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Chapter III -- 40

The destruction of worlds, the dissolution of bodies and the abolition of names accompany the gnosis which concerns the reasonable beings, whereas there remains the equality of gnosis according to the equality of substances (II, 17). This particular passage is important because of its clear statement of the Evagrian doctrine that when in the Restoration all the minds (noes) return to the contemplation of the Unity, then all the worlds, bodies and names (ranks) will be abolished, while there will remain, according to Evagrius, the equality of gnosis of the Unity according to the equality of substances of the minds (noes).

Intellectually speaking, it would appear that Evagrius was led to the notion of the abolition of every contingent aspect of the minds (noes), including names, by his philosophy of substance and attribute. This particular passage does not make it clear whether according to Evagrius the minds (noes) will remain individual monads without individual characteristics or whether they will be fused into one great henad of minds (noes) which participate together in the contemplation of the Unity.

However, this chapter, whatever its details might be, is heretical. It was quoted verbatim by the Fifth Ecumenical Synod in Anathema 14. It might be further remarked that the doctrine in the Letter to Melania of the absorption of the body, soul (psuche) and mind (nous) into the Godhead is inconsistent with the doctrine of the present chapter of the Kephalaia Gnostica.[1]

We now see some chapters of a group which bases itself on a complicated metaphor of the seed and the ear of wheat which comes from the seed. We present these chapters simply for completeness.

Just as this body is called the seed of the ear of wheat to come, so also this present world will be called seed of that which will be after it (II, 25).

He who first has taken the ear of grain is the first of those who have the grain; and he who has taken the second ear is the first of those who have the first ear; and he who has taken the third ear is the first of those who have the second ear, and in the same way in regard to all the others, until he abandon the last and first ear, that which has not, insofar as it is last, the power of the grain (II, 49). This complicated metaphor depends on the succession of incarnations before the General Resurrection.

If the ear of wheat is in potentiality in the seed, perfection in potentiality also is in him who is susceptible of it. And if this is so, the seed and that which is in it are not the same thing, nor the ear and that which is in the seed; but the seed of that which is contained by the ear and the ear of this seed are the same thing. Indeed, even though the seed become an ear, the seed of that which is in the ear has not yet received the ear. But when it will be liberated from the ear and the seed, it will possess the ear of this first seed (I, 24). This is too complicated.

If ‘the wheat’ bears the sign of virtue and ‘the straw’ the sign of vice (Matt. 3, 12), the world to come is the sign of the amber which will attract the straw to it (II, 26). We wonder if ‘the world to come’ does not refer to the world after the General Resurrection. What the passage would then mean is that that new spiritual world would draw the demons to it as amber draws straw. This would be the mechanism of the salvation of the demons.

When those who are giving birth will have ceased to give birth, then also ‘The guardians of the house will tremble’ (Eccl. 12, 3); then also the two heads will be adorned with rose and linen (II, 50). We are not sure to what stage of the eschatological unfolding this refers. We think that it must refer to the reception of the spiritual body in the General Resurrection, although it might just as well refer to the contemplation of the Unity in the Restoration.

When the minds (noes) will have received the contemplation which pertains to them, then also all the nature of the bodies will be lifted up, and thus the contemplation which concerns the nature of the bodies will become immaterial (II, 62). This is a clear statement of the return in the Restoration to the contemplation of the Unity. At that time, bodies of every kind are abolished and the second natural contemplation will become immaterial. If Evagrius means anything more than that the minds (noes) will thenceforth engage as naked minds (noes) in the contemplation of the Unity, we do not know what it might be, since both bodies and worlds will have been abolished, and we are not able to say what else there would be to contemplate—perhaps the reasons (logoi) of the bodies and worlds. The contemplation which pertains to the minds (noes) is the first natural contemplation of the reasons (logoi) of the reasonable beings; it is the necessary preliminary to entry into the contemplation of the Unity.

The separated will become inseparables, when they receive the contemplation of the things which have separated them (II, 67). This is a clear statement of the abolition of personal characteristics of the naked minds (noes) in the contemplation of the Unity in the Restoration. ‘The separated will become inseparables’ indicates that the individual minds (noes) become fused into one great henad of minds (noes) which participate as an henad in the contemplation of the Unity. ‘The contemplation of the things which have separated them’ is again the contemplation of the reasons (logoi) of the reasonable beings, although broadened to include the contemplation of the Judgement.

The Holy Spirit has not made known to us the first division of the reasonable beings and the genesis of bodies, but it has revealed to us the present division of reasonable beings and the transformation of bodies (II, 69). The first part of this chapter refers to the genesis of bodies in the First Judgement after the Movement, and to the ranking thereby of the minds (noes), about which Scripture is silent. The second part indicates, according to Evagrius, that Scripture instructs us concerning the present orders of reasonable beings—the angels, men and demons—and concerning our and also the angels’ and demons’ repeated incarnations in new bodies according to ‘merit’ in each life. Perhaps the second part means that Scripture informs us of the spiritual bodies that, according to Evagrius, we will have after the Resurrection.

He who advances towards gnosis draws near to the excellent change of bodies; but he who advances towards ignorance advances towards the bad change of bodies (II, 79). This is clear. This refers to just those repeated incarnations in bodies that we referred to in discussing the previous chapter. It is a clear formulation of the Evagrian principle that we have found convenient to nickname ‘merit’.

There has been a time when the Lord was judge only of the living, but there will not be a time when he will be judge only of the dead, and there will be anew a time when he will be judge only of the living (II, 84). ‘The Lord’ here, it should be apparent, is for Evagrius the Christ. He was the judge of the living minds (noes) immediately after the Movement, in the First Judgement, on the basis of which he, the Evagrian Christ, created the bodies and worlds for the minds (noes). ‘There will not be a time when he will be judge only of the dead’ can have two meanings: either that virtue will never be absent from the creation, or that the Second Coming, as St Paul himself says, will find some men alive on earth. The time anew when the Evagrian Christ will be the judge only of the living is the time after the General Resurrection, when all will have spiritual bodies, but before the Restoration, when all, including the Christ, will participate as brothers in the contemplation of the Unity. That after the Resurrection the Christ will be a judge—if this is to be taken literally—suggests that after the Resurrection the minds (noes) will continue to have free will. But the matter is ambiguous: Evagrius elsewhere indicates that in the General Resurrection all will attain to dispassion (apatheia) and then proceed along the road of gnosis to the contemplation of the Unity in the Restoration.

If the living are susceptible of increase and decrease, it is evident, then, that it is those who are opposed to those who are dead who receive the same things. And if this is so, there will anew be varied bodies, and the worlds which are appropriate to them will be created (II, 85). We do not completely understand this chapter. The second sentence, of course, refers to the succession of incarnations in various bodies and worlds before the General Resurrection. O’Laughlin takes it to be an indication that Evagrius espouses a doctrine that after the Restoration, there might again be a Movement, a Judgement and so on.[2] If that is what Evagrius means, it would seem to reflect a Stoic element in his thinking.

Those who will have seen the light of the two luminaries are those who will see the first and blessed light, which we will see in the Christ, when by an excellent change we will be resurrected before his face (II, 90). We are not sure what these two luminaries are, unless Evagrius means the sun and the moon, and unless he therefore means ‘all men who have lived on the face of the earth’. It is also possible that he is referring to second and first natural contemplation. However, judging from Anathema 3 of the Fifth Ecumenical Synod, Evagrius is referring to the natural contemplation of the sun and moon, which according to him are reasonable beings. Here, we also have a reference to the Resurrection, which, according to Evagrius will occur with spiritual bodies—this is the significance of ‘excellent change’. Note that in the Evagrian system the ‘first and blessed light’—this is the gnosis of the Unity—is in the Christ, not the Christ himself. We have already seen this aspect of Evagrius’ Christology.

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[1] Melania 1 190–190 or Melania E ll. 195–6.

[2] O’Laughlin p. 152–3.


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