The Platonizing Sethian Background of Plotinus’s Mysticism

Alexander J. Mazur, Leiden: Brill, 2020
Brill, Leiden – Boston,  Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies, Volume: 98, 2020
In The Platonizing Sethian Background of Plotinus’s Mysticism, Zeke Mazur offers a radical reconceptualization of Plotinus with reference to Gnostic thought and praxis. A crucial element in the thought of the third-century CE philosopher Plotinus — his conception of mystical union with the One — cannot be understood solely within the conventional history of philosophy, or as the product of a unique, sui generis psychological propensity. This monograph demonstrates that Plotinus tacitly patterned his mystical ascent to the One on a type of visionary ascent ritual that is first attested in Gnostic sources. These sources include the Platonizing Sethian tractates Zostrianos (NHC VIII,1) and Allogenes (NHC XI,3) of which we have Coptic translations from Nag Hammadi and whose Greek Vorlagen were known to have been read in Plotinus’s school.
(Text from the publisher)
Table of contents
Editor’s Preface to the Present Volume 
Author’s Acknowledgments 
Editor’s Note on References, Editions, and Translations 
List of Tables 
Author’s Preface Introduction: The Gnostic Background of Plotinus’s Mysticism 
1 The Fundamental Problem of Plotinian Mysticism
2 Problems with the Prior Scholarship on Plotinian Mysticism
3 Platonizing Sethian Visionary Ascent and the Historical Context of Plotinian Mysticism
4 The Current State of the ResearchThe Structure of Plotinus’ Ascent to Mystical Union with the One 
1 Introduction
2 Phase A: Catharsis
3 Phase B: Mystical Self-Reversion
4 Phase C: Autophany
5 Excursus: A First Meditation on the Identity of the Mystical Subject
6 Phase C2: Self-Unification
7 Phase D: Annihilation
8 Excursus: Second Meditation on the Identity of the Mystical Subject
9 Excursus: On Beauty
10 Phase E: Union with the One
11 Vision and Light
12 Ennead VI.9[9].11.22–25 [See Complete Passage in Appendix A8]
13 Ennead VI.7[38].36.10–26 [Appendix A16]
14 Ennead V.3[49].17.28–38 [Appendix A19]
15 Excursus on V.3[49].17–28
16 Ennead V.5[32].8.18–21 [Appendix A12]
17 Convergence of Center-Points
18 Sexual Intercourse
19 Excursus on VI.7[38].35.23–32
20 Rapture or Spatial Displacement
21 Excursus on VI.7[38].35.36–40
22 Excursus on VI.7[38].36.15–18
23 Cultic Praxis
24 Phase E2: Desubjectification
25 ConclusionThe Identity of Prenoetic and Hypernoetic Subjects in Plotinus 
1 Introduction
2 1. Plotinian Ontogenesis
3 2. The Identity of the Hypernoetic Subject with the Prenoetic Efflux
4 3. The Convergence of Prenoetic and Hypernoetic Ecstasy
5 Conclusion“The Way of Ascent is the Way of Descent”: The Mechanism of Transcendental Apprehension in Platonizing Sethian Gnosticism 
1 Introduction
2 1. The Structure of Ascent in the Platonizing Sethian Ascent Treatises
3 2. Mystical Self-Reversion and Autophany in Gnostic Visionary Ascent
4 3. The Faculty of Transcendental Apprehension in Platonizing Sethianism
5 Conclusion

Conclusion: Dissolving Boundaries 
1 Introduction
2 1. Platonists and Gnostics in Alexandria and Rome: Biographical and Socio-historical Reflections
3 2. Philosophical Contemplation and Ritual Praxis
4 Conclusion


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