Plotinus: The Peak of Pagan Wisdom

This originally appeared in Introduction to Magic, Volume 3, by the Gruppo di Ur. It was published under the name “Plotino” and I haven’t been able to determine the identity. This is Part 1 of 2. Go to part 2 ⇒

It is up to the gods to come to me, not for me to go to them.

The whole spirit of the “solar” way is contained in Plotinus’ bold response to Amelio, who invited him to approach the gods with the prescribed rites. The surpassing of the religious attitude, the transcendent dignity of man in possession of Wisdom; and his superiority not only in relation to the natural world, but also in relation to the divine, are asserted.

In particular, it is about an inner significance, which is essential for practice, because if you do not understand it, if you do not achieve it, it is useless to talk of “magic”, it is useless to start with abstruse “ceremonials”, to devote oneself to ascetic disciplines or yogic “exercises”.

It is necessary to create a quality in oneself, through which the supersensible powers (the gods) are forced to be like females attracted to the male. This quality can be summed up in a word that means nothing and means everything: BEING.

BE, ENDURE, become a CENTER. Through “ascesis”, through “purification”, through what Plotinus himself will now make explicit. You have heard of “solar way”. This is its secret. Separated from those with disordered need, yearning soul, and confused look – more ‘non-being’ than ‘being’ – they are attracted to the invisible worlds.

It is necessary to make yourself oneself like the gods: not like the leading citizens [uomini da bene].

Not to be exonerated from sin, but to be a God – is the goal.

These maxims bluntly separate the way of the initiate from the way of men. The “virtue” of men, in the final analysis, is something indifferent: “the image of an image,” says Plotinus. “Morality” has nothing to do with initiation. Initiation is a radical transformation of one state of existence to another state of existence. A “God” is not a “moral value”: it is another being. A good man does not cease to be “man” by being “good.” At any time and place where the meaning of “initiation” is understood, the idea was always the same. Thus in hermetism: “Our work is the conversion and a change of a being into another being, of one thing into another thing, the weakness into strength … of corporeality into spirituality.”

Even evil men can take water from rivers. Whoever gives simply ignores that which gives.

How does man stand in relation to the whole? As a part? No. As a whole that belongs to himself.

Minus “one”, are those minus “being”: more, those who are more.

He is himself, every being, belonging to himself; and to belong to oneself, is to center oneself. The One possesses himself, and has all the greatness and beauty. Behold: he does not flow and does not avoid himself indefinitely. The whole thing is now gathered together in its unity.

The first element that constitutes the condition of “being” is unity.

Unify Yourself – Be One.

That bundle of energy, that people of beings, sensations, tendencies that you are, enfold it under a single law, under a single will, under a single thought.

Organize Yourself

Bend your “soul”, use it in every sense, take it to every crossroad as long as it is inert, incapable of proper motion, dead to every irrationality of instinct. Like a perfectly tamed horse, when driven to the right, it goes right, when driven to the left, it goes left, when braked, it stops, when incited, it flings itself – so also your soul is for you: one thing you keep wholly in your fist. Without constraints, you will be One: being one, you are – and you belong to yourself. Belonging to yourself, greatness belongs to you.

The ancient classical Aryan wisdom distinguished two symbolic regions: the lower one of the things that “escape”, the higher, of the “things that are.” The things that are powerless to come to the realization and perfect possession of their nature flow and “escape”. The others are those that have transcended that life that is mixed with death, and that is a flowing and continuous longings. Their “immobility”, and the same ancient astronomical designation of their “place”, are symbols. A spiritual state is designated. Being one, no longer dispersed, follows it.

What is the Good for such a man? He is himself his own good. The life that he possesses is perfect. He possesses the good, insofar as he is not in search of another.

To remove whatever is other in respect to his own being, is to purify oneself.

In simple relationship with you without hindrance in your pure unity, without the thing that it is mixed interiorly with this purity, being you only in pure light … you became a vision.

Although being here, you are ascended.

You no longer need guidance.

Fix your gaze. You’ll see.

With singular brevity, what is expressed here, in a transcendent sense, is to be called “good”: the absence of anything that, penetrating inn itself, might take him outside of himself in desire or impulse. Plotinus is careful to clarify the spiritual significance of such a concept by saying that the superior man can even “look for other things insofar as they are indispensable, not to him, but to those things close to him: to the body to which he is joined, to the life of the body that is not his life. Knowing what the body needs, gives it to him, but these things have no bearing on his life. ”

“Evil” is the sense of need in the spirit: that of every life that, not knowing how to stand up in himself, loses heart here and there, yearning, looking to complete itself with the achievement of one thing or the other. As long as there is this “need”, as long as there is this internal and radical insufficiency, the Good is not there. It is nothing nameable: it is an experience that only an act of the spirit on the spirit can produce: separating it from the idea of ?? every other, rejoining it with himself. A state of certainty and fullness then arises, when given, one no longer asks for anything, all talk, all speculation, all agitation, is useless, while one does not know what more can produce a change in the deep mind. Plotinus rightly says that the man, who possesses the whole of his life, possesses perpetuity: being only “I”, nothing can be added to him, neither in the past nor in the present nor in the future.

The state of being, is to be present.

Every being is in action and in act.

Pleasure is the act of life.

The souls in this universe can also be happy. If they are not – they accuse themselves, not the universe. They have surrendered in this struggle, where the reward crowns virtue.

Plotinus again clarifies the meaning of “being”: to be is to be present, to be in act. He speaks of “that intellectual nature without sleep”, a strictly traditional expression. We know the term: “Awakened”, the “Always awake” and the symbolism of the “sleep”, which furthermore can be more than symbolism in reference to the continuity of a “being present” and that does not undergo alteration even in the change of state that usually corresponds to sleep.

To be, therefore, is to be awake. The experience of the whole concentrated in an intellectual clarity, in the simplicity of an act – it is the experience of ‘”being”. To abandon oneself, to fail – this is the secret of non-being. The fatigue of the interior unity that loosens and skids, the inner energy that ceases to dominate every part of it as almost, through a disintegration, a multiplicity of tendencies, instincts, and irrational sensations arise – this is the self-deterioration of the spirit that is manifested in more and more oblique and stunned nature until it reaches the limit form of swoon that is expressed in matter. It is a misunderstanding, says Plotinus, to say that matter is: the being of matter is non-being. Its indefinite divisibility indicates precisely the “fall” of the unity that it represents; its inertia, whence it is heavy, strong and blunt, is the same that is characteristic of those who, while failing, cannot hold and deteriorates. That the “truth” characteristic of physical knowledge is different does not matter. Corporeal being is the non-being of the spiritual.

Like the actual state of culmination, ‘”being” is one with the “good.” So “matter” and “evil”, in turn, identify with each other; and there is no other “evil” except for matter. Here it is naturally necessary to detach oneself, to give up all human preconceptions. The “evil” of men has no place in reality and therefore in a metaphysical vision which is always a vision in accordance with reality. Metaphysically ‘good’ and ‘evil’ do not exist, but rather what is real and what is not – and the degree of “reality” (meant in the spiritual sense previously explained by “being”) measures the degree of “virtue”. In the dry and virile view of ancient classical-Aryan man, only the state of “privation” of ‘”being” was “bad”: the fatigue, the neglect, the sleep of the interior strength that sets “matter” at the limit, as has been said. Neither “evil” nor “matter” are therefore principles in themselves: they were derived through ‘degradation’ and ‘dissolution’. Plotinus expresses himself exactly in these terms: “It is by falling short of the Good in that darkness is seen and in the darkness we live. And the evil for the soul is this falling short, the producer of darkness. This is the first evil. Darkness is something that proceeds from it. And the nature of evil is not in matter, but prior to matter in the cessation of the act that gave rise to matter.”

11 thoughts on “Plotinus: The Peak of Pagan Wisdom

  1. I see…Thanks for the clarification. I think I am beginning to understand the way in which one approaches these texts. If one wants to see difference and discord, he will remain in the realm of discursive thought and will have difficulty “penetrating” their truths, so to speak. I suppose this is what Tomberg means when he states that the Hermetic path seeks the middle way in neutralizing binaries above.

    P.S. Forgive the constant references to Tomberg and Mouravieff…they are my only reference points at this stage though i’m sure they are old hat to the rest here.

  2. Pingback: Plotinus: The Peak of Pagan Wisdom (II) | Gornahoor

  3. “Though he never came out and identified as such, Baron Evola was a Neoplatonist, …”

    I think you are right as much as we can put a label “” on the Maestro. His praise for Emperor Julian (so called “apostate”) who was a thorough Neoplatonist is proof of your conjecture.

  4. The tone may appear over the top, but keep in mind that the “gods” referred to are simply the super-human states. We would refer to them, as does Rene Guenon, as angels rather than “gods”. I don’t see how that can be accomplished passively (although it may happen as a grace); rather a man must make the necessary efforts. Try to read it in that light.

    I don’s suspect that Plotinus is referring to the “One” in the same way. And to be consistent with all the other writings that have appeared here, I don’t believe he is saying that man qua man is raised up to the “gods”, but rather that the human, all too human, state must give way to the higher state.

    On the other hand, and I can’t remember the source of this, I believe Dostoevsky said that the man who wants to to make himself God succeeds in becoming not even an insect.

  5. I don’t know who wrote it, as it is attributed to “Plotino” himself. Introduzione alla Magia

  6. Of course, i’m assuming that this was written by Evola and not one of the other members of the Ur Group.

  7. I don’t think that this text is inherently anti-Christian, yet after being exposed to other writers such as Tomberg and Mouravieff and coming back to Evola, it does come off as somewhat proud and vainglorious. At times it seems that Evola defines the solar path as this sense of pride, whereas in Tomberg for example, the solar path has more to do with chastity and love. I have a feeling though that this has more to do with differeing perspectives, one of priestly contemplation and the other warrior and active, rather than any dispute over metaphysics. Perhaps this is why the active/warrior path will not take one the full distance to liberation, because this vaingloriousness is essential to the active path, yet is also a major stumbling block, as described in The Charioteer in MOT….just conjecture though. Am I right in this?

  8. “An image of an image” : excellent. So much for humanism today. Could someone of a lower caste, by following assiduously the rites, possibly obtain a pre-mortem initiation through obesciance?

  9. What about the monistic view of Vedanta, or some mystics (sufi or christian), opposed to the dualism of body and soul of Platonic view ?

  10. This text is NOT anti-Christian, despite what moderns may think, I must point out as the goal of perfection – of union with God – is the goal of Catholic mystical theology. St Dionysius and the German mystics of the XIVth century are all in accord with Plotinus – who by the way through St Augustine is an important influence on Catholic philosophy.

    Though he never came out and identified as such, Baron Evola was a Neoplatonist, as some have pointed out recently. In fact Traditionalism as a whole has been described as the merger of Neoplatonism with Hinduism, and I am in accord with that interpretation.

  11. Interesting. But I always have problem with that kind of reflection as to wether it is Solar, or Promethean in a affirmation so close to existentialism and self-proclamation of God. Of course, the Self is the Whole (Atman is Brahman), and therefore everything is kept in check. But the line is thin. Still, the «Center» and «Unify yourself» themes remind me of Rumi : «You are not a drop in the ocean.
    You are the entire ocean in a drop.»

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