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

III. 8. 5
(Armstrong Selection and Translation from the Enneads)

[The activity of the higher Soul and the emanation of Nature from it. Unity of contemplation and action in every phase of the soul’s activity.]

In speaking of Nature we have seen in what way its generative activity is contemplation. Now, going on to the Soul prior to Nature, we should say how its contemplation, its love of learning and spirit of inquiry, its birth-pangs from the knowledge it attains and its fullness make it, when it has itself become all a vision, produce another vision: just as when a particular art is complete it produces a kind of another little art in a child who is being taught it, who possesses a trace of everything in it. But all the same, the visions, the objects of contemplation of this lower world are dim and helpless sorts of things at first.

The rational part of soul then, that which is above and filled and illuminated from the reality above remains There; but that which participates in it in virtue of the first participation [of Soul in Nous] goes forth continually, life from life. The activity of soul reaches everywhere, and there is no point where it fails. But in going forth it lets the prior part of itself remain where it left it; for if it abandoned its former position it would no longer be everywhere, but only at the last point it reached. But what goes forth is not equal to what remains. If then it must come to be everywhere, and there must be nowhere without its activity; and if the prior must always be different from that which comes after; and if the activity of soul originates from contemplation or action, and action does not exist at this stage (for it cannot come before contemplation); then all activity of soul must be contemplation, but one stage weaker than another. So what appears to be action according to contemplation is really the weakest form of contemplation: for that which is produced must always be of the same kind as its producer, but weaker through losing its virtue as it comes down.

All goes on quietly, for there is no need of any obvious and external contemplation or action; it is Soul which contemplates, and makes that which comes after it, that which contemplates in a more external way and not like that which precedes it; contemplation makes contemplation. Contemplation and vision have no limits; this is why soul makes, and makes everywhere (where does it not?) since the same vision is in every soul. For it is not spatially limited. It is of course not present in exactly the same way in every soul, since it is not even the same in every part of the soul. That is why ‘the charioteer gives the horses what he sees’ ;4 and they in taking it made clear that they longed for what they saw; for they did not get it all. And if in their longing they act, they act for the sake of what they long for: and that is vision and contemplation.