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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.