On Theosis


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"Deification, briefly, is the encompassing and fulfilment of all times and ages, and of all that exists in either.

This encompassing and fulfilment is the union, in the person granted salvation, of his real authentic origin with his real authentic consummation. This union presupposes a transcending of all that by nature is essentially limited by an origin and a consummation.

Such transcendence is effected by the almighty and more than powerful energy of God, acting in a direct and infinite manner in the person found worthy of this transcendence.

The action of this divine energy bestows a more than ineffable pleasure and joy on him in whom the unutterable and unfathomable union with the divine is accomplished. This, in the nature of things, cannot be perceived, conceived or expressed."

St Maximus the Confessor
Strictly for the benefit of those (such as myself) who have never heard of this word ... or aspect of Christian theology ... here's the intro from Wikipedia:
In Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic theology, theosis (Greek: Θεωσις, meaning divinization (or deification, or to make divine) is the call to man to become holy and seek union with God, beginning in this life and later consummated in the resurrection. Theosis comprehends salvation from sin, is premised upon apostolic and early Christian understanding of the life of faith, and is conceptually foundational in both the East and the West.

A further quotation (from Wiki) will show where the Christian approach to this subject differs from the Esoteric traditions which appeal to myself and Nick:
St.Athanasius of Alexandria wrote, "The Son of God became man, that we might become God." His statement is an apt description of the concept. What would otherwise seem absurd, that fallen, sinful man may become holy as God is holy, has been made possible through JesusChrist, who is God incarnate. Naturally, the crucial Christian assertion, that God is One, sets an absolute limit on the meaning of theosis - it is not possible for any created being to become, ontologically, God, or even part of God (the henosis of Greek philosophy). [For a further investigation of HENOSIS, which is the teaching in which I place my confidence ... see the bottom portion of this post --> ]
... As God became man, in all ways except sin, He will also make man God, in all ways except His divine essence. (all emphasis added)
What I prefer, is the teaching that Man and God are of ONE Indivisible Essence (sic) ... so that ALL appearances of distinction are both originated by the Godhead, and resolved in the Godhead, yet can never be said to "truly apply" (ontologically) - even to a Humanity, or Angelic Order, existing temporarily and conditionally in outward manifestation.

In other words, what we experience as the separation, one person from another, and all persons (both individually and collectively) from God, is not an "actual" condition of things, but rather, simply the NATURE of our (lesser, or mortal) conditioned `Being.' We experience a MODE of Being, one FORM of existence - as separate, "sinning," in need of Redemption/Salvation/Liberation, and so on.

So, in contrast to the Christian teaching, I believe that ... that which "cannot be perceived, conceived or expressed," as St. Maximus puts it, is not "bestowed on us" at all ("as ineffable pleasure and joy"), but rather, is simply our deeper, higher, innermost Nature (or, Essence ... from `esse,' the Latin for `to be').

In Theosophical Teachings, this is referred to as the triple-Aspected Atma, Buddhi & Manas (man's Higher Triad), which itself is an expression of the Monad, `Our Father Who Art in Heaven.' If, in the Buddhic world, we speak of but One, Spiritual Soul for all of Humanity ... then we can scarcely imagine the non-duality of (our) Being in the Atmic world, let alone in that even more transcendent world of `the Monad' - called Aupapaduka (Sanskrit for Self-produced, spontaneously generated), or parentless.

The Monad is understood as LIKE a parent (an androgynous, Father-Mother `Deity,' relative to Christian theology - since this is every bit the `God' of Hebrew and also New Testament Scripture) ... while in its own world, the Monad qua Monad is SELF-existing, NON-Dual with "relation to" DEITY (a DIFFERENT Theosis, entirely, from both Eastern and Western Orthodox Christian tradition).

Words, language, and even all conceptuality, of course, FALL APART as we attempt to speak of such a non-conditioned level of Being ... as St. Maximus, and the Mystics of all ages, all traditions, so well convey.

Does the difference make a difference?

I think so, but only for the followers. A rose, by any other name ...


Excerpted from:

Edward Moore, S.T.L., Ph.D.
St. Elias School of Orthodox Theology​
Deification of the soul is a concept shared by the Hellenic pagan philosophical tradition and Orthodox Christianity. In the ancient Greek language, the concept is denoted by two separate terms. For the pagan Neoplatonists, such as Iamblichus, the deification of the human being was described as henôsis, or unity with God.[1] For Christian theologians of the Greek tradition, the term was theôsis, meaning a divine mode of existence.[2] The difference resides in the ontological and metaphysical presuppositions informing these two philosophical and theological approaches.​

Iamblichus considered deification (henôsis) as involving a creative partnership with God, realized through theurgic rituals that raise the soul up to the level of divine demiurgic power.[3] In other words, the deified soul, for Iamblichus, is the soul that has come to experience the glorious satisfaction of maintaining the cosmic order - in other words, in sharing in the activity of the One. For the Orthodox Christian tradition, on the other hand, deification (theôsis) implies a state of being that was described, by the most gifted Church Fathers, as an endless, mystical yearning for divine fulfillment.[4] Both Origen of Alexandria and Gregory of Nyssa argued that God is beyond the experience of humanity, who are destined to eternally strive - albeit unsuccessfully - for a complete experience of divinity. The most one can hope to attain is a fleeting sense of His infinite vastness. Later in the Christian tradition, however, Maximus the Confessor described theôsis as the replacement of the human ego by the divine presence.[5] In both cases, the attribution of theôsis to these states is paradoxical. If I am eternally incapable of attaining Godhood, how can I ever claim to be deified? Conversely, if God overwhelms my existential center of being with His absolute presence, then do I not effectively cease to exist as a person?​
In this paper, I will examine the manner in which the Christian tradition fluctuated between the two extremes of eternal separation from God, and the absolute, person-negating presence of God in the soul. It is in the pagan Neoplatonic tradition, as exemplified by Iamblichus, I will argue, that a personalistic, existentially viable theory of the eskhaton is to be found. By this I mean a theory in which the person, the soul, is intimately bound up with the inner working - or eternally realized history - of the cosmos, in so far as the soul co-operates with God in the maintenance of the cosmic order. This is precisely the goal of Iamblichean theurgy: to raise the soul to the level of perfect demiurgic co-operation with the highest divinity. Yet even Iamblichus' theory requires qualification - if it is to remain existentially viable - as I hope to make clear in the conclusion of this paper.[6]
[1] See, for example, De Mysteriis 10.5.34-35.​

[2] See, for example, Gregory Nazianzen, De filio (Orat. 30) 21.27-33 (ed. Barbel), and also the interesting passage in John of Damascus, De natura composita 3.4-7.

[3] See G. Shaw, Theurgy and the Soul: The Neoplatonism of Iamblichus (University Park, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press 1995), p. 51.

[4] This notion is first found in Origen's De Principiis, 2.11.7, where he uses the notion of an eternal feasting on divine food. It is later developed along more mystical lines by Gregory of Nyssa. On Gregory, see H. Urs von Balthasar, Presence and Thought: An Essay on the Religious Philosophy of Gregory of Nyssa, tr. M. Sebanc (San Francisco: Ignatius Press 1995), Part One, Chapter 1.

[5] Maximus, Chapters on Knowledge 2.88; also L. Thunberg, Man and the Cosmos: The Vision of St. Maximus the Confessor (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press 1985), p. 89

[6] When I speak of personalism and existentialism, I am referring mainly to the work of Russian philosopher Nicholas Berdyaev, for whom human freedom is essentially creative, and geared toward an eskhaton in which personal creative activity is enshrined in/as the human image of God. See, for example, Berdyaev's major works, Slavery and Freedom, The Destiny of Man, The Meaning of History and Truth and Revelation.


I would strongly encourage the reader to consult the rest of this article online ... as it will show precisely where your emphasis, faith and belief, Thomas, relying upon ONE tradition ... differs from that of myself, Nick and many a thousand of modern esotericist - relying upon another entirely. Are they both, equally metaphysically sound, and rigorous?

Damn straight they are!!!

Not that there aren't other differences, but FINALLY, one of your own posts, Thomas, provides a beautiful segue for the making of a point I have been trying to make for YEARS!

Apologies, Thomas, in advance - effort has not been to hijack the thread, but simply to show parallel, and contrasting teachings - every bit as important to some of us ... but do not let my emphasis on the HENOSIS detract from your sharing on THEOSIS! :)

[For the record, many esotericists, including myself, believe that Master Hilarion, in between his current - or most recent - incarnation(s), was none other than the NeoPlatonic Iamblichus, or Jamblichus, referenced in the article above ... after his conversion from Saul of Tarsus to Paul, and the Renunciation/Crucifixion Initiation that truly made him St. Paul, just as Jesus of Nazareth became the `Adept of Galilee' some years earlier. The same tradition is that the Revelation of the Apostle John was dictated by the Initiate Paul, to the Apostle, John. A fascinating study, unto itself, though a bit tangent to the discussion of theosis & henosis.)
Hi Andrew –

If you've never come across the Christian doctrine of Theosis before, then certainly St Maximus is not the last word on the matter and there are other sources that need to be taken into consideration.

Here's one:
"In the first part of this study, the theme of the union (henosis) is analysed in Dionysius the Areopagite's De Divinis Nominibus. The starting point of this inquiry is the trinitarian theology of Dionysius. He distinguishes between Union (henosis) and distinction (diakrisis), ad intra of the divine Persons and ad extra of the divines names, understood as powers. The movement of procession and conversion of the divine names follows the very structure of the treatise: from the Union to the One, a movement called "the circle of love". In a second moment, the word henosis or the formula henosis hyper noun, "union above the intellect", are analysed in the De divinis nominibus, where they allude to the "union without confusion" of the ideas one with the other, or to the union of intellect with God in the unknowledge.
Henosis - L'Union à Dieu chez Denys l'Aréopagite
Ysabel de Andia, Philosophia Antiqua, 71, Brill

Apart from the Areopagite, there is Eckhart, of course, and a study of his ideas of the 'Ground of Being' wherein all distinction ceases ...

But there's a couple more of Moore's essays you might like:
Quodlibet Online Journal: The Christian Neoplatonism of St. Maximus the Confessor - by Edward Moore
Edward Moore, ‘The Golden Road To Unlimited Devotion’: The Christian Neo-Platonism of St. Maximus Confessor

Both of which touch on monad, dyad, henad etc., in the Christian Tradition.

I note the Theosophists place great store by Iamblichus ... any views on Proclus, or Plotinus?

I note the Theosophists place great store by Iamblichus ... any views on Proclus, or Plotinus?

Yep. I can't keep up with it all, quite honestly ... but I am pretty sure Proclus gets mentioned, Plotinus as well, both in the context of their contributions as Greeks, as well as their more recent, or even earlier, acts of Service.

An excerpt, from Leadbeater's `Masters and the Path,' has surprised me just now, as I wasn't aware of some of this ... but CWL, at any rate, tells us:
The Head of the Seventh Ray is the Master the Comte de St. Germain, known to history in the eighteenth century, whom we sometimes call the Master Rakoczy, as He is the last survivor of that royal house. He was Francis Bacon, Lord Verulam, in the seventeenth century, Robertus the monk in the sixteenth, Hunyadi Janos in the fifteenth, Christian Rosenkreuz in the fourteenth, and Roger Bacon in the thirteenth; He is the Hungarian Adept of The Occult World. Further back in time He was the great Neoplatonist Proclus and before that St. Alban. He works to a large extent through ceremonial magic, and employs the services of great Angels, who obey Him implicitly and rejoice to do His will. Though He speaks all European and many Oriental languages, much of His working is in Latin, the language which is the especial vehicle of His thought, and the splendour and rhythm of it is unsurpassed by anything that we know down here. In His various rituals He wears wonderful and many-coloured robes and jewels. He has a suit of golden chain-mail, which once belonged to a Roman Emperor; over it is thrown a magnificent cloak of crimson, with on its clasp a seven-pointed star in diamond and amethyst, and sometimes He wears a glorious robe of violet. Though He is thus engaged with ceremonial, and still works some of the rituals of the Ancient Mysteries, even the names of which have long been forgotten in the outer world, He is also much concerned with the political situation in Europe and the growth of modern physical science.​
I am of the opinion that Leadbeater's writings may be sometimes glamorized, or inaccurate, yet I do not doubt the string of lives that he has provided for Master R. The "I AM" movement, including the likes of Elizabeth Clare Prophet, seized upon all of this (after teachings such as this, by Leadbeater, and others, by Alice Bailey) ... and distorted things greatly such we suddenly have "Ascended Masters," and not Theosophical Mahatmas, or Eastern Adepts.

Incidentally, I must share this excerpt with my friend, 101 years old, with whom I study the teachings of Master R. via Lucille Cedercrans, as she will find the description of the golden chainmail quite revealing. In her earliest days of esoteric inquiry, study and investigation, long before she was familiar with most of these ideas, she was afforded a glimpse ... and having heard her describe it, on several occasions, almost past the point of envy (!) :) ... my mind is blown for the day, since I now see exactly what she was talking about.

EM, btw, my friend of advanced years, has more wits about her than most people ever will ... and is not prone either to dishonesty, or exaggeration. She witnessed what she witnessed, and even the Teacher at the time knew from her description - that it was the Master R. This same Master is understood by students in many traditions to have become an Arhat (4th degree Initiate) as Sir Francis Bacon, during which time he contributed the works of William Shakespeare (itself, a telling name, when one ponders the symbolism involved). This study is helpful, for some, in tracing the progress of a given soul along the Path of Initiation, on the Royal Road to Enlightenment.

Certainly, Master R. can be understood as an exception, representing someone who is advancing as rapidly as we might imagine ... yet to see that he was X degree Initiate here, and Y degree Initiate there, will tell us much about the Path which all Souls are traveling. Master R.'s case is really even a bit more exceptional than most of the other Masters I've read about ... as CWL is numbering EIGHT different incarnations since St. Alban's time, inclusive of that Saint. We also learn of Master R. as walking around in the same body, created by Kriyashakti, for several hundreds of years. Accounts verify this, though the skeptic will - of course - laugh, and dismiss it all as pure fancy. The evidence, however, is greater than we have for a whole slew of other figures from history ...


That's the tip of the iceberg, but it gets us a bit off from theosis, except that I would be curious to see what Proclus and Plotinus had to say, then, about theosis vs. henosis.

I don't recall who Plotinus is supposed to have "become," or rather, what Soul from more recent (or even prior) history is also known to us ... by the name `Plotinus.' Ammonius Saccas, his teacher as I recall, may be thought by Theosophists to have been Annie Besant in an earlier lifetime ... but I may have that confused.

I'll take a look at the essays you linked, Thomas ... thanks!