The ONE is the cornerstone and foundation for the rest of the System, and least understood of the three hypostases. It is easy to describe its physical qualities by what we observe of most stars, but more difficult to describe its mental attributes since we can only say what they are not. We usually do not think of the physical form of the human body without considering the mental states that denote it as something special, namely, a thinking being that obviously cannot observe its own thought processes. We can extend and reverse the same idea by saying that the ONE is possessed by the physical structure of the sun, and conversely, that the sun is embraced by the mental body of the ONE.
Plotinus likes to think that the ONE holds the sum total of all that IS. It is difficult to understand what this means, especially if he is referring to the entire universe, but if we are considering the relationship between our sun and the world it has given rise to, then we are held to "our" reality, or life and soul within this solar system. The relationship between the sun and the galaxy, of which it is a part, may also partake of a similar system. I tend to think that the ONE may contemplate even higher planes as it orbits the galactic center, but it's highly speculative, and not crucial to think about at this point.
I am inclined to believe the ONE came to its sum of knowledge, and I mean knowledge of creation, before the actual process of physical evolution in the Earth plane. It would be like possessing a recipe for life with foreknowledge of preexistent ingredients going into the mixing bowl. Whatever comes out of the oven would be expected based on appropriate conditions. I am sure if conditions had been somewhat different on Earth, then we would have evolved somewhat differently too. The ONE takes embodiment in matter to accomplish its ends in the only material that is available to it; that is, the dust and gas lying about the universe mostly in galaxies. Astronomers tend to think that star formation occurs by gravitational attraction, and that once begun is self-perpetuating, but I believe that Mind is a gravitational power unto itself capable of movement in such a way that it can affect matter at this level. Although Mind should exist in various forms, from the primordial flux of the primal universe to the exquisite beauty of ensouled life, at the stellar level of the ONE it is as Plotinus explained: undifferentiated, unknowable, and indescribable.
I tend to think of ourselves as the end product of a creative process that began four and a half billion years ago, and that the Creator is now realizing Itself through us at both the physical and mental level. Conscious thought is fully realized as life takes form in higher beings within the third hypostasis, the World Soul. This is possible because the three hypostases are summed within the soul of every individual as spirit-sparks, or seeds destined to brighten the galaxy.
The planets of the Second Hypostasis mediate between the ultimate source, the sun, and creation in the lower hypostasis. Through the distinctive qualities inherent in each planetary field, as given by the ONE, they participate in the process of forming souls through the giving of life in the Earth plane. The planetary spheres are home for souls between earth lives; in occult science these spheres are called the astral planes. Most religions recognize these places as Heaven.
Mankind's relationship to the solar system is a very personal one. We are caught up in its purpose, and is our purpose for being here. We interact with the heavenly spheres; we influence them as they influence us. The earth is a meeting ground where souls work on what they have learned in other lives, combined with lessons from other dimensions of consciousness in the Intelligible Realm. Each planetary world contains a portion of these lessons to be learned, a vibratory center of consciousness in which souls dwell and ascend to greater dimensions of awareness. The great twentieth century psychic Edgar Cayce explains planetary vibrations by drawing a parallel with the vibrations one collects, absorbs, and builds by dwelling and working in a special environment, such as a college. As he says: "Attending this or that university would make for a parlance peculiar unto itself. Even though individuals may study the same line of thought, one attending Harvard, another Yale, or the University of Utah, they each would carry with them the vibrations created by their very activity in those environs." In other words, the entire student body gives rise to a collective consciousness or vibration that might be called the 'Spirit' of the institution. In the same way, planetary vibrations affect us because we have attuned ourselves to them while dwelling in those environs. As Cayce says: "Then there are the sojourns in other realms of the solar system which represent certain attributes. Not that ye maintain a physical earth-body in Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Uranus or Saturn; but there is an awareness or a consciousness in those realms when absent from the body, and the response to the position those planets occupy in this solar system."
The readings indicate that every soul must pass through all of the planetary spheres of the Intelligible Realm if spiritual progress is to be realized. "Each planetary influence vibrates at a different rate of vibration. An entity entering that influence enters that vibration; it is not necessary that he change, but it is the grace of God that he may! It is part of the universal consciousness, the universal law; for, without passing through each and every stage of development, there is not the correct vibration to become One with the Creator, hence the entity passes along those stages that some have seen as planes, some have seen as steps, some have seen as cycles, and some have experienced as places."
Souls then cycle through these worldly domains, and according to the readings, each of us is influenced the most by the planet from which we took our last flight into our present incarnation, and influenced the least, if at all, by the planet or planets from which we have been absent the longest. Most people have from four to six planets influencing their lives, but as few as one and as many as eight have been cited in the readings.
So why should these huge massive bodies orbiting the sun draw souls to them as spiritual centers within the second hypostasis? It is my contention that Plotinus' Divine Triad, the three hypostases, requires a physical embodiment to fulfill its purpose; there cannot be one without the other. The solar system serves that function, but there needs to be a common connection between the physical and spiritual universe. All the forces in the universe are known to science, but there remains one that is not only well known to physicists, but to everyone else as well. Because it's so obvious Newton formulated laws centuries ago that science still depends on. Yet when scientists attempt to understand this force on a very small scale, they find themselves unable to understand it. It's called quantum gravity. We will take a better look at this idea later on when we talk about the forces behind the birth of the universe.
From the highest source of Spiritual power to the lowest level of organic being, the universe is wrapped in thought, and through the eons gives rise to sentient life that now looks back to the universe in reflection of its source and meaning. The greatest wonder and truth of all is that we live in a Spiritual universe founded on a mental structure in a physical reality, and we can come to know our relationship to it within the sanctity of our own Souls.
The theory of evolution as described by Charles Darwin is generally accepted as the most likely account of how life evolved on the planet; he based his ideas on observation and known facts obtained by scholarly research. He made no effort to establish an explanation of life beyond a purely mechanical process operating within Nature. Although Darwin never denied an all powerful God or creator as the ultimate cause of all things, he did deny that the story of creation, as told in Genesis, could be correct given the facts of geology and the fossil record.
Most theologians today have no problem accepting that God created the world through the process of evolution, and they invoke the argument from design, or the teleological argument, as proof. The Roman Catholic philosopher of the Middle Ages, St. Thomas Aquinas, first made the teleological argument part of church canon. There appears to be design throughout nature, and design implies a designer; Aquinas called this designer--God.
Once meaning or purpose enters into a discussion of evolution, teleology also slips in. It seems strange to hear biologists say that evolution has "reasons" for what it does. Is this to say that intelligence is at work in forging the things of the world? While we can explain just about everything on a physical level, or as having a physical basis, science turns its head when reasons are given for the great designs of evolutionary masterpieces, as if reason lacked a reasoner, or design a designer.
Darwin discussed natural selection and the survival of the fittest without introducing any active agency operating on a higher plane. He saw it simply as a means for the struggle to exist as a species adapts through changing conditions. But he also recognized the ascendancy of the human intellect, and admitted his total ignorance of its place in the scheme of things. As he said:
"We must acknowledge . . . that man with all his noble qualities, with sympathy which feels for the most debased, with benevolence which extends not only to other men but to the humblest living creature, with his god-like intellect which has penetrated into the movements and constitution of the solar system--with all these exalted powers--Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin." 14
While Darwin was a man of his day, and the world ready for his ideas, I think Plotinus lived way before his time. With the knowledge of the Earth and universe available today, especially the rapid growth of electronic information systems, his inner visions would have found welcome ground in our modern world through his keen intellect. I can only imagine how he would have explained the work of the Third Hypostasis, and its grand result were he here today. There are no details in the Enneads, but I think if he had known the works of Darwin, it would have given him the clues he needed. I can only anticipate what Plotinus might have said on the subject, and accept responsibility for any misunderstanding given on my part.
As has been shown, the system of Plotinus or the Divine Triad, with the ONE empowered as the sun rises within that celestial structure we understand to be the solar system. The planet Earth, the third hypostasis or World Soul, receives the "Idea" of creation through the Spiritual power of the ONE as mediated through the second hypostasis. Living beings-ensouled through Spirit--take nourishment from the heat and light of solar energy.
It seems to me there needs be, however subtle and sublime, an innate intelligence at work in the diverse and varied forms that take shape as living creatures whether plant or animal. As we have seen, the Second Hypostasis or Intelligible Realm, focused within the planetary spheres, contains the Ideal Forms or objects of thought, as individual entities. The World Soul, centered in the Earth, partakes of this realm in its higher movement, and in turn generates this intelligence to the processes working within the Earth plane at the level of matter. It is here that form unites with substance as Spirit shapes an image of itself in the generation of living things. Plotinus held that form never completely unites with matter to shape the physical object. He may have been thinking that form and matter unite yet remain separable, such as when the soul leaves the body at death. It must be so if intelligence is thought of as the source that guides the hand of creation, while at the same time not being entirely dependent on it.
I tend to believe that the laws governing the physical world must bind the indwelling power of Spirit while manifest in physical form, but only dependent in terms of how the building blocks of matter are put together structurally, not that it is hampered in fulfilling its purpose in the design of nature. As Spirit endows matter at the simplest and most basic level, living forms rise from this universal power enveloped from within the individual entity. Each primal being partakes of the manifestation of living Soul at the Universal level, while spiritual evolution channels and branches through physical evolution rising into more complex organic forms. Universal Soul takes on individuality as living entities evolve into higher sentient beings. Spirit as Mind carries with it the intelligence empowering living things, and bestows upon them its image, apt to the fullness of their capacity to express it.
Every living tree in the forest is a spiritual entity evolving to higher levels through the Universality of Spirit. Not every tree can be said to possess an individual soul at this stage of evolution, yet nonetheless, each partakes of life given through Spirit. Within the plant realm, we might think of the Living forest itself as the spiritual entity rather than the individual trees. Spirit takes on greater individuality within the animal kingdom, but is still not quite capable of holding on to Soul as distinct, and separate. Intelligence marks the evolution of Spirit as sentient beings rise to ever-higher levels of mental development. Soul finally breaks free from its origin in Universality and comes to Know Itself; thus, humanity as unique Spiritual Beings attain to an awareness of their potential God-Hood. The quest for spiritual enlightenment, and knowledge of creation begins in earnest as Soul now recognizes its heritage and Spiritual Essence.
The Creator is now fully manifest in its physical incarnation within the human species. Humanity is in complete control of its destiny, and creators in their own right. Its future, for good or ill, is entirely of its own making.
"All those essential forces which are manifest in the universe are manifest in the living man, and above that the soul of man" Edgar Cayce (Reading #900-70).
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