In those passages of the Enneads in which matter has an inception – and nature, acting as Intellect’s poietic tool “manipulates” matter to make ensouled bodies – nature and the matter of the sense-world are immediate harbingers of the world of images. The curtain rises over the vista of the cosmological and cosmology proper ensues, once nature and matter herald – inadvertently and in the case of matter, passively – the pantomime of the sense-world. Although pre-cosmic, it is in this rich prelusive capacity – as elements of the architectonic ramparts of Plotinus’ cosmology – that nature and matter bear unmistakably upon that which is cosmic. Notwithstanding its sheer ontological dearth and association with evil, the matter of the sense-world plays an inert, yet significant role in Plotinus’ cosmology. Yet neither nature nor matter is literally demiurgic, for nature does not deliberate or decline when it, so to speak, engages in generation. And matter, which is incapable of deliberating, can decline no lower. Intellect, the key progenitor of this cosmological sphere, is its cause. But in what sense is it causal and how does causation entail demiurgic activity? How is nature generated? In what order do nature and sensible matter appear? What is matter and how, if at all, is it generated? These questions are addressed in two sections: (1) Demiurge, Nature, and the Sequence in which Nature and Matter appear, (2) The Matter of the SenseWorld and its Appearance. Demiurge, Nature, and the Sequence in which Nature and Matter appear

In his discourse on the cause of the being and structure of this All, Plotinus begins III.2(47).1 by directing his polemic against irrational doctrines that would attribute this All to “accident and chance” – doctrines with nihilistic tones. Rejecting the Epicurean denial of universal providence and the Gnostic postulation of an evil maker of the universe, Plotinus identifies Intellect, the living world of forms, as the “cause” of the universe – and explains quite how it serves as a progenitive, archetypal cause:

Intellect is a cause that does not deliberate but makes in silent self-continence – by “remaining in itself”. Yet, this does not render it aloof from the world. As Deck notes, Intellect is not a “spectator” of the physical world, but its producer. What kind of cause is Intellect? Plotinus has in mind what Deck describes as “real efficient causality” – distinct from the efficient causality envisaged by Aristotle. As “genuine making”, Plotinian poiesis – which does not correspond exactly to Aristotle’s efficient causality – can be called a “real efficient causality”. Intellect is “more properly an efficient cause than are efficient causes in the sensible world”. Intellect is, as Plotinus claims, the “ontic maker”. Unlike physical causality, which operates within a uniform level of reality, the causality of Intellect cannot be “transmitted” down the vertical lineage – to soul and through soul to nature and the cosmos – for Intellect, soul, and nature are not on the same level of reality. Intellect’s causality is transmitted through imitation, traversing manifold levels of reality – the world of sense by copying nature imitates Intellect on the level of being.1