Chapter III -- 14
If ‘on the third day’ the Christ ‘is completed’ (Luke 13, 32), and if on the preceding day, a Sabbath, when work was forbidden, he who collected wood in the desert was burned (cf. Num. 15, 32–6), it is evident that today is that which is called Friday, when ‘at the eleventh hour’, the nations have been called by our Saviour to eternal life (Matt. 20, 6–7). (IV, 26.) This is a symbolic interpretation of the three-day passion of our Lord. The significance is that after we die, we will be placed by a judgement in another world, where we will again be faced with the choice to ascend towards God or to descend towards the demons. ‘The nations’ are all the orders of the minds (noes) in all the various worlds, including those into which we might pass after death. It is not merely a matter of all the nations of men. The implication of this chapter is that in the next Age (the next day, Saturday) the wicked will be punished by fire, but on the third day all will be resurrected with the Christ and then will follow the Restoration. As we have already remarked, there is a structural problem in this system, in the attempt by Origen, and, following him, Evagrius, to combine the notion of reincarnation with the notions of the General Resurrection and the Restoration of All Things, with the result that it is difficult to comprehend how the different aspects of the system articulate the one with the other. For before the General Resurrection, there will be many incarnations.
Just as, if the earth were destroyed, the night would no more exist on the face of the firmament, so when vice will be taken up, ignorance will no more exist with the reasonable beings. Ignorance is the shadow of evil, where those who walk in it as in the night are illumined by the oil of Christ and see the stars, according to the gnosis which they are worthy to receive from him, and, they also, ‘The stars will fall’ (cf. Rev. 6, 13) for them, if they do not return promptly towards the ‘Sun of Justice’ (Mal. 3, 20) (IV, 29). This is a foreshadowing of Christ’s role as saviour in the return of all the minds (noes) in all the worlds to the gnosis of the Unity in the Restoration. It is also an allusion to the Evagrian doctrine, taken from Origen, that the stars are intelligences; we will discuss that under the topic of the Evagrian angelology. However, to ‘see the stars’ means ‘to contemplate in first natural contemplation the intelligences which are the stars’. The ‘Sun of Justice’ is of course the Christ.
The Life vivifies first the living, then those who live and those who are dead; but at the end it will vivify also the dead (V, 20). This is not simply an Orthodox doctrine of the General Resurrection. It must be understood in the context of the Evagrian doctrine of the Restoration of All Things: at the Restoration, all minds (noes), including those whom we now call demons, will return to the gnosis of the Unity. Here, moreover, the General Resurrection is combined with reincarnation; that is how we understand the intermediate condition of ‘those who live and those who are dead’. These concepts articulate the one with the other with difficulty.
If vision is said to be in sense-perception and to be in thought, and if the Christ should come in the same fashion that the disciples have seen him ascend to Heaven (cf. Acts 1, 11), may one say how they have seen him. May one know, however, that it is in every time that the Christ ascends truly in the saints, even though he is considered to descend towards others (VI, 56). This is again a doctrine of the spiritual body of Christ, this time considered in reference to the Ascension. Moreover, the passage implies that the disciples saw the Christ ascend to Heaven with his spiritual body ‘in thought’, that is, with a spiritual sense and not with the bodily eyes. The significance of the second part of this chapter is that the Christ is at all times all things to all minds (noes) in all worlds.
Christ will come before the judgement to judge the living and the dead, and he will be known after the judgement, if ‘The Lord is known by the judgement which he makes.’ (VI, 74.) This seems to assert that the true nature of the Christ will be made manifest in actual practice of the Last Judgement. Moreover, after the General Resurrection, all the minds (noes), having been granted dispassion (apatheia) and the spiritual body as a tool for gnosis, will come to know the Christ in an ascent of gnosis. The first clause seems to refer to the intermediate judgements which precede each of the incarnations until the Last Judgement.
The retribution which the reasonable nature will receive before the tribunal of Christ is the spiritual or dark bodies and the contemplation or ignorance appropriate to these; and, on account of that, it is said that the Christ, whom we await, will come for the ones like this (with a spiritual body) and the others like that (with a dark, demonic body) (VI, 57). Here, we see that in the judgement to come, each mind (nous) will receive a body and a degree of gnosis or contemplation according to what it has done since the previous judgement in the body that it had. We ourselves understand Evagrius to be saying in the Kephalaia Gnostica that this judgement occurs for men when they die: they are placed in another world with an appropriate body according to their works in this world. We understand that this judgement is repeated innumerable times until the General Resurrection, when all are granted dispassion (apatheia), receive a spiritual body and commence an upward ascent of gnosis. We admit to being uncertain whether Evagrius has in mind a common doctrine of reincarnation, such as is found among Buddhists, wherein men are reincarnated into this world or perhaps into superior (angelic or soul) worlds or inferior (demonic) worlds; or whether he means that after their death in this world, men go to another world, either superior or inferior, but do not return to this world. Origen himself in Peri Archon posits reincarnation into a succession of single physical worlds which go on into the distant future, when will occur the Restoration. We will discuss this further under the topic of eschatology. However, a very important passage is the final clause: when the Christ comes in the Second Coming, he will come with a body appropriate to each world and to each body: for men he will come as a man; for angels he will come as an angel; for demons he will come as a demon.
There is still a further problem raised by this chapter: it might be thought that this chapter is referring only to the Last Judgement, and that the bodies received are the final bodies that the minds (noes) will then have. But we know from other chapters that after the Last Judgement, then the minds (noes) will all ascend in gnosis by means of the spiritual body to the contemplation of the Unity in the Restoration; this seems to exclude the possibility that a demon will forever have a dark body. We again see the problem of the articulation of the various aspects of this system.
If ‘all the nations come and prostrate themselves before the Lord’, (cf. Ps. 86, 7) it is evident that even the nations that wish war will come. And if that is so, all the reasonable beings will prostrate themselves before the name of the Lord, the Christ, who makes known the Father who is in him. That is, indeed, ‘the name which is above all names’ (Phil. 2, 9) (VI, 27). This is a repetition of the Evagrian, and Origenist, doctrine of the ultimate salvation of all minds (noes), including the demons. ‘The name which is above all names’ is the gnosis of the Father, the Unity, which the Christ has in him.
Who will recount the grace of God? Who will search closely into the reasons (logoi) of providence, and how the Christ conducts the reasonable nature by means of the diverse worlds towards the union with the Holy Unity? (IV, 89.) This is a statement of the providence of God manifest in the Christ. Moreover, it is a statement that that providence works through the system of successive judgements and reincarnations into the various worlds, whereby the mind (nous) that finds itself in a world can always turn to make the upward mystical ascent to the gnosis of the Unity or else turn to make the downward descent of vice and ignorance towards the demons. The Christ by his providence assists and prods every mind (nous) in every world to turn to make the upward ascent.
When the Christ will no longer be imprinted in the various worlds and in names of every sort, ‘then he also will be submitted’ (1 Cor. 15, 28) to God the Father and will delight in the gnosis of him alone, who is not divided in the worlds and in the increases of the reasonable beings. (VI, 33.) Just as our Saviour has been ‘the first-born from among the dead’ (cf. Col. 1, 18; Rev. 1, 5), so in the world to come, he will be ‘the first-born of many brothers’ (Rom. 8, 29). (VI, 89.) The first part of the first chapter is a clear statement that the Christ is all things to all minds (noes) at all times in all worlds: this is the significance of the word ‘imprinted’: in some fashion, the Christ is present in every world to every mind (nous) found in that world, so that, through the providence of God exercised in the Christ, every mind (nous) in that world might turn to ascend towards the gnosis of the Unity. The notion of the Christ’s being ‘imprinted’ in all the worlds is connected to the Evagrian notion of the imprinting on the mind (nous) of a mental representation (noema) related to an intelligible reality; we will discuss this concept in Volume II. However, the Father himself ‘is not divided in the worlds and in the increases of the reasonable beings’ the way the Christ is: he has committed this work to the Christ and is himself found only in the gnosis of the Unity. This is to be understood in the light of the Evagrian and Origenist doctrine that the Father works through intermediaries.
The second part of the first chapter is an important statement that in the Restoration, the Christ will be submitted to the Father and will delight in the gnosis of him alone. The second chapter shows that, for Evagrius, in the Restoration the Christ will be submitted to the Father as the first-born among many brethren (the whole ensemble of minds (noes) that ever were created). These statements depend, of course, on the identity of the Christ as one mind (nous) among the many. These two chapters manifest clearly the heterodox nature of Evagrius’ Christology, and also, perhaps, the heterodox nature of his Trinitarian theology.