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  • 9 (VI, 9) provides a large, substantial and a chronologically quite early (only 1 [1, 6] and 6 [IV, 8] precede) contribution to the description of Plotinus’ great spiritual adventure : the union with the One/SE (…) His philosophy proves to work, and it proves its veracity, if, indeed, one can follow the path to the ultimate Entity and attain to it. The entire way before this union is philosophically elaborated, the experience has nothing to do – as Dodds righly puts it (note 831 : Dodds, Tradition, 7) – with breathing exercises, navel-brooding, or hypnotic repetition of syllables nor, may I add, with voices, visionary visions and gymnastics or ascetism. Stress has been laid on the fact that for Plotinus it is a natural event, not a supernatural grace as in Christian mysticism (note 832 : Dodds, Tradition, 7, and Rist, Road, 225, Zintzen, Mystik, 85, Armstrong, Salvation, 27 ff, see also Bussanich, The One, 144).

    Plotinus has written several times more or less elaborately about his experience with the Supreme Entity or depicted the union in a more general way (1 [I, 6], 9 ; 6 (IV, 8), l ; 9 [VI, 9], 4 and ch. 7-11 ; 32 [V, 5], 7, 30 ff. and ch.8 ff ; 38 [VI ,7], 34-37 ; 49 [V, 3], 17, 15 ff.). The question keeps coming up what precisely the mystical element in this union with the Supreme Entity may assumed to be and, more generally, what, if anything, ‘mysticism’ is supposed to entail. The word stems from the Greek verb μύειν which as such does occur in Plotinus be it only once, 9 (VI, 9), 11, 2, meaning ‘initiate into mysteries’ (see LP s.v.). The cognate word μυστικῶς, too, emerges only once, 26 (III, 6), 19, 26 and also as to do with initiation into mysteries. We have already spent some words about the basic difference between mystery and mysticism so there is no need to repeat this here (note 833 : See above note 779). What modern preconception or definition one starts from that will determine one’s approach to Plotinus’ mysticism or – just like a pair of glasses, that are not the right ones – will corrupt or distort one’s perspective. Hadot (note 834 : Hadot, Les niveaux, 243) adopted a definition of mysticism (union with a God, not only the God) that enabled him to proclaim that even the union of the soul with mind is a form of mysticism. For convenience’s sake I shall call this noetic mysticism. Hadot makes a good point when he distinguishes this form of noetic mysticism. According to Hadot if one fails to appreciate this form of mysticism one will make a grave mistake, that many interpreters are guilty of (note 835 : Hadot, Les niveaux, 245). Although Hadot’s observations are by no means pointless, and, indeed, this lower union has many features of Plotinian mysticism (note 836 : Hadot, Les niveaux 244, 245. On p. 257 Hadot points to soul’s being drunken and full of nectar of the soul when it becomes one with intelligible God, something that is also said of the union with the One, see below 317. 31 [V, 8] chapters 10 and 11 describe a union with the divine Intellect which indeed resembles a mystical union, cf. 30 [III, 8], 11, 30 ff.) and is clothed in similar terms, his claim does not seem very productive in regard to the union with the One as the union of soul and mind is only preliminary to it and displays features of its own. It is only a pre-stage, be it the final one before the great union. Moreover, Hadot deprives us of the happenning of 6 (IV, 8), 1, by proclaiming that is the union of the soul and the intellect (so noetic mysticism) that is depicted by Plotinus instead of his union with the SE (note 837 : There are several reasons against Hadot’s position concerning 6 [IV, 8], 1. It seems unlikely that Plotinus would have described the union of his soul with the divine Intellect as having taken place often (πολλάκις). It is far more plausible that by ‘often’ he indicated the highest form of mystical union, be it that it is not yet the One he believed to be joint soul with (see above 34). It is perhaps decisive that in the Life of Plotinus Porphyrius uses the same formula to denote the union with the highest. Compare Plotinus : ὐπὲρ πᾶν τὸ ἄλλο νοητὸν ἐμαυτὸν ἰδρύσας with Porphyrius Vita 23, ἐκεῖνος ὁ θεὸς, ὁ μήτε μορφὴν μήτε τινα ἰδέαν ἔχων, ὑπὲρ δὲ νοῦν καὶ πᾶν τὸ νοητὸν ἰδρυμένος).

    Rist (note 838 : Rist, Road, 214) sides with Zaehner’s approach (note 839 : Zaehner, Mysticism, sacred and profane, Oxford 1957) to mysticism by partly adopting his fourfold classification of mystical systems. Basing his arguments on Indian, Muslim and Christian mysticism, Zaehner claims to have developed a rather objective approach by recognizing four basic mystical positions which are assumed to embrace the field of mystical experience in general. Rist borrowed two positions (note 840 : Zaehner firstly distinguishes a panenhenic position : the individual soul is merged into nature, secondly a position which aims at the complete isolation of the soul from nature by ascetism. These forms have nothing to do with Plotinus) from Zaehner’s system as coordinates for determining the Plotinian mystical experience. Zaehner himself did not try to let his system embrace Neoplatonian mysticism. Fortunately, he did not wish or in any case did not undertake this task, because his one and only remark on Neoplatonian mysticism is completely off the mark (note 841 : Zaehner. Mysticism, 167 holds that the mind in Neoplatonism is the “second aspect of the Deity”, not differentiating between the Neoplatonists and Philo, who are irresponsably heaped together).

  • Remarques de l'éditeur
  • Luciana Santoprete
    • Contexte
    • Commentaire, partie « Mystical Union : Problems » du Traité 9 (VI, 9), 1
    • Page
    • 294-296
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  • Traité 9 (VI, 9), 1