Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Philo on the LOGOS/Word by G.R.S. Mead 1905

Philo on the LOGOS/Word by G.R.S. Mead (Article in the Theosophical Review 1905)

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The idea of God found in Philo is that of the more enlightened theology of his time. God is That which transcends all things and all ideas. It would, of course, be a far too lengthy study to marshal the very numerous passages in which our philosopher sets forth his view on Deity; and so we shall select only two passages simply to give the reader who may not be acquainted with the works of the famous Alexandrian, some notion of the transcendency of his conception. For, as he well writes:

"What wonder is it if That which [really] is, transcends the comprehension of man, when even the mind which is in each of us, is beyond our power of knowing? Who hath ever beheld the essence of the soul?"

This Mystery of Deity was, of necessity, in itself ineffable; but in conception, it was regarded under two aspects,—the active and the passive causative principles.

"The Active Principle, the Mind of the universals, is absolutely pure, and absolutely free from all admixture; It transcendeth Virtue; It transcendeth Wisdom; nay, It transcendeth even the Good Itself and the Beautiful Itself.

"The Passive Principle is of itself soulless and motionless, but when It is set in motion, and enformed and ensouled by the Mind, It is transformed into the most perfect of all works— namely, this Cosmos."

This Passive Principle is generally taken by commentators to denote Matter; but if so, it must be equated with Wisdom, which we have just seen was regarded by Philo as the Mother of the Cosmos.

But beyond all else Philo is useful to us for recording the views of contemporary Hellenistic theology concerning the concept of the Logos, the mystery of the Heavenly Man, the Son of God. Even as this word of mystic meaning comes forward in almost every tractate and fragment of our Trismegistic literature, so in Philo is it the dominant idea in a host of passages.

It should, however, never be forgotten that Philo is but handing on a doctrine; he is inventing nothing. His testimony, therefore, is of the greatest possible value for our present study, and deserves the closest attention. We shall accordingly devote the rest of this chapter exclusively to this subject, and marshal the evidence, if not in Philo's own words, at any rate in as exact a translation of them as we can give, for although much has been written on the matter, we know no work in which the simple expedient of letting Philo speak for himself has been attempted.

The Logos, then, is pre-eminently the Son of God, for Philo writes:

"Moreover God, as Shepherd and King, leads [and rules] with law and justice the nature of the heaven, the periods of sun and moon, the changes and harmonious progressions of the other stars,—deputing [for the task] His own Right Reason (Logos), His First-born Son, to take charge of the sacred flock, as though he were the Great King's viceroy."

Of this Heavenly Man, who was evidently for Philo the Celestial Messiah of God, he elsewhere writes:

"Moreover I have heard one of the companions of Moses uttering some such word (logos) as this: 'Behold Man whose name is East,'—a very strange appellation, if you imagine the man composed of body and soul to be meant; but if you take him for that incorporeal Man in no way differing from the Divine Image, you will admit that the giving him the name of East exactly hits the mark.

"For the Father of things that are hath made him rise as His Eldest Son, whom elsewhere He hath called His First-born, and who, when he hath been begotten, imitating the ways of his Sire, and contemplating His archetypal patterns, fashions the species [of things]."

Here we notice first of all Philo's graphic manner (a commonplace of the time) of quoting Ezekiel as though he were still alive, and he had heard him speak; and, in the second place, that the First-born Son is symbolically represented as the Sun rising in the East.

That, moreover, the Logos is the Son of God, he explains at length in another passage, when writing of the true High Priest:

"But we say that the High Priest is not a man, but the Divine Reason (Logos), who has no part or lot in any transgressions, not only voluntary errors, but also involuntary ones. For, says Moses, he cannot be defiled either 'on account of his father,' the Mind, nor 'on account of his mother,' the [higher] Sense,— in that, as I think, it is his good fortune to have incorruptible and perfectly pure parents,—God for father, who is as well Father of all things, and for mother Wisdom, through whom all things came into genesis; and because 'his head hath been anointed with oil,'—I mean his ruling principle shineth with ray-like brilliance, so that he is deemed fit for robing in his vestures.

"Now the most ancient Reason (Logos) of That-which-is is vestured with the cosmos as his robe,—for he wrappeth himself in Earth and Water, Air and Fire, and what comes from them; the partial soul [doth clothe itself] in body; the wise man's mind in virtues.

"And 'he shall not take the mitre from off his head' [signifies] he shall not lay aside the royal diadem, the symbol of his admirable rule, which, however, is not that of an autocratemperor, but of a viceroy.

"Nor 'will he rend his garments,'—for the Reason (Logos) of That-which-is, being the bond of all things, as hath been said, both holds together all the parts, and binds them, and does not suffer them to be dissolved or separated."

In another passage Philo treats of the same subject still more plainly from the point of view of the Mysteries, writing as follows:

"For there are, as it seems, two temples of God;—the one is this cosmos, in which there is also the High Priest, His Firstborn Divine Reason (Logos); the other is the rational soul, whose [High] Priest is the True Man, a sensible copy of whom is he who rightly performs the prayers and sacrifices of his Father, who is ordained to wear the robe, the duplicate of the universal heaven, in order that the cosmos may work together with man, and man with the universe."!

The Cosmic Logos is not the sensible cosmos, but the Mind thereof. This Philo explains at length.

"It is, then, clear, that He who is the generator of things generated, and the artificer of things fashioned, and the governor of things governed, must needs be absolutely wise. He is in truth the father, and artificer, and governor of all in both the heaven and cosmos.

"Now things to come are hidden in the shade of future time, sometimes at short, and sometimes at long distances. But God is the artificer of time as well. For He is father of its father; and time's father is the cosmos, which manifests its motion as the genesis of time; so that time holds to God the place of grandson.

"For that this cosmos is the younger Son of God, in that it is perceptible to sense. The Son who's older than this one, He hath declared to be no one [perceivable by sense], for that he is conceivable by mind alone. But having judged him worthy of the elder's rights, He hath determined that he should remain with Him alone.

"This [cosmos], then, the younger Son, the sensible, being set a-moving, has caused time's nature to appear and disappear; so that there nothing is which future is with God, who has the very bounds of time subject to Him. For 'tis not time, but time's archetype and paradigm, Eternity (or AEon), which is His life. But in Eternity naught's past, and naught is future, but all is present only."

The Logos, then, is not God absolute, but the Son of God par excellence, and as such is sometimes referred to as "second," and once even as the "second God." Thus Philo writes:

"But the most universal [of all things] is God, and second the Reason (Logos) of God."

In his treatise entitled "Questions and Answers," however, we read:

"But why does He say as though [He were speaking] about another God, 'in the image of God I made "man",' but not in His own image?

"Most excellently and wisely is the oracle prophetically delivered. For it was not possible that anything subject to death should be imaged after the supremest God who is the Father of the universes, but after the second God who is His Reason {Logos).

"For it was necessary that the rational impress in the soul of man should be stamped [on it] by the Divine Reason (Logos), since God, who is prior even to His own Reason, transcendeth every rational nature; [so that] it was not lawful that aught generable should be made like unto Him who is beyond the Reason, and established in the most excellent and the most singular Idea [of all]."

From this passage we see that though it is true Philo calls the Logos the "second God," he does not depart from his fundamental monotheism, for the Logos is not an entity apart from God, but the Reason of God. Nevertheless this solitary phrase of Philo's is almost invariably trotted out in the forefront of all enquiry into Philo's Logos-theory, in order that the difference between this phrase and the wording of the Proem to the fourth Gospel may be insisted on as strongly as possible for controversial apologetical purposes.

That, however, Philo is a strict monotheist may be seen from the following passage, in which he is commenting on the words of Gen. xxxi. 13: "I am the God who was seen by thee in the place of God,"—where apparently two Gods are referred to.

"What, then, should we say? The true God is one; they who are called gods, by a misuse of the term, are many. On which account the Holy Word has, on the present occasion, indicated the true [God] by means of the article, saying: 'I am the God'; but the [one so named] by misuse of the term, without the article, saying: 'who was seen by thee in the place,' not of the God, but only 'of God.' And what he (Moses) here calls 'God' is His most ancient Word (Logos)."

This Logos, moreover, is Life and Light. For, speaking of Intelligible or Incorporeal "Spirit" and "Light," Philo writes:

"The former he ('Moses') called the Breath of God, because it is the most life-giving thing [in the universe], and God is the cause of life; and the latter the Light [of God], because it is by far the most beautiful thing [in the universe].

"For by so much more glorious and more brilliant is the intelligible [Light] than the visible, as, methinks, the sun is than darkness, and day than night, and the mind, which is the guide of the whole soul, than the sensible means of discernment, and the eyes than the body.

"And he calls the invisible and intelligible Divine Reason (Logos) the Image of God. And of this [Image] the image [in its turn] is that intelligible light, which has been created as the image of the Divine Reason who interprets its |that is, Light's] creation.

"[This Light] is the [One] Star, beyond [all] heavens, the Source of the stars that are visible to the senses, which it would not be beside the mark to call All-brilliancy, and from which the sun and moon and the rest of the stars, both errant and fixed, draw their light, each according to its power."

The necessity and reason of forming some such concept of the Logos is that man cannot bear the utter transcendency of God in His absoluteness. And applying this idea further to theophanies in human form, Philo writes:

"For just as those who are unable to look at the sun itself look upon its reflected rays as the sun, and the [light-] changes round the moon, as the moon itself, so also do men regard the Image of God, His Angel, Reason (Logos), as Himself."

Such divine vision is the object of the contemplative life for:

"It is the special gift of those who dedicate themselves to the service (QERAPEUONTWN) of That-which-is ... to ascend by means of their rational faculties to the height of the aether, setting before themselves 'Moses,'—the race that is the friend of God, as the leader of the way.

"For then they will behold 'the place that is clear,' [Ex., xxiv. 10. A.V. does not give back this reading, but LXX. reads "The place where the God of Israel stood."] on which the immovable and unchangeable God hath set His feet, and the [regions] beneath His feet, as it were a work of sapphire stone, and as it might be the form of the firmament of heaven, the sensible cosmos, which he ('Moses') symbolises by these things.

"For it is seemly that those who have founded a brotherhood for the sake of wisdom, should long to see Him; and if they cannot do this, to behold at least His Image, most Holy Reason (Logos), and after him also the most perfect work in [all] things sensible, [namely] this cosmos.

"For the work of philosophy is naught else than the striving clearly to see these things."

And later on, in the same treatise, Philo writes still more interestingly and instructively as follows:

"But they who have attained unto wisdom, are, as they should be, called Sons of the One God, as Moses admits when he says: 'Ye are the sons of the Lord God,' and 'God who begat thee,' and 'Is not He Himself thy father?'

"And if a man should not as yet have the good fortune to be worthy to be called a Son of God, let him strive manfully to set himself in order according to His First-born Reason (Logos), the Oldest Angel, who is as though it were the Angel-chief, of many names; for he is called Dominion, and Name of God, and Reason, and the Man-after-the-likeness, and Seeing Israel.

"And for this reason I was induced a little before to praise the principles of them who say: 'We are all sons of One Man.' For even if we have not yet become fit to be judged Sons of God, we may at any rate be Sons of His Eternal Likeness, His Most holy Reason; for Reason, the Eldest [of all Angels], is God's Likeness (or Image)."

And so also we read elsewhere:

"But the Reason (Logos) is God's Likeness, by whom [sci. Reason] the whole cosmos was fashioned."

This Divine Reason of things, then, was the means by which the cosmos came into existence. And so we find Philo writing:

"But if any one should wish to make use of naked terms, he might say that the intelligible order of things is nothing else than the Reason {Logos) of God perpetually creating the [sensible] world-order.

"For the Intelligible City is nothing else but the reasoning of the Architect determining in His Mind to found a city perceivable by the senses after [the model of] the City which the mind alone can perceive.

"This is the doctrine of Moses and not [only] mine. At any rate in describing the genesis of man he expressly agrees that he (man) was fashioned in the image of God. And if this is the case with the part,—the image of the Image—it is plainly also the case with the whole Form, that is the whole of this sensible cosmos, which is a [far] greater imitation of the Divine Image than the human image is.

"It is plain, moreover, that the Archetypal Seal, which we call Cosmos which is perceptible only to the intellect, must itself be the Archetypal Pattern, the Idea of ideas, the Reason (Logos) of God."
And elsewhere also he writes:

"Passing, then, from details, behold the grandest House or City, namely this cosmos. Thou shalt find that the cause of it is God, by whom it came into existence. The matter of it is the four elements, out of which it has been composed. The instrument by means of which it has been built, is the Reason (Logos) of God. And the object of its building is the Goodness of the Creator."

And again:

"Now the Reason (Logos) is the Likeness of God, by which the whole cosmos was made." And still more clearly:

"But God's Shadow is His Reason (Logos), which using, as it were an instrument, He made the cosmos. And this Shadow is as it were the Archetypal Model of all else. For that as God is the Original of His Image, which he ('Moses') now calls [His] Shadow, so, [in its turn] that Image is the Model of all else, as he ('Moses') showed when, at the beginning of the law-giving, he said: 'And God made man according to the Image of God,' —this Likeness being imaged according to God, and man being imaged according to this Likeness, which received the power of its Original."

Moreover, the Divine Reason, as an instrument, is regarded as the means of separation and division:

"So God, having sharpened His Reason (Logos), the Divider of all things, cut off both the formless and undifferentiated essence of all things, and the four elements of cosmos which had been separated out of it, and the animals and plants which had been compacted by means of these."

With this we may compare the following passage from the Acts of John, where we read of the Logos:

"But what it is in truth, as conceived of in itself, and as spoken of to thee,—it is the marking-off (or delimitation) of all things, the firm necessity of those things that are fixed and were unsettled, the Harmony of Wisdom."

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