THEOSOPHY, Vol. 43, No. 12, October, 1955
(Pages 546-548; Size: 9K)
THE ANATHEMAS AGAINST ORIGEN
[Part 2 of a 5-part series]
IN the first centuries of our era there existed a vast body of literature that is no longer extant. Many old books are referred to in both Old and New Testaments, others mentioned by historians of that day. The diversity of opinion that prevailed within the early Church will hardly be understood unless this fact be borne in mind -- unless it is realized that the sixty or seventy-odd books now comprising the Holy Bible are not the only ones known to, and considered sacred by, the ancient Christians. In addition to the teachings of Jesus, the early Church Fathers had access to Chaldean, Egyptian, Greek and Oriental scriptures, a comparative study of which was pursued within the precincts of the Church. But many of these old works later came to be considered dangerous to the temporal power of the new faith, so that in the fourth century A.D., Eusebius, Bishop of Cæsarea and so-called "father of Church history," took upon himself the task of censoring and editing the entire body of Holy Writ, Pagan as well as Christian. The result of this ignoble undertaking was that many valuable treatises were destroyed, others perverted beyond recognition. Socrates, a historian of the fifth century, and Syncellus, vice-patriarch of Constantinople (eighth century), both denounced Eusebius as the most daring and desperate forger.
The teachings of Origen, as reflected in the anathemas, are admittedly unorthodox to confirmed Christians of this day. But in his own time, before Christianity had degenerated into a stereotyped creed, they were not so considered. Until the year 553 A.D., the influence of this great teacher was profound, his writings increasingly popular. Why else should the Church feel the need for pronouncing them anathema? With these thoughts in mind, students and scholars will better understand the reason perhaps for the doctrinal differences of opinion that divided the Fathers of the early Church. Some may even be awakened to the need for a complete revaluation of Christian beliefs. It is with this end in view that the following study of the anathemas is undertaken.The doctrine of the pre-existence of souls is one of the oldest known to mankind. Every ancient scripture, without exception, makes reference to this noble idea in one form or another. Almost all of the Oriental peoples believe that they existed as souls before they were born into their present bodily tabernacle, and that they will continue to exist after the event known to us as death. The whole idea of reincarnation, of repeated existences upon earth, is wrapped up inextricably with the principle of pre-existence, and of the restoration of the soul to its former condition after the death of the body. Nor is this idea completely absent from the Bible. In Rom. IX: 10-13, we find St. Paul speaking of Esau and Jacob being actually in existence before they were born:
ANATHEMA NO. I
If anyone assert the fabulous preexistence of souls, and shall assert the monstrous restoration which follows from it: let him be anathema.And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac;In Proverbs VIII: 22-31, we have Solomon saying that when the earth was made he was present, and that, long before he could have been born as Solomon, his delights were in the habitable parts of earth with the sons of men.
(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)
As it was written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old.Individuals who believe in life eternal, in the immortality of their souls, will do well to go to the dictionary and ponder the meanings of these terms. For whether one's future be that of eternal damnation, a doctrine viewed with horror by all the philosophical Pagans, or of everlasting bliss, logic demands a past of equal immeasurableness. The term "eternal" does not imply endless futurity alone, but means "having neither beginning nor end of existence; infinite in duration." That which ends in time must have had a beginning, and likewise that which is endless is beginningless. But to postulate something with a beginning but no end, as Christians do in their concept of immortality, places the mind in the position of trying to imagine an object with one end only -- an absurdity. The philosophical inconsistency of this position is avoided only by adoption of Origen's doctrine of pre-existence. By what token, one may argue, is the idea of beginningless and endless Time any better? This, too, is beyond the range and reach of finite thought. True, but there is all the difference in the world. Although the human mind is incapable of conceiving the idea of infinitude, in either Space or Time, the concept, to say the least, is inescapable, whereas the idea of a stick with only one end is illogical, offending every reasoning mind.
I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.
When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water.
Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth:
When he prepared the heavens, I was there:
Whether one turns to the Epistles of St. Paul, or to any one of the Four Gospels of the New Testament, the usages of the term "eternal" -- as, for example, "the inheritance of eternal life," -- will be found to yield a far more philosophical fruitage if understood to imply reabsorption into the One Spirit, the "restoration" of the soul to its own natural state of timelessness, a condition of consciousness without beginning or end, where Past, Present and Future are one. Jesus was asked:Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?In The Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna gives similar instruction to his devoted disciple, Arjuna:
And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.
And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. (Luke X: 25-28.)Having obtained this finite, joyless world, worship me. Serve me, fix heart and mind on me, be my servant, my adorer, prostrate thyself before me, and thus, united unto me, at rest, thou shalt go unto me. ... Assimilation with the Supreme Spirit is on both sides of death for those who are free from desire and anger, temperate, of thoughts restrained; and who are acquainted with the true Self.
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. (Rev. XXII: 13-14.)
THE ANATHEMAS AGAINST ORIGEN
[Part 3 of a 5-part series]
"THE ANATHEMAS AGAINST ORIGEN"
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