Straightway Plotinus enters upon this path and sets about constructing a new philosophy. The eternal problem—the relation of the One to the Manifold—is the first that demands solution, and in handling it he has to face one great obstacle, which had theretofore been the stumbling block of philosophy. How to reconcile the serenity and remoteness of the Unity, demanded by Logic, with the activity and contact with matter demanded for the Deity by experience? Here his knowledge of Oriental Philosophy comes to his rescue. He has learned and grasped to some extent the theory of Dynamic Pantheism by which these extremes—serenity and activity, remoteness and contact—could be reconciled without much difficulty. The Hindu doctrine of the manifestation of Divinity in His threefold attributes has given him something positive to begin with, besides other hypotheses on which to base a doctrine of a trinity. Above and beyond the God of Providence, the Demiurge of Plato, he places another such as that of Aristotle, “so restricted by his own abstraction and immutability as to render it impossible to associ­ate with his nature the idea of superintendence,” and above this Deity a Simple Unity, a Primeval Something.

This Primeval Something is—as opposed to the Finite, the Infinite. Without magnitude, without life, without thought, this something has no attributes of its own, and is “above existence”, “above goodness”, inconceivable, ineffable. Despite all his poetic gifts, the Persian poet Jalal-ud-din recoils from describing this Absolute Unity. He calls it above description, above explanation, and seeks refuge in vague meta­phors, comparing it with the Sea, Light, Love, Wine, Beauty and Truth.

“Where is the room in conception for this essence,

So that similitudes of Him should be conceivable?”

At the same time, this Simple Unity is an active force, and as such perpetually produces something without motion, alteration or diminution of itself. Thus, production is but an emission of force. Such a system leaves no impassable gulf between the human and the divine, between the material and the spiritual. All are links in a single, continuous chain, connected each with each, and through each to one.

The next in order is the Universal Mind, the nous, the Aql-i-kull, thrown out first of all by the Original Being. Perfect Image of the One, it is the home of ideas, the archetype of all existing things. It is at once being and thought, ideal world and idea. In so far as it is the image of the One, the nous exactly corresponds to the Primeval Being, but in so far as it is derived, it is entirely different.

Again, the motionless nous has an image and product of its own. This is the Soul, the Primal Soul, the Nafs-i-Kull, which, like the nous, is immaterial, but, unlike it, a moving essence. Standing between the nous and the phenomenal world, it may preserve its unity and abide in the nous, but at the same time it has the power of uniting with the corporeal world, and thus being disintegrated.

The human souls descending into corporeality are therefore those that have allowed themselves to be ensnared by sensuality. They have cut themselves loose from their original being, and have assumed a false existence.

Another version is that the World-Soul is the archetype of all human souls. Going forth from eternity, and passing the frontiers of the intelligible, human souls enter the realm of matter, not by an act of will, but in obedience to an instinctive necessity. If so, this doctrine of Plotinus approximates closely to the Law of Karma. In any case, this is certain that though they plant their foot in the ideal world, these souls have become part of the phenomenal world by being embodied in matter. But not for ever; the ancient track still lies open, if they will only tread it and retrace their steps back to the Supreme Good.