Bhakti and Henadology

Journal of Dharma Studies 1 (1):147-161 (2018)
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In henadological Platonism, the significance of “the One” is understood to lie, not in an eminent singular entity, but in the modes of unity and the ways of being a unit. The science of units qua units is a systematic ground and counterweight to substance-based ontology, and manifests an organic bond with theology as the science of relation to supra-essential individuals or Gods. Because of the basic nature of unity relative to being, doctrines respecting unity tend to situate themselves as critiques of ontology; they exhibit both an analytical and a soteriological value. For its part, bhakti is not a mere sectarian movement but rather an inquiry at once speculative and practical into the nature of the relationship between the human and the divine. It bridges the diverse genres of ancient Indian thought (including the theophanic/cultic, the epic, along with diverse philosophical perspectives) and displays key commonalities with henadological Platonism. This paper begins the process of identifying these common themes with particular reference to the Bhagavadgītā. Chief among its themes is the distinction between structuring cause and structured mixture, which runs through Platonism from the Phaedo to the doctrine of principles, and which parallels the account of action in the Gītā as freedom independent of result, insofar as the latter pertains to the solidarity of worldly causality heteronomous to the agency of the ātman.



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Edward Butler
New School for Social Research

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