Verse > Anthologies > Robert Bridges, ed. > The Spirit of Man: An Anthology

Robert Bridges, ed. (1844–1930).  The Spirit of Man: An Anthology.  1916.
From Enneads

Plotinus (c. 204/5–270)
IF 1 a man were to ask Nature for what purpose she produces, and if she chose to attend and reply to him, she would say ‘You should never have asked; you ought to have understood in silence, even as I keep silence and am wont to say nothing. What is it then that you should have understood? This; that whatever is produced is a sight for me (Nature) to look upon in silence, a vision naturally produced; and that I, who am myself the child of such a vision, am of my nature a lover of sights; and that which sees in me produces the vision, as a geometrician draws the figure which his mind sees. I do not indeed draw; but, as I look, the forms of the bodily world fall off, as it were, from my gaze, and take substance…. I owe my life not to any action, but to the being of thoughts greater than I, contemplating themselves.’  1
  What then should this mean? It means that what we call Nature, being a Life-soul 2 and born of a prior soul that lives a more potent life than hers, stands quietly at gaze within herself, looking neither at what is above her nor at what is below, but steadfast in her own place, and in a sort of self-conscience; and that with this intelligence and conscience of herself she sees her own effects as far as it is given her to see, and is content to do nothing more than perfect the vision bright and fair. But the intelligence and sense which we may, if we will, attribute to her, are not like those of other sensible and intelligent beings: compared with them they are as sleeping is to waking: for … as she gazes on the vision of herself she rests, and her gaze is unruffled, but dim.  2
Note 1. Plotinus. Enn. iii. 8, § 3. This passage is translated by Nettleship in a letter [see 150]. I made some use of his version. [Trans. R. Bridges.] [back]
Note 2. [Greek] [back]

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