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The Secret (Life) of the One
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What is the One like?
What is it like to be the One?
Works Cited in this Episode:
Primary, roughly in order mentioned:
Immanence of the One:
- It is intimately present to all things: VI.97.29, πᾶσι σύνεστι.
- Everywhere and nowhere: III.94; VI.816.1-2: Ἐπεὶ δὲ φάμεν καὶ δοκεῖ πανταχού τε εἶναι τοῦτο καὶ αὖ εἶναι οὐδαμοῦ….
- Posterior realities ‘participate’ in the One: V.317.8-10 [note the wording]: μετείληφε καὶ μετέχει ἑνος, οὐκ αὐτὸ ἕν. The one grants them ‘measure’, while remaining beyond any measure: VI.733.19-20.
The One as primary cause/first principle:
- Compositeness requires ontologically-prior simplicity: V.63.10-15.
- The One the source of all posterior unities, and of ‘measure’: e.g. V.315.12-13; 28; 17.10-14; VI.410; VI.723.22-24 (measure).
- The one eternally sustaining all things, right now: VI.7[23.22-24.
- ‘Participation’ in the One by multiple beings: e.g. V.317.8-10: the things of nous ‘participate and partake of One, not One itself’. Contrast e.g. VI.88.12-15: the One unrelated to anything else.
- One/Dyad metaphysics in Plotinus: e.g. V.16.50-54: nothing separates the One and the Nous except Otherness; V.312.44: they are ‘neither cut off [from each other] nor identical’.
Contact with the One:
- We have something of the One in us: III.89.19 ff; cf. VI.93.51: ἔχομεν τι παρ’ αὐτοῦ.
- Erôs for the One, generally: VI.731.8-9. Erôs for the One, even at the level of matter: V.2.1.1-18.
- The One beautiful, or even The Beautiful: V.58.10; VI.218.1.
- The One is erôs, worthy of erôs, and is a kind of self-erôs: VI.815.1 ff.
- Presence to the one (σύνεσις … κατὰ παρουσίαν) is greater than ἐπιστημή and νόησις: VI.94.1-3.
- Touching the One: e.g. V.310.42; VI.94.27, 7.4, 9.55, 11.24, 9.20; VI.811.10-13, etc. Cognition of the One which is not cognition: συναίσθεσις: VI.731.9. γνῶσις or ἐπαφή (‘touching’): ibid. 36.4. σύνεσις: VI.94.1-3.
- Contemplation (θεωρία) of the One by the Nous: e.g. V.21.7-12. Cf. V.54.6-8: ‘we long to see the one, if that were somehow possible … you must rush up to the one and stop there without losing it …’. Ibid 6.35-7: you cannot say the one, but you can perhaps see it.
Aphairesis leading to union with the One: III.810.31 ff; V.41.
‘Often, awakening to my self from the body and becoming separate from all other externals …’: IV.81.1-11.
Ιt is the ‘light’ or ‘colour’ coming from elsewhere which gives the noetic reality its beauty: e.g. VI.722.
‘We speak around it, but we do not speak it itself’: V.314.1-3: we say τι περὶ αυτοῦ, but οὐ μὴν αὐτὸ λέγομεν.
The One does not exercise consciousness or cognition:
- Denial of νόησις to the One: e.g. III.99. γνῶσις, νόησις, συναίσθησις: VI.741.26-27.
- Attribution of a sort of self-consciousness which is not self-consciousness: V.42.15-19.
- ὑπερνόησις, which isn’t even a word in Greek: VI.832.
- Does the One κατανοεῖν (with the kata- perhaps indicating intensity)? Yes, at V.42, but no at III.99, on account of the One’s total simplicity – note how chronologically-close these two works are.
Porphyry on the Union: Plot. 23.
- Gwenaëlle Aubry. Dieu sans la puissance: dynamis et energeia chez Aristote et chez Plotin. Vrin, Paris, 2006.
- Hadot on Plotty’s ‘mysticism’ really being about nous for the most part: Hadot 1986, 11-12.
- Zeke Mazur 2021: see below. Mazur’s typology of Plotinian ascent/union is given in Chapter 2: A: katharsis/purification B: ‘Mystical self-reversion’ (‘going inward’) C:1: Autophany (‘luminous vision’) C2: Self-unification D: Annihilation E1: Union with the One E2: Desubjectification.
- Bronwen Neil. Dream-visions, Prophecy and Contemplation in Origen’s Contra Celsum. In Eleni Pachoumi and Mark Edwards, editors, Praying and Contemplating in Late Antiquity: Religious and Philosophical Interactions, pages 123–37. Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, 2018., we cite p. 131 n. 35, where the author cites Enn. IV.81.
- Scott Walker, ‘Boy Child’, off Scott 4, Fontana 1969.
I have compiled a list of depictions of the encounter with the One, or approaches to it, in various descriptive modes:
- I.67.1-19, 9.6-25
- VI.99.2, 3.14-27, 4.1-30, 7.1-23, 9.24-60, 10.9-21, 11.4-25, 36-48 [and note that this entire, baffling work can be read as interlarded with hints and half-revelations of the union]
- III.89.19-32, 10.28-35
- V.54.1-12, 7.31-8.23
- VI.731.5-35, 34.1-12, 35.1-36.18
- VI.815.14-23, 19.1-16
- V.34.4-15, 17.16-39.
- H. J. Blumenthal. Plotinus in the Light of Twenty Years’ Scholarship: 1951-1971. ANRW, 36.1:528–570, 1987 [pages 550-53 give a nice conspexus of scholarship on the One up to 1987].
- E. R. Dodds. The Parmenides of Plato and the Neoplatonic One. CQ, 22:129–142, 1928.
- Pierre Hadot. Neoplatonist Spirituality: Plotinus and Porphyry. In A.H. Armstrong, editor, Classical Mediterranean Spirituality, pages 230–249. Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1986. Translated by Jane Curran.
- Emile Bréhier. The Philosophy of Plotinus. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1958. Translated by J. Thomas, pp. 132-63.
Zeke Mazur. Having Sex with the One: Erotic Mysticism in Plotinus and the Problem of Metaphor. In P. Vassilopoulou and S.R.L. Clark, editors, Late Antique Epistemology: Other Ways to Truth, page 67–83. Palgrave Macmillan, Houndmills, Basingstoke, 2009.
- J. Rist. Eros and Psyche: Studies in Plato, Plotinus, and Origen. University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 1964.
- F. M. Schroeder. Saying and Having in Plotinus. Dionysius, 9:75–84, 1985.
Jean Trouillard. Théologie negative et autoconstitution psychique chez les néopla- toniciens. In Savoir, faire, espérer: les limites de la raison, volume 1, pages 307–321. Facultés Universitaires St.-Louis, Brussels, 1976.
June 12, 2021
The concept of being able to acknowledge the union with a higher state of consciousness is also found in Buddhist texts, with regard to sunyata. When the “selfness” is lost during meditation, who or what is there to reconcile the experience? Who else than the reconstructed self,once you get out of sync…
June 12, 2021
There are lots of very promising-looking parallels between Plotty and Buddhist meditation traditions. Sometimes it seems to me that Plotinus is actually reaching for something like a Buddhist anatma-principle in the way he delineates the one-beyond-being-as-self. A scholar of both traditions (who would need to be a meditator as well) should write a study here!
June 16, 2021
the only scholar with such practical and theoretical knowledge i can think of is Karel Werner who’s written -among others-
The Yogi and the Mystic
Studies in Indian and Comparative Mysticism
In this work there is a pasage devoted to Plotinus and although not very extended, it explicitly draws on these apparent links. Personally, despite the lack of evidence, one surely must accept some propagation of practices between these civilizations.
He has not only studied and lectured -on theory and praxis – these topics but also was a yogi practitioner himself and also one of the first “westerners” to seek experimental research of meditation techniques. Unfortunately he passed away a couple of years ago and i don’t know if someone continuing his work is up for interviewing.
June 16, 2021
Thanks for the references.
With regard to ‘one surely must accept some propagation of practices between these civilizations’, one could also, for the sake of argument, posit that human consciousness is the same across cultures in some way(s), so that similar practices develop independently in different cultures just because humans are the way they are.