Kernwoorden: buitenbijbelse, Christianity, delen, dienst, Early, gehecht, geheim, gewoontes, gnosticism, heilige, kern, kerngezegden, omwentelingen, opvoeding, schriften, verbonden, William Dych, zondagse
[ Voor Nederlandse lezers: de uitgebreide Samenvatting is in Nederlandse tekst te lezen op pp. 207-232 van genoemd boek ! ]
Boudewijn Koole, Man en vrouw zijn een: De androgynie in het Christendom, in het bijzonder bij Jacob Boehme (English title: Man and woman are one: Androgyny in Christianity, particularly in the works of Jacob Boehme), Utrecht 1986, with `Summary in English’, [with extensive Notes, Bibliographies, as well as Indexes on I. Subjects and names II. Citations of Boehme III. Citations of the Bible IV. Authors]; 341 pp.; = diss. Utrecht 1986; ISBN 9061940869 [This publication had been made possible by the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica in Amsterdam]
(Further see: short dissertation abstract with a number of the Theses defended, summary of lecture).
1. Introduction: main findings and points for further discussion and research
- [Preliminary remarks]
- 1.1 History and description of androgyny in Christianity
- 1.2 History of Gnosticism, Mysticism, Pietism, and Christian Theosophy, insofar as androgyny developed within them
- 1.3 Christian counterparts of the psychology of C.G. Jung, and (now available in Dutch:) a basis for comparison with Eastern religions
- 1.4 Androgyny as a plea for the woman and the female in the context of a patriarchally stamped Christian thinking
- 1.5 Androgyny as a cultural ideal and the necessity to review the position of reason and science
- 1.6 Essential insights regarding androgyny
2. Androgyny according to seven authors
- [Two lines in the sequence of chapters]
- Chapter 1 Prologue: androgyny in the works of Gunning and Von Baader and the subject of this study
- Chapter 2 Androgyny according to Jacob Boehme: introduction
- Chapter 3 Androgyny according to Jacob Boehme: man and woman in God and in the creation
- Chapter 4 Androgyny in John Scottus Eriugena
- Chapter 5 Androgyny in Philo and its context
- Chapter 6 Androgyny in the Gospel of Thomas
- Chapter 7 Androgyny in the Gospel of Philip
3. A general comparison of the different authors in historical perspective
- Laura’s Playground: Androgyny
- Androgyne The Union of Opposites Within (androgyny – psychology &tc.)
- Androgyny (androgyny – gender theory &tc.)
- Gnostic Friends Network – Links & Rings (androgyny – gnosticism &tc.)
- Androgyne The Union of Opposites Within (androgyny – psychology &tc.)
- The dreaming eye (androgyny – art, consciousness &tc.)
- Jacob Boehme Resources (Jacob Boehme &tc.)
- DREAMS OF TWINS AND TWIN GODS (THE DUALITY OF CREATION)
- Nag Hammadi Gospels links (Nag Hammadi Gospels)
- Einet.net -> Humanities -> Philosophy -> Philosophers -> Boehme, Jacob (Philosophers -> Boehme, Jacob)
- Review of Van den Berk, The Magic Flute (Androgyny as the centre of Mozart’s opera and its esoteric impulses)
- Review of Annine van der Meer, Van Venus tot Madonna (Androgyny in relation to rewriting the history of women in myth and society)
- Review of Gilles Quispel, Het Evangelie van Thomas, 2004 (Androgyny as a subject within Quispel’s latest explanation of the famous Gospel and its context)
- Excursion within review about Mani’s biography (Androgyny as example of dualism and non-dualism)
- Psyche.com Esotericsubjects.com Links (androgyny – Bible, Kabbalah &tc.)
- Open Directory – [Society Philosophy Philosophers B:] Boehme, Jacob (Jacob Boehme &tc.)
- Androgyne Online (androgyny – personal identity &tc.)
- Journal Esoterica: Full List of Teaching Links (androgyny – Western esoterica &tc.)
- Google Directory Society/Philosophy/Philosophers/B/Boehme (Jacob Boehme &tc.)
- Livejournal’s Androgyny Community’s Journal (androgyny – experience, ideas, personal identity, practice &tc.)
- Spirituality and Religion Resource Site (Religion and Spirituality – Christianity vs. Buddhism)
- Women in Culture – Wuthering Heights (Jacob Boehme within context of the Bröntes)
- ABOUT-ARTS.com -> Literature -> History (History of Arts and Literature)
- Valentinus and the Valentinian Tradition (Valentinus, gnosticism &tc.)
- Semitica et Theologica [by Elio Jucci] (sexuality – Bible, Judaism, Christianity &tc.)
- BN23.com – [Society/Philosophy/Philosophers/Boehme, Jacob] (Jacob Boehme &tc.)
- AnySearchInfo – Directory Society Philosophy Philosophers B Boehme, Jacob] (Jacob Boehme &tc.)
- MAVICA.NET -> Esoterics: Occult & Paranormal (Esoterics: Occult & Paranormal)]
[For purposes of citation: below you will find the pagenumbers of the original publication (see above) in red between brackets]
The main objective of this study is to explore androgyny in Christianity, to uncover new material and make it available for public debate. It offers not only an introduction to androgyny in Christianity, but also to the – mostly unknown – authors on the subject, who are important for the history of Christian Gnosticism, Mysticism, Pietism and Theosophy. This is particularly the case with Jacob Boehme, who is generally regarded as very inaccessible and difficult. Although this study does not explicitly describe the structure and function of androgyny from a systematic point of view, it provides the basis for such a description. The same is true with regard to the relation between androgyny and the official Christian doctrines. This study does not deal with the Jewish traditions of androgyny (with the exception of Philo of Alexandria) although very important relations between Jewish and Christian traditions are clearly visible; nor does it discuss the Islamic traditions. Questions of historical dependance are also not dealt with extensively; the third part of this Summary contains a sketch of some important historical perspectives. The first part of this Summary lists the main findings and points for further discussion and research. This list is not exhaustive, but to be viewed in connection with the rest of the Summary.
This book offers an overall view of the history of androgyny in Christianity and makes it possible to define its essence more accurately. We can define androgyny – unity of ‘man’ and ‘woman’, ‘male’ and ‘female’ – as a symbol of complete identity, which can involve aspects within one individual or the relation between different persons, as well as the unity of the cosmos, viz. the unity with God. Our conclusion is that androgyny is elaborated in two ways: 1. unity is found in the mutual completion of male and female; 2. unity is found in the dissolution of male and female as one-sidednesses. In this regard different levels can be distinguished: the material, the spiritual, and the divine level. Some forms of androgyny can be described in terms of one of these two attitudes on all levels; others combine, for instance, the first attitude for the material (and eventually the spiritual) level, with the second attitude for the divine (and eventually the spiritual) level. Another conclusion is that in a number of cases androgyny is connected with ‘holistic’ views, which try to combine separate aspects of reality and take interest in the concepts of mediation and equilibrium (Christ as the true Androgyne and Mediator!).
1.2 History of Gnosticism, Mysticism, Pietism, and Christian Theosophy, insofar as androgyny developed within them
Androgyny was not popular in the mainstream of dogmatical institutional Christianity, but rather in the circles of artists, liberals, and pietists, of Rosicrucians, Freemasons, and alchemists. In this book we discuss androgyny in connection with the Christian theosophist Jacob Boehme (seventeenth century), with a theoretician of medieval mysticism, John Scottus Eriugena (ninth century), and with the Gnostic Christians of the first centuries. Research into the historical roots of androgyny confirms the view that later Christianity has often represented a narrowing of several different streams flowing from its time of origin, which were fed by, among other things, the confrontation of the Jewish religion with the Greek and other surrounding cultures and religions. It is becoming increasingly clear nowadays that in the first centuries of Christianity choices were made which, in the form of later unconscious prejudices, determined Christian thinking and Christian culture for a long time to come, and which also were choices between alternatives which perhaps are still of value even now, and knowledge of which is in any case an enrichment of our self-understanding.
1.3 Christian counterparts of the psychology of C.G. Jung, and a basis for comparison with Eastern religions
This book shows that the psychology of Jung not only has roots in alchemy, but that the concept of the bi-sexuality of the soul is very old and belongs to the oldest Christian heritage. At the same time this book provides the basis (now available in Dutch:) for a comparison of androgyny in other, particularly Eastern religions, with androgyny in Christianity (in which comparison also the Jewish and the Islamic traditions should then be involved).
1.4 Androgyny as a plea for the woman and the female in the context of a patriarchally stamped Christian thinking
This book explores partly the position of woman in Christianity and Western culture. The history of androgyny is closely connected with views of sexuality and of the social relations of man and woman. Following my teacher, Professor Quispel, who has said that Gnosticism, Mysticism and Pietism have distinguished themselves within Christianity in the sense that woman could develop herself within them for her own sake, I want to stress that androgyny – unity of ‘man’ and ‘woman’, ‘male’ and ‘female’ – cannot be thought of without the peculiar value of the woman. At the same time, I have to note that Christian thinking in general has been marked by the assumption that man has a higher position than woman, that man is the starting-point and woman the derivative. We can now interpret androgyny as a corrective to this one-sidedness, although we must admit that androgyny in Christianity has nevertheless from its beginning shown the traces of a patriarchal thinking. Therefore it seems legitimate to conclude that an other, better position of woman in Christianity (at least on the ideological level), or offering a Christian contribution towards a greater equilibrium between man and woman in our culture, will only be possible through a much more fundamental change of Christianity than is usually contemplated. A number of androcentric presuppositions, i.e. presuppositions which have the man as starting-point, or make him so, are present in Christian thinking; and it is precisely these unconscious presuppositions which accustom the legitimation by Christian thinking of one-sidedly patriarchal relations. Of course the spiritual movements, mentioned above, are present to give indications of the direction in which important aspects of deep transformations could be sought and achieved.
This book confirms the view that Christian thinking and Western culture have been largely determined by the strong mutual legitimation of faith and reason, or the mutual confirmation of the superior God and the superior intellect, a confirmation which was accompanied, as is now becoming evident, by the confirmation of the superiority of man above woman. This could lead to the conclusion that a greater equilibrium between man and woman not only needs a fundamental change of Christian thinking (insofar as Christianity is concerned), but also a review of the position of reason and science in our culture, particularly with regard to the relation of rationality and spirituality. Our analysis of the described authors can provide some important perspectives and elements for such a review.
Whether one considers these conclusions – particularly with respect to the eventual necessity of fundamental change – as a reason for pessimism or for hope, is a possible subject for scientific discussion as well as a question of personal values and judgments, and perhaps too of the fact of whether one is a man or a woman.
As regards the contribution of androgyny, three central insights can be noted:
1. androgyny in Christianity is a symbol for spiritual transformation, for the way that leads to unity with God, and which always deeply affects personal experience;
2. androgyny does not neglect oppositions – neither those outside man, nor those within man – but nevertheless stresses their essential unity;
3. this unity entails things which can be expressed by words as well as things which cannot.
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The sequence of the chapters of this book, which are summarized here, follows two lines.
First there is the line from the nineteenth century (Von Baader and Gunning) via the seventeenth century (Jacob Boehme) and the ninth century (John Scottus Eriugena) back to the first century (Philo of [319–>]Alexandria), and from there back again – forward in time – to the second century (the Gospel of Thomas) and the second or third century (the Gospel of Philip). This line proceeds from the known to the unknown. Particularly the chapter on Philo serves here also as a partial introduction to the chapters on the Gospels of Thomas and of Philip.
The second line is one from a positive view of sexuality (Von Baader and Gunning) via some negative ones (with Philo and the Gospel of Thomas as extreme examples) to a positive one again (the Gospel of Philip). It will be shown that Boehme holds an intermediate position in more than one respect. At the same time, it is clear that Philo is on the one hand to be compared with Eriugena because of the continuities in their interpretation of Genesis 1-3 and their rationalistic tendency, and on the other hand with the Gospels of Thomas and of Philip with which he has an important context of concepts and language in common.
Although the starting-point of this study is androgyny in the writings of Boehme (chapters 2 and 3) and we do not deal with androgyny in Christianity after Boehme because E. Benz has done this already in his book Adam: Der Mythus vom Urmenschen (München-Planegg 1955) [for more recent studies about androgyny in Mozart see above; for Goethe see R.-Chr. Zimmermann: Das Weltbild des jungen Goethe, 2 vols (München 1969, 1979)], we first must mention Boehme’s influence on the important Dutch ‘ethical’ theologian J.H. Gunning, Jr. (1829-1905), because Benz does not mention Gunningh and because this aspect of Gunning’s theology has been hitherto neglected even in the Netherlands. Boehme’s influende came mainly through F. von Baader (1765-1841), whose views on androgyny are also mentioned briefly.
Gunning finds in the androgyny of the first man support for monogamous marriage, with a special accent on the spiritual union and the overall equilibrium between male and female. The aim of such a union is the mutual restoration (reintegration) of an original (but disintegrated) human nature. This restoration is a counter-image to the ‘dying’ of the marital partners ‘in each others arms’ during the sexual act (death as a kind of sleep). For Christians, death implies resurrection. Nevertheless Gunning also assigns a high value to unmarried, socially and spiritually developed (single) persons. Other elements stressed by Gunning in this context are: 1. man as ‘microtheos’ and his relation with Sophia, the Wisdom of God; 2. the continuation[320–>] of the Revelation as the task of man; 3. man’s possibility of heavenly procreation and his loss of this, which is then replaced by earthly procreation; 4. the cosmic, universal meaning of (the androgynous) Christ; 5. the expectation of a new body and a new earth; and 6. androgyny as an ideal for society. Gunning calls his thoughts a ‘theosophy’, a way of thinking in the tradition of Boehme. Thus also in the Netherlands we are not alone in our interest in androgyny and in Boehme, even in theologically very influential circles.
[320–>]After this introduction of androgyny according to Gunning and Von Baader, a short outline is given of our own study: with the supplementary aim of first describing the subjects our study does not deal with; and second, of putting forward a number of questions connected with the study of androgyny, to keep in mind while reading this study.
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Chapter 2 Androgyny according to Jacob Boehme: introduction
The starting-point and first objective of this study is androgyny in the works of Jacob Boehme (1575-1624), the shoemaker, visionary, and writer of influential but mostly neglected mystical works, who lived in Görlitz, on the river Neisse (now in Eastern Germany). His influence extends from German Idealism and Romanticism and a wide range of European literature and art (Blake!) to pietistic circles in the churches and esoteric ones outside them, from Germany and the Netherlands to England, France, Russia and the United States, even, here and there, to this very day.
First we give an introduction into his life and works and some of the main aspects of his theosophy, as the direct context of his ideas on androgyny. The word ‘theosophy’ was then not very different from ‘theology’ but during the rise of rationalism the word got a pejorative meaning; later the modern ‘theosophical movement’ used it for a different – mainly Eastern, that is not-Christian – content. Boehme’s indebtedness to traditions such as alchemy and the kabbalah is clear; although they do not at all suffice to explain the very personal way in which he combines important theological and philosophical themes with psychological depth, and connects an explanation of nature and world with the most important theme of the rebirth of man. The essential thing for Boehme is that his insights – for himself as well as for his readers – should not function outside the Will and the Revelation of God, but only in relation to and taking part in these.
Boehme’s system implies a theodicy, and his theosophy implies for [321–>]the reborn man – when in a state of enlightenment – the possibility of an almost full knowledge of Divine Revelation, including both man and nature. Boehme’s work is always aimed at the rebirth of himself and his readers.
According to Boehme, androgyny is closely related to the evolution of man and the world, first ‘in’ and later ‘out of’ God. God looks for partners – in Himself and outside Himself- with whom to play the game of Revelation, of coming-into-being and becoming (Self-) conscious. There is only one cosmic drama which implies the coming- into-being of God, man, and the world, and which implies also the coming-into-being of all sorts of opposite qualities, their growth (birth) from one phase to the other till ultimately all oppositions are again united in God as God, at the same time, becomes fully Self-conscious. Among these oppositions we find, e.g.: spirit and matter, man and woman, eternity and time, good and evil, anguish and joy, dark and light. In short, evil and sin play in this whole the role of the antithesis without which a thesis cannot evolve into further being and consciousness, i.e. synthesis: the process of God’s Self-Revelation (including the totality of Creation and Restoration, materially as well as spiritually).
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Chapter 3 Androgyny according to Jacob Boehme: man and woman in God and in the creation
Among the aspects at every stage of God’s Revelation, i.e. evolution, is the cooperation of the male and the female. In this sense, male-female unity is the essential characteristic of the first man, who is the image and likeness of God. The first man is composed – in his soul – of the two fires in God, the dark and burning fire (male) and the light and joyous fire (female). The male side of God is God the Father, whereas God the Son is the female side. The Word and the Spirit are the ways in which the Revelation is further extended to the realms of the created world. In this creative process everything comes forth from a conjunction of oppositions, from a ‘marriage’. Sophia, the Wisdom of God, is the personification of God’s growing Self- consciousness, pregnant with the models of the world to be created: yet nevertheless herself chaste, and spiritual.
The first man, Adam, is married to Sophia. He is created by God for the explicit task of replacing the fallen Lucifer, one of the leaders of the angels’ choruses, and to help God to fulfil the goal of His (Self-)Revelation. To this end, man is imbued with all the gifts of [322–>]heaven and earth, and in him is everything united. The four elements, whose quintessence he is, are in equilibrium in him, and so, as microcosm, he is in full harmony within himself and with God. The way in which man should respond to God’s purpose should, therefore, be through heavenly procreation – bodilessly or ‘magically’.
This, however, is prevented by Adam’s fall, his longing for the material world and the weakening of his divine consciousness, as a result of which he falls asleep, and Eve is made out of his female side. From the moment that man and woman are so divided, they are in danger of falling into further sin, and – seduced by Lucifer (in the form of the snake) – they do sin, thus destroying the equilibrium between all oppositions and creating the conditions experienced in the actual situation of man and world. The most important characteristic of sin is the choice of one’s own way of being ‘like God’, that is, without being in harmony with God’s will. This is the same as directing one’s consciousness only to the lower levels of reality.
Instead of to the heavenly Sophia, he is now married to the earthly woman, Eve. Procreation is now in the first place earthly, animal-like, and in constant danger of being unspiritual. The weakening of the heavenly consciousness now accompanies the growth of sexual consciousness. The inner as well as the outer struggle to renew the equilibrium and the original nature has begun. From the beginning (God’s promises in Paradise), the saving Word and Love of God play their roles in this process, often personified in Sophia, who helps individual souls.
Boehme elaborates this vision into an extended exegesis of the history of the patriarchs of Israel and of the redemption by Christ, Himself the true and (as far as he is human) restored Androgyne, born of the virgin (!) Mary, and through Whom every man can be reborn to unity with God. This exegesis contains his views of the differences between circumcision and baptism, sacrifices and the eucharist. In the end, the unity of all redeemed people and the whole world with God will be restored, which implies a new heavenly body and a new heavenly life after this earthly life and the Resurrection of the dead. Then, not only will the androgyny of man and his total identity with God be restored, but the (Self-)Revelation of God will also then reach its full development – thanks and in relation to Christ and Sophia: the Wedding of the Lamb can then take place.
Although Boehme’s view of earthly sexuality is negative, and although he interprets the actual domination of man over woman as a consequence [323–>]of the Fall, Redemption, according to Boehme, in fact comprehends the restoration of ‘the sin of the male’. Through Christ the equilibrium is restored. In terms of inwardness, man and woman are equal now, but externally the restoration will follow the Resurrection (iust as we all still have to die corporally, although our spirit is reborn already). This final Restoration will even imply the ‘domination’ of the female over the male, i.e. of the light (flame) over the fire (burning): the eternal joy of heavenly Light.
From the viewpoint of God, the game of Revelation came to a dead end when the first man lost his heavenly consciousness and ‘imagined’ himself into the earthly reality, and was continued in man and on earth only as an underground stream while no more seen and practiced by man. This ‘reverse’ is, in turn, reversed in the reconciliation through Christ: the retarded process of Revelation could then resume, once again consciously realised and practiced by man.
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Chapter 4 Androgyny in John Scottus Eriugena
Eriugena (ca. 81- ca. 877), the ‘Irishman’, was the leader of the palace-school of Charles the Bald (ninth century) and the author of, among other works, the famous Periphyseoon (De divisione naturae). He derived the idea of androgyny from the Greek church fathers, particularly Gregory of Nyssa and Maximus the Confessor, whose works he translated into Latin (together with the works of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite). In fact, the model of thinking about the Creation is largely and in many details the same in a tradition from Philo to Eriugena. This model implies that Gen. l is the description of the ‘first creation’, which regards the heavenly ideas or models for the Creation, and Gen. 2-3 of the ‘second creation’, which regards the concrete earthly creation as having become necessary because of the Fall of man, and brought about in advance by God because he foresaw the Fall. Gen. 1:27 (‘male and female’ God created man in His image) is then an anticipation in the story of the ‘first creation’ of the situation following the ‘second creation’. Maximus the Confessor had already elaborated this model into a system of divisions of reality (at every level a division into two categories) with God at the top and the visible earth at the bottom, in a hierarchical order. The last division was that between man and woman, caused by the sin of the first man.
Eriugena built this model and its implied traces of androgyny into his Christian view of the evolution of the world from before [324–>]Creation to the eventual unity of all man and things in God. His view was at the same time an explanation of the Holy Scripture and a logical basis for the seven ‘artes’ (the sciences, including music) of his days. In logical terms, his Christian world-view was only a by-product of the logical foundation of the seven ‘artes’, a foundation which involved a synthesis of the biblical and the scientific truth (a mutual legitimation). This synthesis was mainly illustrated with reference to Gen. 1-3.
Characteristic for Eriugena is the notion of descent and ascent as corresponding with each other (e.g., from Eternity to Time and vice versa; cf. also Creation and Fall on the one hand, Redemption and Restoration on the other). The last phases of the descent include the Fall of man from his heavenly consciousness into the world of earthly passions, whereby man takes the sense-perceptible world as such as real instead of reducing it to its primordial causes, the ideas in God. A consequence of this is that man is divided into the two sexes, and that all sorts of variations and oppositions in earthly life become visible. Earthly matter, inclusive of the human body, is merely accidental (although not given without a purpose: man should use it to his purification). This implies that, for Eriugena as well, the Fall entails the loss of resemblance to the angels, of a heavenly body and heavenly procreation, of which the earthly is only a surrogate. According to Eriugena, sin contains two elements: a wrong choice by man’s Free Will (against God’s will and intellect) and a choice (against reason) for the lower passions; or, alternatively, pride (instead of submission to the will of God and man’s harmony with God) and passions (instead of the use of reason).
Eriugena does not think that man’s heavenly, eternal part (the model of his being-an-image-of-God) as such is damaged by the Fall. Only his blessed state is thus affected: and (re-)union with God is now much more difficult. In principle, the Fall into the sense-perceptible world was not wrong, but has come too early: man should have first grown wise enough for it. But, in the end, the true union of intellect and sense-perception will be restored (in this context woman is – already in Paradise – the symbol of the perfect sense-perceptible world, man of perfect reason, and the snake of the evil passions). Eventually evil will be reduced to nothing; but the unbelievers will still have enduring knowledge of their own sins.
For the Fall is, at the same time, the deepest moment of the descent and – by God’s grace and pedagogics – the beginning of the possibility [325–>]of the ascent, by which man can become again the middle of all extremes and one with God – through Christ, the true Middle, the Mediator.
Paradise is not regarded as historical (because man has never really been in this state, but sinned immediately), but as giving – in retrospect – a view of the ideal future.
The restoration of all divisions also implies, for Eriugena, the end of all differences and variations of men and things. He stresses the unity of mankind.
His view is rational, not to say rationalistic: man plays his role in Creation and Redemption mainly through the use of his intellect, by linking it to God’s intellect. The Fall is man’s loss of the right use of his intellect, and through the Restoration he reunites everything in himself and himself with God. The return to God is also a return from the Fall into the sense-perceptible world to the submission of this world to the intellect and to pure contemplation. After the Resurrection the continuing purification of concepts and ideas will take place until they are again identical with the divine ones. Eriugena can even say that ‘being’ is the same as ‘thinking’ or ‘being thought’.
Nevertheless everything depends for Eriugena on the Free Will which gives direction to the intellect (upwards to God or downwards to this world) and on God’s grace in Christ.
Eriugena was not a pantheist because he makes a clear distinction between becoming God according to grace (which is possible for the believer) and according to nature (which will never be possible to any human person).
In Eriugena we discover no tendency to consider woman as equivalent to man. Sexuality is allowed for procreation but not for pleasure (although pleasure is granted as unavoidable).
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Chapter 5 Androgyny in Philo and its context
The roots of Eriugena’s interpretation of Gen. 1-3 lie in Philo (ca. 20 B.C. – ca. 50), and Philo is also important as an illustration of the motifs which play a role in the androgyny in the Gospels of Thomas and of Philip. Therefore we deal here first with Philo. In reference to Philo, we can also particularly illustrate his opposition against androgyny, from which we can conclude at the same time that the roots of androgyny as well as the opposition against it are very old indeed.
Against the background of Hellenistic Alexandria with its large Jewish community and many cultural and religious traditions (including the [326–>]mystery religions), Philo tried in his works to reconcile the Jewish religion and Greek culture for readers who could be Jewish as well as Greek. He propagated Jewish monotheism, but interpreted it in a strongly Greek-philosophical way, so that Greek education was incorporated. Particularly interesting is the way in which he interpreted the (Jewish) myths by means of an allegorical method: to read in them the deeper sense of the (Greek) Logos. Although he avoided making enemies (not wanting to alienate his readers from his ‘new’ interpretations!) and seldom openly used their names, one can assume that he was combating the views of some Jewish groups with ‘gnosticizing’ tendencies (with which he shares a similar tradition of language and ideas). All this is important because Gen. 1-3 is very central for Philo, and because he refers to the concept of the androgynous first man.
Although Philo always remained faithful to the Jewish Law, the role he attaches to the Logos and the role that he allows the intellect are so large that this becomes the framework for a new stream of thinking which not only deeply influenced Christian theology and Western culture in general, but also explains his attitude towards the concept of androgyny, and his generally Encratitic views of the subject of sexuality (enkrateia = abstinence; for Encratism see the next chapter).
In his book ‘On the Creation of the World according to Moses’ – of which a summary is given – Philo, by way of the exegesis of Gen. 1-3, presents his views of God, man and the world. God is eternal and unchangeable; the creation, on the contrary, is visible and temporal. Man (only his intellect, not his body and the irrational part of his soul) is an image of God’s true Image: the Logos, God’s ‘intellect’. The creation is modeled after the heavenly ideas (!) described in Gen. 1; the concrete creation is described in Gen. 2-3. The differentiation of the genus man (in Gen. 1:27) in the species male and female is an anticipation of the (only later) actual man and woman. Philo describes man as a microcosm, with reason as his most valuable talent. He makes a sharp distinction between the ‘heavenly’ man (also called ‘true’ man, and man ‘after the image of God’) of Gen. 1:27 and the ‘earthly’ man of Gen. 2:7, who is mortal, material and soon divided into man and woman. For the first ‘earthly’ man, the blessed father of all men, was an androgyne. With the coming of the woman, i.e., with the division of this androgyne into man and woman, the disaster of earthly life began: the Fall of man. According to Philo the paradisiacal garden symbolizes the leading part of the soul confronted with the choice between the good and the evil (in everything) – a choice to be made [327–>]by the discrimination of the soul, symbolized by the Tree of Knowledge. What happens is the seduction of sense-perception (the woman) by the passions (the snake), and consequently of reason (the man) by sense-perception (the woman). Then punishment follows: life is to become a heavy task for man (a relatively light punishment: death would have been more adequate). From all this, Philo deduces God’s existence and reign over everything, God’s unity and the unity of the world (which correspond with each other); namely, by interpreting Jewish mono- theism in the categories of Stoicism (world-soul) and Platonism (dualism of matter and ideas, demiurge etc.).
From the way in which Philo treated androgyny we may deduce our first conclusion: that Philo’s basic material implied the androgyny of the first man, created by God, and that Philo deliberately reduced this androgyny to a characteristic only of the first actual man, the ‘earthly’ man of Gen. 2:7, making by this reduction the ‘heavenly’ man of Gen. 1:26-27 a-sexual. This becomes evident from the remarkable fact that he nevertheless relates the androgyny of the ‘earthly’ man to the ‘heavenly’ man, namely by calling the androgynous (first) ‘earthly’ man explicitly the one concrete species of the two genera (!) male and female of Gen. 1:27 (so in Leg. All. II, 13).
From Philo’s treatment of androgyny and our recapitulation of it we also deduce our second conclusion: that the reason of Philo’s reduction of androgyny lies in the contradiction which in his view exists between the androgyny of the ‘heavenly’ man and the a-sexual – because abstract – character of the higher world of intellect, ideas, Logos and God; precisely the world to which he wished to give a foundation in Gen. 1.
Philo’s position is thereupon illustrated in reference to the way in which he formulates his spiritual ideal, particularly the motifs of ‘becoming one’, ‘becoming a virgin’ and ‘becoming male’, as well as the relation of God and the soul, and his description of the community of the Therapeutes – with particular attention to the use of sexual metaphors in this context. Philo established a hierarchical scheme ‘God – intellect – sense perception – matter’ in combination with the superior status of man in relation to woman (although Philo made the exception to regard woman as equivalent to man on the pure spiritual level as well as on the level of procreation).
This leads us to the following conclusions:
1. Philo’s use of sexual metaphors actually supports an Encratitic point of view.
[328–>]2. Philo’s free use of sexual metaphors for divine matters can be explained by their frequent use in Philo’s surroundings and by Philo’s explicit limitation of this use to the level of allegorical interpretation.
3. This, however, leads to a conflict where Philo wants to base his high valuation of intellect and ‘logos’ (the cornerstone for his allegorical method) on the allegorical explanation of Gen. 1, all the more because Philo’s basic material contained the androgynous Anthropos. This becomes clear from the fact that Philo acknowledges the mythical character of the Pentateuch, but strongly denies it to the text of Gen. 1.
4. Consequently there is a conflict in the concept of the ‘logos’. Although Philo tries it, it is not possible to base the position of the ‘logos’ without using the ‘myth’. Therefore the opposition between ‘logos’ and ‘myth’ (the evaluation of ‘logos’ over ‘myth’) cannot be as absolute as Philo states it. ‘Logos’ is nothing without its material, i.e. the myths.
5. Nevertheless the findings of Philo – the effect of his handling of the relation of ‘logos’ and ‘myth’ on the image of God (transcendance), the man-woman-relation (patriarchate), the relation of spirit to body or matter (dualism), the relation of faith and reason (mutual legitimation) – became and remained representative of large parts of Christianity for a long time to come.
Parallel to the fact that Philo’s evaluation of the logos as superior to myth did not stop the actual use of myths, we must add here that Philo’s view of the intellect does not imply a closed border between reason and transcendance (as is the case with the ‘methodological atheism’ of modern science); on the contrary, Philo’s intellect is open to transcendance in view of his high esteem of contemplation – as a result of which he has also become of great importance to the flowering of contemplative spirituality in Christianity.
In this chapter we finally mention the possibility and the need for further research on androgyny in the Hellenistic Age, its contexts and roots. Particularly the new findings of Nag Hammadi make this research promising, but it is far from finished. In this context we also mention the occurrence in several texts of the reading ‘him’ instead of ‘them’ in Gen. 1:27.
Of particular importance is the motif of the (androgynous) ‘Anthropos’, mainly in Gnostic literature. This Anthropos (Man) goes back to Ezech. 1:26 in the vision of God’s glory (Hebrew: kabood) – where on the throne sits ‘the likeness as the appearance of a Man’ – and already occurs (as Greek ‘phoos’, ‘man’) in the work of the Jewish-Alexandrian [329–>]tragedian Ezekiel in the second century B.C. It was this Anthropos which was replaced by Philo’s Logos (both being identified with the first light – in Greek also ‘phoos’ – of creation, and with the Image of God). The Anthropos was in the first place a ‘heavenly’ Man!
In this chapter a separate paragraph deals with the difference between our views and those of R.A. Bear jr. in his book Philo’s Use of the Categories Male and Female (Leiden 1970), which also mentions most of the material dealth with in this chapter. Baer did not discover Philo’s use of the microcosm-macrocosm-scheme, which brings him to an unnecessarily complicated and artificial interpretation of the difference between Op.M. 134 and 135; and although Baer has seen that there is a relation between Philo and his ‘gnosticizing’ opponents, he does not elaborate upon it.
In this context we draw our third conclusion: that Philo and Gnosticism differ precisely on the issue of their treatment of the notion of androgyny (in connection with their interpretation of Gen. 1:26-27 and Gen. 2:7): the prominent role of the Logos according to Philo is a deliberate alternative to or even a deliberate replacement of the androgynous Anthropos.
Our suggestion is that these differences between Baer’s views and ours are due to the fact that Baer simply shares Philo’s high preference for logos over myth, without showing that Philo with this view (which became nearly normative for later Christian thinking) rejected alternatives, which valuated androgyny (or sexuality as such) much higher.
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Chapter 6 Androgyny in the Gospel of Thomas
Because the Gospel of Thomas is strongly characterized by its Syriac-Christian surroundings and because Syriac Christianity as a distinctive branch of Christianity had its own separate life for centuries alongside the Greek and Latin branches, we first describe some characteristic aspects of this Syriac Christianity, particularly its Judaic-Christian background, its mainly eschatologically motivated ascetism, and its generally Semitic character.
Because the Gospel of Thomas is also strongly influenced by Encratism, we also sketch the most important backgrounds of Encratism. Of particular importance is the question of how the Greek or Hellenistic Encratism was remodeled in Alexandria into Jewish and Christian Encratism, by combining it with the explanation of Gen. 1-3 as the [330–>]‘fall into sexuality’, with the original (androgynous) nature functioning as the ideal. We also refer to the relation of Encratism to Gnosticism (which requires further research), and mention particularly the importance of Encratism for Catholic Christianity which was strongly influenced by it, although it condoned marriage for the procreation of children as opposed to absolute Encratism. Encratism has always remained an active element in Christianity.
In the short introduction to the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus is seen as the teacher who reveals the secrets, the knowledge by which man can now find eternal life by becoming one with Jesus as well as with himself and with the All. From this, a distinction opens up between eternal life and the world of lies and worldly matters, notably family and trade. One should become an itinerant preacher, living on alms; the Kingdom of Heaven is a richness to be distributed. This implies suffering.
Turning to androgyny in the Gospel of Thomas, we can discern that Adam was originally one, but became two. This division implied death and sexuality and being divided within oneself. The self and particularly the light are symbols of the original unity. This reminds one of the so-called ‘light body’ of Adam in Jewish literature: his garments were the Light of God’s glory (Hebrew: kabood). After the Fall, Adam is clothed in darkness and an earthly body. The Fall brings about the opposition between spirit and flesh, life and death, Kingdom and world. The innocent – sexually unconscious – children represent the original state. When one ‘tramples the garments of shame’, one discovers the original oneness.
The return to the origins implies the renewal of the revelation of the Light of the Father through the ‘images’ which his sons are. This implies the reunion of man (the ‘sons’) with his heavenly counterpart (remember that Adam was the Image of God and wore the garments of Light). This return is brought about by Jesus, who is the Light and the All, and implies the restoration of the wholeness of man and the world. The return is also caused by one’s rebirth from the true Mother, the Holy Spirit.
The ideals of unity and oneness are combined in the ideal of the monachos, the ‘solitary’: ‘Blessed are the solitary and elected ones’, who are the only ones who will enter the Kingdom of God. It is very probable that monachos is the translation of the Syriac ihidaja [to be written with a dot beneath the letter h]and has the technical meaning of ‘solitary, elected, bachelor’ This ‘solitary one’ stands above sexual differentiation and is undivided as regards the direction of his soul to God.
[331–>]This ideal of the return to an original oneness is illustrated by the famous Logion 22.
The last Logion, i.e. 114, describes the process of ‘becoming male’, in order to ‘become a living spirit’ as the way in which women can also take part in the Kingdom of Heaven.
We can conclude that androgyny in the Gospel of Thomas functions within a strong Encratitic context. The return to the original androgynous state is the end of sexuality, and the attitude towards the practice of sexuality is obviously negative: procreation and marriage are denounced. Where the end of sexuality is described als the end of the female – as in Philo – we experience the influence of a patriarchal context.
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Chapter 7 Androgyny in the Gospel of Philip
First a short introduction is given into Gnosticism, its Jewish origins and Christian existence. Particularly Valentinian Gnosticism – to which the Gospel of Philip relates – is mentioned, with the important role it attached to the divine syzygies (couples), which by their reunion restore the divine Fullness (Pleroma), and with its three levels: pneumatic, psychic and hylic. Gnosis (knowledge) is the redemptive knowledge of one-Self and implies the reunion of all syzygies, as well as of the ego with its heavenly counterpart or ‘guardian angel’. Sexuality and androgyny form important parts of Gnostic mythology.
The Gospel of Philip could have originated in Antioch (ca. 200), possibly with Axionicus of Antioch as its author, and could have been built up from catechetic material or parts of sermons, having as their subject the inauguration into the secrets (including the sacraments). There is a strong opposition in the Gospel of Philip between the visible world and the hidden (spiritual, inner and true) world, of which the visible is only an image. Through gnosis one comes to know the secret true names of the realities (instead of the misleading names of earthly language), in which the author initiates his readers as once Christ did his disciples. In the end, the hidden Truth will be revealed and the Light will stream out to ‘every son of the bridal chamber’. This happens by way of spiritual begettings instead of earthly ones, which implies the restoration of ‘virginity’. Some characteristic citations complete the introduction to the Gospel of Philip.
The Gospel of Philip ascribes the loss of androgynous unity to the failure of ‘Adam and Eve’ to unite themselves spiritually (‘in the bridal [332–>]chamber’) with each other and with God, which brings about sexual differentiation and death. Adam fails to beget spiritual children, but Cain is produced (from the communion of Eve and the snake). Where there is no real androgynous union, the male and the female demons have access to the isolated female and male souls and have communion with them. When man again becomes complete, reunited, there will be no more death, as is the case for the sons who are begotten spiritually by the Perfect Man, Christ.
Christ Himself is begotten by the spiritual union of the Father and the Virgin (the background of the theophany on the occasion of Christ’s baptism), which produced the ‘light body’ of Jesus. On the cross Christ separated the world below from the world of God, the Fullness (Pleroma), leaving his earthly body behind, namely, by restoring the separation of the beginning. Christ begets his spiritual sons through the sacraments (including also the ‘anointing’, the ‘redemption’ and the ‘bridal chamber’).
The secret lies in the spiritual union of man (which is only an earthly ‘image’) with his heavenly counterpart, his guardian angel. This restores his mastery over the demons, over passions and over nature. This reunion is also described as the ascent to God through the spheres, as the knowledge of God, as being clothed with the Perfect Man and with heavenly clothes. This implies a knowledge of one-Self, a restoration of man’s true and eternal identity with him-Self in and through Christ.
The most important symbol of this is the union of the bride and the bridegroom in the ‘bridal chamber’, which has its earthly image in marriage; its hidden meaning is revealed to the knowing believers (the pneumatics).
Next we deal with the evaluation of (earthly) marriage in the Gospel of Philip. It is obvious that as a part of the visible world and only an ‘image’ of the true reality (the ‘bridal chamber’) marriage involves all the negative aspects of earthly life: matter, passion, evil, death. In this aspect the evaluation of marriage runs parallel to that of Encratism and of Catholic Christianity. But for the Gnostics, who experience the spiritual reality which places them above (although yet still in) the visible world, marriage nevertheless can and even should be an ‘image’ of the spiritual reality of the ‘bridal chamber’, in a positive meaning. This is the particular contribution of Gnosticism to ideas about marriage: not only is spiritual reality described in sexual symbols, but even can earthly sexuality also become a positive phenomenon when expressing this spiritual reality. Underlying this could very well be [333–>]the positive identification of human and divine sexuality in early Hermetism (with its Egyptian background), which was gradually spiritualized in later Hermetism and Gnosticism (which in turn evolved in the directions of Encratism and Catholic Christianity). The ambivalence of the Gospel of Philip in its attitude towards marriage is understandable given its position in the midst of these phenomena. This interpretation finds support in the statement of Theodotus, a pupil of Valentinus, that procreation was still needed to complete the predestined number of Gnostics, and in the sayings of Irenaeus and of Clement of Alexandria, which stressed the positive value attached to marriage by the Valentinians.
The position of women in the Gnostic communities was relatively free compared with that in the Catholic Christian communities, although the dominance of male over female is part of the Gnostic mythology in which it runs parallel to the Encratitic views.
The most important conclusion is that androgyny in the Gospel of Philip is related to a symbolism that uses sexuality in a positive way, and that the evaluation of marriage is positive (compared with that of Encratism and even of Catholic Christianity) given this Gospel’s characteristic viewpoint that marriage can and should be an image of spiritual reality. This shows the influence of the myth of the hieros gamos. In principle, marriage is not restricted to the procreation of earthly children, but has a spiritual meaning.
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3. A general comparison of the different authors in historical perspective
The historical roots of androgyny in Christianity are pre-Christian, for they go back to the Jewish creation stories and beyond, and to the view of man as a microcosm in the Greek tradition. Both traditions are connected with each other in the Hellenistic age, notably in Jewish and Christian Gnosticism which remodeled the first forms of what we now call ‘androgyny’.
The de-sexualizing which is characteristic of Gen. 1 (very probable in its present form a reaction to a view or a milieu which saw divine and human sexuality as parallel to each other) was thereby undone partially or totally: the thought that the first man united in himself male and female (which was possibly still recognizable in the text) was elaborated in a variety of ways, in which the partially suppressed but elsewhere still living motifs of the hieros gamos were involved, notably [334–>]in the form of the spiritual union of God and the soul, sometimes in combination with the union of the male and the female (in couples or syzygies) in God. This revival was probably favoured by influences from Egyptian religion via Hermetism which so passed into Jewish and Christian Gnosticism, albeit in the form of a spiritualization. Nevertheless human sexuality was thereby positively evaluated with respect to its relation with divine sexuality (particularly in Valentinian Gnosticism, as in the Gospel of Philip). Motifs from the context of the Great or Mother-Goddess and from the Sophia-traditions could also have an important function.
In keeping with the de-sexualizing of the image of God which we can see reflected in the books of the Old Testament, and which was connected with the establishment of Jewish patriarchal monotheism, the attitude towards sexuality was mainly negative in Christianity. The strong eschatological tendencies which could lead to Jesus’ liberation from a patriarchal law of divorce (in favour of the woman and the – monogamous – marriage) as well as from marriage as such, in combination with a certain radicalisation of morality, but particularly with Encratitic influences, resulted in a preference for celibacy above marriage (as in Syriac Christianity, notably the Gospel of Thomas; but see already St. Paul in I Cor. 7), and in a principally negative view of sexuality. It is not to be denied that these two opposite views of sexuality and continence have been an important subject for discussion in the Christian movements of the first two centuries. It has also to be stated that both views could imply a liberation for women in the form of higher evaluation in comparison with the current patriarchal traditions. This ‘struggle’ came to an end (for the time being) in the victory of Catholic Christianity over both extreme views. As we can see from the Gospels of Philip and of Thomas, both the positive and the negative attitudes towards sexuality can be related with or even reduced to the same combination of Gen. 1-3 and androgyny.
The negative attitude of sexuality has, however, yet another root. Together with the developments already mentioned, still another development took place: the transcendentalization of the image of God. Philo supported the transcendance of God in relation to Creation with a strong position of the Logos and vice versa: the mutual legitimation of Jewish monotheism and Greek philosophy. The Jewish myths were allegorized on that occasion (which implies that they were de-mythologized); but at the same time, the position of the Logos was founded in the ‘myth’ (!) of Gen. 1. According to Philo, the Logos [335–>]was the true Image of God, and man the image of this Image.
By this interpretation Philo provided not only the foundations for later Christian dogmatics (and contemplative spirituality) but also for the Jewish and Christian forms of absolute or moderate Encratism: good = spiritual = a-sexual = male, and bad = material = sexual = female. Philo deliberately continued the de-sexualization of the image of God. To this end, Philo combined Platonic dualism with Platonic and Jewish views on the relation of man and woman. Although Catholic Christianity adopted the toleration of marriage as its main position, from Philo’s views it is understandable that for Christian thinking the negative attitude to matter, body, sexuality and woman remained in principle the determining one, and that this negative attitude was inexorably connected with the prevalence of intellect (above the passions and the sense-perceptible world) and of man (above woman).1 So one should not be surprised that we discovered Philo’s views – particularly his explanation of Gen. 1-3 – to be a deliberate alternative to Gnostic or Gnosticizing views which linked the notion of androgyny with a positive attitude to sexuality.
Androgyny in the Christian traditions is thus closely connected with the androgyny of the first man, i.e. with the ‘Adam’ of Gen. 1-3, the Image of God, who was divided into Adam and Eve. The advent of sexuality and death is presented as a consequence of the loss of the original heavenly and divine consciousness (symbolized by Adam’s sleep), i.e., the loss of contact with the highest level, or the narrowing of consciousness. The history of the world and of humanity began with an androgynous Man, the Image of God, which was obscured by the ‘Fall’ into the earthly level of this Man, which was split into the two sexes.
Philo already knew this heavenly Man, in Greek: the Anthropos, and replaced him with the Logos. But traces of this Anthropos, which can be found in Ezech. 1:26 – in the vision of the glory of God (Hebrew: kabood) – and which played an important role in Gnosticism, are already as old as the work of the Jewish-Alexandrian tragedian Ezekiel in the second century B.C. This heavenly Anthropos, clothed with the Light of God, became the background of the Christian elaborations of androgyny in the Gospels of Thomas and of Philip, in Encratism and Gnosticism (as well as of the Adam Kadmon-figure in the Jewish tradition, which is not dealt with here). Philo saw (the first) man as a microcosm; and already in Philo we can see traces of Plato’s myth [336–>]– from the Symposium – of the splitting of the primordial androgynous men, meant to symbolize the origin of ‘eros’.
In all further forms of androgyny in the Christian tradition we find the connection with Gen. 1-3 as the basis of the concepts of God man and the world (in their mutual relations): the purpose which God had with Adam as ruler over the world, and so forth.
In Early Christianity we see that the restoration of the image is very important: through baptism, or the anointing before baptism, the Christian is reborn, he finds his original nature or identity, the unity with God. This ‘spiritual’ or ‘religious’ identity also entailed for the oldest Christians the foundation of a new social identity (cf. Gal. 3:28). Whereas Gnosticism elaborated upon this a mythology in which there was room for the role of sexuality (particularly in the symbolism of the ‘bridal chamber’ and of the ‘spiritual begettings’; cf. the Gospel of Philip), we see in Encratism that the role of sexuality diminishes (cf. the a-sexual character or the spiritual unity of the ‘monachos’ in the Gospel of Thomas).
Within the frame of the theological or philosophical systematization in later Catholic Christianity, we can discern – in accordance with the views of Philo – a depreciation of the myths themselves in favour of their allegorical interpretation.
Nevertheless, Philo not only failed to eliminate androgyny completely, but his interpretation of Gen. 1-3 (the division into a ‘first’ and a ‘second’ creation, of the ‘world of the ideas’ and the ‘concrete world’) as well as traces of androgyny, were even to be found up to Eriugena, for whom androgyny still was a central element of the Christian doctrine of Sin and Redemption. When in the Middle Ages this doctrine was elaborated into a theologically, philosophically, juridically and politically established system, which as it were legitimated itself, its mythical basis could be reduced still more and androgyny vanished even as an ornament. After its underground existence (notably in the context of alchemy), androgyny appeared again in the works of Jacob Boehme who was also inspired by the Jewish kabbalah.
The elaborations of androgyny in Eriugena and Boehme share a number of characteristics including: 1. the combination of religious truth and a ‘scientific’ knowledge of nature and world in systems which recapitulate the Self-Revelation of God in Creation, Revelation and Redemption, which should further man’s participation in God’s Self- Revelation, and which imply at the same time a theodicy; 2. the [337–>]important role of man as a microcosm in connection with the origin and the resolution of all antitheses in man and nature; 3. a striving after the most complete identity of God with man, yet with the preservation of the distinction between them; 4. a distinction between the revealed and the hidden side of God; 5. the ‘Fall’ from the heavenly to the earthly level is accompanied by the loss of ‘heavenly procreation’ (in favour of an ‘earthly’ one); 6. the use of Neoplatonic elements.
Eriugena’s system is of a rational and optimistic character (in respect to evil as well: if the will gives the intellect its good direction, then the intellect can manage it alone). Androgyny has in his views an a-sexual character, and the relation between man and woman is seen as strictly patriarchal. In all this Eriugena is strongly akin to Philo.
Characteristic of Boehme is: 1. his elaboration of the dialectical process of the oppositions and their resolution into a new equilibrium; 2. the influence on his conceptions of alchemy and the kabbalah; 3. the inner revelation to the reborn people, who – when in an enlightened state – can (almost) fully know God, man and world; 4. his accent on the necessity, the way and the means to achieve rebirth, inclusive of the dialectics of resignation and will; 5. androgyny of and within God (the two fires and their relation), the role of ‘conjunctions’ and ‘imaginations’ (comparable to the role of the syzygies and the motifs of the hieros gamos in Gnostic mythology) as the foundation of all the processes of reality, as well as Sophia’s relation to the soul; 6. the important role of evil in the process of Creation, Revelation and Redemption – at all levels, of material nature as well as of human existence and of God; 7. the combination of a ‘Gnostic’ spirituality with an ‘Encratitic’ attitude to (earthly) sexuality; 8. his nevertheless very positive view of the woman and the female, as well as of the body, in the eventual Restoration.
Although this study does not deal in length with the notion of androgyny in the time after Boehme, we mention here that androgyny was not an element in those circles in which the modern scientific world-view of Descartes was dominant, but rather where religious piety, artistic symbolism, or esoteric wisdom formed a favourable climate for it, as a conscious or unconscious counterweight against the ‘Enlightenment’.
In the very positive attitude to marriage – with androgyny as its foundation – and the relatively positive appreciation of corporality in Von Baader and Gunning, we find support for the view that with androgyny in Christianity a positive as well as a negative attitude towards [338–>]sexuality and marriage can be combined. Boehme’s ideal of marriage as a spiritual union formed the starting-point for this attitude of Von Baader and Gunning, as well as for the ‘Encratitic’ consequences which Gichtel and Arnold drew form it2: the rejection of earthly marriage as incompatible with the marriage of the soul with Sophia.3
In all cases androgyny in Christianity is a symbol of perfection, namely of the perfect unity of man and God, of man with him-Self, of God within Himself.4 In all cases the Light (of God’s glory) is one of its most important expressions. In every case Christ fulfills the role of the Restorer as a counter-image to Adam.
We can further note that the symbolism of androgyny is congruent with a Gnostic climate (as in the Gospel of Philip and Boehme), and that it is reduced in a climate of de-mythologization or rationalization, where the role of the intellect is more prominent (cf. Philo and Eriugena). These climates differ as well in the views of the evil, of its role and how to fight against it.
The unfamiliarity of modern readers with androgyny is due in part to its connection with the pre-modern view of the world, which was pushed aside by the scientific view of reality. Conversely, modern interest in androgyny often accompanies the search for alternatives to the rationalistic consciousness of science, which is then experienced as too determinative for our culture.
In most cases, the Christian spiritual symbolism we encountered in the context of androgyny, shows the traces of processes of spiritualization: e.g., the spiritualization of the sexual symbolism in Gnosticism, the appreciation of spirit above matter under the influence of Platonic dualism from Philo onwards, and the resulting ambivalent attitude towards the earthly, which was mainly negative, but sometimes positive. In this context we note too, that matter can on the one hand be presented as temporal; and on the other hand, yet can play a role at the heavenly level (cf. the ‘heavenly corporality’).
The Christian authors on androgyny expressed, however, the conviction that the fundamental unity of the whole reality is so simple and at the same time so strong that it can entail or resolve all contradictions, antitheses, and oppositions, even the strongest ones.
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[339–>]1. For a much broader context (a.o. Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Descartes, Kant, Hegel) see now: Genevieve Lloyd, The Man of Reason (‘Male’ and ‘Female’ in Western Philosophy), London 1984 (about Philo: 22-28). [Return to text.]
2. Cf. E. Benz, Adam (Der Mythus vom Urmenschen), München-Planegg 1955, 101- 134. [Return to text.]
3. For (partially) parallel views in the kabbalah (the refusal of the man-woman- relation as well as the glorification of it) see: G. Langer, Liebesmystik der Kabbala, München-Planegg 1956, 75-84 (‘Der tragische Konflikt der beiden erotischen Richtungen und seine Folgen für die Gemeinschaft’) as well as the preceding chapters in that book. Return to text.]
4. (Note added to the original text, 24 November 1997.) Perfection as concept is in a certain sense probably also a reduced or at least remodeled expression of mutual completion and reproduction as older form of it; that is to say, this reduction or remodelling is, within this context of androgyny, parallel to the reduction of the myth of androgynous wholeness into hierarchic leveled separations and oppositions as for example between God and man, intellect and sense, man and woman (see above). Insofar as perfection and completion imply and express consciousness, their distinctive forms are still to be discerned and described (cf. among many others scientific consciousness with consciousness in the psychology of Jung, the last being – through its roots in alchemy – the modern descendant of the old completion/reproduction model). [Return to text.]