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Chapter III -- 41

In the world to come the bodies of ignorance will be surpassed, and in that world which will follow it, the change will receive an increase of fire and air; and those who are below will apply themselves thenceforth to gnosis, if ‘the houses of the impious receive purification’ (Prov. 14, 9) and if ‘Today and tomorrow’ the Christ ‘works miracles and on the third day he is completed.’ (Luke 13, 32.) (III, 9.) This is a clear statement that in the world to come, the demons will give themselves over to pursuing virtue. We find it somewhat ambiguous, however: does Evagrius mean the world to come in the succession of bodies and worlds that occurs up until the General Resurrection; is he referring directly to the Resurrection with a spiritual body; or is he referring to the Restoration, when the spiritual bodies will be put off? We think that he is referring to the General Resurrection with the spiritual body, which is a tool of gnosis: this is the significance of the increase of fire and air: they are the vehicle of gnosis.[1] The bodies of ignorance are our ordinary gross human bodies.

What certainly is ambiguous in the present chapter is how Evagrius envisages the ‘redemption’ of the demons: Are they drawn to the upward path of virtue during the succession of bodies and worlds, so that they ‘will apply themselves henceforth to gnosis’? Do they change their ways in the General Resurrection—indeed do they then receive spiritual bodies? Or is their redemption delayed until the Restoration? We cannot answer these questions with certainty, but we think that the chapter is teaching that the demons are ‘saved’ at the General Resurrection.

As we have already pointed out, the basic problem is that Evagrius is following Origen, who has attempted to combine the Stoic doctrine of the endless repetition of the one world into the past and future; the Platonic idea of the timeless creation of the world and the descent of the minds into souls and then bodies; and the Christian concept of the Resurrection with a transformed body—all with Origen’s own concept of the Restoration of all Things. Perhaps Origen and Evagrius could put these concepts together in a coherent way, but we ourselves find them confusingly incompatible.

Each of the changes is established to nourish the reasonable beings, and those who nourish themselves with it arrive at the excellent change, but those who do not nourish themselves with it arrive at the bad change (III, 7). This is a repetition of the doctrine that the intermediate incarnation that one obtains depends on his ‘merit’. It cannot refer to the General Resurrection for the reason that all are then ‘saved’ and receive a spiritual body. Even if we were to be proved wrong on this point, given that in the Evagrian system, in the Restoration of All Things all the minds (noes) are ‘saved’, including the demons, and given that the demons are now most emphatically not ‘saved’, at some point in Evagrius’ system the demons have to be ‘saved’. We ourselves think that that takes place at the General Resurrection.

If the perfection of the mind (nous) is the immaterial gnosis, as it is said, and if the immaterial gnosis is the Trinity only, it is evident that in perfection there will not remain anything of matter. And if that is so, the mind (nous) henceforth naked will become a seer of the Trinity (III, 15). This is a clear presentation of the Evagrian doctrine of the putting off in the Restoration of all material (and spiritual) bodies by the minds (noes), and of their thenceforth participating as naked minds (noes) in the immaterial contemplation of the Holy Trinity. It is important for the connections it makes between perfect gnosis and the substance of the Holy Trinity, on the one hand; and, on the other hand, between that gnosis and the immateriality of the minds (noes) in the Restoration. In content, this chapter is very close to Anathema 11 of the Fifth Ecumenical Synod.

Torment is the intense suffering which purifies the passionate part of the soul (III, 18).

The change of the organa, or bodies, is the passage from body to body, according to the degree of the orders of those which are joined with them (III, 20). This is a clear statement that according to the ‘merit’ of the mind (nous), that mind (nous) will receive a better or worse body, and world, in each passage from body to body—what we, for simplicity, have called an ‘incarnation’. It cannot refer to the reception of the spiritual body in the General Resurrection, because Evagrius is elsewhere clear that the spiritual body is a completely different sort of thing from the normal human body: ‘passage from body to body’ is inconsistent with the change in the General Resurrection from the normal human body to a spiritual body:

The spiritual body and its opposite will not be formed from our members or from our parts, but of a body. The change, indeed, is not a passage from members to members, but the passage from an excellent or bad quality to an excellent or bad change (III, 25). This is a statement that the spiritual body given at the Resurrection will not be the human body transformed, the Orthodox doctrine, but a completely different spiritual body, which, Evagrius asserts, the Christ had at his resurrection. There is a question about the bad change, however: do some receive a bad ‘spiritual body’ in the General Resurrection? If so, how do they then arrive at the contemplation of the Unity in the Restoration? The doctrine of the spiritual body was condemned by the Fifth Ecumenical Synod in Anathema 10.

The ‘last trumpet’ (1 Cor. 15, 52) is the commandment of the judge who has joined the reasonable beings to the bodies which are good or bad, after which there will not be a bad body (III, 40). This is a statement that when the Evagrian Christ comes again for the Last Judgement—for it is the Evagrian Christ who made the First Judgement after the Movement—then all will be given a spiritual body. The phrase ‘after which there will not be a bad body’ does not specify with exactness, but obliquely, the doctrine of the spiritual body. This passage seems to imply that it is with this spiritual body that in the Restoration all will participate in the contemplation of the Unity, and that would mean that the abolition of names that Evagrius has referred to elsewhere would be accomplished while the minds (noes) were not naked but engaged in the contemplation of the Unity with their spiritual bodies. In Peri Archon, there is a sense in which the putting off of the spiritual body in the passage from the General Resurrection to the Restoration is to be understood as the progressive etherealization of the spiritual body. However, in Evagrius, the spiritual body given in the General Resurrection is transitional: it will be put off and the minds (noes) will enter into the contemplation of the Unity as naked minds (noes). This passage also indicates that at the stage of the Resurrection and the granting of the (good) spiritual bodies, then the demons are included: either they have already been ‘redeemed’, or the General Resurrection and the granting of spiritual bodies is the act of forgiveness which redeems them. There is a further ambiguity in Evagrius’ doctrine: how does the Last Judgement (the ‘last trumpet’) articulate with the General Resurrection and the Restoration of All Things? In some passages of the Kephalaia Gnostica, the natural interpretation is that the Last Judgement occurs at the General Resurrection, with the putting off of material bodies and the granting of spiritual bodies, but in other passages, the natural interpretation is that the Last Judgement occurs at the Restoration, when even the spiritual bodies are put off.

The change happening ‘in the blink of an eye’ (1 Cor. 15, 52) is unique which will overtake each one according to his degree by consequence of the judgement and which will establish the body of each according to the degree of his order. Indeed, that someone might say that there is a change in the parts beyond that which is common, is the act of him who does not know the mental representations of the judgement (III, 47). The second statement seems to be saying that anyone who asserts that the General Resurrection occurs with the transformation of the human body, and not with a spiritual body, is a person who has not experienced the contemplation of the judgement. This is interesting for its witness how Evagrius understands the relation between mental representation and contemplation and how he understands contemplation, here contemplation of the judgement; and for its witness that Evagrius developed much of his doctrine on the basis of what he himself experienced in contemplation. Although in the basic schema of the contemplations involved in the mystical assent, the contemplations of providence and the judgement are not present, elsewhere Evagrius lists the two contemplations as among the five basic types of contemplation. What Evagrius seems to be saying is that he, Evagrius, has experienced in its fullness this contemplation of the judgement, and this is what he has learned.

The first part of the chapter is interesting for its assertion that the General Resurrection will overtake each one in the order that he is—that is, according to the ‘merit’ that he has or has not. That would mean that all are not equal with the granting of the spiritual body; this is Origen’s doctrine in Peri Archon. Hence, the transition from the General Resurrection to the Restoration would involve the evolution of all the beings towards a state in which from beings with spiritual bodies of different degrees (‘orders’), they became naked minds (noes) contemplating the Unity in a single henad from which all personal differences and degrees, including that of the Christ, had been annihilated. It should be noted that the spiritual body is called by Evagrius a gnostic organon, or tool; this implies that after the General Resurrection the minds (noes) will make an upward mystical ascent of gnosis facilitated by that spiritual body, until they put that body off in the Restoration. This should be contrasted with the condition of the minds (noes) prior to the General Resurrection, when they are being incarnated from one world to another and from one body to another according to their ‘merit’ in each life. It should also be remarked that Evagrius elsewhere teaches that at the General Resurrection all the minds (noes) are granted dispassion (apatheia), the precondition of the gnostic ascent to the Trinity. Finally, it should be noted that in this series of chapters there is an ambiguity concerning the nature of the spiritual body: some of the chapters indicate that the spiritual body is good for the good and bad for the bad; others indicate that the spiritual body is uniformly good; and so on.

The change of the righteous is the passage from praktika and seeing bodies to bodies seeing or very seeing (III, 48). The seeing or very seeing bodies can be most easily understood as angelic bodies. This is the change that we have called the ‘incarnation’ into a new body and new world, in the succession of worlds before the General Resurrection.

The change of sinners is the passage of praktika or demonic bodies to those which are very heavy and dark (III, 50). ‘Change of sinners’ has the sense not of repentance or conversion but of Evagrius’ doctrine of the judgement after death prior to the granting of a new body according to one’s ‘merit’ when judged. He is saying that sinners, not only men but also demons, will be granted a new body in the change and that this body will be a heavy and dark—a demonic or more demonic—body. We are still in the succession of worlds prior to the General Resurrection: the previously cited chapter discussed the change for the righteous; this chapter describes the change for sinful men and demons. If these chapters were discussing the spiritual body received at the General Resurrection, then Evagrius’ doctrine as enunciated in this series of chapters would be entirely incoherent.

All the changes which occur before the world to come have joined some with excellent bodies and others with bad bodies. But those changes which will occur after the world which will come will join all with gnostic organa (bodies) (III, 51). Here we have a clear statement that after the succession of incarnations into better or worse bodies according to merit before the General Resurrection, then in the Second Coming of the Evagrian Christ, that is, in the General Resurrection, all will receive a spiritual body, a gnostic organon. From what has been said elsewhere, these bodies will all be excellent, but not all identical: they will reflect the ‘merit’ of each mind (nous) at the time of the Second Coming, the ‘last trumpet’ that Evagrius refers to.

Skemmata 6 provides a clarification of what Evagrius means: ‘In respect of virtue, we will be one on the eighth day; in respect of gnosis, however, we will be one on the last day.’[2] This indicates that in Evagrius’ thought, in the General Resurrection, all will attain to dispassion (apatheia)—this is the significance of our all being one in virtue on the eighth day—and that then all will begin the upward ascent of gnosis by means of the gnostic organon, the spiritual resurrection body, so as to attain to the contemplation of the Unity. Then, on the last day—in the Restoration—all will be one in gnosis having put off the spiritual body and having entered into the contemplation of the Unity.

Just as the first trumpet has made known the genesis of bodies, so also the ‘last trumpet’ (1 Cor. 15, 52) will make known the destruction of bodies (III, 66). The first trumpet is the First Judgement that the Evagrian Christ made after the Movement, so as to give the minds (noes) their bodies and worlds. The ‘last trumpet’ refers either to the General Resurrection, when all will receive a new, spiritual, body, or to the Restoration, when even that spiritual body will be put off and the minds (noes) will nakedly contemplate the Unity. Here it refers to the Restoration.

Just as the first ‘rest’ (Gen. 2, 2) of God will make known the diminution of vice and the disappearance of gross bodies, so also the second will make known the destruction of bodies, second beings, and the diminution of ignorance (III, 68). Here, Evagrius is saying clearly that the spiritual bodies are an intermediate stage: they replace the gross bodies, which are the normal human bodies that we have now. This is the first ‘rest’, which occurs at the General Resurrection. The second ‘rest’ brings about the contemplation of the Unity by the naked minds (noes); it occurs at the Restoration. Note again that the General Resurrection brings about a condition of universal dispassion (apatheia)—this is the significance of ‘diminution of vice’—whereas the Restoration brings about a condition of universal gnosis—this is the significance of ‘diminution of ignorance’.

If ‘the day of the Lord comes like a thief in the night’ (1 Thess. 5, 2), no one among those who are in the house knows at what hour or in what day he will disrobe those who sleep (III, 73). It is curious that ‘those who sleep’ will be ‘disrobed’, which would seem to mean that their mind (nous) would be divested of its clothing. What is Evagrius referring to here? The soul? The body that each mind (nous) had in each of the worlds? The spiritual body that each will have been granted after the General Resurrection, so that Evagrius would be referring to the putting off of the spiritual body and to the commencement of the contemplation of the Unity by the naked minds (noes)? For we understand Evagrius to say that after death, each man passes by a good or bad change to another body and another world. Possibly, what Evagrius means here is this: we live once on the face of this earth and then we die. We do not return to this earth, so we are to be considered dead. But within that state of being dead, we are granted new bodies and new worlds in a succession of ‘incarnations’ until the General Resurrection, when we put off our old bodies—those we had on earth and those we had in the worlds after death—and we put on the spiritual bodies, then to make the ascent to the contemplation of the Unity in the Restoration. This is a somewhat speculative explanation since Evagrius is himself not at all clear.

By means of those of whom it has narrated the life and death, the Holy Spirit has also proclaimed in advance the resurrection that will occur (III, 77). Evagrius means: ‘in Scripture’.

If the ‘wealth of God’ (cf. Rom. 11, 33) which is to come is the spiritual contemplation of the worlds which will be, those who limit the Kingdom of the Heavens to the palace and to the belly will be confounded (IV, 30). We have already met with the concept of the contemplation of the worlds as a stage in the first natural contemplation after the contemplation of the angels. Here, however, this contemplation is placed in the context of Evagrius’ eschatology. We are not sure what Evagrius wants to say regarding the Kingdom of the Heavens, which he has elsewhere defined as dispassion (apatheia) and natural contemplation: we do not know what he means by ‘the palace and the belly’. However, we do not think that the solution is to treat this passage as a statement about asceticism, given that Evagrius refers to the worlds which will be. We are bemused.

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[1] Cf. KG II, 51.

[2] Appendix 3 of Volume II.


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