Plotinus on the Making of Matter Part II: ‘A Corpse Adorned’ (Enn. II 4 [12] 5.18)

in The International Journal of the Platonic Tradition
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Abstract

Soul springs from Intellect, Intellect springs from the One. But quite how does the sensible world arise? A pair of almost successive treatises (III 9 [13] 3 and III 4 [15] 1) points to the answer. A lower manifestation of soul ‘makes’ or ‘gives birth to’ what is variously described as ‘non-being’, ‘utterly indefinite’ and ‘utterly dark’, before covering what she has made with form, specifically the form of ‘body’, and before ‘entering rejoicing’ into the object that, by its reception of form, has been made ready to receive her and that, as the ‘dwelling place’ of soul, will be none other than the visible cosmos. A pair of earlier, again almost successive treatises, spells out the implication. The matter of the sensible world, covered with at least a minimum of form, is described as a ‘corpse adorned’ (II 4 [12] 5). The same object, but prior to its ‘adornment’, prior therefore to its appearance as a ‘body’ that is a ‘corpse’, and prior to any ‘indwelling’ of soul, is specifically said to be ‘non-being’ and the ‘darkness of matter’ (V 1 [10] 2), a transparent allusion to the product of soul in the two later treatises. The soul’s making of ‘darkness’, so we may infer, is a making of ‘matter’, the final act in the drama by which everything that exists, including the material substrate of the world we see and feel around us, stems ultimately from the One.

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