This originally appeared in Introduction to Magic, Volume 3, by the Gruppo di Ur. This is Part 2 of 2. ⇐ Go to part 1
Plotinus adds: pleasure is the act of life. It is the same view already established by another great genius of the ancient world, Aristotle, who had taught that every activity, insofar as it is perfect, is happy. Happiness and pleasure are like that in the form of purity and freedom: those who arise from the act that is fulfilled and that, once fulfilled, realizes the One, Being, the Good – not those passive and promiscuous men grabbed into the middle of the turbid self-satisfaction of cravings, thirsts, instincts. Again we are led to the non-human point of view of “reality”. The one who does not know the irrationality of sentiments. The degree of “being” is the secret and measurement of happiness itself.
Consequently, Plotinus asserts that the even in this universe souls can be happy: highlighting, with this, an important aspect of the pagan conception of existence. If “virtue”, as the dominating spiritual actuality, implies power, one can conceive as little that the “good” is accompanied by “happiness”, as glory is separable from victory. Whoever is defeated by external or internal constraint is not “good”: and for such a being to be happy would be unjust. But he accuses only himself of that, not the world.
Otherwise, we understand, the thing is for whoever reduces “virtue” to a simple “moral” disposition.
He certainly says, then, that “my kingdom is not of this world” and expects God to give happiness in the “afterlife” as a reward to the “just”, who, lacking power, have tolerated and endured injustice with humility and resignation in this life. The warrior and heroic truth of ancient classical-Aryan man was different. If “evil” and all its materialization in violence and limits of inferior forces and corporeal things has roots in a state of degradation of the good—it is inconceivable, it is logically contradictory that it might endure as a principle of unhappiness and servitude in respect to whoever destroyed that root, having become “good.” If “good” is, then “evil”—suffering, passion, slavery—cannot be. They are instead: they, then, will say that “virtue” is still imperfect; “being” is still incomplete; “purity” and “unity” are still “adulterated”.
There are those who are unarmed. But who has weapons, fights—there is no God who fights for those who are not in arms. The law requires that victory in war is the brave, not to those who pray.
That the cowardly are dominated by the wicked—is just.
New reaffirmation of the virile, Roman, warrior spirit of the pagan tradition. New contrast with the mystical-religious attitude. New contempt for those who deprecate the “injustice” of earthly things and instead of blaming their cowardice, they either resign themselves to their powerlessness, or they blame the Whole or hope that “Providence” cares about them.
“There is no God who fights for those who are not in arms.” This is the anti-Christian cornerstone of every warrior morality; and it carries back to the concepts explained above about the identification—from the metaphysical point of view—of “reality”, “spirituality”, and “virtue”. The cowardly cannot be good, “good” implies a soul of a hero. And the perfection of the hero is the triumph. Ask God for victory, it would be equivalent to ask Him for “virtue”: since victory is the body in which the very perfection of “virtue” takes place.
The soldiers of Fabius, leaving, vowed not to conquer or die, but vowed to fight and to return as victors. And the victors returned. The spirit of Rome reflects the spirit of this same wisdom.
For fear, total suppression, the soul has nothing to be afraid of.
Those who fear nothing have not reached the perfection of virtue. He is mediocrity.
In the higher man [spoudaus], feelings are not displayed as in the others. Do not reach the interior: they are other things, are suffering and grief, his or others. This would be weakness of the soul.
If suffering passes the measure—that pass it. The light that is in him will last, like the lamp of a lighthouse in the swirling wind and storm.
Master of himself even in this state, will decide what there is to do.
The spoudaus would not be such, if a demon was acting within his action. In him, it is the sovereign mind (nous) that acts.
Plotinus admits that the superior man can sometimes have involuntary and unreflective fears, but almost as movements that do not belong to him and because his spirit is not present. “Coming back to himself, he will drive them away … Like a child who remains tamed only by the majesty of those who gaze on him fixedly.”
Concerning suffering, it can at most cause the separation of a part of oneself not yet free from passion: but never the overturning of the higher principle. “He will decide what there is to do.” When it is the case, he may also withdraw from the game. Do not forget that according to Plotinus the superior man is in himself his own “demon” and he lives down here like an actor who plays a part he freely chose. Against the Gnostics Christians he retorted sharply, “Why despise this world, where you yourselves have come to by your own will? It permits you to go away if good is not found there. ‘”
As nous in man can be precisely defined as the “being” principle made of pure intellectuality, it is the “Olympic mind” with respect to which the “soul” principle (psyche) already represents a marginal wrapping up: at most, it is a profundity that is hidden and latent. But then, more than the ‘”I”, it is a “demon” who acts in every action. Plotinus says exactly that everything that happens without deliberation, unites a demon to a god. We now see who the opposite condition is revealed.
There, the why of being … it does not exist as why, but as being. Better: the two things are one.
May everyone be himself.
May our thoughts and our actions be our own. May the actions of each being belong to him. Whether they be good—whether they be evil.
When the soul has pure and impassible reason for a guide, in full self-mastery, where he wants to direct his energy. Only then can the act be said to be ours, not another’s: from interiority of the soul as a purity, as a pure dominating and sovereign principle… not by action misled by ignorance and fragmented by desire … For, then, passion, and not act, it would be in us.
Feelings are the visions of the soul asleep.
Everything of the soul that is in the body sleeps. To come out of the bod, is the true awakening. Changing lives with a body, is to pass from one sleep to another sleep, from one bed to another bed.
To truly awaken, is to leave the world of bodies.
As materiality is the state of swoon of the spirit, so the reality of sleep is every reality that appears to us in the midst of the material senses. The coming out from the body and the abandonment of the world of bodies is, however, not grossly interpreted: it is essentially about an interior transformation, a self-integration in the “intellectual nature without sleep”. And this is the true initiatic and metaphysical realization.
Very effectively, Plotinus assimilates the transformation of the body in passing from one bed to another. When it also had a consistency, the doctrine of reincarnation could not be better stigmatized, as in the part of this pagan initiate. One form is equivalent to another in the “cycle of births” in respect to the center which is equally distant from every point on the circumference. Metaphysical realization is a fracture in the series of conditioned states: one opening above a radically heterogeneous direction. One does not reach it by following the trail of those types who “flee”, those who pursue a goal that they have outside themselves: in the becoming of the world of bodies.
What must there be in front of you as a spectacle, if one looks outside. But now, you have to look at yourself; to make yourself one with what you have to contemplate; to know that what you have to contemplate is yourself.
And that is yours. As someone who was invaded by the god Phoebus or a Muse. He would see himself shine in divine clarity, if he had the power at the same time to contemplate in himself this divine light.