The Logos Continuum: Ancient Meaning
"When all things began, the Word already was. The Word dwelt with God, and what God was, the Word was. The Word, then, was with God at the beginning, and through him all things came to be; no single thing was created without him. All that came to be was alive with his life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines on in the dark, and the darkness has never mastered it." [Prologue to the Gospel of John: 1-5]
It is the "Word" that we most often hear in terms of describing the Logos. But there is much more.
Referring to the Logos merely in terms of the concept of "Word" is considered inadequate by serious scholars. The best way to get a grip on the Logos is by exploring how it was used in Greek philosophy, in the Old Testament (where it is the Sophia), and in Early Christianity.
Taking account the Egyptian hermetic writings, "probably the earliest antecedent to the idea of the Logos came from...Hericlitus." His conceptual universe was one that constantly changed, a universe in constant motion propelled by all-pervading Reason, which Heraclitus likened to divine fire or energy.
Following Heraclitus, the philosopher Anaxagoras considered a "Divine Mind" , which was immanent in the created order... [John A. Sanford, MYSTICAL CHRISTIANITY: A PSYCHOLOGICAL COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN, Crossroad, 1995, p. 19]
Sanford mentions Plato's idea of a "spiritual reality that gave to the created world its form and being." This was the imaginal realm of Platonic Forms, an archetypal realm of changeless and universal patterns of which "the material world is but an imperfect representation." For Sanford, the Logos "partakes of the of the nature of this archetypal reality." [Ibid, p. 19]
Aristotle believed that matter and form always existed together. Hence, for him, human beings had not only a material body, but also a soul in which there dwells a divine spark that the soul shares with God. "This spark of divinity in human nature is an element of the divine Logos--the shaping spiritual power and essence of God--is eternal and impersonal." [Ibid, p. 20]
Sanford stresses that the concept of the Logos was most fully expressed by the Stoic philosophers. Stoicism believed the Universe to consist of two kinds of matter: a gross or coarse matter; and an extremely fine matter, which is virtually indistinguishable from the idea of spirit. The material, created order is thus pervaded with the spiritual substance, but it is also pervaded with a vital element--like the energetic fire of Heraclitus--that shaped, harmonized, and interpenetrated all things.
For the Stoics, this was nothing less than an intelligent, self- conscious world-soul, an indwelling Logos. Considering the Logos as God, and as the source of all life and all wisdom--then our 'human reason partakes of its nature, because this Logos dwells within us. For this reason we can follow the God within and refer to ourselves as the offspring of God." [Ibid, p.20]
Fideler packages these ancient concepts of the Logos as follows: "Logos designates the power of 'reason;' the pattern or order of things; the principle of relationship; and an articulation of something."
In general, the Logos has the following meanings: 1.) Order or pattern. 2.) Ratio or proportion. 3.) A discourse, articulation or account, even a 'sermon.' 4.) Reason, both in the sense of rationality and in the sense of an articulation of the cause of something. 5.) Principle or cause (logoi=principles, ratios, reasons). 6.) A principle of mediation and harmony between extremes." [David Fideler, JESUS CHRIST SUN OF GOD: ANCIENT COSMOLOGY AND EARLY CHRISTIAN SYMBOLISM, Quest Books, 1993, p. 38]
Further discussing the meaning of the Logos, Sanford also stresses the "equally important influence of the Wisdom literature in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament we find an idea of God's creative spirit immanent within the creation and residing even in the human soul that is as old--or perhaps older--as that of the Greeks." [MYSTICAL CHRISTIANITY, p. 21]
In parts of the Old Testament it is the *Sophia* that embodies and symbolizes the feminine aspect of God. The Sophia shared in the generative power which created the world. The Sophia "dwelt immanent within the world, and which also dwelt within the human heart..." The Sophia was considered the fount of all human knowledge, whether physical, psychological or spiritual--"knowledge, which she can likewise impart because she is mistress of the soul." [Ibid, p. 22]
The philosophers of the early Church saw Christ as the embodiment of the Sophia as well as the Incarnation of the Logos.
For these early Christian thinkers...it was clear that to say "Christ was the Word was to assign to Christ a profoundly mystical and far-reaching reality. It meant that the utterly transcendent God...created the world through that self-expression termed the Logos, and that this Logos, or Creative Word of God, is immanent within all of the creation." [Ibid, p. 23]
These early Christian philsophers also believed in Christ's pre-existence. Christ as the Logos or Wisdom of God had to exist from the beginning before incarnation could take place.
Sanford sums it up beautifully: "The world-creating Logos could be seen in the movements of the heavenly bodies, in the majesty of the skies, in the great ocean with its abundance of life, but also could be seen in the tiniest unit of life...But the most important place where the Word of God was to be found for the early Christians was within the soul herself, where it lived as an *imago dei,* like a spring of water from which flowed the knowledge of God." [Ibid, p. 23]
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