Page images
PDF
EPUB

be closely joined with that which is ineffable and supeperior to all beings. When come so high as the first principle she ends her journey and rests. Such is the doctrine of Proclus.

334. But Socrates in the first Alcibiades teacheth on the other hand, that the contemplation of God is the proper means to know or understand our own soul. As the eye, faith he, looking stedfastly at the visive part or pupil of another eye beholds it's self, even fo the soul beholds and understands her self, while she contemplates the Deity which is wisdom and vertue or like thereunto. In the Phædon Socrates speaks of God as being regalòr and to deov (a), the good and the decent : Plotinus represents God as order ; Aristotle as law.

335. It may seem perhaps to those, who have been taught to discourse about subftratums, more reasonable and pious to attribute to the Deity a more fubftantial being, than the notional entities of wisdom, order, law, vertue, or goodness, which being only complex ideas, framed and put together by the understanding, are its own creatures, and have nothing fubftantial, real, or independent in them. But it must be considered, that in the Platonic system, order, vertue, law, goodness, and wisdom are not creatures of the soul of man; but innate and originally existent therein, not as an accident in a substance, but as light to enlighten, and as a guide to govern. In Plato's style, the term idea doth not merely signify an inert inactive object of the understanding, but is used as fynohymous with dition and dexò, cause and principle. According to that philosopher, goodness, beauty, vertue and such like, are not figments of the mind, nor mere mixed modes, nor yet abstract ideas in the modern sense, but the most real beings, intellectual and unchangeable į and therefore more real than the fieetIng tranfient objects of senfe (b), which wanting (a) 260, 220.

(6) 306. X

Stability

stability cannot be subjects of science (c), much lefs of intellectual knowledge.

336. By Parmenides, Timæus, and Plato a di. ftinction was made, as hath been observed already, between genitum and ens. The former fort is always generating or in fieri (e), but never exifts, because it never continues the same, being in a constant change, ever perishing and producing. By entia they understand things remote from sense, invisible and intellectual, which never changing are still the same, and may therefore be faid truly to exist: óvoid, which is generally transated substance, but more properly effence, was not thought to belong to things fensible and corporeal, which have no stability ; but rather to intellectual ideas, tho' discerned with more difficulty, and making less impression on a mind stupified and immerfed in animal life, than gross objects that continually befet and sollicit our fenfes,

337. The most refined humane intellect exerted to its utmost reach can only feize fome imperfectglympses (f) of the divine ideas, abstracted from all things corporeal, sensible, and imaginable. Therefore Pythagoras and Plato treated them in a mysterious manher, concealing rather than expofing them to vulgar eyes ; fo far were they from thinking, that those abstract things, altho' the most real, were the fittest to influence common minds, or become principles of knowledge, not to say duty and virtue, to the generality of mankind.

338. Aristotle and his followers have made a monstrous representation of the Platonic ideas; and some of Plato's own fchool have faid very odd things concerning them. But if that philofopher himself was not read only, but ftudied also with care, and made his own interpreter, I believe the prejudice that now lies against him would soon wear off (8) or be even

(c) 264, 266, 297. (e) 304, 306. 313, 330. ($)-309, 313.

con

converted into a high esteem for those exalted notions and fine hints, that sparkle and shine throughout his writings; which seem to contain not only the most valuable learning of Athens and Greece, but also a treasure of the most remote traditions and early cience of the east.

339. In the Timæus of Plato mention is made of, ancient persons, authors of traditions, and the offspring of the gods. It is very remarkable, that in the account of the creation contained in the same piece, it is said that God was pleased with his work, and that the night is placed before the day. The more we think, the more difficult shall we find it to conceive, how mere man, grown up in the vulgar habits, of life, and weighed down by sensuality, should ever be able to arrive at science, without some tradition (b) or teaching, which might either sow the seeds of knowledge, or call forth and excite those latent feeds that, were originally sown in the soul.

340. Humane fouls in this low situation, bordering on mere animal life, bear the weight and see through the dusk of a gross atmosphere, gathered from wrong judgments daily passed, false opinions daily learned, and early habits of an older date than either judgment or opinion. Through such a medium the sharpest eye cannot see clearly (k). And if by some extraordinary effort the mind should surmount this dusky region, and snatch a glympse of pure light, she is foon drawn backward and depressed by the. heaviness of the animal nature, to which she is chained. And if again the chanceth, amidst the agitation of wild fancies and strong affections, to ; spring upwards, a second relapse speedily succeeds into this region of darkness and dreams.

341. Nevertheless, as the mind gathers strength by repeated acts, we should not defpond, but continue to exert the prime and flower of our faculties, (b) 298, 301, 302. (k) 292, 293, 294. X 2

stilt

ftill recovering, and reaching on, and struggling into the upper region, whereby our natural weakness and blindness may be in some degree remedied, and a taste attained of truth and intellectual life. Beside the constant prevailing opinion of the greatest men of antiquity, that there is both an universal spirit author of life and motion, and an universal mind enlightening and ordering all things, it was a received tenet among them, that there is also to ev or tágador (a), which they looked on as the fons deitatis, the first hypoftasis in the divinity.

342. The one or to ev, being immutable and indivisi, ble, always the same and entire, was therefore thought to exist truly and originally, and other things only lo far as they are one and the fame, by participation of the to čv. This gives unity, stability, reality to things(b), Plato describes God, as Mofes, from his being. According to both, God is he who truly is, o ÖTWE WY. Change and division were esteemed defects or bad. Evil scatters, divides, destroys : Good, on the contrary, produceth concord and union, assembles, combines, perfects, and preserves entire. The several beings which compose the universe are parts of the fame fyftem, they combine to carry on one end, and perfect one whole. And this aptness and concurrence thereunto furnishes the partial particular idea of good in the distinct creatures. Hence it might have come to pass, that tayabor and my were regarded as one and the fame.

343Light and fight (faith Plato in the sixth book of his Republic) are not the sun ; even so truth and knowledge are not the good itself, altho? they approach thereunto. And again, what the sun is in a visible place with respect to fight and things seen, that same is Tayacy or good in an intelligible place, with respect to understanding and things understood,

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

Therefore the good or one is not the light that en lightens, but the source of that light.

344. Every moment produceth Tome change in the parts of this visible creation. Something is added or diminished, or altered in essence, quantity, quality, or habitude. Wherefore all generated beings were said by the ancients to be in a perpetual Aux (c). And that which, on a confused and general view, seems one single constant being, shall upon a nearer inspection appear a continued series of different beings. But God remains for ever one and the same. Therefore God alone exists. This was the doctrine of Heracļitus, Plato, and other ancients.

345. It is the opinion of Plato and his followers, that in the soul of man,prior and superior to intellect, there is somewhat of an higher nature, by virtue of which we are one ; and that by means of our one or unit, we are most closely joined to the deity. And," as by our intellect we touch the divine intellect, even fo by our foes or unit the very flower of our essence, as Proclus exprefleth it, we touch the first one.

346. According to the Platonic philosophy, ens and unum are the same. And consequently our minds participate so far of existence as they do of unity. But it should seem that personality is the indivisible center of the soul or mind, which is a monad so far forth as The is a person. Therefore person is really that which exists, inasmuch as it participates of the divine uniry. In man the monad or indiviGble is the autó tò auto the self same self or very self, a thing, in the opinion of Socrates, much and narrowly to be inquired into and discussed, to the end that, knowing ourselves, we may": know what belongs to us and our happiness.

347. Upon mature reflexion the person or mind of all created beings seemeth alone indivisible, and to partake moft of unity. But sensible things are rather Fonsidered as one than truly so, they being in a perpe. (E) 304, 336

tul

« EelmineJätka »