While reading through the approx. 135,000-word book The Five Ages of Humanity (formerly titled The Five Ages of Man), I acquired a cursory knowledge of Greek mystical thought; specifically the Neoplatonism of Plotinus (d. A.D. 270), which is quite profound. In the past, I’ve investigated mysticism in the Jewish and Christian traditions, the Indian Vedic schools, and to some degree Buddhist, Sufi, Taoist, and Native American religious thought. But what I superficially learned about Greek mysticism and subsequently explored via online resources was revelatory.
Henosis is the ancient Greek word for mystical union with the Ultimate reality. This is no theoretical concept. In his Enneads, Plotinus outlines different stages the aspirant undergoes to achieve this union. These stages are systematized and quite sophisticated, and well worthy of further study.
We do find parallels, of course, in other religions. In the Yogic schools, this state of mystical union is known as nirvikalpa samadhi. In Theravada Buddhism, it is analogous to nirodha samāpatti. In Taoism, it has been called ju ting. In the Catholic mystical tradition, it is similar to an elevated stage of the Prayer of Ecstatic Union. In Sufism, it is called fanā.
Thus, this same state is variously described in different traditions, West and East, and our brief survey demonstrates it is universal. Whenever one human being attains a given spiritual state, then any and all human beings can attain the exact same state. Henosis or samadhi or any of these states are not outside us; they are within us. We can access and increasingly manifest them during the course of our spiritual journey.
Plotinus also made the well-known observation, that the spiritual path is the “flight of the alone to the Alone.” Even if our spiritual journey is populated with many supportive friends, ultimately our destination is a one-on-one direct relationship with God, with the Ultimate reality. Our soul, or spiritual self, is enveloped by the living presence of God and subsumed into God’s infinitude. During the deepest state of Henosis, the switch that supplies the electrical current, as it were, to our ego is shut off; the alone then encounters the Alone, freed from all intermediaries, definitions, and points of reference. At that wondrous stage, which is our birthright, all is one. Plotinus, as with all great mystics, whether from Greece or Judea; India, Tibet, or Japan; Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, or North America, is proven correct.
2 thoughts on “Henosis”
A lovely essay. Thank you. The “hen-“ of henosis goes back to the Greek work for “one.” And your use of Henosis put me in mind of a fascinating talk I heard many years ago by a nun who had taught in India, and she called Hinduism, “Henolatry,” the worship of the One, reflecting the many deities of India are facets of the One. Henolatry is different from Monotheism,
Thank you, Philip, for your kind words and insights. “Henolatry,” as you describe, perfectly hits the nail on the head: only Oneness exists.
John Roger Barrie