“The substantial existence of the soul does not depend upon serving as Form to anything: it is an Essence which does not come into being by finding a seat in body; it exists before it becomes also the soul of some particular, for example, of a living being, whose body would be the author of its soul.
“What then is the soul’s Being? If it is neither body nor a state or experience of body, but is act and creation: if it holds much and gives much, and is an existence outside of body; of what order and character must it be? Clearly it is what we describe as Veritable Essence. The other order, the entire corporeal kind, is process: it appears and it parishes, in reality it never possesses Being, but is merely protected, in so far as it has the capacity, by participating in what authentically is.” ~Plotinus
Body and Soul
It is clear that when Plotinus speaks of the body, he is talking only about the physical body. It is also clear that he is lumping spirit and soul together and simply calling the whole thing “soul”. This simplified approach may miss some details, but is essentially correct.
In Cosolargy, we say that humans have three “bodies”. The physical body of matter is one. The psychic body of thought and energy is the second. The spirit and divine soul make up the third.
Chicken or Egg
Plotinus argues (successfully, I think) that the body cannot be the author or creator of the soul. The soul cannot be an offshoot of the body since an offshoot of something cannot be greater than the initial thing. Spirit and soul, being greater than the physical body, cannot therefore be created by the body.
Another reason why is in the nature of spirit which Plotinus calls “Essence”. Spirit exists outside the limitations of time and space. The physical body does not. Therefore, the spirit is ageless, while the physical body is born and dies. The finite cannot generate the infinite, therefore the physical body cannot be the creator of the soul. Matter cannot create spirit. It must be the other way around. Matter descended from infinite spirit. Soul came before the physical body.
Never Possesses Being
In the opinion of Plotinus, the physical body, as with all that is corporeal, there is no true “Being”. It is the spirit and soul (essence) that is the true Being hiding behind that mask of the material body. You can think of it as being similar to wearing a glove. You can see the glove move. You can see it grab things. But it isn’t the glove that is the source of the movement, it is the hand within.
While Plotinus has a point, he is leaving out one level of being. He is ignoring the mental level, which is not the same as the spiritual. And when we come into the realm of matter, our spirits and souls are in a dormant state similar to a coma. That is why some of the ancients considered an egg to be a symbol of spirit. It had to be hatched to be of use.
So while the soul is dormant, the body is completely controlled by the brain-mind. There is nothing wrong with that on the physical level, but you can’t progress to the spiritual using the body and mind. You have to awaken the spirit and soul. Once you do, then what Plotinus says is true: the body will be controlled by the spirit or essence.
Plotinus further says that the body can participate in”what authentically is” only when controlled by that spiritual essence. This is true. The physical body and the brain-mind do not understand things of spirit. Only the spirit and soul can truly understand the worlds of spirit. The realm of spirit is what Plotinus calls the authentic world. Authentic because it is permanent and unchanging. Not at all like the physical world that is constantly changing.