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

III. 8. 4
(Armstrong Selection and Translation from the Enneads)

[The dream-like contemplation of Nature (the Lower Soul), which produces the material universe: all action springs from contemplation.]

If anyone asked Nature why it makes, if it cared to hear and answer the questioner it would say, ‘ You ought not to ask, but to understand in silence, you too, just as I am silent and not in the habit of talking. And what are you to understand? That what comes into being is what I see, a silent contemplation, the vision proper to my nature, and that I, originating from this sort of contemplation have a contemplative nature, and my act of contemplation makes what it sees, as the geometers draw their figures while they contemplate. But I do not draw, but as I contemplate the lines which bound bodies come to be as if they fell from my contemplation. What happens to me is the same as what happens to my mother and the beings that begot me. They too derive from contemplation, and it is no action of theirs which brings about my birth: they are greater logoi, and as they contemplate themselves I come to be.’

What does this mean ? That what is called Nature is a soul, the offspring of a prior soul with a stronger life; that it quietly holds contemplation in itself, not directed upwards or even downwards, but at rest in what it is, in its own repose and a kind of self-perception, and in this consciousness and self-perception it sees what comes after it, as far as it can, and seeks no longer, but has accomplished a vision of splendour and delight. If anyone wants to attribute to it understanding or perception, it will not be the understanding or perception we speak of in other beings; it will be like comparing consciousness in dreams to waking consciousness.

Nature is at rest in contemplation of the vision of itself, a vision which comes to it from its abiding in and with itself and being itself vision. Its contemplation is silent but somewhat blurred. There is another contemplation clearer for sight, and of this Nature is the image. For this reason what is produced by it is weak in every way, because a weak contemplation produces a weak object. Men too, when their power of contemplation weakens, make action a shadow of contemplation and reasoning. Because contemplation is not enough for them, since their souls are weak and they are not able to grasp the vision sufficiently, and therefore are not filled with it, but still long to see it, they are carried into action so as to see what they cannot see with their intellect. When they make something, then, it is because they want to see their object themselves and also because they want others to be aware of it and contemplate it, when their project is realized in practice as well as possible. Everywhere we shall find that making and action are either a weakening or a^ consequence of contemplation; a weakening if the doer or maker had nothing in view beyond the thing done; a consequence, if he had another prior object of contemplation better than what he made. For who, when he is able to contemplate that which is truly real, deliberately goes after its image? Dull children, too, are evidence of this, who are incapable of learning and contemplative studies and turn to crafts and manual work.