Review: Cosmic Mystery

I’ve read this book six or eight times.  It’s probably the most important theological piece ever written on cosmology.Maximus_Confessor

Ambiguum 7

  1. All created being is in motion since it aims toward some end.

This combats Origenism.  Origen (de Principis I.2) and his disciples said the order of things’ existence was stability (stasis), motion (kinesis), and becoming (genesis).  This means a fall before the fall.  It raises questions of how one could fall from enjoying the Beautiful.  Maximus countered with the following:

(2) Becoming (Genesis), Motion (Kinesis), and Stability (stasis).

(2a) Motion is always directed towards an End.

Passibility (pathos):  does not refer to a change or corruption of one’s power.  It is that which exists by nature in beings.  For that which comes into being is susceptible to movement.   

The Logos of being:  participation in god as good and is the principle of being.

On willing

(3) When one is firmly attached to a good there is a voluntary transcending of oneself, a willing surrender.

(3a) Gnomic willing is a non-natural volition.  

Maximus then moves away from discussing a fall from Origen’s henad.

(4) The One Logos is the Many Logoi (p. 54 = [1077C]).

This statement is the perfection of what all ancient philosophy tried to be.  Each thing remains distinct (Gk. asunchtos) from everything else.  Yet Maximus also wants to say they are the one Logos.  How does he do that?

(4*) The logoi are anchored within the Logos (55; Col. 1:15-17; Rom. 11:36)

(4’) The Logos multiplies the logoi after himself (and the logos of a thing precedes its existence).

(5) The Logos recapitulates all things in himself (Eph. 1:10).

Does this mean all things return back to the Logos?  In so brilliantly cutting off Origenism has Maximus allowed Origen a return via apocastasis?  

(5’) Since all things participate in God, and they participate proportionally, not all will have the same ending.

(5*) Thus, Maximus doesn’t posit an Origenist apocastasis.

The logos of our being pre-exists in God [1080C].  

(6) All created things develop and are defined and limited by their logoi.

Ambiguum 8

Thesis:  Bodily existence is within the realm of flux and chaos and needs the Creator to order it.  God changes the atakton into the eutakton..

Logos/Tropos distinction.  The logos is the principle of a thing.  The tropos is the mode of existence.  The Logos has innovated human nature not in its natural principle (logos phuseos) but in its post-lapsarian existential mode (tropos huparchos).

Is it fair, then, to see Logos/Tropos as akin to the Nature/Person distinction?  This would make it:

(7) There is one logos in the trinity but three tropoi huparchoi?

Unfortunately, this creates problems.  We would then have two persons of Jesus but only one nature!

(7*) Logos could perhaps stay as nature (or natural principle) but tropos refers not to person, but to the mode of the person’s existing.

(7a*) Every Logos has its own telos (1).  There is no temporal hiatus (diastema) of any kind within the logos.  Nature is already graced because it is intrinsically open to transformation.

Ad Thalassium 2: On God’s Preservation and Integration of the Universe

The logos of a thing is already established, but its development is ongoing..  

(8) God “works” through the latent potentialities within the logoi.  

Christ unites within himself the logoi of universals and particulars.  

Ad Thalassium 22: At the End of the Ages

(9) God divided the “ages” between those before he became human and those afterwards
(9a) This is God’s “oikonomia.”

(10) Jesus is the beginning (arche), middle (mesotes), and end (telos) of all ages.

(10*) The end of the ages has come upon  his in potency through faith.

Ad Thalassium 60: On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ

(11) The mystery is the preconceived goal for which everything exists (p. 124).

(11a) The Logos is the goal for which creatures received their beginning existence and to which they move [(1), (10)].

(11b) Time itself is rooted in Christ [=CCSG 22:76]

(12) Christ’s incarnation (economy) was the object of God’s foreknowledge.

EXCURSUS ON GNOMIC WILL

(a)   It is discursive [1104A]

(b)  It is deliberate [Ad Thal. 21).

(c)  It is vacillating and sin perpetuates itself not via the natural volitions but through the gnomic will
(d) Earlier in his career Maximus said Jesus had a gnomic fear of death, but he stabilized his gnomic will.  Later, he would deny Jesus had a gnomic will (Blowers 112 n7).

 

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Review: Arius: Heresy and Tradition

by Rowan Williams

Date: January 2014

Being faithful to church teachings does not mean merely chanting former slogans, but critically receiving the church’s witness and faithfully putting it into a new context in response to a new crisis.  Rowan Williams has cogently suggested that we saw such a handling of philosophical issues in the Nicene crisis (Williams 2002). According to Williams’ reading, Arius conservatively employed a number of respected (if pagan) philosophical traditions which compromised the biblical narrative of the Son‟s being with the Father.

Williams begins his narrative with a review of earlier treatments of Arius, most notably that of John Henry Cardinal Newman.  Newman plays off the Alexandria vs. Antioch thesis, putting Arius in the latter camp (along with anyone who champions secular power and literalistic exegesis).  Newman’s move, Williams tell us, is actually a parable of his own day in the Oxford controversy.  While Newman’s own conclusions were painfully mistaken, he does illustrate a tendency in all church historians of this controversy:   reading Nicea as a template for our times.  Williams himself acknowledges that he will do the same thing (Barth/Bonhoeffer = Athanasius; Hitler = Arius, LOL)..

Williams has a very interesting suggestion that there were two models of “communal theology” (my phrase) in Alexandria and Egypt around the time of Arius.  There was the model of students gathering around a venerated teacher (Origen is a good example; Williams calls this the Academic model) and the rising church-centered episcopacy model.  Williams places Arius in the former, and notes that part of Arius’ failure is that he tried to maintain the former model when both his friends and enemies had switched to the latter model.

From this Williams has a number of illuminating suggestions about church unity, boundaries, and identity.  After surveying history, he notes that the “church around Alexander in 313 was not a harmonious body” (41). He notes elsewhere concerning such a pluralism that “the church before Constantine was simply not in an institutional position to make binding pronouncements” (90). While we may certainly say that there was a proto-Nicene theology in embryonic form in the early church, it’s harder to make the claim that “the boundaries of Catholic identity were firmly and clearly drawn in advance…[T]he whole history of Arius and Arianism reminds us that this is not so” (83).

Alexandrian Theology

It is tempting to conclude since Athanasius was an Alexandrian, that Alexandrian theology was always pro-Nicene, and, conversely, that Antiochean theology is Arian.  Williams provides a brilliant summary of Philo, Clement, and Origen to demonstrate that both Nicene and Arian conclusions were found in earlier Nicene models.  We first see this in Philo.  As Williams notes, “Philo is clearly concerned to deny that there is anything outside God that has a part in creation, and so it is necessary for him to insist upon the dependence of the world of ideas on God” (118).  This leads us to the discussion of the Logos.  Is the Logos God, part of God, Demiurge, or creature?   Philo is surprisingly conservative on this (from our standpoint).   He sees the Logos as the arche of existing things…”God himself turned towards what is not God” (119).  Indeed, this sounds a lot like Justin Martyr’s teaching.  

Yet Philo’s theology is inadequate from a Christian perspective.   The Logos functions more like  a mediator between Creator/creation, neither begotten or unbegotten. Williams anticipates later discussion with the insightful comment that “What is metaphor for Philo is literal for Arius” (122).  Philo’s importance, however, and Williams demonstrates this clearly, is he “mapped out the ground for the Alexandrian tradition to build on,” and Arius is firmly in that tradition (123).  

As Christianity became more prominent in Alexandria, Christian thinkers began to take up Philo’s mantle.  Foremost of these is Clement.  Clement adopts Philo’s scheme but is bolder with his language.  While preserving the transcendence of God Clement can say that God descended to us (126).  Clement’s problematic focuses on the knowability of God:  “How can the essence of God be partly knowable as Logos and partly unknowable” (130)?  

Discussion of Clement leads us to the undisputed master of antiquity, Origen.  In Origen, among other things, we see the ambiguity of terms like ousia and hypostasis.  Origen loosely employs both as “real individual subsistence” (132).  This point is key for it illustrates why many semi-Arians and homoiosians were reluctant to embrace Nicene language:  ousia was seen as indivisible and positing another hypostasis in God seemed to divide the essence or create two gods.  

Most importantly for our discussion of Origen is his treatment of the Son’s relationship to the transcendence of the Father.  The Father is supremely transcendent because he has no “defining coordinates” (137).  He is not a member of any class but above all classes.  Origen actually makes several advances in noting that the Son participates in the Father’s glory and is more than simply an instrument connecting God and the world.   However, Origen was still an Alexandrian:  God-Father is completely unknowable and the source of all. The Logos is the source of the world of ideas.  “God is simple and the Son is multiple” (139).  To put it another way, “The Father is the arche of the Logos and the Logos is the arche of everything else” (142).  

Did Origen cause Arius?  It’s hard to say.  Arius certainly took key moves from Origen but not the whole package.  Origen’s “Logos” is eternal.  Arius’s is not.  However, Origen left too many loose ends to prevent something like Arianism from happening.

The Neo-Platonist Philosophers

Understanding the philosophical worldview of Neo-Platonism is key for this discussion.  

Plato:  distinguishes between what always exists and what comes into existence.  He envisions something like a process leading up to the creation of time (183).  This problem is bound up with the issue of form and matter.  Aristotelians deny that there can be form without matter; hence, eternal creation.  Origen, Plotinus, and the Neo-Platonists did not have this problem because they posited an eternally active Form-er in the ideal world.  There is an object to the Forming, but it is an ideal object(s).  This makes sense of Origen’s positing a dual-creation:  the intelligible world precedes the material world.  

Paradoxically, this pre-temporal activity raises the strange question of whether the Father-One-The Beyond can even know anything.  The “One” (for lack of a better term) is utterly simple.  Williams captures the problem perfectly:  “Thinking and understanding, even the perfect understanding of simple nous, involves duplication and distancing” (201, emphasis added).  He goes on to say, “The paradox of understanding is that, as pure need or openness, nous is truly in contact with the One; but in its seeking to realize itself actively as understanding, it produces the multiplicity of the world of ideas, which separates itself from the One” (ibid).  

As bizarre as this sounds, it is not too far removed from some Christian formulations.   Certainly, Christianity can see “echoes” in Neo-Platonism (One-Nous/Logos-World Soul).  Another problem is raised:  as noted above in the Alexandrian milieu thinking and knowing involves duplication and distance.  Yet who is going to say that there is “distance” between Father and Son?  The only apparent alternative is to identify subject and object within the divine mind, which raises the question of how one can distinguish the persons of the Trinity.  

This perhaps allows us to view Origen in a more sympathetic manner.  As Wiliams’ remarks, “Origen’s Logos contemplates the father, and finds in that contemplation the whole world of rational beings coming into existence in its (his) own life…He sees the Father’s simplicity in the only way he can see it, as the wellspring of an infinite (or potentially infinite) variety and so gives multiple and determinate reality to the limitless life flowing into him in his contemplation” (205).  As beautiful as it is, Origen still has a huge epistemological problem:  he has a gulf between the simple Father and the multiple Logos (207).  

The above paragraphs simply put Arius’s (and his opponents’) issues into context.  Arius didn’t wake up one day and say, “I’ a-gonna hate me some God today.”  No,

Conclusion:

As relates to Williams handling of philosophical texts and their conclusions, this book is nothing short of brilliant. Further, Wiliams’ thesis is basically sound:  Arius received a number of conservative philosophical traditions which made it difficult to affirm the biblical narrative.   However, one cannot help but wonder if Williams has a deeper project.  Is this book not also a commentary upon his own reign as Archbishop of Canterbury, particularly in light of the Anglican communion’s problem with modernism? If Arius is in the “conservative” camp and Athanasius combated him by deconstructing Arius’ philosophical premises, then we cannot help but ask, “Who is the conservative in today’s controversy?”  

While Williams himself is not a liberal, one cannot help but suspect his own reign has been disastrous for the Anglican church’s continuing self-identity.  With gay bishops and female priestesses on the rise, one cannot help but ask what is Williams really trying to say?  Is he not trying to give a justification of his own ambiguous handling of the sexuality question?  

Analytic Outline, Balthasar’s Cosmic Liturgy

This isn’t an outline of the whole book–only the first half.  That is where Balthasar’s discussion on Person and Nature is.  I first read this book in 2010 when I was new to Maximus the Confessor.  Those were heady days. Maximus_Confessor

  1. the Free mind
    1. Opening up tradition: Maximus undercut Origenism by interpreting Gregory of Nazianzus in Origenist language (35).
    2. Between Emperor and Pope: tore the Greek tradition away from the destructive claws of the Empire.  
  1. Between East and West
    1. Religion and revelation
        1. Asiatic view of One and Many; seeking the Absolute which exists in a state of formlessness
        2. Biblical religion: man and God stand in confrontation, not emanation and decline.
      1. Polarities and Synthesis
        1. Maximus held to the Western view of phusis and logos, which grounds the existence of things.  Western thought also added “personal categories.”
        2. He held to the Eastern religious passion.
      2. Three bodies of material to be synthesized
        1. Origen: subordination is metaphysical; problem for Christology.  Falling away from spirits in a collective unity of God; apakatastis.
        2. Evagrius: silence sensible images and conceptual thought; eliminate form from realm of the spirit.
        3. Alexandrian Christology:
    2. Scholasticism and Mysticism
  2. The synthesis
  3. Divine Unknowing
    1. Lack of knowledge:
    2. The light of God enfolds one beyond the distinction of subject and object (94).
  4. Ideas in God
    1. “The idea of a thing is its truth” (Maximus PG 91, 1085AB).
    2. God’s ideas are not identical with his essence (otherwise I, as an idea of God, would be infinite) nor are they identical with the existence of created entities (HuvB, 118).
    3. Epistemology
      1. Maximus reworks some of Ps. Dionysius’ concepts.  When we approach an idea, or rather, when an idea comes across our consciousness, we first have a general impression of reality (pragma) and gradually grow clearer unity reaches the full knowledge of the individual object.  
      2. “What flashes upon us ‘in an undivided way’ (ameristos) in the first encounter () is not some empty general concept of being–a contradiction in terms–but a revelation concerning the Monad (), the unity of that being that truly is one: a logos that instructs the thinking mind that God and the world are undivided and so makes possible all thought of things different from God (123, see PG 91, 1260D).  
  5. Ideas in the World: A Critique of Origenism
    1. Maximus filtered Origenist spirituality and removed its fangs.
    2. Origen: there once existed an original Henad of beings.  It is a metaphysics of “peira,” of painful necessity (129).

Syntheses of the Cosmos

  1. Being and Movement
    1. The Age.  Finite being is characterized by spatial intervals (diastema), and thereby motion.  
      “To have a beginning, middle, and end is characteristic of things extended in time. One would also be right in adding to this ‘things caught p in the age (aiown).’ For time, whose motion can be measured, is limited by number; the age, however, whose existence is expressed by the category of ‘when,’ also undergoes extension (diastasis), in that its being has a beginning.  But if time and the age are not without beginning, then surely neither ar ethe things that are involved in them” (Centuries on Knowledge, 1.5).
    2. In short, for Origen motion is connected with the fall, while for Maximus it was an ontological expression of created existence (HuvB 141).
    3. Extension:
    4. The definition of every nature is given with the concept of its essential activity (energeia, Ambigua PG 91, 1057B).
      1. The essence of a thing is only truly indicated through the potential for activity that is constitutive of its nature.
      2. A nature is nothing else than organized motion….It is a capacity or plan, a field or system of motion (HuvB 146).
    5. Nature and the Supernatural:
  2. Generality and Particularity
    1. Being in Motion.
    2. The motion of a being is its way of establishing itself as a particular, existent thing (155).
      1. The whole structure of existent things, which are not God, is polar (duas). It is a dynamic relationship between the unity of individuality and the unity of generality (157).
    3. Essence in motion. The essence of all created things is motion–in the manner of expansion (diastole) and contraction (systole).
    4. Balance of contrary motions.

Christ the Synthesis

  1. Synthesis, not confusion, is the first structural principle of all created being (207).
    1. There is no contradiction between divine and finite life.
    2. We do not look for a synthesis on the level of nature and describe it as a synthesis of natural powers (Nestorius) or a natural union (Eutyches).
  2. The terminology
    1. Aristotle: ousia is the highest and most comprehensie of being (216).
      1. The Cappadocians used this as “universal concept
      2. And because Maximus didn’t want to identify God with a universal concept, he places God outside being (Ambigua PG 91, 1036B).
    2. Maximus at times wants to distinguish ousia from this-ousia.
    3. Being (einai). The existential aspect of Being (HuvB 218).
      1. Christ united in his own person “two distinct intelligible structures of being” (logoi tou einai) of his parts.”
    4. Hypokeimenon.  Underlying subject.  Maximus seldom uses this. It denotes the concrete, existent bearer of qualities that determine whata thing is.
      1. It does not mean the same thing as hypostasis. It is more of a point of reference for logical predicates than an existential reality.
    5. Hyparxis. Existence. Used to mean the Being of the Persons of God (tropos tes huparxeos; Cappadocians used this, as did Karl Barth).
    6. Hypostasis. Leontius refined it to mean “being-for-oneself.”  It is what distinguishes a concrete being from others of the same genus (HuvB 223). It is the ontological subject of the ascription of an essence, not the consciousness of such a subject.  
      1. It isn’t merely the contraction (systole) of universal being; it also suggests the “having” of such a being. When the Cappadocian Fathers defined hypostasis as the manner in which each person has his origin, it was to show the reality his having the Godhead.
      2. A nature is the hypostasis’s property (224).
      3. Maximus even suggests that nature is what is according to the image, whereas hypostasis is according to the likeness.  No doubt the Hebrew doesn’t sustain such a reading, but it is interesting that a Greek father would suggest it.
    7. Synthesis
      1. Union (henosis).
      2. Synthetic person.  
    8. Christology of essence.  The act of being is distinct from the actual being of Christ’s human nature. The act of being comes from the divine person, which is why the human nature of Christ isn’t a human person.
  3. Healing as Preservation
    1. The exchange of properties

Terminology:

First Substance (Aristotle): the irreducibleness of a thing.  It has an inner field of meaning and power defined in terms of potency (49).  

History and Spirit (de Lubac)

“The Law is spiritual.” This one sentence allows Origen to seek “mystical” meanings beyond that of the literal text–and in de Lubac’s hands he does a fairly impressive job. In many ways this work can be seen as a case study of de Lubac’s Medieval Exegsis (3 vols). Henri de Lubac’s argument is that the spiritual sense justifies the literal sense (de Lubac 121). Furthermore, “allegory” (whatever that word means) always has metaphysical and epistemological overtones. What you say about allegory will reflect what you believe about the soul and how you know that. As de Lubac will conclude, allegory is a “symbolic transposition” (437). All thought is mediated and “positioned” by figures. Allegory, although often abused, is simply a logical outworking of this truth.

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De Lubac’s Origen begins by noting correspondences between a trichotomous view of man and the 3-fold sense of Scripture. Man is body, soul, and spirit; not surprisingly, so Origen reads, so is Scripture. Up to a point, anyway. Scripture is unfolded as shadow, image, and truth (250). But we run into a small difficulty. The “three senses of Scripture” aren’t always locked in stone. Sometimes they can be “two senses.” When the mediating term is omitted, Scripture is elevated to the heavenly places. I think Origen paints himself into a corner here but we shouldn’t lose sight of his key epistemological insight: “Truth never appears to us completely free from figures” (253). If Scripture is mediated by figures, then there is nothing inherently wrong with allegory.

All of that is quite wonderful, but if the “mediating term” in Scripture is removed, does that mean the correspondence between Origen’s trichotomism (which I accept) and Scripture’s trichotomism breaks down? I think so. De Lubac leads to that conclusion but he refuses to draw it.

Origen doesn’t use the New Testament in exactly the same way as the Old Testament. There is a principle of New Testament operation: Christ’s actions are symbols of his spiritual operations (253). But “spiritual” doesn’t mean “not really real.” For Origen and Paul, “spiritual” mean eschatological newness (309). Jesus doesn’t explain the Old Testament; he transforms it (316).

De Lubac’s most fascinating chapter is on the relation between History and Spirit and the multiple modes of the Logos. In fact, that’s what the whole book should have been about. Origen’s Logos isn’t the same thing as Philo’s. De Lubac notes, “Philo’s Logos penetrates” into the multiplicity of matter, but Origen’s Logos speaks. He is “as much word as reason” (391).

And it is in this chapter where de Lubac most skillfully weaves together the logos of the soul with the Logos of Scripture. There is a “connaturality between Scripture and the soul” (397). The soul and Scripture “symbolize each other.” Origen applies this reasoning beyond the soul to the whole universe. Reality is an ordered hierarchy.

Conclusion

As wonderful as this book is, there are some negative points. It is about 100 pages too long (a problem with some of de Lubac’s writings). Further, de Lubac hasn’t fully escaped the prison cell of historical criticism, as he somewhat admits.

Readings in Christian Ethics (O’Donovan list)

Focusing mainly on more classical and patristic texts.  These are the texts in the O’Donovans’ work.  So, if you wanted to read in the patristic tradition and how earlier Christians engaged in political reflection, this is a good list.

Justin Martyr,

  •  First Apology. Sections 1, 2, 4, 10, 11.
  • Letter to Diognetus 5-7

Irenaeus of Lyons: Empire as a demonic force; Christ’s coming into the world was already an act of judgment (O’Donovan 16).

  • Against Heresies V.24-26.  Also contains some of his eschatology.

Tertullian. A strong rejection of military service, though Tertullian’s later arguments begin to shift…

  • Apology 4, 30, 38.
  • “Military Chaplet,” 11
  • Against Marcion, IV:16.

Clement of Alexandria: Contrary to Plato, philosophical kingship is already present because God manifested it in His Son (O’Donovan 31).

  • Stromateis I:24-28.

Origen

  • Against Celsus 8:68-75.

Lactantius: The meaning of property is given by the structures of community relations in which material goods are communicated (O’Donovan 47).

  • Divine Institutes III:21-22; V:5-7, 14-15; VI:10.

Eusebius: The Word (Logos) of God mediates the kingship of God.

  • Dedication Holy Sepulchre 16

Ambrose of Milan: emergence of episcopacy; renounced private property in favor of an “ecclesial sociology.”  Institutionalized charity.  Explores different forms of economic slavery (O’Donovan 69ff).

  • Epistle 75a, 1-8; 24-37.
  • Story of Naboth, 1, 2, 4, 11, 12, 36, 37, 52, 53, 63.
  • Letter 7:4-19
  • Letter 50
  • Duties of Clergy I:28-29; II:15-16

John Chrysostom: aesthetic of Christian government: “the drama of overcoming wrath with mercy” (O’Donovan 91). In giving charity, the giver reasserts the original community of goods.

  • 24th Homily on Romans
  • 17th Homily on the Statutes
  • 11th Homily on Acts
  • 12th Homily on 1 Timothy

Augustine: the law of Christ can be obeyed in time of war if the right attitude is sustained.   Civil justice prepares the way for penitence.  We must look behind the tasks of authority to the society that gives authority its rationale (O’Donovan 109).

  • On Free Choice of Will I:5
  • Against Faustus, 19:18, 19, 25, 26; 26: 74, 75, 76
  • Letter 153
  • Letter 93: 3, 5, 12
  • Letter 189
  • Letter 24
  • City of God II:20; IV:3-5; V:24-26; 14:28; 15:1, 2, 4, 5; 19:5, 7-15, 16, 20, 21, 24-27.

 

Origen and the Life of the Stars

Alan Scott sheds light on key problems in Hellenism by focusing on Origen’s view of the stars’ souls.  Ancient Greece certainly discussed the possibility that the stars are alive (and we will use the phrase” alive,” “intelligence,” and “souls” interchangeably in this review) but there was no consensus.

Plato

The presence of intelligence is the presence of a soul (Scott 9, cf. Soph. 249a4) and a mind must exist in the soul.  The universe, accordingly, must be ensouled since “mind was present in it.” aether: the body in which the soul operates.  The astral soul and aether co-operate.

A problem for later Platonists: if the “divine” is incorporeal, and if stars are divine, how can we see them in the heavens?  Jewish and Christian thinkers exploited this weak point.  The only way to respond to this criticism was to weaken the “divine claim” and see them rather as intermediate beings.

Origen

Scott argues against reading too much of any single school into Origen’s thought.  While he is close to Middle Platonism, for example, he was also very familiar with Jewish Apocalypticism and Gnosticism (54).

Philo

Philo’s sometimes wooden borrowing of philosophy allows us a “snapshot” of the Hellenistic classroom (63-64).

  • Earth is centre of cosmos
  • Yet Philo rejects the somewhat Stoic claim that the mind is material. The mind is neither pneuma nor matter.  
  • Stars are definitely living beings.
    • Ontologically superior to angels.
    • Not surprisingly, Philo was tolerant of those who worshipped heaven (something no biblical writer could say!), but elsewhere says it is wrong to do so (74).

“Philo is too good a Jew and too good a Platonist to take these arguments to their logical conclusions” (74).  Origen advances beyond Philo in seeing the possibility of evil in heaven.  

Heavenly Powers

Problem: how does the soul enter into the generative powers of the world?  Phaedrus said because of evil, whereas Timeaus said because of a good demiurge.  “The belief began to slowly evolve that the soul was joined to the body through the medium of an ‘astral body’” (77).  This became a major theme in Platonism after Iamblichus (79).

At this time Oriental sources entered Hellenistic thought, notably Mithraism, which taught that a gate corresponded to a planet (82).

However, once the idea of fate was firmly attached to the stars, and given that people have “bad luck,” many began to question whether the stars were truly benign.  This meant, among other things, that the neutral “daimons” in the heavenly realms could now be seen as demons in the traditional understanding (90-93).

Toll Houses (!)

A common theme in later Platonic and Gnostic thought is the soul’s traveling through planets after death.  The Apocalypse of Paul (Nag Hammadi Library) has Paul passing through toll collectors (98).  Granted, there are huge differences between this and the later Russian Orthodox teaching of toll houses.

Clement

Clement believes there are angels who oversee the souls’ ascent (106). Clement holds that stars are governed by their appointed angels (55.1; cf. p. 108).

Origen and the Stars

Origen divides the soul with a highest sense–mind (nous).  This is fallen and capable of sin.  There is an unfallen portion called “spirit” (pneuma).  Origen is aware that many of his views are speculative, and he is not setting them forth as doctrine (122). He is “thinking out loud” in the face of very difficult problems.  And compared to the current Alexandrian cosmology, Origen’s is quite restrained (124).

Are the stars alive?

Origen tentatively answered “maybe.”  But before we judge him, we must see that his answers are based on terminology that both Christians and pagans accepted.  For example, only rational agents are self-moving.  This would appear that the stars are in some sense rational agents.  But Origen was also aware of Jewish Apocalyptic and he would have been on better ground had he said that “angels move the stars.”

This really isn’t that problematic.  Scientifically wrong, to be sure, but that’s all.  The problem came when Origen had to account for why some stars are greater than others.  And is answer, of course, was of some pre-temporal fall.  And that is problematic.

The Stars and the resurrection body

Origen is actually very careful on this point.  He affirms the resurrection body, but he knows, as does Paul in 1 Cor. 15, that it isn’t the same type of body we have today.  But perhaps he gets in trouble with his discussions of the “astral body.”  All Christians have to believe in the post-mortem existence of the soul.  This is a mode of existence that isn’t bodily yet which the soul is in one place at one time.  

Given both Scriptural teachings, logic, and the experiences of wise saints, we posit that the soul has an existence after death.  But how does it exist?  Does it recognize other souls?  Surely it does.  Is it omnipresent in the spiritual world?  Certainly not, for not even angels (who are bodiless) are omnipresent.  Therefore, there must be some sort of identifiable mode of existing that is bodiless.  Origen called this an “astral body.”  

Conclusion

Does Scott fully vindicate Origen?  Not quite, but he does alleviate a lot of problems.  Origen was very reticent about using philosophy.  He didn’t innovate but rather held to established, conservative opinions in the intellectual world (even if they were wrong in hindsight).

Gregory for Origen

I don’t think I am an Origenist.  I don’t think his protology survives Maximus’s deconstruction of it.  But I do think it is wrong of “Trad Fundies” to bash Origen as a “heretic” when few of the greatest fathers of the church would have done that.  This is from Christopher Beeley’s work on Gregory of Nazianzus.

origen

Gregory had a largely positive view of Origen.  

  • “From Origen Gregory learned the rudiments and the great heights of Christian theology, and he found in Origen a clear model of the spiritual and intellectual dimensions of his own life” (Beeley 7).
  • “During the first years of his return to Cappadocia, Gregory’s formation in strongly Trinitarian, Origenist Christianity seems to have been largely completed” (10).
  • “By habit, he would have continued to steep himself in the Bible and Origen” (16).
  • Gregory structured his “Five Theological Orations” along the same loci as Origen’s De Principiis (39).
  • “We may note that Gregory showed himself to be a more faithful disciple of Origen than either of his Cappadocian contemporaries” (75).
  • “Gregory is led by the Alexandrians, above all Origen, in the adaptation of certain Platonist themes for his Christian program” (78).
  • Adopts Origen’s dual hermeneutics (89).

origen1

I’m aware of the 5th councils condemnations of Origen.  I just don’t found them morally compelling.  Especially as they would have condemned the Cappadocians for not condemning Origen–and the excuse that the former didn’t live during the 5th council and so are excused is both ad hoc and probably false.  Justinian was nowhere near the theologian as Gregory.

David W. has a very good summary of the issues.