Guthrie: Tratado 39 (VI, 8, 13-21) — Of the Will of the One.


13. Although the above expressions, when applied to the (divinity), are really not exact, we are nevertheless forced to use them in connection with this disquisition. We therefore repeat what was above rightly stated, that no doubleness, not even if merely logical, should be admitted to our idea of the Divinity. Nevertheless, that we may be better understood, we shall for a moment lay aside the strictness of language demanded by reason.


Now supposing the existence of actualizations in the divinity, and that these actualizations depend on His will — for he could not actualize involuntarily — and that simultaneously they constitute His being; in this case, His will and His being will be identical (that is, will fuse). Such as He wished to be, He is. That He wills and actualizes in conformity to His nature, will not be said in preference to this, that His being conforms to His will and His actualization. He is absolutely master of Himself, because His very essence depends on Himself.


Here arises another consideration. Every being, that aspires to the Good, wishes to be the Good far more than to be what it is; and thinks itself as existing most, the more it participates in the Good. Its preference is to be in such a state, to participate in the Good as much as possible, because the nature of the Good is doubtless preferable in itself. The greater the portion of good possessed by a being, the freer and more conformable to its will is its nature (being); then it forms but one and the same thing with its will, and by its will achieves hypostatic existence (or, a form of existence). So long as a being does not possess the Good, it wishes to be different from what it is; so soon as the being possesses it, the being wishes to be what it is. This union, or presence of the Good in a being, is not fortuitous; its “being” is not outside of the Will (of the Good); by this presence of the Good it is determined, and on that account, belongs to itself. If then this presence of the Good cause every being to make and determine itself, then evidently (the Divinity) is primarily and particularly the principle through which the rest may be itself. The “being” (of the Good) is intimately united with the will (the Divinity) has to be such as He is — if I may be permitted to speak thus — and He cannot be understood unless He wishes to be what He is. As in Him everything concurs (in a consummation), He wishes to be, and is what He wishes; His will and Himself form but one (are identical, or, fuse). He is not any the less one, for He finds that He is precisely what He may have wished to be. What indeed could He have wished to be, if not what He is?


Now supposing that (the divinity) were given the chance to choose what He would like to be, and that He were permitted to change His nature, He would not desire to become different from what He is; He would not find in Himself anything that displeased Him, as if He had been forced to be what He is; for He as ever willed, and still wills to be what He is. The nature of Good is really His will; He has neither yielded to a lure, nor (blindly) followed his own nature, but He preferred Himself, because there was nothing different that He could have wished to be. With this, contrast that other beings do not find implied in their own being the reason of pleasing themselves, and that some of them are even dissatisfied with themselves. In the hypostatic existence of the Good, however, is necessarily contained self-choice, and self-desire; otherwise, there would be nothing in the whole universe that could please itself, since one pleases himself only inasmuch as he participates in the Good, and possesses an image of it within oneself.


We must, however, ask indulgence for our language; when speaking of the (divinity) we are, by the necessity of being understood, obliged to make use of words which a meticulous accuracy would question. Each of them should be prefixed by a (warning) particle, (meaning “somewhat,” or) “higher.”


The subsistence of the Good implies that of choice and will, because He could not exist without these two. But (in the Divinity) (these three, choice, being and will) do not form a multiplicity; they must be considered as having fused. Since He is the author of will, He must evidently also be the author of what is called self-direction (“being for oneself”). This leads us to say that He made Himself; for, since He is the author of will, and as this will is more or less His work, and as it is identical with His essence, (we may say that) He gave himself the form of (hypostatic) existence. Not by chance therefore is He what He is; He is what He is because He wished to be such.


14. Here is still another point of view from which the subject under discussion may be regarded. Each one of the beings that are said to be existent, is either identical with its essence, or differs from it. Thus, some particular man differs from the Man-essence, only participating therein. On the contrary, the soul is identical with the Soul-essence, when she is simple, and when she is not predicated of anything else. Likewise, the Man-in-himself is identical with the Man-essence. The man who is other than the Man-essence is contingent; but the Man-essence is not contingent; the Man-in-himself exists in himself. If then the essence of man exist by itself, if it be neither fortuitous nor contingent, how could contingency be predicated of Him who is superior to Man in himself, and who begat him, from whom all beings are derived, since His is a nature simpler than the Man-essence, and even of essence in general ? If, in ascending towards greater simplicity, contingency decreases, so much the more impossible is it that contingency could extend to the Nature that is the simplest (namely, the Good).


Let us also remember that each of the beings which exist genuinely, as we have said, and which have received their form of hypostatic existence from the Good, likewise owe it to Him that they are individual, as are the similarly situated sense-beings. By such individual beings is here meant having in one’s own being the cause of his hypostatic existence. Consequently, He who then contemplates things can give an account of each of their details, to give the cause of the individuality of eyes or feet, to show that the cause of the generation of each part is found in its relations with the other parts, and that they have all been made for each other. Why are the feet of a particular length? Because some other organ is “such”; for instance, the face being such, the feet themselves must be such. In one word, the universal harmony is the cause on account of which all things were made for each other. Why is the individual such a thing? Because of the Man-essence. Therefore the essence and the cause coincide. They issued from the same source, from the Principle which, without having need of reasoning, produced together the essence and the cause. Thus the source of the essence and the cause produces them both simultaneously. Such then are begotten things, such is their principle, but in a much superior and truer manner; for in respect of excellence, it possesses an immense superiority over them. Now since it is not fortuitously, neither by chance, nor contingently, that the things which bear their cause in themselves, are what they are; since, on the other hand, (the Divinity) possesses all the entities of which He is the principle, evidently, being the Father of reason, of cause, and of causal being: — all of them entities entirely free from contingence — he is the Principle and type of all things that are not contingent, the Principle which is really and in the highest degree independent of chance, of fortune, and of contingency: He is the cause of Himself, He is He by virtue of Himself; for He is Self in a primary and transcendent manner.


15. He is simultaneously the lovable and love; He is love of himself; for He is beautiful only by and in Himself. He coexists with Himself only on condition that the thing, which exists in Himself, is identical with Him. Now as in Him the thing that coexists is identical with Him, and as in Him also that which desires, and that which is desirable play the part of hypostasis and subject, here once more appears the identity of desire and “being.” If this be so, it is evidently again He who is the author of Himself, and the master of Himself; consequently, He was made not such as some other being desired it, but He is such as He Himself desires.


When we assert that (the Divinity) Himself receives nothing, and is received by no other being, we thereby in another way prove that He is what He is, not by chance. This is the case because He isolates Himself, and preserves Himself uninfected from all things. Besides, we sometimes see that our nature possesses something similar, when it finds itself disengaged from all that is attached to us, and subjects us to the sway of fortune and fatality — for all the things that we call ours are dependent, and undergo the law of fortune, happening to us fortuitously. Only in this manner is one master of himself, possessing free will, by virtue of an actualization of the light which has the form of the Good, of an actualization of the Good, which is superior to intelligence; of an actualization which is not adventitious, and which is above all thought.

When we shall have risen thither, when we shall have become that alone, leaving all the rest, shall we not say that we are then above even liberty and free will ? Who then could subject us to chance, to fortune, to contingency, since we shall have become the genuine life, or rather, since we shall be in Him who derives nothing from any other being, who is solely himself? When other beings are isolated, they do not suffice themselves; but He is what He is, even when isolated.


The first hypostatic form of existence does not consist in an inanimate entity or in an irrational life; for an irrational life is but weak in essence, being a dispersion of reason, and something indeterminate. On the contrary, the closer life approaches reason, the further is it from contingency, for that which is rational has nothing to do with chance. Ascending then (to the Divinity) He does not seem to us to be Reason, but what is still more beautiful than Reason; so far is He from having arisen by chance! Indeed, He is the very root of Reason, for it is the goal at which all things find their consummation. He is the principle and foundation of an immense Tree which lives by reason; He remains in Himself, and imparts essence to the Tree by the reason He communicates.


16. As we assert, and as it seems evident that (the Divinity) is everywhere and nowhere, it is necessary thoroughly to grasp and understand this conception, as it applies to the subject of our studies. Since (the Divinity) is nowhere, He is nowhere fortuitously; since He is everywhere, He is everywhere what He is. He himself is therefore what is named omnipresence, and universality. He is not contained within omnipresence, but is omnipresence itself, and He imparts essence to all the other beings because they are all contained within Him who is everywhere. Possessing the supreme rank, or rather Himself being supreme, He holds all things in obedience to Himself. For them He is not contingent; it is they that are contingent to Him, or rather, that connect with Him; for it is not He who contemplates them, but they who look at Him. On His part, He, as it were, moves towards the most intimate depths within Himself, loving Himself, loving the pure radiance of which He is formed, Himself being what He loves, that is, giving Himself a hypostatic form of existence, because He is an immanent actualization, and what is most lovable in Him constitutes the higher Intelligence. This Intelligence being an operation, He himself is an operation; but as He is not the operation of any other principle, He is the operation of Himself; He therefore is not what chance makes of Him, but what He actualizes. He is the author of Himself, inasmuch as He exists particularly because He is His own foundation, because He contemplates Himself, because, so to speak, He passes His existence in contemplating Himself. He therefore is, not what He fortuitously found Himself to be, but what He himself wishes to be, and as His will contains nothing fortuitous, He is even in this respect independent of contingency. For, since His will is the will of the Best that is in the universe, it could not be fortuitous. If one were to imagine an opposite movement, one will easily recognize that His inclination towards Himself, which is His actualization, and His immanence in Himself make of Him what He is. Indeed, should (the divinity) incline towards what is outside of Himself, He would cease being what He is. His actualization, in respect to Himself, is to be what He is; for He and that actualization coincide. He therefore gives Himself a hypostatic form of existence, because the actualization that He produces is inseparable from Himself. If then the actualization of (the divinity) did not merly commence, but if, on the contrary, it dated from all eternity; if it consist in an exciting action, identical to Him who is excited; and if, besides this exciting action, He be ever-being super-intellection, then (the divinity) is what He makes himself by His exciting action. The latter is superior to “Being,” to Intelligence, and to the Life of Wisdom; it is Himself. He therefore is an actualization superior to Life, Intelligence and Wisdom; these proceed from Him, and from Him alone. He therefore derives essence from Himself, and by Himself; consequently, He is, not what He fortuitously found Himself to be, but what He willed to be.


17. Here is another proof of it. We have stated that the world and the “being” it contains are what they would be if their production had been the result of a voluntary determination of their author, what they would still be if the divinity exercising a prevision and prescience based on reasoning, had done His work according to Providence. But as (these beings) are or become what they are from all eternity, there must also, from eternity — within the coexistent beings, exist (“seminal) reasons” which subsist in a plan more perfect (than that of our universe); consequently, the intelligible entities are above Providence, and choice’; and all the things which exist in Essence subsist eternally there, in an entirely intellectual existence. If the name “Providence” be applied to the plan of the universe, then immanent Intelligence certainly is anterior to the plan of the universe, and the latter proceeds from immanent Intelligence, and conforms thereto.


Since Intelligence is thus anterior to all things, and since all things are (rooted) in such an Intelligence as principle, Intelligence cannot be what it is as a matter of chance. For, if on one hand, Intelligence be multiple, on the other hand it is in perfect agreement with itself, so that, by co-ordination of the elements it contains, it forms a unity. Once more, such a principle that is both multiple and co-ordinated manifoldness, which contains all (“seminal) reasons” by embracing them within its own universality, could not be what it is as a result of fortune or chance. This principle must have an entirely opposite nature, as much differing from contingency, as reason from chance, which consists in the lack of reason. If the above Intelligence be the (supreme) Principle, then Intelligence, such as it has been here described, is similar to this Principle, conforms to it, participates in it, and is such as is wished by it and its power. (The Divinity) being indivisible, is therefore a (single) Reason that embraces everything, a single (unitary Number, and a single (Divinity) that is greater and more powerful than the generated (universe); than He, none is greater or better. From none other, therefore, can He have derived His essence or qualities. What He is for and in Himself, is therefore derived from Himself; without any relation with the outside, nor with any other being, but entirely turned towards Himself.


18. If then you seek this (Principle), do not expect to find anything on the outside of Him; in Him seek all that is after Him, but do not seek to penetrate within Him; for He is what is outside (of everything), the comprehension of all things, and their measure. Simultaneously, He is the internal, being the most intimate depth of all things; (in which case) the external would be (represented by) Reason and Intelligence, which like a circumference fit around Him and depend from Him. Indeed, Intelligence is such only because it touches Him, and so far as it touches Him, and depends from Him; for it is its dependence from Him that constitutes its intelligence. It resembles a circle which is in contact with its centre. It would be universally acknowledged that such a circle would derive all its power from the centre, and would, in a higher sense, be centriform. Thus the radii of such a circle unite in a single centre by extremities similar to the distal and originating (extremities). These (distal) extremities, though they be similar to the centric ones, are nevertheless but faint traces thereof; for the latter’s potentiality includes both the radii and their (distal) extremities; it is everywhere present in the radii, manifests its nature therein, as an immature development. This is an illustration how Intelligence and Essence were born from (the divinity) as by effusion or development; and by remaining dependent from the intellectual nature of the Unity, it thereby manifests an inherent higher Intelligence, which (speaking strictly), is not intelligence, since it is the absolute Unity. A centre, even without radii or circumference, is nevertheless the “father” of the circumference and the radii, for it reveals traces of its nature, and by virtue of an immanent potency, and individual force, it begets the circumference and the radii which never separate from. Similarly, the One is the higher archetype of the intellectual power which moves around Him, being His image. For in the Unity there is a higher Intelligence which, so to speak, moving in all directions and manners, thereby becomes Intelligence; while the Unity, dwelling above Intelligence, begets it by its power. How then could fortune, contingency and chance approach this intelligence-begetting Power, a power that is genuinely and essentially creative ? Such then is what is in Intelligence, and such is what is in Unity, though that which is in Him is far superior.


(As illustration), consider the radiance shed afar by some luminous source that remains within itself; the radiation would represent the image, while the source from which it issues would be the genuine light. Nevertheless, the radiation, which represents the intelligence, is not an image that has a form foreign (to its principle), for it does not exist by chance, being reason and cause in each of its parts. Unity then is the cause of the cause; He is, in the truest sense, supreme causality, simultaneously containing all the intellectual causes He is to produce; this, His offspring, is begotten not as a result of chance, but according to His own volition. His volition, however, was not irrational, fortuitous, nor accidental; and as nothing is fortuitous in Him, His will was exactly suitable. Therefore Plato called it the “suitable,” and the “timely,” to express as clearly as possible that the (Divinity) is foreign to all chance, and that He is that which is exactly suitable. Now if He be exactly suitable, He is so not irrationally. If He be timely, He must (by a Greek pun), also be “supremely sovereign” over the (beings) beneath Him. So much the more will He be timely for Himself. Not by chance therefore is He what He is, for He willed to be what He is; He wills suitable things, and in Him that which is suitable, and the actualization thereof, coincide. He is the suitable, not as a subject, but as primary actualization manifesting Him such as it was suitable for Him to be. That is the best description we can give of Him, in our impotence to express ourselves about Him as we should like.


19. By the use of the above indications (it is possible), to ascend to Him. Having done so, grasp Him. Then you will be able to contemplate Him, and you will find no terms to describe His (greatness). When you shall see Him, and resign any attempt at I spoken description, you will proclaim that He exists by Himself in a way such that, if He had any being, it would be His servant, and would be derived from Him. No one who has ever seen Him would have the audacity to maintain that He is what He is by chance; ‘ nor even to utter such a blasphemy, for He would be ‘ confounded by his own temerity. Having ascended to I Him, the (human observer) could not even locate His I presence, as it were rising up everywhere before the eyes of his soul. Whichever way the soul directs her glances, she sees Him, unless, on considering some 1 other object, she abandons the divinity by ceasing to I think of Him.


The ancient (philosophers), in enigmatical utterances, said that (the divinity) is above “being.” This must be understood to mean not only that He begets being, but because He is not dependent on “being” or on Himself. Not even His own “being” is to Him a principle; for He himself is the principle of “being.” Not for Himself did he make it; but, having made it, He left it outside of Himself, because He has no need of essence, since He himself made it. Thus, even though He exist, He does not produce that which is meant by that verb.


20. It will be objected that the above implies the existence (of the Divinity) before He existed; for, if He made Himself, on the one hand, He did not yet exist, if it was Himself that He made; and on the other, so far as it was He who made, He already existed before Himself, since what has been made was Himself. However, (the Divinity) should be considered not so much as “being made” but as “making,” and we should realize that the actualization by which He created Himself is absolute; for His actualization does not result in the production of any other “being.” He produces nothing but Himself, He is entirely Himself; we are not dealing here with two things, but with a single entity. Neither need we hesitate to admit that the primary actualization has no “being”; but that actualization should be considered as constituting His hypostatic form of existence. If within Him these two were to be distinguished, the superlatively perfect Principle would be incomplete and imperfect. To add actualization to Him would be to destroy His unity. Thus, since the actualization is more perfect than His being, and since that which is primary is the most perfect, that which is primary must necessarily be actualization. He is what He is as soon as He actualizes. He cannot be said to have existed before He made Himself; for before He made Himself He did not exist; but (from the first actualization) He already existed in entirety. He therefore is an actualization which does not depend on being, (an actualization) that is clearly free; and thus He (originates) from Himself, fif, as to His essence, He were preserved by some other [principle, He himself would not be the first proceeding [from Himself. He is said to contain Himself because He produces (and parades) Himself; since it is from the very beginning that He caused the existence of I what He naturally contains. Strictly, we might indeed say, that He made Himself, if there existed a time when He himself began to exist. But since He was what He is before all times, the statement that He made Himself means merely that “having made” and “himself” are inseparable; for His essence coincides with His creative act, and, if I may be permitted to speak thus, with his “eternal generation.”


Likewise, the statement that the (divinity) commands Himself may be taken strictly, if in Him be two entities (the commander and the commanded); but if (we may not distinguish such a pair of entities) there is only one entity within Him, and He is only the commander, containing nothing that obeys. How then, if He contain nothing that was commanded, could He command Himself?, The statement that He commands Himself means that, in this sense, there is nothing above Him; in which case He is the First, not on account of the numerical order, but by His authority and perfectly free power. If He be perfectly free, He cannot contain anything that is not free; He must therefore be entirely free within Himself. Does He contain anything that is not Himself, that He does not do, that is not His work? If indeed He contained anything that was not His work, He would be neither perfectly free nor omnipotent; He would not be free, because He would not dominate this thing; nor would He be omnipotent, because the thing whose making would not be in His power would even thereby evade His dominion.


21. Could (the divinity) have made Himself different from what He made Himself? (If he could not, He would not have been omnipotent). If you remove from Him the power of doing evil, you thereby also remove the power of doing good. (In the divinity), power does not consist in the ability to make contraries; it is a constant and immutable power whose perfection consisted precisely in not departing from unity; for the power to make contraries is a characteristic of a being incapable of continuously persisting in the best. Self-creation (the actualization by which the divinity created Himself) exists once for all, for it is perfect. Who indeed could change an actualization produced by the will of the Divinity, an actualization that constitutes His very will? But how then was this actualization produced by the volition (of the divinity) which did not yet exist?

What could be meant by the “volition of (the Divinity”) if He had not yet willed hypostatic form of existence (for Himself) ? Whence then came His will? Would it have come from His being (which, according to the above objection) was not yet actualized? But His will was already within His “being.” In the (Divinity), therefore, there is nothing which differs from His “being.” Otherwise, there would have been in Him something that would not have been His will. Thus, everything in Him was will; there was in Him nothing that did not exercise volition; nothing which, therefore, was anterior to His volition. Therefore, from the very beginning, the will was He; therefore, the (Divinity) is as and such as He willed it to be. When we speak of what was the consequence of the will (of the Divinity), of what His will has produced, (we must indeed conclude that) His will produced nothing that He was not already. The statement that (the Divinity) contains Himself means (no more than that) all the other beings that proceed from Him are by Him sustained. They indeed exist by a sort of participation in Him, and they relate back to Him. (The Divinity) Himself does not need to be contained or to participate; He is all things for Himself; or rather, He is nothing for Himself, because He has no need of all the other things in respect to Himself.


Thus, whenever you wish to speak of (the Divinity), or to gain a conception of Him, put aside all the rest. When you will have made abstraction of all the rest, and when you will thus have isolated (the Divinity), do not seek to add anything to Him; rather examine whether, in your thought, you have not omitted to abstract something from Him. Thus you can rise to a Principle of whom you could not later either assert ;or conceive anything else. Classify in the supreme rank, therefore, none but He who really is free, because He is not even dependence on Himself; and because he merely is Himself, essentially Himself, while each of the other beings is itself, and something else besides.

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