Friday, July 20, 2012

Chapter Seventeen of My New Book

Salvation by the Numbers

Aristotle is said to have been once asked to define what a friend is.  His answer "One soul abiding in two bodies."  As we retrace our footsteps through the historical maze which is the life of Theodore and Athenodorus, we should keep these words of the Greek philosopher in the back of our minds.  It wasn't only Empedocles who took a deep interest in the concept of philia.  Aristotle famously devoted a long section of his Nicomachian Ethics to the term alighting upon the idea that it best defined as 'seeking the good for the concrete other.'  While we don't know enough about Theodore and Athendorus's relationship to bring forward any examples of this type of behavior, there are other ways that we can examine the problem which might help us yield a result.  

It should by now be acknowledged that the couple embodied the same sex ideal to the contemporary Christian world, or at least the 'Alexandrian underground' of the third, fourth and fifth centuries.  We should perhaps see the pair channeling the Empedoclean understanding of philia in Gregory of Nyssa references to Theodore's original initiation at Caesarea in a single line - "so when he had thus slowly come under the yoke (ton zugon kat'anagken), and later all the proper rites (nominwn) had been carried out on him."[1]  Of course Gregory has strangely made Athendorus disappear from his biography, replacing him with Firmilianus of Caesarea as Theodore's love interest.  This development is almost universally acknowledged as reflecting his brother Basil's relationship with Gregory Nazianzus.[2]

Theodore for his own part in his Panygeric for Origen, mentions his union with Athenodorus in mystical terms.  God is described as "setting in motion in everything until by every means he would unite us with this man (Origen) who has done us so much good" and having handed over "the stewardship" (oikonomian) to Origen for the purpose of having "the divine angel" Jesus "rest equally" with in Theodore and Athenodorus.[3] It is important to notice the use of oikonomia in this discussion.  It is usually used to describe the relationship of the three parts of the Trinity, that most incomprehensible of Christian symbols.  It is worth noting that Theodore - or 'Gregory Thaumaturgus' as he is better known - is most intimately associated with the Trinity.  He is among the earliest spokesmen for its sanctity and Gregory of Nyssa claims the existence of a manuscript in Gregory Thaumaturgus' own hand on the subject still preserved at his time in the Church of Neo-Caesarea.[4]

The reason this is important is that we can for the first time actually make sense of why the Trinity was such an important symbol for the neo-Alexandrian tradition.  For the Orthodox tradition, the relationship of heaven and earth is like a mystical isosceles triangle with God at the apex, you and me at the base angles.  Yet in the late second century the image of the triangle was used to describe the inner workings of the oikonomia of the Trinity, with God the Father the source of all things standing preeminent in relation to his Word and Spirit, his Hands, who minister to him and function as his agents with respect to creation.[5]  The manner in which two individuals are understood to stand in the same relative 'position' to the Father as the Son and Holy Spirit is not at all accidental.  It goes to the heart of Theodore's inherent mystical understanding of divine union manifest in human beings.  

We shall demonstrate in this chapter that within this mystical tradition the inner working of God the Father and two subordinate powers becomes the template for the divinely yoked couple and the presbyter that joined them.  This is precisely why Theodore was so intimately associated with the symbol.  We have also noted that there is evidence to suggest that Theodore became acquainted with a secret gospel or 'hidden wisdom' after he was yoked to Athenodorus.  We must imagine that this is how the symbol was always applied - Origen here is the Father and Theodore and Athendorus the two subordinate powers brought into communion with one another through the agency of the 'divine angel' Jesus.  

There is a very old idea in Alexandrian circles, one which goes back to Clement of Alexandria himself, that Jesus wasn't to be directly identified with the Word but rather than the glue as it were which united the Word to the Father.[6]  The original work which described this understanding is now lost to us but Clement is often condemned by later Church Fathers for his understanding.  What can be understood with some certainty is the idea that the Trinity ultimately derives from Platonism.  Clement of Alexandria for instance makes reference to Plato's Epistle to the tyrant Dionysius to explain this "when he [Plato] says, "Around the king of all, all things are, and because of Him are all things; and he [or that] is the cause of all good things; and around the second are the things second in order; and around the third, the third," I understand nothing else than the Holy Trinity to be meant; for the third is the Holy Spirit, and the Son is the second, by whom all things were made according to the will of the Father."[7]

According to the pagan interpreters of this material, there were three powers or gods being described in this passage from Plato.  By "king of all" he means the Good, "the second" is Nous or Intellect, "the third" Psyche or Soul.  As the Plotinus notes "Plato understood that the Intellect comes from the Good, and the Soul comes from the Intellect."  The reason this is significant again is that we have already seen Paul, Clement and Origen identify Nous with a secret wisdom or gospel.  It is clear that Nous and Psyche are still symbolized by the 'divided' gospels and the two classes of people within the ancient Church.  The terminology is still used by the gnostics and various other sects.[8]  Yet we clearly see early Pythagorean discussions of the 'sacred marriage' of Nous and Psyche, from which the Christian interpretation of the Trinity and reflection on human relations undoubtedly owes its origins.  

The development of these notions within early Christian literature has already been noted by Henry Chadwick in his summary of a text found at Nag Hammadi called the Teaching of Silvanus which has been noted to have many similarities with the writings of Clement of Alexandria. Silvanus offers an exhortation  "to war against the passions, to submit to paideia (intruction), to be gentle to acquire treasure in heaven  The ground of this spiritual ideal is self-realisation: know whence you have come; realize yourself to be a mixture of earthy body, of psyche formed at second remove in derivation from the original divine intention, and of nous with a divine ousia.  As you decline from the nous-level, you cease to be wholly male and become bisexual, both male and female coexisting together, nous being male, psyche female; you may even descend wholly to the level of feminine psyche."[9]

The manner in which Theodore understood himself to be saved was through being yoked to his partner Athendorus through the mystical rite performed on them by Origen in Caesarea.  As we saw, Jesus was understood to be an active participant in this rite.  In the Panygeric, Theodore describes him as the essence uniting the two powers.  "He is the truth, and both the wisdom and the power of the Father of the universe himself, and is also with and in him and united to him completely; so there is no way that, either through lack of attention or wisdom, or some weakness, like someone estranged from himself, he might either lack the power to praise, or have it but deliberately (which is blasphemous to say) allow the Father to go unpraised."[10]  This notion of 'praising' God is very important to Theodore and the mystical tradition associated with him. It is the very purpose for the assembling of Christians in churches.  Yet it was clearly an integral part of the mystical process of the two males being united in the Alexandrian rites.  

Theodore speaks of himself preparing to enter the purifying fires of initiation with his partner Athenodorus under Origen's instruction.  He stops to make a "discourse of thanksgiving" but it is interestingly not to God the Father but to his teacher Origen who clearly embodies the Father for him and his partner.  If Hippolytus's contemporary testimony can be used as a yardstick, one may presume that all three men are preparing to disrobe.[11] Origen, the 'father' being praised stood at the apex of the divine isosceles triangle, Theodore and Athendorus each extending like hands at each end of the divine symbol.   

As Theodore praises the father through Origen he declares "even if I offer myself in my entirety, not such as I am now, profane and unclean, commingled and blended with accursed and unclean wickedness, but naked as clean, as bright, and as pure as pure can be and unmixed with anything bad— not even, I say, if I were offering myself whole and naked, as if offering a newborn, could I by myself offer any gift worthy of the honor and recompense due to the Director and Cause of all things."  Of course, up until this point Theodore - the embodiment of divine Nous has only been speaking for himself.  Yet in the line that follows he adds, by way of reference to his partner Athenodorus - "neither any individual nor all together can praise him fittingly, even if all became clean were made to meet in one, transforming themselves, or rather returning to him all together in one spirit and one harmony."[11]

The cleansing, the nakedness, the rites are all to prepare for the ideal state of friendship that was first described by Aristotle - one soul abiding in two bodies.  Yet they are being prepared to receive Jesus, the divine soul that unites the heavenly partners of God the Father.  As we shall demonstrate at the conclusion of this work, the model for this ritual of divine union is clearly the brother-making ritual in the Book of Exodus 4.27 "The Lord said to Aaron, “Go into the wilderness to meet Moses.” So he met Moses at the mountain of God and kissed him."  It is for this reason that Theodore as Gregory Thaumaturgus is consistently described in Mosaic images and metaphors and his wonder working is emphasized throughout the surviving literature.  

The lasting description that we have of the pairing of Gregory and Athenodorus is Eusebius's final words mentioning their rule over Pontus from joint episcopal chairs.  The third century period is a notoriously difficult era for historians to make sense of.  The best that we can say is that their rule must have consciously resembled the example of Moses and Aaron.  We wish there were some way to catch a glimpse of their relationship but the reality is that the Empire almost disintegrated in 235 - 284 CE which coincides with their rule.  The period is usually referred as 'the Crisis of the Third Century' and as such it is very difficult to form a reliable picture about what people were thinking, hoping and feeling during this 'crisis' simply because so very little information of a personal nature survives.

Yet at the same time there is a strange irony with respect to early Christianity.  The third century happens to also represent the first time that we get to see real Christians interacting with one another.  It is also the first period that we see strong links between the Christian leadership and the Imperial authorities, a palpable blurring of distinction between civil and religious authority epitomized by the infamous example of Paul of Samosata bishop of Antioch (260 - 270 CE).

Paul of Samosata was a powerful and influential Christian leader who happens to have been hated by just about everyone in the later period.  No one can say two good words about him because he was said to be a heretic.  Yet it is often overlooked that Paul, aside from sitting in the bishop's chair also held an important secular title - that of Procurator ducenarius.  How did this happen?  It is difficult to say.  Eusebius accuses him of being a disreputable bishop who bribed his way to a position of authority.  However it is difficult to believe that Paul was any better or worse than any other bishop in the period.

The fact that he was a procurator is very significant as the procurator's primary functions were military.  As representatives of the empire they were responsible for the collection of imperial taxes, and also had limited judicial functions. Paul was called ducenarius or 200 because of his salary from the government which was 200,000 sesterces.  Not a single historian has ever explained how a Christian bishop could be both a religious and civil authority at the same time.  Nevertheless they are pretty much agreed about what caused Paul's career to come to a screeching halt - his support of the unsuccessful invasion of Zenobia, queen of Palmyra.  Paul of course wasn't the first or last fool to bet the farm on a horse that didn't even place.  

So no one should be surprised that in the aftermath of his fateful decision there was a serious effort of his authority.  Yet the interesting thing here is that Paul fights off the challenge and actually makes an appeal to Emperor Aurelian to retain his position.  The only reason that Paul of Samosata would look to Caesar for help was because he likely got some to put him on the throne in the first place.  The fact that Aurelian is said to have deferred the decision about Paul's fate to the Roman Church in no way lessens the significance of his original appeal.  We have our first explicit reference to the Roman state meddling in the affairs of the Church.  And so we have to ask ourselves - why would they want to get involved?

The weakening Roman Empire certainly must have had a lot to do with it.  The state was desperately looking for any strategy to hold the Empire together.  The emergence of the expanded role of the bishopric into civil matters coincides with the disintegration of the secular administration.  In cities with large Christian populations like Antioch it might have seemed like a natural fit to have a Christian bishop run things.  We must imagine that the Imperial government was developing a number of strategies for the preservation of the Empire which included 'co-opting' leaders the greater Church.  If we just look at the Roman See for a moment we have already made clear that Victor had a close relationship with the Commodian regime through of Marcia.  Her influence seems also to account for the rise of future bishops Zephyrinus and Callistus.  There seems to be circumstantial evidence a relationship between Irenaeus and the household of  Septimius Severus.  Even more significant however is the role that the Syrian family of Julia Domna would play throughout the third century.

It is often forgotten that Queen Zenobia - the woman who made Paul her 'viceroy' - was herself a full blood descendant of Julia's father, Gaius Bassianus.  We have already raised suspicions that the 'Marcianus' of Irenaeus treatise Proof of the Apostolic Preaching was Julia Mamaea's husband, the procurator provinciae Syriae.  By the time his wife and son took over control of the Empire (222 - 235 CE) we see Origen appearing in the Imperial court. When most people hear that Origen cultivated a 'friendship' with the mother of an Emperor they often don't realize how influential Mamaea really was.  She acted as a consort during the reign of her son, literally traveling alongside of him wherever he went in the Empire.  If the story is true that Origen was called to her side at Antioch we cannot hold it as mere coincidence that the establishment of Origenist bishops in the Empire happens to coincide with the rise of a pro-Origen Imperial household.

As such it seems terribly significant also that Theodore's return to Pontus coincides with the rule of Alexander Severus and Julia Mamaea.  No one has ever explained how or why a young man, not even twenty five years of age, could have emerged as a bishop of an important city like Neocaesarea.  Yet Theodore's example isn't isolated.  There were a disproportionately large number of students of Origen in powerful positions in churches across the Empire - Firmilian of Caesarea, Alexander of Jerusalem, Theoctistus of Caesarea Maritima, Dionysius of Alexandria and these names are only the most prominent examples.  Origen must have represented something more than a mere 'teacher' in the Church in this period.  He was nothing short of an ancient precursor of an occultated Shi'i imam.  

Indeed by the time of Pamphilus the martyr there is evidence of a suspicion on the part of some that Paul of Samosata might have had some relationship with Origen - perhaps even that of a student.[12]  The names of prominent Origenist bishops are not present in the condemnation of Paul of Samosata cited by Eusebius.  Eusebius spends a large amount of time in Book Six making up excuses to explain Firmilian and Dionysius absence at the Synod of Antioch.  Theodore, strangely, seems to have been a no show.[13] It is unmistakable that doubts about Origen's orthodoxy emerge at this time and as we have just noted at least some scholars think this may be related to the fate of Paul of Samosata.  All of a sudden we see an effort to bring to light 'the dark side' of Origen's beliefs.  The writings of Methodius of Olympius only seems to point to a broader trend.  People seem to have taken a second look at the controversies with his bishop Demetrius and wondered if Origen might not have been completely honest about his beliefs.  

The Empire seems to have had trouble deciding how to co-opt Christianity.  We have offered speculative arguments about the original efforts of the household of Septimius Severus to manage the growing body of believers lead to tampering with its canon of sacred scriptures.  Yet only a few years later, in the twilight of the Empire's stability, Julia Mamaea is said to have made an effort to bring Origen, the 'leader in exile' of the ancient Christian tradition of Alexandria, into the fold.  Why this move?  Could it be that it was a desperate attempt to manage an increasingly unmanageable situation in the Empire?

The truth was that Christianity held influence over ever increasing numbers of people in the lowest ranks of society.  It was a new religion and the Empire simply couldn't let it develop as an independent culture with the greater culture.  One gets the distinct impression that Mamaea was more interested in worldly concerns than piety when she met with Origen.  Perhaps the Origenist bishops she helped install were supposed to help bring all the disparate churches under the banner of a single rule.

One could make the case that Origen offered up his school in Caesarea as something like a 'leadership academy' for future leaders within the Church.  In an age of corruption the philosophically minded Empress might have hoped that Origen's academy and its 'elementary studies' would make them more inclined to think of the greater good of society.  This term 'elementary studies' was used by Philo and Clement of Alexandria to refer to the cycle of studies as it existed in the ancient world.  According to Augustine, the term comprised seven branches of learning : grammar, dialectic, rhetoric, music, astronomy,  arithmetic and physics.  Yet the Alexandrian traditional also plainly involved something more - a secret initiation for which we have only scraps of information.

We should begin by taking a look at this statement of Origen in his First Principles written just before he left Alexandria in 215 CE in order to understand the elementary studies in the larger context of Alexandrian mystery initiations:

Wherefore, seeing that a heavenly power, or a power even from, above the heavens, urges us to worship the Creator only, let us, leaving the word of the beginning of Christ, that is, leaving elementary instruction, endeavour to press on unto perfection, that the wisdom spoken to the perfect may be spoken also to us [emphasis mine]. For He Who has this wisdom promises to speak it among the perfect, a wisdom other than the wisdom of this world and the wisdom of the ruler of this world, which is brought to nought. And this wisdom shall be plainly stamped on us, according to the revelation of the mystery which hath been kept in silence through times eternal, but now is manifested, by the Scriptures of the prophets and the appearing of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to Whom be the glory for ever. Amen." (First Principles 1.7)

When we speak about 'Origenist bishops' emerging under the reign of Julia Mamaea these are individuals who clearly 'made it all the way' through the initiation process.  Many scholars forget about this and merely speak about Theodore and Athenodorus 'completing their elementary studies and leaving for Pontus.'  Yet there was clearly a secret mystical process which came after learning the Old Testament and even the publicly revealed gospel.

In the Life of Gregory Thaumaturgus again, we consistently hear this process being likened to that of Moses in the Bible - "just as Scripture says about Moses, "He was schooled in all the wisdom of the Egyptians," so also the Great One, coming through all the schooling of the Greeks and knowing by experience the weakness and incoherence of their doctrines, came to be a disciple of the gospel, and even before being initiated through the mystical and incorporeal birth, he so perfected his life that he brought no stain of sin to the baptismal cleansing."  The model here again is Exodus chapter 4 where a young Moses is instructed into the art of 'wonder working' by Jesus in the burning bush and subsequently united with a brother.

Origen is unlikely to have revealed any of these mystical truths to Julia Mamaea.  All that she likely cared about was the fact that the Christian community in the Empire would be governed by philosophically minded bishops  who ensure that the Church would not abandon the Empire in its darkest hour.  It has to be noted Origen's beliefs appeal to a truth standing 'beyond the four' seem already to be at odds with the Christian adviser to the household of Septimius Severus, Irenaeus of Lyons.  When Origen says that the Christian mysteries take the initiate "beyond the elements (stoicheiwsews)" he was more specifically saying 'beyond the four' as there was an established 'scientific understanding' the world was composed of four (fire, air, earth, water, four winds etc).

The Greek philosophers and natural scientists had long established the number four as the generative principle of this world.  First Pythagoras and then Empedocles ultimately set the groundwork for Irenaeus's interest in a fourfold gospel.  In no uncertain terms Irenaeus makes the argument for the shape of the canon he appeals to same mystical number - "it is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are. For, since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principal winds, while the Church is scattered throughout all the world." (Against Heresies 3.11.8)  As noted previously Irenaeus's desire to limit the canon to a symbol of the elements is part of a broader effort to bring Christianity in line with the Imperial solar cult.  Yet this emphasis on the sun as the ultimate power in the universe unfortunatly brought Irenaeus into a collision course with Alexandria for this reason - there was certainly a power higher than the god visible in the morning sky.  

Irenaeus over all effort was to make sure that no one within the Church appealed to an authority 'beyond this powers of ruler of this world' or as Origen puts it in his Peri Archon "this wisdom ... other than the wisdom of this world and the wisdom of the ruler of this world, which is brought to nought."  Indeed this is why Irenaeus places such as emphasis on the number four given that the sun was always associated with four lower subordinates.  It is repeated refrain throughout Irenaeus's book - viz.  "it is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are." (Against Heresies 3.11.9)  The heretics, the Marcionites in particular, are by contrast said to 'wrongly divide the gospel into two' - the single 'elementary' text and the more advanced secret gospel - because of the two powers in heaven conjoined to the Father.

Origen confesses as much in the recently discovered Greek texts of the Homily on the Psalms - "now just prior to the world’s creation, they were one, and I don’t know what their nature was, before they were divided."[14]  As such we should see that the mysteries of Alexandria seem to have been aimed at restoring that primal division after the manner of the uniting of Moses and Aaron in the Book of Exodus.  Origen also hints in the new material that the Alexandrian mysteries were to facilitate a heavenly ascent where - after crossing the heavenly waters in the highest heaven - the two would again become one.[15]  

While Irenaeus took over some of the mystical language from Alexandria he obsessively limited the idea of 'getting beyond the four elementary principles.'  One may argue that this had something to do with a broader attempt to isolate the Alexandrian 'super gospel' - i.e. secret Mark.  Nevertheless the end result was clearly that when scholars use Irenaeus's material to reconstruct beliefs about the 'heresies' - i.e. those whom he opposed - they get a very skewed picture.  The Alexandrians did not reject the 'elementary principles' - the Law, the prophets, the public gospels.  They simply argued that the longer gospel of Mark was superior to what came before it, that it was the end of the process of self-perfection.  

Indeed long before Origen we read in the final book of the Stromata Clement speaking of "the commandments which God first gave" in the same breath as Greek philosophy.  They are from the same well as the gospel and more correctly "different processes of advancement through faith which leads to the perfection" of the gospel (Strom. 7.2). Similarly in book two of the same series "faith is more elementary, being as necessary to the Gnostic, as respiration to him that lives in this world is to life. And as without the four elements it is not possible to live, so neither can knowledge be attained without faith. It is then the support of truth."  (Strom 2.6)  The Alexandrian tradition consistently identifies 'faith' and 'the four elements' as something distinct from 'knowledge' and the secret gospel.  Irenaeus just wrote off such beliefs as 'heresy.' 

We can certainly these heretical ideas at the heart of both Letters to Theodore - i.e. that of Clement and Origen to the same person.  We needn't think of Clement's statement about Mark's writing of the gospel for Peter being of 'faith' and the longer text being for 'perfection' and 'knowledge.'[16].  The idea appears front and center at the very beginning of Clement's letter where the Alexandrian makes reference to  the "wandering stars" referred to in the prophecy of Jude, "who wander from the narrow way (stenes oudo) of the commandments (entolwn) into a boundless abyss of the carnal and bodily sins ... and boasting that they are free (eleuterous), they have become slaves of servile desires."  This is commonly read as some kind of statement about sexually active heretics.  The real context is the proper role of elementary studies in Christianity.

Although the specific term stoicheia (= elementary) is never used in the letter there are other ways to demonstrate its presence in the material.  One way to see this is the reference on Clement's part to the asteres planetai or 'wandering stars' from the canonical letter of Jude.  The term stoicheia has a wide range of meaning including 'the stars' or even 'the planets.'[17]  Clement's point here is that the heretics then are the wicked stars who move from the orderly arrangement in heaven.  In the classic model of education, the student is to go beyond merely 'learning stuff' to becoming one with the very arrangement of the universe.  Those who shrug off the necessary preliminaries for proper intellectual growth were doomed to misfortune.

As such it is important to note that according to Clement the initiate was supposed to remain under 'the authorities' of elementary instruction until the completion of his learning.  At the time Clement was writing to Theodore for instance the student of Origen was still very much 'under the Law' in terms of his instruction.  It has long been noted that Origen had a very strict cycle of instruction which went through all of the books of the Old Testament.  As we shall see in what follows here, Clement and Origen were 'on the same page' about this.  This is why Clement in his Letter to Theodore is so keen to reinforce the warning against 'wandering from the narrow way of the commandments' in his letter.

Clement was saying that even though a particular heretical group might have stolen a copy of the secret gospel, because they never received the correct preliminary instruction they find themselves unable to properly interpret the text.  The initiate must first learn to obedient to the authorities, the principles of this world before going beyond to the place that Paul visited - the 'third heaven' - where he had his vision of God.[18]  Interesting also is the fact that Clement goes from a discussion of the 'wander stars' to that of 'the narrow road of the commandments.'  The 'narrow way' of course is the proper way to the secret gospel through the elementary studies. 

The reader can get a clear sense of this from yet another of Clement's works entitled Can the Rich Man be Saved.  It is here Clement develops an explanation of Mark 10:17 - 31 where the purpose is not to completely surrender your worldly goods but merely to be "able in the midst of wealth to turn from its power ... to exercise self-command, and to seek God alone, and to breathe God and walk with God."  Clement understands that the proper education teaches the catechumen that they must strip off their material being before they seek to be united to another soul.  The heretics lacking the preliminary instructions seek to physically united themselves through carnal sexuality.  

The parallels between what is written in this well known text and that of the Letter to Theodore is quite staggering.  Clement goes on to immediately say that "such a poor man" - i.e. the one who has stripped his flesh - "submits to the commandments (entolias), being free (eleutheros), unsubdued, free of disease, unwounded by wealth."  The same three words - 'commandments' 'freedom' and 'narrow way' - always seem to be used by Clement when dealing with the material in the middle of Mark chapter 10.  Why is this?  Once again, in the very manner we see displayed in Origen's Letter to Theodore, there is concern here about Theodore's interest in 'freedom from the law.'  

Clement stresses that the path to liberation is best understood to be a 'narrow way' that leads to the secret gospel with its depiction of Jesus uniting himself with a disciple.  Mark's hidden text only makes explicit what is latent in the teachings of the Old Testament.  A careful reader will see that Clement hints at these very same ideas in what follows our last citation in Can the Rich Man Be Saved.  We are told that if the rich man does not gain such self-control "sooner shall a camel enter through a needle's eye, than such a rich man reach the kingdom of God."  Clement's explanation of these words from Mark chapter 10 turns upside down our inherited interpretation of the material.  Clement understands the material in Mark - chapter 10 verse 25 in a completely different way.  There is a mystery here which he can't spell out, opting instead to tell the reader to pick up a copy of Origen's classic text - "let then the camel, going through a narrow way (stenes oudo) and straight before the rich man, signify something loftier; which mystery of the Saviour is to be learned in the exposition 'On First Principles (Peri Archon) and of Theology'" (emphasis mine)

Clement ends the discussion by saying essentially - if you want to know more, read this book 'On the First Principles' which we know was actually written by Origen. As Trigg notes "one can, in fact, plausibly see Origen's treatise Peri Archon (also known as On First Principles) as the fulfillment of a theological agenda Clement set forth but never, so far as we know from his surviving works, fully achieved."  Pierre Nautin considers Origen's decision to compose,  as one of his first books, a work entitled Stromateis to be the strongest single piece of evidence that he came under Clement's influence.  Indeed most studies of the Letter to Theodore, aside from failing to recognize that the two men were addressing the same 'Theodore' also fail to recognize that it is above all else a discussion of 'elementary studies.'   The letter basically provides evidence that Jesus is demonstrating that there is something more than the elementary studies associated with contemporary Judaism.  

Immediately following this material in 10:17 - 31 we are told that Jesus stays with the resurrected youth and makes him wait six days before "explaining" or "teaching him the mystery of the Kingdom of God."  This idea of Jesus "teaching ... the kingdom of God" is certainly found in other Latin text of Matthew 21:17 and even makes its way into the liturgy.  Yet Morton Smith and others failed to connect it back to the Alexandrian interest in 'elementary studies' which is yet another reason why their explanation of the material has ended up finding many detractors. "The kingdom of God" - or better yet "the kingship of God" is clearly the teaching which comes after the five or eight year apprenticeship and is responsible for ultimately turning Theodore of Pontus into 'Gregory the Wonder Worker' after his baptism.  

The consistent depiction of Theodore as a second Moses is a result of his having received instruction into the kingship of God - Moses of course being the living and eternal example for Jews of the return of the king of Israel or 'the messiah.'  Gregory of Nyssa speaks of Theodore's initiation in terms of Moses experience on mount Sinai saying.  "For just as the word says that Moses, having left the world of appearances and calmed his soul within the invisible shrines (for this is what "the darkness" stands for), learned the divine mysteries, and in person instructed the whole people in the knowledge of God, the same dispensation is to be seen in the case of this Great One (= Theodore). He had not some visible mountain of earth but the pinnacle of ardent desire for the true teachings;  for darkness, the vision which others could not comprehend; for writing-tablet, the soul; for the letters graven on the stone tablets,  the voice of the one he saw; through all of which both he and those initiated by him enjoyed a manifestation of the mysteries."(Life of Gregory 32)

As Marvin Meyer has already recognized the six days ritual preparation before entering the mysteries on the seventh is derived from Moses's experience on Sinai (Exod 24:16) - the very same source for the reference of Gregory as Moses drawing "near to the thick darkness where God was; the thick cloud"[19]  Yet we needn't limit ourselves to understanding to superficial points of agreement.  Once the reader understands the role that divine pairs played in the early Alexandrian tradition, we can finally discover the strongest single piece of evidence for the existence of 'secret Mark' is not found in the writings of Clement of Alexandria at all but his partner Origen.  

The testimonies of Clement and Origen tells us in the clearest terms possible that Theodore was 'manufactured' into a new heavenly being through his instruction in the mystery of the kingdom of God.  This is what Origen did on a day to day basis in Caesarea.   So it is not surprising at all that it is Origen at the end of his Peri Archon - the very text recommended by Clement to explain the deeper mysteries - that we are told that at the culmination of this initiation process the catchumen will receive the secret gospel of Mark:

let us, leaving the word of the beginning of Christ that is, leaving elementary instruction, endeavour to press on unto perfection, that the wisdom spoken to the perfect may be spoken also to us. For He Who has this wisdom promises to speak it among the perfect, a wisdom other than the wisdom of this world and the wisdom of the ruler of this world, which is brought to nought. And this wisdom shall be plainly stamped on us, according to the revelation of the mystery which hath been kept in silence through times eternal, but now is manifested, by the Scriptures of the prophets and the appearing of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

If the readers have managed to make it this far in the work, most of the terminology has already been explained for them.  The 'secret wisdom' has already tentatively identified with the 'secret gospel of Mark' in many places in this work.  Now at last we shall prove it.

Origen is telling his readership now what lays beyond the 'elementary studies' of the Alexandrian school.  The catechumen were being prepared for leadership roles in the church emulating the example of Moses the Patriarch.  Clement and Origen were working hand in hand in terms of this instruction.  Clement passes his readers on to Peri Archon at a critical moment and in that work Origen hints at the existence of a more perfect gospel of Mark is clearly alluded to, especially with the words:

let us leave the word of the beginning of Christ, that is, leaving elementary instruction, endeavour to press on unto perfection, that the wisdom spoken to the perfect may be spoken also to us.

The reference 'the logos of the arche tou christou' can only be to the opening words of the publicly known gospel of Mark (= arche tou eugaggeliou christou).  In other words, if the publicly disseminated 'gospel of Mark' is identified as 'elementary studies' by Origen we already know that the gospel of 'perfection' (teleio) is the secret text referenced in Clement's letter to Theodore - "a more spiritual Gospel for the use of those who were being perfected" (teleioumenwn chresin).

All we have to do is go back again to the statement that Origen makes in his letter to Theodore which we examined in a previous chapter - that he hopes Theodore will receive "that which is hidden from the many, the mind (nous) of the Divine writings."  This is an obvious parallels to what said in Peri Archon with regards to "the mind of Christ" being the 'hidden wisdom' of 1 Clement 2:16.  Indeed Peri Archon also alludes to material from chapter two of the First Letter to the Corinthians after its reference to a more perfect gospel of Mark when it says that we must leave "elementary instruction ... to press on unto perfection, that the wisdom spoken to the perfect may be spoken also to us."  

There is an entire system here which has been passed on from Clement to Origen to Theodore which ultimately dates back to Mark's reconstitution of the gospel according to Greek philosophical principals.  To be certain, Plato first brought attention to what Theodore would call 'the Trinity.'  Yet notice at once that the right 'hand' of the Father is identified as Nous.  In other words, there is a well established gnostic interpretation of one particular saying of Jesus instructing the initiate to move from left to right hand to attain salvation.  This of course is the divine marriage of angels; it also the attainment of the secret gospel.

At the very least the reader should see that all of these texts - the two letters to Theodore, Can the Rich Man be Saved, On First Principles - necessarily reaffirm Clement, Origen and Theodore as being interconnected with one another.  They all lived and worked in the very same period in the third century with Clement and Origen actively working to establish Church leaders after the likeness of Moses much like the right and left hands of God.  This was the most sacred mystery of the Church.  This Theodore or Gregory the Wonder Worker, by his very appellation, was the greatest embodiment of this ancient ideal.  Same-sex unions weren't originally conceived as some 'reward' for the spiritually perfected.  Behind every good man was - at least in the Church - another great man sharing the same divine soul from the highest heavens.


[5] There are two powers below the Father are divided and are joined by the 'essence' of Jesus.  Jesus is not the Word nor indeed the Holy Spirit but the divine being which unites them together and allows them to commune with the Father.  When we go back to the example of Origen being given the divine oikonomian or divine angel to unite Theodore and Athenodorus together we have without question a 'reenactment' or reconfiguration as it were of the shape of the divine household on earth.  Origen is the Father and Theodore and Athenodorus the Son and Holy Spirit.  Of course these ideas no longer find expression in the Catholic understanding of the Trinity.  Nevertheless it is also worth noting that even in that established understanding all participants are understood to be male.[3] Many places in the writings of Theodore we see the idea repeated over and over again that the male Father unites the male Son and Holy Spirit.  In his Letter to Philagarius we see the same idea expressed in many different ways.  The first is "as the rays of light are naturally related to each other without division, neither separated from the light nor cut off from each other, and transmit the grace of the light even unto us - in the same manner too, our Savior and the Holy Spirit, the twofold ray of the Father, ministers even unto us the light of the truth and also is united to the Father."  After this follows the example of two streams that run from the same source - in this case the Father.  Theodore adds that though the stream "is double in its flowing due to the forms of the channeled rivers, yet there is no damage to its substance from the division."  Indeed the two streams are meant to flow to the two individuals being baptized together - "for he did not undergo diminution owing to their coming to us. And they both extend all the way to us and have remained no less undivided from the Father. For as we said from the start, the nature of the Greatest Ones is indivisible."[4]
[12] J. Behr, The Nicene Faith, Part One, 57; citing R. Williams, “Damnosa haer- editas: Pamphilus' Apology and the Reputation of Origen,” in Logos: Festschrift für Luise Abramowski zum 8.Juli 1993, ed. HC Brennecke, EL Grasmück,
[13]  The argument that the 'Theodore' on the letter is Gregory is unconvincing as he already changed his name to Gregory.
[14] (Marvin Meyer Secret Gospels: essays on Thomas and the secret Gospel of Mark p. 124)
J. W. Trigg, "God's Marvelous OUumomia: Reflections of Origen's Understanding of Divine and Human Pedagogy in the Address Ascribed to Gregory [City and School in Late Antique Athens and Alexandria - Page 163 Edward Watts - 2008 ]

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