This study investigates the idea of harmony as a protological and eschatological principle in three outstanding Patristic philosophers, well steeped in the Platonic tradition: Origen, Gregory Nyssen, and Evagrius. All of them attached an extraordinary importance to harmony, homonoia, and unity in the arkhē and, even more, in the telos. This ideal is opposed to the disagreement/dispersion of rational creatures’ acts of volition after their fall and before the eventual apokatastasis. These Christian Platonists are among the strongest supporters of the final universal restoration. Their reflection on the unity-multiplicity dialectic, which parallels that between harmony and disorder/discord/dissonance, is informed by the Platonic tradition. In Gregory, the idea of harmony assumes musical connotations, especially in relation to the telos.
In this connection, I examine the relationship between their notion of harmony in the arkhē and telos and Plotinus’ concept of harmony. Plotinus was well known to Gregory, the author of a Christianized version of Plato’s Phaedo in which apokatastasis is prominent. Origen, whose readings included many Middle-Platonic and Neo-Pythagorean texts, in Alexandria attended the classes of the “proto-Neoplatonist” Ammonius, who was also Plotinus’ teacher. A wide-ranging methodical investigation of the relation between Origen’s and Plotinus’ philosophical thoughts is still a notable desideratum.
Finally, I concentrate on the concept of harmony in astronomy as a metaphor for intellectual harmony and apokatastasis in Patristic Platonism, especially in Evagrius’ Kephalaia Gnōstika. The noun apokatastasis was used in an astronomical sense, and employed in Stoicism for the conclusion of a cosmic cycle. Evagrius, who loved astronomical metaphors, focussed a kephalaion on a wordplay—which escaped Guillaumont and all other scholars—concerning the astronomical meaning of apokatastasis, thus embedding his theory of the eventual restoration in an allegorical framework that rests on a notion of astronomical harmony. A strong case is made in this connection that Evagrius was elaborating on Plato’s pivotal link between cosmological (astronomical) and intellectual harmony, and was aware that the Stoic theory of cosmological apokatastasis drew on Plato.
The idea of harmony is both a protological and an eschatological principle in three of the main Patristic philosophers, all very well steeped in the Platonic tradition: Origen of Alexandria († 255ca.),2 Gregory of Nyssa († 394 or soon after), and Evagrius of Pontus († 399). All three of them attached an extraordinary importance to harmony (ἁρµονία, συµφωνία, σύµπνοια), concord (ὁµόνοια), and unity (ἑνότης, ἕν, µονάς). These are regarded as present, to a certain degree, even in the current arrangement of things, essentially thanks to the Logos, but above all in the arkhē and, even more, in the telos, that is to say, the beginning and the end, both in the ontological and in the historical sense. This ideal harmony and unity that characterize the beginning and the end of human history is opposed by these thinkers to the disagreement and dispersion of acts of volition of rational creatures after the fall and before the eventual apokatastasis. Indeed, these three Christian Platonists are among the strongest supporters of the doctrine of the final universal restoration, i.e. the reintegration of all rational creatures to harmony and unity with one another and with God, after their rejection of evil. These Patristic philosophers’ reflection on the dialectic between unity and multiplicity, which parallels that between harmony and disorder/discord/dissonance, is strongly informed by the Platonic tradition. This is indeed the main source of their reflection on harmony and unity along with the Bible. In particular in the New Testament, unity is emphasized in John 17, in the solemn prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper: he prays that his followers my be one (ἕν), just as he and the Father are One. This prayer was a pivotal point of departure for Patristic reflection on unity:3 that of the Trinity, of the Church, of the Logos, and, in the Origenian tradition, the unity of all rational creatures with God at the beginning and in the end.
Before going on, it is necessary to premise that Origen was indeed a Christian Platonist.4 Especially Mark Edwards and Panayiotis Tzamalikos have emphasized Origen’s “anti-Platonism.” I agree with their point that Origen can be regarded as an anti-Platonist in some respects, but only insofar as we understand that the Platonism which is criticized by him is “pagan”, anti-Christian Platonism and “Gnostic” Platonism—which for Origen is not Christian—rather than Platonism tout court. What Origen aimed at was the construction of a Christian Platonism that was no less legitimate in his view than the “pagan” one. In sum, Origen’s “anti-Platonism” must be qualified. I think he was against pagan Platonism and Gnostic Platonism, precisely because he intended to construct an “orthodox” Christian Platonism, against “Gnosticism,” Marcionism, and “paganism”. Of course he rejected doctrines such as that of metensomatosis, which was incompatible with Scripture and was supported by Plato himself only in a mythical form, while it was “pagan” Platonism that supported it in a theoretical and dogmatic form—and this is what Origen and then Gregory of Nyssa countered.5 This is why Origen never stopped teaching philosophy and valued philosophy for instance in Comm. in Cant. II 1.28: the queen of Saba, who represents the “pagans,” brought gold with her, which symbolizes philosophy, regarded as most valuable. Origen the Christian may even be the same as the Neoplatonist of whom Porphyry, Iamblichus, and Proclus speak.6 At any rate, he was, or became, a Christian, and his Platonism is Christian to the point that his thought is grounded in the Bible first and in Plato after—also because in his view it was Plato who was inspired by the Bible. The latter point, which reflects a common motif in Hellenistic Judaism and Christian apologetics, is expressed especially clearly in Comm. in Cant. prol. 3.2-4. Here Origen presents theology (epoptica = de divinis et caelestibus) as part and parcel of philosophy and declares that it cannot be studied alone, without philosophical bases; then he remarks that Greek philosophers drew inspiration from Solomon’s wisdom (Haec ergo, ut mihi videtur, sapientes quique Graecorum sumpta a Solomone, utpote qui aetate et tempore longe ante ipsos prior ea per Dei spiritum didicisset). Hence the priority of the Bible, but also the close similarity between the teaching of Scripture and that of Plato. Origen found in Scripture a wealth of philosophical doctrines, beginning with the γνῶθι σεαυτόν, which, he claims, was known to Solomon long before being formulated by the Seven Wise Men of Greece (Comm. in Cant. II 5.1). The doctrine of apokatastasis is one of the best examples of this closeness between the Bible and Greek philosophy, especially Platonism: as I hope to have demonstrated elsewhere,7 most of its premises are grounded in both Scripture and Platonism, but Origen adduces Scripture to buttress it. However, Scripture expresses the same truths as Platonism does.
Among the most important scriptural passages by means of which Origen supported the doctrine of apokatastasis are 1 Cor 15:24-288 and Acts 3:21. The latter includes the only occurrence of the word ἀποκατάστασις in the whole Bible. Here Peter announces the eschatological times of universal restoration, the same as announced in Matt 17:11: “Until the times of the comfort coming from the Lord’s face will arrive, and he sends Jesus Christ [. . .] the heavens will keep him till the times of universal restoration / of the apokatastasis of all beings [ἀποκαταστάσεως πάντων], of which God has spoken through his holy prophets from time immemorial.”9 The eventual universal restoration is parallel to the final comfort, consolation, and relief coming from God. It will come about when all have converted and their sins have been remitted (Acts 3:19-20) and when God’s promise to Abraham can finally be fulfilled: “In your descendants all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Acts 3:25). In this passage, too, just as in Matt 17:11, apokatastasis is eschatological, universal, and a work of God. The prophets foretold these eschatological times (as is repeated in Acts 3:24). It is noteworthy that the Vulgate renders ἀποκατάστασις in Acts 3:21 by restitutio, “restoration.”10 Among Patristic authors, the supporters of the apokatastasis doctrine saw in Acts 3:21 an endorsement of their theory. Origen used precisely the phrase ἀποκατάστασις πάντων (restitutio omnium), found in Acts 3:21, to indicate his own doctrine. In Rufinus’ version of his De principiis the notion of universal restoration is often rendered by restitutio omnium, the Latin translation of ἀποκατάστασις πάντων. Notably, it is the same translation as the Vulgate offers for ἀποκατάστασις πάντων in Acts 3:21. In Princ. II 3.5 Origen expressly refers to Acts 3:21 and interprets the “universal restoration” of which Peter speaks as the “perfect telos” and the “perfecting of all” at the end of all aeons.11 In Hom. in Ier. 14.18, he links Acts 3:21 to another Biblical passage in which the vocabulary of ἀποκατάστασις / ἀποκαθίστηµι appears: “if you return / repent, I shall restore [ἀποκαταστήσω] you” (Jer 15:19). Origen provides here an interesting explanation of what ἀποκατάστασις means, explaining that it indicates a return to what is proper and original to someone (ἡ ἀποκατάστασίς ἐστιν εἰς τὰ οἰκεῖα): one can only be restored to a state that is original and natural to him or her.12 Origen gives the examples of the therapeutic meaning, the reintegration of someone after an exile, and the reintegration of a soldier into the military unit from which he was chased. It is noteworthy that all of these meanings can be applied metaphorically to apokatastasis as restoration, as Origen conceived it. Then, Origen relates the Jeremiah passage to Peter’s reference to the universal restoration eventually operated by God (Acts 3:21).13 As is typical of Origen’s thought,14 the final apokatastasis announced by the prophets and then Peter is declared to depend on Christ. Similarly, Origen interprets the ἀποκατάστασις πάντων in Acts 3:21 as a clear reference to the eventual universal restoration in Comm. in Matth. XVII 19.15
Especially Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Gregory of Nyssa applied the notion of transcendent unity to Christ-Logos as subsuming the multiplicity of the Ideas/logoi of all existing beings, and to Christ’s humanity as coinciding with all of humankind.16 Their notion of Christ-Logos as the seat of the Ideas clearly has its roots in Middle Platonism. The Logos is the seat of the Ideas, the paradigms of reality, and unifies them. Plato’s Ideas had in fact become thoughts of God and were located in God’s mind, that is, God’s Logos. Philo, who was close to Middle Platonism, saw in the Logos, which is one, the totality of powers which are identical to the Ideas, the intelligible paradigms of sense-perceptible realities. Like an architect who forms the model of a city in his mind, God’s Logos is the seat of “the world composed by the Ideas” (Opif. mund. 17-20). The Logos, according to Philo, plays a core role in the creation of the world. Shortly after Philo, the fourth evangelist in his Prologue also assigned this role to the Logos, which he identified with Christ, as Clement, Origen, and many Patristic thinkers did after him. The Logos, in Philo’s view, is an intermediary between God and the world, and between unity and multiplicity (LA III 150; Leg. ad G. 55). The latter respect is precisely that which is most developed by Clement, who also took up Philo’s doctrine of the divine dynameis and mostly transferred them onto the Logos.
Clement observes that, according to Plato, the nous, or Intellect, is like a divinity which is able to contemplate the Ideas. It is the seat of the Ideas, and is itself God (Strom. IV 25.155-156). In 156.1, indeed, Clement describes the Logos as Wisdom, Science, and Truth, notions pertaining to the gnoseological field, which is related to the function of Christ as Logos. The Son is the sum and unification of all the powers of the spirit, “all in one”; they “concur to constitute the Son,” who is the sum of all these spiritual dynameis. But the Son is not determined by the notion of each one of his powers; Christ-Logos is not simply the sum of all these dynameis, but transcends them in a superior unity. Indeed, “the Son is not simply ‘one thing’ as one thing; nor is he ‘many things’ as parts of a sum, but One thing as All things”, ὡς πάντα ἕν (ibidem 156.2). The Logos is not only One (like the Father) and not only All (like creatures), but All in One and One as All, the unity of multiplicity that transcends the many and makes them one. “Hence also all things; for the Son himself is the circle that embraces all the powers, which are encircled and unified into one.”17 The Logos is the principle of all things, because it embraces their multiplicity in a superior unity, and because it is the agent of creation.18
Clement’s conception was received by Origen in Comm. in Io. I 20.119: whereas the Father is One and absolutely simply One, Christ the Logos is “One through All”. Christ is said to be “the first and the last” in Revelation because he is the first, the last, and all that is in between, as Christ-Logos is “all things” (ibidem I 31.219), “all and in all” (ibidem I 31.225).19 A fragment on John 17:11 survives from the Catenae (fr. 140), in which Origen takes up the famous Aristotelian expression concerning the many meanings of being, but he applies it to a Platonic issue, namely that of unity (with a very Neoplatonic passage from ontology to henology): he explains that τὸ ἓν πολλαχῶς λέγεται, “Unity has many meanings.” For instance, there is unity according to harmony and agreement, or according to similarity of nature; the unity of all human beings in Adam and in Christ is of the latter kind. In Comm. in Io. I 19.114-115 Origen uses the metaphor of the project in the architect’s mind already employed by Philo to explain the relation between the Logos and the paradigm of the world; the living Wisdom of God is the Logos, who contains and unifies all the archetypal logoi that are the paradigms of all creation. The logoi existed in unity in God’s Logos-Wisdom ab aeterno, before their creation as substances (Princ. I 4.5). The Son/Logos/Wisdom contained in itself ab aeterno the “principles”, “reasons”, and “forms” of the whole creation (initia, rationes, and species in Rufinus’ version = ἀρχαί, λόγοι, and εἴδη), the Ideas in which every existing being participates (Princ. I 2.2). This depends on the Son’s own existing ab aeterno as well as the Father, a point that Origen strenuously defended against pre-Arian and subordinationistic drifts according to which “there was a time when (the Son) did not exist”.20
Christ-Logos, with his unifying power, is the factor of the cohesion and harmony of the whole universe, and plays a role that is comparable to that of the Platonic anima mundi (and the Stoic πνεῦµα, but without the immanentistic perspective of Stoicism): “Even if it is ordered with different offices and functions, we ought not to believe that the state of the world is inorganic and disharmonious. On the contrary, just as our body is composed of many members but is governed by one and the same soul, so also should we regard the whole of the universe as one immense ensouled being, governed by God’s power and Logos, which is, so to say, its soul . . . God, the Father of all, fills up and embraces the universe with the fulness of his power,” the Logos-dynamis (Princ. II 1.3). Christ indeed subsumes not only all humanity, thanks to his “inhumanation,” but also all rational creatures qua Logos: “Just as in the Temple of Jerusalem there were steps through which one could enter the Holy of Holies, so is the Only-Begotten Son of God all steps for us . . . The first step is his human nature: by placing a foot onto this step, we can proceed through all the others, so that, beginning from his humanity, we can ascend through him, who is also angel and all the other celestial powers” (Comm. in Io. XIX 6).
Multiplicity is subsumed and transcended in the Logos’ unity, and, through Christ-Logos, in the eschatological unity of all rational creatures in God. Perfect unity and harmony will be accomplished only in the telos. This condition of unity in the θέωσις or “divinization/deification” of rational creatures has often been misrepresented as pantheism, as though a substantial confusion should occur between God and creatures. But this is excluded by divine transcendence itself; the “deification” of rational creatures, or the beings endowed with intelligence,21 will be their leading a divine life. Their unity and harmony in God will be, for Origen, a unity and harmony of will. For all rational creatures’ volitions will be oriented only to the Good, i.e., God, no longer to evil, neither will they be dispersed among a multiplicity of minor or apparent goods, but God will represent and be all goods, all in one, for all rational creatures.22
This eschatological unity and harmony will be cemented in ἀγάπη, which is why there will be no more fall from harmony and unity in the final apokatastasis: because caritas numquam cadit (Comm. in Rom. V 10.158-240). And this is one respect in which the eventual apokatastasis can be regarded not only as a restoration of the initial status, but also an improvement of it.23 Love will keep all rational creatures in harmony among themselves and with God, because love is a centripetal, unifying, and harmonizing force: Tanta caritatis vis est ut ad se omnia trahat (ibidem V 10.226).24 The harmonious unity of the apokatastasis will never be disrupted by any rational creature’s act of volition against God-the Good. Origen takes up Paul’s revelation that nothing will be able to separate us from God’s love, not even death, therefore, not even our free will (ibidem V 10.212-222). Each rational creature’s free will shall spontaneously adhere to the Good: this is the main feature of the final harmony and unity. The current multiplicity of rational creatures’ wills—and, as a consequence, of their conditions—will be subsumed and transcended in the final unity, which will reflect the unity of the beginning:
sicut multorum unus finis,
ita ab uno initio multae differentiae ac varietates,
quae rursum per bonitatem Dei, per subiectionem Christi atque unitatem Spiritus sancti
in unum finem, qui sit initio similis, revocantur. (Princ. I 6.2)
That the eschatological unity is a unity of will and therefore is concord and harmony is demonstrated also by Origen’s statement that the cause of the multiplicity, dispersion, and diversity of the present state of things is the rational creatures’ free will, oriented as it has been in different directions since their fall, before which there was unitas and concordia (Princ. II 1.1). The initial unity,25 like the final one, was harmony and concord of will, which was lost after the fall, when rational creatures began to wish something else than the Good (God), with the result of a dispersion in a multiplicity of volitions. Likewise, the final unity will be a unity of will, i.e. concord. In Princ. I 6.2, Origen stresses the dialectic between the multiplicity of all creatures (omnes, omnis universitas) and the unity of the telos (unum finem), which he also finds announced in Phil 2:10. The same concept is hammered home by him ibidem I 6.4: dispersio illa unius principii atque divisio ad unum et eundem finem et similitudinem reparatur. It is precisely the perfect, harmonious unity of the telos that induces Origen to assume that not even demons will be left outside in the end, since this would mean a break in the universal harmony that will have to obtain in the telos.26
This ineffable concord that will obtain in the end will derive from the adhesion to the Good and the rejection of evil on the part of all rational creatures, which will determine the eventual disappearance of evil itself. For evil has no ontological consistence, but is simply a lack of Good brought about by a wrong choice of a rational creature’s free will. It is a lack of Good and as such a lack of unity, i.e. dispersion and multiplicity. This is why Origen in Hom. in Ier. 1.15 equates dispersion and vanity with the devil, as the opposite of God: “that ‘on sand’ [Matt 7:26] is the building of the devil, because it is not grounded in anything solid, stable, and unified [ἡνωµένῳ].” Here unity is associated with God and the Good, lack of unity with the devil and evil. The final vanishing of evil—which becomes what is unstable, dispersed, and ultimately non-being—which will enable the eventual concord and unity of all logika is deduced by Origen not only from the metaphysical principle of the ontological non-subsistence of evil, but also from a Scriptural passage, indeed his favorite: 1 Cor 15:28. Since God must be “all in all” in the end, and God cannot possibly be found in evil, as a consequence evil will disappear in the telos, and every rational creature will find all its goods in God:
When God becomes “all in all” [1 Cor 15:28], we cannot admit of evil, lest God may be found in evil. That God is said to be “all in all” means that he is all also in each individual . . . in the sense that everything the rational intelligence, freed from any dirtiness of sin and purified from any taint of evil, will be able to perceive, grasp, and think, all this will be God . . ., and so God will be all for this intelligence . . ., because evil will not exist any more: for such an intelligence, God, untouched by evil, is all . . . After removing every sense of evil, only he who is the sole good God will become all for the creature returned to a state of soundness and purity . . . and not only in few or in many, but in all God will be all, when at last there will be no more death, nor death’s sting, nor evil, most definitely: then God will truly be “all in all”. (Princ. III 6.2-3)
The wills of all rational creatures will be harmoniously oriented toward the Good. No evil will spoil this harmony any more. John 17 also provides Origen with an excellent Scriptural basis for his claim concerning the final unity and harmony in apokatastasis: “all will become the Son when they will become one and the same thing [ἕν], just as the Son and the Father are one” (Comm. in Io. I 16); all creation restituetur in illam unitatem quam promittit Dominus (Princ. 1.6.2); Quod dicit Salvator . . . ‘Sicut ego et tu unum sumus, ut et isti in nobis unum sint’, ostendere videtur . . . id cum iam non in saeculo sunt omnia, sed omnia et in omnibus Deus (ibidem II 3.5), which clearly identifies the final unity promised by Jesus in John 17 with the eventual apokatastasis;27 “Once things have begun to rush toward the ideal state in which all are one and the same thing, just as the Father is one and the same thing with the Son, we must maintain, by logical consequence, that when all are one there will be no diversity any more” (Princ. III 6.4). The eventual theōsis will be a participation of all rational creatures in the life of the Trinity, which is unity itself.28 The unity and harmony of all will depend on the fact that all will eventually be in God and God will be all in all (see also Princ. III 2.4; III 6.6, in which unity is again emphasized).
The principle of harmony in Origen’s thought works not only at the level of the beginning and end, and not only at the cosmological level, but also at the level of the individual rational creature. Disharmony and fragmentation characterize a soul that is invaded by passions, which thus turn out to be punishment to themselves (Princ. II 10.5); only purification from passions and sins can bring about cohesion and unity in one’s soul: “if the soul’s laceration and dissolution is tested by means of fire,29 the soul will undoubtedly be consolidated in renewal and in a firmer connection and structure.” That the soul ought to be in perfect harmony—harmony implies unity, and unity perfection—is an idea that goes back to Plato and has a long history in Platonism, including Hellenistic Jewish and Christian Platonism.30 Origen also employs the concept of unity and harmony in relation to Scripture, in his anti-Marcionite and anti-Gnostic polemic,31 and describes the Bible as a musical instrument whose cords harmonize all together (Philoc. 2.6); all books in the Bible form “one book” because their content is one and the same: Christ (ibidem 5.4-7). Origen speaks of “extremely tonic and strong connections” that bind together all the parts of Scripture, thus guaranteeing “the harmony [ἁρµονία] of the entire composition” (Comm. in Io. X 18.107).
1.2. Gregory of Nyssa
Gregory Nyssen—perhaps the best Patristic philosopher after Origen together with Augustine—followed in the footsteps of Origen in many respects and also in the application of the principle of harmony to the arkhē and the telos. He insists that it is Christ who brings all human beings, and all rational creatures, to the final harmony, in the apokatastasis, by assuming the whole of human nature, and in fact the whole of the rational nature, qua Logos: “By assuming, in body and soul, the first fruits of the common nature, he sanctified it, keeping it in himself pure from any evil and unsullied . . . in order to attract to himself through it all that which is akin to him [συγγενές] by nature and of the same species [ὁµόφυλον] . . . to readmit the enemies of God to participation in his divinity” (De perf. GNO VIII/1.197;206). Between Christ and his mystical body (all humanity in the end, and even the whole rational nature) there exists what Gregory explicitly calls harmony: “one connaturalness [συµφυΐα] and one and the same harmony [σύµπνοια] activates the sympathy [συµπάθεια] of the parts with the whole” (De perf. GNO VIII/1.197-198). In Gregory’s view, just as in Origen’s, it is Christ-Logos who guarantees the “harmony” and “symphony” of the whole universe—with musical metaphors that Gregory abundantly employs—even in the present arrangement of things, and far more perfectly in the end. In the present world, harmony is found in both the sense-perceptible (De hom. op. PG 128CD; 129AC;32 De anima 28A;33 Or. Cat. p. 21.16-2234) and, to a higher degree, the intelligible creation:
The mutual agreement and sympathy of all things together, governed by order, beauty, and concatenation, is the first, original, and true music. And it is this music that the Creator makes with the ineffable Word/Logos of Wisdom by means of those things that always are. Thus, the whole cosmic order is a kind of musical harmony [µουσική τις ἁρµονία], of which God is the maker and creator. (Inscr. Ps. I, iii, pp. 31-32)
Moreover, harmony obtains between the sense-perceptible and the intelligible realm: “The universe is continuous and coherent with itself, and the harmony [ἁρµονία] of existing beings admits of no discontinuity, but there is an accord [σύµπνοια] of all beings with one another. The universe is not split up, because of its intimate connection, but all things keep being, governed as they are by the power [δύναµις] of the true Being. Now, the true Being is Goodness itself [αὐτοαγαθότης]” (Hom. in Eccl. VII p. 406.1-9). God is identified by Gregory with Plato’s Good (ἀγαθόν) and with Numenius’ and Origen’s αὐτοαγαθόν.35 And the dynamis of God, that which keeps everything together in harmony (see also Vit. Mos. 177), is Christ. Both Clement and Origen already described Christ-Logos in these terms.
Gregory of Nyssa also describes Christ-Logos-Wisdom as the seat of all Ideas or noetic paradigms of realities before creation (De Perf. 260B). Through God’s dynamis, who is Christ-Logos, these Ideas became creatures—a notion that Gregory inherited from Origen. This is the creation of the world performed by Christ-Logos (cf. In Hex. 72B). According to Gregory, Christ-Logos-Nous contains ab aeterno all the intelligible beings, the κόσµος νοητός, made of the Ideas, which are the rational principles or logoi of all that exists.
The notion of the unity of the Logos as “all things in one”, subsuming and transcending multiplicity, is also at work:
- in Origen’s and Gregory’s conception of the assumption of all humanity (and all rational creatures, qua Logos) on the part of Christ, so that the body of Christ is all humankind (and even all the rational nature); and
- in their notion of the eventual presence of God “all in all,” where the latter “all” are all humans, and all rational creatures, qua subsumed in Christ-Logos. This emerges, for instance, from Origen’s Hom. in Lev. 7.2.10-12, and entails that the resurrection of Christ was not only the one which occurred historically, but also the great, general resurrection of humanity in the end. The theme of human beings “scattered” in death/perdition and brought to unity and harmony by, and in, Christ-Logos is emphasized by Origen also in connection with the motif of Jesus’ gathering into ἕν the scattered children of God. This repeatedly appears in his Commentary on John, in which the theme of unity and concord through Christ, especially based on John 17:21, is essential. In Comm. in Io. XXVIII 21.185 Origen even joins these two motifs. The eschatological reconstitution of Christ’s body36 is connected to the interpretation of 1 Cor 15:28 and the equation between universal submission to Christ and God in the telos and universal salvation. Gregory of Nyssa takes up this whole set of ideas in his In Illud: Tunc et Ipse Filius.37 Christ will have finished the “work” to which he refers in John 17:4 after making even the last sinner just. As long as one single rational creature remains outside the body of Christ and the submission to him, i.e. outside of unity, harmony, and concord, Christ will not be able to submit to God. In all rational creatures (his body), made perfect by him, Christ will accomplish his work, as the result of which “God will be all in all” (Orig. Hom. in Lev. 7.2.6). Christ-Logos is the superior unity of all human and rational creatures together, “all in One”, and his eventual submission to the Father, that is, the submission of all logika to God, will have as a result that God, who is One, and the One par excellence, will be “in all,” and for each of these “all” will be “all”, that is, all goods. This concept of God as the One in whom all will be in the end passes through Christ-Logos as unity of all human beings (qua human being) and of all rational creatures (qua Logos). Gregory draws on these notions in his In illud.
Here, Gregory supports a non-subordinationistic and ‘anti-Arian’ interpretation of 1 Cor 15:28, which was anticipated by Origen; he took up both the main pillars and the tiniest details of the Alexandrian’s exegesis.38 In Gregory’s argument, Christ’s eschatological submission to God, fully achieved after the rejection of evil on the part of all, is the submission of his body, that is, all human beings joined in unity (In illud 19.19-20.7). Since the body of Christ is also the Church (Col 1:24-25), consequently the Church will coincide with all humankind. The dialectic between “all” (humans) and “one” (body of Christ) is highlighted by Gregory. “All”, through participation, will contribute to the construction of Christ’s body; all will reach unity of faith and knowledge and will make up Christ in perfect wholeness.39 Gregory insists on unity and concord/harmony in the apokatastasis: the “whole body” of Christ will be “in accord with itself ”; “the entire creation” will be “in harmony with itself ” (In illud 20.10-11) and, on the basis of Phil 2:10-11, every knee will bend, of all beings in heaven, on earth, and in the underworld, and all will proclaim that Christ is the Lord, which means, in Gregory’s view, that all will believe and be saved. The whole creation will become “one single body” (In illud 20.14); thus, the unity and cohesion of all humans in the one body of Christ is extended to all creatures.40 In In illud 23, too, Gregory attaches, like Origen, the key concept of love to the final apokatastasis: if the Father loves the Son (John 17:23), and all humans are in the Son, as a multiplicity subsumed in unity, then the Father loves all humans as the Son’s body, and the Son’s submission to the Father means that all humanity will “attain the knowledge of God and be saved” (1Tim 2:4-6). Gregory depends again on the notion of Christ-Logos as the unity of all human beings when in In illud 21 he states that the elimination of death will have as a consequence that all will be in life, because all will be in Christ, who is “the Life” (John 11:25), and Christ’s body will be constituted by all humankind. Similarly, Origen argued that in the end all will be in life, because eternal life excludes eternal death (Comm. in Rom. 5.7), since they are incompatible with one another; one must be eliminated, and 1 Cor 15:25-28 reveals that this will be death. According to Gregory, Christ is the Mediator just in that he unifies all to himself and to the Father, in a function of unification of multiplicity (In illud 21.10-16; cf. Origen, Princ. 2.6.1; C. Cels. 3.34).
This is how Gregory also took over Origen’s reflection on the dialectic between unity/harmony and multiplicity/disharmony/dispersion in respect to the beginning and the end of this world. In the present life, division and multiplicity are due to the different choices of rational creatures’ will, but the beginning and the end are characterized by unity and uniformity, which, for Gregory just as for Origen, are a unity of will, thus concord, directed to the Good (e.g., De anima 81Bff.). This will be the assimilation to God (ibidem 89ff.), which, too, had a counterpart at the beginning, when “human nature was ‘something divine’ before the human being acquired the impulse to do evil” (ibidem 148AB). It was divine because it was all in the Good, in harmonious unity, and it will be divine in the end, when all will voluntarily adhere to the Good and reject evil. In In illud 18.1-18, expressing many ideas already set forth in De an. et res. 104, Gregory interprets 1 Cor 15:28, on God’s eschatological presence “all in all,” in such a way as to stress the eventual harmony and unity of all rational creatures. For Gregory maintains that this verse indicates “the simplicity and uniformity of the life that we hope for.” This is because the variety and multiplicity characterizing the present life will dissolve, in that all rational creatures will have God alone instead of all the various objects of their needs.
Like Origen, Gregory too insists on Christ’s prayer for unity in John 17:20-23 as a scriptural basis of the perfect unity that will obtain in the end (In illud 22-23). He observes that Christ “unifies all” in himself and to the Father; all become “one and the same thing”, ἕν, with Christ and God who are one; Christ, being in the Father, by joining humans to himself accomplishes the union of all human beings with God. But this unity depends on the eventual rejection and annihilation of evil:
Evil must necessarily be eliminated, absolutely and in every respect, once and for all, from all that is, and, since in fact it is not . . ., neither will it have to exist, at all. For, as evil does not exist in its nature outside will, once each will has come to be in God, evil will be reduced to complete disappearance, because no receptacle will be left for it . . . God’s nature is the source of all virtue; so, in it there will be those who have attained freedom from evil, so that, as the Apostle says, “God will be all in all.” God will be both “all” and “in all” . . . And in this it seems to me that Scripture teaches the complete disappearance of evil. For, if in all beings there will be God, clearly in them there will be no evil. (De anima 101-104)
One day, the nature of evil will pass into non-being [πρὸς τὸ µὴ ὄν], after disappearing completely from being, and divine and pure Goodness will enfold in itself every rational nature, and none of those who have come to being thanks to God will fall outside God’s kingdom, when, once all evil that is mixed up with the beings has been consumed, as a kind of waste of nature consumed through the fusion of purifying fire, every being that originated from God will return precisely as it was from the beginning, when it had not yet received evil. (In Illud 13-14 Downing)
All rational beings will return to unity with God and harmony with one another only after, and because, they will have abandoned evil and be free from it: evil will no longer be mixed with any creature of God, which is ontologically good in that it derives from the αὐτοαγαθόν. In several passages Gregory insists on the resulting harmony of all rational creatures—humans, angels, and demons reintegrated into their original state—with one another and with God in the end, sometimes assimilated to a great feast of concord and joy:
Three are the conditions of rational nature: one, which since the beginning has been allotted the incorporeal life and which we call “angelic”; the other, tied to flesh, which we call “human”, and the third, freed from flesh thanks to death. Therefore, I think that the divine Apostle [Phil 2:10-11] . . . intended to indicate that general harmony of all rational nature that one day there will be in the Good, calling “heavenly” what is angelical and incorporeal and “earthly” what is joined to a body, and referring the “underworld” to . . . the “demons” or “spirits” . . . When one day, after long cycles of ages, evil has vanished, there will remain nothing else but Good, and even those creatures [sc. demons] will admit, in concord and unanimity, Christ’s lordship. (De anima 72B)
The human race, because of vice implanted in it, was banished from God’s Temple, but, once purified by the lustral bath, can enter it again. And since these enclosures that interpose, through which vice separated us from the internal part situated beyond the veil, are destined to be demolished once and for all, when, thanks to the resurrection, our nature will be reconstituted as a tent that is planted, and all corruption ingrained in us because of vice will disappear from beings, then God’s feast will be prepared by all, who will have been consolidated again and restructured by means of the resurrection, so that all will take part in one and the same joy, and there will be no more difference to divide the rational nature in its participation in goods that are the same for all, but those who now are excluded due to vice will be finally able to enter the recesses of divine beatitude. . . . The Apostle expressed the harmony of the whole universe with God . . . through the “horns” signifying the angelic and heavenly breed, and through the rest the intellectual creatures coming after the angels, i.e. us, who will be all involved in one and the same big feast characterized by harmony. (De anima 133D, 136A)
Gregory envisages the eschatological harmony of the whole creation, which will be possible because Christ, after “becoming one with us through all,” makes all that is ours his own and conciliates it to himself (οἰκειοῦται: Gregory uses the terminology of Stoic οἰκείωσις, already employed by Origen). In this way, the whole of creation will be “in harmony with itself,” ὁµόφωνος πρὸς ἑαυτήν. All will be saved because all, sooner or later, will believe; not only the whole human nature, but “the entire creation will become one and the same body” (In illud 20.8-24 Downing).
In Gregory’s works, the idea of harmony often assumes musical connotations, not only in relation to the present arrangement of things, as I have shown, but especially in relation to the telos. The idea of musical harmony in the apokatastasis is suggested in the passage from De anima quoted above, concerning the eschatological feast of all rational creatures. But it is even more explicit in Gregory’s commentary on the last Psalm (150). He reads the Psalm’s praise song as the song with which in the end all living creatures will praise God: “Humanity, after leaving behind all that is earthly, mute, and silent, will unite the music of its string instruments to the cymbals of the heavenly choirs . . . When human nature is lifted up again to its original condition, the aforementioned union [sc. of strings and cymbals] will release that sweet music of thanksgiving to God on account of his love for humanity, thanks to their mutual harmony. And through one another, and with one another, they will sing a song of thanksgiving to God for his love for humanity, a song which will be heard throughout the universe . . . and once the enemy has been utterly destroyed, a praise will be offered to God ceaselessly, with equal honor, by every living creature, eternally . . . Dance in a choir and joy await those who have won their battle against evil41 . . . All intellectual creatures join together in an harmonious choir with those who have defeated evil” (In Inscr. Ps. GNO V 66.7-9; 16-22; 67.3-6; 86.4-5; 13-14).
The image of the common dance and song of human beings and angels is used by Gregory not only to express the final perfect harmony and unity, but also to depict the initial harmony and unity of all rational creatures, which was broken by sin: “There was a time when the Ballet [χοροστασία] of the intellectual nature was one and the same . . . it looked at one and the same Leader [sc. God] and performed its dance [χορόν] according to the harmony that the Leader, from on high, provided to the movement by means of his signs . . . At the beginning, human beings danced together [συγχορευόντων] with the angelic powers” (In Inscr. Ps. II 6). But sin “broke that divine harmony of the dance [τοῦ χοροῦ συνωδίαν]”. Therefore, the harmonious dance that in the glorious apokatastasis will join again all human beings and all angels will be the reconstitution of the original dance.
Evagrius Ponticus is one of the most insightful and refined followers of Origen; he knew Gregory of Nyssa’s thought as well. Evagrius, in KG 3.28, analogously depicts the soul as an intellect that, because of carelessness, has fallen from the original Unity. Due to its lack of vigilance and carelessness,42 it has descended to the order of the praktikē (that is, from contemplation to practical life, ethics, which in Evagrius coincides with asceticism),43 whereas the intellect should proceed along its own contemplative path toward the angels; if, on the contrary, it proceeds on the path of the soul, which should rather be its instrument, it risks ending up among demons (KG 2.48). Only the intellect, in a human being, is susceptible of unity: “The ‘image of God’ is not that which is susceptible of God’s Wisdom, for in this way the mortal corporeal nature, too, would be the ‘image of God.’ But that which is susceptible of the Unity is the ‘image of God’ ” (KG 3.32). This is why, in the end, all of the human being will have to return to be intellect. God’s first creation was the creation of “primary beings,” that is, the noes or logika, who lived in a unity of concord that will be recovered only in the end. That unity is also described by Evagrius as “essential knowledge,” and was disrupted by a differentiation of the logika’s acts of will, as a consequence of which the intellects became souls. Heavy, mortal bodies were thus provided by God for these souls, and this was the second creation, that of “secondary realities,” which resulted from the “first judgement”, operated by Christ, who divided rational creatures into angels, humans, and demons, according to the gravity of their falls.
Like Origen and Gregory, Evagrius too uses John 17:22 as a Scriptural basis for the final unity. However, he elaborates much more on the absence of names and numbers both in the arkhē and in the telos. Names and numbers originated with the dispersion in multiplicity and diversity that was determined by the fall of rational creatures, but they will pass away in the eventual apokatastasis, which will represent the overcoming of that fall. These ideas are expounded by Evagrius especially in his Kephalaia Gnostika and Letter to Melania or Great Letter, CPG 2438. Any plurality, number, and name will disappear along with all aeons (KG 1.7-8) and all bodies, or at least all heavy and corruptible bodies. “The elimination of the aeons, the abolition of mortal bodies, and the vanishing of names will accompany the knowledge regarding rational creatures, while there will be unanimity of knowledge, in accord with the unanimity of substances” (KG 2.17). After all intervals of time, however long, have passed away, only the absolute eternity or ἀϊδιότης of life in God will remain. The ultimate reality is a unity that is a unanimity, namely harmony and concord. Quantity, plurality, and number—including time and space—are attached to secondary beings, what Gregory called diastematic realities: “ ‘One’ is a number of quantity. Now, quantity is linked with mortal corporeal nature. Therefore, number is proper to secondary natural contemplation” (KG 4.19). Secondary natural contemplation pertains to secondary beings, those of the second creation, but this will ultimately be subsumed into the first. Therefore, quantity and number will disappear along with the subsumption of secondary realities into primary realities. This closely reminds the reader of the cessation of plurality and names, and even of all divine epinoiai, described by Evagrius in his Letter to Melania. In Ep. ad Mel. 22-30 Evagrius expounds some reflections on apokatastasis, which he, like Origen, strongly characterises as a ἕνωσις, a unification both of the three components of the human beings (the eventual elevation of bodies and souls to the order of intellects is also declared in KG 2.17; 3.66-68; 3.15; and 1.65)44 and of rational creatures with God:
And there will be a time when the body, the soul, and the intellect will cease to be separate from one another, with their names and their plurality, since the body and the soul will be elevated to the rank of intellects; this conclusion can be drawn from the following words: “That they may be one in us, just as you and I are One” [ John 17:22]. And thus there will be a time when the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, and their rational creation, which constitutes their body, will cease to be separate, with their names and their plurality. And this conclusion can be drawn from the words, “God will be all in all” [1Cor 15:28]. (Ep. ad Mel. 22)
The impression that one might gain at first sight from this passage, that of a unity that is tantamount to an obliteration of the Persons of the Trinity, or a confusion between the Creator and creatures, leading to a pantheism of the kind of Stephen Bar Sudhaili,45 is immediately dispelled by the continuation, in which Evagrius clarifies that the three hypostases of the Trinity will remain in the telos and that the three components of rational creatures will be absorbed in each of them:
But when it is declared that the names and the plurality of rational creatures and their Creator will pass away, it does not at all mean that the hypostases and the names of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit will be obliterated. The nature of the intellect will be joined to the substance of the Father, since it constitutes his body [2 Pet 1:4]. Similarly, the names “soul” and “body” will be subsumed under the hypostases of the Son and of the Spirit. And the one and the same nature and the three Persons of God, and of God’s image, will remain eternally, as it was before the Inhumanation, and will be after the Inhumanation, thanks to the concord of wills. Thus, body, soul, and mind are (now) separate in number due to the differentiation of wills. But when the names and the plurality that have attached to the intellect due to this movement (sc. of will) have passed away, then the multiple names by which God is called will pass away as well. [. . .] It is not the case that those distinctions (sc. God’s epinoiai) are inexistent, but those who needed them will no more exist. But the names and hypostases of the Son and the Spirit will never disappear, since they have no beginning and no end. As they have not received them (sc. their names and hypostases) from an unstable cause, they will never disappear, but while their cause continues to exist, they too continue to exist. They are different from rational creatures, whose cause is the Father as well; but these derive from him by grace, while the Son and the Spirit derive from the nature of his essence. (Ep. ad Mel. 23-25)
Against possible pantheistic interpretations of the final unity of all rational creatures with God, the point concerning the unanimity of wills is paramount, since it reveals that for Evagrius, just as for Origen, the initial and the final unity are not a confusion of God and creatures, but a union of wills, and therefore concord and harmony. The Persons of the Trinity have the same will, and all rational creatures will have the same will, in that everyone’s will shall be oriented to the Good, that is, God. Just like Origen, indeed, Evagrius also explains the present differentiation of the noes with the differentiation of their acts of volitions that occurred with the fall. This is the “movement” (sc. of will), as both Origen and Evagrius call this differentiation and dispersion of volitions. In the eventual apokatastasis, such a differentiation will disappear, and with it all the divine epinoiai will, since they exist only for the sake of the salvific economy (Evagrius drew this idea from Origen, who expressed it especially in Princ. IV 4.1, but was also present in Gregory of Nyssa, who, like Evagrius, speaks of epinoiai of God more than of Christ alone). The difference between the Son and the Spirit and the creatures is made very clear by Evagrius: the Son and the Spirit derive from the Father by nature and share the Father’s essence, while rational creatures derive from God by grace and are not consubstantial with God.46
In Ep. ad Mel. 26 Evagrius draws a connection between protology and eschatology that is reminiscent of Origen (especially Princ. II 8.3): the descent from intellect to soul to body at the beginning due to a dispersion of the intellects’ wills will be overcome by the final subsumption of body and soul under the intellect in the end, with the return to a complete unity of will, harmony, and concord:
The intellect, as I have mentioned, is one in nature, individual substance, and order. However, there was a time when the intellect, because of its free will, fell from its original order and was named “soul,” and, having plunged further, was named “body.” But there will come a time when the body, soul, and intellect, thanks to a transformation of their wills, will become one and the same thing. Since there will come a time when the differentiations of the movements of their will shall vanish, it will be elevated again to the original state in which it was created. Its nature, hypostasis, and name will be one, known to God. What is elevated in its own nature is alone among all beings, because neither its place nor its name is known, and only the bare mind can say what its nature is.—Please, do not be amazed at my claim regarding the union of rational creatures with God the Father, that these will be one and the same nature in three Persons, with no juxtaposition or change. . . . When the intellects return to God, like rivers to the sea, God entirely transforms them into his own nature, colour, and taste. They will be one and the same thing, and not many any more, in God’s infinite and inseparable unity, in that they are united and joined to God . . . Before sin operated a separation between intellects and God, just as the earth separated the sea and rivers, they were one with God, without discrepancy, but when their sin was manifested, they were separated from God and alienated from God . . . When sin, interposed between intellects and God, has vanished, they will be, not many, but again one and the same. However, even if I have said that the rivers were eternally in the sea, with this I do not mean that rational creatures were eternally in God in their substance, since, although they were completely united to God in God’s Wisdom and creative power, their actual creation did have a beginning; however, one should not think that it will have an end, in that they are united to God, who has no beginning and no end. (Ep. ad Mel. 26-30)
It is further clarified here that the final unity will not be a pantheistic confusion, but a unity of will, a concord. The idea that only the “bare intellect” can see the nature of God, whose name and place are unknown, is found also in KG 2.37 and 3.70.47 The distinction between the eternal existence of the logoi or Ideas of all creatures in God and their creation as substances in time derives from Origen.48
There are a great deal of shorter passages, especially in the Kephalaia Gnostika, in which Evagrius reflects on the final unity, for instance KG 3.72: “The heritage of Christ is the knowledge of the Unity. Now, if all will become coheirs of Christ, all will know the holy Unity. However, it is impossible that they become his coheirs, unless they first have become his heirs.”49 Indeed, Evagrius, like Origen and Gregory in his In illud, interprets the final submission of all to Christ (1 Cor 15:24-28) as the final salvation of all. This submission-salvation will take place through virtue and knowledge,50 and here the highest knowledge is identified with the knowledge of the Unity, which all will achieve in the telos; for “the holy Unity” is essentially God.51 The universality of the eventual submission-salvation is highlighted by Evagrius also in KG 6.27.52 All will submit to Christ, put themselves “under his feet,” by converting to the Good, that is, God, rejecting evil, and thus being saved. In Schol. in Ps. 21,29 Evagrius interprets 1 Cor 15:25 (“for he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet”) in the sense that Christ will have to keep reigning “until all the unrighteous have become righteous.” The idea that Christ’s reign will endure until all are converted and saved is already found in Origen, from whom Eusebius also derived his discourse on the θεραπευτική and διορθωτικὴ βασιλεία of Christ.53 The submission of all to Christ, who will submit to God (1 Cor 15:28), will take place at the end of the multiplicity of aeons and names, in the telos, when all will be brought from dispersion and disharmony to unity: “When Christ will no longer be impressed in various aeons and in all sorts of names, then he too will submit to God the Father, and will delight in the knowledge of God alone. This knowledge is not divided in aeons and in increments of rational creatures” (KG 6.33). Christ leads all the logika through the aeons in their process of purification and perfecting whose telos is the apokatastasis, characterised by absolute unity: “Who will be able to express God’s grace? Who will investigate the logoi of Providence, and how Christ leads the rational nature throughout the aeons up to the union of the Holy Unity?” (KG 4.89).
In the perfect unity of apokatastasis, any distinctions of merits, which pertain to the stage of judgement in the aeons, will be superseded, because all will have abandoned passions and evil. Then, perfect unity and peace of all rational creatures will be possible, when all will participate in divine life, after abandoning multiplicity, disharmony, opposition, and even fighting:54
In the secondary natural contemplation, some are said to be leaders, and some to be subjected to leaders, according to necessity. But in the Unity there will be no leaders, nor (others) submitted to leaders, but all of them will be gods. In the knowledge of those which are secondary in their coming into being, different aeons are constituted and indescribable battles are fought. In the Unity, however, none of these things will occur; it will be an indescribable peace. There will be only pure intellects who continually satiate themselves from its impossibility to satiate.55 (KG 4.51 and 1.65)
Eschatological unity and harmony reflect protological unity and harmony in Evagrius’s system, just as in Origen’s and Gregory’s. In Sent. 58 Evagrius, reminiscent of Origen and in agreement with Gregory of Nyssa as well, identifies the essence of each rational creature with what it was at the beginning, in God’s own plan, before its fall: “If you want to know yourself, who you are, do not consider who you have been, but who you were at the beginning.” What rational creatures were in the ἀρχή, before their fall, will be restored in the end, in the eventual apokatastasis, when perfect harmony and unity will reign among all rational creatures and between these and God.
In this connection, it is necessary to examine the relationship between Origen’s, Gregory’s, and Evagrius’ notion of harmony in the arkhē and in the telos and Plotinus’ conception of harmony and unity. Plotinus relied on Plato, Middle Platonism, and Neopythagoreanism, the same lore on which Origen also based himself. That of unity was a core notion in the Greek philosophical tradition, especially the Platonic one, which had its roots in Eleaticism, but also represents a development of it, insofar as, unlike Parmenides, Plato did not deny multiplicity altogether, resolving it into unity. Suffice it to think of Plato’s conception of each Idea, which constitutes the unity of a multiplicity of realities participating in that Idea, and of his protology, which is based on the transcendent principles of the One and the indefinite Dyad. For Plato, the One coincides with the Good; for Aristotle, with the Being. Harmony is central to Plato’s thought, and one manifestation of this is the value that he attached to music;56 it might even be that his authentic dialogues have a musical structure embedded in them.57 Both φρόνησις and σοφία are described as a “symphony” in Leg. 689D. In Phil. 17C11-E1 Plato describes to be wise as to know “the number and nature of the intervals of sound . . . and the boundaries of those intervals, and how many scales arise from them, which those who came before handed down to us their followers, to call harmonies,” as well as “rhythms and metres” and every “One and Many.” And in Resp. 591D he prescribes seeking the harmony in the body for the sake of the symphony in the soul; the latter comes from the harmony of the three components of the soul: λογικόν, θυµικόν, and ἐπιθυµητικόν (Resp. 443DE). As for the correspondence that Plato draws between the harmony of the soul and the harmony of the cosmos, I shall return to this toward the end of the present essay, in relation to Evagrius, who, as I shall argue, brilliantly elaborated on this pivotal concept of Plato’s.
Among the Neopythagoreans, Nichomachus of Gerasa drew an equation between the monad and God. Numenius’ first God is Plato’s Good and the One: Plato “with a syllogism demonstrated that the Good is the One” (fr. 19 des Places). Basing himself on Pythagoras, Numenius called it ‘Monas’ (fr. 52) and depicted it as “superior to the οὐσία” (fr. 2) and “principle of the οὐσία” (fr. 16), drawing inspiration from Plato, who placed the Being and the οὐσία below the Good (Resp. VI 509B). Plotinus would continue along the same line by placing the One “beyond the intellectual nature and the οὐσία” (Enn. I 1.8), and making it the principle of the essence (ibidem V 3, 17). Likewise Origen spoke of God as superior to οὐσία and intellect, even if at times he does present the divinity as Being and Intellect.58 For Numenius, while the first God is the Monad, the second God, by joining matter, unifies it, but, since it does not adhere to the intelligible, overlooks itself (fr. 11). It “governs” (fr. 12) and “binds matter with harmony . . . and directs harmony steering it by means of the Ideas” (fr. 18). The third god, the sense-perceptible cosmos, is beautiful and therefore harmonious in that it imitates the essence of the second god, who is—like Plato’s Demiurge—good; it receives its ornament from its participation in beauty. Numenius is especially relevant to the present research in that he was one of Origen’s favorite readings, as well as being well known to Porphyry. Origen, moreover, had a special reason for appreciating Numenius, as he was the only “pagan” (Middle) Platonist who not only accepted an allegorical-philosophical reading of the Bible—while others, such as Celsus and Porphyry, rejected it—but even provided allegorical-philosophical interpretations of stories from the Old and the New Testament himself.59
In Neoplatonism, Plotinus’ One (Ἕν) transcends not only the sense-perceptible world, but even the intellectual realm and Being itself.60 It is his disciple, Porphyry, who insists on the centrality of harmony and unity in Pythagoreanism: “The Pythagoreans called One the principle of unity, identity, and equality, because of the harmony [σύµπνοια], sympathy [συµπάθεια], and conservation of the whole universe. The latter always remains one and identical, whereas the One which is in the details is such by virtue of participation in the one primary cause” (Vit. Pyth. 49).
Plotinus attached much importance not only to the idea of unity, which of course is at the top of his henological metaphysics, but also to that of harmony, and this throughout the Enneads. From the beginning, in Enn. 1, Second Tractate, On Virtue, he makes it clear that harmony is an effect of the supreme principle; hence its axiological status quoad nos: “It is from the Supreme that we derive order and distribution and harmony, which are virtues in this sphere: the Existences There, having no need of harmony, order or distribution, have nothing to do with virtue; and, nonetheless, it is by our possession of virtue that we become like to Them.”61 What manifests itself as beauty and harmony in the sense-perceptible world is the harmony of the noetic world: “he must be led to the Beauty that manifests itself through these forms; he must be shown that what ravished him was no other than the Harmony of the Intellectual world and the Beauty in that sphere, not some one shape of beauty but the All-Beauty, the Absolute Beauty” (Enn. 1, Third Tractate, On Dialectic, 1). Harmony is a crucial mediating principle between the divine sphere and the sense-perceptible world:
The divine Realm imposes the one harmonious act; each utters its own voice, but all is brought into accord, into an ordered system, for the universal purpose, by the ruling Reason-Principle. This Universe is not Intelligence and Reason, like the Supernal, but participant in Intelligence and Reason: it stands in need of the harmonizing because it is the meeting ground of Necessity and divine Reason-Necessity pulling towards the lower, towards the unreason which is its own characteristic, while yet the Intellectual Principle remains sovereign over it. (Enn. 3, Second Tractate, On Providence, 2)
This is basically the same idea that is found in Origen’s and Evagrius’ reflections on harmony in the arkhē and the telos and in the present world thanks to the Logos, with the difference that Plotinus’ discourse is metaphysical but not eschatologically oriented.
Plotinus also has the same dialectic as Clement and Origen have between the simple Unity of God the Father and the complex unity of the divine Logos, which I have already pointed out. In Plotinus the dialectic is between the simple unity of the One and the complex unity and harmony of the Nous (Intellect or divine Mind):
Thus far to give us some idea of the nature of Life in general. But this Reason-Principle which emanates from the complete unity, divine Mind, and the complete unity Life [= Soul] is neither a united complete Life nor a united complete divine Mind, nor does it give itself whole and all-including to its subject. [By an imperfect communication] it sets up a conflict of part against part: it produces imperfect things and so engenders and maintains war and attack, and thus its unity can be that only of a sum-total not of a thing undivided. At war with itself in the parts which it now exhibits, it has the unity, or harmony, of a drama torn with struggle. The drama, of course, brings the conflicting elements to one final harmony, weaving the entire story of the clashing characters into one thing; while in the Logos the conflict of the divergent elements rises within the one element, the Reason-Principle: the comparison therefore is rather with a harmony emerging directly from the conflicting elements themselves, and the question becomes what introduces clashing elements among these Reason-Principles. Now in the case of music, tones high and low are the product of Reason-Principles which, by the fact that they are Principles of harmony, meet in the unit of Harmony, the absolute Harmony, a more comprehensive Principle, greater than they and including them as its parts. Similarly in the Universe at large we find contraries—white and black, hot and cold, winged and wingless, footed and footless, reasoning and unreasoning—but all these elements are members of one living body, their sum-total; the Universe is a self-accordant entity, its members everywhere clashing but the total being the manifestation of a Reason-Principle. That one Reason-Principle, then, must be the unification of conflicting Reason-Principles whose very opposition is the support of its coherence and, almost, of its Being. (Enn. 3, Second Tractate, On Providence, 16)62
Plotinus agrees with Origen who, as I have illustrated, maintained that the harmony of the universe—even relative as it is in the present arrangement of things—is the result and the manifestation of the cohesive and harmonizing dynamis of God, God’s Logos: “This Universe is good not when the individual is a stone, but when everyone throws in his own voice towards a total harmony, singing out a life—thin, harsh, imperfect, though it be. The Syrinx does not utter merely one pure note; there is a thin obscure sound which blends in to make the harmony of Syrinx music: the harmony is made up from tones of various grades, all the tones differing, but the resultant of all forming one sound” (Enn. 3, Second Tractate, On Providence, 17). The cosmic harmony, which is described as music with one of the many musical metaphors adopted by Plotinus,63 results from the concordance of the descended souls: “We may know this also by the concordance of the Souls with the ordered scheme of the kosmos; they are not independent, but, by their descent, they have put themselves in contact, and they stand henceforth in harmonious association with kosmic circuit—to the extent that their fortunes, their life experiences, their choosing and refusing, are announced by the patterns of the stars—and out of this concordance rises as it were one musical utterance: the music, the harmony, by which all is described is the best witness to this truth” (Enn. 4, Third Tractate, Problems of the Soul, 12). Harmony and unity are joined in Enn. 5, First Tractate, Περὶ τῶν τριῶν ἀρχικῶν ὑποστάσεων, 9: “that work of unity, the harmony of the entire heavenly system.”
The One, which is the ultimate principle of unity and harmony, is itself beyond number. It is even beyond harmony and its expression, beauty. Indeed, sometimes Plotinus seems to depict the One as καλόν and sometimes as beyond beauty.64 But number plays a core role in Plotinus’ system, even though Plotinus may seem to treat it less than other later Neoplatonists such as Iamblichus or Proclus did, and certainly much less than the Pythagoreans did. Svetla Slaveva-Griffin’s analysis—which is grounded in, but far from confined to, Enn. 6.6—has thoroughly demonstrated that Plotinus in fact discusses number, and in depth at that, in relation to each principle, the One, the Intellect, and the Soul, and even that “Plotinus’ conception of number is the fundamental framework on which his entire philosophical system is built.”65 Drawing on Plato—whose doctrine of ideal numbers he defended against Aristotle—and the Neopythagoreans, Plotinus placed number in the foundation of the intelligible realm and in the construction of the universe. This is why, I observe, he can posit harmony in the universe and derive it from the first principles. Indeed, after Plato, and unlike Aristotle, Plotinus drew a distinction between intelligible numbers and mathematical/arithmetical numbers and is “the first post-Platonic philosopher who develops a theory of numbers.”66 Plotinus constructs the hierarchy One (not participating in quantity) > substantial number (not participating in quantity and expression of the Intellect) > monadic number (to which quantity pertains). He views multiplicity as number, a notion that Evagrius shared with him, and as a derivation from the One in a mathematical procession.67 Indeed, Plotinus’ idea of the universe as a multiplicity that results from a separation from the One68 is remarkably similar to Origen’s and Evagrius’ idea.
Plotinus’s thought on harmony is particularly relevant to the investigation of Origen’s and Gregory of Nyssa’s concept of harmony not only because these are Patristic Platonists, but also, much more specifically, because both of them show precise connections with Plotinus. Indeed, Plotinus’ thought was very well known to Gregory of Nyssa, the author of a deliberately Christianized version of Plato’s Phaedo in which the doctrine of apokatastasis is prominent. In his De anima et resurrectione Gregory Christianized Plato’s Phaedo both from the literary and from the philosophical point of view.69 Both are dialogues, and both between the revered philosopher-teacher and his/her disciple(s) in the even of the teacher’s death: in the Phaedo, Socrates and his disciples just before Socrates drinks the poison; in Gregory’s De anima, Macrina, Gregory’s venerated elder sister, and Gregory himself, her disciple (Macrina’s character also reveals some influence from Diotima in Plato’s Symposium), just before Macrina’s death. From the point of view of the philosophical contents, just as Plato’s Socrates treats of the immortality of the soul, so does Gregory’s Macrina treat of the immortality of the soul, but adding the Christian detail of the resurrection of the body—a scriptural teaching which she intends to support by means of rational argument—and of the eventual universal restoration or apokatastasis, which in Gregory, just as in Origen and Evagrius, is undoubtedly tantamount to universal salvation. Plotinus’ and Porphyry’s influence on Gregory of Nyssa in many respects is striking,70 and recently a case of joint influence from Plato, Plotinus, and Porphyry has been interestingly illustrated in Gregory’s De hominis opificio by Kevin Corrigan, precisely in reference to the notion of harmony applied to the body-soul relationship.71
As for Origen, whose formative readings included many Middle-Platonic and Neo-Pythagorean texts besides Plato’s own, and who never ceased teaching philosophy all his life long (all of the Greek philosophical schools apart from the “atheist” ones), in Alexandria he attended the classes of the “proto-Neoplatonist” Ammonius Saccas, who was also the teacher of Plotinus.72 Indeed, a wide-ranging methodical investigation into the relation between Origen’s and Plotinus’ philosophical thoughts is still an important desideratum.73 I suspect it will bring to light extremely interesting evidence.
In the light of what I have pointed out so far, I can finally concentrate on the concept of harmony in astronomy as a metaphor for intellectual harmony and the apokatastasis in Patristic Platonism, in particular in Evagrius’ Kephalaia Gnōstika (Chapters on Knowledge), in their non-expurgated redaction known as S2, first published by Antoine Guillaumont.74 These Kephalaia only survive in scanty Greek fragments and in two Syriac translations, one of which, S1, was probably modified later in order to adapt it to the meanwhile established “orthodoxy.”75
In Greek, the noun ἀποκατάστασις was used, well before Christianity, in an astronomical sense,76 and was employed by the Stoics to indicate the conclusion of a cosmic cycle. In its astronomical technical meaning, ἀποκατάστασις indicated the periodical return of the stars to their initial positions. In the astronomical work of Antiochus, only fragments of which survive, a chapter was entitled “the great years and the perfect return [ἀποκατάστασις] of the seven planets to their original positions.”77 In Geminus the expression “the fourth part of the ἀποκατάστασις” (Astron. 18.18.3) means the fourth part of the time employed by a celestial body to return to its original position.78 In 2.8 Geminus offers the definition of an apokatastasis as a whole revolution of the moon: “the time from the smallest movement to the smallest movement again is called revolution [ἀποκατάστασις]» (cf. ibidem 1.7).79 A fragment from Thrasyllus’ astronomical work (8.3, 100.14-15) defines the apokatastasis of a heavenly body as its return from a constellation to the same constellation after a complete revolution.
The cosmological meaning of ἀποκατάστασις in Stoicism is closely related to the astronomical meaning of this word. In Stoic cosmology, this term indicates the endless repetition of cosmic cycles (SVF 2.599; 625), based on aeons or “great years” that are identical to one another. The same persons will exist in each aeon and will behave in the same ways, and the same events will happen, with no end. This infinite succession of aeons is determined by periodical conflagrations in which everything is resolved into fire, i.e. the aether or Logos or pneuma—which coincides with Zeus, the supreme but immanent divinity. Then all will expand again into a new universe. SVF 2,599 (from Eusebius PE 15.19.1-3) expounds the conflagration postulated by the Stoics and the birth of a new universe or “whole,” which is indicated by the terms ἀνάστασις and ἀποκατάστασις. SVF 2.625 (from Nemesius, NH 38), describes the notion of apokatastasis in Stoicism as astronomical and cosmological together and as related to the concept of an infinite repetition of aeons: “The Stoics maintain that the planets will return [ἀποκαθισταµένους] into the same constellation [. . .] Universal restoration [ἀποκατάστασις] takes place not only once, but many times, or better the same things will continue to be repeated [ἀποκαθίστασθαι] indefinitely, without end.” It is worth observing that the terms ἀποκατάστασις and ἀποκαθίστηµι are only attested by Christian sources, such as Eusebius and Nemesius.80 Kαθίστηµι is attested in a Greek fragment from Chrysippus concerning apokatastasis and preserved, again, by a Christian author, Lactantius.81
But the Stoic conception of apokatastasis was firmly criticized by Origen,82 especially because it seemed to him to eliminate human free will and to imply an infinite repetition of aeons, which would thus be meaningless and deprived of any orientation toward anything. Origen intended to show in this way that the Christian doctrine of apokatastasis—his own doctrine—was entirely different. The main differences between the Stoic theory of apokatastasis and Origen’s Christian doctrine are essentially the following.
- Against the endless series of aeons postulated by the Stoics, Origen posited an end of the sequence of aeons, which will coincide with the final apokatastasis. This will be the telos, the absolute end, when every χρόνος and every αἰών will be superseded. The end of all aeons will have all rational creatures enter eternity in the proper sense (ἀϊδιότης).83 For instance, in Princ. II 3.5 Origen clarifies that there will come the end of all aeons, coinciding with the apokatastasis, “when all will be no more in an aeon, but God will be ‘all in all.’” Ibidem 3,1 Origen foresees “a stage in which there will be no aeon any more.” And in Comm. in Io. XIII 3 after “αἰώνιος life,” which will be in the next aeon, in Christ, Origen posits the apokatastasis, in which all will be in the Father and God will be “all in all.”84
- According to the Stoics, in each aeon everything would happen in the very same way as in the previous one, so that all aeons would be identical to one another and each person would act in the very same way in every aeon. On the contrary, Origen regarded the aeons as different from one another, in that they are the theatre of the moral and spiritual development of rational creatures. Their very arrangement depends on that development and on the free choices of the logika. This is why Origen criticizes the Stoic theory as a denial of human free will: “If this is the case, our freedom of will is over. For, if during given cycles, out of necessity, the same things have happened, happen, and will happen [. . .] it is clear that out of necessity Socrates will always devote himself to philosophy, and will be accused of introducing new divinities and of corrupting the youths; and that Anitus and Meletus will always be his accusers, and that the Areopagus judges will condemn him to death [. . .] If one accepts this idea, I do not quite know how our freedom will be saved and how praises and blames will possibly be justified” (CC IV 67-68). Likewise, in Princ. II 3.4 Origen denounces again the Stoic theory of apokatastasis as destructive of human free will and responsibility: “I do not quite know what arguments could ever be adduced by those who maintain that the aeons follow each other being perfectly identical to one another. For, if one aeon will be perfectly identical to another, Adam and Eve will do for the second time the same things that they already did [. . .] Judas will betray the Lord again, and Paul will keep again the mantels of those who were stoning Stephen, and all that has happened in this life will happen again. But this theory can be supported by no argument, since the souls are pushed by their free will, and their progresses and regresses depend on the faculty of their will. Indeed, the souls are not induced to do or wish this or that by the circular movement of the heavenly bodies that after many aeons accomplish the same cycle, but wherever the freedom of their inclination has pushed them, there they orient the course of their actions.”
Evagrius, “perhaps the best educated in philosophy of all the early monks,”85 knew very well both the astronomical and cosmological meaning of ἀποκατάστασις and Origen’s refutation of the Stoic doctrine of apokatastasis. At the same time, he shows himself to be fond of astronomical metaphors, which he often refers to rational creatures. For instance, in KG 3.52 he draws the following equation: “The intelligible moon is the rational nature, which is illuminated by the ‘Sun of Justice.’” In the context of an astronomical allegory, Christ is called, according to Malachi 3:20, “Sun of Justice,” and the moon, in that it reflects the light of the sun, is the symbol of rational creatures, who receive knowledge and illumination from Christ-Logos. In KG 3.62, likewise: “Intellectual stars are rational natures who have been entrusted with illuminating those who are in darkness.” Evagrius is speaking of intellectual stars, identified with rational creatures: these logika have the same illuminating function as the stars. Evagrius, following in the footsteps of Origen, often offered an allegorical, spiritual reading of Scripture, what B. Stefaniw (2010) has recently proposed to call “noetic.” Further, in Περὶ λογισµῶν 43 Evagrius observes that, if one has attained apatheia, then one’s intellect in prayer will be “like a star,” ἀστεροειδής.
Now, what is most relevant to the present investigation is that he focussed an important kephalaion of his on a wordplay—which escaped Guillaumont and the other scholars who dealt with it—concerning the astronomical meaning of apokatastasis, thus embedding his theory of the eventual universal restoration and the perfect harmony that it will entail in an allegorical framework that rests on a notion of astronomical harmony. Evagrius’ use of astronomical allegory in reference to the eschatological destinies of the logika is to be understood against the background of Evagrius’s extensive use of astronomical allegory in reference to rational creatures. In KG 4.29 astronomical allegory refers to the eschatological situation of rational creatures, which is described as a state of harmony: “Just as, if the earth were destroyed, then the night would no more exist on the face of the firmament, likewise, once evil is removed, then ignorance will no longer exist among rational creatures. For ignorance is the shadow of evil: those who walk in it, as in the night, are illuminated by the (lamp-)oil of Christ, and see the stars, in accordance with the knowledge that they are worthy of receiving from him. And they too, the stars, will ‘fall’ for them,86 unless they immediately turn toward the Sun of Justice.” The eschatological picture that Evagrius draws here is that of harmony and unity: ignorance will no longer be opposed to knowledge, nor will evil be opposed to the Good (who is God). Just as the night is the shadow of the earth, so is ignorance the shadow of evil. But in the eschatological consummation evil will be completely destroyed; no shadow will remain, only the light of God, which is intellectual light, the light of knowledge.87 The disappearance of all intellectual, moral, and spiritual shadows will take away all opposition and disharmony and will restore harmony and unity.
In KG 3.60, which is the most important passage in this respect, Evagrius employs astronomical allegory in order to describe the telos as the eschatological restoration of unity and harmony among all rational creatures. There will no longer exist any division and opposition between those rational creatures that will be in hell for their purification and those others that will enjoy beatitude, but all the logika will be one in the Trinity after the eventual universal restoration. This interpretation is based on the crucial reference to the doctrine of apokatastasis that Evagrius made in this passage by playing on the allegorical meaning of astronomical apokatastasis. Since this important reference has been regularly missed by scholars, the full implications of this passage in relation to the doctrine of apokatastasis as the restoration of all rational creatures to a perfect harmony after their past divisions have so far escaped scholars. This is Evagrius’ kephalaion:
The morning star [lit. the ‘sign’ of the East] is the symbol of the saints,
whereas the evening star [lit. the ‘sign’ of the West] is the symbol of those who are in hell.
But the restoration of the orbit of all is the holy Trinity.
In the original Greek text of this passage the term ἀποκατάστασις, “return,” “restoration,” was certainly present, and precisely in the mention of the restoration of the orbit of all. This is evident from the allegorical reference to the return of the stars to their original position, which was exactly called ἀποκατάστασις. Evagrius consciously chose this astronomical terminus technicus in order to apply it allegorically to the restoration of all, both the saints and those who will be in hell. Their division and opposition, symbolized in Evagrius’s allegory by the diametrical opposition of the morning star and the evening star, will vanish in the eventual apokatastasis, when the harmonious unity of all rational creatures will be restored. This is all the more the case if one considers that the morning star and the evening star, although apparently they are diametrically opposed, are in fact one and the same heavenly body, the planet Venus, which takes the different names of Lucifer and Vesper. Indeed, the Syriac term for “sign” most probably reflects the Greek σηµεῖον (and not σύµβολον as supposed in the Greek retroversion below), which was often used in reference to stars, heavenly bodies, and constellations: thus, the “sign of the East” and the “sign of the West” are the morning and the evening star, representing respectively the saints in Paradise (which in Gen 2:8 is a garden “toward the East”) and the prisoners in Sheol, those who are spiritually dead, that is, sinners in hell as opposed to the saints in their place/condition of beatitude.88
Moreover, the very name of the morning star, Lucifer, is also the name of the devil, originally an angel who shone forth as the morning star before his fall, as is clear from Isa 14:12-15: “How you are fallen from heaven, Lucifer, son of Dawn! You said in your heart, ‘I shall ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I shall set my throne on high . . . I shall ascend above the heights of the clouds, I shall make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the abyss.” From morning star Lucifer became an evening star, which in Evagrius’s passage symbolizes hell, spiritual death (compare Isa 14:15 on Lucifer’s being cast into death-hell),89 but he, together with those who are in hell, will be restored to his original state in the end, when all rational creatures will be in the Trinity—instead of being opposed to one another—and God will be “all in all.”
The astronomical imagery that Evagrius here relates to the apokatastasis in such a refined manner has been entirely missed by scholars so far, as well as the reference to the eventual restoration of rational creatures to harmony that the astronomical apokatastasis symbolizes. This is Guillaumont’s French translation of Evagrius’s KG 3.60:
Le signe de l’orient est le symbole des saints,
le signe de l’occident des âmes qui sont dans le Schéol,
mais l’accomplissement du retour de la course de tout est la Trinité sainte.90
L. Dysinger’s online English version, based on the French translation,91 has:
The ‘sign of the East’ is the symbol of the saints,
and the ‘sign of the West’ of the souls which are in Sheol.
But the achievement of the return from ‘the race’ by all is the Blessed Trinity.
Fr. Theophanes’ online English translation, also made on Guillaumont’s translation and not on the extant Syriac,92 has:
The sign of the east is the symbol of the saints,
and the sign of the west, the souls which are in Sheol.
But the accomplishment of the return of the ‘course’ of all is the Holy Trinity.
Likewise the Greek retroversion fails to grasp either the reference to the morning and evening stars or that to the astronomical apokatastasis:
Σύµβολον τῆς ἡµέρας ἀνατολῆς ἐστι τὸ τῶν ἁγίων σύµβολον,
τῶν δὲ δυσµῶν αἱ ἐν ἅιδου ψυχαί,
τελείωσις δὲ τοῦ τοῦ παντὸς δρόµου ἐστιν ἡ ἁγία Tριάς.
The French translation, the two English versions based on it, and the Greek retroversion in fact all miss Evagrius’s main point in this kephalaion: the astronomical allegory, based on the notion of astronomical apokatastasis as a symbol of the eventual universal restoration to the Trinity and the end of all oppositions among rational creatures. The return of the morning and the evening stars to their original positions—which were not diametrically opposed to one another as they are now—is the allegory of the return of all rational creatures to their original unity and concord in the final apokatastasis, after their division between the good in Paradise and the evil in hell, as a result of rational creatures’ diverse volitions. In this kephalaion, indeed, the reference is first of all to the astronomical sense of ἀποκατάστασις (which most probably was in the Greek original text instead of the retroversion’s τελείωσις), which is taken by Evagrius as an allegory of the eschatological, spiritual apokatastasis. The word “course”, which I translate as “orbit” and in Greek must have been δρόµος, is usually understood as a reference to 2 Tim 4:7 (the course of the life of the apostle), but it is in fact the course of the stars, the orbit that they were thought to run. Their apokatastasis will be the return to their original position after their orbit. This orbit leads them to assume positions that are even diametrically opposed, but the eventual apokatastasis will reduce this opposition to nothing. Thus, the enormous distance between the morning and the evening stars, which essentially symbolizes the distance between Paradise and hell (Sheol as the place of those who are spiritually dead, as opposed to the place of the saints), is overcome by the final return or restoration of all stars to their original position, in the final apokatastasis, which will bring all to their original state, in conformity with God’s original plan.
Evagrius links the eventual apokatastasis with the Holy Trinity. All disharmony among rational creatures will disappear when these creatures will finally come to being in the Trinity. For in the Trinity, who is the Good itself, there cannot possibly be room for evil; all creatures will be finally found in the Good, which explains their concord and harmony: no creature’s will shall be directed to a lesser good or to evil any longer, so that there will be no more division or opposition among them. The apokatastasis was expressly related to the Trinity already by Origen, as the perfect unity of all in the unity of God, after the reign of Christ and the handing over of all by him to the Father, when God will be “all in all” (1 Cor 15:28).93 And Evagrius entertained a real mystic of unity.94
But we can go a step further, I think, and trace this newly discovered insight of Evagrius’ back to Plato. For it is notable that, as I am going to argue, Evagrius’ idea of harmony in astronomy as a metaphor for intellectual harmony in its relation to apokatastasis was inspired by Plato, and in particular by his Timaeus, with which Evagrius was very well acquainted, as all Middle and Neoplatonists were. The Stoics too were, and indeed their doctrine of cosmological apokatastasis—well known to Origen, who argued with it—was in fact based on Plato. Evagrius seems to have been aware of this. A brief analysis of some core passages in the Timaeus will suffice to demonstrate my point. Indeed, Plato himself drew a close connection between cosmological/astronomical movements and harmony and intellectual/psychic movements and harmony, on the basis of the very composition of the cosmos as an Intellect in a Soul and a Soul in a body (30B). Cosmic harmony has movements that correspond to the movements of human souls; this is also why it is a help in bringing the movements of one’s soul to order (47D). Music is a joy because its harmony imitates divine harmony in mortal movements (80B). But the specific connection between the cosmic/astronomical movements and apokatastasis, on which Evagrius relies, linking the astronomical movements and apokatastasis to the movements of the rational creatures and their eventual restoration, is found in 36E-39D. The cosmic Soul embraces the outer heaven and revolves about itself, thus originating the divine principle of intelligent life (36E); the eternal circular movement of the cosmic soul around itself is also described in 37B. On this basis, in 37D-38B Plato offers his famous conception of time as a moving image, at the cosmic level, of atemporal eternity (αἰών):95 the noetic cosmos is an eternal living being, and the sense-perceptible cosmos is its imitation; on the sense-perceptible plane, the way of imitating eternity, which persists in unity, is through time, which is an image of eternity in movement, proceeding through numbers (37E). Time depends on the cyclical movement of the cosmos which takes place according to number (38A) and is related to the cycles of the heavenly bodies (38B). Even though Plato does not directly use the term ἀποκατάστασις for the latter’s return to their original positions at the end of a “great year,” the concept is clearly there for the Stoics and Evagrius to pick up: in 39D Plato defines the “perfect year” as the completion of the return of the heavenly bodies to their original positions. What is more, even the mention of the morning and the evening stars in the Evagrian passage at stake seems to go back to this passage of Plato’s: in 38D Lucifer, along with Mars, is singled out as the heavenly body whose orbit has the same velocity as the Sun’s. Plato’s Timaeus thus definitely seems to provide an important framework for Evagrius’ passage on astronomy, rational creatures, and apokatastasis. In this connection, it is significant that Evagrius’ very definition of righteousness in Praktikos 89, based as it is entirely on harmony, comes directly from Plato: the task of δικαιοσύνη “is to generate the symphony and harmony of all the parts of the soul.”
The concept of harmony and unity is a core protological and eschatological principle—in addition to being a cosmological principle in relation to the pervasive and unifying function of God’s Logos—for the three most outstanding Patristic philosophers, who worked against the backdrop of the Platonic tradition (and, as I have argued, even under the direct influence of Plato himself). This tradition clearly informs, in various ways, their notion of harmony and unity obtaining at the beginning and in the end. They all applied, in different ways, the monē-proodos-epistrophē scheme, where the point of departure is unity and harmony, which is lost in multiplicity and dispersion (but not completely lost, since the Logos always subsumes division and dispersion into a superior unity), and will then be recovered with a return to the initial unity and harmony. This last stage by these Christian Neoplatonists is also conceived in terms of apokatastasis, the restoration of all rational creatures to harmony and unity among themselves and with God, operated thanks to the mediation of Christ-Logos.
This is but one example of the profound union of Christian thought and Platonism that occurred in Patristic Platonism, which was no less “legitimate” or fecund than “pagan” Platonism. On the purely philosophical side, indeed, the difference itself was so slight that Plotinus had Christian disciples at his school (and not only “Gnostic” Christians,96 I suspect), and Origen had “pagan” disciples at his own. Moreover, Origen the Christian philosopher—who, according to Eusebius, was admired even by “pagan” philosophers—may even have been one and the same person as Origen the Neoplatonist, mentioned with admiration by Porphyry, Iamblichus, and Proclus.97
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Ramelli I. ‘Origen and the Symbolic Meaning of Plato’s Dialogues’ Forthcoming a
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I. Ramelli (2009) and (2011d); O’Leary (2011), with my review in GNOMON 84 (2012) 560-563.
See I. Ramelli (2011d) and (forthcoming a).
In I. Ramelli (2013).
A. Méhat (1956) interprets ἀποκατάστασις here in the sense of “accomplishment, fulfilment, realisation” (sc. of the promises of God), but contrast L. Misiarczyk, “Apokatastasis realizzata, attuale e futura nella tradizione patristica pre-origeniana,” Augustinianum 48 (2008) 33-58, praes. 36-41. In fact ἀποκατάστασις means a restoration to an original condition, of health or civic rights or beatitude etc., as the Vulgate captures well in translating restitutio in Acts 3:21. Restitutio omnium does not mean the fulfilment of God’s promises, but the restoration of all beings. Origen himself clarifies the meaning of apokatastasis as restoration (see below).
This is argued by I. Ramelli (2011e).
See I. Ramelli (2013a).
On this see Ramelli (2013), the chapter on Origen. This is why Origen states in Princ. III 6.1 that the likeness to God, unlike the image of God, was not bestowed on Adam at the creation, but will have to be achieved through personal engagement. Gregory of Nyssa will be on the same line with his notion of an infinite progress after death.
For Origen and Numenius see I. Ramelli (2009).
See I. Ramelli (2010) 259-274.
Full demonstration in I. Ramelli (2011b) 445-478.
I limit myself to citing F. Pelosi (2010).
J. Kennedy (2011) argues that a musical structure underlies Plato’s dialogues; the Neoplatonic exegetes thought Plato used symbols to conceal his views within the dialogues. Kennedy maintains that Plato’s views are expressed in harmonious passages, as opposed to dissonant ones.
See I. Ramelli (2011c) 335-371.
On which see S. Gersh (2005) 195-208.
See M. Achard (2007).
S. Slaveva Griffin (2009); quotation from p. 11. I refer readers to this study also for an account of Plato’s and the Neopythagoreans’ theory of number and its influence on Porphyry’s organization of the Enneads (Ch. 6).
S. Slaveva-Griffin (2009) 12.
S. Slaveva-Griffin (2009) Ch. 1 rightly observes the inversion of direction between Plato’s cosmogonical scheme in his Timaeus and Plotinus’ especially in Enn. 6.6: while Plato considers the universe to result from a composition or σύστασις operated by the Demiurge, with a bottom-to-top scheme, Plotinus uses a top-to-bottom scheme: from the One to the multiplicity of the universe. This, I note, is also Origen’s and Evagrius’ scheme.
See Ch. Apostolopoulos (1986) and, with a different perspective, I. Ramelli (2007a) and (2009). While the former tends to think that Christian Platonism is an impossible hybrid, the latter argues for its full legitimacy and its historical success in figures such as Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, Evagrius, and Ps. Dionysius. She also points out and valorizes the doctrine of apokatastasis in Gregory’s De anima as the most important aspect of Gregory’s Christianization of the Phaedo.
K. Corrigan (2010) 147-162.
See I. Ramelli (2009).
See I. Ramelli (2010a) 57-62; (2008) 210-221; P. Tzamalikos (2006) and (2007), with the reviews respectively in RFN 99 (2007) 177-181 and ibidem 100 (2008) 453-458.
I borrow the expression of C. Stewart (2010) 321-327, praes. 324.
See Ramelli (2007). A core role in the eventual abolition of ignorance is played by Christ, the Anointed, whose lamp-oil illuminates the logika. Indeed, Christ-Logos, according to Evagrius just as to Origen, has a fundamental gnoseological illuminative function for the logika (this point is developed by Evagrius also in his Letter to Melania). The characterization of Christ as Sol Iustitiae (from Malachi 3:20) already appeared in KG 3.52: Christ enlightens rational creatures both with knowledge and with virtue (justice).
See I. Ramelli (2013), section on Origen.
See G. Bunge (1989) 449-469. On the use of monas and henas in Evagrius’s KG see G. Bunge (1989a) 69-91.
Arguments in I. Ramelli (2009), and (2011d) with further arguments.