I am going to engage in some ‘random’ heaping of texts and some cut and paste repetition. This post should have been on the subject of heaps and Plotinus but I got distracted while trying to locate the chapter.
if he wished, join the circulation of warm bodies for a while, and get a sense of the flow. But it was sufficient to stand at the right points of the system and gather ethnographic knowledge as it passed by, like a coral polyp fixed on some reef, selecting titbits and rejecting others from the rich currents, according to some prior design. (1)
I know nothing about the specific local context of this text yet. Any relationship or pattern will do at the moment.
It happens… that cowardly men run wild and lose their wits from the dread and fear which seize them. And then run into the wood away from other men and live there like wild beasts, and shun the meeting of men like wild beasts. And it is said of these men that when they have lived in the woods in that condition for twenty years, then feathers grow on their bodies as on birds, whereby their bodies are protected against frost and cold, but the feathers are not so large that they may fly like birds. Yet their swiftness is said to be so great that other men cannot approach them, and greyhounds just as little as men. For these men run along the trees almost as swiftly as monkeys or squirrels. (2)
One might be tempted to suppose that the Neoplatonic hierarchy is a sort of logical construct, that it represents the relations between basic concepts these philosophers use to describe the world. While I think that this description is true as far as it goes, it is surely incomplete and misleading. For it is unquestionable that the Neoplatonists thought that their principles exist in the nature of things and not merely as theoretical constructs in the minds of philosophers. Their attitude towards their principles is in this respect more like the modern position according to which the physical sciences deal with the reality that is more real than the reality of everyday experience and which itself is stratified into a more basic level (3)
(1) Greg Woolf, Tales of the Barbarians: Ethnography and Empire in the Roman West
(2)Speculum Regale, old Norse, 13th cen.
(3) E.K. Emilsson, Plotinus On Sense Perception A Philosophical Study