Soul in its Activity in the Sense-world (III)

II. 3. 17-18
(Armstrong Selection and Translation from the Enneads)

[It is the lowest phase of soul which makes material things; this it does without conscious thought, receiving the forms which it imprints from Nous. Nous is thus the ultimate creative principle of the material universe, which is the last and lowest of existences, but necessary to the perfection of the whole: even the evil in it is part of the pattern, and contributes to that perfection.]

Are these logoi which are in soul thoughts ? But then how will it make things in accordance with these thoughts? For it is in matter that the logos makes things, and that which makes on the level of nature is not thought or vision, but a power which manipulates matter, which does not know but only acts, like an impression or a figure in water, a circle, say; another gives it what is required for this activity of making in the sphere of growth and generation. If this is so, the ruling principle of the soul will make by nourishing the generative soul in matter. Will it then nourish it as the result of having reasoned? If it reasons, it will first refer to something else, or to what it has in itself. But if it refers to what it has in itself, there is no need of reasoning. For it is not reasoning that nourishes, but the part of soul which possesses the logoi: for this is more powerful and able to make in soul. It makes, then, according to Forms: that is, it must give what it receives from Nous. Nous gives to the Soul of the All, and Soul (the one which comes next after Nous) gives to the soul next after it, enlightening and informing it, and this last soul immediately makes, as if under orders. It makes some things without hindrance, but in others, the worse ones, it meets obstruction. Since its power to make is derived, and it is filled with logoi which are not the original ones, it does not simply make according to the Forms which it has received, but contributes something of its own, and this is obviously worse. Its product is a living being, but a very imperfect one, which makes its own life difficult since it is the worst of living things, ill-conditioned and savage, made of inferior matter, a sort of sediment of the prior realities, bitter and embittering. This is the lowest soul’s contribution to the universal Whole.

Then are the evils in the All necessary, because they follow on the prior realities? Rather because if they did not exist the All would be imperfect. Most of them, even all of them, contribute something useful to the Whole — poisonous snakes do, for instance — though generally the reason why they exist is obscure. Even moral evil itself has many advantages and is productive of much excellence, for example, all the beauty of art, and rouses us to serious thought about our way of living, not allowing us to slumber complacently. If this is correct, it must be that the Soul of the All contemplates perfection, always aspiring to the intelligible nature and to God, and that when it is full, filled right up to the brim, its trace, its last and lowest expression, is this productive principle that we are discussing. This then is the ultimate maker; over it is that part of soul which is primarily filled from .AW; over all is Nous the Craftsman, who gives to the Soul which comes next those gifts whose traces are in the third. This visible universe, then, is properly called an image always in process of making; its first and second principles are at rest, the third at rest too, but also in motion, incidentally and in matter. As long as Nous and Soul exist, the logoi will flow into this lower form of Soul, just as, as long as the sun exists, all its rays will shine from it.