence so far as it is a principle or cause it will be indigent of the subsistence of these. Farther still, the simple subsists according to a transcendency of other things, the most powerful according to power with relation to the subjects of it; and the good, the desirable, and the preserving, are so called with reference to things benefitted, preserved, and desiring. And if it should he said to be all things according to the pre-assumption of all things in itself, it will indeed be said to be so according to The One alone, and will at the same time be the one cause of all things prior to all, and will be this and no other according to The One. So far, therefore, as it is The One alone, it will be unindigent; but so far as unindigent, it will be the first principle and stable root of all principles. So far, however, as it is the principle and the first cause of all things, and is pre-established as the object of desire to all things, so far it appears to be in a certain respect indigent of the things to which it is related. It has, therefore, if it be lawful so to speak, an ultimate vestige of indigence, just as on the contrary matter has an ultimate echo of the unindigent, or a most obscure and debile impression of The One. And language indeed appears to be here subverted. For so far as it is The One, it is also unindigent, since the principle has appeared to subsist according to the most unindigent and The One. At the same time, however, so far as it is The One, it is also the principle; and so far as it is The One, it is unindigent, but so far as the principle, indigent. Hence so far as it is unindigent, it is also indigent, though not according to the same; but with respect to being that which it is, it is unindigent; but as producing and comprehending other things in itself it is indigent. This, however, is the peculiarity of The One; so that it is both unindigent and indigent according to The One. Not indeed that it is each of these, in such a manner as we divide it in speaking of it, but it is one alone; and according to this is both other things, and that which is indigent. For how is it possible it should not be indigent also so far as it is The One? just as it is all other things which proceed from it. For the indigent also is something belonging to all things. Something else therefore must he investigated which in no respect has any kind of indigence. But of a thing of this kind, it cannot with truth be asserted that it is the principle, nor can it even be said of it that it is most unindigent, though this appears to be the most venerable of all assertions. For this signifies transcendency, and an exemption from the indigent. We do not, however, think it proper to call this even the perfectly exempt; but that which is in every respect incapable of being apprehended, and about which we must he perfectly silent, will be the most just axiom of our conception in the present investigation; nor yet this as uttering any thing, but as rejoicing in not uttering, and by this venerating that immense unknown. This then is the mode of ascent to that which is called the first, or rather to that which is beyond every thing which can be conceived, or become the subject of hypothesis.
There is also another mode, which does not place the unindigent before the indigent, but considers that which is indigent of a more excellent nature, as subsisting secondary to that which is more excellent. Every where then that which is in capacity is secondary to that which is in energy. For that it may proceed into energy, and that it may not remain in capacity in vain, it requires that which is in energy. For the more excellent never blossoms from the subordinate nature. Let this then be previously defined by us, according to common unperverted conceptions. Matter, therefore, has, prior to itself, material form; because all matter is form in capacity, whether it be the first matter which is perfectly formless, or the second which subsists according to body void of quality, or in other words, mere triple extension, to which it is likely those directed their attention who first investigated sensibles, and which at first appeared to be the only thing that had a subsistence. For the existence of that which is common in the different elements, persuaded them that there is a certain body void of quality. But since among bodies of this kind, some possess the governing principle inwardly, and others externally, such as things artificial, it is necessary besides quality to direct our attention to nature, as being something better than qualities, and which is pre-arranged in the order of cause, as art is of things artificial. Of things, however, which are inwardly governed, some appear to possess being alone, but others to be nourished and increased, and to generate things similar to themselves. There is, therefore, another certain cause prior to the above mentioned nature, viz. a vegetable power itself. But it is evident that all such things as are ingenerated in body as in a subject, are of themselves incorporeal, though they become corporeal, by the participation of that in which they subsist, so that they are said to be and are material in consequence of what they suffer from matter. Qualities, therefore, and still more natures, and in a still greater degree the vegetable life, preserve the incorporeal in themselves. Since, however, sense exhibits another more conspicuous life, pertaining to beings which are moved according to impulse and place, this must be established prior to that, as being a more proper principle, and as the supplier of a certain better form, that of a self-moved animal, and which naturally precedes plants rooted in the earth. The animal, however, is not accurately self-moved. For the whole is not such through the whole; but a part moves, and a part is moved. This therefore is the apparent self-moved. Hence prior to this, it is necessary there should be that which is truly self-moved, and which according to the whole of itself moves and is moved, that the apparently self-moved may be the image of this. And indeed the soul which moves the body, must be considered as a more proper self-moved essence. This however is twofold, the one rational, the other irrational. For that there is a rational soul is evident. Or has not every one a co- sensation of himself, more clear or more obscure, when converted to himself in the attentions to and investigations of himself, and in the vital and gnostic animadversions of himself? For the essence which is capable of this, and which can collect universals by reasoning, will very justly be rational. The irrational soul also, though it does not appear to investigate these things, and to reason with itself, yet at the same time it moves bodies from place to place, being itself previously moved from itself; for at different times it exerts a different impulse. Does it therefore move itself from one impulse to another? or is it moved by something else, as for instance, by the whole rational soul in the universe? But it would be absurd to say, that the energies of every irrational soul are not the energies of that soul, but of one more divine; since they are infinite, and mingled with much of the base and imperfect. For this would be just the same as to say, that the irrational energies are the energies of the rational soul. I omit to mention the absurdity of supposing that the whole essence is not generative of its proper energies. For if the irrational soul is a certain essence, it will have peculiar energies of its own, not imparted from something else, but proceeding from itself. The irrational soul therefore will also move itself, at different times to different impulses. But if it moves itself, it will be converted to itself. If, however, this be the case, it will have a separate subsistence, and will not be in a subject. It is therefore rational, if it looks to itself: for in being converted to, it surveys itself. For when extended to things external, it looks to externals, or rather it looks to coloured body, but does not see itself, because sight itself is neither body, nor that which is coloured. Hence it does not revert to itself. Neither, therefore, is this the case with any other irrational nature. For neither does the phantasy project a type of itself, but of that which is sensible, as for instance of coloured body. Nor does irrational appetite desire itself, but aspires after a certain object of desire, such as honour, or pleasure, or riches. It does not therefore move itself.
But if some one on seeing that brutes exert rational energies, should apprehend that these also participate of the first self- moved, and on this account possess a soul converted to itself, it may, perhaps, he granted to him that these also are rational natures, except that they are not so essentially, but according to participation, and this most obscure, just as the rational soul may be said to be intellectual according to participation, as always projecting common conceptions without distortion. It must however be observed that the extremes are, that which is capable of being perfectly separated, such as the rational form, and that which is perfectly inseparable, such as corporeal quality, and that in the middle of these nature subsists, which verges to the inseparable, having a small representation of the separable, and the irrational soul which verges to the separable; for it appears in a certain respect to subsist by itself, separate from a subject; so that it becomes doubtful, whether it is self-motive, or alter-motive. For it contains an abundant vestige of self-motion, but not that which is true, and converted to itself, and on this account perfectly separated from a subject. And the vegetable soul has in a certain respect a middle subsistence. On this account, to some of the ancients it appeared to be a certain soul, but to others, nature.
Again, therefore, that we may return to the proposed object of investigation, how can a self-motive nature of this kind, which is mingled with the alter-motive, be the first principle of things? For it neither subsists from itself, nor does it in reality perfect itself; but it requires a certain other nature both for its subsistence and perfection. And prior to it is that which is truly self-moved. Is therefore that which is properly self-moved the principle, and is it indigent of no form more excellent than itself? Or is not that which moves always naturally prior to that which is moved; and in short, does not every form which is pure from its contrary subsist by itself prior to that which is mingled with it? And is not the pure the cause of the co-mingled? For that which is co-essentialized with another, has also an energy mingled with that other. So that a self-moved nature will indeed make itself; but thus subsisting it will be at the same time moving and moved, but will not be made a moving nature only. For neither is it this alone. Every form however is always alone according to its first subsistence; so that there will be that which moves only without being moved. And indeed it would be absurd that there should be that which is moved only, such as body, but that prior both to that which is self-moved and that which is moved only, there should not be that which moves only. For it is evident that there must be, since this will be a more excellent nature, and that which is self- moved, so far as it moves itself, is more excellent than so far as it is moved. It is necessary, therefore, that the essence which moves unmoved should be first, as that which is moved, not being motive, is the third, in the middle of which is the self- moved, which we say requires that which moves in order to its becoming motive. In short, if it is moved, it will not abide, so far as it is moved; and if it moves, it is necessary it should remain moving so far as it moves. Whence then does it derive the power of abiding? For from itself it derives the power either of being moved only, or of at the same time abiding and being moved wholly according to the same. Whence then does it simply obtain the power of abiding? Certainly from that which simply abides. But this is an immoveable cause. We must therefore admit that the immoveable is prior to the self-moved. Let us consider then if the immoveable is the most proper principle. But how is this possible? For the immoveable contains as numerous a multitude immovably, as the self-moved self-movably. Besides, an immoveable separation must necessarily subsist prior to a self-moveable separation. The unmoved therefore is at the same time one and many, and is at the same time united and separated; and a nature of this kind is denominated intellect. But it is evident that the united in this, is naturally prior to and more honourable than the separated. For separation is always indigent of union; but not, on the contrary, union of separation. Intellect, however, has not the united pure from its opposite: for intellectual form is co-essentialized with the separated through the whole of itself. Hence that which is in a certain respect united requires that which is simply united; that which subsists with another is indigent of that which subsists by itself; and that which subsists according to participation of that which subsists according to essence. For intellect being self-subsistent produces itself as united and at the same time separated. Hence it subsists according to both these. It is produced, therefore, from that which is simply united and alone united. Prior, therefore, to that which is formal is the uncircumscribed and undistributed into forms. And this is that which we call the united, and which the wise men of antiquity denominated being, possessing in one contraction multitude subsisting prior to the many.
Having, therefore, arrived thus far, let us here rest for awhile, and consider with ourselves whether being is the investigated principle of all things: for what will there be which does not participate of being? May we not say, that this, if it is the united, will he secondary to The One, and that by participating of The One it becomes the united? But in short, if we conceive The One to be something different from being, if being is prior to The One it will not participate of The One. It will, therefore, be many only, and these will be infinitely infinites. But if The One is with being, and being with The One, and they are either co-ordinate or divided from each other, there will be two principles, and the above-mentioned absurdity will happen. Or they will mutually participate of each other, and there will be two elements. Or they are parts of something else consisting from both. And if this be the case what will that be which leads them to union with each other. For if The One unites being to itself (for this may be said) The One also will energize prior to being, that it may call forth and convert being to itself. The One, therefore, will subsist from itself self- perfect prior to being. Farther still, the more simple is always prior to the more composite. If, therefore, they are similarly simple, there will either be two principles, or one from the two, and this will be a composite. Hence the simple and perfectly incomposite is prior to this, which must be either one, or not one; and if not one, it must either be many or nothing. But with respect to nothing, if it signifies that which is perfectly void it will signify something vain. But if it signifies the arcane, this will not even be that which is simple. In short, we cannot conceive any principle more simple than The One. The One, therefore, is in every respect prior to being. Hence this is the principle of all things, and Plato, recurring to this, did not require any other principle in his reasonings. For the arcane in which this our ascent terminates is not the principle of reasoning, nor of knowledge, nor of animals, nor of beings, nor of unities, but simply of all things, being arranged above every conception and suspicion that we can frame. Hence Plato indicates nothing concerning it, but makes his negations of all other things except The One from The One. For that The One IS he denies in the last place, but he does not make a negation of The One. He also, besides this, even denies this negation, but not The One. He denies, too, name, and conception, and all knowledge, and what can be said more, whole itself and every being. But let there be the united and the unical, and, if you will, the two principles bound and the infinite. Plato, however, never in any respect makes a negation of The One which is beyond all these. Hence in the Sophista he considers it as The One prior to being, and in the Republic as The Good beyond every essence; but at the same time The One alone is left. Whether, however, is it known and effable, or unknown and ineffable? Or is it in a certain respect these and in a certain respect not? For by a negation of this it may be said the ineffable is affirmed. And again, by the simplicity of knowledge it will be known or suspected, but by composition perfectly unknown. Hence neither will it be apprehended by negation. And, in short, so far as it is admitted to be one, so far it will be co-arranged with other things which are the subject of position: for it is the summit of things which subsist according to position. At the same time there is much in it of the ineffable and unknown, the unco-ordinated, and that which is deprived of position, but these are accompanied with a representation of the contraries; and the former are more excellent than the latter. But everywhere things pure subsist prior to their contraries, and such as are unmingled to the co-mingled. For either things more excellent subsist in The One essentially, and in a certain respect the contraries of these also will be there at the same time; or they subsist according to participation, and are derived from that which is first a thing of this kind. Prior to The One, therefore, is that which is simply and perfectly ineffable, without position, unco- ordinated, and incapable of being apprehended, to which also the ascent of the present discourse hastens through the clearest indications, omitting none of those natures between the first and the last of things.
4. Maximus alludes to the famous oracle which the Pythian priestess gave to Croesus, and which, according to Herodotus, was as follows:
The sand's amount, the measures of the sea,
Tho' vast the number, are well known to me:
I know the thoughts within the dumb conceal'd,
And words I hear by language unreveal'd.
Ev'n now the odours to my sense that rise,
A tortoise boiling with a lamb supplies,
Where brass below, and brass above it lies.
5. But intelligibles are, indeed, unknown to the multitude, etc.
Intelligibles, or the proper objects of intellectual vision, are no other than those incorporeal forms resident in deity, which are called by Plato ideas, and are the paradigms or patterns of every thing in the universe which has a perpetual subsistence according to nature. These divine forms, too, are not only paradigmatic but likewise paternal, and are by their very essence causes generative of the many. They are also perfective, possess a guardian power, and connect and unite all secondary natures.
The following are the arguments which the Platonic philosophy affords in proof of the existence of these luminous beings, of which the eye of modern philosophy has not, nor ever can have, the smallest glimpse. The whole is nearly extracted from the manuscript commentary of Proclus on the Parmenides of Plato, and is also to be found in the introduction to my translation of that dialogue.
This visible world is either self-subsistent, or it derives its subsistence from a superior cause. But if it is admitted to be self-subsistent many absurd consequences will ensue. For it is necessary that every thing self-subsistent should be impartible; because every thing which makes and every thing which generates is entirely incorporeal: for bodies make, through incorporeal powers, fire by heat and snow by coldness. But if it is necessary that the maker should be incorporeal, and in things self-subsistent, the same thing is the maker and the thing made, the generator and the thing generated, that which is self- subsistent will be perfectly impartible. But the world is not a thing of this kind: for every body is every way divisible, and consequently is not self-subsistent. Again, every thing self-subsistent is also self-energetic: for as it generates itself, it is, by a much greater priority, naturally adapted to energize in itself; since to make and to generate are no other than to energize. But the world is not self-motive because it is corporeal. No body, therefore, is naturally adapted to be moved, and at the same time to move according to the whole of itself. For neither can the whole at the same time heat itself and be heated by itself. For because it is heated, it will not yet be hot, in consequence of the heat being gradually propagated through all its parts; but because it heats it will possess heat, and thus the same thing will be and yet will not be hot. As, therefore, it is impossible that any body can move itself according to internal change, neither can this be effected by any other motion. And, in short, every corporeal motion is more similar to passion than to energy; but a self-motive energy is immaterial and impartible: so that if the world is corporeal it will not be self-motive. But if not self-motive neither will it be self-subsistent. And if it is not self-subsistent it is evident that it is produced by another cause.
For, again, that which is not self-subsistent is twofold; viz. it is either better than or inferior to cause. And that which is more excellent than cause, as is the ineffable principle of things, has something posterior to itself, such as is a self- subsistent nature. But that which is subordinate to cause is entirely suspended from a self-subsistent cause. It is necessary, therefore, that the world should subsist from another more excellent cause. But with respect to this cause, whether does it make according to free-will and the reasoning energy, or produce the universe by its very essence? for if according to free-will its energy in making will be unstable and ambiguous, and will subsist differently at different times. The world, therefore, will be corruptible: for that which is generated from a cause moving differently at different times, is mutable and corruptible. But if the cause of the universe operated from reasoning and enquiry in producing the world his energy could not be spontaneous and truly his own; but his essence would be similar to that of the artificer, who does not derive his productions from himself but procures them as something adventitious by learning and enquiry. Hence we infer that the world is eternal, and that its maker produced it by his very essence. For, in short, every thing which makes according to free-will has also the essential energy. Thus our soul, which energizes in many things according to free-will, imparts at the same time life to the body by its very essence, which life does not depend on our free will; for otherwise the animal from every adverse circumstance would be dissolved, the soul on such occasions condemning its association with the body. But not every thing which operates from its very essence has also another energy according to free-will. Thus fire heats by its very essence alone, but produces nothing from the energy of will, nor is this effected by snow, nor in short by any body, so far as body. If, therefore, the essential energy is more extended than that of free-will, it is evident that it proceeds from a more venerable and elevated cause. And this very properly. For the creative energy of natures that operate from their very essence is unattended with anxiety. But it is especially necessary to conceive an energy of this kind in divine natures; since we also then live more free from anxiety, and with greater ease, when our life is divine, or according to virtue. If, therefore, there is a cause of the universe operating from his very essence, he is that primarily which his production is secondarily; and that which he is primarily he imparts in a secondary degree to his production. Thus fire both imparts heat to something else, and is itself hot, and soul imparts life and possesses life; and this reasoning will be found to be true in every thing which operates essentially. The cause of the universe, therefore, fabricating from his very essence, is that primarily which the world is secondarily. But if the world is full of all-various forms, these will subsist primarily in the cause of the world: for it is the same cause which gave subsistence to the sun and moon, to man and horse. These, therefore, are primarily in the cause of the world; another sun besides the apparent, another man, and in a similar manner every other form. There are, therefore, forms prior to sensibles, and demiurgic causes of the phaenomena presubsisting in the one cause of the universe.
But if any one should say that the world has indeed a cause, yet not producing but final, and that thus all things are orderly disposed with relation to this cause, it is so far well, indeed, that they admit the good to preside over the universe. But it may be asked, whether does the world receive any thing from this cause or nothing, according to desire: for if nothing, the desire by which it extends itself towards this cause is vain. But if it receives something from this cause, and this cause not only imparts good to the world, but imparts it essentially, by a much greater priority, it will be the cause of existence to the universe, that it may impart good to it essentially; and thus it will not only be the final, but the producing cause of the universe.
In the next place, let us direct our attention to the phaenomena, to things equal and unequal, similar and dissimilar, and all such sensible particulars as are by no means truly denominated. For where is there equality in sensibles which are mingled with inequality? where similitude in things filled with dissimilitude? where the beautiful among things of which the subject is base? where the good in things in which there is capacity and the imperfect? Each of these sensible particulars, therefore, is not that truly which it is said to be. For how can things, the nature of which consists in the impartible and in privation of interval, subsist perfectly in things partible and endued with interval? But our soul is able both to conceive and generate things far more accurate and pure than the phaenomena. Hence it corrects the apparent circle, and points out how far it falls short of the perfectly accurate. And it is evident that in so doing it beholds another form more beautiful and more perfect than this. For unless it beheld something more pure it could not say that this is not truly beautiful, and that is not in every respect equal. If, therefore, a partial soul, such as ours, is able to generate and contemplate in itself things more perfect than the phaenomena, such as the accurate sphere and circle, the accurately beautiful and equal, and in a similar manner every other form, but the cause of the universe is neither able to generate nor contemplate things more beautiful than the phaenomena, how is the one the fabricator of the universe but the other of a part of the universe? For a greater power is effective of things more perfect, and a more immaterial intellect contemplates more excellent spectacles. The maker of the world, therefore, is able both to generate and understand forms much more accurate and perfect than the phaenomena. Where, then, does he generate, and where does be behold them? Evidently in himself; for he contemplates himself. So that by beholding and generating himself, he at the same time generates in himself, and gives subsistence to forms more immaterial and more accurate than the phaenomena.
In the third place, if there is no cause of the universe, but all things are from chance, how are all things co-ordinated to each other, and how do things perpetually subsist? and whence is it that all things are thus generated according to nature with a frequency of subsistence? For whatever originates from chance does not subsist frequently, but seldom. But if there is one cause, the source of co-ordination to all things, and this cause is ignorant of himself, must there not be some nature prior to this, which by knowing itself imparts being to this cause? For it is impossible that a nature which is ignorant should be more excellent than that which has a knowledge of itself. If, therefore, this cause knows itself, it is evident that, knowing itself to be a cause, it must also know the things of which it is the cause; so that it will also comprehend the things which it knows. If, therefore, intellect is the cause of the universe, it also co-ordinated all things to each other: for there is one artificer of all things. But the universe is various, and all its parts do not participate either of the same dignity or order. Who is it, then, that measures the dignity of these, except the power that gave them subsistence? who distributed every thing in a convenient order, and fixed it in its proper seat; the sun here, and there the moon; the earth here, and there the mighty heaven, except the Being by whom these were produced? who gave co-ordination to all things, and produced one harmony from all, except the Power who imparted to every thing its essence and nature. If, therefore, he orderly disposed all things, he cannot be ignorant of the order and rank which every thing maintains in the universe. For to operate in this manner would be the province of irrational nature, and not of a divine cause, and would be the characteristic of necessity, and not of intellectual providence. Since if, intellectually perceiving himself, he knows himself; but, knowing himself, and the essence which he is allotted, he knows that he is an immoveable cause, and the object of desire to all things, he will also know the natures to which he is desirable: for he is not desirable from accident but essentially. He will, therefore, either be ignorant of what he is essentially, or, knowing this, he will also know that he is the object of desire; and, together with this, he will know that all things desire him, and what the natures are by which he is desired. For of two relatives, to know one definitely, and the other indefinitely, is not the characteristic of science, and much less of intellectual perception. But knowing definitely the things by which he is desired, he knows the causes of them, in consequence of beholding himself, and not things of a posterior nature. If, therefore, he does not in vain possess the causes of all things, he must necessarily, according to them, bound the order of all things, and thus be of all things the immoveable cause, as bounding their order by his very essence.
But whether shall we say, that because he designed to make all things, he knew them, or because he understands all things, on this account he gave subsistence to all things. But if, in consequence of designing to make all things, he knows all things, he will possess inward energy, and a conversion to himself subordinate to that which proceeds outwardly, and his knowledge of beings will subsist for the sake of things different from himself. But if this is absurd, by knowing himself he will be the maker of all things. And if this be the case he will make things external similar to those which he contains in himself. For such is the natural order of things that externally proceeding should be suspended from inward energy, the whole world from the all-perfect monad of ideas, and the parts of the visible universe from monads which are separated from each other.
In the fourth place we say that man is generated from man, and from every thing its like. After what manner, therefore, are they generated? for you will not say that the generation of these is from chance: for neither nature nor divinity makes any thing in vain. But if the generation of men is not from chance, whence is it? you will say, it is evidently from seed. Let it be then admitted that man is from seed; but seed possesses productive powers in capacity and not in energy. For since it is a body it is not naturally adapted to possess productive powers impartibly and in energy. For everywhere a subsistence in energy precedes a subsistence in capacity; since, being imperfect, it requires the assistance of something else endued with a perfective power. This something else, you will say, is the nature of the mother; for this perfects and fashions the offspring by its productive powers. For the apparent form of the mother does not make the infant, but nature, which is an incorporeal power and the principle of motion. If, therefore, nature changes the productive powers of seed from capacity to a subsistence in energy, nature must herself possess these productive powers in energy. Hence being irrational and without imagination she is at the same time the cause of physical reasons. As the nature of man, therefore, contains human productive powers, does not also nature in a lion contain those of the lion; as, for instance, the reasons or productive powers of the head, the hair, the feet, and the other parts of the lion? or whence, on shedding a tooth, does another grow in its place, unless from an inherent power which is able to make the teeth? how, likewise, does it at the same time make bone and flesh, and each of the other parts? for the same thing energizing according to the same would not be able to fashion such a variety of organization. But does not nature in plants also possess productive powers as well as in animals? or shall we not say, that in these, likewise, the order of generation and the lives of the plants evince that they are perfected from orderly causes? It is evident, therefore, from the same reasoning, that the natures of these also comprehend the apparent productive powers. Let us, then, ascend from these to the one nature of the earth, which generates whatever breathes and creeps on its surface, and which, by a much greater priority, contains the productive powers of plants and animals. Or whence the generation of things from putrefaction? (for the hypothesis of the experimentalists is weak and futile) whence is it that different kinds of plants grow in the same place, without human care and attention? is it not evident that it is from the whole nature of the earth, containing the productive powers of all these in herself? And, thus proceeding, we shall find that the nature in each of the elements and celestial spheres comprehends the productive powers of the animals which it contains. And if from the celestial spheres we ascend to the nature of the universe itself, we may also enquire respecting this, whether it contains forms or not, and we shall be compelled to confess, that in this also the productive and motive powers of all things are contained. For whatever is perfected from inferior subsists in a more excellent and perfect manner from more universal natures. The nature of the universe, therefore, being the mother of all things, comprehends the productive powers of all things: for otherwise it would be absurd that art, imitating natural reasons, should operate according to productive principles, but that nature herself should energize without reasons and without inward measures. But if nature contains productive principles it is necessary that there should be another cause prior to nature, which is comprehensive of forms. For nature verging to bodies energises in them, just as if we should conceive an artist verging to pieces of timber, and inwardly, by various operations, reducing them to a certain form. For thus nature, merged together with and dwelling in corporeal masses, inspires them with her productive powers and with motion; since things which are moved by others require a cause of this kind, a cause which is properly irrational, indeed, that it may not depart from bodies, which cannot subsist without a cause continually residing with them, but containing the productive powers of bodies, that it may be able to preserve all things in their proper boundaries, and move every thing in a convenient manner. Nature, therefore, belongs to other things, being merged in or co-ordinated with bodies. But it is requisite that the most principal and proper cause should be exempt from its productions: for by how much the maker is exempt from the thing made, by so much the more perfectly and purely will he make: and, in short, if nature is irrational it requires a leader. There is, therefore, something prior to nature, which contains productive powers, and from which it is requisite that every thing in the world should he suspended. Hence a knowledge of generated natures will subsist in the cause of the world more excellent than the knowledge which we possess, so far as this cause not only knows but gives subsistence to all things; but we possess knowledge alone. But if the demiurgic cause of the universe knows all things, if he beholds them externally, he will again be ignorant of himself, and will be subordinate to a partial soul; but if he beholds them in himself he will contain in himself all forms both intellectual and gnostic.
In the fifth place, things produced from an immoveable cause are immoveable and without mutation, but things produced from a moveable cause are again moveable and mutable, and subsist differently at different times. If this be the case, all such things as are essentially eternal and immutable must be the progeny of an immoveable cause; for if from a moveable cause, they will be mutable, which is impossible. Are not, therefore, the form of man and the form of horse from a cause if the whole world subsists from a cause? from what cause, therefore? is it from an immoveable or from a moveable cause? But if from a moveable cause the human species will, some time or other, fail; since every thing which subsists from a moveable cause ranks among things which are naturally adapted to perish. We may also make the same enquiry respecting the sun and moon and each of the stars; for if these are produced from a moveable cause, in these also there will be a mutation of essence. But if these, and all such forms as eternally subsist in the universe, are from an immoveable cause, where does the immoveable cause of these subsist? for it is evidently not in bodies, since every natural body is naturally adapted to be moved: it therefore subsists proximately in nature. But nature is irrational; and it is requisite that causes, properly so called, should be intellectual and divine. Hence the immoveable causes of these forms subsist primarily in intellect, secondarily in soul, in the third gradation in nature, and, lastly, in bodies. For all things either subsist apparently or unapparently, either separate or inseparable from bodies; and, if separate, either immovably, according to essence and energy, or immovably according to essence, but movably according to energy. Those things, therefore, are properly immoveable, which are immutable both according to essence and energy; such as are intelligibles; but those possess the second rank which are immoveable, indeed, according to essence, but moveable according to energy, and such are souls; in the third place, things unapparent, indeed, but inseparable from the phaenomena, are such as belong to the empire of nature; and those rank in the last place which are apparent, subsist in sensibles, and are divisible: for the gradual subjection of forms proceeding as far as to sensibles ends in these.
In the sixth place, let us speculate after another manner concerning the subsistence of forms or ideas, beginning from demonstrations themselves. For Aristotle has proved, in his last analytics, and all scientific men must confess that demonstrations are entirely from things which have a priority of subsistence, and which are naturally more honourable. But if the things from which demonstrations consist are universals; for every demonstration is from these; hence these must be causes to the things which are unfolded from them. When, therefore, the astronomer says that the circles in the heavens bisect each other, since every greatest circle bisects its like, whether does he demonstrate or not? for he makes his conclusion from that which is universal. But where shall we find the causes of this section of circles in the heavens, which are more universal than the circles? for they will not be in bodies, since every thing which is in body is divisible. They must, therefore, reside in an incorporeal essence; and hence there must be forms which have a subsistence prior to apparent forms, and which are the causes of subsistence to these, in consequence of being more universal and more powerful. Science, therefore, compels us to admit that there are universal forms, which have a subsistence prior to particulars, are more essential and more causal, and from which the very being of particulars is derived.
By ascending from motion we may also, after the same manner, prove the existence of ideas. Every body from its own proper nature is alter-motive, or moved by another, and is indigent of motion externally derived. But the first, most proper, and principal motion is in the power which moves the mundane wholes. For he possesses the motion of a mover, and body the motion of that which is moved, and corporeal motion is the image of that which pre-subsists in this power. For that is perfect motion because it is energy; but the motion in body is imperfect energy, and the imperfect derives its subsistence from the perfect.
From knowledge, also, we may perceive the necessity of the same conclusion. For last knowledge is that of bodies, whether it be denominated sensible or imaginable. For all such knowledge is destitute of truth, and does not contemplate any thing universal and common, but beholds all things invested with figure, and all things partial. But more perfect knowledge is that which is without figure, which is immaterial, and which subsists by itself and from itself; the image of which is sense, since this is imperfect knowledge subsisting in another, and not originating from itself. If, therefore, as in motion, so also in knowledge and in life, that which participates, that which is participated, and that which is imparticipable, are different from each other, there is also the same reasoning with respect to other forms. For matter is one thing, the form which it contains another, and still different from either is the separate form. For God and nature do not make things imperfect, which subsist in something different from themselves, and which have an obscure and debile existence, but have not produced things perfect, and which subsist from themselves, but by a much greater priority they have given subsistence to these, and from these have produced things which are participated by and merged in the darkness of matter.
But if it be requisite summarily to relate the cause that induced the Pythagoreans and Plato to adopt the hypothesis of ideas, we must say that all these visible natures, celestial and sublunary, are either from chance, or subsist from a cause. But that they should be from chance is impossible: for things more excellent will subsist in things subordinate; viz. intellect, reason, and cause, and that which proceeds from cause. To which we may add, as Aristotle observes, that, prior to causes according to accident, it is requisite that there should be things which have an essential subsistence; for the accidental is that in which the progressions of these are terminated. So that a subsistence from cause will be more ancient than a subsistence from chance, if the most divine of things apparent are the progeny of chance. But if there is a cause of all things there will either be many unconjoined causes, or one cause. But if many, we shall not be able to assign to what it is owing that the world is one, since there will not be one cause according to which all things are co-ordinated. It will also be absurd to suppose that this cause is irrational. For, again, there will be something among things posterior better than the cause of all things; viz. that, which being within the universe, and a part of the whole, operates according to reason and knowledge, and yet derives this prerogative from an irrational cause. But if this cause is rational and knows itself, it will certainly know itself to be the cause of all; or, being ignorant of this, it will be ignorant of its own nature. But if it knows that it is essentially the cause of the universe it will also definitely know that of which it is the cause; for that which definitely knows the one will also definitely know the other. Hence he will know every thing which the universe contains, and of which he is the cause. And, if this be the case, beholding himself, and knowing himself, he knows things posterior to himself. By immaterial reasons, therefore, and forms, he knows the mundane reasons and forms from which the universe consists, and the universe is contained in him as in a cause separate from matter. This, Proclus adds, was the doctrine of the Eleatic Zeno, and the advocates for ideas. Nor did these men alone, says he, form conceptions of this kind respecting ideas, but their doctrine was also conformable to that of the theologists. For Orpheus says, that after the absorption of Phanes in Jupiter, all things were generated; since, prior to this, the causes of all mundane natures subsisted unitedly in Phanes, but secondarily and with separation in the demiurgus of the universe. For there the sun and the moon, heaven itself, and the elements, love the source of union, and, in short, all things, were produced: for there was a natural conflux of all things in the belly of Jupiter. Nor did Orpheus stop here, but he also delivered the order of demiurgic forms, through which sensible natures were allotted their present distribution. Proclus further adds, the gods also have thought fit to unfold to mankind the truth respecting ideas, and have declared what the one fountain is whence they proceed; where ideas first subsist in full perfection, and how in their progression they assimilate all things, both wholes and parts, to the father of the universe. What Proclus here alludes to is the following Chaldaic oracle: "The intellect of the father made a crashing noise, understanding with unwearied counsel omniform ideas. But with winged speed they leaped forth from one fountain: for both the counsel and the end were from the father. In consequence, too, of being allotted an intellectual fire they are divided into other intellectual forms: for the king previously placed in the multiform world an intellectual incorruptible impression, the vestige of which hastening through the world causes it to appear invested with form, and replete with all-various ideas, of which there is one fountain: from this fountain other immense- distributed ideas rush with a crashing noise, bursting forth about the bodies of the world, and are borne along its terrible bosoms like swarms of bees. They turn themselves too on all sides, and nearly in all directions. They are intellectual conceptions from the paternal fountain, plucking abundantly the flower of the fire of sleepless time. But a self-perfect fountain pours forth primogenial ideas from the primary vigour of the father."
Through these things, says Proclus, the gods have clearly shown where ideas subsist, who the divinity is that comprehends the one fountain of these, and that from this fountain a multitude proceeds. Likewise how the world is fabricated according to ideas; that they are motive of all mundane systems; that they are essentially intellectual; and that they are all-various according to their characteristics.
If, therefore, he adds, arguments persuade us to admit the hypothesis respecting ideas, and the wise unite in the same design; viz. Plato, Pythagoras, and Orpheus, and the gods clearly bear witness to these, we should but little regard sophistical arguments, which are confuted by themselves, and assert nothing scientific, nothing sane. For the gods have manifestly declared that they are conceptions of the father: for they abide in his intelligence. They have likewise asserted that they proceed to the fabrication of the world, for the crashing noise signifies their progression: that they are omniform, as comprehending the causes of all divisible natures; that from fontal ideas others proceed, which are allotted the fabrication of the world, according to its parts, and which are said to be similar to swarms of bees; and, lastly, that they are generative of secondary natures.
6. We have already observed, in the Introduction to this work, that Maximus lived before the philosophy of Plato was so fully and beautifully unfolded, as it was by that golden chain of philosophers, of which the great Plotinus forms the uppermost link. Had he been contemporary with, or posterior to those truly divine men, he would have known that divinity is a nature superintellectual, and even superessential. The reader who is desirous of being convinced of this, may consult my notes to the Metaphysics of Aristotle, my translation of Proclus' Elements of Theology (TTS vol. I) etc. etc. I shall only add here, that as deity is the source of all multitude, he must be without multitude; or in other words, he must be The One: but The One is above being, since being implies multitude.
7. The boundaries of the empire of the first cause are, accurately speaking, not heaven and earth, but the highest order of intelligibles, and the lowest matter. That the empire of divinity, therefore, comprehends heaven and earth, is indeed a magnificent conception; but he who knows, scientifically, all the divine orders, which, from having no connection with body, are said to subsist above the heavens, and considers these also as contained in the vast kingdom of deity, will be able to form an idea of divine dominion, infinitely more grand than that of Maximus. This will be evident from the following beautiful passage from the second book of Proclus on the Theology of Plato, book ii, chap. xi, the original of which the reader will also find in the additional notes to my translation of Aristotle's Metaphysics, page 430. "Let us now, if ever, remove from ourselves multiform knowledge, exterminate all the variety of life, and in perfect quiet approach near to the cause of all things. For this purpose, let not only opinion and phantasy be at rest, nor the passions alone which impede our anagogic impulse to the first be at peace; but let the air be still, and the universe itself be still: and let all things extend us with a tranquil power to communion with the ineffable. Let us also standing there, having transcended the intelligible (if we contain any thing of this kind) and with nearly closed eyes adoring as it were the rising sun, since it is not lawful for any being whatever intently to behold him - let us survey the sun, whence the light of the intelligible gods proceeds, emerging, as the poets say, from the bosom of the ocean; and again, from this divine tranquillity descending into intellect, and from intellect employing the reasonings of the soul, let us relate to ourselves, what the natures are, from which, in this progression, we shall consider the first God as exempt. And let us as it were celebrate him, not as establishing the earth and the heavens, nor as giving subsistence to souls, and the generations of all animals; for he produced these indeed, but among the last of things. But, prior to these, let us celebrate him, as unfolding into light the whole of intelligible and intellectual genus of gods, together with all the supermundane and mundane divinities - as the god of all gods, the unity of all unities, and beyond the first adyta - as more ineffable than all silence, and more unknown than all essence, - as holy among the holies, and concealed in the intelligible gods." The grandeur of this passage, which I will venture to say is unequalled by any writer but Plato (I mean in the original) was obvious even to a frigid verbalist, Le Clerc, who, in a note to Stanley's Oriental Philosophy, calls it a magnificent apparatus of words.
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