Tappe della vita mistica

Tappe della vita mistica (LS)

Annunci

Le cosmos symbolique du XII siècle (8)

A droite et à gauche de la curieuse figure se trouvent deux autres médaillons, contenant le buste d’un vieillard vénérable et celui d’une jeune femme. Ce sont les deux catégories premières requises pour l’organisation du monde : le Temps et l’Espace.

Bien des questions se posent au sujet de ces entités, et Scot Érigène, suivi par Honorius, a repris deux fois la discussion de l’un des problèmes les plus ardus que se soient posés les Pères : le lieu est la « définition » naturelle et le mode d’être de chaque chose, la délimitation de la nature finie, qui contient tout, et que l’on ne peut déborder. Le temps est le mouvement des choses du non-être à l’être, et la mesure précise des choses muables.

Temps et lieu sont des incorporels et des intelligibles. Leurs « raisons » préexistent dans le Verbe de Dieu avant de se réaliser dans les temps et les lieux particuliers. Ce sont ses créatures, et il n’y a ni temps ni espace éternels. Ils passeront avec le monde. Seuls subsisteront les êtres de raison que sont l’idée du temps et du lieu. Mais Dieu seul transcende le temps et le lieu, et ils précèdent tous les êtres, car le lieu, mesure et mode d’une chose, précède sa « conditio » et, de même, le temps précède ce qui commence d’être, comme la cause l’effet, puisqu’elle commence dans le temps.

On le voit, les termes de temps et de lieu sont ambivalents pour Jean Scot, et peuvent s’appliquer non seulement à l’univers corporel, mais aux créatures spirituelles, âmes et anges, d’une certaine façon.

Les êtres spirituels n’ont ni matière ni forme matérielle ; mais ceux qui sont « raisonnables » reçoivent une forme dans le Verbe, et les non-raisonnables dans les phantasmes. De là vient, ajoute Honorius, qui a ici non seulement abrégé, mais adapté la savante dissertation de son modèle, que les anges et les âmes sont à la fois spatiaux, puisqu’ils ont chacun leur définition propre, et non spatiaux, puisqu’ils ne sont circonscrits par aucune limite corporelle. Ce que l’Irlandais nomme Locus generale et Tempus generale représente donc une catégorie première coexistant à la matière primordiale encore indifférenciée, et antérieure à toutes les autres créatures dont elle règle les dimensions et le cours. Où a-t-il pris cette notion d’espace-temps indivisible, qui, tout en contenant des éléments qui proviennent de Platon et de Plotin, garde un caractère chrétien, car il spécifie que ces entités sont des créatures? Il indique lui-même l’autorité qu’il a choisi de suivre, et c’est, une fois de plus, Maxime. Celui-ci est sur ce point dans le sillage de Grégoire de Nysse, qui semble avoir élaboré une théorie de l’espace-temps, limite et mesure de tous les êtres, à partir de spéculations néo-platoniciennes et stoïciennes.

C’est une transposition chrétienne, et liée à l’idée de création des croyances religieuses de la fin de l’antiquité sur l’αἰών. On trouve exprimée dans les textes hermétiques une notion ambiguë, comme le remarque le P. Festugière, qui est d’une part un concept abstrait du temps-espace infini, et d’autre part une hypostase dépendant du Premier Principe, et qui transmet la force qu’elle en reçoit. Dans la théologie hellénistique, il semble que l’αἰών personnifié soit un dieu cosmique unissant les notions de temps, d’espace et de force vitale. Sans doute pouvons-nous repérer là, par l’intermédiaire du Janus-Aiôn qui règne sur les saisons et les régions de l’Univers, l’origine de l’Annus-Mundus des calendriers et des représentations cosmographiques de la fin de l’Empire, et du Haut Moyen Age.

Le passage du De Diuisione dans lequel Jean Scot reproduit le point le plus important de l’argumentation de Maxime est un exemple intéressant la manière dont il interprète ses propres traductions, en clarifiant et systématisant peut-être à l’excès une version littéraire fort obscure: tout ce qui est, excepté Dieu, est intelligé dans l’espace, avec lequel, toujours, est cointelligé le temps ; le lieu ne peut être intelligé sans le temps, ni le temps être défini sans la cointelligence du lieu. Ils sont placés inséparablement entre les choses qui sont et sont toujours, et, sans eux, nulle essence créée ne peut subsister ni être connue. L’essence de tous les existants est spatiale et temporelle… L’univers est donc inclus dans l’espace, car l’espace est un contour et une limite qui enveloppe son contenu ; et l’univers est aussi englobé dans le temps, car tout ce qui est, excepté Dieu, a commencé d’être, et ce qui a commencé d’être dépend du temps….

A cette étape de son système, l’Irlandais s’est de nouveau heurté à saint Augustin, qui n’ignore pas les notions platoniciennes, mais se méfie des abstractions hypostasiées, et affirme que le temps n’a pas précédé les choses temporelles. C’est par un subterfuge sans doute inconscient que Jean Scot invoque une phrase du De Musica, complètement déformée, à l’appui de sa thèse. Et c’est avec une candeur totale qu’Honorius, condensant l’à peu près de son modèle, fait dire au grand Docteur que le lieu et le temps existent avant tout ce qu’ils contiennent. Mais ailleurs Jean Scot a dû avouer que la tradition des « auteurs catholiques » ne concordait pas de tous points. Tous s’accordent à affirmer que Dieu seul se meut par lui-même, en dehors du temps et de l’espace. Mais en ce qui concerne les créatures spirituelles, les opinions diffèrent, et certains déclarent qu’elles se meuvent dans le temps, et non dans l’espace, les créatures corporelles étant seules soumises au mouvement local et temporel. C’est de leur côté que se range saint Augustin, lorsqu’il dit : Dieu se meut sans espace ni temps, il meut l’Esprit créé dans le temps, non dans l’espace, il meut le Corps dans le temps et l’espace. Cette fois, la citation est exacte. Rappelant ensuite l’opinion adverse, défendue par Maxime, il se refuse à conclure. Mais l’ensemble des textes du De Diuisione montre assez clairement que son choix est fait, et l’auteur de la figure ne s’y est pas trompé. Il a mis sur le même plan les deux coryphées du Cosmos.

Autore: Marie-Thérèse D’Alverny
PeriodicoArchives d’Histoire doctrinale et littéraire du Moyen Age
Anno
: 1952
Numero: 28
Pagine:  60-64
Vedi anche:
Le cosmos symbolique du XII siècle (1)
Le cosmos symbolique du XII siècle (2)
Le cosmos symbolique du XII siècle (3)
Le cosmos symbolique du XII siècle (4)
Le cosmos symbolique du XII siècle (5)
Le cosmos symbolique du XII siècle (6)
Le cosmos symbolique du XII siècle (7)

Early Christian Sources of Platonic Geometry: Augustine (1)

Ambrose presumably had less need for Latinizers because of his own knowledge of Greek. It was partly this and his enthusiasm for Greek thought, both classical and Christian, and in particular the Platonists whom he regarded as the ‘aristocrats of thought’ that contributed to his standing as one of four Doctors of the Western Church.
In addition to adapting Basil’s Hexaemeron,
he eagerly collected other Greek works, especially those of Origen, from whom he acquired his own understanding of allegory. Ambrose’s contact with the Greek world evidently made his sermons the most progressive in the West and it was into this environment that Augustine (354-430) arrived in 384.

Symmachus, the Prefect of Rome and one of the leading pagans of his day, had recommended Augustine for the post in rhetoric at the court of Milan. On his arrival from Rome, however, Augustine soon fell deeply under the influence of Ambrose and his sermons. In just two turbulent years he had contemplated withdrawing from the world with a band of amateur philosophers; he had been introduced to various Neoplatonic writings in the translations of Victorinus, including probably the Enneads of Plotinus; then
having turned to Simplicianus who particularly impressed him with the earlier conversion of Victorinus, Augustine underwent his own conversion; and, following a breakdown, he penned four Dialogues during his convalescence which marked his arrival as a Christian Platonist thinker, teacher and writer.

It is of crucial importance to this study that his massive output, together with his command of classical and Christian thought and his ability to conduct an argument derived from personal reflection, ensured his place along with Gregory as the foremost authority for the Latin Church in the tenth century and either side of it.
Being comprehensive in span, his writings are concerned not only with purely theological interpretations of scripture and the Christian revelation but with Christian philosophy as well. In this he reveals the Platonic underpinning of his own thought, particularly that related to the universe, harmony and numbers, to the extent that he is credited with transmitting to the medieval Church the best account of Plato’s teaching, thereby securing its acceptance by the Church.
Among the first of the early Dialogues was De ordine. Another Platonic work, De musica,
was started a year later in 387 along with his treatise De quantitate animae. After an interval of ten years his Confessiones,
compiled over a period of four years, also contains an exposition of Platonic metaphysics. This was overlapped by his treatise De Trinitate which was written between 399 and 419. During this time he commenced his greatest undertaking, De civitate Dei,
a work of twenty-two volumes which was perhaps the most widely read of all books early in the middle ages apart from the Bible itself. It was written throughout the years 413 to 427, with what can be considered the Platonic volumes of the work, VIII-XI, coming over two years from 415. Finally, as he was nearing the end of De civitate Dei,
he issued his Retractationes in about 427.

It needs to be borne in mind, however, that since Augustine’s search for truth had already caused him several revisions, the views expressed in this huge collection of writings are neither uniform nor unchanging. For example, De ordine is a treatise dealing with the liberal arts as the path leading to comprehension of the universal order. It shows that their evolution was rational because it was orderly and it concludes with a generous tribute to Pythagoras. This and the predominance accorded the liberal arts were subsequently moderated, though by no means actually retracted, in his Retractiones. De musica, on the other hand, constitutes a six-volume work on rhythm that was meant to be complemented by a further six on melody. The first five serve as an introduction to Book VI which places number and music in a cosmological scheme that is essentially Platonic and reflects material in Timaeus. The work as left by Augustine largely follows a Greek treatise on music written in the second century by Aristides Quintilianus.
However, the Platonic content of De musica and the early Dialogues which it followed was shortly to be put into perspective in Confessiones as being but a preparation, albeit a necessary one, for understanding the Christian mysteries. This was a similar conclusion to Clement’s, yet the importance of Platonism was hardly diminished thereby, for it is abundantly evident from his later De civitate Dei that the discipline of Platonic thought and the basic precepts of its natural philosophy remained indispensable for such an understanding.

However, this did not place Platonists beyond criticism, especially those who found the idea of the Incarnation of the Son of God profoundly distasteful. Augustine recalled Simplicianus recounting how one Platonist had maintained that the quotation, “The Word was in the beginning of all things, and the Word was with God”, should be displayed in gold in every church. This was sufficient, it was argued, and some could not accept the Christian sequel that “The Word was made flesh”. Porphyry in particular was repelled by the suggestion that the Word, as Christ Incarnate, should appear as a body from a woman, bleed on the Cross and become resurrected. This earned Augustine’s dismissal:

But god, the great teacher, became of no account in the eyes of the proud [Porphyry and the Platonists] simply because “the Word became flesh

De civitate Dei X.29

I read there that the Word, God, “was born not of the flesh, but of God”. But, that “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” – I did not read that there that “in due time He died for the ungodly” and “that Thou didst not spare Thine Only-begotten Son, but didst deliver Him up for us all” – that is not there.

Confessiones V.II.9.14

That all gods should be worshipped, as urged by Plato, was also repudiated by Augustine together with the doctrine of metempsychosis. Porphyry was again criticized for upholding both these teachings along with Origen who, as recently as 400, had been criticized at a council in Alexandria for some of his
views.

Despite these differences, it can be seen that the two traditions remained essentially compatible. This was still partly explained by the belief that Plato may have learnt some scripture in Egypt,
a belief based on what was taken to be internal evidence as, for example, when Augustine compares Timaeus with Genesis:

“In the beginning God made heaven and earth. But the earth was invisible and unformed, and there was darkness over the abyss, and the spirit of God soared above the water (Genesis 1.1f)”. Now in the Timaeus, the book in which he writes about the creation of the world, Plato says that God in that work first brought together earth and fire (Timaeus 31B); and it is obvious that for Plato fire takes the place of the sky Plato goes on to say that water and air were the two intermediaries whose interposition effected the junction of those two extremes
(Timaeus 32B). This is supposed to be his interpretation of the biblical statement: “The spirit of God soared above the water”.

De civitate Dei VIII. 11

And when God declared, “I am He who is ” (Exodus 3,14), it was the “truth Plato vigorously maintained and diligently taught”. Augustine’s own exegesis of Plato’s moral philosophy acknowledged that, to Platonists, the highest good was to be found not in the mind or body, but in God, and that goodness, being equated with virtue, is only to be found through knowledge of God.”

[Platonists] acknowledge a God who transcends any kind of soul, being the maker not only of this visible – heaven and earth, in the familiar phrase – but also of every soul whatsoever, a God who gives blessedness to the rational and intelligent soul – the class to which the human soul belongs – by giving it a share in his unchangeable and immaterial light.

De civitate Dei, VIII.1

Platonists assert that the true God is the author of the universe, the source of the light of truth, and the bestower of happiness.

De civitate Dei VIII.5

His synthesis of the two traditions appears as effortless as Clement’s had been.

The philosophy that is true has no other function than to teach what is the First Principle of all things – Itself without beginning, – and how great an intellect dwells therein, and what has proceeded therefrom for our welfare, but without deterioration of any kind. Now, the venerated mysteries teach that this First Principle is one God omnipotent, and that He is tripotent, Father and Son and Holy Spirit.

De ordine II.5.6

In his expositions of the cosmos, the elements, the liberal arts and the understanding of numbers, it may be seen that Augustine again very much continues the teaching of Clement.

But what are the higher things ? Where there is no time, because there is no change, and from where times are made and ordered and changed, initiating eternity as they do when the turn of the heavens comes back to the same state, and the heavenly bodies to the same place, and in days and months and years and centuries and other revolutions of the stars obey
the laws of equality, unity and order. So terrestrial things are subject to celestial, and their time circuits join together in harmonious succession for a poem of the universe.

De musica VI. 11.29

In this is contained the original sense of universe as unus versus,
namely one that is turning.

From him derives every mode of being, every species, every order, all measure, number and weight he has not left them without a harmony of their constituent parts, a kind of peace.

De civitate Dei V.11, paraphrasing Wisdom 11.20

there is nothing which is not brought into being by him, from whom comes all form, all shape, all order …

De civitate Dei XI. 15

However, understanding the orderliness of the creation and what a Christian’s attitude towards it should be was naturally difficult, particularly following the shock of the sack of Rome in 410 which prompted the writing of De civitate Dei. In achieving such an understanding, Augustine evidently differs somewhat from Clement for, whereas Clement excluded the uneducated from the path to knowledge, Augustine seems prepared to include anyone even at the risk of holding back the educated.

If only the weak understanding of the ordinary man did not stubbornly resist the plain evidence of logic and truth! The result is that we are forced very often to give an extended exposition of the obvious …

De civitate Dei II. 1; see also VII. Pref.

In all these branches of study, therefore, all things were being presented to reason as numerically proportioned Then, reason gained much coinage and preconceived a great achievement; it ventured to prove the soul immortal. It treated diligently of all things. It came to feel that it possessed great power, and that it owed all its power to numerical proportions. Something wondrous urged it on. And it began to suspect that it itself was perhaps the very number by which all things are numbered, or if not, that this number was there whither it was striving to arrive But, false images of the things which we number drift away from that most hidden something by which we ennumerate, snatch our attention to themselves, and
frequently make that hidden something slip away even when it has been already in our grasp.

De ordine II. 15.43

If a man does not yield to these images, and if he reduces to simple, true and certain unity all the things that are scattered far and wide throughout so many branches of study, then he is most deserving of the attribute learned. Then, without being rash, he can search after things divine …

De ordine II.16.44

Open though this may be for anyone to attempt, Augustine both warns of the difficulties that lie ahead and at the same time describes the milestones that must be attained in order to succeed:

… no one ought to aspire to a knowledge of those matters without that twofold science, so to speak – the science of right reasoning and that of the power of numbers.

De ordine II.18.47

only a rare class of men is capable of using [reason] as a guide to the knowledge of God or of the soul; either of the soul within us or of the world-soul.

De ordine II.11.30

If you have a care for order you must return to those verses, for instruction in the liberal arts produces devotees more alert and steadfast and better equipped for embracing
truth

De ordine I.8.24

But since all the liberal arts are learned partly for practical use and partly for the knowledge and contemplation of things, to attain the use of them is very difficult except for some very gifted person who even from boyhood has earnestly and constantly applied himself.

De ordine II.16.44

Autore: Nigel Hiscock
Pubblicazione:
The Wise Master Builder. Platonic Geometry in Plans of Medieval Abbeys and Cathedralsl
Editore
: Ashgate
Luogo: Aldershot
Anno: 2000
Pagine: 64-69

Early Christian Sources of Platonic Geometry: Basil and Gregory

Basil (c.329-79) read philosophy and rhetoric in the young capital of the Eastern Empire, Constantinople, before continuing his studies in Athens with, among others, Julian, the apostate emperor of the Byzantines. It was only later in life, in 364, that he was ordained priest and only seven years before his premature demise that he was consecrated metropolitan of his native Caesarea, whereupon he made his younger brother Gregory (c.335-c.95) bishop of Nyssa. Before his ordination, Basil had spent some time as a hermit studying Origen and when Gregory stayed at his brother’s cell he too studied ‘his master Origen’ along with everything Basil had learned in Athens. On Basil’s death, Gregory came into his own as a churchman and teacher to the extent that he became known as the ‘Father of Fathers’. In 381 he was summoned by the Emperor Theodosius to the Second Oecumenical Council in Constantinople, as a result of which he was recognized as a principal interpreter of the emergent orthodoxy of the Eastern Church.

Of chief interest to this study is Basil’s Hexaemeron, a series of sermons on the 6 days of Creation delivered morning and evening during Lent to a congregation of workmen. As he acknowledges,

I know that many artisans, belonging to the mechanical trades, are crowding around me. A day’s labour hardly suffices to maintain them; therefore I am compelled to abridge my discourse, so as not to keep them too long from their work.

Hexaemeron III.1

Although the sermons are systematically arranged, the final homily which should have described the creation of man seems to end prematurely and was supplemented by Gregory’s treatise De hominis opificio. Such was the importance of Hexaemeron that its teaching quickly spread to the West.
Ambrose produced an adaptation of it which was soon translated into Latin by Eustathius in about 440 and, whether or not this was the work of Basil’s already noted on Alcuin’s shelves at York, a vernacular abbreviation of Hexaemeron was produced in Anglo-Saxon in 969 by Aelfric. As has been remarked elsewhere, the circulation of shortened versions of texts can usually be taken as evidence that such texts had become standard reading. In addition to manuscripts of several of Gregory’s writings surviving from the tenth century onwards, including no less than three of De hominis opificio from the tenth century itself, this same work had already been translated into Latin by John Scotus in the previous century.

At first sight Basil appears largely to repudiate classical philosophy as he recounts how one theory about the origin of the universe became supplanted by another.

Those who have written about the nature of the universe have discussed at length the shape of the earth … all these conjectures have been suggested by cosmographers, each one upsetting that of his predecessor. It will not lead me to give less importance to the creation of the universe, that the servant of God, Moses, is silent as to shapes … Shall I then prefer foolish wisdom to the oracles of the Holy Spirit? … It is this which those seem to me not to have understood, who, giving themselves up to the distorted meaning of allegory, have undertaken to give a majesty of their own invention to Scripture …

Some have said that heaven is composed of four elements … Others have rejected this system as improbable, and introduced into the world, to form the heavens, a fifth element after their own fashioning. There exists, they say, an aethereal body which is neither fire, air, earth, nor water, nor in one word any simple body … But yet another speaker arises and disperses and destroys this theory to give predominance to an idea of his own invention. Do not let us undertake to follow them for fear of falling into like frivolities; let them refute each other, and, without disquieting ourselves about essence, let us say with Moses ‘God created the heaven and the earth’. Let us glorify the supreme Artificer for all that was wisely and skillfully made … Because … the objects which on all sides attract our notice are so marvellous, that the most penetrating mind cannot attain to the knowledge of the least of the phenomenon of this world.

Hexaemeron IX.1, I.11

Basil seems intent here on keeping the minds of his workaday congregation upon simple devotion. He lived, after all, at the time of violent religious disputes such as those caused by Julian’s apostacy and Valens’s Arianism, and
both needed to be answered by an insistence on orthodoxy, particularly concerning the Holy Trinity, rather than by raking over old arguments about classical cosmogony. In fact, it was Basil himself who has been credited with precipitating the end of the Arian dispute, to be ratified soon after his death at the Council of 381 in the presence of his brother. Given the determination to hold the line on orthodoxy which this indicates, Basil is hardly likely to have encouraged cosmological speculation from his own pulpit, especially since he considered such matters to be above the heads of his artisan audience. Certainly the tradition of teaching he inherited from Clement and Origen of knowledge being reserved for the educated, leaving faith to the uneducated, would seem to support this. Indeed, it will be shown that the early Church actually developed its liturgy in a way that protected its innermost secrets from the uninitiated.

Ambiguity in this passage over the fifth essence being ether still seems unabated for, although Basil appears to dismiss it here, when dealing elsewhere with God’s command, ‘Let there be light’, he refers to it as a matter of course.

Up it sprang to the very aether and heaven. In an instant it lighted up the whole extent of the world … For the aether also is such a subtle substance and so transparent that it needs not the space of a moment for light to pass through it … With light the aether becomes more pleasing …

Hexaemeron III. 3

Here it is surely the fifth essence, being distinct from the elements and yet associated with heaven. Later in the same homily, the implication again must surely be that ether is the substance surrounding the 7 planets which therefore fills the universe.

These circles, they say, carried away in a direction contrary to that of the world, and striking the aether, make sweet and harmonious sounds, unequalled by the sweetest melody …

Hexaemeron III.3

That such matters may sometimes be implied is clear from his treatment of the elements:

… ‘In the beginning God made heaven and earth.’ … Thus, although there is no mention of the elements, fire, water and air, imagine that they were all compounds together, and you will find water, air and fire, in the earth … Do not ask, then, for an enumeration of all the elements; guess, from what Holy Scripture indicates, all that is passed over in silence.

Hexaemeron 1.7

The underlying view here seems clearly to be Platonic as well as Christian, as it is when Basil deals with the divine order and the sensible and intelligible worlds.

… ‘In the beginning God created.’ What a glorious order!

It appears, indeed, that even before this world an order of things existed of which our mind can form an idea, but of which we can say nothing, because it is too lofty a subject for men who are but beginners and are still babies in knowledge. . . . The Creator and the Demiurge of the universe perfected His works in it, spiritual light for the happiness of all who love the Lord, intellectual and invisible natures, all the orderly arrangement of pure intelligences who are beyond the reach of our mind and of whom we cannot even discover the names.

Hexaemeron I.2, 5

You will finally discover that the world … is really the school where reasonable souls exercise themselves, the training ground where they learn to know God; since by the sight of visible and sensible things the mind is led, as by a hand, to the contemplation of invisible things.

Hexaemeron I.6

This anagogical doctrine of the path that leads from the sensible to the intelligible, or from the material to the spiritual, was not only a logical corollary of Plato’s world of Forms but, of importance to this study, it also justified religious art and architecture, as Suger was to write in explaining the design of his abbey of St Denis in the twelfth century.

Gregory’s completion of his brother’s Hexaemeron seems similarly Platonic.

Now all is beautiful and good that is closely related to the First Good … If, then, … that which is truly good is one, and the mind itself also has its power of being beautiful and good, in so far as it is in the image of the good and beautiful, and the nature, which is sustained by the mind, has the like power, in so far as it is an image of the image, it is hereby shown that our material part holds together, and is upheld when it is controlled by nature; and on the other hand is dissolved and disorganized when it is separated from that which upholds and sustains it, and is dissevered from its conjunction with beauty and goodness.

De hominis opificio XII.11

Although, like his brother, Gregory sometimes appears to refute a conventional Platonic doctrine, it reappears later albeit in slightly altered
guise. For example, in referring to humans as a microcosm of the universe, he
says,

… how unworthy of the majesty of man are the fancies of some heathen writers, who magnify humanity as they supposed, by their comparison of it with this world! for they say that man is a little world, composed of the same elements with the universe.

De hominis opificio XVI.1

Yet when he answers:

In what then does the greatness of man consist, according to the doctrine of the Church? Not in his likeness to the created world, but in his being in the image of the nature of the Creator.

De hominis opificio XVI.2

surely he is simply equating Creator and created with Origen’s own distinction between the intelligible and sensible worlds. His description of rational man certainly appears purely Platonic:

Now since man is a rational animal, the instrument of his body must be made suitable for the use of reason …

De hominis opificio VIII.8; cf. Plato, Timaeus 44D

Likewise, in another treatise, Plato’s world of Forms lies just beneath the surface as Gregory celebrates the liberal arts as the path to virtue. A virtuous man is one who,

… has been led to the apprehension of a Master of the creation; he has taken the true Wisdom for his teacher, that Wisdom which the spectacle of the Universe suggests; and when he observed the beauty of this material sunlight he had grasped by analogy the beauty of the real sunlight….

Has a man who looks at such spectacles procured for himself only a slight power for the enjoyment of those delights beyond? Not to speak of the studies which sharpen the mind towards moral excellence, geometry, I mean, and astronomy, and the knowledge of the truth that the science of numbers gives, and every method that furnishes a proof of the unknown and a conviction of the known, and, before all these, the philosophy contained in the inspired Writings, which affords a complete purification to those who educate themselves thereby in the mysteries of God.

De infantibus praemature abreptis 377-8

Once again it may be seen that the doctrines of Plato and Clement are conveyed in the importance given by Gregory to education and purification as preparations for the ‘apprehension of a Master of the creation’ and ‘the spectacle of the Universe’. Part of this apprehension is to be gained in the understanding of numbers:

… number is nothing else than a combination of units growing into a multitude in a complete way … accordingly, in order that we may be taught by Holy Scripture that nothing is unknown to God, it tells us that the multitude of the stars is numbered by Him, not that their numbering takes place as I have described, [for who is so simple as to think that God takes knowledge of things by odd and even, and that by putting units together He makes up the total of the collective quantity?] … For to measure quantity by number is the part of those who want information. But He who knew all things before they were created needs not number as His informant. But when David says that He ‘numbers the stars’, it is evident that the Scripture descends to such language in accordance with our understanding, to teach us emblematically that the things which we know not are accurately known to God.

Contra Eunomium librum II 293

Autore: Nigel Hiscock
Pubblicazione:
The Wise Master Builder. Platonic Geometry in Plans of Medieval Abbeys and Cathedralsl
Editore
: Ashgate
Luogo: Aldershot
Anno: 2000
Pagine: 56-61

Le cosmos symbolique du XII siècle (5)

La question n’est donc pas simple, et il semble que le philosophe poète, malgré sa dextérité, ait eu parfois quelque peine à faire concorder ses sources.

S’il y a quelques difficultés pour Jean Scot à organiser d’une façon parfaitement consistante plusieurs thèmes platoniciens et plotiniens adaptés par des Pères de l’Église également vénérables, il ne reste pas de traces de ces hésitations dans les schemata d’Honorius. Dans le premier, au-dessous du cartouche déterminant : principalis causa, figure la Bonitas, première en dignité des théophanies dionysiennes. On la retrouve inscrite dans le schéma suivant, reliée au cartouche intitulé archetypus mundus, en compagnie de trois autres Noms divins: Essentia, Sapientia, Uita, le cercle vis-à-vis porte la formule : « in Filio cause omnium ». Il a donc bien placé les théophanies sur le même plan que les idées causes et il les a insérées dans le monde « archétype », épithète qui signale une tendance plusieurs fois marquée dans la Clauis : le retour au vocabulaire de Platon et de son interprète traditionnel, Chalcidius.

A la définition de la seconde nature donnée par Jean Scot que nous avons rappelée, Honorius a ajouté une phrase inspirée de saint Augustin, qui réfère l’exposé à la doctrine de celui qui, au XIIe siècle, est le Philosophe par excellence : Pour Platon, l’idée est l’espèce ou forme dans laquelle ont été disposées les raisons immuables de toutes les choses qui devaient être faites, avant que d’exister.

Au troisième degré du schéma, nous entrons dans le monde réalisé par l’action des Causes primordiales « effectus causarum ». C’est la Nature qui est créée et ne crée pas. Les Causes, Raisons des choses préformées simultanément dans le Verbe, ont seules été créées en Dieu et lui sont directement soumises, elles sont générales et produisent les substances singulières et spéciales des êtres singuliers et spéciaux. Les substances elles-mêmes sont encore incorporelles et intelligibles, mais leur union produit l’apparition de la matière qui devient sensible grâce aux qualités élémentaires, et se définit dans le temps et l’espace. La création de l’univers visible a donc une étape intermédiaire, et le tableau de Jean Scot concrétisé par Honorius s’oppose apparemment au récit de la Genèse. Mais leur exégèse est conforme à l’enseignement de la plupart des Pères, y compris cette fois saint Augustin. Lorsque l’Écriture dit : au commencement Dieu créa le ciel et la terre, ceci doit s’entendre de l’ensemble du monde visible et invisible. Un autre texte ne spécifie-t-il pas qu’il a tout créé simultanément? En proposant de l’Hexaemeron une interprétation symbolique à vrai dire beaucoup plus hardie et compliquée que celle de leurs prédécesseurs, ils n’avaient pas conscience de se séparer d’eux.

Dans le premier schéma, la nature créée et non créante est signifiée par un seul terme : elementa, mais le second, rédigé sur le modèle de l’arbre de Porphyre, décrit avec plus de détail les degrés de l’être. Honorius surajoute à l’échelle quinquénaire plusieurs fois énumérée dans le De Diuisione Naturae les deux « Natures » supérieures ; Dieu, anarchos, Principe qui n’a pas de principe, et le monde archétype, qui comprend, inscrites dans les cercles reliés au cartouche déterminant, les Causes universelles-théophanies : Bonitas, Essentia, Sapientia, Vita… qui subsistent dans le Verbe : In Filio cause omnium.

La division des créatures en cinq catégories : les corps dépourvus de mouvement, les végétaux mobiles, les êtres animés et doués de sensibilité, l’homme raisonnable, et l’ange «intellectuel» n’a rien de remarquable au premier abord. On trouve une énumération analogue chez saint Augustin, et Isidore de Séville lui a assuré la plus large diffusion dans le monde occidental. Mais les épithètes diffèrent légèrement, et si l’on se reporte au texte du De Diuisione et de la Clauis, l’on constate une fois de plus que Jean Scot a suivi Denys et Maxime. Saint Augustin, classant l’homme et l’ange en tant qu’êtres intelligents, établit sa dernière division en spécifiant l’immortalité du dernier, alors que les Grecs distinguent les pures intelligences des humains doués de raison, c’est-à-dire que les essences célestes, que leur mouvement propre entraîne dans une Theoria incessante autour de Dieu sont dans l’ordre du νος alors que l’esprit humain est normalement mû par le λόγος. Mais il est possible à l’âme purifiée et illuminée de s’égaler aux anges et d’entrer dans la ronde supérieure des bienheureux.

Jean Scot a adopté l’optimisme radical des Pères grecs non seulement à l’égard de l’ensemble du Cosmos, mais envers cette créature privilégiée qu’est l’homme, véritable centre de l’univers. C’était déjà, la doctrine de Grégoire de Nysse dont il avait traduit le De Imagine, et c’est plus nettement encore le sens de la théologie de Maxime. Une des plus belles pages des Ambigua, où il montre l’homme rassemblant en lui toute la nature et la ramenant vers sa Cause première semble avoir inspiré en bonne partie l’anthropologie du De Diuisione Naturae.

Autore: Marie-Thérèse D’Alverny
Periodico: Archives d’Histoire doctrinale et littéraire du Moyen Age
Anno
: 1952
Numero: 28
Pagine: 48-52
Vedi anche:
Le cosmos symbolique du XII siècle (1)

Le cosmos symbolique du XII siècle (2)
Le cosmos symbolique du XII siècle (3)
Le cosmos symbolique du XII siècle (4)

Early Christian Sources of Platonic Geometry: Clement of Alexandria (2) and other Greek Fathers

Therefore just as the equation of the law with perfection appears safe so, it seems, can references to law and perfection be equated with 10.

It may also be seen that the meaning of number was as integral to Clement’s universal view as it had been to those of Pythagoras and Plato, the sole distinction between them being that he acknowledged his authority to be biblical as well as Platonic.

They say, then, that the character representing 300 is, as to shape, the type of the Lord’s sign.. Now the number 300 is 3 by 100. Ten is allowed to be the perfect number…

‘The days of men shall be,’ it is said, ‘120 years’ (Genesis 6.3). And the sum is made up of the numbers from 1 to 15 added together.

Stromateis VI. 11

Numbers were not endowed with specific significance arbitrarily. For example, because the Greek letter T served as the numeral for 300 and resembled a cross, 300 became regarded as the Lord’s sign. Yet numbers were also held to be expressions of the divine order because of the order to be found within them. If the tetrad was given importance partly because the sum of the first 4 numbers is 10, then 120 was important partly because it is the sum of the first 15 numbers. Moreover, Clement continues:

On another principle, 120 is a triangular number, and consists of the equality of the number 64, [which consists of eight of the odd numbers beginning with unity], the addition of which in succession generates squares; and of the inequality of the number 56, consisting of seven of the even numbers beginning with 2, which produce the numbers that are not squares.

Stromateis VI. 11

In other words,

64 + 56 = (8 x 8) + (7 x 8) = 120

64 is composed thus:

1 + 3 = 4, + 5 = 9, + 7 = 16, + 9 = 25, + 11 = 36, + 13 = 49, + 15 = 64

where each sum is a square number which, when added to the next odd number in the series, produces the next square number in the series. As for the series of the first 7 even numbers adding up to 56, each sum, whilst being even, is not square.

2 + 4 + 6 + 8 +10+ 12+ 14 = 56

2 + 4 = 6; 4 + 6 = 10; 6 + 8 = 14; 8 + 10 = 18; 10 + 12 = 22

Following this, Clement continues:

Again, according to another way of indicating, the number 120 consists of four numbers – of one triangular, 15; of another, a square, 25; of a third, a pentagon, 35; and of a fourth, a hexagon, 45. The 5 is taken according to the same ratio in each mode. For in triangular numbers, from the unity 5 comes 15; and in squares, 25; and of those in succession proportionally.

Stromateis VI. 11

It can be seen that in this apparently numerical analysis, geometry is clearly implicit. In addition to the importance given to numbers when they relate rationally to each other, the relationship is perceived and expressed in geometric terms, with the concept of figurate numbers standing for square, triangular and polygonal arrangements of numbers, originally in the form of pebble figures. This, together with the inherent order to be found in numbers themselves was to be treated by the Latin encyclopedists and Augustine.

Clement’s successor at the Didascaleon was his former pupil Origen (c.185-c.254) who went on to study philosophy under Ammonius Saccas. He in turn had abandoned an earlier conversion to Christianity and was a Neoplatonist.
One result of Origen’s varied education was a certain flexibility in calling upon the authority of Plato, not invariably, but when it supported his own theological speculations. In a huge output of literature, these were largely a development of Clement’s and organized into his famous treatise, De principiis, which enjoyed particular influence in both the West and the East. Before they caught the attention of Ambrose and others in Italy, Origen’s ideas had spread to Cappadocia reaching the generation of Basil the Great and his brother Gregory of Nyssa and, although some of his ideas were soon to be condemned, his main thesis remained intact.
Ammonius Saccas also taught Platonic philosophy in Alexandria to the Greek Egyptian Plotinus (c.205-70) whose principal contribution lies in incorporating Plato’s thought with Aristotle’s methods and in bringing to this his own theories concerning progressive planes of spiritual existence. As the doctrine of emanation, this was to have a profound effect on mystical thinkers, setting him among the greatest of the Neoplatonists. Care, it should be said, needs to be taken in the understanding of Neoplatonism as a term, since it is comprehensive rather than specific, referring to various individual developments of Platonic thought, some of which are more Christian than Platonic, or more theological than philosophical, or more mystical than intellectual, or vice versa. Despite such distinctions, however, Neoplatonists at the time called themselves Platonists. As for Plotinus, his importance for this study is that in 244 he moved to Rome, where he taught and eventually died, and it was in Italy that Augustine may well have read his essay On Beauty from his Enneads (I, VI).

Autore: Nigel Hiscock
Pubblicazione:
The Wise Master Builder. Platonic Geometry in Plans of Medieval Abbeys and Cathedralsl
Editore
: Ashgate
Luogo: Aldershot
Anno: 2000
Pagine: 54-56