Chapter III -- 20
It is not because the mind (nous) is incorporeal that it is the likeness of God, but because it has been made receptive of him. If it were because it were incorporeal that it were the likeness of God, it would therefore be essential gnosis and it would not be by receptivity that it had been made the image of God. But examine if it is the same thing, the fact that it should be incorporeal and the fact that it is receptive of gnosis, or else otherwise, as in the case of the subject of a statue and his statue (VI, 73). The reader will recall from Chapter I of this work the discussion between St Gregory and St Macrina of the immateriality of the mind (nous) and the connection of that to the mind’s being the image of God. In particular, St Gregory objected that by making both God and the mind (nous) immaterial, St Macrina was making them to be of the same substance. Here, in this chapter of Evagrius, we see an echo of what must have been a topic of discussion among the Cappadocians. Evagrius asserts that the mind’s (nous’) being the image of God cannot be assigned merely to the mind’s being immaterial, for that would imply that the mind (nous) were of the same substance as God—we again see the phrase ‘essential gnosis’ in a context which appears to make of the gnosis of God the very substance of the Godhead. No, Evagrius says, the image of God resides in the fact that the mind (nous) is receptive of the gnosis of God. Then Evagrius poses a rhetorical question. Perhaps, he asks, being immaterial and being receptive of gnosis are the same thing—or is it otherwise, as in the subject of a statue (God) and the statue (the mind or nous)? The second part is clearly an allusion to the ‘anthropomorphites’ of the Egyptian desert of Evagrius’ time. It seems to us that Evagrius expects a positive answer to his question, which, however, would go against what he has just said. We are not sure what he is driving at.
The image of God is not that which is susceptible of wisdom, for thus the corporeal nature would also be the image of God. But it is that which has become susceptible of the Unity that is the image of God (III, 32). Here ‘susceptible of wisdom’ does not mean ‘capable of knowing the wisdom of God’ but ‘capable of being formed by the wisdom of God in creation, by means of the second natural contemplation of the reasons (logoi) of created things’. In the second sentence, ‘susceptible of the Unity’ means ‘capable of participating in the gnosis of the Unity’. Hence, Evagrius is asserting that being formed by the wisdom of God is not sufficient to make a creature be in the image of God: it is the fact that a creature is susceptible of the gnosis of the Unity that makes it be in the image of God. But to be susceptible of the gnosis of the Unity is precisely to have mind (nous). Hence, for Evagrius, all the minds (noes) are in the image of God, whereas the creation that is without mind (nous) is not in the image of God, even though it is formed by the wisdom of God.
The image of the essence of God also knows the contemplation of things which are, but it is not absolutely the case that he who knows the contemplation of beings is the image of God (II, 23). The first clause says that the mind (nous) also knows the second natural contemplation, the contemplation of the reasons (logoi) of existent things. Evagrius then goes on to say that he who knows the first natural contemplation is not necessarily the image of God. We do not know to what he might be referring, since we have already seen that all minds (noes) are susceptible of the gnosis of the Unity and are therefore the image of God, and we know that in the Evagrian system there are no reasonable beings except the minds (noes). Of course, if Evagrius means that a mind (nous) which knows the first natural contemplation may not yet have been perfected in the gnosis of the Unity and therefore may not yet have returned to the fullness of the image of God, then the passage is quite comprehensible. Then the first sentence would mean that a mind (nous) which had attained to the gnosis of the Holy Trinity implicitly also had the second natural contemplation.
All that which is in potentiality in the bodies is in them naturally also in act; they are connatural with those from which they came forth. But the mind (nous) is free of form and of matter (I, 46). The first sentence is based on Evagrius’ philosophy of nature. It means that what a material body has in potentiality in itself can naturally also become act, because every material body is connatural with the material body from which it was generated. This is not necessarily biological; it has more to do, it seems to us, with the Aristotelian idea of the generation of a material body as that body from another material body. However, Evagrius says, the mind (nous) is not subject to the philosophical laws of the material creation. It has neither Aristotelian form nor Aristotelian matter, here taken as attributes of the material or sensible creation. The mind (nous), being intelligible, is free both of form and of matter, and of the laws of the sensible creation, in particular the Aristotelian laws of the generation and corruption of material bodies the one from the other.
It is possible to say what the unity of the mind (nous) is; but that which is its nature is unsayable, for these is no gnosis of the quality of that which has been constituted neither of form nor of matter. For that reason, there is no gnosis of the quality of the soul (III, 31). We have already seen that Evagrius has ascribed the incomprehensibility of the mind (nous) to its capacity to know the Holy Trinity. Here he is deriving its unknowability from its formlessness and immateriality. When Evagrius says that there is no gnosis of the ‘quality’ of the soul, he must mean the ‘essence’, for we know from other chapters that the ascetic will enjoy at a certain stage the gnosis of the bodiless powers, the angels, and of their reasons (logoi); and we have already seen Evagrius assert that the reasonable nature is knowable. We wonder if what Evagrius is saying here is completely consistent with his assertion that the image of God resides in the mind’s being able to know God and not in its immateriality.
The next chapter explains the unity of the mind (nous):
The name of ‘immortality’ makes known the natural unity of the mind (nous), and the fact that it is eternal makes known its ‘incorruptibility’ (cf. 1 Cor. 15, 53–4). The gnosis of the Trinity accompanies the first name and the first contemplation of nature accompanies the second (III, 33). The first contemplation of nature is the contemplation of the angels. When the mind (nous), which in any event is eternal, has reached the stage of the contemplation of the bodiless powers, the first natural contemplation, then it has attained to its incorruptibility and has thus realized its native eternity, without, however, having yet attained to its immortality and to a realization of its unity. When, however, that mind (nous) further attains to the stage of the contemplation of the Holy Trinity, then it has attained also to its immortality, which is also the realization of its natural unity. Given the other chapters we have seen, immortality seems to differ from eternity in conveying perfection in gnosis and virtue.
 St Thomas Aquinas takes the view that the angels are subject to Aristotelian metaphysics. See Chapter IV.