Meditations of the Greek Master

This document has been abstracted from “Living a Good Life: Advice on Virtue, Love and Action from the Ancient Greek Masters“, © 1997 by Thomas Cleary.

The Primary Agent is still, without any sort of movement at all. Its stillness produces its image, which is the intellect; but not in a thing, for its image is a vessel, noble and powerful, superior in ability and power to all lower vessels.

In that image are all science and knowledge, because when it emanated from the Primary Agent, it focused on its cause, and beheld it according to its power and thus became intellect and essence.

This essence is the intellect. So it was primary in its relation to what is subordinate to it, and secondary in relation to what is above it.

Whoever wishes to know how the true One creates a multiplicity of phenomena should set his gaze on the true One alone, leaving aside all things, which come from It; and should return to Its essence and stay there: for he will see, by means of his intellect, the true One, motionless, standing high above all things intelligible and sensible.

And he will see the totality of things as if they were productions emanated from It and inclining to It. In this way, things start to move, meaning that it is necessary for everything in motion to have something toward which to move, and there is nothing in motion but what moves attracted to what it comes from, for it only desires to attain to It and to assimilate to It.

The Primary Agent is necessarily still, without movement, insofar as there must be something secondary to It. And Its action must be something secondary to It. And Its action must be without deliberation, movement, or desire inclining to the effect.

The primary effect is the intellect, which emanated from the potency and power of the stillness of the Agent. Then the totality of intelligible and sensible phenomena emanated from It by the mediation of the intellect.

The intellect became all things only because its Creator is not like anything whatsoever. And the primary Creator does not resemble anything whatsoever because all things come from It, and because is has no attributes and no particular form inherent in it.

And that is because the primary Creator is one, its oneness meaning that it is unconditioned. It has no properties of Its own, because all properties emanate from It. Thus all things are in It, while it is not in any thing, except as cause.

All things are in the intellect, and it is in things. Things happen to be in the intellect because their forms are in it, and have emanated from it into things, since it is the cause of things lower than it.

However, although the intellect is the cause of things below it, nevertheless it is not the whole cause of a thing, being only the cause of the form of the thing, not the cause of its essence.

As for the Primary Agent, It is the overall cause, because It is the unmediated cause of the essence of the thing, and the cause of the essence of the soul and the forms of things, through the mediation of the intellect.

And the soul and all things are formed in the intellect. They are not in the Primary Cause, they are only emanated from It.

All intelligible phenomena are delimited. The limitation of a thing is the totality of its attributes and its form. That is because when the Primary Cause created the essence of things, It did not leave them dependent on something without definition, but on what delimits and encompasses, defining them by their forms.

For the boundary of a created thing is its form and stability. And stability is characteristic of the intellect, defining it by the totality of its attributes. Stability is the normal state and constancy of the intellect and intelligible phenomena.

The unadulterated One is like light, while the secondary unit, which is related to something else, is like the sun, and the tertiary phenomenon is like the moon, which gets its light from the sun.

In the intellect is an essential luminosity, which, however, is not simply luminosity, but a substance that is a receptor of light. As for the thing that illumines the intellect and pours light upon it, that is simply light and nothing else but light. But it is an unrestricted light, pure and unadulterated, which pours its power on the intellect, making it an illuminating, enlightening intelligence.

However, the light that is in the intellect is a thing within a thing, whereas the light that illumines the intellect is not in something else. It is light alone, abiding steadily through its essence and illuminating all things. Some things, however, receive more of its light, and some receive less.

The true One is the creator of things, but it is not remote from them or separate from them. It is with all things, but is with them as if It were not with them. Its togetherness is evident only with those things that have the power to receive it.

The One is great, greater than all things; not in terms of mass, but in terms of power. Thus when we say It is infinite, we do not mean It is infinite in terms of mass or number, but that nothing encompasses Its power. And that is because it is above all possible imagination, permanently existing by virtue of Its own essence, void of attributes.

The One is good, not to Its own essence, for Its essence is goodness pure and true; rather, It is good to all things that have the power to receive the good It pours on them.

Furthermore, It has no motion, because It is before motion, before thought, and before knowledge. And there is nothing in It that It wants to know in the way a mortal knows. Rather, It is the knowledge that does not need to know by another knowledge, because It is pure ultimate knowledge, comprehending all knowledge as well as the cause of the sciences.

The first created intellect itself has no form. In relation to the primary Creator, it does have form, because it reaches a limit, whereupon it is defined and so comes to have attributes and form.

As for the primary Creator, It has no form, because there is no other thing above It that It would aim to reach, and nothing below It can reach It. So It is unlimited in every way, and thus happens to have no description and no form.


The primary One cannot be multiple in any way; otherwise the multiplicity that is in It would be attached to another, prior One. Rather, It must be unadulterated Good. And it must be the creator of a thing that is one, is good, and has the form of goodness, either as an imprint from the primary Creator, or as the imprint of Its imprint.

The imprint of the Creator is the intellect, and the imprint of the intellect is life. And life is also intellect, just as the imprint of fire is also fire.

However, it is not necessary that what is in the imprint is what is in that which makes the imprint, or what is not in it. That is because the primary imprinter is one, whereas its imprint is the intellect, and the intellect is two, because it is created, and the created is after the creator.

The imprint of the intellect is the soul, and in the intellect is what is in the soul, but there is in the soul what is not in the intellect. That is because the soul is more than two. For that reason, the soul comes to have predilections and act independently. Its independent action is its thought.

Each individual form continues to leave an imprint – and the imprints are more numerous than the form – until it comes to an imprint that does not itself leave an imprint on anything. So the first original imprints but is not imprinted, and the last thing is an imprint that does not make an imprint. And whatever is between the imprinter and the imprinted imprints what is below it and is imprinted by what is above it.

However, the first imprint, which is the intellect, operates an intellectual operation characterized by regularity without any deviation whatsoever, because it is an imprint from an absolutely motionless imprinter.

The second imprint, though, which is the soul, operates a psychological operation that is somewhat predisposed, since it is derived from an imprinter that is in motion. So the soul becomes the thinker.

Now the third imprint is the primal celestial noble body, which operates a local operation that is regular within the particular locale. It is only a local operation because it is an imprint from an operation that has a predisposed inclination, even though it is not itself a local operation.

The fourth imprint is the earthly bodies, which operate locally and erratically in place and manner. So they become mutually opposed in positioning and power.

All the imprints are connected to the initial action, which is the intellect; and the intellect is connected to the Primary Agent, which is the Creator and Preserver of them all, except that It creates some of them without mediation, and some of them through mediation.

The Pure Good is the first to pour good upon things and clothe them in good, as the sun clothes physical objects with light, by which they shine.

The Primary Good is good, pure and simple, not by virtue of connection with something else, because there is nothing else above It. All things are below It, and receive good from It. It is, furthermore, an agent, though Its action is intellect, life, and self, and everything in which there is life and intelligence.


In the natures of things in this world are congruencies and differences, resulting in attraction and repulsion. Real magic is nothing but knowledge of these things within one another.

When we depart from this earthly world and go to that sublime world and unite with the universal soul, it is not hidden from us who we are, where we came from, where we went, and where we were.

When a human being is immersed in the desires of the natural body, he does not ascend rapidly. But if one is unattached to these things, and has taken to the intellect, then natural disposition cannot entice one.

All things are from the Creator, through the generosity thereof; and the first creation therefore is the primordial matter, then the intellect, then the soul, then the nature, then the body.

The Primal Good is the Creator, Exalted; and everything else is less good than It, to the extent of the intermediaries between them, because whatever is closer to the Exalted Creator has more goodness.

The Primal Good is that which does not cease to exist. The secondary good is what this Primary Good created, which is the intellect. Then the tertiary good is the soul, with its arrangement winding up in the bodies. So the good in the body is the soul, for without the soul its constituent parts would dissolve and it would not be a body.

All good comes to things from the Exalted Creator, by emanation and imprinting. So they have no power from primordial matter to preserve the health that is always beneficial to them. Rather, they have to renew it in one condition after another.

  1. xiaoyaoxingzhe
    June 3, 2011 at 3:24 am

    Am I correct in thinking that this document not only supports Part 6 of the Catechism, but can be usefully read in conjunction with the Cyclopaedia term “Principle”? The definition of that term just seems to give the basic outline, which the above fills out in greater detail.

  2. June 3, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    You are correct: this document is very useful for its expansion and elaboration upon the outlines given in the ‘Principle’ Cyclopaedia entry.

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