Intellectualism And Mysticism Complementary Systems

After this sketch of the Aristotelian features recognisable in

monophysitism, we turn to the other great pagan philosophy that

assisted in the shaping of the heresy. Intellectualism and mysticism

are closely allied; the two are complementary; they are as mutually

dependent as are head and heart. It is not then surprising that

monophysitism should possess the characteristics of both these schools

of thought. The inte
lectualism of the heresy was largely due, as we

have shown, to the Aristotelian logic and metaphysic; its mystic

elements derive, as we proceed to indicate, from Neo-Platonism and

kindred theosophies.

Alexandria had been for centuries the home of the mystics. The

geographical position, as well as the political circumstances of its

foundation, destined that city to be the meeting-place of West and

East. There the wisdom of the Orient met and fought and fused with

that of the Occident. There Philo taught, and bequeathed to the

Neo-Platonists much of his Pythagorean system. There flourished for a

while and died fantastic eclectic creeds, pagan theosophies

masquerading as Christianity. Gnosticism was a typical product of the

city. Valentinus and Basilides and the other gnostics made in that

cosmopolitan atmosphere their attempts to reconcile Christianity with

Greek and oriental thought. There Ammonius Saccas, after his lapse

from the Christian faith, taught and laid the foundation of

Neo-Platonism. Plotinus was the greatest of his disciples, and, though

he taught at Rome for most of his life, it was in the spirit of

Alexandria that he wrought his absolute philosophy, the full-orbed

splendour of the setting sun of Greek thought. Neo-Platonism did not

die with Plotinus. In the middle of the fifth century, when

monophysitism was at its zenith, Proclus was fashioning an intellectual

machinery to express the Plotinian system. The story of Hypatia

evidences the dominant position of Neo-Platonism in Alexandrian

culture. The violence of Cyril's measures against her shows what a

menace to the Church that philosophy was. Cyril was not a monophysite,

but much that he said and did promoted their cause. Dioscurus, his

nephew and successor in the see of Alexandria, championed monophysitism

at the council of Chalcedon. In later generations Alexandria always

offered an asylum to exiled monophysite leaders.

These facts render it impossible to regard the connection between

Alexandria and monophysitism as fortuitous. They further suggest that

Neo-Platonism was the connecting link. Such in fact it was.

Monophysitism, we might almost say, was Neo-Platonism in Christian

dress. The ethos of the two systems is the same, and the doctrinal

resemblance is marked. It was natural that the home of pagan mysticism

should cradle the kindred system of heretical Christian mysticism.