Part 1 of this post is found here
Ancient Alexandria was home to one of the greatest minds to walk this planet, namely Plotinus. Although he is considered a 'pagan'*, his writings have been hugely influential on Christian thought. He is considered by certain authorities to be equal in stature to Plato and Aristotle in terms of the power of his thought and ideas.
*Pagan is an interesting word, that relates to the dwellers in the countryside (Latin paganus meaning villager or rustic). The towns adopted the official religion of Rome, namely Christianity, quicker than those who lived in more rural, and less accessible, settings. Hence the non Christians were referred to as pagan.
Plotinus developed the theory of Soul more fully than any of his predecessors. As he uses the term (he of course spoke of psyche) it can refer to a 'world', zone or state of being, as well as the individual identity of a human being.
One definition that can be applied to the Soul is
"that which has its centre everywhere and its circumference nowhere"
The soul is not something the body has, tucked away somewhere. Rather it is the limitless reality that is the source of all that the body can do.
Soul can be seen as midway between Spirit and Body. The body is limited in time and space. Spirit is eternal and without any limitation. Soul is the principle that connects the two.
In this sense, Man (women and men) live in what has been called, "The blessed station of the midst". Created with an individual Soul human beings dwell between the eternal heavens and temporal Earth and can participate in both.
The Soul is a mystery and will not reveal her secrets quickly or to those who are not prepared to make an effort to seek.
The Delphic Oracle rightly stated "Man Know Thyself", for that is the journey of the self-realisation of the Soul.
The Soul is free, but that freedom may be curtailed by the Soul's own choices. The more she immerses herself in the world, its ways and its multiplicity, the less she will be likely to experience the simple unity of her essential nature. Identifying with the world, dims the awareness of that that is - to use Plotinus's word - Yonder (the Realm of the Divine Life)
Taken at the level of the individual, certain things can be said about the Soul.
The Soul is self-consciousness, or is the quality of self-consciousness. It is the principle that enables awareness of the continuity of self, throughout all the changes in an individual's condition. It provides the sense of 'I am'.
It would be wrong, though, to say that Soul can be defined as 'self-consciousness' as it is more than that.
The Soul is self-motivity. It moves itself, rather than being moved by another force outside itself (remember we are referring to the Soul here, not the body). In an earlier post here we mentioned the book Meditations on the Tarot. In that book, the anonymous author points out that the symbology of the arms and legs (on the Tarot cards), often refers to the will. The legs carry us where we want to go, once we decide to go. The arms and hands enable us to manipulate our environment, by picking up and letting go. When we act consciously, then that action (or movement) derives ultimately from the Soul. It is at the level of Soul that we have free will, rather than the level of the specific body.
The Soul is self-vitality. The Soul is alive and cannot die. It is not Life as such (that is a superior and Divine Principle) but it enables lesser natures to have life. This life is expressed through desires, instincts, appetites and similar. This is true of the individual Soul as well as what is described as World Soul.
The Soul is self-subsistent. The body and its faculties, as well as its characteristics and personality, persist over time. This permanence indicates a quality that 'stands under or sustains'. This is subsistence.
These aspects of the Soul and how they interelate are dealt with a a very fine book, recently republished after a thorough revision, called Plotinus and the Path to Liberation.
The Soul and the Mind
The Soul is self-conscious. However, the Soul is not the mind. Plotinus and ancient Greek philosophers were clear on this point. We saw in an earlier post that Hermes is necessary for Persephone to be released from Hades. The same idea is represented when the same caduceus bearing god protects Odysseus from the enchanting ways of Circe. His crew have become like wild beasts, but Hermes gives Odysseus a way to remain clear thinking amongst her charms.
Odysseus can only free himself from the clutches of the endless cycles of life, if he uses his connection with Divine Mind. That comes through his soul and through the god Hermes (the power of Divine Thought). When Hermes aids Odysseus, then Circe has no direct power over him. Rather she can help him with his journey home, for through mastering her realm (she is Divine herself), wisdom is revealed that enables Odysseus to journey further.
The Soul is self-conscious but is not self-gnostic. In other words all knowledge is not within the Soul but must be found by experiencing all the realms above and below. The self-gnostic principle for Man is nous in the Plotinian system of thought. Nous is at one with Divine Mind, and knows All.
Just as Hermes guides Persephone home, and helps Odysseus in his return to Ithaca, the Higher Mind is companion to the Soul throughout its journey. These gnostic powers range from the senses and instincts shared with the animals, through the speculative powers shared with higher animals, to reason, that is Man's alone. But above the faculty of reason lies Intuition*, where truth is beheld as whole and complete. And above Intuition lies Nous.
The Soul on its path of return, has to master these different powers of gnosis. Each have their part to play. But the City of God (if we may put it that way) will only be revealed to the Intuitive vision. It cannot be simply reasoned about, as its origin lies above human reason. And dwelling in the City of God comes through nous. where the Soul is raised to the its Spiritual Essence.
*Intuition as used here, is different from hunches, gut feel and instinct, which are about specific things. Intuition, in this context, is always impersonal and about universal ideas in relation to the All. Some describe intuitions as 'wholenesses of truth'.
We have already suggested that Soul may be considered as an individual attribute or reality, but also it refers to a World or Plain or Zone of the greater Reality of All That Is. Soul, as World Soul is the true dwelling place of all individual souls. It is where they are truly at home. It is where we are seeking to return.
World Soul, as an idea, is represented by Dionysus and by Osiris, and the myths of these two gods explain much about the relationship of World Soul to the Mundane World analogically 'below'. For more on the Mundane World click here and here.
Murray Morison is a novelist living in Crete
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When a teenage priestess, living 5,000 years ago in Ancient Egypt, connects with Rhory, an English schoolboy visiting the British Museum, she puts herself and him in grave danger.
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