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Introduction - Part 4

Jerusalem is taken to be symbolic of the Restoration (apokatastasis), or, more precisely put, of the contemplation of the angels which is just prior to the sojourn in the Monad, which itself is identified by Evagrius with the Mount of Zion. Moreover, the expression ‘familiar homeland’, which is a literal translation of the text of the letter, then alludes to the doctrine that the Restoration (apokatastasis) is a return to the original state that the minds had before their fall from the Monad—as is clearly indicated by KG V, 6, above. The verb ‘descended’ in the passage of the letter under consideration would then refer to the descent of the fallen minds into bodies. Finally, the thieves that fall upon the traveller who has descended from Jerusalem to Jericho[1] are the demons. Elsewhere in the letter, as we have already pointed out, the author has spoken thus: ‘But because our mind (nous), having been made gross, has been joined to the dust and is mixed up with the clay and is unable to gaze in bare contemplation…’.

Given that there are, apart from the initial apologia, at least two layers in To the Caesareans…, a layer of straightforward scriptural exegesis that defends the divinity of the Son and the Holy Spirit (Layer 2) and a layer of more advanced Evagrian interpretation that has echoes of doctrines condemned by the Fifth Ecumenical Synod (Layer 3), it cannot be argued that To the Caesareans… is the gold standard of Evagrius’ orthodoxy. Once one is permitted to use the Kephalaia Gnostica to assess To the Caesareans…, one detects passages in the letter that are not at all orthodox in any clear way. These passages need to be discussed. Moreover, given the existence of these passages, one can no longer assert that To the Caesareans… is an unequivocally orthodox work written under the nose of St Gregory in Constantinople. There is more to it, especially when the letter is compared to the Theological Orations. For some of the passages of Layer 3 under consideration have connections to the Anathemas of the Fifth Ecumenical Synod[2] whereas they find no echo in St Gregory’s Theological Orations.

One can see that a key element in the establishment of the School of Bunge’s interpretation of Evagrius is precisely to remove the possibility of interpreting Evagrius on the basis of the Kephalaia Gnostica—‘it is too difficult a work’—while simultaneously establishing that To the Caesareans… is an unequivocally orthodox work written under the watchful eye of St Gregory the Theologian and to be used as an orthodox template to re-interpret Evagrius. We have not done as much work comparing the Theological Orations to To the Caesareans… as we might, yet it is clear that here is the ‘sleight of hand that beguiles the audience’.

But as we said, we have no way of knowing when these interpolations, if that is what they are, were put into the text of the letter, and precisely by whom.

A full study of this problem would require a study of the writings of St Gregory the Theologian and St Basil the Great, so as to determine which elements of Section 2 Evagrius could have learned from either of these two Fathers. For example, in a philosophical discussion in Section 2 we find this:

If, then, everything which is one in number is not one in nature; and that which is one in nature and simple is not one in number; and we, however, say that God is one in nature: how do they bring in number to us who have exiled it completely from that blessed and intelligible nature? For number is of quantity; quantity, however, is yoked to the bodily nature; but we have believed that our Lord is the creator of bodies. For which reason every number refers to those things that have chanced to have their nature implicated in material and circumscribed, but ‘Monad’ and ‘Unity’ are significant of the simple and uncircumscribed substance. (¶2 [7].)

We find these concepts discussed in the Kephalaia Gnostica. What is not certain, however, is whether this passage of To the Caesareans… is to be assigned to Layer 2 or Layer 3. For it is conceivable that Evagrius might have learned such concepts from St Gregory and then used them in the original draft of the letter, retaining them throughout his whole literary life. It is also conceivable, on the other hand, that at least some of the elements of this particular passage pertain to his more mature thought and were not derived from St Gregory. It would require a study of St Gregory’s own writings to clarify the possibilities of interpretation of such passages as this in To the Caesareans…. In this regard, it should be remembered that St Maximos the Confessor was obliged in the Ambigua to clarify certain of St Gregory’s writings to give them a completely Orthodox and not Origenist interpretation.

However, in fact St Gregory does discuss number in relation to the Trinity in the Theological Orations. He does not use the above argument of To the Caesareans… that number pertains only to the created nature and not to the uncreated nature. He does not assign number only to the material or even intelligible created nature, reserving ‘Monad’ and ‘Unity’ for the godhead:

When, then, we should look towards the divine nature (theoteta), both the first cause and the monarchy are that which in us is imagined. But when we look towards those things in which the divine nature is, and those things from the first cause and existing from there timelessly and with equal glory, those things which are venerated are three.[3]

It would seem odd for St Gregory’s student to advance arguments of the sort that To the Caesareans… is advancing while St Gregory himself in the Theological Orations would ignore such arguments.

Given that before he came to Constantinople, Evagrius was in the circle of St Basil the Great, a complete study of the matter would also require study of similar elements in St Basil’s own writings. But then that would lead us to study the writings of St Basil’s brother, St Gregory of Nyssa.

A complete analysis of To the Caesareans… would be much work. In the footnotes to the translation, however, we will point out what we think are elements of Layer 3.

[1] Here taken by the author to be praktiki, although Jericho is treated in Peri Logismon 20 as a symbol of second natural contemplation

[2] In particular, see Anathemas 1, 2, 11, 14, and 15, loc. cit.

[3] SC 250 Oration 31 (= Theological Oration 5) 14, ll. 9 – 13, pp. 302 – 304.


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