Chapter III -- 21
All that pertains to the corporeal or material nature and which is called holy is ‘sanctified by the word of God’ (1 Tim. 4, 5), and all that among the reasonable beings is named holy is sanctified by the gnosis of God. But in this there are yet those among the reasonable beings who are sanctified by the word of God, like children, and who are susceptible of gnosis (III, 74). The first sentence is important, for it explains the difference between a holy object—a chalice, say—and a holy mind (nous). The chalice is sanctified by the word of God. The mind (nous) of him who holds the chalice is sanctified by the gnosis of God. We are not sure to whom the second sentence refers if it is not to men, whom Evagrius elsewhere calls children. Evagrius’ sense in the second sentence is that a certain class of minds (noes) are sanctified not by gnosis but by the word of God, evidently because of their spiritually childlike nature.
That which is impure becomes so either by the consequence of a use contrary to nature or by the consequence of vice. And all that which by a use contrary to nature is considered as being defiled proceeds from the corporeal nature, but that which is defiled because of vice is said to proceed from the reasonable nature (III, 75). This chapter corresponds to the previous chapter. Here, Evagrius discusses the impurity of the material object—that impurity arises from a use contrary to nature—and the impurity of the mind (nous)—that impurity arises from vice. Vice is an action of the mind (nous) contrary to nature. An inanimate object cannot be subject to vice precisely because it does not have mind (nous); it can only be defiled by a use contrary to nature. The reasonable nature, however, is mind (nous) and subject to vice.
There is not one of the second beings which might be capable of gnosis, nor one of the first beings which might have been from the beginning in a place (I, 61). This is a repetition of a basic feature of the Evagrian cosmology. The second beings are the bodies that the first beings, the minds (noes), received after the Movement; they are also all the objects in all the worlds that the minds (noes) received with those bodies. The bodies and the worlds are not capable of gnosis. That is reserved to the minds (noes). However, the minds (noes), which are the first beings, are immaterial and are not subject to the laws of the sensible creation. They are therefore not subject to being in a place. We have already seen this assertion on the part of St Macrina in Chapter I of the present work.
Gnosis is said to be in a place when he who is susceptible of it is bound to one of the second beings, which truly and principally is said to be in a place (I, 62). This should now be quite clear. Although the minds (noes) are not subject to being in a place, they have all been given bodies, and the bodies can be in a place. When the mind (nous) has a certain gnosis, and its body is somewhere, then that gnosis is said to be in that place.
Just as our body is said to be in a place, so also the mind (nous) is said to be in some one gnosis; on account of that, gnosis is conventionally said to be the mind’s (nous’) place (V, 70). This chapter is important for what it says about the mind (nous). For it seems to suggest that on the ‘scale’ of gnosis, each mind (nous) can be positioned somewhere. However we would not want to exaggerate this; it may be that Evagrius is merely asserting that when a mind (nous) is in a certain gnosis, then one can say that it is in that gnosis, and that that gnosis can then be said to be that mind’s (nous’) place.
In the gnosis of those who are second by their genesis, the various worlds are constituted and unspeakable battles follow in the gnosis’ course. But in the Unity, none of that happens; it is an unspeakable peace and there is nothing but the naked minds (noes) which always take their fill of its inexhaustibleness, if, according to the word of our Saviour, ‘The Father judges no one, but he has given all judgement to the Christ.’ (John 5, 22.) (I, 65.) This is a very complex passage. Those who are second by their genesis are the bodies and the worlds that the minds (noes) have received after the Movement. The gnosis of those bodies and worlds corresponds to second natural contemplation. Evagrius intends the first sentence to be taken both cosmologically—this contemplation is the power with which the Evagrian Christ created the material order of creation, and the battles (with the demons) are objective—and as a matter of ascetical practice or experience—this is what the ascetic experiences in second natural contemplation. KG III, 41 sheds light on this: In regard to the contemplation of beings and in regard to the gnosis of the Trinity, the demons and we have raised a great battle, the ones with the others, the former wishing to prevent us from knowing and we in applying ourselves to learn (III, 41). To return to the chapter at hand, the next sentence is a sketch of the gnosis of the Unity. The reference to the Christ derives from the fact that after the Movement the Father has given all judgement into the hands of the Christ; hence, when one has attained to the Father, to the Unity, he has surpassed judgement.
We see a parallelism here, quite striking and present throughout the Kephalaia Gnostica, between the structure of Evagrius’ cosmology and the structure of his mystical psychology: The minds (noes) come to exist and contemplate the Unity. Then there is the Movement and the Father gives all judgement and further creation into the hands of the Christ. In the reverse mystical ascent, however, when the ascetic enters into the contemplation of the Unity, then he becomes coheir of the Christ, and with him contemplates the Unity beyond the judgement that it is the duty of the Christ to execute.
The equivalent of a reasonable substance is that which is equal to it in gnosis (VI, 80). This is a passage we have already seen, a parallel passage to one concerning material bodies, that the equivalent of a material body is one that is equivalent in sensible quality. From what we have already seen, this chapter should be clear.