Plotinus’ philosophical eros for the One: his unio mystica, ethos and legendary life

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Abstract

Above all, this paper explores Plotinus' unparalleled philosophical eros for henosis (union) with the 'One', highlighting his legendary life as recounted by his biographer and disciple Porphyry. It is ascertained here that the ethos of great visionaries of the order of Plotinus, whose metaphysical insight mystical experience and ethical life harmoniously coalesce: legend supersedes historical fact and philosophical acumen. Plotinus' metaphysics in the Enneads is examined qua his mystical claim of having attained spiritual dignity through life's ultimate goal (cf. VI.9.9.47-48). His metaphysical scheme following the hierarchical structure of Plato's Parmenides differentiates three hypostatic realities: the Ultimate One, Nous (Intellectus, Mind), and Soul. The One is absolutely independent beyond being, time stillness and movement, however through its dynamic emanation of Nous and Soul paradoxically generates multiplicity—every form quality compound or thing. But concurrently, the 'derivation' of multiplicity from the One transcends the emanation of Soul and Nous (being and form), hence lies beyond all intelligibility. Notwithstanding, Plotinus claims the One can be directly experienced and this order of mystical contemplation constitutes the unio mystica; is often paralleled to the vision of Plato's Form of the Good beyond being (Rep. VI.507-509); and to the pinnacle of Diotima's ladder of divine love (Symp. 210a-211b), whereby the lover of wisdom ascending through Nous to the greater mysteries of eros, beholds the highest and final mystery the transcendent vision of beauty-itself—of one form always—beauty that "neither comes to be nor passes away, neither waxes nor wanes" (211a), true beauty simple and divine that transforms the visionary to immortal friend of god. Affirming Plato's Theatetus (176b), Plotinus unequivocally claims the philosophical aim to become like god to the highest possible degree (Enn. I.2.1.4, I.4.16.10-13). However, his mystical illumination leads to equivocation of the 'One' to the 'Form of the Good' making his insight comprehensively conspicuous; it encompasses Platonic metaphysics, clarifies what Plato implied but never really elucidated: the beyond being of the Good itself. For Plotinus, only the mystical experience of the soul's gradual ascend to the Soul of the All (Psêchê tõn Pantõn), then unto Nous and finally unto the ultimate cause can disclose our ever‐present‐and‐direct‐link to the divine: to the One hypostasis par excellence that is everywhere (pantachou) and nowhere (oudamou), that as prior cause transcends intelligibility, multiplicity dyad or number; yet paradoxically as One, is absolutely simple‐allpervading‐ immanence‐being neither a part nor a compound rather the prior simplicity of the whole, oneness: unifying‐in‐and‐as‐itself parts to compounds and forms to being. Accordingly, the good life and eudaimonia ensue in measures to the degree the divinized self‐manifests unity in everydayness. Hence, Plato's heavenly forms are directly accessible immanently linked to the earthly world and realm, wherein the inner realization of the One manifests the divine good in everyday activity and experience. Plotinus' simple and immanent One augments Platonic metaphysics one decisive step further pronouncing the unio mystica: union with the first cause the sole aim of everyday life. In toto, the Plotinian insight accentuates evermore Platonic metaphysics with the renewed visionary ethos of the One that links ontologically Plato's heavenly forms to wholesome earthly self‐actualizations.

Keywords

  • Plotinus, Enneads, unio mystica, eros, Porphyry, Plato

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