American Christians generally use “logos” (if they use it) in the sense that Aristotle wants to use it:
For Aristotle, logos is something more refined than the capacity to make private feelings public: it enables the human being to perform as no other animal can; it makes it possible for him to perceive and make clear to others through reasoned discourse the difference between what is advantageous and what is harmful, between what is just and what is unjust, and between what is good and what is evil. (PA Rahe)
That is, when modern Christians use the word Logos, they predominantly conceive of “that which makes for argument, or logic”. This definition is by and large the regnant one, even among the classical Christian movement. Practically speaking, the Logos is thought of in terms of that which “makes sense” out of our logic, and connects us, through dialectic, to the mind of God.
Although I would not want to argue that this is not a dimension of Logos, I do say that it is an impoverished one. Philo, for instance, terms it the logos endiathetos (the word remaining within), while the Stoics (who influenced not to much St. John as Justin the Martyr) believed that the Logos was the generative principle of the universe. Philo, also, assigned to the Logos a kind of demi-urgic status. Surely St. Paul must have had something like this in mind when he described Christ as being the vessel and sum of the worlds, which He would recapitulate and return to the Father at the end of time.
The point here is that Logos is not merely an Aristotelian or Enlightenment concept of active, dialectical Reason, a spark of divinity that ensures our divine image and reflects some logical function of Christ’s ontological status. This would be to mechanize the Logos, or at least, trend in this direction. It would be to make the Logos merely a pattern filtered through right Reason (which, of course, it partly is).
Justin Martyr wrote the following:
I shall give you another testimony, my friends, from the Scriptures, that God begot before all creatures a Beginning, [who was] a certain rational power [proceeding] from Himself, who is called by the Holy Spirit, now the Glory of the Lord, now the Son, again Wisdom, again an Angel, then God, and then Lord and Logos.
The Orthodox want to argue that this “angel of the Lord” is actually the divine energies which one experiences in illumination (after purification). It is not a created being or merely external theophany (as Augustine is alleged to have thought) which is brought into and out of existence in order to create a saga of revelation, but rather, participation in the divine energies (the divine essence being reserved for God, forever, alone). “Being in the Spirit” allows one to experience this divine energy.
If we take our hint from the Orthodox, we might try thinking of the Logos as all higher states of being whatsoever (the lower ones being created by natural deprivation or distortion of the collateral states associated with Logos). The Logos is “Light” or “Life” – the “Kingdom of God”. Understood this way, Jesus was Himself the embodiment in full of the reign of God: He did not exhaust, but rather, fully expressed, the Logos.
The Logos is therefore a spiritual state of Being, a higher kingdom of existence, a noetic faculty of soul, the seeds of Creation, the divine image within, Right Reason, the Nous itself and all higher worlds (excluding God’s essence), the Logos Spermatikos and First Born before all Worlds, the Alpha and Omega and the end of time, and the way, truth, and life, which is the light of men.
It is clear that the emphasis in the West has been, for centuries now, upon the dialectical apparatus of the logical mind, and while divine certainty has been ascribed strongly to this (how else could David Hume die in such peace of mind?), it has tended to both arrogate and impoverish the depths and even the width of the human spirit and soul. Christianity itself has been implicitly guilty in this, because Western Christianity tends to think of God, when it does so at all, as a logically accessible entity that operates according to the strictures of common, rational thought; in practice, it is often reducible to the “structures” of thought.
With this is mind, next week we will begin our trip through Iamblichus’ arithmetic theology, showing how a “mysticism” of the numbers is possible that is revelatory of fundamental patterns in both lower and higher reality.