Its Content and its Source
by: P. Alois Schubert, S.V.D.
What Sources Inform St. Augustine's Teaching on the Eternal Law?
3. According to Plotinus, the Nous is the First Source of the Temporal Law, the Natural Law, the Moral Law, and the Law of the State .
In Plotinianism, the emanation of the world is unique. All things stem from the Nous, the Nous from the Hen. Being that things stem from the Nous through emanation, so also do their organization, their conformity to law stem from the Nous through emanation.
a) In individuals there are forms that are followed. The Nous surrounds the world of Ideas. It is embodied in the things that are. It covers all things, whether genera or species, or the whole or any part.(32)
The Nous, which is plenary and without flaw, shows itself as soul.(33) This is movement and life. It moves and lives in matter.(34) The Logos flows from Nous. (35) It is neither pure Nous nor pure Soul. It is neither pure Nous nor pure Soul. It is the emanation of both. It unifies both in their fullness.(36) As the principle of all the arrangement of things, the Logos stands above the Nous and the Psyche. It generates reality, the individual things of the world.(37) It gives matter its form and content; it constitutes and individualizes all things in the world. It provides the foundation of their inner organization and the laws which they follow.(38) The Logos is the plan and the form of all power. It acts in matter through the logoi spermatikoi or gennetikoi, the rational seeds of power (vernüftigen Keimkräfte).(39) It forms through the rational seeds of power all individual things as a world in miniature, a mikrokosmos.(40) The forming elements in these seeds is not the seminal fluid (Samenflüssigkeit) (hygoron), but the ideal measure, the figure of the rational Logos.(41) This law works throughout the entire cosmos as the natural law.(42) So is the natural law derived by means of the Nous from the Logos. Placing therefore the most important points in the derivation of the natural law from the eternal law in Augustine by those of Plotinus we obtain the following summary:
|Augustine leads the inner order of things back to the divine Wisdom and Power. S. 9, Anm. 4.||Plotinus leads the order of things back to the Logos by means of the Nous. ἐξ ἑνὸς νοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἀπ᾽ αὐτοῦ λόγου ἀνέστη τόδε τὸ πᾶν . . . τοῦ δὲ λόγου ἐπ᾽ αὐτοῖς τὴν ἁρμονίαν καὶ μίαν τὴν σύνταξιν εἰς τὰ ὅλα ποιουμένου. Enn. III, 2, 2.|
|2. Augustine leads the rationes seminales back to the Wisdom and Power of God. S. 10, Anm. 5, 6, and 7.||Plotinus leads the logoi spermatikoi or gennetikoi back to the Logos. evil in the same manner: οἱ ἐν σπέρμασι λόγοι πλάττουσι καὶ μορφοῦσι τὰ ζῶια. ἐξ ἑνὸς νοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἀπ᾽ αὐτοῦ λόγου ἀνέστη τόδε τὸ πᾶν . Enn. IV 3, 10 and Enn. III 2, 2.|
|3. Augustine sings a song of praise on the natural order of things and its creator. S. 10, Anm. 13.||3. Plotinus praises the inner and outer harmony of things, the beauty of the world, and the Logos as its artisan. S. 41, Anm. 16.|
The manner of thinking and the termini show that Augustine relies upon Plotinus.
b) The Nous is the First Source of the Moral Law. The Hen is according to Plotinus the absolute good. The Logos orthos informs men what is good and what is evil. Only those acts are moral which the Logos itself does through the resolutions of men, through free and rational measure.(43) The scale of morality is the Logos orthos. It speaks through the entire law of Providence to us, as the Providence considers men who live in accordance with that law and Providence, that is, who do all things which the law of Providence says, in particular regard. He says, further, that whoever become good, will have a good life. The evil, however, confront the opposite.(44) The law of providence, the Logos, also states what is good and evil. It promises both reward and punishment. The moral goal is found in the becoming similar to the divinity.(45) In the divinity the mind of man sees the source of life, the first source of the mind, the principle of being, the ground of good, the root of the soul.(46) Given that the standard of morality in the Logos orthos comes, in its ultimate end, from the Hen, so does the moral law flow from that source.
Plotinus leads the moral law back to the Logos orthos. Augustine leads it back to the eternal law, as we have seen.
c) The Nous is the First Source of the Law of the State. Plotinus equates the world reason with the human reason of the lawgiver that firmly maintains an orderly State. This reason knows the behavior of its citizens and their motivation. This reason applies accordingly appropriate rules. It knows to take stock of all its laws to adjust those laws to the inclinations of its citizens, to their activities, both honorable and dishonorable, so that all things, as if by themselves, are guided into balanced unit.(47) For that reason, the law of nature can be made present by the law of the State because it goes back to divinity. So was Minos the lawgiver through contact with divinity qualified to issue laws. In forming his laws, he aimed at what he had learned from his relationship with Zeus. The laws of men are therefore nothing less than reflection of the heavenly statutes.(48) So does Plotinus lead the laws of the State back to the divinity.
This same reliance is found in Augustine.
4. The Knowability of the Eternal Law.
"Plato's image of the Sun," writes Hessen, "is by Plotinus heightened in meaning. Through amplification of the theory of emanations it is developed. The Good, the basic principle from all things, is equated with Light, the Nous with the sun, and the soul with the moon. The first being is for Plotinus Light. It is called the great Light by him. (Enn. IV 3, 17). According to him, the intelligible is in all respects a kind of light. The concept of radiation is the intellectual means by which he more closely understands the emanation."(49) The world soul has its effect, says the Enneads, in accord with Ideas. It receives these ideas from the Nous and furthers them on. The Nous gives these to the world soul, and the world soul, for itself, is charged with giving them to the subordinate souls through individual radiation and individual shaping.(50) The rational part of the soul is always filled and enlightened from above.(51) The images of the things in the mind, which is nothing less than true knowledge, are those, that come over to it from the Nous. The Nous guides the soul to the concepts, as Art puts the concepts in the soul of the artist.(53) Like the radiating sun enlightens the moon and the earth, so does the Nous enlighten the reason of man.(54) Man thereby knows the eternal law upon the way of enlightenment and irradiation.
Plotinus uses the same termini and images as Augustine.
|illustrari. S. 19, Anm. 15|
imprimis. S. 17, Anm. 2
The simile of the sun and the moon and the earth. S. 19, Anm. 17.
|ἐλλάμπεσθαι. S. 46, Anm. 49.|
περιλάμπεσθαι, S. 46, Anm. 49.
τυποῦν, S. 46, Anm. 49.
The simile of ἡλίος. S. 47, Anm. 53.
5. Conclusion of the Teaching of the Logos of Plotinus.
Plotinus teaches the order in the All. He calls this order taxis, syntaxis, harmonia, hemarmene, pronoia. He identifies this order with Law, with Logos. Plotinus expresses this law as eternal, measured in reason, and all-encompassing. Even the evil themselves are under this law. The Logos , and accordingly the Nous, are the foundational grounds for the temporal laws: the law of nature, the moral law, the law of the State. The knowledge of the eternal law, the Logos, is given man by means of enlightenment. This is, in a nutshell, the Plotinian teaching of the Logos.
The above similarities with the teaching of Augustine, in the part of its concordance, in the part of its similarity of terminology and its essential thought, bespeak of the reliance of Augustine upon Plotinus.
(28) Enn. III, 2, 5. Τοῦτο δὲ δυνάμεως μεγίστης, καλῶς καὶ τοῖς κακοῖς χρῆσθαι δύνασθαι.
(29) Enn. II, 3, 8. καὶ [ἕπεται] τοῖς δρωμένοις ἐν τῶι παντὶ δίκη, εἴπερ μὴ [λυθήσεται] (= τὸ πᾶν). Μένει δ᾽ ἀεὶ (Δίκη) ὀρθουμένου τοῦ ὅλου τάξει καὶ δυνάμει τοῦ κρατοῦντος . . . [E.N. word replaced from original]
(30) Enn. III 2, 9. (νόμος προνοίας) λέγει δὲ τοῖς μὲν ἀγαθοῖς γενομένοις ἀγαθὸν βίον ἔσεσθαι καὶ . . . τοῖς δὲ κακοῖς τὰ ἐναντία . . .
(31) Enn. III 2, 13. αὕτη γὰρ ἡ διάταξις Ἀδράστεια ὄντως καὶ ὄντως Δίκη καὶ σοφία θαυμαστή.
(32) Enn. V 9, 6. Νοῦς μὲν δὴ ἔστω τὰ ὄντα, καὶ πάντα ἐν αὑτῶι . . . [ὁ] δὲ πᾶς νοῦς περιέχει ὥσπερ γένος εἴδη καὶ ὥσπερ ὅλον μέρη.
(33) Enn. V 1, 7. ψυχὴν γὰρ γεννᾶι νοῦς, [νοῦς] ὢν τέλειος. [E.N. bracketed text not in original]
(34) Enn. II 3, 8. ψυχὴ γὰρ πάντα ποιεῖ ἀρχῆς ἔχουσα λόγον.
(35) Enn. III 2, 2. οὗτος δὲ ὁ λόγος ἐκ νοῦ ῥυείς. Τὸ γὰρ ἀπορρέον ἐκ νοῦ λόγος . . .
(36) Enn. III 2, 16. τίς ὁ λόγος . . . ἔστι τοίνυν οὗτος οὐκ ἄκρατος νοῦς οὐδ᾽ αὐτονοῦς οὐδέ γε ψυχῆς καθαρᾶς τὸ γένος, ἠρτημένος δὲ ἐκείνης καὶ οἷον ἔκλαμψις ἐξ ἀμφοῖν, νοῦ καὶ ψυχῆς . . . . Ἥκων τοίνυν οὗτος ὁ λόγος ἐκ νοῦ ἑνὸς καὶ ζωῆς μιᾶς (= ψυχῆς) πλήρους ὄντος ἑκατέρου.
(37) Enn. III 2, 2. οὕτω δὴ καὶ ἐξ ἑνὸς νοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἀπ᾽ αὐτοῦ λόγου ἀνέστη τόδε τὸ πᾶν. Cf. Enn. V 1, 2. Here does the development of the individual get told.
(38) Enn. III, 2, 2. τοῦ δὲ λόγου ἐπ᾽ αὐτοῖς (= μέρεσι τοῦ παντός) τὴν ἁρμονίαν καὶ μίαν τὴν σύνταξιν εἰς τὰ ὅλα ποιουμένου.
(39) Enn. IV 3, 10. Ἐκοσμεῖτο δὲ κατὰ λόγον ψυχῆς δυνάμει ἐχούσης ἐν αὐτῆι δι᾽ ὅλης δύναμιν κατὰ λόγους κοσμεῖν·
(40) Enn. IV 3, 10. οἷα καὶ οἱ ἐν σπέρμασι λόγοι πλάττουσι καὶ μορφοῦσι τὰ ζῶια οἷον μικρούς τινας κόσμους.
(41) Enn. V 1, 5. ἀριθμὸς δὲ ὡς οὐσία· ἀριθμὸς δὲ καὶ ἡ ψυχή . . . . Οὐδὲ ἐν σπέρμασι δὲ τὸ ὑγρὸν τὸ τίμιον, ἀλλὰ τὸ μὴ ὁρώμενον τοῦτο δὲ ἀριθμὸς καὶ λόγος.
(42) Enn. IV 6, 3. Λόγος γάρ ἐστι πάντων, καὶ λόγος . . . πρῶτος δὲ τῶν ἐν τῶι αἰσθητῶι παντί.
(43) Enn. III 1, 10. Πραττούσας δὲ ψυχὰς ὅσα πράττουσι κατὰ μὲν λόγον ποιούσας ὀρθὸν παρ᾽ αὑτῶν πράττειν, ὅταν πράττωσι . . .
(44) Enn. III, 2, 9. . . . τοῦτο δέ ἐστι νόμωι προνοίας ζῶντα, ὃ δή ἐστι πράττοντα ὅσα ὁ νόμος αὐτῆς λέγει. Λέγει δὲ τοῖς μὲν ἀγαθοῖς γενομένοις ἀγαθὸν βίον ἔσεσθαι . . . τοῖς δὲ κακοῖς τὰ ἐναντία.
(45) Enn. I 2, 1. θεῶι, [φησιν,] ὁμοιωθῆναι. [Bracketed words not in original]
(46) Enn. VI 9, 9. Ἐν δὲ ταύτηι τῆι χορείαι καθορᾶι πηγὴν μὲν ζωῆς, πηγὴν δὲ νοῦ, ἀρχὴν ὄντος, ἀγαθοῦ αἰτίαν, ῥίζαν ψυχῆς.
(47) Enn. IV 4, 39. Ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον ἂν ἐοίκοι ὁ λόγος τοῦ παντὸς κατὰ λόγον τιθέντα κόσμον πόλεως καὶ νόμον, ἤδη εἰδότα ἃ πράξουσιν οἱ πολῖται καὶ δι᾽ ἃ πράξουσι, καὶ πρὸς ταῦτα πάντα νομοθετοῦντος καὶ συνυφαίνοντος τοῖς νόμοις τὰ πάθη πάντα αὐτῶν καὶ τὰ ἔργα καὶ τὰς ἐπὶ τοῖς ἔργοις τιμὰς καὶ ἀτιμίας, πάντων ὁδῶι οἷον αὐτομάτηι εἰς συμφωνίαν χωρούντων.
(48) Enn. VI 9, 7. οἵαν ἴσως καὶ Μίνως ποιούμενος ὀαριστὴς τοῦ Διὸς ἐφημίσθη εἶναι, ἧς μεμνημένος εἴδωλα αὐτῆς (= συνουσιας Διὸς) τοὺς νόμους ἐτίθει τῆι τοῦ θείου ἐπαφῆι εἰς νόμων πληρούμενος θέσιν.
(49) Johannes Hessen, Beiträge aur Geschichte der Philosphie des Mittelalters, Mänster 1916, Band 19, Heft 2, S. 64-67.
(50) Enn. II 3, 17. Κατ᾽ εἴδη ἄρα ποιεῖ. Δεῖ τοίνυν καὶ αὐτὴν παρὰ νοῦ ἔχουσαν διδόναι. Νοῦς δὴ ψυχῆι δίδωσι τῆι τοῦ παντός, ψυχὴ δὲ παρ᾽ αὐτῆς ἡ μετὰ νοῦν τῆι μετ᾽ αὐτὴν ἐλλάμπουσα καὶ τυποῦσα, ἡ δὲ ὡσπερεὶ ἐπιταχθεῖσα ἤδη ποιεῖ. Cf. Enn. I 1, 8.
(51) Enn. III 8, 5. Τὸ πρῶτον. [Τὸ λογιστικὸν] οὖν αὐτῆς ἄνω πρὸς τὸ ἄνω ἀεὶ πληρούμενον καὶ ἐλλαμπόμενον μένει ἐκεῖ . . .
(52) Enn. V 8, 7. αἳ δὴ καὶ ὄντως ἐπιστῆμαι, παρὰ νοῦ εἰς λογικὴν ψυχὴν ἐλθοῦσαι . . .
(53) Enn. V 1, 6. Περίλαμψιν ἐξ αὐτοῦ μέν, ἐξ αὐτοῦ δὲ μένοντος, οἷον ἡλίου τὸ περὶ αὐτὸ λαμπρὸν ὥσπερ περιθέον, ἐξ αὐτοῦ ἀεὶ γεννώμενον μένοντος.