Logos


Logos

David Ternlund
Taos, New Mexico – 2019

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An explication of the Notion of Logos, as far back as the pre-Socratics thru the present moment of confusion. Written on the occasion of a request from my dear friend Dwight (the light) Carson whose folly always carried the seeds of wisdom.

 

hen we ask after “Logos” we immediately become conscious of the pathos of distance which separates us from those who came, and used words, before us. It has come down to us as meaning the “word,” “reason,” “logic,” “thinking.” But what is thinking and what is that realm that thinking has come to be set apart from and opposed to?

There is no one word which seems to speak more univocally thru both the pre-Christian world of the Greeks and the Christian world we have inherited. Logos: it . is mysteriously uttered by both Heraclitus the Obscure1; And Saint John (In the beginning was the Logos … and the Logos was made flesh.)

What translation/substitution works? None unless we can think back past the seeming univocacy, before the point where thinking and being became separated by a dualism more unbridgeable than the mind-body. We moderns have our historical place of technological wizardry in this chasm. That no translation makes sense to us is a clue that we have lost the original, primordial understanding man had of himself, his world and language; such that indeed the Logos was Ontos (Being).

So, keeping in mind the insight that Logos reveals, in its various shades of unsatisfactory meaning, a hidden meaning thru which it reveals an original essential relationship that man had before “the Fall,” here is a small bouquet of meanings that have gathered around the word “Logos“: word, discourse, thought, thinking, reason, logic, account, as to give an account viz., of Life as in the science of Life or Bio-logy. But originally in pre-Socratic Greek, it had the sense of “to bring together;” “to collect” as a disclosure of truth (alethia) in a way that language itself could arise;

The Logos was an arche (a beginning, principle) of original unity before the many so gathered were sent forth. Logos is the fully articulated One before the diremption (self separation) of Spirit which brought forth the world of finitude and death.


Heraclitus on the Logos – Susan Meyer

Susan Meyer



“Kebes asked Sokrates to tell us exactly what he had learned from his chosen god.

In the mood of a caring teacher, the master generously shared with us. “As you know, Apollo holds two stringed instruments: the Silver Bow of far reaching insight, and the Golden Lyre, whose patterns of harmonia can help anyone ? from the simple farmer to the Orphic mystic.

“Each of Apollo’s instruments is played upon by the restraint of a string. That attentive restraint is the setting apart, and then it is released in the coming together of Logos. We all know how Heraklitos described the blessings of this attentive restraint as ‘The back-stretched harmony of the bow and the lyre.’” At this point, Sokrates gave me a nod, like he always did when he quoted my great-great-uncle. “With the bow and arrow, Apollo penetrates to the far-reaching target. By following this divinity, I grew in the temperance that makes for evocative harmony and penetrating Logos. I learned the necessity of restraint as the precondition of “Recollections of Sokrates” wisdom. This temperance is the ground and substance of virtue, yes?”

Sokrates – Frank Marrero

 

The Trinity

The Father is Ground of Being,

The Son is Logos

The Holy Spirit is the loving relation between the two.

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CHAPTER 2: CHRIST AS CREATOR

 

he New Testament makes an extraordinary claim, a striking innovation even at the time: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (Jn 1:1-4). Of course, two problems stand out: 1) the paradox of being God and with God at the same time, and 2) the necessity of God being Creator, allowing Christ to be Creator too. Either way has issues. Indeed, both are better understood this way: Christ is not Creator so much as simply the first to be created.

The term “Word” is a translation of a Greek word, Logos, which had a lengthy history even in ancient philosophy. On a mundane level, Logos could apply to ordinary cognitive faculties, such as reason, learning, imagery, or speech. However, it likewise held a more lofty position inherent to the very structure of reality, providing universal order throughout manifest existence. In this view, Logos was spiritual in nature, the very essence of divinity or divine intelligence. “Word” was a kind of shorthand for all aspects of mind, especially the way in which mind can imagine something, prior to the creation of it. In fact, the Jewish model of creation has God literally bring all of manifest reality into being merely by saying it should be so, as in proclaiming, “Let there be light.” According to this usage, creation was done by the very impact of God speaking aloud his decree, a power Christ is said to have inherited.

Yet, all this is beside the point, for it actually overlooks an unexpected outcome: Christ is deeper Self, the first aspect of self to be created, now existing in the depths of our own spiritual being. There are many who share this orientation, as can be seen in the exceptional work of an astute transpersonal psychologist, Stanley Krippner: “an individual’s sense of identity appears to extend beyond its ordinary limits to encompass wider, broader, or deeper aspects of life or the cosmos?including divine elements of creation.” Similarly, a famous humanist psychologist, Abraham Maslow, speaks of this state in terms of peak experiences, in which one’s awareness of reality is suddenly heightened and ecstatic encounters with reality begin to appear, perhaps even including mystical states. An equally engaging humanist, Carl Rogers, feels a transcendent intuition is awakened at such moments, whereby a synergy occurs and one’s capacity for healing is enhanced: “my presence is releasing and helpful to the other. It seems that my inner spirit has reached out and touched the inner spirit of the other. Our relationship transcends itself and becomes a part of something larger.”

But this greater legacy is not a one-way street, whereby deeper Self imposes on us arbitrarily or with impunity. We interact with our deeper Self, although not always with good effect. Despite the inherent intimacy, its confluence can be obstructed. Indeed, the relationship is quite tentative and fragile, usually operating in the safely shrouded domain of unconscious processes. Only enormous strengthening of the two allows the deeper Self to enter into and animate the lower self?at least without undue stress or alarm to the lower self.

To include the sense of deeper Self, interacting with lower self, a term must be introduced whereby the two are conjoined: S/self. (It is suggested the S/s sound be pronounced the same way as society, which is especially appropriate given the communal nature of the S/self.) The S/self enjoys a direct connection between deeper Self and lower self. Precisely because the two are in intimate union at all times, their relationship exists at every level of being?even those in which lower self remains unaware of deeper Self. Yet, lower self can know this deeper presence. Lower self is the tip of the iceberg of the whole person, with ever more vast tracts of Self operating within the depths, as traditionally said of soul and spirit?even God.

The ancient Greek philosopher, Plato, depicts the plight of the S/self with the metaphor of a cave. In their ordinary state, human beings are like prisoners chained to the wall of a dark, underground cave. Because of their shackles, they cannot turn to see the light entering the cave from higher up. As objects pass before the light, the prisoners mistake the shadows cast upon the wall for real people. Those fortunate enough to free themselves from their chains make their way through the passageway outside. There they glimpse reality in its true luster. However, Plato also warns to be cautious of the above ground world, for it can overwhelm the senses.

Similarly, the prodigious Christian missionary, St. Paul, claims Jesus was not an ordinary man but living Christ, incarnated for the sake of saving humanity from sin, thereby reconciling us from our desperate falling out with grace. Much of the philosophy espoused by Socrates and Plato found new meaning in this provocative Christian context. Richard Tarnas, in a lucid summary of philosophical ideas, puts it well: “In Christ, the Logos became man: the historical and the timeless, the absolute and the personal, the human and the divine became one. Through this redemptive act, Christ mediated the soul’s access to the transcendent reality. In Christ, heaven and earth were reunited, the One and the many reconciled.”

 

 

 

 

The Discourses of the Logos

Preface to John??(1985)

by Hugh Joseph Schonfield
Jewish Historian of Christian Beginnings

What are known as the Johannine writings in the New Testament consist of a Gospel, a Tract, two Letters, and a Book of Visions. They are a puzzling collection, especially the Gospel. The first is anonymous, but is stated to contain the reminiscences of someone described as the ‘Dear Disciple’ of Jesus. The tract (I John) is also anonymous, but appears to be by the same writer as the two letters (II and III John), the author of which calls himself ‘the Elder’ or ‘Presbyter’. It is only the book of visions (Revelation) that is actually stated to have been recorded by a person of the name of John. On linguistic grounds alone it is almost certain that this John was not identical with the Elder, or with the author of the Gospel in its present form; yet the Revelation is not wholly unrelated to the other documents.

What is said in the Gospel about Jesus, and the sentiments in it expressed by him, have made this work the most treasured document in the New Testament for orthodox Christians, and helped to give rise to the belief that the ‘Dear Disciple’ was in fact one of the Twelve Apostles, namely John the son of Zebedee. The evidences which exist, however, are totally against this view. We shall, of course, be examining these evidences, both in the Gospel and in surviving traditions and sources. But one point may be represented immediately. John the son of Zebedee was a rough uncouth Galilean fisherman, whereas the Gospel is from a source or sources highly literate and intellectual.

The investigation of the Johannine problem calls for a fully open and uncommitted mind, capacity for research, and literary and linguistic equipment.

A large part of the Gospel consists of discourses of Jesus. Where these run to some length they are dealt with in the Greek manner, where the audience (in this case the Jews or the disciples) interject questions or comments, which keep the discourse going. When we compare these discourses and other statements with Jesus’s manner of speech in the other Gospels it is very clear that it is not the same man speaking.

The Jesus of the Synoptic Gospels speaks in a Jewish manner, both in theme and construction, as may be noted in the Sermon on the Mount. The Jesus of John’s Gospel, however, largely speaks in a quite different idiom, and as a non-Jew, and often in a pretentious alien manner. He speaks of the Law given to Moses as “your Law”, instead of “our Law”, and declares that “all who came before me were thieves and robbers”. He even refers to God after himself, in saying, “I and my Father are one”.

It is evident that such material has been composed for Jesus by a Greek Christian, and by comparison of the language and style there is a strong case for claiming that he was the author of the First Epistle of lohn (John the Elder). This John was still living around AD 140 in the region of Asia Minor, and is referred by Papias of Hierapolis as one in a position to relate things said and done by Jesus. This date is obviously too late for any immediate disciple of Jesus to have still been living. To whose recollections, then, did this John have access?

The answer is that a direct disciple of Jesus is known to have been living at Ephesus down to the beginning of the second century, where John the Elder could have had contact with him. This disciple was also called John. Eusebius in his Ecclesiasticnl History reports that at Ephesus were to be found the tombs of both Johns. His information came from a letter written by Polycrates bishop of Ephesus to Victor of Rome. Polycrates had made this important statement:

“Moreover, John that rested on the bosom of our Lord, who was a priest that wore the sacerdotal plate, witness and teacher, he, also, rests at Ephesus.”
The ‘Dear Disciple’ is disclosed as a Jewish priest, and this is wholly consistent with what is said in the Fourth Gospel. He betrays his priestly office in the reminiscences which form part of the text. He makes exact referencs to Jewish ritual and Temple worship, and when he speaks of the priests not going into Pilate’s praetorium to avoid defilement. He himself will not enter the tomb in which Jesus had been laid until he knows there is no corpse there. He is of a distinguished Jewish sacerdotal family and was personally known to the High Priest. He has a house in Jerusalem, and after the crucifixion gave hospitality there to the mother of Jesus. Naturally he knows the topography of Jerusalem well, and he also introduces and explains Aramaic words. It is to be inferred that it was John the Priest’s house, with the large upper room, that was the scene of the Passover Supper, where the ‘Dear Disciple’ as master of the house had the seat of honour next to that of Jesus, leaning on the breast of the Messiah, as related in the Gospel. There were thus fourteen persons present.

Tradition records that the ‘Dear Disciple’ lived finally at Ephesus to extreme old age (John 21:22-23), and was eventually persuaded to dictate his recollections of Jesus. These would appear to have been drawn upon in the Fourth Gospel, taking the form of a series of signs which establish that Jesus was the Messiah, introduced by the formula, “After this”, or “After these events”, a design which is preserved down to 7:1 and is then abandoned until 19:38. Early patristic quotations, and even fragments of an unknown Gospel (Egerton Papyrus 1), reveal a form of certain sayings in the Fourth Gospel much closer in style and character to what we find in the Synoptics. It is also now known that certain passages are reflective of the Essene Dead Sea Scrolls, and the story of the woman taken in adultery (Jn 8) was also to be found in the Gospel of the Hebrews.

We thus face the evidence that John’s Gospel as we have it is a composite document. Its basis is the memoirs of John the Priest, who is encountered initially as a disciple of John the Baptist, an Essene link. The fact that John the Priest was an advanced student of Jewish mysticism may help to explain the attraction of his work for the Greek Elder. The Gospel contains in the narrative portions a great deal that is characteristic of the author of the Revelation, while the Revelation, in the Messages to the Seven Communities, and some other passages, contains material which is typical of the author of a large part of the present Gospel. See the Prefaces to the Letters and the Revelation.

The second work, which has so largely been imposed on and has superseded the other, is a dialogue document in the Greek Platonic tradition. It is in two parts. The first is a discourse of Jesus to the Jews, and the second a discourse to the apostles. The first part has been chopped up, and most unskilfully inserted at different points, often months apart and quite inappropriately, and out of the dialogue’s natural order. The second part, also to some extent in disarray, occupies in 13-17, section 6 of the present translation. Scholars have long recognised, even when regarding the Gospel as a unity, that there have been a number of displacements. These can only be represented tentatively, and those which the present editor has proposed do not in all cases coincide with the proposals of others. The changes can be followed by the student by means of the footnotes.

It may well be that in the heading of I John, a tract which it has been held was meant to introduce the Gospel, we have the actual title of the dialogue document, namely “On the Theme (or Message) of Life”, in Greek Peri tou Logou tes Zoes, or in the briefer form of the Latin Vulgate, De Verbo Vitae. In the discour ses of Jesus in the Gospel he largely speaks in the manner the author of I John writes.

The author of the Gospel, as we now have it, clearly in two footnotes John 19:35 and 21:24) distinguishes himself from the ‘Dear Disciple’ of whose reminiscences he has availed himself. These footnotes are in the characteristic style of the Elder who is the author of I John (John 21:24 with I John 12). The last chapter of the Gospel also confirms the tradition that the ‘Dear Disciple’ lived to a very great age.

The Prologue to the Fourth Gospel is of some service both in locating and dating the book in its present form. This Prologue is an antiphonal chant or hymn, which could well be the very same that is mentioned by Pliny the Younger in his letter to the Emperor Trajan about the Christians (c AD 112) sent when he was Governor of Bithynia. The ‘Dear Disciple’ is said to have died in Trajan’s reign and to have been buried at Ephesus. These links with Asia Minor are reinforced by the prominence given to the Apostle Philip in the Gospel. He is stated to have been buried at Hierapolis. Andrew and Thomas also, who are specially mentioned in the Gospel, are quoted in apostolic sources used by Papias of Hierapolis. The traditions would therefore appear to be authentic which make Asia Minor the region of publication of the Fourth Gospel; and since Trajan became emperor in AD 98 the book in its present form may approximately be dated about the end of the first decade of the second century.

It was the Emperor Domitian, the predecessor of Trajan, a great persecutor of the Christians, who banished the ‘Dear Disciple’ to the island of Patmos, where the Revelation was received. This was a Roman punishment of eminent persons. Incidentally it was Domitian who insisted on being addressed as ‘Our Lord and God’ (see Suetonius, Dom 8), words put into the mouth of Thomas with reference to Jesus John 20:28).

Finally, to make it very clear that John the son of Zebedee was not the ‘Dear Disciple’, we have the statement in Luke that Peter and John the son of Zebedee were the two whom Jesus sent to the master of the house where Jesus would eat the passover. Also the ‘Dear Disciple’ is distinguished from the fisherman John in the story in John 21 (see verses 2 and 7).

The closing chapter of the Fourth Gospel conveys further that the ‘Dear Disciple’ would live to a great age, which was true of John the Priest. Peter is represented as somewhat jealous of “this man”, which he had no cause to be if the son of Zebedee was concerned. Peter and the two sons of Zebedee were on equal intimacy with Jesus, sharing specially in his experiences. It is the eminent ‘outsider’ from Jerusalem, whose influence on Jesus Peter resents.

 

  1. “We act and think everything truly thru the Logos (Divine understanding) … yet the many live as if they had their own. []