There were three modes of discourse in the medieval mystical tradition, the via negativa(apophatic), via positiva(kataphatic), and the hyperphatic.

Hyperphatic - Derivation: Gr. hyper, above, beyond + phanai, say, assert. Lit. "saying beyond"

In the mystical tradition, one begins with the negative saying, defining something by what it is not (God is not evil, God is not material, etc.). Then one offers positive definitions, explaining what God is by analogy (God is Good, God is love, etc.) But this process is not complete until a synthesis of the negative and positive is achieved, by saying "God is more than good, God is more than love, etc."

This addition is important because it says at once both what God is, and what she is not, and makes clear the limitations of human language in capturing the nature of God.

The modes of discourse, however, were more than just ways of talking, they were also reflected in the life of the mystic. An individual in the apophatic stage removes all unnecessary distractions from their life-they abstain from sex, drink, and sometimes even from speaking. But purging the life from distractions cannot be enough, one also needs positive descriptions of what one should do, so in the kataphatic stage the mystic undertakes such things as personal study and caring for the needy. Finally, after the preparation of purging the body of distractions, and the proper training and comportment of the mind, the goal of the mystical life (at least for the followers of Plotinus) is the transcendent experience, in which the mystic is able to move beyond the limits of both body and mind to direct experience of the One.

Plotinus claimed to have achieved such an experience twice in his lifetime. Porphyry, his follower and the man who edited his writings, claimed to achieve this just once.

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