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Chapter III -- 25

Just as the pledge or guarantee which is in the body is a small part of the body, so also the pledge or guarantee which is in the gnoses is a certain part of the gnosis of beings (IV, 14). This seems to say that the mind (nous), being small and finite, can contain within itself only a very small part of natural gnosis.

The ignorance of him whose gnosis is limited, is also limited; and the gnosis of him whose ignorance is unlimited, is also unlimited (III, 63). If someone has a limited gnosis, he has at least some gnosis. That small part of gnosis limits his ignorance. If, however, he is completely ignorant, and therefore completely without gnosis, the gnosis that lies before him to be attained is unlimited.

Gnosis does not advance in the regions of ignorance but in the regions of gnosis (II, 54). From gnosis we advance to more and higher gnosis, not in regions of ignorance. There is a deeper meaning to this passage that is found in Gnostic 44.[1] There, Evagrius states that the manly ascetic does not enter into ‘those things which do not exist’. He clearly is referring in that passage to those things which pertain to the demons, to demonic gnosis. Hence, here, Evagrius is saying the same thing: gnosis does not advance in the regions of demonic gnosis but in the regions of genuine gnosis.

The mind (nous), if it advances on its proper path, meets the holy powers, the angels; if it advances on the path of the organon, or tool, of the soul, which is the body, it will fall on the demons (II, 48).

Some have attracted ignorance to themselves by their will, and others involuntarily. The second are called captives and the first are named captivators: ‘The captivators have come and they have taken captives.’ (Job 1, 15.) (II, 55.)

The mind (nous) which possesses a body does not see the incorporeals; and when it is without a body, it will not see the bodies (IV, 86). This is important for its doctrine of the limitation of the power of the mind (nous) occasioned by its presence in a body. However, as we shall see in Volume II, for Evagrius, ascesis is the separation of the soul, which contains the mind (nous), from the body, not, however, by suicide; and that separation allows the ascetic to engage in the first natural contemplation, the contemplation of the incorporeals, the angels. Of course, the last part of the sentence is saying that after death, the mind (nous) no longer sees corporeal objects, but it also has the meaning that when the ascetic has separated himself from his body in ascesis, he no longer has a true cognition of sensible bodies.[2]

Just as it is not possible that a reasonable nature might with the body be outside the world, so it is not possible that it might outside the body be in the world (VI, 81). This says much the same thing as the previous chapter, but with a restriction of its content to the actual presence or absence of the mind (nous) in the body, there being no application to ascesis.

The mind (nous) teaches the soul and the soul the body; and only the ‘man of God’ (Deut. 33, 1) knows the man of gnosis (II, 56). This chapter is very important for its presentation of the relation between mind (nous) and soul. In the Evagrian system, they are not the same thing. Evagrius is not speaking figuratively here; he really does mean that the mind (nous) has a relationship to the soul similar to the relationship that the soul has to the body. The ‘man of God’ is probably the one who has attained to Theology, the contemplation of the Holy Trinity. Perhaps the ‘man of gnosis’ is he who has attained to natural contemplation. Then the sense would be that the man who has attained to Theology can judge the man who has attained only to natural contemplation. The chapter, however, is somewhat ambiguous. Possibly it is parallel in meaning to the following passage:

The body of that which is, is the contemplation of beings, and the soul of that which is, is the gnosis of the Unity. He who knows the soul is called the soul of that which is, and those who know the body are named body of this soul (II, 5). This idea does not otherwise seem to be developed anywhere else, although it might conceivably have a connection to the Letter to Melania.

In the beginning, before the Movement, the mind (nous) had the incorruptible God as teacher of the immaterial mental representations; but now, when it has been joined after the Movement to a sensible body, it has received corruptible sense-perception as teacher of the material mental representations (III, 55).

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[1] Appendix 1 of Volume II.

[2] Cf. Treatise on the Practical Life, Chapter 66 (Volume II).


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