Parmenides, Heraclitus and Clement

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Saint Clement of Alexandria spoke of the Father as God beyond God, transcending all, the Son as God within God embracing all as God in all, and the Holy Spirit as God beside God, proceeding from God to abide with God as God in all through all.  For Clement, there was no division between the unseen God beyond God and the God within God who reveals God, because the Spirit is co-inherent witness to their union as God beside God.  As God beside God, the Spirit proceeds from God beyond God to abide in God within God, revealing the glory of the Logos, God the Word, God within God, in the hidden heart of God beyond God. God the Holy Spirit is God beside God opening the mysteries of God within God, which include two modes of primordial oneness, the all-transcending One and the all-embracing One. 

Saint Clement shows that the Logos of the Prologue of the Gospel of John shares in the same inherent capacity as the Logos in Heraclitus to unite the opposites of Plato’s first and second hypotheses in his Parmenides, the exclusive One that alone is, and the inclusive One that unites all in all.  The first is the simple One, HEN, that transcends all opposites, and the second is the complex One, HEN PANTA, that unites all opposites.   As one and only One, God is the singularity that negates all but the One.  As One in All, God is many names and energies in one all-embracing Whole, uniting all in all.  With Heraclitus, Clement saw that opposing modes of transcending and including oneness call for the Spirit’s oneness that transcends and includes them both.  This oneness includes both transcendence and immanent inclusion as hidden Spirit common to them both, which is to be seen when the Spirit of truth reveals what holds both transcendent ascent and inclusive descent together.  Later, Saint GregoryPalamas would say that as essence, God is none but the One, as energy, God is One and all, uniting transcendence and inclusion in God and as God in all through all. 

The Gospel of John speaks of a Beloved Disciple whose witness to the Logos was also a witness to the Spirit of Truth.   Saint Clement saw the wisdom of Heraclitus as witness to the Logos before the incarnation of the Logos, so to Christ before Christ, bequeathing to Patristic wisdom a way of handling Parmenides’ conflicting opposites that did justice to their unity without confusion, and held the tension of real difference without it disintegrating into division.  This Logos gathers what opposing opinion scatters, by uniting what differs and setting apart what is confused.  The wisdom logic of Heraclitus gave to the Patristic tradition a capacity to cure extremism without compromising extremes, a capacity that both God as Trinity and the mystery of Christ, divine and human, demanded, but which they also taught.  In fact, the Patristic wisdom found divine dialectic already inherent in the divine mysteries of Holy Trinity and Christology before they was reflected in their thinking and it was reflected in their thinking because it was always already being lived by the saints.  That is why there was always deep turning before wisdom saw that she saw what she saw.  

The wisdom logic of extreme paradox lay at the heart of illumination, just as the Logos of paradox lay at the heart of the mysteries of glorification.  The fact that Heraclitus awoke before Christ to the mysteries of Christ was no surprise to Clement because the mysteries of Christ were always already primordially present from the beginning.  Clement’s transcendent God beyond God was revealed by the Logos, God within God, including what transcendence excludes, so that the Spirit, God beside God, can transcend and include as truth what narrow and shallow opinion overlooks.  Clement saw what Heraclitus meant and made it his own, incorporating Parmenides in a dialectic which Heraclitus bequeaths to Patristic wisdom, not with regard to its Christian content but with regard to the wisdom logic of its form.  Christ is the revelatory content but as the Logos, he is also the wisdom logic of its form.  Clement discerned this divine dialectic of the Logos and transmitted its wisdom to Origen, who taught Patristic tradition not only how to think but also how to turn and see, bequeathing the ethos of antinomy and mystery to the desert which still guides saints.  The wisdom logic of the Logos is the form of Christian life, because it is the wisdom of the Logos and because Christ is both the form as well as the content of Christian wisdom.