How the Logos changed my view of Christianity

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How the Logos changed my view of Christianity

Post by Admin on Wed Aug 16, 2017 1:25 am

by Joe


I credit Greek philosophy with my taking a second look at Christianity after fifteen years of seeking God in Eastern pathways. I chanced on the term “Logos” (a term from Greek philosophy, I later learned) in a Christian contemplative’s account of her spiritual journey, which book gave witness to what she had been given to know of Christ and Trinity. The magnificent truth of the “Logos” that I first encountered in that book, would change forever my understanding of the Divine Trinity, and also Christ.

I was baptized as an infant (and matriculated through the further sacraments of Reconciliation, Eucharist and Confirmation), but left Catholicism in my teens, drawn to the spirituality of yogic meditation and advaita Vedanta. (You too? This was hardly uncommon growing up the late ’60’s early ‘70’s.)

I was especially attracted to meditative Hinduism’s accent on the OMNIPRESENCE of God, as in these representative verses from the Bhagavad-Gita:

“He is inside as well as outside all beings, animate and inanimate. He is incomprehensible because of His subtlety. And because of His omnipresence, He is very near --- residing in one’s inner psyche --- as well as far away in the Supreme Abode. (13.15)

Certainly my Catholic faith taught had taught me this already, even as a child. Preparing for First Communion, we had read and memorized these very lines from an edition of the Baltimore Catechism:

Q:Where is God?
A: God is everywhere.

Short but sweet.

But as it is, I only really ‘heard’ that answer -- “God is everywhere”-- years later, in my teens, when the nearness and sublimity of God Everywhere grabbed me by God’s grace, inspiring desire to know God Omnipresent, longing lavishly abetted by verses from the Upanishads:

“Verily, all this universe is Brahman. From Him do all things originate, into Him do they dissolve and by Him are they sustained. On Him should one meditate in tranquillity. ” -Chandogya Upanishad III

I was charmed to God though Eastern pathways, by hundreds of pointers in yogic classics to God Everywhere, which affirmed God and the universe as One, and so the ever-nearness of God. I was further lured in the “divine milieu” by the glorious Hindu characterization of God as Existence-Knowledge-Bliss (Sanskrit SAT-CHIT-ANANDA).

This longing was new to me; frankly I had not been inspired by Christianity’s “Divine Trinity” in to seeking God in this. I was not disenchanted with Catholicism as a teen. Indeed, I revered it. Not because I was moved by knowledge of the Godhead as Trinity, but because of the figure of Jesus, his greatness of his love of God, his love of Truth, which he had died for. As for the Trinity, I accepted It on faith, didn’t try to puzzle it out, and wasn’t necessarily frustrated by its “mystery” of the Three-as-One. It simply didn’t play a role in my spiritual life.

Not like the living God Omnipresent I had been discovering.

Recall standard portrayals of the Divine Trinity in Christian art: Three Separate Figures -- Father, Son, and Spirit-- floating a cloud-laced heaven. The Old Man with long grey beard, “God the Father”. The Young Man with short beard, in sandals, “God the Son”; the Dove, “God the Holy Spirit.”

What did this have to do with God Omnipresent? Nothing, as far as I could understand.

I was wrong about this, I came to learn. The Christian Trinity, rightly understood, IS God Omnipresent.....and God Transcendent....and God Immanent-- these are the Modes of God’s triune Existence, I would find.

That’s where my discovery of Christianity’s “Logos” comes in. It was discovery of the ‘open secret’ of the Logos in Christianity that eventually helped me seeing beyond anthropomorphic caricatures of the Trinity, to the Real Trinity-- the Real Trinity of the mystical theology of Church fathers and mothers. Of this Trinity St. Irenaeus wrote in the second century:

“God -the glorious Transcendent [the “Father”];
the powerful, illuminating and transforming Holy Spirit;
the divine knowing and intelligent Wisdom of the Creator and LOGOS,
each revelation being the fullness of God” (capitalization added.)

PART TWO (I added another post on this, as a follow up to 'Part One'- as below)

How a Term from Greek Philosophy Invited a Second Look at Contemplative Christianity
by Joe Conti, Ph.D.

Imagine Sandro Botticelli applying a final stroke of greenish-blue to “Birth of Venus.” But as he lifts his brush off the canvas-- his art work disappears. Or think of him at the end of his life. As he dies, all his work --all his sculptures, oils, sketches-- all instantly dissolve.

Surely there is an intimate connection between the artist and his work, but it is not so intimate that, minus his attention or presence, it evaporates.

Ironically, not so with God. God is so intimately, necessarily linked to what God creates, that creation has no existence whatsoever apart from divine Existence.

Of course this view is basic to Christian monotheism, and a part of standard Christian instruction. I learned it in my Catholic youth. Yet only years later, when I had become student of meditative Hindu yoga, did a deep yearning to know God as OMNIPRESENT arise in me. A slumbering potential to know God in this way had been activated by the spiritual lore of Hinduism.

As said, I had been instructed in God’s omnipresence as a child, in classes which prepared us for First Communion. “Question: Where is God?” asked asked the catechism; “Answer: God is everywhere”. Quite to the point and a grand Truth indeed. But however grand this Truth, it only assumed personal meaning for me when in my teens, when I found God omnipresent strikingly expressed in Eastern texts, such as this passage from the thirteenth chapter of the Bhagavad-Gita. A passage characteristic of this accent in the Gita, from chapter thirteen:

“That Brahman [Sanskrit, the divine] is beginningless, transcendent, eternal...
Everywhere are His hands, eyes, feet; His heads and his faces...
Subtle beyond the mind’s grasp; no near us, so utterly distant:
Undivided, He seems to divide into objects and creatures;
Sending creation forth from Himself, He upholds and withdraws it...”

Passages on the theme of divine omnipresence were my favorites in the Upanishads, the Bhagavad-Gita, and the Yoga Vasistha. I hunted for them as I read, and I re-read them often for inspiration. Enamored on the Hindu view of omnipresence, I became indifferent to Christianity as I knew it.

But then, a decade-plus into a yogic spiritual journey, I stumbled on a experiential account of God Omnipresent written by a Christian contemplative. In it I discovered the term “Logos” and its breath-taking meaning. A little more research disclosed that Stoicism, of all ancient schools, was most acutely centered on the Logos, and that Logos entered the New Testament literature by way of Stoicism. Stoics and the Christians commonly held the Logos to be the divine Intelligence and the divine Omnipresent. Logos had been central to Christian mystical theology since the earliest centuries, a little more research disclosed; without the principle of the Logos, the Church fathers would have found Trinity and Christ unintelligible.

It has been right under our noses all the time, the Logos, in the Prologue of St. John’s Gospel. To restore the Greek term to the original will help us see It more clearly:

In the beginning was the Logos , 

and the Logos was with God,
and the Logos was God. 

Through [the Logos] all things were made; 

without [the Logos] nothing has come into being.
-John 1:1, 3

The renowned Oxford scholar R.C. Zaehner called “Word” a “mistranslation”, so narrowly does it render the term “Logos” relative to its enchanting ontological richness. Other prominent scholars of Christian theology, such as Jaroslav Pelikan, concur: Logos is inaptly translated “Word”, unfortunately obscuring a from readers of the New Testament a most magnificent Truth known to pre-Christian Greek philosophers.

The Stoics were awed by Logos. As they reflected on the colossal architecture of the universe, they found the Logos as the burning summit of created being, its incandescent Ground, the divine Super-Intelligence generating the cosmos moment by moment. For the Stoics, Logos was...

- the divine principle that suffuses and directs the cosmos.
- the Source of cosmic complexity, as well as the orchestrator of its unity
-the Creative Mind behind all beauty

The Prologue of John’s Gospel is a hymn to that very Logos, illumined by John’s experience of the Mysteries of Christ. But we readrs miss it wholly in the translation, “Word.”

Reflecting on the Trinity according to standard patristic vision, Olivier Clement writes in “The Roots of Christian Mysticism”:

“The Father is the God beyond all... 

...the form to the world... 

The Spirit is God in us, the Breath, the Pneuma, 
who gives life to all and brings every object 
to its proper perfection.”

Clement is hardly reciting an arcane formula for the Trinity, but simply rendering a commonplace of the Church fathers.
In brief, the Triune mystery affirms that by the Will of the Father, God Transcendent; through the Divine Intelligence of the Logos, God omnipresent; 
and by Divine Power of the Holy Spirit-- the universe was created, and is continually being created.

The Logos is the hidden rhapsody of all created being:

That Light whose Smile kindles the universe,

That Beauty in which all things work and move...

-Percey Bysshe Shelley, “Adonais,” LIV

As said, years ago I was introduced to the principle of Logos fortuitously in a book written by a Christian contemplative-- a book found while leisurely browsing a bookstore. So my return to the Catholic faith was by the same door as its exit: the notion of divine omnipresence, now as Logos, but in post-Stoical conception in the Gospel of John, as refracted through the the Mysteries of Christ known to the author of that Gospel.

The Logos remains an ‘open Secret’ in Christianity.


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