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Three Millennia of Greek Literature


Translated by Stephen MacKenna and B. S. Page.

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10. “Our way of speaking” — for myths, if they are to serve their purpose, must necessarily import time-distinctions into their subject and will often present as separate, Powers which exist in unity but differ in rank and faculty; they will relate the births of the unbegotten and discriminate where all is one substance; the truth is conveyed in the only manner possible, it is left to our good sense to bring all together again.

On this principle we have, here, Soul dwelling with the divine Intelligence, breaking away from it, and yet again being filled to satiety with the divine Ideas — the beautiful abounding in all plenty, so that every splendour become manifest in it with the images of whatever is lovely — Soul which, taken as one all, is Aphrodite, while in it may be distinguished the Reason-Principles summed under the names of Plenty and Possession, produced by the downflow of the Nectar of the over realm. The splendours contained in Soul are thought of as the garden of Zeus with reference to their existing within Life; and Poros sleeps in this garden in the sense of being sated and heavy with its produce. Life is eternally manifest, an eternal existent among the existences, and the banqueting of the gods means no more than that they have their Being in that vital blessedness. And Love — “born at the banquet of the gods” — has of necessity been eternally in existence, for it springs from the intention of the Soul towards its Best, towards the Good; as long as Soul has been, Love has been.

Still this Love is of mixed quality. On the one hand there is in it the lack which keeps it craving: on the other, it is not entirely destitute; the deficient seeks more of what it has, and certainly nothing absolutely void of good would ever go seeking the good.

It is said then to spring from Poverty and Possession in the sense that Lack and Aspiration and the Memory of the Ideal Principles, all present together in the Soul, produce that Act towards The Good which is Love. Its Mother is Poverty, since striving is for the needy; and this Poverty is Matter, for Matter is the wholly poor: the very ambition towards the good is a sign of existing indetermination; there is a lack of shape and of Reason in that which must aspire towards the Good, and the greater degree of effort implies the lower depth of materiality. A thing aspiring towards the Good is an Ideal-principle only when the striving [with attainment] will leave it still unchanged in Kind: when it must take in something other than itself, its aspiration is the presentment of Matter to the incoming power.

Thus Love is at once, in some degree a thing of Matter and at the same time a Celestial, sprung of the Soul; for Love lacks its Good but, from its very birth, strives towards It.

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