Chapter III -- 39
9 The Evagrian Eschatology
Evagrius on eschatology is Evagrius at his most deliberately obscure. Many of the passages that we present below we do not understand. Moreover, given that the broad outline of the Evagrian eschatology was condemned in extenso by the Fifth Ecumenical Synod, and given that the Evagrian eschatology really has no ultimate relevance either to the ascetical endeavour or to Orthodox anthropology, it seems a waste of time to pursue the subtleties of these Evagrian riddles. However, so that the reader have a complete portrait of the Evagrian system, we will present below as many chapters as seem to us to refer to the Evagrian eschatology, without, however, devoting much time to them.
When those things which are together will be lifted up, there will be lifted up also the number; and when the latter will be lifted up, that which is in us and that in which we must be will be one thing only (I, 7). This is a clear statement of the condition of the minds (noes) after the Restoration. ‘Those things which are together’ are the bodies of the minds (noes). The sense of the lifting up of number is that the minds (noes) will no longer be individuals but an henad, or unity, of naked minds (noes) which together contemplate the Unity. ‘That which is in us’ is our mind (nous) and ‘that in which we must be’ is the Unity. We and the Unity ‘will be one thing only’ in contemplative union. This doctrine was explicitly condemned by the Fifth Ecumenical Synod in Anathemas 11 through 15.
When that in which we must be has been separated, it has engendered that in which we are; and when that which is in us will be mixed, it will lift up that which will be lifted up with the number (I, 8). This is more or less a restatement of the preceding chapter. ‘That in which we must be’ is the Unity. It was separated from us by our negligence in the Movement. The mixing referred to is the return of all the minds (noes) to the contemplation of the Unity as part of an henad of minds (noes) within which all personal distinctions are abolished. ‘That which will be lifted up with the number’ is all the bodies, not just human bodies but also angelic and demonic bodies, together with the individual attributes of the minds (noes).
When we will have been in that which is, we will see that which is; and when we will have been in that which is not, we will engender that which is not; and when those things in which we are will be lifted up, there will no more be that which is not (I, 9). This is yet another restatement of the same principle. ‘That which is’ is the Unity. ‘We will see that which is’ refers to the contemplation of the Unity in the Restoration. ‘When we will have been in that which is not’ refers to vice and ignorance, which have no substance. ‘We will engender that which is not’ refers to the vice and ignorance that each mind (nous) engenders by its negligence, first in the Movement and then in its subsequent incarnations. ‘Those things in which we are’ are our bodies, whether angelic, human or demonic. They ‘will be lifted up’ in the Restoration. The statement that ‘there will no more be that which is not’ refers to the abolition in the Restoration of vice and ignorance.
When the four elements will be lifted up, the five senses also will be lifted up; but, when the five senses will be lifted up, the four elements will not be lifted up with them (I, 15). The first part of the passage again refers to the Restoration; it might also refer to the departure of the soul from the body in death, but that seems unlikely since until the Restoration the minds (noes) will always have some sort of body. The second part of the passage seems to refer either to death or to natural contemplation. If it refers to death, then it means that when we die, we are again, in the Evagrian system, incarnated into a new body. We have already seen that all the worlds are composed of the same four elements, but with a difference in quality. If it refers to natural contemplation, then it means that when we pass from the sensibles to the intelligibles in natural contemplation—this would be the passage from second natural contemplation to first natural contemplation—, then we will not yet have been freed from the domain of sensible objects.
That which is separated from the five senses has not been separated from the four elements; but that which has been separated from the four elements is delivered also from the five senses (I, 16). This is a restatement of the preceding passage.
When that which is in us will be changed, those things will be changed in which we are, and that many times, until that which is should no longer be named by modes (I, 17). This is a clear statement of the continuous succession of incarnations until the Restoration. In the Restoration, the contingent creation of worlds and bodies is abolished: it is the contingent creation that is named by modes—by contingency. We are not sure precisely what Evagrius means by ‘when that which is in us will be changed’. Is he referring to our mind (nous), our soul, the Unity? None of these seems a satisfactory answer, although the most likely answer is the mind (nous), where the change occurs to the mind because of its progress or backsliding in virtue and gnosis. ‘Those things in which we are’ refers to our bodies. The ‘and many times’ refers to the succession of incarnations in different bodies—angelic or demonic or, perhaps, human (Evagrius is not clear on reincarnation into a human body)—according to our works in each life. This chapter is important for its clear expression of Evagrius’ doctrine of successive incarnations. It cannot refer to a succession of Movements, Judgements and Restorations, since it clearly posits that these changes will continue ‘until that which is should no longer be named by modes’: this clearly refers to the Restoration, when contingency will be abolished.
The end of praktike and of torment is the heritage of the saints; but that which is opposed to the first is the cause of the second, and the end of this is the heritage of those who are opposed (I, 18). We have already seen that both praktike and torment in Hades purify the passionate part of the soul. This purification makes one a saint. But those who engage in the opposite of praktike, which praktike Evagrius defines as the renunciation of vice and the acquisition of virtue—hence, those who renounce virtue and engage in vice—will come to torment in Hades, and Hades is the lot of those who are opposed, the demons. But there is an end to this lot of the demons: in the Restoration they too attain to the contemplation of the Unity, having come to an end of their torment. This contemplation of the Unity following the end of their torment is the heritage of the demons.
When only the mental representations of all that which has been produced by chance will be left in us, then only he who is known will be the sole known of him who knows (I, 20). This refers to the return of the minds (noes) to the contemplation of the Unity. ‘He who is known’ is the Unity. ‘He who knows’ is the mind (nous). The Unity is the only thing known by the naked mind (nous) in the contemplation of the Holy Trinity in the Restoration. What we do not understand is what ‘the mental representations of all that which has been produced by chance’ means; it does not seem to fit with the rest of the Evagrian system. Perhaps there is a problem in transmission and translation of the text.
If the human body is a part of this world and ‘The form of this world passes’ (1 Cor. 7, 31), it is evident that the form of the body will also pass (I, 26). This should be clear in several senses. In the succession of incarnations, each human will receive a variety of bodies. In the Restoration, however, there will be no bodies. But Evagrius also has a doctrine of the spiritual body: in the General Resurrection, just as the Christ was, according to Evagrius, resurrected with a spiritual body, so will all men. How are the three things put together?
Just as, in the case of bodies, the colours, the forms and the numbers depart, so in the case of the four elements the matter also is destroyed; in their case, indeed, the matter possesses this, that it was not and that it has been (I, 29). This seems to have to do with the philosophical underpinnings of the Evagrian eschatology.
If the Kingdom of the Heavens is known by that which is contained and by that which contains, the torment also will be known by that which is opposed to these things (I, 44). The Kingdom of the Heavens is dispassion and natural contemplation, both second and first. We do not understand to what ‘that which is contained’ and ‘that which contains’ refer. The torment, of course, is Hades, and Evagrius is saying that within the framework of his cosmology and his theory of contemplation, Hades is opposite in quality to the Kingdom of the Heavens.
When the gnosis of those who are first by their sovereignty and who are second by their genesis will be in the chief things, then only those who are first by their sovereignty will receive the gnosis of the Trinity (I, 52). We are not sure how this is to be understood. ‘Those who are first by their sovereignty’ refers to the minds (noes). ‘Those who are second by their genesis’ must refer to bodies, since all the reasonable nature, the minds (noes), were created in a single act of God before the Movement. But we do not understand how Evagrius wants to combine the two phrases, nor do we understand the import of his conclusion. The most likely explanation is that those who are first are the minds (noes), that those who are second are the bodies given to the minds (noes) and that in the Restoration the minds (noes) will enjoy the contemplation of the Unity without their bodies.
The plenitude of those who are first by their sovereignty is without end and the void is contained in a limit. The beings which are second are coextensive with the void and they will rest when the plenitude will make those who are susceptible of it approach the immaterial gnosis (I, 54). This appears to refer to the Restoration and the contemplation of the Unity by the henad of minds (noes) without their bodies.
Those only who are first by their genesis will be delivered from corruption which is in act; but in this there is not one among the beings which will be delivered of that which is in potentiality (I, 55). ‘Those who are first by their genesis’ are the minds (noes). Only they will remain after the Restoration. The second clause seems to say that in the Restoration, the minds (noes) will lose their ‘corruption in act’ but they will not lose their potential for negligence, so that there might be an infinite succession of Movements and Restorations. This interpretation seems to accord with Origen’s own terse remarks in Peri Archon.
The good will be the cause of gnosis and of torment, and the wicked of torment only (I, 56). That the good will be the cause of gnosis is clear; that the good should also be the cause of torment is not so clear: Evagrius might be referring to the angelic powers who execute judgements on the wicked. That the wicked should be the cause of torment is clear: the demons are tormented in Hades; they torment the wicked in Hades; and they lead the wicked to greater wickedness, so causing their greater torment in Hades.
One of the deaths has for its first cause, birth; another comes from the saints against those who do not live according to righteousness; and the mother of the third will be the forgiveness. And if he is mortal who is naturally made to be liberated from the body to which he is joined, assuredly immortal is he who is not naturally made that that might happen to him. Indeed, all those who have been joined to bodies necessarily also will be liberated from them (I, 58). This seems to refer first to the succession of incarnations—this is the death whose first cause is birth. The second death seems to be the spiritual death of the soul, or else the soul’s chastisement in Hades. The third death has to do with the General Resurrection. At the General Resurrection, all the bodies are put off in favour of spiritual bodies, and the minds (noes) begin an upward ascent to the contemplation of the Unity. He who is immortal we would take to be the naked mind (nous). The passage is difficult.
If today they receive the wise steward (Luke 16, 1–8) into their homes, it is evident that yesterday they sat down and modified their bills. Notwithstanding, he has been called ‘wise’ in the proportion that he has remitted more than he was capable of receiving (I, 60).
That which the sensible death has the custom of doing in us, equally ‘the just judgement of God’ (2 Thess. 1, 5) will realize for the other reasonable beings, at the time that ‘He will be ready to judge the living and the dead’ (1 Pet. 4, 5), and when ‘He will render to each according to his works.’ (Rev. 22, 12.) (I, 82.) We take this to refer not to the Last Judgement but to those intermediate judgements that all the minds (noes) undergo until the General Resurrection. What Evagrius seems to be saying is that the angels and the demons are judged similarly to men, but in a different way.
If today is that which is called the Friday when our Saviour was crucified, then all those who are dead are the symbol of his tomb, because with them the justice of God is dead, which will live again on the third day and be resurrected clothed again with a spiritual body, if ‘Today and tomorrow, he does miracles and on the third day, he is completed.’ (Luke 13, 32.) (I, 90.) Here is a clear statement of the Evagrian—and Origenist—doctrine of the General Resurrection with the spiritual body.
These will be the heirs for the soul after death: those who have been helpers for it for virtue or vice (II, 7). We have already remarked on the content of this chapter: every man has the choice of following the angels or following the demons, and those whom he follows in this life for virtue or vice will receive him into their habitations after his death.
 Cf. Treatise on the Practical Life 2 (Volume II).
 Peri Archon IV, IV, 8, p. 325, Greek.