Thomas Taylor: Tactate 27 (IV, 3) — A DISCUSSION OF DOUBTS RELATIVE TO THE SOUL.

I. Is it necessary to consider such doubts as pertain to the soul as sufficiently solved ; or shall we say that the doubts themselves are accompanied with this gain, that to know the difficulty with which they are attended, will be a right discussion of the affair ? For what can any one reasonably more abundantly consider and discuss than this; both on many other accounts, and also because it contributes to the knowledge of those things of which it is the principle, and of those from which it is derived ? By so doing, likewise, we shall comply with the mandate of the God who calls upon us to know ourselves. And since we wish to investigate and discover other things, it is but just to enquire what this is which investigates, especially since we desire to apprehend that which is lovely in the objects of contemplation. For in every intellect there is that which is twofold ;1 so that in partial intellects it is reasonable to admit that one has [the intelligible] in a greater, but another in a less degree. It is likewise requisite to consider, how souls become the receptacles of the Gods ; but this, indeed, we shall discuss when we investigate how soul subsists in body. Now, therefore, again, let us return to those who assert that our souls also are derived from the soul of the universe. For perhaps they will say it is not sufficient [in order to establish this hypothesis,] that our souls extend as far as the soul of the universe, nor that they are similarly intellectual with it; since parts are of a similar species with their wholes. They will, likewise, adduce Plato2 as the patron of this opinion, when proving that the universe is animated, he says: " As our body is a part of the body of the universe, thus also our soul is a part of the soul of the universe." This, too, is confirmed by the assertion, that we follow the circulation of the universe. And it is clearly asserted and demon stated that our manners and fortunes are thence derived; and that as we are generated within the world, we receive our soul from the universe in which we are comprehended. Farther still, as each part of us partakes of our soul, so likewise we for the same reason, since we have the relation of parts to the whole, participate as parts of the soul of the universe. The assertion [of Plato3] likewise, that every soul pays a guardian attention to every thing inanimate, has the same signification, and does not leave any thing else externally of soul, after the soul of the universe. For it is this soul which pays attention to every thing inanimate.

II. In answer to these things, therefore, in the first place it must be said, that those who admit souls to be of a similar species, because it is granted that they come into contact with the same things, and ascribe to them a common genus, exclude them from ranking as parts of one soul, and will rather make one and the same soul, and each to be every soul. But making one soul, they will also suspend it from something else, which no longer being something pertaining to this thing or that, but neither belonging to the world, or to any other thing, will effect the very same thing, as is effected by [the life] of the world, and of any animated being whatever. For it rightly happens that not every soul is something belonging to another thing, since soul is an essence; but that there should be a certain soul which is wholly exempt from a subordinate nature; and that such souls as belong to something else, are from accident at certain times connected with that which is inferior to themselves. Perhaps, however, it is necessary to show more clearly how a part in such souls is to be considered. Part, therefore, belonging to bodies, whether the body is of the same or of a different species, must be dismissed observing thus much alone, that when part is asserted of bodies consisting of similar parts, the part is according to bulk, and not according to form; such for instance as whiteness. For the whiteness which is in a part of milk, is not a part of the whiteness of all the milk ; but it is the whiteness indeed of a part, and not a part of the whiteness. For whiteness is entirely without magnitude, and is void of quantity. This, therefore, thus subsists. When, however, in things which are not bodies we speak of a part, we either assume it in such a way as in numbers, as when we say that two is a part of ten ; (but let this be considered as asserted in mere numbers alone) or as when we speak of the part of a circle and a line; or as a theorem is a part of science. In monads and figures, indeed, it is necessary in the same manner as in bodies, that the whole should be diminished, by a division into parts, and that the several parts should be less than the wholes [of which they are the parts]. For being quantities, and having their existence in quantity, and also not being the same quantity, they necessarily become greater and less. A part, therefore, cannot after this manner be asserted of soul. For it is not quantity in such a way as the decad is the whole, but the monad a part of the decad. Many other absurdities also will happen [from admitting that the soul is quantity] ; nor are ten things one certain thing. Either, likewise, each of the monads will be soul, or soul will consist of all inanimate things. Besides, the part of the whole soul is admitted to be of the same kind with the whole; but it is not necessary in continued quantity, that the part should be such as the whole. Thus, for instance, the parts of a circle are not of the same species with the circle, nor the parts of a triangle with the triangle; at least, all the parts in these, in which a part may be assumed, are not similar [to the whole]. For all the parts of a triangle are not triangles; [and so in other figures] but there will be a difference between the form of some of the parts and that of the whole. Soul, however, is acknowledged to be of a similar form. In a line, likewise, a part of it is still a line, but here also there is a difference in magnitude. But in soul if the difference between that soul which is partial, and that which ranks as a whole, should be considered as a difference in magnitude, soul would be a certain quantity and a body; since in this case, it would receive the difference so far as it is souL from quantity. All souls, however, are admitted to be similar and wholes. It appears, likewise, that neither is soul divided after the same manner as magnitudes ; nor do even our opponents admit that the whole of the soul can be divided into parts; since if this were the case, the whole would be destroyed. And unless the first soul was every soul, it would be a name alone; just as if it should be said, when wine is distributed into many amphorae, that the portion of it in each amphora, is a part of the whole wine. Shall we say, therefore, that part is to be assumed in the soul, in the same manner as a theorem is a part of science ? the whole science, indeed, nevertheless remaining; but the separation into parts, being as it were the utterance and energy of each. In a thing of this kind, however, each possesses the whole science in capacity, but the whole nevertheless continues to be the whole. If, therefore, a part in the whole soul and other souls is to be thus assumed, the whole soul, of which things of this kind are parts, will not be the soul of a certain thing, but will itself subsist from itself. Neither, therefore, will it be the soul of the world, but will be a certain soul, and will rank among those that are of a partial nature: hence all the parts being of a similar species, are the parts of one soul. But how is one the soul of the world, and another the soul of a part of the world ?

III. Are parts, therefore, so to be assumed, as if some one should say, that the soul which is in the finger of a certain animal, is a part of the whole soul which is in the whole animal? This assertion, however, either leaves no soul independent of body, or admits every soul not to be in body, and contends that what is called the soul of the universe is external to the body of the world. But this must be considered; and now must be investigated by an image. For if the soul of the universe imparts itself to all partial animals, and thus each soul is a part [of the whole soul]; for if this soul were divided, it would not impart itself to each; in this case, in consequence of imparting itself wholly, it will be every where the same, being one and the same at once in many animals. After this manner, however, one soul will no longer rank as a whole, and another as a part, and especially in those things in which the same power is present. For where the employment of one thing is different from the employment of another, as in the eyes and ears, there it must not be said that one part of the soul is present to the sight, and another to the ears (for such a division as this belongs to other things), but the same part, though a different power energizes in each. For all the powers of the soul are in both the parts; but the apprehensions are different in consequence of the organs being different. Nevertheless, all the powers rank among forms, and are reduced to a form which is capable of being fashioned according to all things. This is evident from the necessity that all things should arrive at one thing [and concur in it] ; but the nature of the instruments through which the concurrence is effected, is not able to receive all things, and the passions become different in the different instruments of sensation. The judgment, however, is from the same thing, as from a judge directing his attention to what is said and done. But it has been shown, that it is every where one thing which energizes in different actions. And if the apprehensions are as sensations, it is not possible for each of the senses to understand, but the whole soul. But if intelligence is appropriate, each intellectual perception subsists through itself. And when the soul is rational, and is rational in such a way as to be denominated wholly so, then that which is called a part is the same with the whole, and is not a part of it.

IV. What, therefore, shall we say, if it is thus one, when any one inquires, in the first place doubting, whether soul can after this manner be at once one in all things ? And in the next place, when one soul is in body, but another not, [how this takes place ?] For perhaps it follows that every soul is always in body, and especially the soul of the universe. For this soul does not, as ours is said to do, leave the body; though some say that even this soul abandons its body, and yet is not entirely out of the body. But if the soul of the universe is entirely out of the body, how is it that one soul leaves the body, but another does not, though both are [essentially] the same ? In intellect, therefore, which is separated from itself by difference, according to parts especially distinguished from each other, but which always subsist together at once, the essence of intellect being impartible, no such doubt can arise. But in the soul which is said to he divisible about bodies, how this which is one certain thing can be all souls, is attended with many doubts ; unless that which is one is established in itself, without falling into body, and afterwards all souls proceed from it, both the soul of the universe, and others to a certain extent; existing as it were together with it, and being one in consequence of not belonging to any thing else [i.e. of not being consubsistent with something of a nature subordinate to themselves]. They must, likewise, be suspended from their boundaries, and conspire with each other in their tendencies to supernal natures, by the projecting energies of intellect; like a light which is now on the earth, and is distributed in different habitations, yet is not divided into parts separated from the whole, but is nevertheless one. Hence, the soul of the universe is always transcendent, because it does not belong to it to descend, and be converted to these inferior realms. But our souls are subordinate, because a certain part of their essence is limited to this terrene abode, and to a conversion to body which requires solicitude and care. The soul of the world, therefore, in its most inferior part, resembles a great vegetable soul, which without labour and silently governs the plant of which it is the soul [i.e. in the same manner as worms are generated in wounds]. But the government of the inferior part of our soul, resembles the worms that are generated in the putrified part of a plant. For thus the animated body of the universe subsists. Another soul, however, which is similar in species to the superior part of the soul of the world, resembles in its government the husbandman whose attention is directed to the worms that are generated from putrefaction in a plant, and who is solicitously employed in the cultivation of the plant. Or as if some one should say that a man who is well, and is with other men that are in health, is with those persons with whom he co-operates either in acting or contemplating; but that a diseased man, and who is employed in procuring remedies for the body, is with the body, and becomes corporeal through his attention to it.

V. How, therefore, any longer will this be your soul, that the soul of some other person, and that again of another? Shall we say that it is the soul of this person according to its inferior part, but not of this according to its supreme part, but of some other person ? Thus, however, Socrates will indeed exist, when the soul of Socrates is in body; but he will perish when he is especially in the most excellent condition [i.e. when he is in the intelligible world]. But no being perishes, since the intellects which are in the intelligible do not perish, because they are not corporeally distributed into one thing, but each remains possessing in difference a sameness of subsistence, in which its very being consists. After this manner, therefore, souls also being successively suspended according to each intellect, being likewise reasons of intellects, though more evolved than an intellectual essence, and becoming as it were much from that which is few, and being in contact with it, they are now willing to be divided by each of those more impartible essences, yet are not able to proceed to the very extremity of division. For they preserve their sameness and difference, and each remains one, and at the same time all are one. "We have, however, summarily shown, that all souls are from one soul, and that all of them are divisible and at the same time indivisible. The soul, also, which abides [on high], is the one reason of intellect, and from this soul partial and immaterial reasons are derived, in the same manner as there [i.e. in the same manner as partial intellects are derived from one intellect which ranks as a whole].

VI. Why, however, did the soul of the world being of a uniform nature make the world, but not the soul of each individual, though it likewise contains all things in itself ? For we have before shown that productive power may exist at one and the same time in many things. Now, however, the reason of this must be assigned. For perhaps the manner may be known by us in which the same thing in different subjects either does or suffers a certain thing, or is with respect to it both an agent and a patient. Or rather let us consider how and why the soul of the universe made the world, but other souls govern a certain part of the world. Perhaps, however, it is not at all wonderful, that of those who possess the same science, some should rule over many, but others over few. But why, it may be said, is this the case ? To this it may be answered, that the difference of souls is greater, so far as one of them does not depart from the soul of the universe, but abiding there has a body surrounding it; but other souls, body now existing, and their sister soul having dominion, are alloted an appropriate destiny, this soul preparing for them proper habitations. It may also be said, that the soul of the universe beholds that intellect which ranks as a whole, but that other souls rather behold their own intellects which are of a partial nature. Perhaps, however, these souls also are able to make the universe ; but the soul of the world having made it, this is no longer possible to other souls, productive energy having commenced from the first soul. But the same doubt will arise if any other soul first began to fabricate. It is better, however, to say that the soul of the world rather than other souls fabricated the universe, because it in a greater degree adheres to intelligibles. For the power of those souls is greater that more vigorously tend to the intelligible world. For, preserving themselves in that secure region, they fabricate with facility; since it is the property of a greater power, not to suffer in the things which it produces. But power remains suspended from the supernal region. Abiding, therefore, in itself, it produces [other things] acceding. But other souls which proceed from the one soul, depart from it into the profundity [of a material nature]. Perhaps, also, that which is most abundant in them, being drawn downward, draws them likewise into an inferior condition, their own decisions conspiring with the downward impulse. What, however, is said in the " Timaeus " of mixture in a second and third degree, must be considered as signifying that some souls are nearer to, but others more remote from the soul of the world; just as in our souls, all of them are not similarly disposed with reference to supernal natures, but some are united to them, others through [ardent] desire accede near, and others accomplish this in a less degree, because they do not energize with the same powers. For some, indeed, energize with a first, others with a second, and others with a third power, all souls nevertheless possessing all powers.

VII. And thus much concerning these particulars. What is said in the " Philebus," however, may lead us to suspect that other souls are parts of the soul of the universe. But the meaning of what is there asserted, is not what some one may fancy, but was useful to Plato in demonstrating that the world is animated. This, therefore, he renders credible by saying that it is absurd to assert that the universe is inanimate, and that we who have a part of the body of the universe, have a soul. For how can a part have a soul, if the universe is inanimate r The opinion of Plato, however.is especially manifest in the "Timaeus;" where the Demiurgus having generated the soul of the universe, afterwards produces other souls, mingling them in the same crater in which he had mingled the soul of the world, and making them to be of a similar species with it, but assigning them a difference in a second and third degree. Nor is what he asserts in the " Phaedrus " wonderful, that every soul pays a guardian attention to that which is inanimate. For what is it except soul which governs, fashions, arranges, and produces the nature of body ? Nor must it be said, that one soul is naturally adapted to do this, but another not. The perfect soul, therefore, says he, revolves on high, not verging downward, but fabricates, riding in the world as it were as in a vehicle. Every other perfect soul, also governs the universe in a similar manner. But when he speaks of the soul whose wings suffer a defluxion, he evidently makes a difference between such a soul as this, and that of the universe. And when he adds, that souls follow the circulation of the universe, derive their manners from thence, and suffer from it, this does not at all indicate that our souls are parts of the soul of the world. For soul is sufficiently able to represent many things in itself, from the nature of places, and water, and air. And to this ability, the habitations of different cities, and the temperature of bodies, also contribute. And if we should grant that since we are in the universe we have something from the soul of the world, and that we suffer from the celestial circulation, yet we shall oppose to these things another soul [i.e., the rational soul], and which by its resistance especially demonstrates itself to be a different soul. To the assertion, also, that we are generated within the world, we reply that the fœtus in the womb of the mother has a soul different from that of the mother, and which accedes to it externally.4

VIII. Such, therefore, is the solution of these particulars ; the sympathy of souls being no impediment to our arguments. For since all of them originate from the same source as the soul of the universe, they are co-passive. For it has been already asserted by us that there is one [first] soul, and many souls. And we have likewise shown what the difference is between part and whole; and have in short spoken concerning the difference of souls. Now, also, we shall summarily observe, that besides bodies souls differ, especially in their manners, in the operations of the reasoning power, and from a pre-existent life. For in the " Republic" of Plato it is said, that the choice of souls is made conformably to their antecedent lives. But if any one in short assumes the nature of soul, he will assert that there are differences in the souls in which it is admitted there are second and third degrees. It has, likewise, been said by us, that all souls are all things; and that each is characterized by that which energizes in each. This, however, is the same thing as to assert, that one soul indeed is united in energy, another in knowledge, and another in appetite. Different souls also behold different objects, and are and become the very objects which they behold. Plenitude, likewise, and perfection pertain to souls, yet all of them have not the same of either of these; but the whole co-ordination of them is various. For every reason [or productive principle] is one, abundant, and various, in the same manner as a psychical animal, which has many forms. But if this be the case, there is co-ordination, and beings are not, in short, divulsed from each other. Nor is there any where that which is casual in beings ; not even among bodies. Hence it follows, that the number of things is definite. For again, it is necessary that beings should stop [in their progression], that intelligibles should continue the same, and that each thing should be one in number; for thus it will be this particular thing. For every body being naturally in a continual flux, in consequence of having an adventitious form, the perpetual existence of bodies according to form takes place through an imitation of [real] beings. The essence of the latter, however, as not subsisting from composition, consists in that which is one in number, which exists from the beginning, and neither becomes that which it was not, nor will be that which it is not; since if there were any thing in some future time which could produce them, it would not produce them from matter. But if this be the case, it is necessary to add something which is of itself essential; so that there will be a mutation about this very thing, if it now produces more or less. Why, likewise, should it produce now, and not always after the same manner ? That, likewise, which is generated will not be perpetual, if it admits of the more and the less. But soul is supposed to be a thing of this kind. How, therefore, is it infiniteif it is stopped [in its progression] ? May we not say, that it is infinite in power, because power is infinite, since God himself is not bounded. With respect to souls, therefore, each is not that which it is, as if it were so much in quantity, through a foreign boundary ; but it is as great as it wishes to be. Nor will it ever proceed out of itself, but will pervade every where, to bodies and through bodies, as it is naturally adapted to do; yet it is not divulsed from itself, when it is in a finger and a foot. Thus also in the universe, soul remains entire, into whatever it may proceed, and in another and another part of a plant. Hence, when any part of a plant is cut off, it is both in the plant as it was at first, and in the part which is separated from it. For soul is every where in the body of the universe, as in the one of it, this body being one. But when an animal becomes putrid, if many animals are generated from it, soul is then no longer the soul of the whole animal in the body ; for it has not then a proper receptacle of itself; nor yet does it perish. But the putrified matter being adapted to the generation of animals, has partly the soul of these, and partly the soul of those animals, soul never being absent from any thing, though one thing is adapted to receive it, and another is not. The parts of matter, however, which thus become animated, are not the cause of there being many souls. For these [spontaneously generated] animals are suspended from one soul, so far as it remains one; in the same manner as in us, when certain parts of the body are amputated, and others grow instead of them, the soul indeed is absent from [i.e. is not participated by] the former, but is present with the latter, so long as it remains one. In the universe, however, it always remains one. But of the natures within the universe, some indeed have soul, but others not, the same psychical [powers] still remaining.

  • 1. viz. The intelligible and the intellectual.
  • 2. See his " Philebus " and " Timaeus."
  • 3. In the "Phaedrus."
  • 4. i.e. It has a rational soul different from that of the mother. It is better, however, to say with Proclus, that as nature does nothing in vain, the presence of the rational soul to the fœtus in the womb would be useless, as it could not then energize ; but that it becomes united to the irrational soul in the very moment in which the infant leaves the womb.