by Maximus the Confessor
Source Used: Ante-Nicene Fathers: The Writings of the Fathers Vol. I – Vol. X and Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I, Vol. I – Vol. XIV & Series II, Vol. I – Vol. XIV. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.)
From Saint Gregory the Theologian’s first Sermon on the Son: Therefore the monad is eternally moved towards the dyad
until it reaches the triad [or, Trinity].1
1036A And again from his second2 Sermon on Peace:
The monad is moved because of its wealth and the dyad is superseded; for beyond matter and form, out of which bodies are made, the triad is defined on account of its perfection.3
If there seems to be disharmony, servant of God, and you are puzzled about the true harmony, it is not to be sought according to the simplest meaning of the words. For it is the same for the dyad to be superseded and not to stop until the dyad, and again for the triad to be defined is the same as to stop the movement of the monad at the triad, if we respect a monarchy that is not indifferent to status, as if it were circumscribed by one person, nor unstructured, so that it is poured out to infinity. But Father and Son and Holy Spirit, by
B nature equal in honour, ‘whose wealth is continuity of substance and the one outburst of radiance’,4 are constituted by the triad, neither flowing out beyond these [persons] of the Godhead, lest we introduce a community of gods, nor being bounded within these [persons], lest we be condemned for the poverty of Godhead. This is not an explanation of the cause of the source of beings that is itself beyond being, but a demonstration of the reverent glory that surrounds it, if the Godhead is monad, but not dyad, and triad, but not multitude, as being without beginning, bodiless and undisturbed. For the monad is truly monad. For it is not the beginning of everything that comes after it, according to the contraction of expansion, as if it were poured out naturally and led to multitude, but is the existent5 reality of the consubstantial triad. And the triad is truly a triad, not completed by discrete numbers (for it is not a synthesis of monads, that might suffer division), but the
C substantial existence of the three-personed monad. For the triad is truly monad, because thus it is, and the monad truly triad because thus it subsists.6 Thus there is one Godhead that is as monad, and subsists as triad. If, hearing of movement, you wonder how the Godhead that is beyond infinity is moved, understand that what happens is happening to us and not to the Godhead. For first we are illuminated with the reason for its being, then we are enlightened about the mode7 in which it subsists, for we always understand that something is before we understand how it is. Therefore movement of the Godhead is constituted by the knowledge about the fact that it is and how it subsists that comes about through revelation that to those who receive it.
In the letter from Saint Denys the Areopagite to Gaius the monk:
How, you ask, is Jesus, who is beyond everything, ranked together with all human beings at the level of being? For here he is not called a man as the cause of humankind but as one who is himself in his whole being truly a man.2
Since, according to the simple interpretation of Holy
Scripture, God as the cause of all is designated by the names 1048A of everything that he has produced, and again after the Incarnation is only in this mode3 called man, the great Denys corrects the monk Gaius with these words, teaching that the God of all, as Incarnate, is not simply said to be man, but is himself truly a man in the whole of his being. The sole, true proof of this is its natural constitutive power, and one would not err from the truth in calling this a natural energy properly and primarily characteristic of it, being a form-enduing movement that contains every property that is naturally added to it, apart from which there is only non-being, since, according to this great teacher, only that which in no way is is
B without movement or existence.4 Most clearly therefore he teaches that God Incarnate is to be denied nothing at all of what is ours, apart from sin (which does not belong to nature), and that he is expressly called not simply a man, but himself truly a man in all his being. He [Denys] contends in what follows5 that to be called onewho exists humanly is properly his, saying, ‘We do not confine our definition of Jesus to the human plane’, since we do not decree that he is a mere man, severing the union that transcends thought. For we use the name human being of the One who is God by nature and who truly shared our being in an essential way, not simply because he is the cause of humankind. For he is not man only, because he is also God himself, ‘nor beyond being only’, because he is
C also himself a man, if there exists neither mere man nor bare God, ‘but one who is in different ways truly man and the lover of man’. For out of his infinite longing for humankind he has himself become by nature that for which he longed, neither suffering anything in his own nature in his inexpressible selfemptying, nor changing anything of what is human through his ineffable assumption,6 nor in any way diminishing nature, which the Word properly supports as constituting it. ‘Beyond what is human’, because divinely [conceived] without a man, ‘in accordance with the human’, because humanly [conceived] after the law of child-birth. ‘The one beyond being assumed being from the being of humankind’, for he did not appear to us simply in the mere form of flesh, in accordance with the silly tales of the Manichees,7 nor did he come down
D from heaven to share being with the flesh, after the Apollinarian myths,8 but he himself became truly a man in the whole of his being, by the assumption of flesh endowed with an intelligent soul, and united himself to it [sc. human nature] hypostatically.
‘The one who is eternally beyond being is not less overflowing with transcendent being’: for having become man he is not subject to nature, rather on the contrary he raises up
1049A nature to himself, making it another mystery, for he himself remains completely incomprehensible, and shows his own Incarnation, which has been granted a generation beyond being, to be more incomprehensible than any mystery. The more he becomes comprehensible through it, so much the more through it is he known to be incomprehensible. ‘For he is hidden after his revelation,’ the teacher says, ‘or, to speak more divinely, also in his revelation. And this mystery of Jesus in itself remains hidden, and can be drawn out by no reason, by no intellect, but when spoken of it remains ineffable, and when understood unknown.’9 What could do more to demonstrate the proof of the divine transcendence of being than this: revelation shows that it is hidden, reason that it is unspeakable, and intellect that it is transcendently unknowable, and further, its assumption of being that it is
B beyond being? ‘And certainly with an abundance of it [sc. transcendence of being] and truly coming into being it assumes being beyond being’: clearly he ‘institutes afresh’10 the laws of his natural generation and specifically without male seed he truly became a human being. And the Virgin declares this when she conceives him in a way that transcends nature and the Word who is beyond being is humanly formed without a man from her virginal blood by a strange ordinance contrary to nature. ‘And he performs human activities in a way beyond the human’: dispassionately instituting afresh the nature of the elements by degrees. For clearly water is unstable, and cannot receive or support material and earthly feet, but by a power beyond nature it is constituted as unyielding. If then with unmoistened feet, which have bodily bulk and the weight of matter, he traversed the wet and
C unstable substance, walking on the sea as on a pavement, he shows through this crossing that the natural energy of his own flesh is inseparable from the power of his divinity.11 For the movement that can make such a crossing is constituted by a nature belonging to no-one else than the Godhead, that is beyond infinity and being, united to it hypostatically. For the Word beyond being who once assumed being humanly possessed undiminished, as his own, the movement that characterizes him generically as a human being, naturally specified in everything he performs as man. Since he has truly
become man, he breathes, speaks, walks, moves his hands, D uses his senses naturally in the perception of things sensible, is hungry, thirsty, eats, sleeps, is tired, weeps, is distressed, and possesses every other independent capacity and, in every other respect in the mode of a soul that with its own energy moves the body that forms one nature that has truly become and is called his own, or to speak properly, without change he has become whatever nature was needed to fulfil in reality the economy for our sake. Therefore he did not abrogate the 1052A constitutive energy of the assumed nature, nor does the teacher support such a notion when he says, ‘he assumed being in a mode beyond being, and performed human activities in a way beyond the human’, but he shows in both the newness of the modes [tropoi] preserved in the constancy of the natural logoi, without which no being is what it is. And if we say that the transcendent negation12 entails the affirmation of the assumed nature but the destruction of this [sc. the human] constitutive energy, by what reason do we show that the same thing equally affirmed of both [natures], in respect of existence, entails destruction in respect of this [sc., the human nature]? And again if the assumed nature is not self-moved, since it is moved by the Godhead that has been truly united to it hypostatically, and we do not take away its constitutive movement, neither may we confess the same nature to be
B manifest as an independent hypostasis, that is by itself, but as receiving being in the very God the Word that has in truth assumed its being.13 And since with both [natures] we have the same reason for refusal, we confess together with the nature the movement, without which there is no nature, knowing that the logos of existence is one thing, and the mode in which it exists another, convinced that one is a matter of nature, the other a matter of the economy. The coming together of these [natures] makes the great mystery of the nature [physiologia] of Jesus who is beyond nature, and shows that in this the difference and the union of the energies are preserved, the one beheld without division in the natural logos of what has been united, and the other acknowledged without confusion in the monadic mode of what has come to pass.14 For why, where or how could nature come to be bereft of its
C constitutive power? For this great teacher says that ‘what completely lacks power neither is, nor is something, nor is there any kind of affirmation concerning it’.15 It follows then that it is necessary reverently to confess the natures of Christ, of which he is the hypostasis, and his natural energies, of which he is the true union in respect of both of the natures, since he acts by himself congruently, monadically, even as with a single form, and in everything displays without separation the energy of his own flesh together with the divine power. How can the same be by nature God and again by nature man without having unfailingly what belongs to both by nature? How can it be known what and who he is, unless it
D is guaranteed by what the One who is unchangeable performs naturally? How is it guaranteed in respect of one of the natures, from which and in which and which he is,16 that he remains unmoved and inactive? Beyond being, therefore, he has assumed being, having fashioned a beginning of generation and another beginning of birth by nature, having been conceived by the seed of his own flesh, having been born and in his birth becoming the seal of virginity, and showing that the contradiction of what cannot be mixed is true in his case. For the same person is both virgin and mother, instituting nature afresh by bringing together what is
1053A opposed, since virginity and giving birth are opposed, and no-one would have thought that naturally they could be combined. Therefore the virgin is truly the Mother of God,17 conceiving without seed in a way beyond nature, and giving birth to the Word beyond being, since one who gave birth to one engendered and conceived is properly mother.
B And he does human things in a way transcending the human, showing, in accordance with the closest union, the human energy united without change to the divine power, since the [human] nature, united without confusion to [the divine] nature, is completely interpenetrated, and in no way annulled, nor separated from the Godhead hypostatically united to it. For the Word beyond being truly assumed our being for our sake and joined together the transcendent negation with the affirmation of nature and what is natural to it, and became man, having linked together the way of being that is beyond nature with the logos of being of nature, that he might confirm the [human] nature in its new modes of being without there being any change in its logos, and make known
C the power that transcends infinity, recognized as such in the coming to be of opposites. And by the authority of his intention18 he made what we suffer something positive, but not as if we were the results of natural necessity, and again, working within what we are capable of, he passes through what we suffer by nature, and by the authority of his intention he shows that what we can naturally move by our intention is moved by himself. This the teacher makes plain in what follows when he says, ‘And who could go through all the rest? One who looks through them divinely in a way that transcends the intellect will know that the affirmations concerning Jesus’ love for humankind have the power of transcendent negations.’ For when the Word beyond being, in accordance with his ineffable conception, put on with the [human] nature everything that belongs to [human] nature, he possessed no human affirmation in accordance with natural reason, which was not also divine, negated in a mode beyond nature. The knowledge of these
D things exists beyond the intellect as indemonstrable, its only conviction being the faith of those who sincerely worship the mystery of Christ. And giving, as it were, the comprehensive meaning of this, he says, ‘For, to speak briefly, he was not human’, because he was free by nature of every natural necessity, since he did not owe his existence to the ordinance of generation that holds with us; ‘nor was he non-human’, because he was in the whole of his being truly human, not lacking by nature anything that is natural to us; ‘but coming from humanity’, since he was consubstantial with us, being human by nature as we are; ‘transcending the human’,
1056A circumscribing our nature by fresh ways of being, which are not ours; ‘in a way beyond the human he truly became human’, possessing unimpaired ways of being beyond nature and logoi of being in accordance with nature, he united them one with another. Their coming together would have been inconceivable, had not he, to whom nothing is inconceivable, become the true union, not acting through either of the natures of which he was the hypostasis separately from the other, but rather confirming each through the other. Since in truth he was both, he existed as God moving his own humanity, and as man revealing his own Godhead. Divinely, if I may so speak, he experienced suffering, for he suffered willingly, since he was not a mere man, and humanly he performed wonders, for he did them through the flesh, since he was not naked God. As his sufferings were wonderful, since
B they had become new through the natural divine power of the One who suffered, so were his wonders suffered, since they were fulfilled through the natural suffering power of the flesh of the One who worked these wonders. Knowing this, the teacher said, ‘Furthermore, the divine things did not take place divinely’, because they did not take place in a solely divine way, as if separated from the flesh, for he was not simply beyond being; nor did he do ‘human things humanly’, because they did not take place in a solely fleshly way, as if separated from the Godhead, for he was not only a man; ‘but as God made man he exercised a certain new “theandric”19 energy amongst us’. For by the assumption of flesh endowed with an intellectual soul, he truly became man, he who was in a different way the lover of humankind, and as man he possessed the divine energy united to the fleshly in an ineffable union, and fulfilled the economy for our sake
C theandrically, accomplishing both divinely things, or to speak more plainly, exercising the divine and human energy in the same [person].
Therefore when the wise man makes affirmation of the union by negation of the division between the divine and human [properties], he does not ignore the natural difference between what has been united. For the union, in refusing division, does not harm the difference. If the mode of union
D preserves the logos of the difference, to draw out the meaning of the words of the saint, then since Christ has a double appellation corresponding to his nature, it is clear that he has a double energy, if the essential logos of what has been united in the union has not been diminished in any way in essence or in quality. But it is not as if, by the negation of the extremities brought together in the union, there is made an affirmation of something intermediate. For Christ is not some intermediate being, affirmed by the negation of the extremities. For there is a ‘certain new’ thing, characteristic of the new mystery, the
1057A logos of which is the ineffable mode of the coming together. For who knows how God assumes flesh and yet remains God, how, remaining true God, he is true man, showing himself truly both in his natural existence, and each through the other, and yet changing neither? Faith alone can grasp these things, honouring in silence the Word, to whose nature no logos from the realm of being corresponds. ‘Theandric’, then, not simply, nor as some composite thing, consisting simply neither of the naked Godhead by nature, nor of mere humanity, nor being a composite nature, a kind of borderland between two extremes, but most naturally existing as God made man, that is as perfectly Incarnate. Nor again is this ‘new’ to be thought of as ‘single’,20 nor as a ‘single capacity’; for this ‘newness’ is not a matter of quality or quantity, since the definition of every
B nature is constituted by the logos of its essential energy, which is not double, like the griffin21 celebrated in myths. Given this, how could such a being, with one energy, and that a natural energy, have accomplished by this the wonders and the suffering, which differ one from another by the logos of their nature, without experiencing deprivation through the atrophy of one part or other of its permanent condition? For no being held together by the definition and logos of its nature can perform what is opposed to one and the same energy. Therefore it is not permitted to say that there is simply one natural energy of Godhead and flesh in Christ, since Godhead and flesh are not the same in natural quality. It would be to say that there was one nature, and the triad would become a foursome. For neither by nature, nor by power, nor by energy, has the Godhead become the same, they say, as the flesh. For the Son is the same as the Father and the Spirit through their single nature, but it is not in virtue of that that he has become the same as the flesh through union, and made life-giving through union with him that which by nature is mortal. For he would be shown as existing in a changeable nature, if he changed the essence of flesh into what it is not, and made the union the same by nature. But let us think about the theandric energy as it has been explained. For he lives out this energy not for himself but for our sake and renews nature so that we can transcend nature. For his way of life is a life led subject to the law of nature. For since the Lord is double in nature, it is appropriate that he is manifest having a life corresponding both to divine and human laws, welded together without confusion to become the same. This life is also new, not simply as strange and astounding to those on earth, and so distinguished from the nature of the things that exist, but also characteristic of the new energy of the life newly lived. And perhaps the one who understood used the appellation ‘theandric’, as appropriate to this mystery, so that he might make plain the mode of exchange that accords with the ineffable union, that makes whatever naturally belongs to each part of Christ interchangeable with the other, without changing and distorting each part into the other at the level of the logos of nature. For it is just like the way the cutting- edge of a sword plunged in fire becomes burning hot and the heat acquires a cutting-edge (for just as the fire is united to the iron, so also is the burning heat of the fire to the cutting- edge of the iron, and the iron becomes burning hot by its union with the fire, and the fire acquires a cutting-edge by union with the iron). Neither suffers any change by the exchange with the other in union, but each remains unchanged in its own being as it acquires the property of its partner in union.
So also in the mystery of the divine Incarnation:22 the Godhead and the humanity are united hypostatically, but neither of the natural energies is displaced by the union, nor
B are they unrelated to each other after the union, but they are distinguished in their conjuncture and embrace. For by the active power of his own Godhead, the Word made flesh, possessing the whole power of his humanity, with all its openness to suffering, quite unimpaired by the union, being humanly God, performs wonders, accomplished through the flesh that is passible by nature, and being divinely man, he undergoes the sufferings of nature, making them perfect by divine authority. Or rather in both he acts theandrically, being at the same time both God and man, sufferings showing that he is what we have become, and by performing wonders demonstrating to us what we are to become, and by both confirming the truth of those things from which and in which and which he is, as the only true and faithful One, who wishes
C to be confessed as such by us. Having this One who has taken form, O those made holy by word and life, let us imitate his long-suffering.
Take this present writing,23 and show me that you are kind judges of what is contained in it, overcoming with sympathy the slips of your child, who presents this to you only as a work of obedience. Be mediators for me of the reconciliation with Him, creating the peace that passes all understanding (Phil. 4: 7). Of this peace the prince24 is the Saviour himself who frees those who fear him from the trouble of the passions through the endurance of ascetic struggle, and the Father of the age to come, who begets in the Spirit through love and knowledge those who will fill the upper world. To him be glory, majesty and might, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, to the ages.
From the same sermon:
If therefore it happens to anyone that, passing by means of reason and contemplation through matter and the fleshly, whether called cloud or veil, to become assimilated to God and united to the most pure light, so far as is permitted to
D human nature, this person is blessed by his ascent from here and his deification there, which is granted to those who genuinely live the philosophical life and transcend the material dyad through the unity the mind perceives in the Trinity.
I do not think that I possess defectively the word of the teacher handed down about the virtue of the Saints, and if, as you wrote, there are some who think this, saying that the divine philosophy belongs to those who pass over by reason and contemplation alone without ascetic struggle, I on the contrary dare to define as solely the truly fully satisfactory philosophy that true judgment concerning reality and activity, supported by ascetic struggle, or rather I undertake to introduce reason, manifested as correcting [philosophy] by reason and contemplation, as ascetic struggle is certainly connected to reason, and the judgment it involves embraced by contemplation. For the movement of the body is ordered by reason, which by correct thinking restrains, as by a bridle,
B any turning aside towards what is out of place, and the rational and sensible choice of what is thought and judged is reckoned to contemplation, like a most radiant light manifesting truth itself through true knowledge. By these two especially every philosophical virtue is created and protected and by them is manifest through the body, though not wholly. For philosophy is not limited by a body, since it has the character of divine power, but it has certain shadowy reflections, in those who have been stripped through the grace of philosophy to become imitators of the godlike conduct of God-loving men. Through participation in the Good they too have put off the shamefulness of evil to become worthy of being portions of God, through assistance they needed from those empowered, and having received it they make manifest
C in the body through ascetic struggle the virtuous disposition that is hidden in the depth of the soul. So they become all things to all men and in all things make present to all the providence of God, and thus are a credit to the God-loving men. If there were no-one who needed to suffer or stood in need of an example to show him what virtue was, everyone would be completely sufficient for himself and arrayed with the graces of the virtues in his soul. But it is not absurd to say that this is not the case apart from such virtues being demonstrated manifestly through the body. He who acquires comprehension devoutly through contemplation, it is as if he possessed reality, with a rational will defining the reason of things accurately and correctly, keeping the judgment for himself, or rather keeping himself unimpaired in judgment. For he con- D ceives virtue as a whole, and following the truth brought to knowledge is moved towards nothing else. In zeal he passes beyond everything else, accomplishing the absolute meaning [logos] of none of those things that belong to the flesh or the world, since he has already within effortlessly embraced by reason the ascetic struggle that among us belongs to the mind. In this he bears all the excellent and dispassionate meanings [of things], in accordance with which all virtue and knowledge is and consists, as powers of the rational soul, which are not wholly there for the body’s sake, nor do they disown the 1109A purpose of manifesting the causes already mentioned at the proper time. For they say5 that to the mind belong the understandings of things intelligible, the virtues, the capacity of knowledge, the art of discourse, choice, will, and in general judgments, assents, excuses, impulses, and whatever belongs solely to intellectual contemplation, as well as what belongs to the rational power of knowing. If the Saints keep their own lives guarded with these, then this blessed man with comprehension, through reason and contemplation, was introduced to everything rational in accordance with virtue and knowledge that he has received from the Saints. They devoted themselves sensibly and with knowledge to the understanding of God. In accordance with reason, through the
B virtues, they form in contemplation a conception of the divine form for themselves. They did not think that it was necessary to name ascetic struggle in the body, for they knew that it does not create virtue, but simply manifests it, and is the servant only of divine conceptions and thoughts. Perhaps this can be made clear in another way:6 those who concern themselves with what is real for us and pursue with precision the meanings of what is rational say that the rational is either contemplative or practical. The contemplative is what is in accordance with the intellect and possesses reality, while the practical is a matter of will, defining the right reason among things to be done. They call the contemplative intellect, the practical reason, the contemplative wisdom, the practical sagacity. If this is true, practice is fundamentally concerned with what is probable, and the teacher does not name the
C meaning sought from the underlying reality but calls it a habit having nothing opposed to it. For the contemplative cleaves to truths rationally and with knowledge, not with effort and struggle, and apart from these he refuses to see anything else because of the pleasure that he has in them. If it is necessary to make this plainer in another way, again those who have exercised themselves in the reasons of the perfection of virtue say that those who have not yet become pure, sharing in matter through their relation to it, and busying themselves with practical things, still having their judgment of reality mixed up with them, are changeable, for they have not yet relinquished their relationship to what is changeable. Those who have been drawn into the closest possible relationship to God, and through understanding of Him have born the fruit of blessedness, and are turned towards themselves alone and
D God, have completely withdrawn from the bonds of practical activity and matter by a sincere breaking with material relationships, and adapted themselves to contemplation and to God. Therefore, they say, they remain changeless, no longer having any relationship with the material. For one who is ruled by matter necessarily comes to change in a way contrary to nature along with matter which is itself naturally
1112A changeable. Seeing that great power is needed for the renunciation of material inclination on the part of one who wishes to be freed from it, the teacher says, ‘To whomever therefore it happens that, passing by means of reason and contemplation through matter and the fleshly, whether it is to be called cloud or veil, to become assimilated to God, etc.’
On the cloud and the veil
Why does the teacher say that the flesh is a cloud and a veil? He knows that every human mind has gone astray and lost its natural motion, so that its motion is determined by passion and sense and things perceived by the senses, and it cannot be moved anywhere else as its natural motion towards God has completely atrophied. He therefore divides the flesh into passion and sense, designating these two parts of the ensouled flesh cloud and veil. For the cloud is the fleshly passion darkening the pilot of the soul, and the veil is the deceit of the senses, causing the soul to be overcome by the appearance of things perceived by the senses, and blocking the passage to intelligible reality, through which it is overcome by forgetfulness of natural goodness and turns all its energy to sensible things and also discovers in this way angry passions, desires and unseemly pleasures.
Every forbidden pleasure has come to be through passion aroused through the senses by some object of sense. For pleasure is nothing else than a kind of feeling formed in the sense organ by something perceived through the senses, or a form of sensible energy constituted by an irrational desire. For desire added to sensual feeling changes into pleasure, giving it a shape, and sensual feeling moved by desire produces pleasure when it is applied to some object of sense. The Saints therefore know that the soul, when it is moved contrary to nature through the means of flesh towards matter, is clothed in an earthly form, but when, in contrast, it is moved naturally by means of the soul towards God, they are disposed to adapt the flesh in a seemly way to God, through the ascetic practice of the virtues adorning [the soul], as far as possible, with divine splendours.
On the motions of the soul
[The Fathers,] illuminated by grace, [teach] that the soul has three kinds of motions7 that converge into one: that of the mind, that of reason, and that of sense. The [first] is a simple and inexplicable motion, according to which the soul, moved in an unknowable way close to God, knows Him in a transcendent way that has nothing to do with any of the things that exist. The [second] is motion in accordance with the defining cause of something unknown, according to which, moved naturally, the soul applies its powers of knowing to all the natural reasons of those things that are known only with reference to cause,8 which are the forms. The [third] is composite motion, according to which, affected by things outside as by certain symbols of things seen, the soul gains for itself some impression of the meaning of things. In a noble manner, by these [motions] [the Fathers] pass beyond this present age of trials in accordance with the true and immutable form of [each] natural motion, so that they make sense, which possesses the spiritual reasons of things perceived through the senses, ascend by means of reason up to mind, and, in a singular way, they unite reason, which possesses the meanings of beings, to mind in accordance with one, simple and undivided sagacity. Thus they raise the mind, freed and pure of any motion around any existing thing and at rest in its own natural activity, to God, so that in this way it is wholly gathered to God, and made wholly worthy through the Spirit of being united with the whole Godhead, for it bears the whole image of the heavenly, so far as is humanly possible, and draws down the divine splendour to such a degree, if it is permitted to say this, that it is drawn to God and united with Him. For they say that God and man are paradigms one of another, that as much as God is humanized to man through love for mankind,9 so much is man able to be deified to God through love, and that as much as man is caught up by God to what is known in his mind, so much does man manifest God, who is invisible by nature, through the virtues. By this philosophy consisting of both reason and contemplation, according to which the nature of the body is necessarily ennobled, the Saints, turning unerringly with a yearning for God, worthily draw near to God through natural reflections of the divine indwelling in them, holding apart body and the world in ascetic struggle, beholding these things that contain each other, the one by nature, the other by perceiving it, and subordinating the one to the other, by such properties according to which one fits into the other, neither of them, by its own nature, being free from circumscription, and leading what is shameful in the soul to be corrupted and circum scribed by the mortal and circumscribed, while binding indissolubly the immortal and ever-moving to the only immortal God, who transcends every infinity, in no way surrendering to the contrary motions of the world and the flesh. This is the fulness of all virtue and knowledge, indeed I would say that it is its end. But if, however, the Saints are moved by visions of beings, they are not moved, as with us, in a material way principally to behold and know those things, but in order to praise in many ways God, who is and appears through all things and in all things, and to gather together for themselves every capacity for wonder and reason for glorying. For having received from God a soul having mind and reason and sense, so that it can range from the sensible to the intelligible, just as reason ranges from what is inward to what is expressed, and mind takes that which is capable of feeling into the realm of the intelligible, it is necessary that they should think about the activities of these, so as to apply them not to their own purposes, but to God. (That which is capable of feeling is what they call the imagination of the living being. For living things know themselves and us and the places where they dwell, and the wise say that such things constitute a sense, imagination being the organ by which it can be receptive of what it imagines.) Instructed by an accurate knowledge of the nature of things, we learn that there are
B three general ways, accessible to human beings, in which God has made all things—for giving us existence He has constituted it as being, well being and eternal being—and the two ways of being at the extremes are God’s alone, as the cause, while the other one in the middle, depending on our inclination10 and motion, through itself makes the extremes what they are, properly speaking, for if the middle term is not present and ‘well’ is not added, the extremes are designated in vain, and the truth that is in the extremes cannot otherwise accrue to them or be preserved, or even come to be, if the well being in the middle is not mixed in with the extremes, or rather intended by eternal movement towards God. And then
C they are to intensify the soul’s sight by natural reason, for it is wrong to invert the natural activities, because the abuse of natural powers necessarily signifies corruption. Hearing reason crying out directly, they are taught by appropriate natural reason to be borne towards [the soul’s] cause, that thence for them being may simply be, and that they may receive the addition of true being. For those who think about these things fairly say, why should the gain be to that cause that does not cause itself at the level of being but is moved towards itself or another by God, when nothing is able to procure from itself or from any other than God anything for the meaning of its existence? Therefore they teach the mind to
D concern itself with God alone and His virtues, and to cast itself with unknowing into the ineffable glory of His blessedness; reason to become the interpreter of things intelligible and a singer of hymns, and to reason rightly about the forms that bring things to unity; sense ennobled by reason to imagine the different powers and activities in the universe and to communicate, so far as possible, the meanings that are in beings to the soul. With this teaching through mind and reason, they are to guide the soul wisely, like a ship, so that it passes dryshod11 along this life’s path, which is fluid and
unstable, borne this way and that and swamped by the senses.
On the crossing of the sea12
Thus, perhaps, that great man, Moses, by a blow of all- powerful reason, symbolized doubtless by the rod, drove through the deceit of the senses, symbolized by the sea—or, perhaps better, circumvented it—and provided for the people, who were eagerly pursuing the divine promises, a firm and unshakeable land under their feet. In this way he showed, I think, that the nature that is beneath the senses can be contemplated and easily described by right reason, and, to the life that is adorned by the virtues, is accessible and easy to cross and presents no danger to those who cross it thus from the seething impulses of the divided waters on either side, and their obscuring effect. If the break-up of mutual, rational coherence by evils, opposed to the virtues by lack or B excess, is what sublime reason discerns in the waters of the intelligible sea, then the one who cleaves to them [sc. evils] in his heart will in no way be allowed to be united with those who are hastening earnestly after God.
Contemplation of Moses on the mountain13
So again Moses followed God who called him, and, passing beyond everything here below, entered into the cloud, where God was,14 that is, into the formless, invisible and bodiless state, with a mind free from any relationship to anything other than God. Having come into this state, in so far as human nature is worthy of it, he receives, as a worthy prize for that blessed ascent, knowledge encompassing the genesis of
C time and nature, and, having made God Himself the type and paradigm of the virtues, he modelled himself on Him, like a picture preserving beautifully the copy of the archetype, and came down the mountain. Because of his participation in glory, his face shone with grace to all men, so that having himself become a figure of the Godlike figure, he gave and displayed without envy, and he did this by expounding to the people what he had seen and heard, and handing on to those with him in writing the mysteries of God as a kind of divinely- given inheritance.
Contemplation of the dough of the unleavened loaves15
So the people, when they were led out of Egypt by Moses, took the dough needed for their food into the desert. For it is necessary, I think, to guard the power of reason within us pure and unharmed from entanglement with things perceived by the senses. He taught them then to flee the realm of the senses, and to journey hiddenly to the intelligible world, so that through virtue and knowledge they might already in inclination become what through hope we believe is the destiny of those who are worthy in the world of incorruption.
Contemplation of the crossing of the Jordan16
D So Jesus,17 Moses’ successor—to pass over for the sake of the people most of the things that are told about him—took on a people who, in the desert, had been educated to piety in many ways. After Moses’ death, he sanctified them by a strange form of circumcision with swords of stone,18 and led all the people dryfoot across the Jordan which had dried up at the approach of the ark. In this he clearly prefigures the Saviour, the Word,
1120A who after the death of the letter of the legal ordinances receives the leadership of the true Israel that sees God19 to take them up to the heights of intelligible reality. By circumcising them by the sharpest word [reason] of faith in Him from every defilement of soul and body, and freeing them from all the reproaches of those who incite to sin, He causes the unstable nature of time and moving things to pass to the state of the bodiless beings, and held floating on the shoulders of the virtues the knowledge that is able to receive the divine mysteries.
Contemplation of fall of Jericho20
B So again by seven encirclements and as many trumpets he [Jesus, son of Navê] threw down with a secret shout the city of Jericho which was difficult to conquer or even unconquerable. In this he secretly pointed to the very Word of God, as conqueror of the world and perfecter of the age, by mind and reason, as well as knowledge and virtue. Of this the ark and the trumpets are types, and to those who follow him the realm of the senses is shown to be easily conquered and overcome, containing nothing fit for the delight of those who love what is divine, since it is joined to death and corruption and a cause of divine anger. And Achar,21 the son of Charmi, shows how troubling trains of thought that love the material, besides establishing within something of the sensible realm, draw down that pitiable death according to the divine decree, which
C reason works in the depths of the wicked conscience, strangling any worthy of such vengeance.
Contemplation of the fall of Tyre
So again, as it is written, at that time he [Jesus] seized Assor22 and killed its king with the sword, destroying every living thing in it, which formerly had been the ruler of all the regions (Jos. 11:10), it is taught what mysteries are set before us in these words. Our true Saviour, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has destroyed the wicked powers and given to those worthy the inheritance of grace, since in the time of His Incarnation He seized sin through the cross and killed its king, the devil, by
D the word of his power (for sin had ruled over all from the beginning), and destroyed every living thing belonging to it, that is the passions that are within us, and the shameful and wicked thoughts connected with them, in order that sin might no longer in any way influence the life and movement of those who are Christ’s and live in accordance with Him.
B So again: My father and my mother forsake me, but the Lord receives me. This says that the judgment according to the senses of the natural, fleshly law of change and corruption, according to which we are all begotten and continue in being through transgression, and of the mother who gave us birth, are for those who secretly desire incorruptible reality
Contemplation of: The heavens declare the glory
of God (Psa. 18:1)
So David, who was after the Judges in time, though their contemporary in the spirit—if I may pass over the Judges whose lives contain many mysteries—heard the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament proclaim itself the work of his hands (a miracle! as the Creator placed no soul in them23). He thus received theological understandings [logoi] of the mind from what he heard from beings without soul, and of providence and judgment24 from its full completion, so far as it is permitted for humans, and was taught, without attaining understanding, the ways in which the arrangement of the universe is various in its parts.
Contemplation of: My father and my mother forsake me (Psa. 26:10) necessarily to be interpreted, I think, as deficiency and a means of escape. By these the visible world is passed by and abandoned, and the Lord receives those worthy of the spiritual law of adoption, and becomes their adopted father, and in his goodness concedes all of what He is wholly to these according to the likeness through virtue and knowledge. Or perhaps
C through father and mother the written law and the bodily worship that it commends are hinted at, by retreat from which the light of the spiritual law is made to dawn in the hearts of those who are worthy, and they are given freedom from the slavery of the law.
Contemplation of Elijah’s vision at Horeb25
So Elijah is shown to be most wise after the fire and the earthquake and the wind that rent the mountains, which I take to be zeal, and discernment, and an eager, assured faith. For discernment utterly alters the ingrained habit of evil, assaulting it through virtue, like an earthquake breaking up what is held together. And zeal, burning like fire, enkindles
D those who have it to persuade the wicked by the warmth of the spirit. And faith, in the form of a compelling wind, forces the insensible to purification for the sake of God’s glory through demonstration of the most lasting miracles and gives the truly faithful man guidance through hidden water and deifying
1124A fire. By it the famine of ignorance is cured, and those who sacrifice to God by custom are kindly dealt with. By it the teachers of evil—the trains of thought and the demons of sophistry —are put to death, and those under the slavery of the passions set free. After all these, by the gentle breeze, the voice in which God existed, Elijah was secretly taught that state of being, beyond any speech or demonstration, which is, by the utterance of reason and by forms of life and conduct, divine, untroubled, peaceful, completely immaterial, simple and free from every shape or form. Therefore, wondering at its glory and wounded by its beauty, he longs to emulate it rather than just pursue it, that is to fight for truth’s sake everything that is opposed to it, and judges it much more honourable to see or know nothing that is opposed to the only God who is
B wholly through all and in all. While still in the flesh, he is preserved in that state, passing through matter by the divine chariot26 of the virtues, treating it as a veil through which the mind finds a pure passage to the intelligible realm, and finding the flesh [simply] a cloud, darkening through its passions the pilot of the soul, so that he might become a partaker of those ineffable things that he desires, so far as that is possible to one still bound to flesh subject to corruption, and become a firm assurance for us of those things that are promised. For through all these things that with a secret meaning were wordlessly enacted, God cries out, setting this before him, that to be with God alone in peace is more profitable that any other good.
C 13 Contemplation of Elisha27
So Elijah’s disciple and spiritual successor, Elisha, no longer possessed senses that were controlled in their activity by material imaginations, but he had already passed to the graces of the Spirit in the mind. For he saw around him the divine powers opposed to the wicked powers with another activity of his eyes and was able to grant his companion to see that this power was stronger than weakness, that is, the flesh, by means of which the spirits of wickedness invade the clear- sighted mind, and even more possess the soul, around which the phalanxes of angels pitch their camps and lay siege to the royal image.28 All this he both was taught and taught to others.
Contemplation of Anna and Samuel
So the blessed Anna, the mother of the great Samuel, being barren and childless, asked God for the fruit of the womb, and fervently promised to give back to God who had given it the baby she was to be given by making him a servant in the temple. The secret teaching of this is that every soul must be barren of fleshly pleasures through being sown by God with the seeds of virtue, so that, conceiving in the mind and giving birth to reason obedient to God, it might be able to bring forth the power to see with knowledge what is in front of it, through a religious attention to contemplation. So that judging nothing its own, as a great and precious obligation, everything is referred to God who gives and receives. As it says in the law, My gifts, my presents, my offering of fruit, take care to offer to me (Num. 28:2), since every good thing originates from Him and is destined for Him. For the Word of God belongs to those who have denied the movements of the flesh and set aside the soul’s inclination towards them, and are filled with all true power of discernment.
Contemplation of the unclean house30
For when I hear about the priest who, according to the legal
B dispensation, enters into a house that is unclean in any way, and demands what is necessary for the purification of the possessions, I think that this signifies reason, the high priest, entering into the soul after the manner of the purest light, and uncovering the polluted wishes and thoughts and the blameworthy acts, and wisely proposing the ways of conversion and purification. And that is, I think, more clearly signified by the woman who received the great prophet, Elisha, saying, Man of God, you have come to me to remind me of my
wrongdoings (3 Kgd 17:18).
Contemplation of Elisha and the widow of Sarepta31
C For every soul, widowed of good things and become a desert of virtue and knowledge of God, when it receives divine reason, powerful in discernment, comes to knowledge of its sins and is taught how with loaves of virtue to support the nourishing word, and to give the fountain of life to drink with the dogmas of truth, and to prefer care for reality to reality itself. In this way the stone vessel of flesh will minister to the practical harmony of the virtues, and the basket of the mind will continually flow with contemplation that carefully preserves the light of knowledge, and natural reason, like the son of the widow, will put aside the former life bound up with the passions and be made worthy to become a partaker of the divine and true life that is reason’s gift.
Contemplation of the Transfiguration of the
So also we read that it happened to certain of Christ’s disciples that together with Him they ascended and were lifted up by Him to the mountain of His manifestation because of their diligence in virtue. There they beheld Him transfigured, unapproachable because of the light of his face, were amazed at the brightness of his clothes and, in the honour shown Him by Moses and Elijah who were with Him on either side, they recognized his great awesomeness. And they passed over from
1128A flesh to spirit, before they had put aside this fleshly life, by the change in their powers of sense that the Spirit worked in them, lifting the veils of the passions from the intellectual activity that was in them. Then, having both their bodily and the spiritual senses purified, they were taught the spiritual meanings [logoi] of the mysteries that were shown to them. They were taught hiddenly that the allblessed radiance that shone resplendently from his face, as it overpowered the sight of the eyes, was a symbol of His divinity that transcends mind and sense and being and knowledge. He had neither form nor beauty,33 but they knew him as the Word become flesh, and thus were led to regard him as fair with beauty beyond the sons of men,34 and to understand that He is the One who was
B in the beginning, and was with God and was God,35 and through a theological denial36 that praises Him as being completely uncontained, they were led contemplatively to the glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.37 The whitened garments conveyed a symbol of the words of Holy Scripture, which in this case became shining and clear and limpid to them, and were grasped by the mind without any riddling puzzle or symbolic shadow, revealing the meaning that lay hidden within them. Thus they arrived at a clear and correct understanding concerning God, and were set free from every attachment to the world and the flesh. Or [the garments can be understood as a symbol] of creation itself, which a base presumption regards in a limited way as delivered to the deceiving senses alone, but which can be
C understood, through the wise variety of the various forms that it contains, on the analogy of a garment, to be the worthy power of the generative Word who wears it. For in both cases what is said is accommodated to the meaning, so that in both cases it can be veiled from us because of its obscurity, lest we dare unworthily to apply it to what is beyond comprehension, whether, in the case of the written Holy Scripture, to the One revealed as the Word or, in the case of creation, to the One revealed as Creator and maker and fashioner. Whence in both cases I think it necessarily follows that anyone who wishes may live an upright and blameless life with God, whether through scriptural understanding in the Spirit, or through the natural contemplation of reality in accordance with the Spirit. So the D two laws—both the natural law and the written law—are of equal honour and teach the same things; neither is greater or less than the other, which shows, as is right, that the lover of perfect wisdom may become the one who desires wisdom
Contemplation of the natural and the written
Now the law is best understood rationally by paying attention to the different things contained in it so that one sees the harmonious web of the whole. In this way it is seen to be something like a book. For a book has letters and syllables, the first things that come to our attention, connected together but individual, and condensing many properties by bringing them together; it also has words, which are more universal than these, being higher and more subtle, out of which meaning, that wisely divides and is ineffably inscribed in them, is read and perfected, and provides a concept that is unique or of however many forms, and through the reverent combination of different imaginings draws them into one likeness of the true. In an analogous way the author of existence gives himself to be beheld through visible things. [But the law] can be regarded as a form of teaching: in accordance with this wise suggestion, it seems to me to be, as it were, another universe [cosmos] made up of heaven and earth and what is in the middle, consisting of ethical, natural and theological philosophy,39
B thus displaying the ineffable power of the one who sets it down. This [law?] shows different things to be the same by fitting one into another—so the written law is potentially the natural and the natural law is habitually the written, so the same meaning is indicated and revealed, in one case through writing and what is manifest, in the other case by what is understood and concealed.40 So the words of the Holy Scripture are said to be garments, and the concepts understood to be flesh of the Word, in one case we reveal, in the other we conceal. So we call garments the forms and shapes in which those things that have come to be are put forward to be seen, and we understand the meanings in accordance with which these things were created to be flesh, and thus in the former case we reveal, and in the latter we conceal. For the Creator of the universe and
C the lawgiving Word is hidden as manifest, since he is invisible by nature, and is manifested as hidden, lest he is believed by the wise to be subtle in nature. So, on the one hand, what is hidden is to be manifest to us through denial, and every power of picturing what is true in shapes and riddles is rather to pass away and raise us up ineffably to the Word itself from the letter and what is apparent according to the power of the Spirit. On the other hand, what is apparent is to be hidden in attribution, lest, in a Gentile way,41 we become murderers of the Word and worship the creation instead of the Creator (Rom. 1:25), believing that there is nothing higher than what is seen or more magnificent than the objects of sense, or else, in a Jewish way, looking only as far as the letter, we reduce manifold reality to the body alone, and deifying the belly and
D regarding what is shameful as glorious,42 we receive the same inheritance as the deicides, not discerning the Word who, for our sake and by means of what we are, became flesh to be with us and was thickened43 in syllables and letters to be perceived by us, inclining every power of the intelligible within us towards himself. So the divine Apostle says, the letter kills, but the spirit gives life (2 Cor. 3:6). For the letter, desired on its own sole account, is accustomed to kill the indwelling reason of those who desire it, just as the beauty of the creatures, if it is not referred to the glory of the Maker, naturally defrauds of rational reverence those who behold it. And again the Gospel says, And if those days had not been shortened, clearly [those days] of wickedness, no flesh would be saved, that is, any reverent thought about God (Matt. 24:22). For the days of wickedness are shortened, when the erring act of judgment that fashions them according to the senses is circumscribed by reason and lags behind reverent [rational] judgment. For the law of the flesh in no way differs from that of Antichrist, always wrestling with the Spirit and in opposition to its divine law, until the present life becomes dear and beloved to those who are overcome by it, and reason, not yet manifest by the word of power, is abolished, which distinguishes the mortal from the immortal, removing the wearying slavery from
B freedom, and demonstrating truth itself, pure of any falsehood, and marking off from the divine and the eternal what is material and transitory, to which the mind naturally inclines in error through its assimilation to them through the senses and is killed by its irrational affection. For it was especially and principally for the mind that the divinely-fitting descent of the Word took place, to raise it up from the death of ignorance, and repel its impassioned disposition to material reality, and to restore its appetite for what is naturally lovely. Therefore I necessarily think that those who are rational should reflect on the body, which is much more important than its clothes, that is on the divine and exalted thoughts, disclosed by Holy Scripture and by looking at the created order,eagerly hasteningtowardsreasonthroughreason(foras
C the Word himself says, Is not the soul more than food and the body more than clothing?: Matt. 6:25), lest at any time they are convicted of not having these things, not grasping the Word that brought and brings everything into being, like that Egyptian woman who laid hold of only the clothes of Joseph and completely missed intercourse with a lover.44 Thus, ascending the mountain of the divine Transfiguration, we shall behold the garments of the Word, by which I mean the words of Scripture, and the manifestation of creatures, which are radiant and glorious by the dogmas that penetrate them, rendered splendid by the divine Word for exalted contemplation, and as we ascend we shall not at all be repulsed in amazement from blessed contact with the Word, like Mary Magdalene who thought that the Lord Jesus was the
D gardener, not yet realizing that the fashioner of those things that are subject to change and corruption is beyond the senses. But we shall see and worship the Living One, who came to us from the dead through closed doors, the power of the senses within us being completely extinguished, the One who is the Word Himself and God who is all in all. All the intelligible thoughts that derive from his goodness we shall know as a body, and all the things made perceived through the senses as a garment. Concerning all this the following saying seems not inappropriate: They shall all grow old like a garment (Heb. 1: 11), because of the corruption that holds sway over what is beheld by the mind, and like a mantle you will roll them up and they shall be changed (Heb. 1:12), because of the anticipated grace of incorruptibility.
On the five modes of natural contemplation45
In addition to this, taught by creation, we shall know the meanings [logoi], that is to say the ultimate meanings that we long to know, and connected with them the five modes of contemplation. With these the Saints make distinctions within the created order and have assembled reverently its secret meanings, dividing them according to being, movement, difference, mixture and position.46 They say that three of them
B are intended to lead us to the knowledge of God, that is, being, movement and difference, in accordance with which God makes himself known to men who from the things that are conclude that He is the fashioner, provider, and judge. The other two—mixture and position— educate us to virtue and to assimilation to God. The man who forms himself in accordance with these becomes God, experiencing what God is from the things that are, as it were seeing with his mind the complete impression of God in accordance with goodness, and forming himself after this most limpidly with his reason. For what the pure mind naturally sees with reverent knowledge this, they say, it can also experience, becoming this itself in accordance
C with the habit of virtue. Thus being becomes the teacher of theology. Through it we, seeking the source of all things, teach through them that He is, not endeavouring to know how He is essentially, for there is no indication of this in the things that are; but through it we return, as from a thing caused, to the cause. Movement is indicative of the providence of beings. Through it we behold the unvarying sameness of each of the things that have come to be according to its being and form and similarly its inviolable mode of existence, and understand how everything in the universe is separated one from another in an orderly manner in accordance with the logoi in which each thing consists by the ineffable One who holds and protects everything in accordance with unity. Difference is indicative of judgment. Through it we are taught that God is
D the wise distributor, in each of the things that are, of the natural power of the individual logoi in a way proportionate to their underlying being. I attribute providence to mind, not as converting, or as it were dispensing the return of things subject to providence from what is not necessary to what is necessary, but as holding together the universe, and first of all preserving the universe in accordance with the logoi by which it consists. And judgment is not educative, and as it were punitive of sinners, but the saving and preserving distribution of beings, in accordance with which each of the things that has come to be, in connection with the logoi in accordance with which it exists, has an inviolable and unalterable constitution in its natural identity, just as from the beginning the fashioner determined and established that it was to be, what it was to be, and how and how much it was to be. In other words, providence and judgment are connected with our chosen impulses: they avert us in many ways from what is wicked, and draw us wisely back to what is good, and by setting straight what is not in our control by opposing what is, they cut off all evil, whether present, future or past. For I do not say that in these things providence is one thing and judgment another. But I know them as potentially one and the same, but having a differing and many-formed activity in relation to us. Mixture (or
B composition) of beings is a symbol of our inclination. For when it cleaves to the virtues, and mixes them in itself, it is constituted at the level of mind as the divinely-fitting cosmos. Position is the teacher of the character that is chosen by inclination, steadily holding an opinion concerning the good and training those who oppose what is against it, and accept only on rational basis any kind of change. And again if they combine movement with position, and mixture with difference, they distinguish the substance of all things indivisibly47 into being and difference and movement, and if they grasp that the cause is to be beheld from the things that are caused differently by an inventive and technical use of reason, they conceive this reverently as being and being wise and being alive.48 Thence they are taught the divinely-perfect and saving meaning concerning the Father and the Son and the Holy
C Spirit, according to which they are hiddenly illuminated that the meaning of the cause is not simply that of being but are reverently initiated about the mode of existence.49 And again carefully considering the whole of creation from the point of view of position alone, they contracted the five modes of contemplation mentioned into three, recognizing that creation in accordance with its own meaning teaches from heaven, earth and what is in between ethical, natural and theological philosophy.50 Again beholding the creation from the point of view of difference alone, that is to say from the distinction between what is contained and what contains, I mean of heaven and what is within it, they reduce these three forms to two, by which I mean wisdom and philosophy, one that, as it were, circumscribes and receives in a way divinely fitting the
D above-mentioned reverent forms and encloses within itself the hidden and natural meanings of the others, while the other holds together, as it were, character and inclination, activity and contemplation, and virtue and knowledge, drawing them up by an intimate relationship to wisdom as cause. And again considering creation from the point of view of mixture as the harmonious composition of everything, and thinking of the fashioning Word as ineffably binding all things to one another into the fulfilment of one cosmos by relating the parts to the 1137A whole, they reduce the two forms to one form of contemplation. In this way they direct the mind in a single glance through the logoi in things to the cause, drawing everything together in a single gathering, and passing over the dispersion of the individual logoi of the universe. Thus they are clearly persuaded by an accurate attention to the things that are that there is truly only One God, and of the being and movement of beings, and the clear distinction of what is different, and an indissoluble holding together of what is mixed, and an immutable foundation of what is set in position. So through their conviction that God is simply the cause of all being however understood, and of movement, and difference, mixture and position, through the resembling likeness they wisely transfer their hidden contemplation of the realm of the
B senses to the [spiritual] cosmos that is brought to fulness of being through the virtues at the level of mind in the Spirit. In this way, they gather together the above-mentioned forms of contemplation into the single meaning that, by the different forms of the virtues, fulfils the spiritual cosmos at the level of mind, and, as far as is possible, they impart them to themselves, passing through all the logoi of beings and those of the virtues, or rather with them passing to the one who transcends them, being drawn up to the [ultimate] logos, that is beyond being and goodness, for which these things are and from which being comes to them. So that wholly united, so far as is possible, to the natural power that is within them, they are made by Him so receptive as to be known from the sole one and to possess completely through the divine characteristics
C the form of the whole God the Word, contemplated as in the clearest of mirrors, missing none of the ancient characters, by which the human is naturally made known, everything yielding to what is better, just as dark air is wholly transformed by
Fivefold contemplation of Melchisedec 51 20a
This, I think, that wonderful and great man, Melchisedec, knew and experienced,52 about whom the divine Word in the Scriptures declares great and wonderful things, that he had transcended time and nature, and was worthy to be likened to D the Son of God. For, as far as is possible, he had become such by grace and habit, as the Giver of grace is himself believed to be by essence. For it is said of him that he is without father or mother or genealogy (Heb. 7:3): what else can be understood from this except that, by the the very highest pitch of grace in accordance with virtue, he has perfectly put off natural characteristics. And when it is said that he has neither beginning of days nor end of life (ibid.), it bears witness to a 1140A knowledge embracing the properties of all time and eternity, and to a contemplation transcending existence of all material and immaterial being. And when it says that resembling the Son of God he remains a priest for ever (ibid.), it perhaps declares that he is able in accordance with his unchangeable habit of the most godlike virtue and a divine reaching out after God to keep his mental eye attentive until the end. For virtue naturally fights against nature, and true contemplation against time and eternity, in order that it may remain unenslaved to anything else that is believed to exist under God, and unconquered, knowing God alone the begetter, and uncircumscribed, remaining in none of those beings that have beginning or end, in itself manifesting the image of God, who defines every beginning and end and draws up to His ineffable
B self every thought of intellectual beings in ecstasy. In these—I mean, in knowledge and virtue—the divine likeness is shown, and through them unmovable love towards God alone is preserved in the worthy. In accordance with such love the dignity of sonship, the divinely-fitting gift of continual converse with God in his presence, is granted, exhibiting the divine likeness to any who begs for it. Thus I take it that it is probably not from time and nature, subject to which the great Melchisedec reached his natural end, that it should be said of those who have already transcended life and reason, that the divine Word justified him,53 but from and through those things —I mean, virtue and knowledge —he deliberately changed what he is called. Thus the deliberation54 nobly struggles through the virtues against the law of nature, that is so
C difficult to fight against, and through knowledge the movement of the mind steps without defilement over properties of time and eternity. With these it is not right to regard as characteristic the property of what is abandoned, but rather the magnificence of what is assumed, from which and in which alone they are and are known. Thus we who are naturally concerned with visible things recognize and name bodies from their colours, just as we call air suffused by light light, and matter consumed by fire fire, and a whitened body white, and so on. If he deliberately preferred the virtue of nature and of all those things that are in accordance with it through the good choice of the dignity that is within his power, and transcended by knowledge all time and eternity, deliberately in his
D contemplation making everything that is beneath God after himself, abiding in none of those beings in which he beheld any limit, the divine Melchisedec opened his mind to the divine, unoriginate and immortal rays of the God and Father,55 and was begotten from God through the Word in the Spirit by grace, and bore in himself safe and true the likeness of God the begetter (since in the process of begetting what is begotten is naturally the same as the begetter, for it is said: what is begotten from flesh is flesh, and what is begotten from the Spirit is spirit: John 3:6), then it follows that it was not
1141A from natural and temporal properties, in which father and mother and genealogy, and beginning and end of days are included, which things having passed beyond he is completely released from them, that he is named but from divine and blessed characteristics, after which his form has been modelled, to which neither time, nor nature, nor reason, nor mind, nor anything else that can be circumscribed can attain. Therefore the great Melchisedec is recorded as being without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, as the true word of God-bearing men declares about him, not on account of a nature that is created and from nothing, in accordance with which he began to be and will cease to be, but on account of divine and uncreated grace, which eternally exists beyond every nature and all time, from God who eternally is, in accordance with which alone he is
B acknowledged as wholly begotten from the whole [God]. Alone being such, he is preserved in the Scripture, as equally having become according to virtue first beyond matter and form, as is indicated by his being without father or mother or genealogy, and according to knowledge transcending everything that is subject to time and eternity. For it is not denied that such temporal being began through generation, nor that knowledge of them limps along the divine route with the intellect. [So his possession of knowledge that transcends this] is perhaps signified by his having neither beginning of days nor end of life. And so transcendentally, hiddenly and silently, and to speak briefly, unknowably, after every abstraction from all beings at the level of mind he enters into God himself, and made and transformed wholly to the whole, he is manifested C in accordance with the verse: Resembling the Son of God he remains a priest forever. For each one of the Saints who has made a special beginning with the good in itself is declared to be a figure of God the giver. According to what this means, this great Melchisedec because of the divine virtue created in him is worthy to be an image of Christ the God, and of his ineffable mysteries, to whom all the saints are gathered together as to an archetype and source of the good impression that is in each one of them, especially this one, as bearing in
himself for all the others most of the patterns of Christ.
For our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, who is absolutely single, is in nature and truth without father and without mother and without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life. He is without mother because of the immaterial, bodiless and completely unknowable manner of his pre-eternal begetting from on high from the Father. He is without father according to his temporal and bodily begetting here below from his mother, which took place after a conception without intercourse. He is without genealogy, since both of his begettings have a form that is universally inaccessible and incomprehensible to all. He is without beginning of days or end of life, as being without beginning or end and utterly boundless, since he is by nature God. He remains a priest for ever, since he cannot cease to be by any kind of death, whether of evil or of nature, because he is God and the provider of all natural and virtuous life. Do not think that no-one can have a share in this grace, since the word defines it only in relation to the great Melchisedec. For God provides equally to all the power that naturally leads to salvation, so that each one who wishes can be transformed by divine grace. And nothing prevents anyone from willing to become Melchisedec, and Abraham, and Moses, and simply transferring all these Saints
B to himself, not by changing names and places, but by imitating their forms and way of life.
Anyone therefore who puts to death the members that are on the earth, and extinguishes his whole fleshly way of thinking,56 and shakes off his whole relationship to it, through
which the love that we owe to God alone is divided, and denies all the marks of the flesh and the world, for the sake of divine grace, so that he can say with the blessed Paul the Apostle, Who will separate us from the love of Christ? and the rest (Rom. 8:36)—such a person has become without father and mother and genealogy in accordance with the great Melchisedec, not being in any way subject to the flesh and nature, because of the union that has taken place with the Spirit.
If then anyone denies himself in these things, in losing his own soul on account of me, he finds it.57 That is: he goes beyond the present life with its wishes for the sake of the better [life], and possesses the living and active and utterly single Word of God, who through virtue and knowledge penetrates to the division between soul and spirit (Heb. 4:12). Such a one has no experience of what is present to it, and has become without beginning and end; he no longer bears within himself temporal life and its motions, which has beginning and end and is disturbed by many passions, but he possesses the sole divine and eternal life of the indwelling Word, a life unbounded by death.
If then he knows how, with great attention, to be vigilant over his own gift, and cultivates the goods that are beyond nature and time through ascetic struggle and contemplation, he has become a lasting and eternal priest. Intellectually he enjoys divine communion forever, and by his unchanging inclination towards the good he imitates that which is naturally unchanging, and is not prevented, in a Jewish manner by the death of sin, from lasting forever. He gloriously speaks of God as the fashioner of all, and gratefully gives thanks to Him as the foreseeing and just Judge of all, as He offers, at the level of mind, a sacrifice of praise and confession within the divine altar, from which those who worship in the tabernacle have no authority to eat (Heb. 13:10).58 For it is not, as it were, of the hidden loaves of divine knowledge and the mixing-bowl of living wisdom59 that they partake who stick to the letter alone and regard as sufficient for salvation the sacrifices of irrational passions. For these are those who declare, through their ceasing from sinning, the death of Jesus, but do not confess, through their intellectual contemplation, illuminated in justice by good works, His resurrection, on behalf of which and on account of which the death took place. They are most willing to be put to death in the flesh, but have not begun to be brought to life through the Spirit. They still cling to the stability of their tabernacle, and have not yet had revealed to them by the reason and knowledge of the Saints the way, which is the Word of God who says, I am the way (John 14:6). They know, from ascetical struggle, the Lord, the Word made flesh, but have no desire to come through contemplation to the glory as of the Only-begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).
C 21 Contemplation of Abraham
Again Abraham became spiritual, when he went out from his land and his kindred and the house of his father, and came to the land designated by God.60 For by habit he broke away from the flesh, and by separation from the passions became outside it. He abandoned the senses, and no longer accepted any error of sin from them. He passed beyond everything perceived through the senses, so that nothing of them approached his soul to deceive or afflict it. With his mind alone, free from any material bond, he came to the divine and blessed land of knowledge. He travelled in a hidden way throughout its length and breadth,61 and in it he discovered our Lord and God Jesus Christ, the good inheritance of those who fear Him. In length
D He [sc. Christ] is unimaginable in himself and is acknowledged as divine by those worthy of Him in so far as this can be among men. In breadth He is glorified by us, because of His most wise providence, which binds all things together,62 and His economy for our sake, which is passing marvellous and transcendently ineffable.63 Thus [Abraham] came to partake through ascetic struggle and contemplation in all the ways by which praise of the Lord is inculcated, and through which friendship with God and assimilation to Him are securely attained. To put it briefly, he who through ascetical struggle overthrows the flesh, sense and the world, through which the relationship of the mind to the intelligible is dissolved, and by his mind alone through love comes to know God: such a one is another Abraham, through equal grace shown to have the same mark of virtue and knowledge as the Patriarch.
Twofold contemplation of Moses
And Moses again is shown to be another. In the time of the domination of the passions, that is to say of the devil, who is the Pharaoh of the intelligible world, tyrannically prevailing over the better in favour of the worse, and causing the fleshly to rise against the spiritual, so that every pious train of thought is destroyed, he who has been born according to God in his inclination and placed in the box of true struggle64 is established outside fleshly ways of behaving and inside divine
B thoughts according to the soul. He accepted to be subject to the senses, that is the daughter of the intelligible Pharaoh, until the law of the reception of natural contemplations.65 With noble zeal he put to death the Egyptian-like way of thinking that belongs to the flesh (Rom. 8:6), and buried it in the sand.66 By the sand, I mean that habit that is unfruitful in evils: if the tares of evil are sown by the enemy,67 nothing comes up naturally because of its inherent poverty of the spirit, but it gives birth to and protects dispassion. By a divine command it is made desolate for the winds of wickedness, becomes a forest for the constantly changing waves of temptation and places a
C limit to a sea of bitter and truly salty evil, as it is written, Replaced sand as a boundary for the sea, saying to it. This far shall you go, and not transgress, and in you shall your waves be thrown together (cf. Jer. 5:22). The trains of thought that still consent to the earth and seek enjoyment from it, where the passionate part [of the soul] naturally struggles against reason and the capacity to discriminate, and dominates and expels it—these he, being a wise shepherd, leads, like sheep, through the desert which is a condition deprived of passions and material things and pleasures, to the mountain of the knowledge of God, which can be beheld on the heights of the mind.68 O what labours he expended and time he spent on behalf of those contemplations that attach one to the spiritual level by breaking the relationship of the mind to the things of sense (by this I mean the forty-year crossing [of the
D wilderness]), and became worthy of beholding and hearing with his mind the ineffable, supernatural and divine fire that is present, as in the bush,69 in the being of everything that exists, I mean God the Word, who in the last times shone forth from the Bush of the Holy Virgin and spoke to us in the flesh.70 As in approaching the bush he took off from his feet his sandals made of dead [skins], so he came near to such a mystery with the footstep of his mind bare, completely free from any human trains of thought. Like a face, he turned the eye of his mind towards sight. By faith alone he approached the place where the mystery is received, where it is as it were heard, and opened up the mind’s disposition to obedience. In this way he defined the strong and unfading power of one who takes care to oppose the wicked powers and with great authority separated what is against nature from what is in accordance with nature, what is fleshly from what belongs to the soul, what is material and perceived by the senses from what is intelligible and immaterial, thus making what is free greatly transcendent over the power that is experienced as slavery.
And to put it concisely, one who does not place himself under the yoke of sin, nor allow himself to be suffocated by the foul torrent of the passions through evil desire and lifted up by sense to enjoy the fountain of pleasures, but rather puts to death the way of thinking that belongs to the flesh, which tyrannizes over the soul’s nobility, and is raised above everything that is subject to corruption and flees this erring world like a kind of Egypt, which crowds out the most clear- sighted mind with bodily cares; in quietness he holds converse
B with himself, and by industrious study of divine providence that divinely cares for the universe he is ineffably taught the wise economy through a contemplative knowledge of beings;71 from there, through hidden [mystical] theology, which in ineffable ectasy is entrusted to the pure mind alone through prayer, he becomes unutterably conversant with God, as in a cloud and unknowing, and is inscribed by the finger of the God, the Holy Spirit, within himself, in his mind, with the dogmas of piety, and outside, like Moses and the tablets, with the graces of virtue,72 or, to speak in scriptural terms, he chooses to share ill-treatment with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin, and considers abuse suffered for Christ greater wealth than the treasures in Egypt (Heb. 11: 25f.), that is the labours that are willing borne for the sake of virtue rather than wealth and glory that are fleeting and
C subject to corruption: such a one has become a spiritual Moses, and does not dispute with a visible Pharaoh, but with the invisible tyrant and murderer of souls and leader of evil, the devil, and the wicked powers that accompany him, spiritually armed with the rod that he carries in his hand, that is, in ascetic struggle, with the power of the Word.
Contemplation of how the natural law and the written law correspond to each other73
Similarly each of us who wishes can have all the Saints changed into himself, in each case being formed spiritually from the things that are written figuratively about each one (for these things happened to them figuratively, says the divine Apostle, but they were written down for our instruction, upon whom the end of the ages has come: 1 Cor. 10:11). With the Saints from of old before the law, one acquires piously knowledge of God from the creation of the world, and is taught how the virtues are to be exercised from the providence that wisely orders the universe, according to those themselves who were Saints before the law, who through all things naturally in the spirit write beforehand in themselves the written law, and are set forth as examples of piety and virtue for those after the law (for look, it says, to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you: Isa. 51:2). With those who are after the law, one is led through the commandments to knowledge of God who is named in them, and made beautiful by the proper forms of the virtues through noble exercise, and taught that the natural law is the same as the written, when wisely through symbols made manifold in their exercise, and again that the written is the same as the natural, when it becomes of single form and simple and free of symbols [manifest] in those worthy through reason and contemplation in accordance with virtue and knowledge. So all the Saints written about in Scripture show that the letter is a kind of veil, taken away by the Spirit who possesses the natural law.
That through the law the Saints74 foresaw grace
For all those who beheld clearly beforehand that there would be another form of worship beside that of the law preached beforehand that what was to be manifest according to this would be the consummation of the life that is most worthy of God, naturally fitting and most appropriate, since they needed nothing external for perfection, just as the divine oracles in the law and the prophets were plainly established to all those who were not ignorant. Both David and Hezekiah, especially, indicated enigmatically something of this to others in the events that happened to them, the one seeking pardon of God in the manner of the law on account of his sin,75 the other being magnified with increase of life by God with another ordinance that went beyond the law.76
That the one who follows Christ transcends law and nature
Nothing, I think, hinders one who has been prepared by the laws, that is the natural and the written, from becoming worthy of God and loved by God through these, and beyond these from following faithfully in pure faith the Word that leads to the highest point of the good. Nor does anything at all that is grasped by the mind, by deed, or thought, or conception, to which is subject the nature and knowledge of whatever either is conceived or simply is, or by which it is made manifest, hinder one from following faithfully Jesus who has passed through the heavens, or from being able to receive from the manifestation of the divine light the true knowledge of reality, so far as this is possible to human beings.
26 Contemplation of the same77
For the whole nature of reality is divided into the intelligible and the sensible.78 There is that which is said to be and is eternal, since it receives the beginning of its being in eternity, and that which is temporal, since it is made in time; there is that which is subject to intellection, and that which is subject to the power of sense-perception. The entities on each side of this division are naturally related to each other through an indissoluble power that binds them together. Manifold is the relation between intellects and what they perceive and between the senses and what they experience. Thus the human being, consisting of both soul and sensible body, by means of its natural relationship of belonging to each division of creation, is both circumscribed and circum-B scribes: through being, it is circumscribed and through potency, it circumscribes. So in its two parts it is divided between these things, and it draws these things through their own parts into itself in unity. For the human being is circumscribed by both the intelligible and the sensible, since it is soul and body, and it has the natural capacity of circumscribing them, because it can both think and perceive through the senses. God is simply and indefinably beyond all beings, both what circumscribes and what is circumscribed and the nature of those [categories] without which none of these could be, I mean, time and eternity and space, by which the universe is enclosed, since He is completely unrelated to anything. Since all this is so, the one who discerns with sagacity how he ought to love God, the transcendent nature, that is beyond reason and knowledge and any kind of relationship whatever, passes without relation through everything sensible and intelli gible and all time and eternity and space. Finally he is super-naturally stripped bare of every energy that operates in accordance with sense or reason or mind, and ineffably and unknowably attains the divine delight that is beyond reason and mind, in the form and fashion that God who gives such grace knows and those who are worthy of receiving this from God understand. He no longer bears about with him anything natural or written, since everything that he could read or know is now utterly transcendent and wrapped in silence.
Contemplation of the one who fell among thieves79
And perhaps this is the ‘whatever more you spend than the two denarii’ (see Luke 10.35) given by the Lord for the care of the one who had fallen among thieves at the inn where he was to be cared for: it is what the Lord, when He comes again, liberally undertakes to give, the complete negation of beings in those who are perfect, something that comes to be through faith (for the Lord says, whoever does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple: Luke 14:33). Accordingly one who gives up everything of his own —or to put it more appropriately: above all things gives up himself —such a one has made himself a lover of wisdom and is worthy to be with God alone. He has received the adopted sonship, proclaimed in the Gospels, after the manner of the holy and blessed Apostles, who stripped themselves completely of everything and cleaved to the one who is wholly and solely God and Word.
They say to the maker of nature and the giver of help according to the law, Behold we have left all and followed you (Matt. 19:27), and possessing Him, that is the Lord, as the most singular light of truth instead of law and nature, they fittingly receive the unfailing knowledge of all that is after God. The knowledge of all that has come to be through Him is naturally and properly made known together with Him. For just as with the rising of the sensible sun all bodies are made known, so it is with God, the intelligible sun of righteousness, rising in the mind: although He is known to be separate from
B the created order, He wishes the true meanings of everything, whether intelligible or sensible, to be made known together with Himself. And this is shown on the mount of the Transfiguration of the Lord when both the brightness of his garments and the light of His face, made Him known, and drew to God the knowledge of those who were after Him and around Him. For as the eye cannot, without light, grasp sensible things, neither can the mind, apart from the knowledge of God, receive spiritual contemplation. For there light gives to sight the perception of visible things, and here the vision of God grants to the mind the knowledge of things intelligible.
Contemplation of Adam’s transgression
As the forefather Adam did not pay attention to God with the eye of the soul, he neglected this light, and willingly, in the manner of a blind man, felt the rubbish of matter with both his hands in the darkness of ignorance, and inclined and surrendered the whole of himself to the senses alone. Through this he took into himself the corruptive venom of the most bitter of wild beasts, and did not benefit from his senses apart from God, and instead of God, as he wished, nor take care to possess the things of God, in accordance with God, as it ought to be, as something inconceivable. For when he decided to be guided by his senses, which are much more like the serpent
D than God, and took the first-fruits of food from the forbidden tree, in which he had been taught beforehand that fruit and death went together,80 he changed the life that is proper to fruit, and fashioned for himself a living death for the whole of the time of this present age. For if death exists as the corruption of coming to be, the body that is preserved in being by the flux of nourishment is always naturally suffering corruption as it is dissolved by flux itself. So Adam always feels confident in the existence of such flourishing life and thus both for himself and for us he preserves death. If rather he had trusted in God and been nourished from the tree of life (Gen. 2:9), that was there too, he would not have set aside the immortality that had been granted. For such immortality is eternally preserved by participation in life, since all life is genuine and preserved by appropriate food. The food of that blessed life is the bread that came down from heaven and gives life to the world (John 6:33), just as the inerrant Word himself declares about himself in the Gospels. In not wishing to be nourished by Him, the first man rightly fell away from the divine life, and took death as another parent. Accordingly he put on himself the irrational form, and blackened the inconceivable beauty of the divine, and delivered over the whole of nature as food for death. Death is living on this through the whole of this temporal period, making us his food, and we no longer live, but are eternally eaten up by him through corruption.
That from the present life the Saints understood
The Saints, wisely grasping the futility and constant change of this life, have learnt that the life that is given directly to men by God is not this life, and have secretly taught that there is another divine and genuine life, which they hold must be directly and fittingly fashioned by God, who is good. Turning the eye of the soul to this through wisdom in accordance with the grace of the Spirit, so far as this is possible for men bound under death, and receiving the divine longing for this within, they rightly reckon that this present life is to be put aside, if
C they are to receive purely that life, in accordance with the binding character of reason. And since there is no putting aside of life without death, they thought that its death is the rejection of fleshly love, through which death gained entrance into life, so that, thinking of death by death, they ceased from living through death, and died an honourable death before the Lord. This is truly the death of death, able to corrupt corruption itself, and provide an entrance to the blessed life and incorruption for those who are worthy. For I do not think that the limit of this present life is rightly called death, but rather release from death, separation from corruption, freedom from slavery, cessation of trouble, the taking away of wars,
passage beyond confusion, the receding of darkness, rest from D labours, silence from confused buzzing, quiet from excitement, a veiling of shame, flight from the passions, the vanishing of sin, and, to speak briefly, the termination of evils. By achieving these things through voluntary mortification, the Saints commend themselves as strangers and exiles (Heb. 11: 13) from this life. For fighting nobly against the world and the body and rebellions they inspire, and strangling the deceit that comes from both through the senses’ entanglement with things sensible, they preserve for themselves the unenslaved worth of the soul. Quite rightly they judge it to be lawful and 1160A just for the worse to be led by the better, rather than the better to be bound by the worse. This is a divine law, implanted in those who choose the life fit to be welcomed by rational beings, which by frugality imitates the self-sufficiency
and consecrated rest of the angels.
That the Saints are not introduced into the mysteries like us
But going back to what has been already contemplated, let us turn our attention according to our means to the rest of the meaning of the Transfiguration, so that the excellence of the Saints in everything and their genuine separation from the flesh and matter may be seen. And let us note that they do
B not contemplate either creation or Scripture like us in a material or lowly way. They do not acquire the blessed knowledge of God only by sense and appearances and forms, using letters and syllables, which lead to mistakes and bafflement over the judgment of the truth, but solely by the mind, rendered most pure and released from all material mists. Since therefore we want to judge reverently and see clearly and intelligibly the meanings of those things perceived by the senses, we must look carefully to the inerrant knowledge concerning God and divine things and rightly proceed along the straight path.
Further contemplation of the Transfiguration, containing eighteen spiritual interpretations81
Therefore it was said above that through the luminous brightness that shone from the face of the Lord on the mount the thriceblessed apostles were secretly led in an ineffable and unknowable manner to the power and glory of God which is completely incomprehensible to every being, for they learnt that the light that appeared to their senses is a symbol of what is hidden and beyond any manifestation. For as the ray of the light that came to pass here overwhelmed the strength of the eyes and remained beyond their grasp, so also there God transcends all the power and strength of the mind and leaves no kind of trace for the mind to experience. The white garments teach, in a divinely fitting way, at one and the same time both the magnificence that lies in creatures proportionately to the logoi according to which they have come into being and the mysterious revelation found in the under standing of the words of Holy Scripture, so that the written power in the Spirit and the wisdom and knowledge manifested together in creatures are displayed together for the knowledge of God, and through them again he is proportionately manifested. Through Moses and Elijah, who were with Him on either side, they are taught many various conceptions which are put forward as figures of mysteries: through true contemplation of them they found ways of knowing. It is this that must now be examined.
1 And first they received through Moses and Elijah the most reverent notion about how the legal and the prophetic word had always to be present with God the Word, as they are and proclaim from Him and concerning Him and they are established around Him.
2 Then they are taught through them about wisdom and kindness dwelling with Him. It is in accordance with wisdom that the word is declaratory of things made and prohibitory of things not made, and of this Moses is the type, for we believe the grace of law-giving to belong to wisdom. And it is in accordance with kindness that the word invites and causes to return to the divine life those who have slipped away from it, and of this Elijah is the type, through himself manifesting the complete prophetic gift. For the conversion through love for humankind of those who have erred is a characteristic of divine kindness, and the heralds of this we know as the prophets.
3 Or knowledge and education. Knowledge is the source in human beings of the understanding of good and evil. For I have set before your face, he says, life and death (Deut. 30:19), the one you are to elect, the other to flee, and lest through ignorance you disguise the worse with the good, Moses proclaims what is to be done, prefiguring in himself the symbols of the truth. Education is needed for those who without restraint do what is contrary and indiscriminately mix what should not be mixed. In Israel the great Elijah was their
C teacher, the scourge of indifference, who, like reason, led to understanding and sense the mindlessness and hardness of those who were utterly addicted to evil.
4 Or ascetic struggle and contemplation. Ascetic struggle destroys evil and through the demonstration of the virtues cuts off from the world those who are completely led through it in their disposition, just as Moses led Israel out of Egypt and educated her persuasively through the divine laws of the Spirit. Contemplation seizes them as it were from matter and form, like Elijah on his chariot of fire,82 leading them to God through knowledge and uniting them with Him, so that they are no longer weighed down by the flesh because of the setting aside of its law, nor burning with zeal for the fulfilment of the commandments, because of the grace of poverty of spirit mixed with all real virtues. 5 Or again they learnt from the Word the
D mysteries of marriage and celibacy: through Moses, how one is not prevented by marriage from being a lover of the divine glory; and through Elijah, how he remained completely pure from any marital intercourse, and how the Word and God proclaims that those who direct themselves in these things by reason according to the laws that are divinely laid down concerning them are made to enter into Himself in a hidden way.
6 Or life and death: through them they are faithfully assured that the Word is Lord.
7 Or they learnt, too, through these that everyone lives to God and no-one at all is dead with Him, but that one kills oneself through sin and, through the willing turning towards the passions, cuts oneself off from the Word.
8 Or again they received illumination that the types of the mysteries exist in relation to and are referred to the Word, which is the truth, and are brought into agreement with It, as the beginning and end of the legal and prophetic work.
9 Or everything that is after God and has come into being from God, that is the nature of beings and time, these appear together, so far as is possible, with God who appears as cause and maker. And of these, the type of time is Moses, not only as the teacher of time and of number in accordance with time
B (for he was the first to count time from the creation of the world),83 or as one who instituted temporal worship, but also as not entering bodily into rest with those whom he had instructed before the divine promise.84 For such is time, not overtaking or accompanying in movement those whom it is accustomed to escort to the divine life of the age to come. For it has Jesus as the universal successor of time and eternity. And if otherwise the logoi of time abide in God, then there is manifest in a hidden way the entry of the law given through Moses in the desert to those who receive the land of possession. For time is eternity, when movement is stilled, and eternity is
C time, when it is measured by movement, since, by definition, eternity is time deprived of movement, and time is eternity measured by movement.85 Elijah, however, is the type of nature, not only as guarding inviolate the logoi within himself, and keeping the intention according to inclination in them free from any change due to passion, but also as educating in judgment, like the natural law, those who use nature unnaturally. For such is nature, punishing as much those who are set to corrupt it, as those who aim to live contrary to nature, who do not acquire the whole power of nature naturally, and cause its soundness to deteriorate, and are therefore fit to be punished, since they thoughtlessly and
D mindlessly provide themselves with a deficiency of being through their inclination towards non-being.
10 Equally anyone who says that the intelligible and sensible creation of the fashioner Word is understood through Moses and Elijah does not utterly stray from the truth. Of these Moses offers the meaning [logos] of the sensible, that it is subject to change and corruption, as his history of it clearly shows, declaring its origination and death. For the sensible creation is such as to have a beginning known in coming to
1165A be, and to look for an end determined by destruction.86 Elijah [offers the meaning] of the intelligible, neither declaring its coming to be in his account of it, as if it had been generated, nor defining it as looking for corruption through death, as if it were to die. For the intelligible creation is such as to have no beginning of its coming to be that is manifest to human beings, and if it comes to be and commences and passes from non-being to being, it does not await an end of its existence defined by corruption. For it is naturally imperishable, having received this from God who willed to create it such.
B Lest I appear to any to be more curious than is necessary, another great and divine mystery, I think, is revealed to us in the divine Transfiguration, more radiant than what I have just said. For I think that the divinely-fitting events that took place on the mount at the Transfiguration secretly indicate the two universal modes of theology: that is, that which is pre- eminent and simple and uncaused, and through sole and complete denial truly affirms the divine, and fittingly and solemnly exalts its transcendence through speechlessness, and then that which follows this and is composite, and from what has been caused magnificently sketches out [the divine] through affirmation.87 By these, so far as it is within human capacity, the knowledge that hovers above concerning God and the divine leads us through symbols naturally fitted to us to both these modes [of theology], through reverent
C understanding of both kinds of beings establishing their logoi, and teaching that every symbol that transcends the senses belongs to the first mode [of theology], and educating us that the accumulated mighty works of the sensible order belong to the second. For from the symbols that transcend the senses we believe only the truth that transcends reason and mind, barely daring to investigate or to form an idea of what and how and of what kind it is, and where and when, avoiding what is irreverent in the undertaking. And from those things on the sensible level, so far as is possible to us, from thought alone we plainly form conjectures concerning the knowledge of God and say that He is all that we can deduce from the fact that He is
D the cause of all that he has made.
Let us consider whether in each of the above-mentioned forms [of theology] the symbol is really and wisely constituted in accordance with that divine Transfiguration of the Lord. For He accepted to be unchangeably created in form like us and through his immeasurable love for humankind to become the type and symbol of Himself, and from Himself symbolically to represent Himself, and through the manifestation of Himself to lead to Himself in His complete and secret hiddenness the whole creation, and while He remains quite unknown in his hidden, secret place beyond all thing, unable to be known or understood by any being in any way whatever, out of his love for humankind he grants to human beings intimations of Himself in the manifest divine works88 performed in the flesh.
The light from the face of the Lord, therefore, conquers the human blessedness of the apostles by a hidden apophatic theology. According to this [light], the blessed and holy Godhead is by essence beyond ineffability and unknowability and countlessly raised above all infinity, leaving not the slightest trace of comprehension to those who are after it [sc. the Godhead], nor disclosing any idea to any being as to how and how far the same is both monad and triad,89 since the uncreated is not naturally contained by creation, nor is the unlimited comprehended by what is limited.
The affirmative mode [of theology] can be differentiated into those concerned with activity, with providence and with judgment. The mode [concerned with activity], starting from the beauty and magnitude of creatures, introduces the explanation that the God of all is the fashioner, this shown through the radiant garments of the Lord, which the Word shows to be the manifestation of creatures.
The mode concerned with providence signifies through Moses how out of love for humankind it is raised above those who are embroiled in evil and error and wisely distinguishes among human beings the ways of departure from the material and corruptible and bodily to the divine and immaterial and bodiless, and with understanding implants the divine laws.
The mode of judgment suggests through Elijah how judgment punishes by word and deed those who deserve it, and deals with others suitably in each case in accordance with the
D underlying matter and kind of virtue or evil. For according to this scriptural passage,90 it is from things seen beforehand that Moses and Elijah sketch figuratively divine matters in the best way possible, each in a way appropriate to the mode of spiritual contemplation.
From what they [Moses and Elijah] said to the Lord and their 1169A speaking of the exodus that was about to be fulfilled in Jerusalem,91 they were taught not only about the accomplishment of the mysteries proclaimed beforehand by the law and the prophets, but equally they learnt that the precise measure of the ineffable will of God concerning the universe is not to be apprehended by any being at all, nor the measure of the divine economies consequent on that will, nor yet the measure of his great providence and judgment, through which the universe is led in an orderly manner towards the end that is known beforehand by God alone. Of this no-one knows its nature, or how it will be, or in what form or when, it is simply known that it will be, and then only to those who have purified their souls through the virtues and have inclined the whole of their mind wholly towards the divine. To them there is granted, as has been said, an apprehension of providence and judgment of the whole nature of visible things, and the modes through which the end of this present harmony
B naturally consists, and is well-nigh expressly proclaimed. 32
Contemplation of the end of the world
Those who look carefully at the present world, making the most of their learning, and wisely tease out with their mind the logos that folds together the bodies that harmoniously constitute it in various ways—they discover what is perceived through the senses, and what is understood and what is universal, everything contained in everything and turning by the exchange of the individual qualities of each. For by nature the senses are contained by what is perceived through the senses, and what is perceived through the senses is contained
by the senses through sensation, as being understood. And C again the universal is corrupted by change into the particular, and the particular, turned into the universal by reduction, also suffers corruption. And there comes about the corruption of everything that owes its coming to be to others. For the union of universals with one another, which causes the coming to be of particulars, is the corruption of one another by change, and the reduction of particulars to universals by the dissolution of their being bound together, leading to corruption, is the continuance and coming to be of the universals. And learning that this is the constitution of the world of the senses—the change and corruption of the bodies through which and in which it consists, one into another—we come to understand that it follows from the natural property of the bodies in which it consists—their instability and changeability and their chameleon-like alteration of universal qualities—that it is not D possible for the world to have a necessary consummation. Nor can it be rightly thought that what does not possess eternity should appear to any rational understanding as eternal, separate from change and alteration, and not rather scattered and changing in a myriad of ways.
Contemplation of the future world, and of the gulf, of Lazarus, and the bosom of Abraham
Those who have nobly passed from her, beyond things visible, conjecture concerning the limit of the universe, which is wholly in the future, in which there will no longer be among beings anything bearing or anything borne, nor any kind of motion at all in the ineffable stability which defines the range and motion of what is borne and moved. Those who desire with the mind to reach this, while still encumbered with corruptible flesh, need consciously to cross over the gulf between God and human beings and willingly to be freed from any relationship to flesh and the world. For truly the great and fearful gulf between God and human beings is the desire and inclination to the body and this world. It was deprivation of these things that Lazarus joyfully embraced (clearly manifest in sickness and want, the one in relation to the world, the other in relation to the body, which worked in him estrangement), and made him worthy to receive rest in the bosom of Abraham. But the rich man who was attached to all these was abandoned without forgiveness, needing nothing of life in the flesh other than to be punished without end. For he neither possessed the present life, which flows away uncontrollably by nature, and which he longed to enjoy by itself, nor was he able to have a share in that which is to come, to which he was but feebly moved, with little desire. For it can only be attained by those who wholeheartedly love it, and on account of their desire for it eagerly and with delight endure every suffering. Hearing of the bosom of Abraham, we think of God made manifest to us in the flesh as one of the seed of Abraham, truly the provider of all to all who are worthy of his grace in proportion to the
C quality and the quantity of each one’s virtue. For he divides himself indivisibly among different pastures through the natural undivided being of unity, and is not shared out to those who participate in any way whatever. Again through the different worth of the participants he is manifest paradoxically separately to each who share in accordance with an ineffable unity (something understood by reason). To this world no-one will be able to pass who rejoices in the softness of the flesh or who takes more delight in the deceit of the world than His blessed glory, nor will anyone be able to stand with the One who has conquered the world who has been worsened by the world or evilly rejoiced over it. For the divine justice will not judge those to be worthy who in this life have arrayed
D themselves in a human way and decked themselves out with wealth and health of body and other dignities. Those will alone be judged blessed who count nothing of value alongside the goods of the soul and share in divine and eternal goods, beside which they take account of nothing whatever through any kind of care for material things, completely oblivious of wealth and health and other transient goods which the virtues transcend.
34 Contemplation of the virtues93
Consequently a human being is blessed who has virtues, whether or not he has any other blessings besides. If he has virtues and other advantages too, he is blessed in a general
1173A sense, as one said who was wise in divine matters. If he has virtues alone and for their own sake, he is blessed in a more circumscribed sense. For some things are thought of in a more circumscribed way, as when we think of two cubits, others in a more general way, as when we think of a heap. For you can take away two measures from a heap, and will be left with a heap. If you take away all bodily and external advantages from the condition of general blessedness, and leave nothing whatever but the virtues, it remains a state of blessedness. For virtue, by itself, is sufficient for happiness. Therefore every bad person is wretched, even if he has all the so-called blessings of the earth, if he is deprived of the virtues. And every good person is blessed, even if he is deprived of all earthly blessings, since he has the radiance of virtue. It is because of this that Lazarus rejoiced, at rest in the bosom of Abraham.
Contemplation of how God is understood from
So therefore when the Saints behold the creation, and its fine order and proportion and the need that each part has of the whole, and how all the perfect parts have been fashioned wisely and with providence in accordance with reason that fashioned them, and how what has come to be is found to be not otherwise than good beside what now is, and is in need of no addition or subtraction in order to be otherwise good, they are taught from the things he has made that there is One who fashioned them. So,95 too, when they see the permanence, the order and position of what has come to be, and its manner of being, in accordance with which each being, according to its proper form, is preserved unconfused and without any disorder; and the course of the stars proceeding in the same way, with no alteration of any kind, and the circle of the year proceeding in an orderly manner according to the periodic return of the [heavenly bodies] from and to their own place, and the equal yearly proportion of the nights and days, with their mutual increase and decrease, taking place according to a measure that is neither too small nor too great, they understand that behind everything there is providence, and this they acknowledge as God, the fashioner of all.
Contemplation that the world has a beginning
For who, seeing the beauty and greatness of God’s creatures, does not immediately understand that He has brought all this into being, as the beginning and source of beings and their maker? In his understanding he returns to Him alone, leaving behind all these things. For though he cannot accomplish the complete transition with his mind, or receive without intermediary the object of his desires which he knows through the mediation of its effects, he can readily put away the error that the world is without beginning, as he reasons truly that everything that moves must certainly begin to move. No motion is without beginning, since it is not without cause. For motion has a beginning, and a cause from which it is called and an end to which it is drawn. If the beginning of the movement of every moving thing is its motion, and its end the cause to which what is moved is borne (for nothing is moved without cause), then none of the beings is unmoved, except that which moves first (for that which moves first is completely unmoved, because it is without beginning), and none of the beings then is without beginning, because none is unmoved.96 For every kind of being is moved, except for the sole cause which is unmoved and transcends all things, those beings that are intelligent and rational in a way in accordance with knowledge and understanding, because they are not knowledge itself or understanding itself. For neither is their
B knowledge or understanding their being, but something they acquire as they consider their being with correct judgment in accordance with mind and reason (what I call their constituent powers97).
Contemplation of being, quantity and quality
But that which is simply called being itself is not only the being of those things subject to change and corruption, moved in accordance with change and corruption, but also the being of all beings whatever that have been moved and are moved in accord ance with the reason and mode of expansion and
C contraction. For it is moved from the most universal kind through the more universal kinds to the forms, by which and in which everything is naturally divided, proceeding as far as the most specific forms, by a process of expansion [diastolê], circumscribing its being towards what is below, and again it is gathered together from the most specific forms, retreating through the more universal, up to the most universal kind, by a process of contraction [systolê], defining its being towards what is above.98 Thus it can be described either way, either from above or from below, and is shown as possessing both beginning and end, not at all capable of being defined by limitlessness. So it has quantity, not just the quantity of those things subject to change and corruption which are perceived to increase and decrease in every way naturally, but also every kind of quantity that can be circumscribed when it is moved by tightening and loosening and given form according to expansion by partial differences, without however flowing out into limitlessness, and again gathered together as it retreats in accordance with its kind, without however losing its natural form. Similarly with quality which is not just that moved by change in beings subject to change and corruption, but every kind of quality, moved according to difference in what is changeable and soluble, and receptive of expansion and contraction. For no-one can say that anything that can naturally be scattered and gathered together again either by reason or force can reasonably be thought to be completely unmoved. If it is not unmoved, it is not without beginning. If it is not without beginning, then clearly it is not ingenerate, but just as everyone knows that the motion of what is moved must have had a beginning, so anything that has come into being must have begun to come into being, receiving its being and movement from the sole One who has not come into being and is unmoved. That which has begun to come into being could not in any way be without beginning.
Proof that everything apart from God exists in a
I should say, too, that the fact that beings exist in a certain way and not simply—that this, indeed, is the first form of circumscription—is a powerful factor in proving that beings have a beginning in respect of being and generation. Who is ignorant of the fact that every kind of being whatever, apart from the divine and unique being, which properly speaking exists beyond being itself, is already thought of as being somewhere, and that, together with this, it is necessarily thought of as certainly existing at some time? For space cannot be thought of, separate from and deprived of time (for they go together and one cannot be without the other), C nor can time be separated from and deprived of space, for they are naturally thought of together. By space, we mean that everything is shown as being in a place. For the totality of everything is not beyond the universe (for it is irrational and impossible to conceive of the universe itself as being beyond everything that it is), but being circumscribed from itself and in itself, in accordance with the infinite power of the cause of all that circumscribes everything, the limit itself is outside itself. And this is the place of the universe, just as certain people define space,100 saying that space is what surrounds the universe, either the position that is outside the universe, or the limit of the container in which what is contained is contained. And by time, it is indicated that everything is certainly in time, since everything that possesses existence after God possesses this existence in a certain way and not
D simply. And therefore they are not without beginning. For if we know how something is, we may know that it is, but not that it [always] was.101 Thus when we say that the divine is, we do not say how it is. And therefore we say of him that ‘he is’ and ‘he was’ simply and boundlessly and absolutely. For the divine cannot be grasped by any reason or thought, nor do we grasp his being when we say that he is. For being is derived from him but he is not being.102 For he is beyond being itself, and beyond anything that is said or conceived of him, whether simply or in a certain way. But beings possess being in a certain way, and not simply, so that where they are is determined by their position and the natural limit of the logoi that are in them, and when they are [is determined] from their beginning.
Proof that there is nothing infinite apart from God
And again the being of all the many beings that are in the universe cannot be infinite (for there is a limit to all these things in their multitudinous quantity which circumscribes the logos of their being and manner of being, for the being of the universe is not unbounded), nor can the substance of any
B of them be without circumscription, for they are mutually circumscribed in accordance with their logos by number and being. If none of the beings is free from circumscription, all the beings clearly receive in proportion to themselves both when and where they are. Apart from these, nothing at all can be, neither being, nor quantity, nor quality, nor relation, nor action, nor passion, nor movement, nor habit, nor any other of those attributes with which those who know about these things delimit the universe. Therefore no being is without beginning, if something else can be thought of before it, or uncircumscribed, if something else can be thought of alongside it. If no being is without beginning or uncircumscribed, as follows naturally from the logos of the beings, then there was certainly a time when each of the beings was not. And if it was not, it certainly came into being, since [otherwise] it would not
be. For it cannot receive being and becoming apart from C change and alteration. For if it was and [then] became, it changed, going over to what it was not by a process of becoming, or it was altered, receiving an addition to its beauty that it lacked. Nothing that has changed, or altered, or lacked form, can be complete in itself. What is not complete in itself certainly lacks some other thing that will allow it wholeness, and then it is whole, but not complete in itself, since it has wholeness not by nature but by participation. That which needs another for wholeness stands in much greater need when it comes to being itself. For if, as they say,103 being is established as better than form, any particular being can either grant itself this or possess it simply, as they want to D say, but why is it not strong enough to possess simply or grant itself what is worse, that is the form? And if any particular being is not strong enough to grant itself what is worse, or possess it simply, whether those who dare to regard as without beginning beings that are after God and derived from him want to call it being or matter (for they make no distinction), why cannot it possess either simply or from itself what is better, by which I mean being, when it cannot possess what is worse? If matter can in no way possess, either from itself, or simply, what is worse, still less can it possess being itself simply, or from itself. How then can what is too weak to possess, as has been shown, what is worse—that is form—or what is better — that is being—ever possess anything? If this is so, then being and form must be given to beings by God, for they exist. If then all being and matter and every form is from God, no-one who is not completely deprived of any sane thought could maintain that matter is without beginning and ungenerate, since he
knows that God is the maker and fashioner of the beings.
Proof that nothing is without motion save God
and the monad
And again, if matter was [absolutely],104 as some say, then it clearly did not come into being; if it did not come into being, it was not moved; if it was not moved, it did not begin to be; if it did not begin to be, then it is without beginning of any kind; if it is without beginning, then it is infinite; if it is infinite, then it is certainly unmoved (for the infinite is certainly unmoved, for what is not limited can have no place in which to be moved); and if this is the case, then there are assuredly two infinites, unmoved and without beginning, God and matter, which is inconceivable. For the dyad105 could be neither infinite, nor without beginning, nor unmoved, nor the
C beginning of anything at all, for it is circumscribed in accordance with unity and division. It is circumscribed by unity since it has existence as the composition of monads, which it contains as parts, and into which it can be divided as parts (for nothing that is infinite could be divisible or divided, or composite or compounded, by nature or arrangement or in any other way, nor could it simply be division or composition itself, because it is neither sole and simple, nor numerable, nor numbered, nor co-numbered, nor simply free from any kind of relationship; for all these things are beheld in relationship one to another, but the infinite is unrelated, for it cannot be held in any kind of relationship at all). It [the dyad] is circumscribed by division, since it is moved by number, from which it begins and in which it is contained, since it does not possess being by
D nature and free from any relationship.
On the dyad and the monad
For each dyad is established by number and so is each monad, as a part completing it, so that together the monads take away uncircumscribability. No-one who thought about it would assign infinity to anything, alongside which from eternity and by nature there could be seen and posited difference, for they would know that this is completely excluded from the nature of the infinite. For the infinite is infinite in every kind of way— in respect of being, potentiality, and activity,107 and in respect of both limits, I mean both above and below, that is in respect of both beginning and end. For the infinite is unbounded in respect of being, incomprehensible in respect of potentiality, and uncircumscribed in respect of operation, and without beginning from above, and without end from below, and simply to put it most truthfully, it is completely without limit, since nothing can be thought together with it in any of the ways of numeration. Accordingly we say that it can have no kind of meaning or mode, and no kind of essential difference can be compared with it, so that all meaning is taken away from what is completely infinite. If no kind of essential difference can exist from eternity as the infinite’s other, then the infinite can be in no way receptive of duality [the dyad]. For the essential monads coexist alongside one another, separate one from another, but otherness cannot exist without distinction, and if this is not transcended, then we have made no allowance for the nature of infinity. If the infinite, as has been shown, is not
B receptive of duality, then it is clearly not without beginning, as the monad is the beginning of every dyad. If it is not without beginning, then it is not unmoved, for it is moved from the monads in respect of unity, receiving being from them in respect of division. If it is not unmoved, then it is not the beginning of something else. For what is moved is not a beginning, but from a beginning, clearly from something that moves. Only the monad is properly speaking unmoved, because it is not number, nor numerable, nor numbered (for the monad is neither a part nor a whole nor a relation), and [only the monad] is properly speaking without beginning, because nothing is prior to it, from which, when moved, the monad receives being, and it is properly speaking infinite, because it is the cause of every number and everything numbered or
C numerable, as transcendent over every relation and every part and whole, and properly and truly and first and solely and simply, but all this, because the monad exists first and alone. And those who say this do not point to the blessed Godhead as it is, infinitely inaccessible in every kind of way to mind or reason or name and completely unapproachable, but we provide ourselves with a sound definition of our faith in [the Godhead], accessible to us and within our reach. For it is not as completely revealing of the divine and blessed being that the divine word uses this—I mean the name of monad—but as indicative of the complete simplicity of what is beyond all
D quantity and quality and every kind of relation, that we may know that it is not a whole made out of parts, or a part derived from a whole. For the Godhead is beyond all division and composition and part and whole, because one cannot say how much it is, or how it is arranged, or how it is, or what kind of being it is, for it is free from any kind of connection or property and is unbounded, and it is unrelated, with nothing before or after or alongside it, since it is beyond everything, and ranked with none of the things that exist in any kind of way at all.
1188A And it is in reference to this that the great and divine Denys says, ‘Therefore the Godhead that is beyond all, and distinguished from us or any other being, who is hymned as monad and triad, is neither monad nor triad, but in order that we may truly hymn the transcendent unity and divine fruitfulness, we name the one beyond every name with the divine names of triad and unity, and the one beyond being from things that are.’108 No-one therefore who wishes to live reverently in the truth can say that the dyad or the multitude is in any way without beginning or in general the beginning of anything. The whole contemplative power and knowledge that is in accordance with reason and understanding reveals to everyone that there is one God, who exists beyond all infinity, and that he is not known at all to any being, but only through
B faith, and that it can be shown from his creatures that he is, but not when he is, and that he is the maker and fashioner of all eternity and time and of everything that exists in eternity and time, not that they are in any way conceived together with him from eternity, for it is known that none of the beings that exist alongside one another from eternity could be creative of any other. For it would be completely invalid and unacceptable, and ridiculous to those who have minds, to maintain that among those beings that possess being one could be creative of another. But it has been shown that from God, who eternally is, everything has come to be completely and wholly from nothing, not partially or incompletely, as proceeding wisely from a source that is infinitely wise and infinitely powerful, and that everything is held together in it,
C as protected and supported in an all-powerful foundation, and that everything will return to it, as each to its own goal, as the great Denys the Areopagite has said somewhere.109
Contemplation of divine providence110
Anyone who is convinced that God exercises providence over
the things that are, from which he has learnt that he exists, will D judge it right and reasonable that he is none other than the guardian of the things that are and cares for them and that he alone is the fashioner of what is. For the permanence of what is, and its order and position and movement,111 and the consonance of the extremities with the middle, the agreement of the parts with the wholes, and the union throughout of the wholes with the parts, and the unblurred distinction of the parts one from another in accordance with the individuating difference of each, and the unconfused union in accordance with the indistinguishable sameness in the wholes, and the combination and distinction of everything with everything else (not to limit myself to particulars), and the eternally preserved succession of everything and each one according to form, so that the logos of each nature is not corrupted by confusion or blurring—all this shows clearly that everything is held together by the providence of the Creator God. For it is not the case that God is good but not beneficent, or beneficent but without providence, and therefore he cares wisely for the things that are and in a way befitting God, so that they are favoured with existence and care. Providence is, then, according to the God- bearing Fathers,112 the care that comes
B from God to the things that are. They also define it thus: providence is the will of God through which everything that is receives suitable direction. If this will is God’s, if I may use the very words of my teachers, then it necessarily follows that what happens happens in accordance with right reason, and so no better disposition could be looked for. One who has chosen to take truth as his guide is therefore led to say that providence is either the one who is truly known to be the Creator or is a power exercised by the Creator of all things. And with animals, if we approach them in a rational way we shall find a trace of the intelligible in them which is a not unworthy imitation of what is above reason. For if we look at those beings that naturally care for their offspring, we are encouraged to define for ourselves reverently and with godly
C boldness that God exercises providence in his sovereign uniqueness over all beings, and not over some beings but not others, as some of the adepts of the ‘outer learning’113 have it, but of absolutely everything, in accordance with the one and indistinguishable will of goodness, and indeed of both universals and particulars, for we know that if particulars can perish because they are not within the remit of providence and fitting protection, then universals will perish with them (for universals consist of particulars), in this way propounding a rational demonstration that rightly leads by a reasonable retort to the truth. For if universals consist of particulars, then if the particular examples of any logos in accordance with which things exist and consist should perish, then it is quite
D clear that the corresponding universals will not continue to be. For the parts exist and subsist in the wholes, and the wholes in the parts. No reason can gainsay it. But there are those who are, as it were, unwillingly bound by the truth and betray the power of providence, arguing that it only pervades what is important to them. For they say that only universals are governed by providence,114 and that particulars are hidden from providence, being led by necessity towards the truth that they are anxious to flee. For if they say that it is because of permanence that universals are worthy of providence, they admit even more strongly that those particulars are worthy, in which the permanence and stability of the universals consist. These are admitted together through the indissoluble natural relationship that they have with each other, and both conserve permanence, nor can one be said to be foreign to the protection of the other, and again if they admit the protection of the one with respect of permanence, they have to grant the other too. Apart from that there are three ways in which the providence of God is denied.115 Some say that God does not understand the method of providence, others that he cannot will it, others that he has not the power. But it follows from the common notions116 that God is good and beyond goodness and eternally wills what is good for everything, and that he is wise and
B beyond wisdom, or rather the source of all wisdom, and certainly knows everything that is going to happen, and that he is powerful, or rather infinitely powerful, and certainly brings about in a divinely fitting way in everything what is known to him and what he wills for the good and what is fitting. For God is good and wise and powerful, and pervades everything visible and invisible, both universals and particulars, both small and great, indeed everything that possesses existence in any way whatever. He is not diminished by the boundlessness of his goodness and wisdom and power, and conserves everything in accordance with the logos of its being, both in relation to themselves and to others, and in accordance with the indissoluble harmony and permanence that relates everything one to another. Why then can we not understand that nature
C itself teaches us clearly about the existence of God’s providence over everything? For nature itself gives us no small proof that the knowledge of providence is naturally implanted within us, whenever it prepares us to seek salvation through prayers in sudden emergencies, as if pushing us towards God in an untaught way.117 For seized by necessity, all unawares, without choice, before we have had a chance to think of anything, as if providence itself led us to itself without any thought, faster than any mental power within ourselves, placing before us the divine help as stronger than anything else. Not that nature leads us to the possession of something unnatural. Whatever happens naturally, even if it is obscure D to all, possesses the strong and unconquerable power of the demonstration of the truth. If it is the case that the reason for providence as it affects particulars is incomprehensible to us, as in accordance with the verse, his judgments are unsearchable and his ways past finding out (Rom. 11:33), then in my view they are not right who say that it shows that there is no such providence.118 For if the difference and variation between different human beings is great and incomprehensible, in ways of life and customs and opinions and choices and desires, in what they know, and their needs and pursuits, and the almost countless thoughts in their minds, and in everything that happens to them in each day and hour (for this animal, man, is changeable, sharp on occasions and changing with need), it is absolutely necessary that providence, comprehending everything with foresight in the circumscription of its individuality, should be manifest as different and manifold and complex, and should achieve harmony as it extends into the incomprehensibility of the multitudinous, in a way suitable to each individual, whether thing or thought, reaching as far as the least movement of mind or body. If therefore the difference of particulars is incomprehensible, then likewise is the infinite meaning of providence that draws them into harmony, but it should not
B follow that, since the meaning of particular providence happens to be infinite and unknowable to us, we should make our ignorance a ground for denying the all-wise care for the things that are, but we should receive and hymn all the works of providence simply and without examination, as divinely fitting and suitable, and believe that what happens happens well, even if the reason is beyond our grasp. And I mean all the works of providence, not what happens by our agency in accordance with our reason, for these are quite different from the logos of providence. For the manner indicated by the great teacher of the power and grace of the Saints, according to reason and contemplation, is conjectural rather than categorical (for our mind is very far from truth itself), but
C trying to get hold of what has been said with the reason, and as it were tracking it down, I have done nothing more than
Contemplation of passage beyond the material dyad
I understand the Saints to say that passing beyond the material dyad,119 on account of the unity the mind perceives in the Trinity, means to find oneself beyond matter and form, in which bodies consist, or beyond flesh and matter, for only those who set these aside are worthy of being assimilated to God and united to the most pure light, that is to say those
D who have set aside the relationship of the soul to the flesh, and through the flesh to matter —or, to put it more generally, those who have put off the natural conformity of sensible being with what can be perceived through the senses and genuinely acquired a desire for God alone, on account, as I said, of the unity the mind perceives in the Trinity. For they know that the soul is a middle being between God and matter and has powers that can unite it with both, that is, it has a mind that links it with God and senses that link it with matter. When they have completely shaken off the senses and everything perceived through them by means of the activity that relates and inclines it to them, their soul can be ineffably assimilated to God by means of the mind alone, and wholly united to him
1196A alone ineffably, so that possessing the image of the archetype according to the likeness in mind and reason and spirit,120 they can behold the resemblance so far as is possible, and learn in a hidden manner the unity understood in the Trinity. Or perhaps the teacher called the incensive and desiring parts [of the soul] the material dyad, because they are powers of the soul that incline towards matter and together form the passionate part of the soul and struggle against the rational part, and can scatter the mind into multiplicity, unless from the beginning it is skilfully compelled to submit to [the mind’s] yoke. And if anyone can overcome these powers and force them, as they ought, to support the mind, by yoking them like a slave to the power of reason, or if anyone can completely set
B them aside, and if alone through reason and contemplation cleave to the unwavering enchantment of knowledge that operates through love, and be drawn to the movement of that power, most masculine in desire, that is one and single and pure of all multiplicity and simple and undivided (for philosophers know that in God there is stability in identity of eternal movement), then such a one is truly blessed. He has attained not only true and blessed union with the Holy Trinity, but also the unity that the mind perceives in the Holy Trinity. He has become potentially simple and undivided and of a single form compared with that which is in essence simple and undivided. And he imitates so far as is possible through the habit of the virtues the goodness he thus possesses, and has put aside the individuality of the naturally separated powers because of the grace of the united God.
Exposition of the passionate part of the soul121
For the passionate part of the soul is divided, they say, into that which is obedient to reason and that which cannot be persuaded by it. That which cannot be persuaded by it is divided into the nourishing part, which some call the natural, and the natural part, which some call the living part—neither of these can be persuaded to be led by reason. It is called ‘not obedient to reason’, since it is not naturally led by reason. For to grow, and to be healthy, and to live is not within our power.122 That which is obedient to reason is divided into two: the desiring and the incensive. They call it ‘obedient to reason’, since it is natural in those who are serious123 to be led by and to submit oneself to reason. Again the desiring part is divided into pleasure and grief. Desire that attains its object works pleasure, desire that fails of its object works grief. And again they say that desire can be divided in another way, making four kinds together with itself: desire, pleasure, fear and grief. And since everything that is is either good or evil, and either present or to come, a good that is anticipated is called desire, one that is present pleasure, and again an evil anticipated is called fear, and one present called grief. And in another way what is good can either be really so or simply be thought to be so, and this gives pleasure and desire, and in the case of evils grief and fear. And again they divide grief into four: distress, depression, envy and mercy. And they say distress is grief that causes speechlessness in those whom it affects, because of the depths into which it drags down the rational part; depression is grief that weighs down and causes annoyance at unwanted circumstances; envy is grief at another’s goods; mercy is grief at another’s evils. And they say that all grief is in its own nature an evil. For even if one who is serious grieves at another’s evils, in mercy, this is not his primary intention and a matter of deliberate purpose, but rather a reaction to circumstances. The contemplative endures all these things dispassionately, holding himself to God, and
B distancing himself from what is present to him. Fear again they divide into six: alarm, shame, disgrace, consternation, panic and anxiety. And they say that alarm is fear of some approaching action, shame fear of anticipated blame, disgrace fear on account of having done something dishonourable, consternation fear of some great imagination, panic fear of terrible rumours that deprive one of sense, and anxiety fear of falling, that is of failure. For when one fears one struggles in the grip of failure. Some also call it timidity. And again they say that the incensive power is the warmth of the blood surrounding the heart through the longing to inflict grief in return. They divide this into three: into anger, which some call bitterness and revenge, and resentment, and rancour. And
C they say that anger is the incensive power stirred to activity that has a beginning and an end, or simply the incensive power stirred up; bitterness is the reaction to another causing grief; revenge is the punishment meted out by the one grieved to the one who caused grief; resentment is the incensive power grown old;124 and rancour is the incensive power biding its time for vengeance.125 They divide each of these into many others. And if anyone wanted to give an accurate account of all this in writing, he would collect a lot of arguments and expend a great deal of time, so that in the end it would be more than his readers could bear for quantity. It is therefore a truly great and wonderful thing and worth all attention and effort, and in
D need before all else of divine help, to make it possible first of all to rule over the material dyad of implanted powers, I mean the incensive and desiring powers, and their several divisions, and blessed is he who is able and ready to lead them by reason, to the point of cleansing their activity of previous trains of
thought through ethical philosophy.
Contemplation of the addition to Abraham’s
Thereupon that great man Abraham, in Hagar and Ishmael, transcended [the material dyad, i.e., the passionate part of the soul] and completely rejected it, and with Isaac had already stripped the rational part [of his soul] naked so that it was able to entertain visions concerning the divine. He learnt from the divine voice borne to his understanding, that there can be no divine offspring in the mind of the free understanding in the spirit, if it is attached to the enslaved seed of the flesh, but that it can happen by the blessed promise, that is, the grace of deification laid up in hope for those who love the Lord, which already exists figuratively and can be received in advance. By faith he was hiddenly assimilated to the reason concerning the monad, according to which he came to have the form of unity, or rather out of many was made one, magnificently and wholly drawn up alone to God alone,127 bearing on him no trace at all of knowledge of any of the scattered things, which shows, I think, the power of the One who granted him the addition to his name of the letter alpha.128 Therefore he has been given the name of father of all those who approach God in faith by depriving themselves of everything that is after God, who, through possessing the same features of faith in the spirit, bear a resemblance as children to their father.
Contemplation of Moses’ removal of his sandals
At the beginning of his way of knowledge, when he approached to see the light that hiddenly appeared in the bush, this is what that great man Moses was taught by the divine voice, which said, Loose the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground (Exod. 3:5): he marvellously learnt, I think, to set his soul free from any inclination towards bodily things, for it was about to be made the way through contemplation to the spiritual understanding of what is beyond the world and through the putting off of sandals to have a perfect change from the former life related to the flesh.
Contemplation of the parts of the sacrifice
And equally again this is what the same most divine Moses indicates in the arrangements for the sacred sacrifices, when he orders the fat, the kidneys, breast and the lobe of the liver to be cut off,129 that the principal powers of the passions that are in us, I mean the incensive and desiring parts, that is the real material dyad, and their activities, are to be cut off and melted away in the divine fire of the hidden power of knowledge. For the desiring part is indicated by the kidneys, and its activity, that is pleasure, by the fat, the incensive part by the breast, and its activity by the lobe of the liver, in which bitter and most acrid bile is found.
Contemplation of the different forms of leprosy according to the law130
And again this is what I think is wisely suggested in the place concerning leprosy through symbolic riddles. The disease of leprosy is divided into four kinds by colour: white, green, yellow and dim. Through these the incensive and desiring powers divided into their kinds are indicated, the desiring part by the white and green, clearly divided into pleasure and grief, and the incensive part by the yellow and dim, divided into anger and resentment and the hidden malice of hypocrisy.
B These are the principal kinds of the passions and the absolutely original offspring of the incensive and desiring powers, by which the soul is diseased and, so long as it is spotted with them, is not to be numbered among those worthy of the divine company.
49 Contemplation of Phinees
And this is what I think is suggested by the story of the wonderful Phinees and his zeal.131 When he strikes down the Midianite woman together with the Israelite with his spear, the hidden meaning is that matter should be expelled together with form, and desire with the incensive power, and foreign pleasure with the empassioned train of thought, by the power of reason, the high- priest, from the soul completely. For form
C provides matter a way of being, as the incensive power does to desire, by approaching it giving movement to something that by itself is unmoved, and so does a train of thought to pleasure, giving form to something that by its own nature exists without form or shape. And this makes clear the power of names. For the Midianite woman was called Chasbi, which means tickling my fancy, and the Israelite Zambri, which means my song, that is uplifting.132 Since then the rational part of the soul has turned away from meditation of the divine and from gazing on him, and, lifted up by the material tickling of the flesh, has become entangled in the furnace of sin, there is need for the
D zealous high-priest, reason, to destroy those that are wickedly entangled with each other, and to turn aside the wrath of God that is bearing down.
Contemplation of: Do not give what is holy to dogs (Matt. 7:6)
And this the Lord himself perhaps meant, so it seems to me,
when he said, Do not give dogs what is holy and do not throw 1204A pearls before swine, calling the intellectual part within us holy as well, as being a reflection of the divine glory, which he commands should not wickedly be disturbed by the barking of movements of the incensive [part of the soul], and calling its divine and radiant thoughts pearls, which form a noble adornment, which he commands must be kept uncontaminated and free from the unclean passions of material desire. And in the words addressed to his disciples when he sent them out to preach, about how they were to be well-equipped and simple— Take no bag for your journey, nor a staff, nor sandals for your feet133—he meant that one who sets out on the lofty path of
B knowledge must be free from every material weight, and pure from every impassioned inclination of the incensive or desiring powers, as is made clear by the bag and the staff, which indicate desire and the incensive part, and especially that he should be stripped of the malice of hypocrisy, which covers, as it were, the track of life after the manner of sandals, and hide the impassioned part of the soul with the pretence of moderation. The Pharisees clothed themselves with hypocrisy, in the form of piety, but without possessing piety, and when they thought to hide [their lack], they were shown up,
convicted by reason.134
Contemplation of the epileptic135
C It was, I think, from this material dyad, by which I mean the incensive and desiring powers, that again the Lord freed the epileptic, or rather he attacked and rendered impotent the mad rage of the demon who wanted him to perish in the fire of the incensive part and the water of desire (for in human beings who have yielded to material things their relation to increase and decrease in no way differs from that of the moon).136 For the demon who has seized [the soul] and attacks and disturbs it with the water of desire and the fire of the incensive power, strangling the mind, will not cease, until the Word of God arrives and drives away the wicked and material spirit (which characterizes the old and earthly man), and frees the one who has been possessed by wicked tyranny, giving D and granting him natural soundness of mind, through which is manifest the new man created according to God. So therefore all the Saints who have genuinely received the divine and unerring word have passed through this age, supporting the path of the soul by none of the pleasures to be found in it. Those who gaze intently on the highest attributes (logoi) concerning God that are accessible to men, by which I mean his goodness and his love, from which they learn that God is moved to give to what exists being and to grant to them well- being (if it is permitted to speak of movement in respect of God the sole unmoved, and not rather of willing, which moves 1205A everything and draws it and holds it in being, while being in no way moved itself).137 And those who wisely model themselves on these easily bear through the virtues the peculiar nature, made manifest, of the concealed and invisible beauty of the divine magnificence. Therefore they have become good, loving both God and men, compassionate and full of pity, showing that they possess one disposition of love towards every kind of being, by which, through the whole of their lives, they hold fast to the form of the virtues par excellence, I mean humility.138 Now humility is a firm safeguard of all that is good, undermining everything that is opposed to it, and not at all easily beguiled by wearying temptations, both those that attack us through the consent of our will and are thus within
B our control, and those that bypass our will and are not, by making rebellious attacks waste away through continence, and shaking off the approach [of temptation] through patience. So attacked from either side, by glory and by dishonour, they remain unshaken, holding themselves unmoved on either side, neither wounded by insolence through voluntary relaxation, nor admitting glory through an excessive propensity to poverty. They allow nothing to rule over them, neither anger, nor envy,nor rivalry, nor hypocrisy, nor cunning, nor a certain feigned and wily affection seducing another by a seeming pretence through deceit—which is the most destructive of all the passions—nor desire for things in this life that seem to be magnificent, nor any other of the wicked multitude of passions, nor threats held over them by enemies, nor any form
C of death. Therefore they are rightly judged to be blessed both by God and by men, because, by the grace of the great gift of God, they have become manifest images of the radiant, ineffable and evident glory. Therefore they rejoice are made one by the acknowledged logoi of the virtues, or rather by God, for whose sake they die daily and persevere to the end. In him the logoi of all good things, as in an ever-bubbling spring, pre- exist in accordance with the one, simple and unique embracing of all things, and they draw to him all those who use well and naturally the powers given them for this purpose.
From the same sermon:
‘And natures are instituted afresh, and God becomes man.’2
The saints have received the many divine mysteries from those who became attendants and ministers of the word (Luke 1:2), and were immediately initiated into knowledge of reality in accordance with the tradition passed down to them from those before them. They say that the substance of everything that has come into being is divided into five divisions.3 The first of these divides from the uncreated nature the universal created nature, which receives its being from becoming. For they say that God in his goodness has made the radiant orderly
1305A arrangement of everything that is, and that it is not immediately plain what and how it is, and that therefore the division that divides creation from God is to be called ignorance. For what it is that naturally divides these one from another, so that they may not be united in a single essence, since they do not have one and the same logos, they grant to be ineffable. The second division is that in accordance with which the whole nature that receives being from creation is divided by God into that which is perceived by the mind and that perceived by the senses. The third is that in accordance with which the nature perceived by the senses is divided into heaven and earth. The fourth is that in accordance with which the earth is divided into paradise and the inhabited world [the oikoumenê], and the fifth, that in accordance with which the human person, which is the laboratory in which everything is concentrated and in itself naturally mediates between the extremities of each division, having been drawn into everything in a good and fitting way through becoming, is divided into male and female.
For humanity clearly has the power of naturally uniting at the mean point of each division since it is related to the extremities of each division in its own parts. Through that capacity it can come to be the way of fulfilment of what is divided and be openly instituted in itself as the great mystery of the divine purpose. It proceeds harmoniously to each of the extremities in the things that are, from what is close at hand to what is remote, from what is worse to what is better, lifting up to God and fully accomplishing union. For this reason the human person was introduced last among beings,4 as a kind of natural bond5 mediating between the universal poles through their proper parts, and leading into unity in itself those things that are naturally set apart from one another by a great interval.6
In order to bring about the union of everything with God as its cause, the human person begins first of all with its own division, and then, ascending through the intermediate steps by order and rank, it reaches the end of its high ascent, which passes through all things in search of unity, to God, in whom there is no division. It accomplishes this by shaking off every natural property of sexual differentiation into male and female by the most dispassionate relationship to divine virtue. This sexual differentiation clearly depends in no way on the primordial reason behind the divine purpose concerning human generation.7 Thus it is shown to be and becomes simply a human person in accordance with the divine purpose, no longer divided by being called male or female. It is no longer separated as it now is into parts, and it achieves this through the perfect knowledge, as I said, of its own logos, in accordance with which it is.8 Then, by a way of life proper and fitting to Saints, the human person unites paradise and the inhabited world to make one earth, no longer is it experienced as divided according to the difference of its parts, but rather as gathered together, since no introduction at all of partition is allowed. Then, through a life identical in every way through virtue with that of the angels,9 so far as is possible to human beings, the human person unites heaven and earth, making the whole of creation perceived through the senses one with itself and un divided, not dividing it spatially by intervals in any way, since the human person has become as subtle as spirit and is no longer tied to earth by any bodily weight. Nor is it obstructed in its ascent to the heavens thanks to the perfect invisibility to these things of the mind that is genuinely hastening towards God, and wisely stretches out towards him step by step, as on an ordinary path, naturally overcoming any obstacles that stand in its way. And then the human person unites what is perceived by the mind and what is perceived by the senses with each other by achieving equality with the angels in its manner of knowing, and thus makes the whole creation one single creation, no longer divided by what it can know and what it cannot know, through its equality to the angels lacking nothing in their knowledge and understanding of the logoi in the things that exist, according to which the
B infinite pouring out of the gift of true wisdom inviolably and without intermediary furnishes, so far as is permitted, to those who are worthy a concept of God beyond understanding or explanation. And finally, beyond all these, the human person unites the created nature with the uncreated through love (O the wonder of God’s love for us human beings!), showing them to be one and the same through the possession of grace, the whole [creation] wholly interpenetrated10 by God, and become completely whatever God is, save at the level of being, and receiving to itself the whole of God himself, and acquiring as a kind of prize for its ascent to God the most unique God himself, as the end of the movement of everything that moves towards it, and the firm and unmoved rest of everything that
C is carried towards it, being the undetermined and infinite limit and definition of every definition and law and ordinance, of reason and mind and nature.
Since then the human person is not moved naturally, as it was fashioned to do, around the unmoved, that is its own beginning (I mean God), but contrary to nature is voluntarily moved in ignorance around those things that are beneath it, to which it has been divinely subjected, and since it has abused the natural power of uniting what is divided, that was given to it at its generation, so as to separate what is united, therefore ‘natures have been instituted afresh’, and in a paradoxical
D way beyond nature that which is completely unmoved by nature is moved immovably around that which by nature is moved, and God becomes a human being, in order to save lost humanity. Through himself he has, in accordance with nature, united the fragments of the universal nature of the all, manifesting the universal logoi that have come forth for the particulars, by which the union of the divided naturally comes about, and thus he fulfils the great purpose of God the Father,
to recapitulate everything both in heaven and earth in himself (Eph. 1:10), in whom everything has been created (Col. 1:16). Indeed being in himself the universal union of all, he has
1309A started with our division and become the perfect human being, having from us, on our account, and in accordance with our nature, everything that we are and lacking nothing, apart from sin (Heb. 4:15), and having no need of the natural intercourse of marriage. In this way he showed, I think, that there was perhaps another way, foreknown by God, for human beings to increase, if the first human being had kept the commandment and not cast himself down to an animal state by abusing his own proper powers. Thus God-made-man has done away with the difference and division of nature into male and female, which human nature in no way needed for generation, as some hold, and without which it would perhaps have been possible.11 There was no necessity for these things to have lasted forever. For in Christ Jesus, says the divine
B Apostle, there is neither male nor female (Gal. 3:28). Then having sanctified the world we inhabit by his own humanly- fitting way of life he opened a clear way into paradise after his death, as, without a lie, he promised the thief, Today, you will be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43). Then, since there was for him no longer any difference between paradise and the world we inhabit, he again made this clear to his disciples when he was with them after his resurrection from the dead, showing that the world is one and is not divided in itself, preserving the logos in accordance with which it exists free from any division caused by difference. Then by his ascension into heaven, he clearly united heaven and earth, and with his earthly body that is of the same nature and con substantial with ours he
C entered into heaven and showed that the whole nature that can be perceived through the senses is, by the most universal logos of its being, one, thus obscuring the peculiar nature of the division which cuts it into two. Then, in addition to this, by passing with his soul and body, that is, with the whole of our nature, through all the divine and intelligible ranks of heaven, he united the sensible and the intelligible and showed the convergence of the whole of creation with the One according to its most original and universal logos, which is completely undivided and at rest in itself. And finally, considered in his humanity, he goes to God himself, having clearly appeared, as it is written, in the presence of God the Father on our behalf (Heb. 9:24), as a human being. As Word, he cannot be D separated in any way at all from the Father; as man, he has fulfilled, in word and truth, with unchangeable obedience, everything that, as God, he has predetermined is to take place, and has accomplished the whole will of God the Father on our behalf. For we had ruined by misuse the power that had been naturally given us from the beginning for this purpose. First he united us in himself by removing the difference between male and female, and instead of men and women, in
whom above all this manner of division is beheld, he showed us as properly and truly to be simply human beings, thoroughly transfigured in accordance with him, and bearing his intact and completely unadulterated image, touched by no trace at all of corruption. With us and through us he encompasses the whole creation through its intermediaries and the extremities through their own parts. He binds about himself each with the other, tightly and indissolubly, paradise and the inhabited world, heaven and earth, things sensible and things intelligible, since he possesses like us sense and soul and mind, by which, as parts, he assimilates himself by each of the extremities to what is universally akin to each in the previously mentioned manner. Thus he divinely recapitulates the universe in himself, showing that the whole creation exists as one, like another human being, completed
B by the gathering together of its parts one with another in itself, and inclined towards itself by the whole of its existence, in accordance with the one, simple, undifferentiated and indifferent idea of production from nothing, in accordance with which the whole of creation admits of one and the same undiscriminated logos, as having not been before it is.
For in their true logos all beings have at least something in common one with another. Amongst the beings after God, which have their being from God through generation, there are no exceptions, neither the greatly honoured and transcendent beings which have a universal relationship to the One absolutely beyond any relation, nor is the least honoured among beings destitute and bereft since it has by nature a generic relationship to the most honoured beings.12 For all
C those things that are distinguished one from another by their particular differences are united by their universal and common identities, and forced together to the one and the same by a certain natural generic logos, so that the various kinds are united one with another according to their essence, and possess the one and the same and the undivided. For nothing of what is universal and containing [others] and generic can be divided into what is partial and contained and particular. For that is no longer generic which does not naturally unite what is separated, but which, participating in their separation, departs from its own singular unity. For everything generic, according to its own logos, is wholly present, indivisibly by the mode of unity, to those subordinate wholes, and the particular as a whole is considered as within the genus. The species, considered according to the genus, are released as it were from the variety caused by difference, and find identity one with another. The individuals, considered according to the species, finding agreement one with another, are in every way constituted as identical one with another, being indistinguishable from their same nature and free from any difference. Finally the accidents, brought together one with another by the substance in which they inhere, possess unity, not being scattered at all by their substance. And the unerring witness of all this is the true theologian, the great and holy Denys the Areopagite, in the chapter on the Perfect and the One in the Divine Names, where he speaks thus: ‘For multiplicity is not without participation in the One, but that which is many in its parts is one as a whole, and that which is many in its accidents is one in the subject, and that which is many in number or potentialities is one in species, and that which is many in species is one in genus, and that which is many in its processions is one in its source, and there is none of the beings that is without participation in the One.’13 And simply, to speak concisely, the logoi of everything that is divided and particular are contained, as they say, by the logoi of what is universal and generic, and the most universal and generic logoi are held together by wisdom, and the logoi of the particulars, held fast in various ways by the generic logoi are contained by sagacity, in accordance with which they are first simplified, and releasing the symbolic variety in the actions of their subjects, they are unified by wisdom, receiving congruence making for identity from the more generic. For the wisdom and sagacity of God the Father is the Lord Jesus Christ, who holds together the universals of beings by the power of wisdom, and embraces their complementary parts by the sagacity of understanding, since by nature he is the fashioner and provider of all, and through himself draws into one what is divided, and abolishes war between beings, and binds everything into peaceful friendship and undivided harmony, both what is in heaven and what is on earth (Col. 1:20), as the divine Apostle says.
Another contemplation of this difficulty
Again ‘the natures are instituted afresh’. The divine, through its measureless goodness and love for humankind and by its will, in a way beyond nature voluntarily accepted our fleshly birth, and, paradoxically, without seed, tilled our flesh, endowed with a rational soul: for God became flesh by a strange ordinance contrary to nature, being in every way the same and indistinguishable from us save for sin, and what is more paradoxical, the virginity of her who became a mother through the birth was in no way cancelled. For there is truly a fresh institution not only in that God the Word, who had already been ineffably born without beginning from God the Father, was born in time according to the flesh, but also that our nature gave flesh without seed, and a virgin gave birth without corruption. For both cases show that there is manifested a fresh institution, since in each case the reason in accordance with which it took place is completely concealed as ineffable and unknown: the one takes place in a manner beyond nature and knowledge, and the other by the word of faith, by which everything that is beyond nature and knowledge is natur ally achieved. So therefore, so it seems to me, the difficulty is resolved, and I do not know how else it could be done. Therefore let what has been said be approved by your philosophy or let something better be searched out and declared by you and there be communicated to me the fruit of lofty knowledge not touched by anything earthly.
Of the same, from his songs:
The high Word plays in every kind of form, mixing, as he wills, with his world here and there.2
When the great David, in accordance with faith alone in the spirit, directed his mind through the latches, as it were, of the phenomena towards the intelligible, he received from the divine wisdom a certain trace of the mysteries for which
D human beings long, then, I think, he said, Abyss calls to abyss in the noise of your cataracts (Psa. 41:8). By this he perhaps shows that every contemplative mind, because of its invisible nature and the depth and multitude of its thoughts, is to be compared to an abyss, since it passes beyond the ordered array of the phenomena and comes to the place of intelligible reality. Or again, when in faith by the vehemence of its movement it passes beyond what is fitting, and comes to rest in itself, in
1409A every way fixed and unmoved, because it has passed beyond everything, then it necessarily calls upon the divine wisdom, which to the understanding is really and truly the unfathomable abyss, to give to it the noise of the divine cataracts, but not the cataracts themselves, as it asks to receive in faith a certain trace of knowledge of the ways of divine providence concerning the universe. Through this it will be able to remember God from the land of Jordan and Hermon (Psa. 41:7), in which was accomplished the great and dreadful mystery in the flesh of the divine descent to the human level of God the Word. In that mystery the truth of piety towards God is given to human beings, which transcends any natural order and capacity. The divine Paul, the great Apostle, who is both an initiate himself and initiates others in the divine and
B secretly-known wisdom, calls [this mystery] the foolishness of God and his weakness, because, I think, of its transcendent wisdom and power; the great and divinely-minded Gregory calls it play, because of its transcendent prudence.3 For Paul says, The foolishness of God is wiser than men and the weakness of God is stronger than men (1 Cor. 1:25); while Gregory says, ‘The high Word plays in every kind of form, mixing, as he wills, with his world here and there.’ Each, by privation of what with us are most powerful attributes, points to what the divine possesses, and by negations of what is ours makes affirmation of the divine.4 For with us foolishness, weakness and play are privations, of wisdom, power and C prudence, respectively, but when they are attributed to God they clearly mean excess of wisdom, power and prudence. What with us counts as privation, with God is certainly rightly taken to mean possession; while what with us counts as possession, with God is most fittingly taken to mean privation by excess. For the transcendent attributes of the divine, spoken of by us in a contrary sense as privations, fall a long way short of their true meaning. If this in its normal sense is true (for the divine never agrees with the human), then the mystery of the divine Incarnation is called the foolishness and weakness of God
according to the holy Apostle Paul, and God’s play according D to the wonderful and great teacher Gregory, since it oversteps in a way that transcends being every order and harmony of all nature and power and energy. This the most divine David beheld from afar and in this he was initiated at the level of mind through the divine Spirit, so that he expressed beforehand the apostolic interpretation of the transcendent possession of God through privation, calling out (I think with reference to the Jews), In the multitude of your power your enemies will lie about you (Psa. 65:3). For every human being is certainly an enemy of God and clearly established as a liar who ignorantly and irreverently includes God in the law of nature and has not begun to believe that he who is serenely beyond nature in reality came among those who are subject to nature and is able to fill with power the whole of nature. Thus from one point of view reason dares in a conjectural way5 to behold the foolishness, the weakness and the play of God, by a digression in which it seeks a provisional interpretation of the difficulty before us, and reason takes the abyss calling to abyss in the noise of the divine cataracts to be the mind that reaches after knowledge and calls upon wisdom, and thus discerns a tiny reflection of the mysteries of the divine and ineffable descent among us. For the abyss and the place of the abyss are called by the same name, and thus the pure mind is established as the place of divine wisdom. Thus the mind is called abyss because of its capacity, and again wisdom is given
the same name because of its nature.
Another contemplation of the same
With the help of divine grace, looking in another way at the difficulty before us—by way of conjecture6 rather than categorical assertion (for the one is modest, the other reckless) —we dare to take the Word before us and say that the play of God spoken of by the great teacher is a kind of keeping to the middle, staying equidistant from the extremes, by weaving about and quickly changing one’s position, or, to put it better, by a flowing that remains still. And this is the paradox: to behold stillness eternally flowing and being carried away, a flowing, eternally-moving, divinely contrived to contribute
C providentially to the improvement of the whole divine economy, capable of making wise those who are taught by it to hope always for change, and to believe that the end of this mystery for them is that by an inclination towards God they might be securely deified by grace. By the middle I mean the totality of things visible which now surround the human being or in which the human is; by the extremes I mean the reality of everything not manifest and which is going unfailingly to surround humanity, things that have properly and truly been made and come into being in accordance with the ineffable and preeminent purpose and reason of the divine goodness.7 Just as the wise Preacher with the great and clear eye of the soul caught a glimpse of the coming into being of visible and
D flowing things and, as in a vision, of their being made and coming into being, and said, What is this that has been? It is the same as that which is going to be. And what is this that has been made? It is the same as that which is going to be made (Eccles. 1:9). Clearly he has in mind the first and the last things, as those which are themselves and truly are, and also the middle things, that pass away and are never in the same place. For when the teacher has come to an end of speaking grandiosely of a certain kind of living things and of stones, and of simply speaking boundlessly of the many things that can been seen in beings,8 he adds ‘The high Word plays in every kind of form, mixing, as he wills, with his world here and there.’ Is it not therefore the same as what he says in his sermon on Holy Pentecost about divinity and created nature? ‘As long as each nature remains on its own, the one in its majesty, the other in its lowliness, his goodness remains unmixed and his love for human kind unshared, and there is a great gulf in the middle that cannot be crossed, which not only separates the rich man from Lazarus and the longed-for bosom of Abraham,9 but also every nature that has come to be and is in a state of flux from that nature which has not come to be and is immutable.’10 Somewhat similar to this is what the great divine preacher Denys the Areopagite says: ‘We must dare to add this as being no less true: that the source of all things himself, in his wonderful and good love for all things,
through the excess of his loving goodness, is carried outside
B himself, in his providential care for all that is, so enchanted is he in goodness and love and longing. Removed from his position above all and beyond all, he decends to be in all according to an ecstatic and transcendent power which is yet inseparable from Himself.’11 Perhaps, then, as I said, from these passages we may find a way of interpreting ‘The high Word plays’. To use examples from things we are familiar with to explain matters that are above us: it is like parents helping their children, and out of indulgence seeming to take part in their childish games. They play with nuts and dice, or prepare for them many-coloured flowers, and clothes dipped in colours
C that enchant the senses, and play hide and seek, or are astonished, as if they had nothing else to do than play at children’s games. But after a while they lead their children on further, and begin to share with them more perfect reason and their own concerns. So perhaps in these words the teacher is saying that God who is above all leads us through the historical nature, so to speak, of the appearance of created things to amazement and a kind of ascent through contemplation and knowledge of them, rather in the way in which we care for children, and then introduces the contemplation of the more spiritual meaning [logos] within these things, and finally leads us by way of theology up to the most hidden knowledge of himself, so far as this is possible, in
D the early stages purifying us from everything that has form or quality or shape or quantity, whether of multitude or size, and from variety or composition, so that we may reach the goal of contemplation—and this is called ‘playing’ by the God-bearing Gregory, and ‘enchanting’ or ‘being carried outside himself’ by
the God-bearing Denys.12
What is present and apparent, compared with that which
properly and truly is and will be manifest at the end, seems to be simply play. For just as the order of things present and visible, compared with the truth of properly divine and primordial things, could not at all be thought to be in any way capable of sharing the splendour of the divine beauty, so play, compared with anything true and real, could not be thought to exist at all Another contemplation of the same
Perhaps ‘play’ refers to the liability to change of the material
things to which we entrust ourselves, which are shifting and
B changing and possess no stable basis, apart from that of their primary meaning [logos], in accordance with which they are carried along wisely and providentially and could be thought to be ruled by us. But otherwise, rather than being ruled by us, they evade us, and either seem to be ruled by our desires, or frustrate them, and can neither rule nor be ruled, since, possessing no stable definition of their own being, they are in a state of flux and have no stability. Perhaps it is this that was appropriately called God’s play by the teacher, as if through these things he would draw us to that which really is and can
never be shaken.
Another contemplation of the same
C What about ourselves? If, in accordance with the prevailing sequence of our nature in the present, now like the rest of living beings on the earth, we first come into being as children, then in the manner of flowers that fade early hasten from youth to shrivelled old age to die, and are transferred to another life, then not implausibly are we said to be ‘God’s play’ by this God-bearing teacher. For in comparison with the archetype that is to come of the divine and true life, our present life is play, and everything that is other than that is lacking in being. This is shown most clearly in the funeral sermon for Caesarius, as he says, ‘Such is our life, brothers, the passing life of living beings: a sort of play upon the earth.
D As those that have not been, we come into being, and having come into being we are dissolved. We are a dream that does not last, a passing phantom, the flight of a bird that is gone, a ship passing through the sea and leaving no trace, dust, vapour, the morning dew, a flower that blooms for a time and is gone, man, his days are like grass, like the grass of the field, he flourishes (Psa. 102:15), as the divine David says as he reflects on our weakness.’13