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The Hypostases

in Neoplatonist Metaphysics

The word hupostasis means "underlying state", or underlying substance.  In other words, that fundamental realitry that supports all else.  Neoplatonist worldview teaches that behind the surface phenomena that presents themselves to the senses are three such higher spiritual principles or hypostases: each one more sublime thna the preceeding.  These are: the One or Absolute, the Nous or Divine Mind, and the Psuche or World-Soul.    Each higher principle emanates the next, as its image.  The One is the transcendent, ineffable Source of all.  From this arises the Nous, the eternal, blissful, Divine Consciousness.  The Nous in turn generates the World-Soul, the creative consciousness which exists in time.  From and through the World-Soul is fashioned the material cosmos.  The Philosopher through contemplating the spiritual realities returns back to the Source, thus completing the cycle of precession (emanation) and return.

So much for philosophy and mysticism, but Neoplatonic thinkers also equated the hypostases with deities of the Greek pantheon.

The hypostases of Neoplatonism constitute a well defined example of an emanationist representation of Reality - the idea that Reality begins with an original transcendent ineffable infinite Godhead or Absolute, and that this goes through various stages of diminuation or deprivation, the gradation from spirit to matter.

The Neoplatonic hypostases in relation to other esoteric systems of thought:


Plotinus (Neoplatonism)

Mahayana Buddhism

Kashmir Shaivism

Ibn Arabi (Sufism)

Kabbalah

hypostasis

trikaya

kala

hadrath

olam (World)

One

Dharmakaya

Paramashiva

 
En Sof

Shiva tattwa

 
Divine Mind (Nous)

Sambhogakaya

Pure tattwas

 
Atzilut

Pure-Impure

 
Beriah

World Soul

Nirmanakaya


(subtle and gross bodies)

Impure

 
Yetzirah

 
Asiyah

hyle (sense -world)

Earth

 

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content by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 22 September 1999, last modified 27 April 2004