On The Origin and Order [of the Three Initial Hypostases]
(Under Porphyry's numbering system, this essay is the second tractate of the Fifth Ennead.)
1. The ONE is all things and no one of them; the source of all things is not all things; all things are its possession -- running back, so to speak, to it -- or, more correctly, not yet so, they will be.
But a universe from an unbroken unity, in which there appears no diversity, not even duality?
It is precisely because that is nothing within the ONE that all things are from it: in order that Being may be brought about, the source must be no Being but Being's generator, in what is to be thought of as the primal act of generation. Seeking nothing, possessing nothing, lacking nothing, the ONE is perfect and, in our metaphor, has overflowed, and its exuberance has produced the new: this product has turned again to its begetter and been filled and has become its contemplator and so an Intellectual-Principle.
That station towards the one [the fact that something exists in presence of the One] establishes Being; that vision directed upon the ONE establishes the MIND; standing towards the One to the end of vision, it is simultaneously Intellectual-Principle and Being; and, attaining resemblance in virtue of this vision, it repeats the act of the ONE in pouring forth a vast power.
This second outflow is a Form or Idea representing the Divine Intellect as the Divine Intellect represented its own prior, the ONE.
This active power sprung from essence [from the Intellectual-Principle considered as Being] is SOUL.
SOUL arises as the idea and act of the motionless MIND -- which itself sprang from its own motionless prior -- but the SOUL's operation is not similarly motionless; its image is generated from its movement. It takes fulness by looking to its source; but it generates its image by adopting another, a downward, movement.
This image of Soul is Sense and Nature, the vegetal principle.
Nothing, however, is completely severed from its prior. Thus the human soul appears to reach away as far down as to the vegetal order: in some sense it does, since the life of growing things is within its province; but it is not present entire; when it has reached the vegetal order it is there in the sense that having moved thus far downwards it produces -- by its outgoing and its tendency towards the less good -- another hypostasis or form of being just as its prior (the loftier phase of the Soul) is produced from the Intellectual-Principle which yet remains in untroubled self-possession.
2. To resume: there is from the first principle to ultimate an outgoing in which unfailingly each principle retains its own seat while its offshoot takes another rank, a lower, though on the other hand every being is in identity with its prior as long as it holds that contact.
In the case of soul entering some vegetal form, what is there is one phase, the more rebellious and less intellectual, outgone to that extreme; in a soul entering an animal, the faculty of sensation has been dominant and brought it there; in soul entering man, the movement outward has either been wholly of its reasoning part or has come from the Intellectual-Principle in the sense that the soul, possessing that principle as immanent to its being, has an inborn desire of intellectual activity and of movement in general.
But, looking more minutely into the matter, when shoots or topmost boughs are lopped from some growing thing, where goes the soul that was present in them? Simply, whence it came: soul never knew spatial separation and therefore is always within the source. If you cut the root to pieces, or burn it, where is the life that was present there? In the soul, which never went outside of itself.
No doubt, despite this permanence, the soul must have been in something if it reascends; and if it does not, it is still somewhere; it is in some other vegetal soul: but all this means merely that it is not crushed into some one spot; if a Soul-power reascends, it is within the Soul-power preceding it; that in turn can be only in the soul-power prior again, the phase reaching upwards to the Intellectual-Principle. Of course nothing here must be understood spatially: Soul never was in space; and the Divine Intellect, again, is distinguished from soul as being still more free.
Soul thus is nowhere but in the Principle which has that characteristic existence at once nowhere and everywhere.
If the soul on its upward path has halted midway before wholly achieving the supreme heights, it has a mid-rank life and has centered itself upon the mid-phase of its being. All in that mid-region is Intellectual-Principle not wholly itself -- nothing else because deriving thence [and therefore of that name and rank], yet not that because the Intellectual-Principle in giving it forth is not merged into it.
There exists, thus, a life, as it were, of huge extension, a total in which each several part differs from its next, all making a self-continuous whole under a law of discrimination by which the various forms of things arise with no effacement of any prior in its secondary.
But does this Soul-phase in the vegetal order, produce nothing?
It engenders precisely the Kind in which it is thus present: how, is a question to be handled from another starting-point.
Plotinus' Enneads in their entirety are available in the Thriceholy library. The occasional pieces Plotinus wrote during his lifetime were collected by his disciple Porphyry and organized under the principles of number mysticism into sections of nine chapters; thus, the 'Enneads.' Given the circumstances of the Enneads' compilation, readers expecting a relation of consequence between one chapter and the next will, of course, be disappointed: