“This universe is a living thing capable of including every form of life; but its Being and its modes are derived from elsewhere; that source is traced back to the Intellectual-Principle: it follows that an all-embracing archetype is in the Intellectual-Principle, which therefore must be an intellectual cosmos, that indicated by Plato in the phrase ‘The living existent’.
“Given the reason-principle (the outgoing divine idea) of a certain living thing and the matter to harbor this seed-principle, the living thing must come into being: in the same way that once there exists—an intellectual Nature, all powerful, and with nothing to check it—since nothing intervenes between it and that which is of a nature to receive it—inevitable the higher imprints form and the lower accepts it. The recipient holds the idea in division, here man, there sun, while in the giver all remains in unity.
“All that is present in the sense realm as Idea comes from the Supreme. But what is not present as Idea, does not. Thus of things conflicting with nature … is not in the seed; for a lame leg is either inborn through some thwarting of the Reason-principle or a marring of the achieved form by accident. …
“This suggests the question whether the intellective cosmos contains the forms only of the things of sense or of other existents as well.” ~Plotinus
A Living Universe
Some find it difficult to accept that the entire universe is a living thing. Many can’t even accept that the planet Earth is a living thing and that the sun is a living thing. Their disbelieve doesn’t change the reality of it, but it does hide the truth from them.
When Plotinus writes about the universe, it is often not clear if he means the physical universe of matter, the spiritual universe of energy, or a combination of both. In this case, it doesn’t really matter. The spiritual universe is alive, and so is the physical one. The proof of this is actually simple, though many will not accept it. It is this: the dead cannot generate the living. Yes, life forms can grow from the bodies of the dead, but the dead are not generating those lives. Something living must generate living beings, and it is reasonable to assume a hierarchy of generation is responsible. The Universe generates galaxies, the galaxies generate, stars and planets, the stars and planets generate life forms such as plants and animals. This is not saying that God is not the creator of those beings, but only explaining the process by which that creation takes place. It is a sort of universal assembly line where each level generates one or two levels below it. They may not even be aware that they do it, but it happens nonetheless.
Frankly, it is unclear to me if Plotinus is talking about the physical world, which is governed by intellect, or the spiritual realm, which is governed more by consciousness then intellect (they are not the same!). So we will take a look at both possibilities.
If he means the physical world, it is indeed governed by an intellectual-principle. The physical world is largely an illusion and we, as a whole, control what that illusion looks like and how it behaves. Here is the unfortunate part for all those “manifestation” fans: most of the control of the physical realm is coming from the subconscious mind, not the conscious. The conscious mind can override the subconscious, but it takes great effort and often time. What those manifestation books don’t tell you is that if you are trying to manifest the world one way, and a hundred other people around you a different way, guess who is going to win? But in truth, the conscious desires generally fail to manifest because they are overridden by your own subconscious mind. Think of it like this: the physical world is a gigantic ball of modeling clay, and we are all invited to mold it into what we want, but all at the same time. So if we are not working together for the benefit of all, it is unlikely that we will get the world we want. And like Plotinus says, the higher beings, intellectually speaking, imprint and control the lesser. So man controls the higher animals, the higher animals control the lower, they control the plants, and so on. The end result is that this realm is largely built by Man, and is an ongoing creation. The Demiurge created it originally, but we not control much of it, especially on Earth.
If Plotinus means the spiritual realm, it would be more accurate to say a Consciousness-principle governs it, rather than an Intellectual-principle. What he says about the Reason-Principle seems to be spiritual, but even that is somewhat confusing. He is correct in saying that what is contrary to nature cannot be a creation of Nature, what is contrary to the Goodly Order of God cannot be a creation of God. So the horrors of the physical realm: death, disease, greed, destruction, etc., cannot be the creations of the real God. Neither can a realm in which those concepts or powers thrive. So the spiritual realm run by consciousness has none of those things. Thus it is the realm of God. And Consciousness is singular, although it has many levels and many beings as part of it. Intellect is more individual which is why, in the realm of the intellectual-principle, it is every man for himself, and most care for themselves first and consider others only secondarily. Unlike the intellectual-principle, those who live by the consciousness-principle see themselves as equal to others. In fact, without the Intellectual-principle, there really are no others. In consciousness, all is One.