Thomas Taylor: Tractate 26 (III, 6, 16-19) — ON THE IMPASSIVITY OF INCORPOREAL NATURES.

XVI. Moreover, a certain reason acceding and extending matter as far as it proceeds into it, causes it to be great, investing it from itself with greatness, which is not in matter. But matter does not through this become quantity ; for if it did, that which is great in it would be magnitude. If, therefore, some one takes away this form, the subject no longer is, nor will appear to be great. But if that which is generated was great, man and horse, and together with horse the magnitude of horse which accedes, would depart on the departure of horse. If, however, it should be said, that horse is generated in a certain great bulk and of a certain extent, and that the magnitude remains, we reply that it is not the magnitude of the horse, but the magnitude of the bulk which there remains. Nevertheless, if this bulk is fire or earth, on the departure of fire or earth, the magnitude of fire or of earth will also depart. Matter, therefore, will neither enjoy figure, nor magnitude; for otherwise it would not be something else from fire, but remaining fire, it would not become fire. Hence, matter having now become as we see, as great in extent as the universe, if the heavens should cease to exist and'all they contain, together with these, all magnitude would likewise depart from matter, and at the same time all other qualities, and matter would be left that which it was before, preserving no one of the things which had a prior subsistence about it. In the natures, however, which suffer by the presence of certain things, something is still left in the recipients, when those things depart; but this is no longer the case with natures that do not suffer. Thus the air which is surrounded with light, retains nothing of the light when it departs. But if some one should wonder how it is possible, that a thing should become great which does not possess magnitude; it may also be doubted how that can become hot which has not heat. For it is not the same thing in matter, to be matter and to be magnitude; since magnitude is immaterial, in the same manner as figure is immaterial. And if we preserve matter, we must assert that it is all things by participation. But magnitude is one of all things. In bodies, therefore, which are composites, there is magnitude together with other things, yet it is not indefinite; since in the definition of body magnitude also is included. But in matter, even indefinite magnitude is not included; for it is not body.

XVII. Neither, again, will matter be magnitude itself. For magnitude is form, but not the recipient of form ; and magnitude subsists by itself. If matter, likewise, cannot adapt to itself the imitations of beings, on this account also it is not magnitude. Since, however, that which is placed in intellect or in soul, wishes to be great, it imparts to those things which by proceeding as it were, endeavour to imitate it, by the desire of, or motion towards it, the ability of impressing the same passion in another thing. That which is great, therefore, running in the progression of the phantasy so as to cause the smallness of matter to run in conjunction with it, occasions matter also to appear great, though it is not filled by the co-extension. For this greatness of matter is falsely great, since by not having the power to be great, and being extended towards magnitude, it becomes amplified by the extension. For since all beings produce in other things, or in another thing the representation of themselves as in mirrors, each of the agents is in a similar manner great; and the universe also is great in this way. The magnitude, therefore, of each productive principle, as of that of a horse or any thing else concurs with the particular thing to which the productive principle pertains. And every appearance, indeed, of things as in a mirror is great in consequence of being illuminatjd by greatness itself. Each portion of them, likewise, becomes something great, and all things at once present themselves to the view from every form of which magnitude is one. From each form, also, there is, as it were, an extension to every thing and to all things, and this is to be compelled in form. Power, too, produces as much in bulk as bulk is capable of receiving; so that what is [in reality] nothing, appears to be all things. Hence colour which proceeds from what is not colour, and the quality in sensibles which is derived from what is not quahty, have an equivocal appellation from their producing causes. Magnitude, also, proceeds from that which is not magnitude, or from that which is hoinonymously magnitude ; these1 being surveyed as having a subsistence between matter itself, and form itself. And they become apparent, indeed, because they are derived from form themselves. They have, however, a false subsistence, because that in which they are apparent is not [truly]. But each of them becomes extended into magnitude, being attracted by the power of the things which are seen in matter, and which make for themselves a place. There is, however, an attraction to all things, yet not by violence, because the universe is matter. But each thing attracts according to the power which it possesses; and derives from the representation of magnitude itself, the ability of making matter so great as it appears to be. Hence the magnitude which is here is the phantasm of it which is apparent. Matter, however, being compelled to concur with this attraction, at once imparts itself wholly and every where ; for it is the matter of the iiniverse, and not some particular matter. But that which is not of itself some particular thing, may on account of something else become contrary to what it was, and having become contrary, no longer is [what is was]; since if it were, it would cease to be changed.

XVIII. If some one, therefore, possessing an intellectual conception of magnitude, should have this conception attended with a power not only of subsisting in itself, hut also of proceeding as it were externally, and the power should receive a nature not existing in the intellectual per-eeiver, nor having a certain form, nor a certain vestige of magnitude or of any other form, what would he produce through this power ? Not a horse, or an ox. For other powers would produce these. Or shall we say, that since this power proceeds from a great father, nothing else [besides matter] is able to receive this magnitude, and that its possession of it will only be imaginary, and not real. Hence, to that which does not so obtain magnitude, as to be in its own nature the great itself, it remains for it to be apparently only as much as possible great. But this is not to be deficient, and not to proceed to many things in many places; but to possess in itself kindred parts, and not to leave any thing destitute of itself. For it is not possible that in a small bulk, there should still be an equal image of magnitude, since it is an image of greatness; but so far as it aspires through its hope, it accedes as far as it is possible for it to accede, and running in conjunction with that which is not able to leave it, it causes that to be great which is not great, yet not so as to appear to be the magnitude which is seen in bulk. At the same time, however, matter preserves its own nature, using this magnitude as a (vestment, through which it ran together with it, when magnitude running became its leader. But if at any time it should divest itself of magnitude, it would again remain the same as it was before in itself; or would be as great as form when present caused it to be. And soul, indeed, possessing the forms of beings, since she is also herself a form, contains all things at once. Since, likewise, each form is at once wholly contained in her, hence perceiving the forms of sensibles as it were converted and acceding to her, she cannot endure to receive them with multitude, but sees them divested of bulk. For she cannot become any thing else than what she is.

Matter, however, having nothing repercussive; for it has no energy; but being a shadow, stays to suffer whatever the producing cause may effect in it. _ That also which proceeds from the reason that is in soul, has now a vestige of the thing which is about to be effected; just as in the iconic nature of the phantasy, reason which is moved, or the motion from reason, is a division into parts; since if it was one and the same, it would not be moved, but be permanent. Matter, however, is not able to introduce at once all things into itself, for if it were able, it would be some one of all things. But since it is necessary that it should receive all things, yet not impartibly, it is requisite that existing as the place of all things, it should proceed to all things, meet with them, and be sufficient for every interval, because it is not itself comprehended by interval, but is exposed to the reception of it. How does it happen, therefore, that one thing entering into matter, does not impede other things ? It is because all things cannot enter together at the same time; for if they could, there would not be anything which is first. But if there is, it is the form of the universe; so that all things are indeed simultaneous, but each has a partial existence. For the matter of the animal nature is distributed in conjunction with the division of the animal into parts. For if this were not the case, nothing would have been produced besides reason.

XIX. The things, therefore, which enter into matter as a mother, neither injure it, nor benefit it. For the impulses of these do not pertain to matter, but to each other, because the powers of these also pertain to contraries, but not to subjects, unless the subjects are considered in conjunction with the impulses. For heat destroys cold, and the black the white; or if they are mingled together, another quality is produced from the mixture. Hence, things which are mingled suffer; but with them, to suffer, is not to be that which they were before. In animated natures, also, the passions indeed, are about the bodies, the change in quality taking place according to the inherent qualities and powers. But when their state of existence is dissolved, or congregated, or transposed preternaturally, then, the passions indeed are in the bodies, but knowledge is in the souls that perceive the more vehement passions. If, however, they do not perceive them, they have no knowledge of them, but matter still remains. For matter suffers nothing, when cold departs, and heat accedes; since neither of these is either friendly or foreign to it. Hence, the appellations of a receptacle and nurse are more appropriate to it [than any other names]. But why is it called a mother ? For it does not generate. Those, however, appear to have denominated it a mother, who think that a mother has the relation of matter towards her offspring, as alone receiving, but imparting nothing to the things begotten; since whatever of body there is in the offspring, is derived from the nutriment. But if the mother imparts any thing to her progeny, it is not so far as she has the relation of matter, but because she is also form For form alone is prolific, but the other nature is barren. Whence, also, I think the ancient wise men obscurely signifying this in their mysteries, represent the ancient Hermes always possessing the organ of generation erect, thus manifesting that it is intelligible reason which generates in the sensible universe. But they indicated the unprolific nature of matter which always remains the same, by the barren substances which were placed about it. For they introduce the mother of all things, which they thus proclaim, receiving the principle according to the subject, and they give her this appellation in order to render their meaning manifest, wishing to indicate to those who are desirous of more accurately comprehending the nature of matter, and who do not investigate it superficially, that it is not entirely similar to a mother. By this, indeed, they demonstrate remotely, but at the same time as much as they are able, that matter is unprolific, and not perfectly feminine; but that it is of a female nature so far as it receives, but not so far as pertains to a generative power. For that which has proceeded into matter, is neither feminine, nor able to generate, but is separated from all generative power, which is alone inherent in that which continues to be of a masculine nature.

  • 1. viz. Colour, quality, and magnitude.