Guthrie: Tratado 30,6 (III, 8, 6) — PRACTICE IS ONLY A PREPARATION FOR CONTEMPLATION

PRACTICE IS ONLY A PREPARATION FOR CONTEMPLATION.

6. (5). The purpose of action is to contemplate, and to possess the contemplated object. Thz object or activity, therefore, is contemplation. It seeks to achieve indirectly what it is unable to accomplish directly. It is not otherwise when one has achieved the object of one’s desires. One’s real desire is not to possess the desired object without knowing it, but to know it more thoroughly, to present it to the sight of the soul, and to be able to contemplate it therein. Indeed, activity always has in view some good; one desires to posses it interiorly, to appropriate it, and to possess the result of one’s action. Now as Good can be possessed only by the soul, activity once more brings us back to contemplation. Since the soul is a “reason,” what she is capable of possessing could be no more than a silent “reason,” being so much the more silent as it is more a “reason,” for perfect “reason” seeks nothing farther; it rests in the manifestation of that with which it is filled; the completer the manifestation, the calmer is the contemplation, and the more does it unite the soul. Speaking seriously, there is identity between knowing subject and known object in the actualization of knowledge. If they were not identical, they would be different, being alien to each other, without any real bond, just as reasons (are foreign to the soul) when they slumber within her, without being perceived. The reason must therefore not remain alien to the learning soul, but become united thereto, and become characteristic of her. Therefore when the soul has appropriated a “reason,” and has familiarized herself therewith, the soul as it were draws it out of her (breast) to examine it. Thus she observes the thing that she (unconsciously) possessed, and by examining it, distinguishes herself therefrom, and by the conception she forms of it, considers it as something foreign to her; for though the soul herself be a “reason” and a kind of intelligence, nevertheless when she considers something, she considers it as something distinct from herself, because she does not possess the true fulness, and is defective in respect to her principle (which is intelligence). Besides, it is with calmness that she observes what she has drawn from within herself; for she does not draw from within herself anything of which she did not formerly have even a notion. But she only drew from within herself that of which her view was incomplete, and which she wished to know better. In her actualizations (such as sensation), she adapts the “reasons” she possesses to exterior objects. On one hand, as she possesses (the intelligible entities) better than does nature, she is also calmer and more contemplative; on the other hand, as she does not possess (the intelligible entities) perfectly, more (than intelligence) she desires to have direct experimental knowledge and contemplation of the object she contemplates. After having (temporarily) withdrawn from her own higher part, and having (by discursive reason) run through the series of differences, she returns to herself, and again gives herself up to contemplation by her higher part (intelligence) from which she had withdrawn (to observe the differences); for the higher part does not deal with differences, as it abides within herself. Consequently the wise mind is identical with reason, and in itself possesses what it manifests to others. It contemplates itself; it arrives at unity not only in respect to exterior objects, but also in respect to itself; it rests in this unity, and finds all things within itself.

GUTHRIE, K. S. Plotinus: Complete Works: In Chronological Order, Grouped in Four Periods. [single Volume, Unabridged]. [s.l.] CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017.