Guthrie: Tractate 38,11 (VI, 7, 11) - BUT HOW COULD THE INTELLIGIBLE WORLD CONTAIN VEGETABLES OR METALS?

BUT HOW COULD THE INTELLIGIBLE WORLD CONTAIN VEGETABLES OR METALS?

11. (The Timaeus of Plato) states that heaven has not scorned to receive any of the forms of the animals, of which we see so great a number. The cause must be that this universe was to contain the universality of things. Whence does it derive all the things it contains? From on high? Yes, it received from above all the things that were produced by reason, according to an intelligible form. But, just as it contains fire and water, it must also contain plant-life. Now, how could there be plant-life in the intelligible world? Are earth and fire living entities within it? For they must be either living or dead entities; in the latter case, not everything would be alive in the intelligible world. In what state then do the above-mentioned objects find themselves on high (in the intelligible world) ?

First it can be demonstrated that plants contain nothing opposed to reason; since, even here below, a plant contains a "reason" which constitutes its life. But if the essential "reason" of the plant, which constitutes it, is a life of a particular kind, and a kind of soul, and if this "reason" itself be a unity, is it the primary Plant? No: the primary Plant, from which the particular plant is derived, is above that "reason." The primary Plant is unity; the other is multiple, and necessarily derives from this unity. If so, the primary Plant must possess life in a still higher degree, and be the Plant itself from which the plants here below proceed, which occupy the second or third rank, and which derive from the primary Plant the traces of the life they reveal.

HOW THE EARTH EXISTS IN THE INTELLIGIBLE.

But how does the earth exist in the intelligible world? What is its essence? How can the earth in the intelligible world be alive there? Let us first examine our earth, that is, inquire what is its essence? It must be some sort of a shape, and a reason; for the reason of the plant is alive, even here below. Is there then a living ("seminal) reason" in the earth also? To discover the nature of the earth, let us take essentially terrestrial objects, which are begotten or fashioned by it. The birth of the stones, and their increase, the interior formation of mountains, could not exist unless an animated reason produced them by an intimate and secret work. This reason is the "form of the earth," a form that is analogous to what is called nature in trees. The earth might be compared to the trunk of a tree, and the stone that can be detached therefrom to the branch that can be separated from the trunk. Consideration of the stone which is not yet dug out of the earth, and which is united to it as the uncut branch is united to the tree, shows that the earth's nature, which is a productive force, constitutes a life endowed with reason; and it must be evident that the intelligible earth must possess life at a still higher degree, that the rational life of the earth is the Earth-in-itself, the primary Earth, from which proceeds the earth here below.

THE FIRE AS IT IS IN THE INTELLIGIBLE WORLD.

If fire also be a reason engaged in matter, and in this respect resemble the earth, it was not born by chance. Whence would it come? Lucretius thought it came from rubbing (sticks or stones). But fire existed in the universe before one body rubbed another; bodies already possess fire when they rub up against one another; for it must not be believed that matter possesses fire potentially, so that it is capable of producing it spontaneously. But what is fire, since the principle which produces the fire, giving it a form, must be a "reason"? It is a soul capable of producing the fire, that is, a "reason" and a life, which (fuse) into one thing. That is why Plato says that in every object there is a soul30; that is, a power capable of producing the sense-fire. Thus the principle which produces the fire in our world is a "fiery life," a fire that is more real than ours. Since then the intelligible Fire is a fire more real than ours, it also possesses a moral life. The Fire-in-itself therefore possesses life. There is a similar "reason" in the other elements, air and water. Why should not these things be as animated as earth is? They ate evidently contained in the universal living Organism, and they constitute parts thereof. Doubtless life is not manifest in them, any more than in the earth; but it can be recognized in them, as it is recognized in the earth, by its productions; for living beings are born in the fire, and still more in the water, as is better known; others also are formed in the air. The flames that we daily see lit and extinguished do not manifest in the universal Soul (because of the shortness of their duration); her presence is not revealed in the fire, because she does not here below succeed in reaching a mass of sufficient permanency.

WATER AND AIR AS INTELLIGIBLE ENTITIES.

It is not otherwise with water and air. If by their nature these elements were more consistent, they would reveal the universal Soul; but as their essence is dispersed, they do not reveal the power that animates them. In a similar case are the fluids occurring in our body, as, for instance, the blood; the flesh, which seems animated, is formed at the expense of the blood. The latter must therefore enjoy the presence of the soul, though it seem deprived of the (soul) because (the blood) manifests no sensibility, opposes no resistance, and by its fluidity easily separates itself from the soul that vivifies it, as happens to the three elements already mentioned. Likewise the animals which Nature forms out of condensed air feel without suffering. As fixed and permanent light penetrates the air so long as the air itself is permanent, the soul also penetrates the atmosphere surrounding her without being absorbed by it. Other elements are in the same case.