The concept of hypostasis as the shared existence of spiritual or corporal entities has been used in a number of religious and intellectual settings. The word hypostasis means underlying state or underlying substance, and is the fundamental reality that supports all else.
Neoplatonists argue that behind the surface phenomena that present themselves to our senses are three higher spiritual principles or hypostases, each one more sublime than the preceding. For Plotinus, these are the soul, being/intellect (Nous), and the One.
2 Corinthians 9:4 and 11:17.
In Early Christian writings it is used to denote "being" or "substantive reality" and is not always distinguished in meaning from ousia 'essence' or 'substance'; it was used in this way by Tatian and Origen, and also in the anathemas appended to the Nicene Creed of 325. See also: Hypostatic union, where the term is used to describe the union of Christ's humanity and divinity. The term has also been used and is still used in modern Greek (not just Koine Greek or common ancient Greek) to mean "existence" along with the Greek word hýparxis (ὕπαρξις) and tropos hypárxeos (τρόπος ὑπάρξεως), which is individual existence.
It was mainly under the influence of the Cappadocian Fathers that the terminology was clarified and standardized, so that the formula "Three Hypostases in one Ousia" came to be accepted as an epitome of the orthodox doctrine of the Holy Trinity. This consensus, however, was not achieved without some confusion at first in the minds of "Western" theologians, who had translated hypo-stasis as "sub-stantia" (substance. See also Consubstantiality) and understood the "Eastern" Christians, when speaking of three "Hypostases" in the Godhead, to mean three "Substances," i.e. they suspected them of Tritheism. From the middle of the fourth century onwards the word came to be contrasted with ousia and used to mean "individual reality," especially in the Trinitarian and Christological contexts. The Christian view of the Trinity is often described as a view of one God existing in three distinct hypostases/personae/persons. The Latin "persona" is not the same as the English "person" but is a broader term that includes the meaning of the English "persona."
- Noema - a similar term used by Husserl
- Prakṛti - a similar term found in Hinduism