also read - Plotinus

Neoplatonic-theological idea about the soul

The ontological center of reality is God, the one. Here, in this dimension, there is no duality or multiplicity. Everything in creation emanates from though one God, which transcends creation and yet is ever present in creation. Thus we can say that God is transcending through creation, and that creation is the expression of God. In Plotinus's basic sketch of cosmology, The One proceeded by Intelligence (Nous), which later in religious writings is called the Knowable Attributes of God. At this dimension, of Mind, God is knowing Him/Her Self and here we can know the Divine Qualities, Ideas and Principles. The next dimension or level, emanating from Intelligence, is World Soul which is the mediating level between Intelligence and evolving creation.

The World Soul has a dual function: it has knowledge from the dimension of Intelligence/Nous, and it applies this Intelligence in creating physical forms and behaviors. Life and the physical forces of creation are all created by the World Soul. Thus the World Soul is a knowing substance (in contemplation of Divine Ideas) and also a creator of form. And it is at this level that time and space come into existence. Particular things are created, and thus they necessarily have spacial relations. Creative processes and sequential events and are now happening, and thus necessarily there is time. Animal and human souls then emanate from the World Soul.

Human souls particularly reflect the functions and powers of the World Soul. A fundamental spiritual Aim for the human soul is contemplation and knowledge of Divine Ideas, being privy to Nous, and ultimately to return back to the One, to experience Union. The ultimate Union is not merely a thinking about God, nor is it merely an intellectual knowledge about the One, but rather it is direct experience of Unity, of being just One Self, which is a mystical ecstasy of Light and Love all being One. Here there is no experienced separation from The One Self, no distinct soul, as the soul returns to being just The One Self, God. Yet spiritual ascension is not the only Aim of the human soul; for the other great purpose of soul is to create, incarnate, and bring the Divine Ideas and Qualities into manifestation, thus bringing beauty, goodness, truth and love into the world.

The level of soul, ontologically proceeding the absolute Oneness and eternal Intelligence/Mind, is the beginning of individualized self-consciousness, evolution of intelligence, and particular creative works. It is the mediator between the Eternal Mind and the everchanging physical existence. So the soul is responsible for fulfilling its two polar functions: knowing and creating. And its ability at these functions is meant to evolve; that is, the soul's knowing (of Divine Mind) should become evermore clear and closer to the Absolute, while the soul's creative ability should become evermore adept at organizing and producing beauty and goodness in the world. Plotinus taught that individual souls reincarnate in order to further this evolution of knowledge and adeptship. One single lifetime is not enough. Yet each soul will eventually return to the One God, in Unity and in absolute knowledge.

The higher intelligence of world soul creatively overflows into the material world, organizing and guiding its evolution; thus the order of nature. But this organization of nature is a process over time, not an instantaneous molding. So physical nature, at any one time, is not all perfect or complete in its ideal forms. The natural world is in process, in a continual evolution towards greater harmony and perfection. Thus, plant and animal forms are continually evolving over time.

The world soul is also responsible for the original organization of the human body. Yet since humans have souls of their own, each human soul becomes responsible for the intelligent organization of its own body and behavior. The human soul gives to its material body intelligence and higher aims, sensitivities and higher feelings, and general vitality. Yet the soul itself is free and unconditioned by the material body.

The lowest level of cosmology is inert matter and the inertia of physical processes. Since matter itself cannot be responsible for its actions or evolution, it is up to the soul to make relationship with matter and organize matter.

But the power of the world soul to organize matter is not fully absolute. This is because matter itself is at the far end of Divine Light's radiance. Light dissipates as it moves away from its Source, so intelligence organization weakens at the further points of the cosmological scheme. The further away a thing is from the Light Source, the further away is its intelligent organization. This accounts for degrees of intelligence and perfection in the manifest world.

Thus there is possibility for degrees of entropy and chaos, due to the cosmological possibility of some material things being further away from the Light of Intelligence and Guidance. Thus is the possibility for imperfections in nature and in bodies. It may also be that matter has an inherent tendency to fall away from the Light and become disorganized, unless the Soul keeps at its work of organization

This analogy also holds for human souls, as there is inevitable cosmological possibility for some souls to be more further from the Intelligent Light, and thus manifest less order and more chaos.

A soul's knowing is inevitably limited, except when having returned to the absolute Unity. Thus there are various possible degrees of soul knowing, some souls being quite expansive while others being quite limited. The varying degrees of limited knowing will account for the varying degrees of truth and good in human behavior. For example, those who are quite limited in knowing the Divine Ideas will inevitably manifest a lesser quality of action than those who are more knowing. Bad or grosser behavior is thus the consequence of a more limited knowing or limited view of Divine Truth.

There is no ultimate evil force, but only the possible lack of *awakened intelligence* or lack of knowing the greater whole Truth. Since the soul's quality of manifestation depends on the quality of its divine-knowing, it is inevitable that human manifestation will be often limited in its goodness, that often it will be not so intelligent or not so in harmony with the whole of life. In effect, the more limited soul will be more preoccupied with its smaller limited concerns or with its smaller social group.

In the teachings of Plotinus, evil is not a power or entity or substance in contrast with Goodness and Light. What we might call evil is simply an absence or deprivation of Light and goodness. Evil is simply a low degree of Light, Intelligence, and Love. It is the result of a very limited degree of Light and a very limited knowing of self-purpose, in contrast to a more expansive understanding of life's purpose. Evil stems from an extremely limited view of self, life purpose and self interest, unawakened to a more holistic understanding. It is not an outside force; but rather a result of limited Light or limited awakening or limited self-understanding.