“Ennead III: On Love” by Plotinus

On Love

Love is a real substance (ὑπόστᾰσις, hypostasis) born of the activity of the Soul. It is a kind of intermediary between desiring and desired; the eye of the desiring which through its power gives to the lover the sight of the beloved; but Loves himself runs on ahead and before he gives the lover the power of sight, he fills himself with gazing, seeing before the lover but certainly not in the same way because he fixes the sight firmly in the lover, but himself plucks the fruit of the vision of beauty as it speeds past him.

From the power which is intensely active about the object of vision, and from a kind of outflow from that object, Love came to be as an eye filled with its vision, like a seeing that has its image with it.

The Myth of Eros’ Birth Explained

The union of Plenty (intelligible reality) and Poverty (intelligible matter) brings forth Love, made from form and indefiniteness, the indefiniteness which the soul had before it attained the Good, while it was divining that there was something there by an indefinite, unlimited imagination. Love is not a pure rational principle, since he has in himself indefinite, irrational, unbounded impulse; for he will never be satisfied, as long as he has in himself the nature of the indefinite. His powerlessness comes from his deficiency, but his ability to provide for himself from his rational nature.

The loves which are against nature, these are passive affections of the perverted and are not in any way substance or expressions of substantial realities. They are not acts which the soul produces from itself but are nothing else but passive affections; they are like the false thoughts which have no substantial realities as their bases, as really true thoughts which are everlasting and definite have thinking and object of thought and existence all together, not only in the act of thought taken simply and absolutely, but in each individual act concerned with the real object of thought and the mind in each individual. The unity of thought and object or thought does not belong to us, however.

Drunk with Nectar in the Garden of Zeus

Every garden is a glory and decoration of wealth; and the property of Zeus is glorified by rational principle, and his decorations are the glories that come from Intellect itself into the Soul. What could the garden of Zeus be but his images in which he takes delight and his glories? And what could his glories and adornments be but the rational principles that flow from him? The rational principles all together are Plenty, the plenitude and wealth of beauties, already manifested; and this is the being drunk with nectar. That which is on the level below Intellect acquires rational principle; but Intellect possesses itself in satiety and is not drunk with the possession. For it does not posses anything from outside. But the rational principle, the product and expression of Intellect, coming after Intellect and no longer belong to it, but being in something else, is said to lie in the garden of Zeus, at the time when Aphrodite (Soul) came into existence into the realm of being.

Principle of Interpreting Myths

Myths must separate in time the things of which they tell, and set apart from each other many realities which are together, but distinct in rank and powers, at points where rational discussions, also, make generations of things ungenerated and separate things which are together; the myths, when they have taught us as well as they can, allow the man who has understood them to put together again that which they have separated.


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