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Chapter III -- 29

There is nothing among the bodiless powers which might be in power in the bodies; indeed, our soul is bodiless (I, 45). We now learn that our soul (psuche) is bodiless: although it inhabits the body, it has no intrinsic connection to the body: the soul (psuche) is not part of the sensible order of creation. The significance of the first clause of this chapter is that the bodiless powers, being minds (noes) with angelic bodies, do not have the faculties that are found in the sensible creation.[1] This is a consequence of the distinction that Evagrius draws between the intelligible and the sensible orders of creation. He is saying that the bodiless powers, despite their having an angelic body, have no intrinsic connection with the sensible creation as concerns their powers. Evagrius then goes on to affirm that his remark applies also to the human soul, the mind (nous) which has descended to the rank of praktike. In the next chapter, Evagrius makes a remark, in the form of a question, about the relation between the body and soul (psuche) of man:

Who will understand the constitution of the world and the activity of the elements? Who will comprehend the composition of this body, this tool (organon), of our soul? Or who will scrutinize how the latter is joined to the former, what is their empire and their participation the one in the other, in such a way that the practical life (praktike) might become a vehicle for the reasonable soul which applies itself to come to the gnosis of God (I, 67)? Here, it is clear, Evagrius is stating that the soul (psuche) has received the body to be able to use the practical life (praktike) as a vehicle to come to the gnosis of God. The body is the instrument of the soul for the exercise of the practical life (praktike).

It is not the bodies of the spiritual powers, but the bodies of the souls only, which are naturally made to nourish themselves from the world which is related to them (II, 82). The bodies of the souls are ordinary human bodies, which are made to nourish themselves from the ordinary world of men: you and I eat. The angelic bodies of the spiritual powers, however, says Evagrius, do not have the capacity of nourishing themselves from the world which is related to them. Recall that in the Evagrian system, to each body corresponds a world. To each type of angelic body corresponds an angelic world. However, says Evagrius, the angelic body is not made to be nourished from the angelic world. The angelic orders are nourished by second natural contemplation of the world of men:

The mental representations of things which are on the earth are ‘the goods of the earth’. But if the holy angels ‘know’ these latter things, according to the word of the woman of Tekoa (cf. 2 Kgs. 14, 20; 2 Kgs. 14, 1–3), the angels of God eat the goods of the earth. But it is said that ‘man has eaten the bread of angels’ (Ps. 77, 25); it is therefore evident that some ones also among men have known the mental representations of that which is on the earth (I, 23). The first two sentences further explain the sense of the preceding chapter. The second natural contemplation that the angelic orders engage in is the contemplation of the reasons (logoi) of the things that are on the earth of men. We take ‘mental representations’ here to refer to those reasons (logoi). The earth of men has a very special role in the system of worlds in the Evagrian system. It is from the contemplation of the reasons (logoi) of the things on the earth that the angels are nourished. This is an unusual doctrine. We do not know why Evagrius came to assert it. Of course, it is possible that what Evagrius means is that inter alia the angels nourish themselves by means of the second natural contemplation. That this might be the case can be seen from Evagrius’ Scholium 3 on Psalm 23, 6, quoted by Sinkewicz:

This is the generation of those who seek him, of those who seek the face of the God of Jacob. If it belongs to the angels to behold the face of God continuously, and if this is the face that human beings as well seek to see, then human beings also seek the knowledge proper to angels, if indeed it is possible for a human being to ‘eat the bread of angels’ (Ps. 77, 25).[2]

The significance of ‘mental representations’ in the chapter of the Kephalaia Gnostica under consideration is this: the ascetic in sense-perception bears the mental representation produced by means of the sense organs into the mind (nous); in the second natural contemplation he also bears into his mind (nous) the mental representation of the reason (logos) of the object.[3]

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[1] We have learned that all the minds (noes) were culpable in the Movement to a greater or lesser extent and were therefore given some sort of body in the First Judgement. Hence, the bodiless powers have an angelic body, although not a material body.

[2] Sinkewicz p. xxxv, fn. 100; Sinkewicz’ translation.

[3] The object itself must still be sensibly present on account of the imperfection of the ascetic’s mind (nous) at this stage of contemplation.


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