Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series II/Volume V/Prolegomena/His Origenism
Chapter III.—His Origenism.
A true estimate of the position and value of Gregory as a Church teacher cannot be formed until the question of his ‘Origenism,’ its causes and its quality, is cleared up. It is well known that this charge began to be brought against his orthodoxy at all events after the time of Justinian: nor could Germanus, the Patriarch of Constantinople in the next century, remove it by the device of supposed interpolations of partizans in the interests of the Eastern as against the Western Church: for such a theory, to be true, would still require some hints at all events in this Father to give a colour to such interpolations. Moreover, as will be seen, the points in which Gregory is most like Origen are portions of the very groundwork of his own theology. The question, then, remains why, and how far, is he a follower of Origen?
I. When we consider the character of his great forerunner, and the kind of task which Gregory himself undertook, the first part of this question is easily answered. When Christian doctrine had to be set forth philosophically, so as to be intelligible to any cultivated mind of that time (to reconcile Greek philosophy with Christian doctrine was a task which Gregory never dreamed of attempting), the example and leader in such an attempt was Origen; he occupied as it were the whole horizon. He was the founder of theology; the very vocabulary of it, which is in use now, is of his devising. So that Gregory’s language must have had, necessarily, a close connexion with that of the great interpreter and apologist, who had explained to his century the same truths which Gregory had to explain to his: this must have been the case even if his mind had not been as spiritual and idealizing as Origen’s. But in some respects it will be seen Gregory is even more an idealist than Origen himself. Alike, then, from purpose and tradition as from sympathy he would look back to Origen. Though a gulf was between them, and, since the Council of Nicæa, there were some things that could come no more into controversy, Gregory saw, where the Church had not spoken, with the same eyes as Origen: he uses the same keys as he did for the problems which Scripture has not solved; he uses the same great weapon of allegory in making the letter of Scripture give up the spiritual treasures. It could not have been otherwise when the whole Christian religion, which Gregory was called on to defend as a philosophy, had never before been systematically so defended but by Origen; and this task, the same for both, was presented to the same type of mind, in the same intellectual atmosphere. It would have been strange indeed if Gregory had not been a pupil at least (though he was no blind follower) of Origen.
If we take for illustration of this the most vital point in the vast system, if system it can be called, of Origen, we shall see that he had traced fundamental lines of thought, which could not in that age be easily left. He asserts the virtual freedom of the human will, in every stage and condition of human existence. The Greek philosophy of the third century, and the semi-pagan Gnosticism, in their emanational view of the world, denied this freedom. With them the mind of man, as one of the emanations of Deity itself, was, as much as the matter of which the world was made, regulated and governed directly from the Source whence they both flowed. Indeed every system of thought, not excepting Stoicism, was struck with the blight of this fatalism. There was no freedom for man at all but in the system which Origen was drawing from, or rather reading into, the Scriptures. No Christian philosopher who lived amongst the same counter-influences as Origen could overlook this starting-point of his system; he must have adopted it, even if the danger of Pelagianism had been foreseen in it; which could not have been the case.
Gregory adopted it, with the other great doctrine which in the mind of Origen accompanied it; i.e., that evil is caused, not by matter, but by the act of this free will of man; in other words, by sin. Again the fatalism of all the emanationists had to be combated as to the nature and necessity of evil. With them evil was some inevitable result of the Divine processes; it abode at all events in matter, and human responsibility was at an end. Greek philosophy from first to last had shewed, even at its best, a tendency to connect evil with the lower φύσις. But now, in the light of revelation, a new truth was set forth, and repeated again and again by the very men who were inclined to adopt Plato’s rather Dualistic division of the world into the intelligible and sensible. ‘Evil was due to an act of the will of man.’ Moreover it could no longer be regarded per se: it was relative, being a ‘default,’ or ‘failure,’ or ‘turning away from the true good’ of the will, which, however, was always free to rectify this failure. It was a στέρησις,—loss of the good; but it did not stand over against the good as an independent power. Origen contemplated the time when evil would cease to exist; ‘the non-existent cannot exist for ever:’ and Gregory did the same.
This brings us to yet another consequence of this enthusiasm for human freedom and responsibility, which possessed Origen, and carried Gregory away. The ἀποκατάστασις τῶν πάντων has been thought, in certain periods of the Church, to have been the only piece of Origenism with which Gregory can be charged. [This of course shows ignorance of the kind of influence which Gregory allowed Origen to have over him; and which did not require him to select even one isolated doctrine of his master.] It has also brought him into more suspicion than any other portion of his teaching. Yet it is a direct consequence of the view of evil, which he shares with Origen. If evil is the non-existent, as his master says, a στέρησις, as he says, then it must pass away. It was not made by God; neither is it self-subsisting.
But when it has passed away, what follows? That God will be “all in all.” Gregory accepts the whole of Origen’s explanation of this great text. Both insist on the impossibility of God being in ‘everything,’ if evil still remains. But this is equivalent to the restoration to their primitive state of all created spirits. Still it must be remembered that Origen required many future stages of existence before all could arrive at such a consummation: with him there is to be more than one ‘next world;’ and even when the primitive perfection is reached, his peculiar view of the freedom of the will, as an absolute balance between good and evil, would admit the possibility of another fall. ‘All may be saved; and all may fall.’ How the final Sabbath shall come in which all wills shall rest at last is but dimly hinted at in his writings. With Gregory, on the other hand, there are to be but two worlds: the present and the next; and in the next the ἀποκατάστασις τῶν πάντων must be effected. Then, after the Resurrection, the fire ἀκοίμητος, αἰωνιος, as he continually calls it, will have to do its work. ‘The avenging flame will be the more ardent the more it has to consume’ (De Animâ et Resurr., p. 227). ‘But at last the evil will be annihilated, and the bad saved by nearness to the good.’ There is to rise a giving of thanks from all nature. Nevertheless passages have been adduced from Gregory’s writings in which the language of Scripture as to future punishment is used without any modification, or hint of this universal salvation. In the treatise, De Pauperibus Amandis, II. p. 240, he says of the last judgment that God will give to each his due; repose eternal to those who have exercised pity and a holy life; but the eternal punishment of fire for the harsh and unmerciful: and addressing the rich who have made a bad use of their riches, he says, ‘Who will extinguish the flames ready to devour you and engulf you? Who will stop the gnawings of a worm that never dies?’ Cf. also Orat. 3, de Beatitudinibus, I. p. 788: contra Usuarios, II. p. 233: though the hortatory character of these treatises makes them less important as witnesses.
A single doctrine or group of doctrines, however, may be unduly pressed in accounting for the influence of Origen upon a kindred spirit like Gregory. Doubtless fragments of Origen’s teaching, mere details very often, were seized upon and appropriated by others; they were erected into dogmas and made to do duty for the whole living fabric; and even those details were sometimes misunderstood. ‘What he had said with a mind full of thought, others took in the very letter.’ Hence arose the evil of ‘Origenism,’ so prevalent in the century in which Gregory lived. Different ways of following him were found, bad and good. Even the Arians could find in his language now and then something they could claim as their own. But as Rupp well says, ‘Origen is not great by virtue of those particular doctrines, which are usually exhibited to the world as heretical by weak heads who think to take the measure of everything with the mere formulæ of orthodoxy. He is great by virtue of one single thought, i.e. that of bringing philosophy into union with religion, and thereby creating a theology. With Clement of Alexandria this thought was a mere instinct: Origen gave it consciousness: and so Christendom began to have a science of its own.’ It was this single purpose, visible in all Origen wrote, that impressed itself so deeply upon Gregory. He, too, would vindicate the Scriptures as a philosophy. Texts, thanks to the labours of Origen as well as to the councils of the Church, had now acquired a fixed meaning and an importance that all could acknowledge. The new spiritual philosophy lay within them; he would make them speak its language. Allegory was with him, just as with Origen, necessary, in order to find the Spirit which inspires them. The letter must not impose itself upon us and stand for more than it is worth; just as the practical experience of evil in the world must not blind us to the fact that it is only a passing dispensation. If only the animus and intention is regarded, we may say that all that Gregory wrote was Origenistic.
II. But nevertheless much had happened in the interval of 130 years that divides them and this leads us to consider the limits which the state of the Church, as well as Gregory’s own originality and more extended physical knowledge, placed upon the complete filling in of the outlines sketched by the master. First and chiefly, Origen’s doctrine of the pre-existence of the soul could not be retained; and we know that Gregory not only abandoned it, but attacked it with all his powers of logic in his treatise, De Animâ et Resurrectione: for which he receives the applause of the Emperor Justinian. Souls, according to Origen, had pre-existed from eternity: they were created certainly, but there never was a time when they did not exist: so that the procession even of the Holy Spirit could in thought only be prior to their existence. Then a failure of their free wills to grasp the true good, and a consequent cooling of the fire of love within them, plunged them in this material bodily existence, which their own sin made a suffering one. This view had certainly great merits: it absolved the Deity from being the author of evil, and so was a ‘théodicée;’ it entirely got rid of the two rival principles, good and evil, of the Gnostics; and it avoided the seeming incongruity of what was to last for ever in the future being not eternal in the past. Why then was it rejected? Not only because of the objection urged by Methodius, that the addition of a body would be no remedy but rather an increase of the sin; or that urged amongst many others by Gregory, that a vice cannot be regarded as the precursor of the birth of each human soul into this or into other worlds; but more than that and chiefly, because such a doctrine contravened the more distinct views now growing up as to what the Christian creation was, and the more careful definitions also of the Trinity now embodied in the creeds. In fact the pre-existence of the soul was wrapped up in a cosmogony that could no longer approve itself to the Christian consciousness. In asserting the freedom of the will, and placing in the will the cause of evil, Origen had so far banished emanationism; but in his view of the eternity of the world, and in that of the eternal pre-existence of souls which accompanied it, he had not altogether stamped it out. He connects rational natures so closely with the Deity that each individual λόγος seems almost, in a Platonic way, to lie in the Divine which he styles οὐσία οὐσιῶν, ἰδέα ἰδεῶν. They are ‘partial brightnesses (ἀπαυγάσμαπα) of the glory of God.’ He allows them, of course, to have been created in the Scriptural sense of that word, which is certainly an advance upon Justin; but his creation is not that distinct event in time which Christianity requires and the exacter treatment of the nature of the Divine Persons had now developed. His creation, both the intelligible and visible world, receives from him an eternity which is unnatural and incongruous in relation to his other speculations and beliefs: it lingers, Tithonus-like, in the presence of the Divine Persons, without any meaning and purpose for its life; it is the last relic of Paganism, as it were, in a system which is otherwise Christian to the very core. His strenuous effort to banish all ideas of time, at all events from the intelligible world, ended in this eternal creation of that world; which seemed to join the eternally generated Son too closely to it, and gave occasion to the Arians to say that He too was a κτίσμα. This eternal pre-existence in fact almost destroyed the idea of creation, and made the Deity in a way dependent on His own world. Athanasius, therefore, and his followers were roused to separate the divinity of the Son from everything created. The relation of the world to God could no longer be explained in the same terms as those which they employed to illustrate the relations between the Divine Persons; and when once the doctrine of the consubstantiality of the Father and Son had been accepted and firmly established there could be no more favour shown by the defenders of that doctrine to the merely Platonic view of the nature and origin of souls and of matter.
Amongst the defenders of the Creed of Nicæa, Gregory, we know, stands well-nigh foremost. In his long and numerous treatises on the Trinity he employs every possible argument and illustration to show the contents of the substance of the Deity as transcendent, incommunicable to creation per se. Souls cannot have the attributes of Deity. Created spirits cannot claim immediate kindred with the Λόγος. So instead of the Platonic antithesis of the intelligible and sensible world, which Origen adopted, making all equal in the intelligible world, he brings forward the antithesis of God and the world. He felt too that that antithesis answers more fully not only to the needs of the Faith in the Trinity daily growing more exact and clear, but also to the facts of the Creation, i.e. its variety and differences. He gives up the preexistence of the rational soul; it will not explain the infinite variety observable in souls. The variety, again, of the material world, full as it is of the miracles of divine power, cannot have been the result of the chance acts of created natures embodying themselves therein, which the theory of pre-existence supposes. God and the created world (of spirits and matter) are now to be the factors in theology; although Gregory does now and then, for mere purposes of illustration, divide the Universe still into the intelligible and the sensible.
When once pre-existence was given up, the parts of the soul could be more closely united to each other, because the lower and higher were in their beginning no longer separated by a gulf of ages. Accordingly Gregory, reducing the three parts of man which Origen had used to the simpler division into visible and invisible (sensible and intelligible), dwells much upon the intimate relation between the two and the mutual action of one upon the other. Origen had retained the trichotomy of Plato which other Greek Fathers also, with the sanction, as they supposed, of S. Paul (1 Thess. v. 23), had adopted. ‘Body,’ ‘soul,’ and ‘spirit,’ or Plato’s ‘body,’ ‘unreasoning’ and ‘reasoning soul,’ had helped Origen to explain how the last, the pre-existent soul (the spirit, or the conscience, as he sometimes calls it) could ever have come to live in the flesh. The second, the soul proper, is as it were a mediating ground on which the spirit can meet the flesh. The celestial mind, ‘the real man fallen from on high,’ rules by the power of conscience or of will over this soul, where the merely animal functions and the natural appetites reside; and through this soul over the body. How the celestial mind can act at all upon this purely animal soul which lies between it and the body, Origen leaves unexplained. But this division was necessary for him, in order to represent the spirit as remaining itself unchanged in its heavenly nature, though weakened by its long captivity in the body. The middle soul (in which he sometimes places the will) is the scene of contamination and disorder; the spirit is free, it can always rejoice at what is well done in the soul, and yet is not touched by the evil in it; it chooses, convicts, and punishes. Such was Origen’s psychology. But an intimate connexion both in birth and growth between all the faculties of man is one of Gregory’s most characteristic thoughts, and he gave up this trichotomy, which was still, however, retained by some Greek fathers, and adopted the simpler division mentioned above in order more clearly and concisely to show the mutual play of spirit and body upon each other. There was soon, too, another reason why this trichotomy should be suspected. It was a second time made the vehicle of error. Apollinaris adopted it, in order to expound that the Divine Λόγος took the place, in the tripartite soul of Christ, of the ‘reasonable soul’ or spirit of other men. Gregory, in pressing for a simpler treatment of man’s nature, thus snatched a vantage-ground from a sagacious enemy. His own psychology is only one instance of a tendency which runs through the whole of his system, and which may indeed be called the dominating thought with which he approached every question; he views each in the light of form and matter; spirit penetrating and controlling body, body answering to spirit and yet at the same time supplying the nutriment upon which the vigour and efficacy of spirit, in this world at least, depends. This thought underlies his view of the material universe and of Holy Scripture, as well as of man’s nature. With regard to the last he says, ‘the intelligible cannot be realized in body at all, except it be commingled with sensation;’ and again, ‘as there can be no sensation without a material substance, so there can be no exercise of the power of thought without sensation.’ The spiritual or intelligent part of man (which he calls by various names, such as ‘the inner man,’ the ψυχὴ λογικὴ, νοῦς or διάνοια, τὸ ζωοποιὸν αἴτιον, or simply ψυχὴ as throughout the treatise On the Soul), however alien in its essence from the bodily and sentient part, yet no sooner is united with this earthly part than it at once exerts power over it. In fact it requires this instrument before it can reach its perfection. ‘Seeing, then, man is a reasoning animal of a certain kind, it was necessary that the body should be prepared as an instrument appropriate to the needs of his reason.’ So closely has this reason been united with the senses and the flesh that it performs itself the functions of the animal part; it is the ‘mind’ or ‘reason’ itself that sees, hears, &c.; in fact the exercise of mind depends on a sound state of the senses and other organs of the body; for a sick body cannot receive the ‘artistic’ impressions of the mind and, so, the mind remains inoperative. This is enough to show how far Gregory had got from pre-existence and the ‘fall into the prison of the flesh.’
His own theory of the origin of the soul, or at least that to which he visibly inclines, is stated in the treatise, De Animâ et Resurrectione, p. 241. It is that of Tertullian and some Greek Fathers also: and goes by the name of ‘traducianism.’ The soul is transmitted in the generating seed. This of course is the opposite pole to Origen’s teaching, and is inconsistent with Gregory’s own spiritualism. The other alternative, Creationism, which a number of the orthodox adopted, namely that souls are created by God at the moment of conception, or when the body of the fœtus is already formed, was not open to him to adopt; because, according to him, in idea the world of spirits was made, and in a determinate number, along with the world of unformed matter by the one creative act ‘in the beginning.’ In the plan of the universe, though not in reality as with Origen, all souls are already created. So the life of humanity contains them: when the occasion comes they take their beginning along with the body which enshrines them, but are not created then any more than that body. Such was the compromise between spiritualism and materialism to which Gregory was driven by the difficulties of the subject. Origen with his eye unfalteringly fixed upon the ideal world, and unconscious of the practical consequences that might be drawn from his teaching, cut the knot with his eternal pre-existence of souls, which avoided at once the alleged absurdity of creationism and the grossness of traducianism. But the Church, for higher interests still than those of pure idealism, had to reject that doctrine; and Gregory, with his extended knowledge in physic and his close observation of the intercommunion of mind and body, had to devise or rather select a theory which, though a makeshift, would not contradict either his knowledge or his faith.
Yet after admitting that soul and body are born together and attaching such importance to the ‘physical basis’ of life and thought, the influence of his master, or else his own uncontrollable idealism, carries him away again in the opposite direction. After reading words in his treatise which Locke might have written we come upon others which are exactly the teaching of Berkeley. There is a passage in the De Animâ et Resurrectione where he deals with the question how an intelligent Being could have created matter, which is neither intelligent or intelligible. But what if matter is only a concourse of qualities, ἔννοιαι, or ψιλὰ νοήματα as he elsewhere calls them? Then there would be no difficulty in understanding the manner of creation. But even about this we can say so much, i.e. that not one of those things which we attribute to body is itself body: neither figure, nor colour, nor weight, nor extension, nor quantity, nor any other qualifying notion whatever: but every one of them is a thought: it is the combination of them all into a single whole that constitutes body. Seeing, then, that these several qualifications which complete the particular body are grasped by thought alone, and not by sense, and that the Deity is a thinking being, what trouble can it be to such a thinking agent to produce the thoughts whose mutual combination generate for us the substance of that body? and in the treatise, De Hom. Opif., c. 24, the intelligible φύσις is said to produce the intelligible δυνάμεις, and the concourse of these δυνάμεις brings into being the material nature. The body itself, he repeats (contra Fatum, p. 67), is not a real substance; it is a soulless, unsubstantial thing. The only real creation is that of spirits. Even Origen did not go so far as that Matter with him, though it exists by concomitance and not by itself, nevertheless really exists. He avoided a rock upon which Gregory runs; for with Gregory not only matter but created spirit as well vanish in idealism. There remain with him only the νοούμενα and God.
This transcendent idealism embarrasses him in many ways, and makes his theory of the soul full of inconsistency. (1) He will not say unhesitatingly whether that pure humanity in the beginning created in the image of God had a body or not like ours. Origen at all events says that the eternally pre-existing spirits were invested with a body, even before falling into the sensible world. But Gregory, while denying the pre-existence of souls in the sense of Origen, yet in many of his treatises, especially in the De Hom. Opificio, seems to point to a primitive humanity, a predeterminate number of souls destined to live in the body though they had not yet lived, which goes far beyond Origen’s in its ideal character. “When Moses,” Gregory says, “speaks of the soul as the image of God, he shows that all that is alien to God must be excluded from our definition of the soul; and a corporal nature is alien to God.” He points out that God first ‘made man in His own image,’ and after that made them male and female; so that there was a double fashioning of our nature, ἥ τε πρὸς τὸ θεῖον ὁμοιωμένη, ἥ τε πρὸς τὴν διαφορὰν ταύτην (i.e. male and female) διηρημένη. On the other hand, in the Oratio Catechetica, which contains certainly his more dogmatic statement on every point, this ideal and passionless humanity is regarded as still in the future: and it is represented that man’s double-nature is actually the very centre of the Divine Councils, and not the result of any mistake or sin; man’s soul from the very first was commingled (ἀνάκρασις is Gregory’s favourite word) with a body, in order that in him, as representing every stage of living things, the whole creation, even in its lowest part, might share in the divine. Man, as the paragon of animals, was necessary, in order that the union might be effected between two otherwise irreconcilable worlds, the intelligible and the sensible. Though, therefore, there was a Fall at last, it was not the occasion of man’s receiving a body similar to animals; that body was given him at the very first, and was only preparatory to the Fall, which was foreseen in the Divine Councils and provided for. Both the body and the Fall were necessary in order that the Divine plan might be carried out, and the Divine glory manifested in creation. In this view the “coats of skins” which Gregory inherits from the allegorical treasures of Origen are no longer merely the human body itself, as with Origen, but all the passions, actions, and habits of that body after the Fall, which he sums up in the generic term πάθη. If, then, there is to be any reconciliation between this and the former view of his in which the pure unstained humanity, the ‘image of God,’ is differentiated by a second act of creation as it were into male and female, we must suppose him to teach that immediately upon the creation in God’s image there was added all that in human nature is akin to the merely animal world. In that man was God’s image, his will was free, but in that he was created, he was able to fall from his high estate; and God, foreseeing the Fall, at once added the distinction of sex, and with it the other features of the animal which would befit the fall; but with the purpose of raising thereby the whole creation. But two great counter-influences seem always to be acting upon Gregory; the one sympathy with the speculations of Origen, the other a tendency to see even with a modern insight into the closeness of the intercommunion between soul and body. The results of these two influences cannot be altogether reconciled. His ideal and his actual man, each sketched with a skilful and discriminating hand, represent the interval that divides his aspirations from his observations: yet both are present to his mind when he writes about the soul. (2) He does not alter, as Origen does, the traditional belief in the resurrection of the body, and yet his idealism, in spite of his actual and strenuous defence of it in the carefully argued treatise On the Soul and Resurrection, renders it unnecessary, if not impossible. We know that his faith impelled Origen, too, to contend for the resurrection of the flesh: yet it is an almost forced importation into the rest of his system. Our bodies, he teaches, will rise again: but that which will make us the same persons we were before is not the sameness of our bodies (for they will be ethereal, angelic, uncarnal, &c.) but the sameness of a λόγος within them which never dies (λόγος τις ἔγκειται τῷ σώματι, ἀφ᾽ οὗ μὴ φθειρομένου ἐγείρεται τὸ σῶμα ἐν ἀφθαρσί& 139·, c. Cels. v. 23). Here we have the λόγοι σπερματικοὶ; which Gregory objected to as somehow connected in his mind with the infinite plurality of worlds. Yet his own account of the Resurrection of the flesh is nothing but Origenism, mitigated by the suppression of these λόγοι. With him, too, matter is nothing, it is a negative thing that can make and effect nothing: the soul, the ζωτικὴ δύναμις does everything; it is gifted by him with a sort of ubiquity after death. ‘Nothing can break its sympathetic union with the particles of the body.’ It is not a long and difficult study for it to discern in the mass of elements that which is its own from that which is not its own. ‘It watches over its property, as it were, until the Resurrection, when it will clothe itself in them anew.’ It is only a change of names: the λόγος has become this ζωτικὴ δύναμις or ψυχὴ, which seems itself, almost unaided, to effect the whole Resurrection. Though he teaches as against Origen that the ‘elements’ are the same ‘elements,’ the body the same body as before, yet the strange importance both in activity and in substance which he attaches to the ψυχὴ even in the disembodied state seems to render a Resurrection of the flesh unnecessary. Here, too, his view of the plan of Redemption is at variance with his idealistic leanings. While Origen regarded the body, as it now is, as part of that ‘vanity’ placed upon the creature which was to be laid aside at last, Gregory’s view of the design of God in creating man at all absolutely required the Resurrection of the flesh (ὡς ἂν συνεπαρθείη τῷ θεί& 251· τὸ γή& 187·νον). Creation was to be saved by man’s carrying his created body into a higher world: and this could only be done by a resurrection of the flesh such as the Church had already set forth in her creed.
Again, however, after parting with Origen upon this point, he meets him in the ultimate contemplation of Christ’s glorified humanity and of all glorified bodies. Both steadily refuse at last ‘to know Christ according to the flesh.’ They depict His humanity as so absorbed in deity that all traces of His bodily nature vanish; and as with Christ, so finally with His true followers. This is far indeed from the Lamb that was slain, and the vision of S. John. In this heaven of theirs all individual or generic differences between rational creatures necessarily cease.
Great, then, as are their divergences, especially in cosmogony, their agreements are maintained throughout. Gregory in the main accepts Origen’s teaching, as far as he can accommodate it to the now more outspoken faith of the Church. What Redepenning summarises as the groundplan of Origen’s whole way of thinking, Gregory has, with the necessary changes, appropriated. Both regard the history of the world as a movement between a beginning and an end in which are united every single spiritual or truly human nature in the world, and the Divine nature. This interval of movement is caused by the falling away of the free will of the creature from the divine: but it will come to an end, in order that the former union may be restored. In this summary they would differ only as to the closeness of the original union. Both, too, according to this, would regard ‘man’ as the final cause, and the explanation, and the centre of God’s plan in creation.
Even in the special sphere of theology which the later needs of the Church forced into prominence, and which Gregory has made peculiarly his own, that of the doctrine of the Trinity, Gregory employs sometimes a method which he has caught from Origen. Origen supposes, not so much, as Plato did, that things below are images of things above, as that they have certain secret analogies or affinities with them. This is perhaps after all only a peculiar application for his own purpose of Plato’s theory of ideas. There are mysterious sympathies between the earth and heaven. We must therefore read within ourselves the reflection of truths which are too much beyond our reach to know in themselves. With regard to the attributes of God this is more especially the case. But Origen never had the occasion to employ this language in explaining the mystery of the Trinity. Gregory is the first Father who has done so. He finds a key to it in the triple nature of our soul. The νοῦς, the λόγος, and the soul, form within us a unity such as that of the Divine hypostases. Gregory himself confesses that such thoughts about God are inadequate, and immeasurably below their object: but he cannot be blamed for employing this method, as if it was entirely superficial. Not only does this instance illustrate trinity in unity, but we should have no contents for our thought about the Father, Son, and Spirit, if we found no outlines at all of their nature within ourselves. Denis well says that the history of the doctrine of the Trinity confirms this: for the advanced development of the theory of the λόγος, a purely human attribute in the ancient philosophy, was the cause of the doctrine of the Son being so soon and so widely treated: and the doctrine of the Holy Spirit came into prominence only when He began to be regarded as the principle of the purely human or moral life, as Love, that is, or Charity. Gregory, then, had reason in recommending even a more systematic use of the method which he had received from Origen: ‘Learn from the things within thee to know the secret of God; recognise from the Triad within thee the Triad by means of these matters which you realise: it is a testimony above and more sure than that of the Law and the Gospel.’
He carries out elsewhere also more thoroughly than Origen this method of reading parables. He is an actual Mystic in this. The mysterious but real correspondences between earth and heaven, upon which, Origen had taught, and not upon mere thoughts or the artifices of language, the truth of a parable rests, Gregory employed, in order to penetrate the meaning of the whole of external nature. He finds in its facts and appearances analogies with the energies, and through them with the essence, of God. They are not to him merely indications of the wisdom which caused them and ordered them, but actual symptoms of the various energies which reside in the essence of the Supreme Being; as though that essence, having first been translated into the energies, was through them translated into the material creation; which was thus an earthly language saying the same thing as the heavenly language, word for word. The whole world thus became one vast allegory: and existed only to manifest the qualities of the Unseen. Akin to this peculiar development of the parable is another characteristic of his, which is alien to the spirit of Origen; his delight in natural scenery, his appreciation of it, and power of describing it.
With regard to the question, so much agitated, of the ᾽Αποκατάστασις, it may be said that not Gregory only but Basil and Gregory Nazianzen also have felt the influence of their master in theology, Origen. But it is due to the latter to say that though he dwells much on the “all in all” and insists much more on the sanctifying power of punishment than on the satisfaction owed to Divine justice, yet no one could justly attribute to him, as a doctrine, the view of a Universal Salvation. Still these Greek Fathers, Origen and ‘the three great Cappadocians,’ equally showed a disposition of mind that left little room for the discussions that were soon to agitate the West. Their infinite hopes, their absolute confidence in the goodness of God, who owes it to Himself to make His work perfect, their profound faith in the promises and sacrifice of Christ, as well as in the vivifying action of the Holy Spirit, make the question of Predestination and Grace a very simple one with them. The word Grace occurs as often in them as in Augustine: but they do not make original sin a monstrous innovation requiring a remedy of a peculiar and overwhelming intensity. Passion indeed seems to Gregory of Nyssa himself one of the essential elements of the human soul. He borrows from the naturalists many principles of distinction between classes of souls and lives: he insists incessantly on the intimate connexion between the physical growth and the development of the reason, and on the correlation between the one and the other: and we arrive at the conclusion that man in his eyes, as in Clement’s, was not originally perfect, except in possibility; that being at once reasoning and sentient he must perforce feel within himself the struggle of reason and passion, and that it was inevitable that sin should enter into the world: it was a consequence of his mixed nature. This mixed nature of the first man was transmitted to his descendants. Here, though he stands apart from Origen on the question of man’s original perfection, he could not have accepted the whole Augustinian scheme of original sin: and Grace as the remedy with him consists rather in the purging this mixed nature, than in the introduction into it of something absolutely foreign. The result, as with all the Greek Fathers, will depend on the co-operation of the free agent in this remedial work. Predestination and the ‘bad will’ are excluded by the Possibility and the ‘free will’ of Origen and Gregory.
- Cf. Dallæus, de pœnis et satisfactionibus, I. IV. c. 7, p. 368.
- Cf. De An. et Resurr., 227 C.D.
- Collected by Ceillier in his Introduction (Paris, 1860).
- c. Cels. VI. 64.
- In Joann., tom. 32, 18.
- Comment. in Rom. ii. 9, p. 486.
- De Hom. Op. c. viii.; De An. et Resurr. 205.
- De Hom. Op. c. viii.
- He does so De Principiis I. præf. 5. C. Cels. II. 77, VIII. 49 sq.
- De Anim. et Resurrectione, p. 198, 199, 213 sq.
- Oratio Cat. 55 A.
- Orig. II. 314 sq.
- This is an independent division to that mentioned above.
- De la Philosophie D’Origéne (Paris, 1884).
- De eo quod immut., p. 30.
- See De iis qui præmature abripiuntur, p. 231, quoted above, p. 4.