WITHIN THE SANCTUARY

Plotinus


     Thus the Supreme is ever present with us - not that the Supreme reaches out to us, seeking our communion: we reach towards the Supreme, it is we that become present. We are always before It, but we do not always look: thus a choir, set in due order about the conductor, may turn away from that centre to which all should attend; let it but face aright, and it sings with beauty. We are ever before the Supreme, but we do not always attend: when we look, our Goal is attained; this is rest; this is the end of singing ill; standing straight and true before Him, we lift a choral song full of God.

     In this choiring, the soul looks upon the wellspring of Life, wellspring also of Spirit, beginning of Being, fount of Good, root of Soul. It is not that these are poured out from the Supreme, lessening it as if it were a thing of mass: they spring from an eternal principle, which produces them not by its fragmentation but in virtue of its intact identity. Therefore they too hold firm; so long as the sun shines, so long there will be light.

     We have not been cut away; we are not separate, what though the body-nature has closed about us to press us to itself; we breathe and hold our ground because the Supreme does not give and pass but gives on for ever, so long as It remains What It Is.

     Our being is the fuller for our turning Thither; this is our prosperity; to hold aloof is loneliness and lessening. Here is the
 soul's peace; here it has its Act, its authentic knowing; here it is immune. Here is living, here is the true; all living apart from Him is but a shadow, a mimicry. This state is its first and its final, because from God it comes, its good lies There, and, once turned to God again, it is what it was.

     Any that have seen know what I have in mind: the soul takes another life as it approaches God; thus restored, it feels that the dispenser of true life is There, that now we have nothing to look for but, far otherwise, that we must put aside all else and rest in This alone, must become This alone. Thus we have all the vision that may be permitted us of Him and of ourselves; but it is of a self wrought to splendour, brimmed with the spiritual light, become that very light, pure, buoyant, unburdened, raised to Godhood - or, better, knowing its Godhood.

     In our self-seeing There, the self is seen as belonging to that divine order, or rather we are merged into that self in us which has the quality of that order. It is a knowing of the self restored to its purity. No doubt we should not speak of seeing; but we cannot help talking in dualities, seen and seer, instead of, boldly, the achievement of unity. In this seeing, we neither hold an object nor trace distinction; there is no two. The man is changed, no longer himself nor self-belonging; he is merged with the Supreme, sunken into It, one with It: centre coincides with centre.

     This is the purport of that rule of our Mysteries: Nothing Divulged to the Uninitiate: the Supreme is not to be made a common story, the holy things may not be uncovered to the stranger, to any that has not himself attained to see. There were not two; beholder was one with beheld; it was not a vision compassed but a unity apprehended. The man formed by this mingling with the Supreme must - if he only remember - carry its image impressed upon him: he is become the Unity, nothing within him or without inducing any diversity; no movement now, no passion, no outlooking desire, once this ascent is achieved; reasoning is in abeyance and even, to dare the word, the very self: caught away, filled with God, all the being calmed, he turns neither to this side nor to that, not even inwards to himself; utterly resting he has become rest itself. He belongs no longer to the order of the beautiful; he has risen beyond beauty; he has overpassed even the choir of the virtues; he is like one who, having penetrated the inner sanctuary, leaves the temple images behind him - though these become once more first objects of regard when he returns from the sanctuary; for There his converse was not with image, not with trace, but with the very Truth in the view of which all the rest is but of secondary concern.

     There, indeed, it was scarcely vision, unless of a mode unknown; it was a going forth from the self, a simplifying, a renunciation, a reach towards contact and at the same time a repose, a meditation towards adjustment. This is the only seeing of what lies within the sanctuary: to look otherwise is to fail.

     Things here are signs; they show therefore to the wiser teachers how God is known; the instructed priest reading the sign may enter the holy place and make real the vision of the inaccessible.

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     Thus may a man in his essence outgrow mere being and become identical with the Transcendent of Being. And when we have fallen back again from that union, we waken the virtue within us until we know ourselves all well ordered once more; once more we are lightened of our burden, through virtue become spiritual, and move through Spiritual Wisdom to the Supreme.

     This is the life of gods and of the godlike and blessed among men, liberation from all that is alien here and from pleasure in it, a flight of Alone to Alone.