12. But why, after all, should it not be such a manifold as long as it remains one substantial existence, having the multiplicity not of a compound being but of a unity with a variety of activities?
Now, no doubt, if these various activities are not themselves substantial existences- but merely manifestations of latent potentiality- there is no compound; but, on the other hand, it remains incomplete until its substantial existence be expressed in act. If its substantial existence consists in its Act, and this Act constitutes multiplicity, then its substantial existence will be strictly proportioned to the extent of the multiplicity.
We allow this to be true for the Intellectual-Principle to which we have allotted [the multiplicity of] self-knowing; but for the first principle of all, never. Before the manifold, there must be The One, that from which the manifold rises: in all numerical series, the unit is the first.
But- we will be answered- for number, well and good, since the suite makes a compound; but in the real beings why must there be a unit from which the multiplicity of entities shall proceed?
Because [failing such a unity] the multiplicity would consist of disjointed items, each starting at its own distinct place and moving accidentally to serve to a total.
But, they will tell us, the Activities in question do proceed from a unity, from the Intellectual-Principle, a simplex.
By that they admit the existence of a simplex prior to the Activities; and they make the Activities perdurable and class them as substantial existences [hypostases]; but as Hypostases they will be distinct from their source, which will remain simplex; while its product will in its own nature be manifold and dependent upon it.
Now if these activities arise from some unexplained first activity in that principle, then it too contains the manifold: if, on the contrary, they are the very earliest activities and the source and cause of any multiple product and the means by which that Principle is able, before any activity occurs, to remain self-centred, then they are allocated to the product of which they are the cause; for this principle is one thing, the activities going forth from it are another, since it is not, itself, in act. If this be not so, the first act cannot be the Intellectual-Principle: the One does not provide for the existence of an Intellectual-Principle which thereupon appears; that provision would be something [an Hypostasis] intervening between the One and the Intellectual-Principle, its offspring. There could, in fact, be no such providing in The One, for it was never incomplete; and such provision could name nothing that ought to be provided. It cannot be thought to possess only some part of its content, and not the whole; nor did anything exist to which it could turn in desire. Clearly anything that comes into being after it, arises without shaking to its permanence in its own habit. It is essential to the existence of any new entity that the First remain in self-gathered repose throughout: otherwise, it moved before there was motion and had intellectual act before any intellection- unless, indeed, that first act [as motionless and without intelligence] was incomplete, nothing more than a tendency. And what can we imagine it lights upon to become the object of such a tendency?
The only reasonable explanation of act flowing from it lies in the analogy of light from a sun. The entire intellectual order may be figured as a kind of light with the One in repose at its summit as its King: but this manifestation is not cast out from it: we may think, rather, of the One as a light before the light, an eternal irradiation resting upon the Intellectual Realm; this, not identical with its source, is yet not severed from it nor of so remote a nature as to be less than Real-Being; it is no blind thing, but is seeing and knowing, the primal knower.
The One, as transcending Intellect, transcends knowing: above all need, it is above the need of the knowing which pertains solely to the Secondary Nature. Knowing is a unitary thing, but defined: the first is One, but undefined: a defined One would not be the One-absolute: the absolute is prior to the definite.