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INTRODUCTION TO THE PHILOSOPHY AND WRITINGS OF PLATO

By

THOMAS TAYLOR

"Philosophy," says Hierocles, "is the purification and perfection of human

life. It is the purification, indeed, from material irrationality, and the

mortal body; but the perfection, in consequence of being the resumption of

our proper felicity, and a reascent to the divine likeness. To effect these

two is the province of Virtue and Truth; the former exterminating the

immoderation of the passions; and the latter introducing the divine form to

those who are naturally adapted to its reception."

Of philosophy thus defined, which may be compared to a luminous pyramid,

terminating in Deity, and having for its basis the rational soul of man

and its spontaneous unperverted conceptions,--of this philosophy, August,

magnificent, and divine, Plato may be justly called the primary leader

and hierophant, through whom, like the mystic light in the inmost

recesses of some sacred temple, it first shone forth with occult and

venerable splendour.[1] It may indeed be truly said of the whole of this

philosophy, that it is the greatest good which man can participate: for

if it purifies us from the defilements of the passions and assimilates us

to Divinity, it confers on us the proper felicity of our nature. Hence it

is easy to collect its pre-eminence to all other philosophies; to show

that where they oppose it, they are erroneous; that so far as they

contain any thing scientific they are allied to it; and that at best they

are but rivulets derived from this vast ocean of truth.

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[1] In the mysteries a light of this kind shone forth from the adytum of

the temple in which they were exhibited.

------------------

To evince that the philosophy of Plato possesses this preeminence; that

its dignity and sublimity are unrivaled; that it is the parent of all

that ennobles man; and, that it is founded on principles, which neither

time can obliterate, nor sophistry subvert, is the principal design of

this Introduction.

To effect this design, I shall in the first place present the reader with

the outlines of the principal dogmas of Plato's philosophy. The undertaking

is indeed no less novel than arduous, since the author of it has to tread

in paths which have been untrodden for upwards of a thousand years, and

to bring to light truths which for that extended period have been

concealed in Greek. Let not the reader, therefore, be surprised at the

solitariness of the paths through which I shall attempt to conduct him,

or at the novelty of the objects which will present themselves in the

journey: for perhaps he may fortunately recollect that he has traveled

the same road before, that the scenes were once familiar to him, and that

the country through which he is passing is his native land. At, least, if

his sight should be dim, and his memory oblivious, (for the objects which

he will meet with can only be seen by the most piercing eyes,) and his

absence from them has been lamentably long, let him implore the power

of wisdom,

From mortal mists to purify his eyes, That God and man he may distinctly see.

Let us also, imploring the assistance of the same illuminating power, begin

the solitary journey.

Of all the dogmas of Plato, that concerning the first principle of things

as far transcends in sublimity the doctrine of other philosophers of a

different sect, on this subject, as this supreme cause of all transcends

other causes. For, according to Plato, the highest God, whom in the

Republic he calls the good, and in the Parmenides the one, is not only

above soul and intellect, but is even superior to being itself. Hence,

since every thing which can in any respect be known, or of which any

thing can be asserted, must be connected with the universality of things,

but the first cause is above all things, it is very properly said by

Plato to be perfectly ineffable. The first hypothesis therefore of his,

Parmenides, in which all things are denied of this immense principle,

concludes as follows: "The one therefore is in no respect. So it seems.

Hence it is not in such a manner as to be one, for thus it would be

being, and participate of essence; but as it appears, the one neither is

one, nor is, if it be proper to believe in reasoning of this kind. It

appears so. But can any thing either belong to, or be affirmed of that,

which is not? How can it? Neither therefore does any name belong to it,

nor discourse, nor any science, nor sense, nor opinion.

It does not

appear that there can. Hence it can neither be named, nor spoken of, nor

conceived by opinion, nor be known, nor perceived by any being. So it

seems." And here it must be observed that this conclusion respecting the

highest principle of things, that he is perfectly ineffable and

inconceivable, is the result of a most scientific series of negations, in

which not only all sensible and intellectual beings are denied of him,

but even natures the most transcendently allied to him, his first and

most divine progeny. For that which so eminently distinguishes the

philosophy of Plato from others is this, that every part of it is stamped

with the character of science. The vulgar indeed proclaim the Deity to be

ineffable; but as they have no scientific knowledge that he is so, this

is nothing more than a confused and indistinct perception of the most

sublime of all truths, like that of a thing seen between sleeping and

waking, like Phaeacia to Ulysses when sailing to his native land,

That lay before him indistinct and vast, Like a broad shield amid the watr'y waste.

In short, an unscientific perception of the ineffable nature of the

Divinity resembles that of a man, who on surveying the heavens, should

assert of the altitude of its highest part, that it surpasses that of

the loftiest tree, and is therefore immeasurable. But to see this

scientifically, is like a survey of this highest part of the heavens by

the astronomer; for he by knowing the height of the media between us and

it, knows also scientifically that it transcends in altitude not only the

loftiest tree; but the summits of air and aether, the moon, and even the

sun itself.

Let us therefore investigate what is the ascent to the ineffably, and

after what manner it is accomplished, according to Plato, from the last

of things, following the profound and most inquisitive Damascius as our

leader in this arduous investigation. Let our discourse also be common

to other principles, and to things proceeding from them to that which is

last, and let us, beginning from that which is perfectly effable and

known to sense, ascend too the ineffable, and establish in silence, as in

a port, the parturitions of truth concerning it. Let us then assume the

following axiom, in which as in a secure vehicle we may safely pass from

hence thither. I say, therefore, that the unindigent is naturally prior

to the indigent. For that which is in want of another is naturally

adapted from necessity to be subservient to that of which it is indigent.

But if they are mutually in want of each other, each being indigent of

the other in a different respect, neither of them will be the principle.

For the unindigent is most adapted to that which is truly the principle.

And if it is in want of any thing, according to this it will not be the

principle. It is however necessary that the principles should be this

very thing, the principle alone. The unindigent therefore pertains to

this, nor must it by any means be acknowledged that there is any thing

prior to it. This however, would be acknowledged if it had any connection

with the indigent.

Let us then consider body, (that is, a triply extended substance,) endued

with quality; for this is the first thing effable by us, and is, sensible.

Is this then the principle of things? But it is two things, body, and

quality which is in body as a subject. Which of these therefore is by

nature prior? For both are indigent of their proper parts; and that also

which is in a subject is indigent of the subject. Shall we say then that

body itself is the principle of the first essence? But this is impossible.

For, in the first place, the principle will not receive any thing from that

which is posterior to itself. But body, we say is the recipient of quality.

Hence quality, and a subsistence in conjunction with it, are not derived

from body, since quality is present with body as something different. And,

in the second place, body is every way, divisible; its several parts are

indigent of each other, and the whole is indigent of all the parts. As it

is indigent, therefore, and receives its completion from things which are

indigent, it will not be entirely unindigent.

Further still, if it is not one but united, it will require, as Plato

says, the connecting one. It is likewise something common and formless,

being as it were a certain matter. It requires, therefore, ornament and

the possession of form, that it may not be merely body, but a body with a

certain particular quality; as for instance, a fiery, or earthly, body,

and, in short, body adorned and invested with a particular quality. Hence

the things which accede to it, finish and adorn it. Is then that which

accedes the principle? But this is impossible. For it does not abide in

itself, nor does it subsist alone, but is in a subject of which also it

is indigent. If, however, some one should assert that body is not a

subject, but one of the elements in each, as for instance, animal in

horses and man, thus also each will be indigent of the other, viz. this

subject, and that which is in the subject; or rather the common element,

animal, and the peculiarities, as the rational and irrational, will be

indigent. For elements are always, indigent of each other, and that which

is composed from elements is indigent of the elements.

In short, this

sensible nature, and which is so manifest to us, is neither body, for

this does not of itself move the senses, nor quality; for this does not

possess an interval commensurate with sense. Hence, that which is the

object of sight, is neither body nor color; but colored body, or color

corporalized, is that which is motive of the sight. And universally, that

which its sensible, which is body with a particular quality, is motive of

sense. From hence it is evident that the thing which excites the sense is

something incorporeal. For if it was body, it would not yet be the object

of sense. Body therefore requires that which is incorporeal, and that

which is incorporeal, body. For an incorporeal nature, is not of itself

sensible. It is, however, different from body, because these two possess

prerogatives different from each other, and neither of these subsists

prior to the other; but being elements of one sensible thing, they are

present with each other; the one imparting interval to that which is void

of interval, but the other introducing to that which is formless,

sensible variety invested with form. In the third place, neither are both

these together the principles; since they are not unindigent. For they

stand in need of their proper elements, and of that which conducts them

to the generation of one form. For body cannot effect this, since it is

of itself impotent; nor quality, since it is not able to subsist separate

from the body in which it is, or together with which it has its being.

The composite therefore either produces itself, which is impossible, for

it does not converge to itself, but the whole of it is multifariously

dispersed, or it is not produced by itself, and there is some other

principle prior to it.

Let it then be supposed to be that which is called nature, being a

principle of motion and rest, in that which is moved and at rest,

essentially and not according to accident. For this is something more

simple, and is fabricative of composite forms. If, however, it is in the

things fabricated, and does not subsist separate from nor prior to them,

but stands in need of them for its being, it will not be unindigent;

though its possesses something transcendent with respect to them, viz.

the power of fashioning and fabricating them. For it has its being

together with them, and has in them an inseparable subsistence; so

that, when they are it is, and is not when they are not, and this in

consequence of perfectly verging to them, and not being able to sustain

that which is appropriate. For the power of increasing, nourishing, and

generating similars, and the one prior to these three, viz. nature, is

not wholly incorporeal, but is nearly a certain quality of body, from

which it alone differs, in that it imparts to the composite to be

inwardly moved and at rest. For the quality of that which is sensible

imparts that which is apparent in matter, and that which falls on sense.

But body imparts interval every way extended; and nature, an inwardly

proceeding natural energy, whether according to place only, or according

to nourishing, increasing, and generating things similar. Nature,

however, is inseparable from a subject, and is indigent, so that it will

not be in short the principle, since it is indigent of that which is

subordinate. For it will not be wonderful, if being a certain principle,

it is indigent of the principle above it; but it would be wonderful if it

were indigent of things posterior to itself, and of which it is supposed

to be the principle.

By the like arguments we may show that the principle cannot be irrational

soul, whether sensitive, or orectic. For if it appears that it has

something separate, together with impulsive and Gnostic enemies, yet at

the same time it is bound in body, and has something inseparable from it;

since it is notable to convert itself to itself, but its enemy is mingled

with its subject. For it is evident that its essence is something of this

kind; since if it were liberated and in itself free, it would also evince

a certain independent enemy, and would not always be converted to body;

but sometimes it would be converted to itself; or though it were always

converted to body, yet it would judge and explore itself. The energies,

therefore, of the multitude of mankind, (though they are conversant with

externals,) yet, at the same time they exhibit that which is separate

about them. For they consult how they should engage in them, and observe

that deliberation is necessary, in order to effect or be passive to

apparent good, or to decline something of the contrary.

But the impulses

of other animals are uniform and spontaneous, are moved together with the

sensible organs, and require the senses alone that they may obtain from

sensibles the pleasurable, and avoid the painful. If, therefore, the body

communicates in pleasure and pain, and is affected in a certain respect

by them, it is evident that the psychical energies, (i.e. energies

belonging to the soul) are exerted, mingled with bodies, and are not

purely psychical, but are also corporeal; for perception is of the

animated body, or of the soul corporalized, though in such perception the

psychical idiom predominates over the corporeal; just as in bodies, the

corporeal idiom has dominion according to interval and subsistence. As

the irrational soul, therefore, has its being in something different from

itself, so far it is indigent of the subordinate: but a thing of this

kind will not be the principle.

Prior them to this essence, we see a certain form separate from a

subject, and converted to itself, such as is the rational nature. Our

soul, therefore, presides over its proper energies and corrects itself.

This, however, would not be the case, unless it was converted to itself;

and it would not be converted, to itself unless it had a separate

essence. It is not therefore indigent of the subordinate. Shall we then

say that it is the most perfect principle? But, it does not at once exert

all its energies, but is always indigent of the greater part. The

principle, however, wishes to have nothing indigent: but the rational

nature is an essence in want of its own energies. Some one, however, may

say that it is an eternal essence, and has never-failing essential

energies, always concurring with its essence, according to the self-moved

and ever vital, and that it is therefore unindigent; but the principle is

perfectly unindigent. Soul therefore, and which exerts mutable energies,

will not be the most proper principle. Hence it is necessary that there

should be something prior to this, which is in every respect immutable,

according to nature, life, and knowledge, and according to all powers and

enemies, such as we assert an eternal and immutable essence to be, and

such as is much honoured intellect, to which Aristotle having ascended,

thought he had discovered the first principle. For what can be wanting to

that which perfectly comprehends in itself its own plenitudes (oleromata),

and of which neither addition nor ablation changes any thing belonging to

it? Or is not this also, one and many, whole and parts, containing in

itself, things first, middle, and last? The subordinate plenitudes also

stand in need of the more excellent, and the more excellent of the

subordinate, and the whole of the parts. For the things related are

indigent of each other, and what are first of what are last, through the

same cause; for it is not of itself that which is first.

Besides, the one

here is indigent of the many, because it has its subsistence in the many.

Or it may be said, that this one is collective of the many, and this not

by itself, but in conjunction with them. Hence there is much of the

indigent in this principle. For since intellect generates in itself its

proper plenitudes from which the whole at once receives its completion,

it will be itself indigent of itself, not only that which is generated of

that which generates, but also that which generates, of that which is

generated, in order to the whole completion of that which wholly generates

itself. Further still, intellect understands and is understood, is

intellective of and intelligible to itself, and both these. Hence the

intellectual is indigent of the intelligible, as of its proper object of

desire; and the intelligible is in want of the intellectual, because it

wishes to be the intelligible of it. Both also are indigent of either,

since the possession is always accompanied with indigence, in the same

manner as the world is always present with matter. Hence a certain

indigence is naturally coessentiallized with intellect, so that it cannot

be the most proper principle. Shall we, therefore, in the next place,

direct our attention to the most simple of beings, which Plato calls the

one being, [Greek: en on]? For as there is no separation there throughout

the Whole, nor any multitude, or order, or duplicity, or conversion to

itself, what indigence will there appear to me, in the perfectly united?

And especially what indigence will there be of that which is subordinate?

Hence the great Parmenides ascended to this most safe principle, as that

which is most unindigent. Is it not, however, here necessary to attend to

the conception of Plato, that the united is not the one itself, but that

which is passive[2] to it? And this being the case, it is evident that it

ranks after the one; for it is supposed to be the united and not the one

itself. If also being is composed from the elements bound and infinity,

as appears from the Philebus of Plato, where he calls it that which is

mixt, it will be indigent of its elements. Besides, if the conception of

being is different from that of being united, and that which is a whole

is both united and being, these will be indigent of each other, and the

whole which is called one being is indigent of the two.

And though the

one in this is better than being, yet this is indigent of being, in order

to the subsistence of one being. But if being here supervenes the one, as

it were, form in that which is mixt and united, just as the idiom of man

in that which is collectively rational-mortal-animal, thus also the one

will be indigent of being. If, however, to speak more properly, the one

is two-fold; this being the cause of the mixture, and subsisting prior to

being, but that conferring rectitude, on being,--if this be the case,

neither will the indigent perfectly desert this nature.

After all these,

it may be said that the one will be perfectly unindigent. For neither is

it indigent of that which is posterior to itself for its subsistence,

since the truly one is by itself separated from all things; nor is it

indigent of that which is inferior or more excellent in itself; for there

is nothing in it besides itself; nor is it in want of itself. But it is

one, because neither has it any duplicity with respect to itself. For not

even the relation of itself to itself must be asserted of the truly one;

since it is perfectly simple. This, therefore, is the most unindigent of

all things. Hence this is the principle and the cause of all; and this is

at once the first of all things. If these qualities, however, are present

with it, it will not be the one. Or may we not say that all things

subsist in the one according to the one? And that both these subsist in

it, and such other things as we predicate of it, as, for instance, the

most simple, the most excellent, the most powerful, the preserver of all

things, and the good itself? If these things, however, are thus true of

the one, it will thus also be indigent of things posterior to itself,

according to those very things which we add to it. For the principle is,

and is said to be the principle of things proceeding from it, and the

cause is the cause of things caused, and the first is the first of things

arranged, posterior to it.[3]

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[2] See the Sophista of Plato, where this is asserted.

[3] For a thing cannot be said to be a principle or cause without the

subsistence of the things of which it is the principle or cause. Hence,

so far as it is a principle or cause, it will be indigent of the

subsistence of these.

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Further still, the simple subsists according to a transcendency of other

things, the most powerful according to power with relation to the subjects

of it; and the good, the desirable, and the preserving, are so called with

reference to things benefitted, preserved, and desiring.

And if it should

be said to be all things according to the preassumption of all things in

itself, it will indeed be said to be so according to the one alone, and

will at the same time be the one cause of all things prior to all, and will

be thus, and no other according to the one. So far, therefore, as it is the

one alone, it will be unindigent; but so far as unindigent, it will be the

first principle, and stable root of all principles. So far, however, as it

is the principle and the first cause of all things, and is pre-established

as the object of desire to all things, so far it appears to be in a certain

respect indigent of the things to which it is related.

It has therefore, if

it be lawful so to speak, an ultimate vestige of indigence, just as on the

contrary matter has an ultimate echo of the unindigent, or a most obscure

and debile impression of the one. And language indeed appears to be here

subverted. For so far as it is the one, it is also unindigent, since the

principle has appeared to subsist according to the most unindigent and the

one. At the same time, however, so far as it is the one, it is also the

principle; and so far as it is the one it is unindigent, but so far as the

principle, indigent. Hence so far as it is unindigent, it is also indigent,

though not according to the same; but with respect to being that which it

is, it is undigent; but as producing and comprehending other things in

itself, it is indigent. This, however, is the peculiarity of the one; so

that it is both unindigent and indigent according to the one. Not indeed

than it is each of these, in such a manner as we divide it in speaking of

it, but it is one alone; and according to this is both other things, and

that which is indigent. For how is it possible, it should not be indigent

also so far as it is the one? Just as it is all other things which proceed

from it. For the indigent also is, something belonging to all things.

Something else, therefore, must be investigated which in no respect has any

kind of indigence. But of a thing of this kind it cannot with truth be

asserted that it is the principle, nor can it even be said of it that it is

most unindigent, though this appears to be the most venerable of all

assertions.[4]

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[4] See the extracts from Damascius in the additional notes to the third

volume, which contain an inestimable treasury of the most profound

conceptions concerning the ineffable.

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For this signifies transcendency, and an exemption from the indigent. We do

not, however, think it proper to call this even the perfectly exempt; but

that which is in every respect incapable of being apprehended, and about

which we must be perfectly silent, will be the most, just axiom of our

conception in the present investigation; nor yet this as uttering any

thing, but as rejoicing in not uttering, and by this venerating that

immense unknown. This then is the mode of ascent to that which is called

the first, or rather to that which is beyond every thing which can be

conceived, or become the subject of hypothesis.

There is also another mode, which does not place the unindigent before

the indigent, but considers that which is indigent of a more excellent

nature, as subsisting secondary to that which is more excellent. Every

where then, that which is in capacity is secondary to that which is in

energy. For that it may proceed into energy, and that it may not remain

in capacity in vain, it requires that which is in energy. For the more

excellent never blossoms from the subordinate nature.

Let this then be

defined by us according to common unperverted conceptions. Matter

therefore has prior to itself material form; because all matter is form

in capacity, whether it be the first matter which is perfectly formless,

or the second which subsists according to body void of quality, or in

other words mere triple extension, to which it is likely those directed

their attention who first investigated sensibles, and which at first

appeared to be the only thing that had a subsistence.

For the existence

of that which is common in the different elements, persuaded them that

there is a certain body void of quality. But since, among bodies of this

kind, some possess the governing principle inwardly, and others

externally, such as things artificial, it is necessary besides quality to

direct our attention to nature, as being something better than qualities,

and which is prearranged in the order of cause, as art is, of things

artificial. Of things, however, which are inwardly governed, some appear

to possess being alone, but others to be nourished and increased, and to

generate things similar to themselves. There is therefore another certain

cause prior to the above-mentioned nature, viz. a vegetable power itself.

But it is evident that all such things as are ingenerated in body as in a

subject, are of themselves incorporeal, though they become corporeal by

the participation of that in which they subsist, so that they are said

to be and are material in consequence of what they suffer from matter.

Qualities therefore, and still more natures, and in a still greater

degree the vegetable life, preserve the incorporeal in themselves. Since

however, sense exhibits another more conspicuous life, pertaining to

beings which are moved according to impulse and place, this must be

established prior to that, as being a more proper principle, and as the

supplier of a certain better form, that of a self-moved animal, and which

naturally precedes plants rooted in the earth. The animal however, is not

accurately self-moved. For the whole is not such throughout they whole;

but a part moves and a part is moved. This therefore is the apparent

self-moved. Hence, prior to this it is necessary there should be that

which is truly self-moved, and which according to the whole of itself

moves ands is moved, that the apparently self-moved may be the image of

this. And indeed the soul which moves the body must be considered as a

more proper self-moved essence. This, however, is twofold, the one

rational, the other irrational. For that there is a rational soul is

evident: or has not every one a cosensation of himself, more clear or

more obscure, when converted to himself in the attentions to and

investigations of himself, and in the vital and Gnostic animadversions of

himself? For the essence which is capable of this, and which can collect

universals by reasoning, will very justly be rational.

The irrational

soul also, though it does not appear to investigate these things, and to

reason with itself, yet at the same time it moves bodies from place to

place, being itself previously moved from itself; for at different times

it exerts a different impulse. Does it therefore move itself from one

impulse to another? or it is moved by something else, as, for instance,

by the whole rational soul in the universe? But it would be absurd to say

that the energies of every irrational soul are not the energies of that

soul, but of one more divine; since they are infinite, and mingled with

much of the base and imperfect. For this would be just the same as to say

that the irrational enemies are the energies of the rational soul. I omit

to mention the absurdity of supposing that the whole essence is not

generative of its proper energies. For if the irrational soul is a

certain essence, it will have peculiar energies of its own, not imparted

from something else, but proceeding from itself. This irrational soul,

therefore, will also move itself at different times to different impulses.

But if it moves itself, it will be converted to itself.

If, however, this

be the case, it will have a separate subsistence, and will not be in a

subject. It is therefore rational, if it looks to itself: for in being

converted to, it surveys itself. For when extended to things external, it

looks to externals, or rather it looks to colored body, but does not see

itself, because sight itself is neither body nor that which is colored.

Hence it does not revert to itself. Neither therefore is this the case

with any other irrational nature. For neither does the phantasy project a

type of itself, but of that which is sensible, as for instance of colored

body. Nor does irrational appetite desire itself, but aspires after a

certain object of desire, such as honor, or pleasure, or riches. It does

not therefore move itself.

But if some one, on seeing that brutes exert rational energies, should

apprehend that these also participate of the first self-moved, and on

this account possess a soul converted to itself, it may perhaps be

granted to him that these also are rational natures, except that they

are not so essentially, but according to participation, and this most

obscure, just as the rational soul may be said to be intellectual

according to participation, as always projecting common conceptions

without distortion. It must however be observed, that the extreme are

that which is capable of being perfectly separated, such as the rational

form, and that which is perfectly inseparable, such as corporeal quality,

and that in the middle of these nature subsists, which verges to the

inseparable, having a small representation of the separable and the

irrational soul, which verges to the separable; or it appears in a

certain respect to subsist by itself, separate from a subject; so that

it becomes doubtful whether it is self-motive, or altermotive. For it

contains an abundant vestige of self-motion, but not that which is true

and converted to itself, and on this account perfectly separated from

a subject. And the vegetable soul has in a certain respect a middle

subsistence. On this account to some of the ancients it appeared to be

a certain soul, but to others, nature.

Again, therefore, that we may return to the proposed object of

investigation, how can a self-motive nature of this kind, which is

mingled with the alter-motive, be the first principle of things? For

it neither subsists from itself, nor does it in reality perfect itself;

but it requires a certain other nature, both for its subsistence and

perfection: and prior to it is that which is truly self-moved. Is

therefore that which is properly self-moved the principle, and is it

indigent of no form more excellent than itself? Or is not that which

moves always naturally prior to that which is moved; and in short does

not every form which is pure from its contrary subsist by itself prior

to that which is mingled with it? And is not the pure the cause of the

commingled? For that which is coessentialized with another has also an

energy mingled with that other. So that a self-moved nature will indeed,

make itself; but thus subsisting it will be at the same time moving and

moved, but will not be made a moving nature only. For neither is it this

alone. Every form however is always alone according to its first

subsistence; so that there will be that which moves only without being

moved. And indeed it would be absurd that there should be that which is

moved only such as body, but that prior both to that which is self-moved

and that which is moved only, there should not be that which moves only.

For it is evident that there must be, since this will be a more excellent

nature, and that which is self-moved, so far as it moves itself, is more

excellent than so far as it is moved. It is necessary therefore that the

essence which moves unmoved, should be first, as that which is moved, not

being motive, is the third, in the middle of which is the self-moved,

which we say requires that which moves in order to its becoming motive.

In short, if it is moved, it will not abide, so far as it is moved; and

if it moves, it is necessary it should remain moving so far as it moves.

Whence then does it derive the power of abiding? For from itself it

derives the power either of being moved only, or of at the same time

abiding and being moved wholly according to the same.

Whence then does

it simply obtain the power of abiding? Certainly from that which simply

abides. But, this is an immovable cause. We must therefore admit that

the immovable is prior to the self moved. Let us consider then if the

immovable is the most proper principle? But how is this possible? For the

immovable contains as numerous a multitude immovably; as the self-moved

self-moveably. Besides an immovable separation must necessarily subsist

prior to a self-moveable separation. The unmoved therefore is at the same

time one and many, and is at the same time united and separated, and a

nature of this kind is denominated intellect. But it is evident that

the united in this is naturally prior to and more honorable than the

separated. For separation is always indigent of union; but not, on the

contrary, union of separation. Intellect, however, has not the united

pure from its opposite. For intellectual form is coessentialized with the

separated, through the whole of itself. Hence that which is in a certain

respect united requires that which is simply united; and that which

subsists with another is indigent of that which subsists by itself; and

that which subsists according to participation, of that which subsists

according to essence. For intellect being self-subsistent produces itself

as united, and at the same time separated. Hence it subsists according to

both these. It is produced therefore from that which is simply united and

alone united. Prior therefore to that which is formal is the

uncircumscribed, and undistributed into forms. And this is that which we

call the united, and which the wise men of antiquity denominated being,

possessing in one contraction multitude, subsisting prior to the many.

Having therefore arrived thus far, let us here rest for a while, and

consider with ourselves, whether being is the investigated principle of

all things. For what will there be which does not participate of being?

May we not say, that this, if it is the united, will be secondary to the

one, and that by participating of the one it becomes the united? But in

short; if we conceive the one to be something different from being, if

being is prior to the one, it will not participate of the one. It will

therefore be many only, and these will be infinitely infinite. But if the

one is with being, and being with the one, and they are either coordinate

or divided from each other, there will be two principles, and the

above-mentioned absurdity will happen. Or they will mutually participate

of each other, and there will be two elements. Or they are parts of

something else, consisting from both. And, if this be the case, what will

that be which leads them to union with each other? For if the one unites

being to itself (for this may be said), the one also will energize prior

to being, that it may call forth and convert being to itself. The one,

therefore, will subsist from itself self-perfect prior to being. Further

still, the more simple is always prior to the more composite. If

therefore they are similarly simple, there will either be two principles,

or one from the two, and this will be a composite. Hence the simple and

perfectly incomposite is prior to this, which must be either one, or not

one; and if not one, it must either be many, or nothing.

But with respect

to nothing, if it signifies that which is perfectly void, it will signify

something vain. But if it signifies the arcane, this will not even be

that which is simple. In short, we cannot conceive any principle more

simple than the one. The one therefore is in every respect prior to

being. Hence this is the principle of all things, and Plato recurring to

this, did not require any other principle in his reasonings. For the

arcane in which this our ascent terminates is not the principle of

reasoning, nor of knowledge, nor of animals, nor of beings, nor of

unities, but simply of all things, being arranged above every conception

and suspicion that we can frame. Hence Plato indicates nothing concerning

it, but makes his negations of all other things except the one, from the

one. For that the one is he denies in the last place, but he does not

make a negation of the one. He also, besides this, even denies this

negation, but not the one. He denies, too, name and conception, and all

knowledge, and what can be said more, whole itself and every being. But

let there be the united and the unical, and, if you will, the two

principles bound and the infinite. Plato, however, never in any respect

makes a negation of the one which is beyond all these.

Hence in the

Sophista he considers it as the one prior to being, and in the Republic

as the good beyond every essence; but at the same time the one alone is

left. Whether however is it known and effable, or unknown and ineffable?

Or is it in a certain respect these, and in a certain respect not? For by

a negation of this it may be said the ineffable is affirmed. And again,

by the simplicity of knowledge it will be known or suspected, but by

composition perfectly unknown. Hence neither will it be apprehended by

negation. And in short, so far as it is admitted to be one, so far it

will be coarranged with other things, which are the subject of position.

For it is the summit of things, which subsist according to position. At

the same time there is much in it of the ineffable and unknown, the

uncoordinated, and that which is deprived of position, but these are

accompanied with a representation of the Contraries: and the former are

more excellent, than the latter. But every where things pure subsist

prior to their contraries, and such as are unmingled to the commingled.

For either things more excellent subsist in the one essentially, and in a

certain respect the contraries of these also will be there at the same

time; or they subsist according to participation, and are derived from

that which is first a thing of this kind. Prior to the one, therefore, is

that which is simply and perfectly ineffable, without position,

uncoordinated, and incapable of being apprehended, to which also the

ascent of the present discourse hastens through the clearest indications,

omitting none of those natures between the first and the last of things.

Such then is the ascent to the highest God, according to the theology of

Plato, venerably preserving his ineffable exemption from all things, and

his transcendency, which cannot be circumscribed by any gnostic energy,

and at the same time, unfolding the paths which lead upwards to him, and

enkindling that luminous summit of the soul, by which she is conjoined

with the incomprehensible one.

From this truly ineffable principle, exempt from all essence, power, and

energy, a multitude of divine natures, according to Plato, immediately

proceeds. That this must necessarily be the case, will be admitted by the

reader who understands what has been already discussed, and is fully

demonstrated by Plato in the Parmenides, as will be evident to the

intelligent from the notes on that Dialogue. In addition therefore to

what I have staid on this subject, I shall further observe at present

that this doctrine, which is founded in the sublimest and most scientific

conceptions of the human mind, may be clearly shown to be a legitimate

dogma of Plato from what is asserted by him in the sixth book of his

Republic. For he there affirms, in the most clear and unequivocal terms,

that the good, or the ineffable principle of things is superessential,

and shows by the analogy of the sun to the good, that what light and

sight are in the visible, that truth and intelligence are in the

intelligible world. As light therefore, immediately proceeds from the

sun, and wholly subsists according to a solar idiom or property, so truth

or the immediate progeny of the good, must subsist according to a

superessential idiom. And as the good, according to Plato, is the same

with the one, as is evident from the Parmenides, the immediate progeny of

the one will be the same as that of the good. But, the immediate

offspring of the one cannot be any thing else than unities. And, hence we

necessarily infer that according to Plato, the immediate offspring of the

ineffable principle of things are superessential unities. They differ

however from their immense principle in this, that he is superessential

and ineffable, without any addition; but this divine multitude is

participated by the several orders of being, which are suspended from and

produced by it. Hence, in consequence of being connected with multitude

through this participation, they are necessarily subordinate to the one.

No less admirably, therefore, than Platonically does Simplicius, in his

Commentary of Epictetus, observe on this subject as follows: "The

fountain and principle of all things is the good: for that which all

things desire, and to which all things are extended, is the principle and

the end of all things. The good also produces from itself all things,

first, middle, and last. But it produces such as are first and proximate

to itself, similar to itself; one goodness, many goodnesses, one

simplicity and unity which transcends all others, many, unities, and one

principle many principles. For the one, the principle, the good, and

deity, are the same: for deity is the first and the cause of all things.

But it is necessary that the first should also be most simple; since

whatever is a composite and has multitude is posterior to the one. And

multitude and things, which are not good desire the good as being above

them: and in short, that which is not itself the principle is from the

principle.

But it is also necessary that the principle of all things should possess

the highest, and all, power. For the amplitude of power consists in

producing all things from itself, and in giving subsistence to similars,

prior to things which are dissimilar. Hence the one principle produces

many principles, many simplicities, and many goodnesses, proximately from

itself. For since all things differ from each other, and are multiplied

with their proper differences, each of these multitudes is suspended from

its one proper principle. Thus, for instance, all beautiful things,

whatever and wherever they may be, whether in souls or in bodies, are

suspended from one fountain of beauty. Thus too, whatever possesses

symmetry, and whatever is true, and all principles, are in a certain

respect, connate with the first principle, so far as they are principles

and fountains and goodnesses, with an appropriate subjection and analogy.

For what the one principle is to all beings, that each of the other

principles is to the multitude comprehended under the idiom of its

principle. For it is impossible, since each multitude is characterized

by a certain difference, that it should not be extended to its proper

principle, which illuminates one and the same form to all the individuals

of that multitude. For the one is the leader of every multitude; and

every peculiarity or idiom in the many is derived to the many from the

one. All partial principles therefore are established in that principle

which ranks as a whole, and are comprehended in it, not with interval and

multitude, but as parts in the whole, as multitude in the one, and number

in the monad. For this first principle is all things prior to all: and

many principles are multiplied about the one principle, and in the one

goodness, many goodnesses are established. This too, is not a certain

principle like each of the rest: for of these, one is the principle of

beauty, another of symmetry, another of truth, and another of something

else, but it is simply principle. Nor is it simply the principles of

beings, but it is the principle of principles. For it is necessary that

the idiom of principle, after the same manner as other things, should not

begin from multitude, but should be collected into one monad as a summit,

and which is the principle of principles.

Such things therefore as are first produced by the first good, in

consequence of being connascent with it, do not recede from essential

goodness, since they are immovable and unchanged, and are eternally

established in the same blessedness. They are likewise not indigent of

the good, because they are goodnesses themselves. All other natures

however, being produced by the one good, and many goodnesses, since they

fall off from essential goodness, and are not immovably established in

the hyparxis of divine goodness, on this account they possess the good

according to participation."

From this sublime theory the meaning of that ancient Egyptian dogma, that

God is all things, is at once apparent. For the first principle,[6] as

Simplicius in the above passage justly observes, is all things prior

to all; i.e. he comprehends all things causally, this being the most

transcendent mode of comprehension. As all things therefore, considered

as subsisting causally in deity, are transcendently more excellent than

they are when considered as effects preceding from him, hence that mighty