Last Updated September 5, 2023.
The Enneads by Plotinus is a collection of philosophical discussions that outline his worldview and his ideas on humanity, fate, the nature of the soul, and much more. It is an expansive collection, but we will examine a few select quotes to understand his ideas more clearly.
That Soul, then, in us, will in its nature stand apart from all that can cause any of the evils which man does or suffers; for all such evil, as we have seen, belongs only to the Animate, the Couplement.
In this passage, Plotinus is describing his picture of the Soul (which he distinguishes from the essential soul, which we might reasonably call the psyche, consciousness, or mind in modern day terms). This is the core of a human being, that which is separate from what an animal can achieve in terms of its reasoning and its ability to separate good from evil. Plotinus reasons here that the soul is separate from evil and suffering—those things are caused solely by the physical, animal side of nature. That humans have the ability to reason and go beyond evil and do true good is what separates them from animals, who are subject only to base instincts.
They will be distributing what pass for their good gifts, not out of kindness towards the recipients but as they themselves are affected pleasantly or disagreeably at the various points of their course . . .
This quote is relating to the stars and planets of the cosmos and their determination of the events of our lives. Plotinus reasons and affirms the ideas of philosophers of the time that they do, in fact, determine fates and events, but rejects the notion that they do so intelligently. This idea was fairly revolutionary at the time, because the idea of intelligence in the cosmos was attributed to stars and planets as well as humans and deities. Here, he says, the stars must give their "good gifts" simply because they happen to have taken a pleasant turn, or vice versa, not out of benevolence or malice. This is, of course, an absurd point of view, but is very indicative of the ideas of the time.
Thus we have here one identical Principle, the Intellect, which is the universe of authentic beings, the Truth: as such it is a great god, or, better, not a god among gods but the Godhead entire.
Finishing his discourse, Plotinus explores the idea of Intelligence and knowledge. He comes to the firm conclusion that intelligence is what separates man from beast, as it gives rise to the soul—and this is, as he says "the universe of authentic beings," meaning it is the essence of beings with a soul. He goes beyond that and attributes to Intelligence, Godhood, and deification. He reasons that, since intelligence gives rise to the soul, and since through it all things can be understood (even the motions of the planets), Intelligence (or Intellect, as he calls it) is the master and creator of the universe.