“That which engenders the world of sense cannot itself be a sense world, it must be the Intellect and the Intellectual world; similarly, the prior which engenders the Intellectual Principle and the Intellectual world cannot be either, but must be something of lesser multiplicity. The manifold does not rise from the manifold: the intellectual multiplicity has its source in what is not manifold; by the mere fact of being manifold, the thing is not the first principle: we must look to something earlier.
“All must be grouped under a unity which, as standing outside of all multiplicity and outside of any ordinary simplicity, is the veritable and essential simplex.
“Still, how can a Reason Principle (the Intellectual), characteristically a manifold, a total, derive from what is obviously no Reason Principle?
“But how, failing such origin in the simplex, could we escape (what cannot be accepted) the derivation of a Reason principle from a Reason principle?
“And how does the secondary good (the imaged good) derive from the Good, the Absolute? What does it hold from the Absolute Good to entitle it to the name?” ~Plotinus
Matter and Intellect Hierarchy of Being
Plotinus, while apparently having a significant amount of spiritual knowledge, has difficulty grasping the idea of something greater than intellect. That is not too surprising. So many people today think the same way. Many even think the soul is just a part of the mind or another name for the mind. It isn’t.
Plotinus has the relationship of matter and Intellect (thought) down correctly, but he can’t seem to get beyond that, accept on an abstract level. He doesn’t know that the true hierarchy of complex beings like man is: the physical body, intellect or mind, psychic body, spirit, and soul. Four levels, not two, not three. Four levels of being. Four dimensions of existence.
Hierarchy of Being
While Plotinus has an incomplete hierarchy, he does understand how the hierarchy works. The basic idea is that you can’t create or generate something greater than yourself. You can’t generate something with more knowledge than you have. Therefore, the generated must always be of a lower or equal level in the hierarchy of being. It can never be higher than that which generated it. So the intellect (mind) could not be generated by the physical body. It has to be the other way around. Thought generates matter. Matter cannot generate thought. And the mind had to be generated by something higher.
Plotinus doesn’t say, or even speculate, on what that is. It should be obvious, however, that what is higher than intellect is spirit and soul. So the idea that spirit and soul grew out of the body or the mind is just nonsense. The created has to be of an equal or lower level than the creator. Spirit is definitely a higher level than mind or matter. Matter is temporary, constantly changing, constantly being destroyed and replaced. Spirit is permanent. It doesn’t die, get sick or old, it doesn’t fade away. It can become dormant from lack of use and that is the state it is in when we enter the physical realm. Very few people ever bother to awaken the spirit and soul. The primary reason is simply that they have not been made aware that it is necessary or how to do it.
It is only logical, then, to say that the spirit and soul could only be created by something even higher. That something, that Ultimate Consciousness, is what most of us call God. That universal spiritual consciousness creates all spirits and souls. Individual minds—the intellect of man—is generated from the spirit and soul. The physical body is a generation of mind. Top to bottom. The real hierarchy of being.
Simple to Complex Hierarchy of Being
It is said that evolution goes from the simple to the complex. Simple single-celled life forms evolved into simple multi-celled forms like the sponges, then to forms with complex parts and organs with different functions. So it seems like the hierarchy of being is simple to complex. That is only true when you look only at the physical level. If you include the mental, psychic, and spiritual levels of being, you see that matter has fallen from the spirit level that is much higher than matter. In a way, the spiritual level seems simple, but that is true only if you look just at that one level. It is, in fact, the most complex level of being because all other levels are below it, within it.
History of the Hierarchy of Being
Material science tells us that man is a recent development, evolved from lower beings, most recently apes. But that conclusion is made by ignoring the higher levels, or by believing that mind and spirit were generated by the physical body. As already discussed, that is a false belief. In truth, we existed for a very long time as pure spirits before man became physical. We existed before there even was a physical universe of matter. When everything was spirit, we were. Spirits and souls are ageless, eternal.
The other levels are the result of the Great Fall caused by the fallen angels. Only then did the current hierarchy of being come into existence.