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R.A. Baker
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Chapter Downloads
Chapter 1  Introduction
Chapter 2  The Origins of Christian theoria
Chapter 3  Technical Aspects of theoria
Chapter 4  Theoria: The Final Stage in the Spiritual Pathway
Chapter 5  The Practical Aspects of theoria
Chapter 6  Conclusion
Addendum  Appendices, Bibliography

Clement of Alexandria

Why Clement of Alexandria, why theoria
Charles Bigg, The Christian Platonists of Alexandria (Oxford 1886) provides a good starting point for the study of Clement. From that time numerous studies were published setting the tone for Clementine research by focusing on theological and/or philosophical issues. While most scholars made mention of Clement's views on prayer, spirituality and even on his use of the Platonic term theoria, these were not the major issues they addressed. The opinion voiced by Bigg (Christian Platonists, p.98) on this concept held the day: Clement had a mystical side, but this aspect of early Christianity was not developed until Origen came along. Thus, Clementine studies continued to develop mainly along two lines: the theological/philosophical and the literary critical.

What is Spirituality, or Mysticism?
We must address this question before moving on. After admitting that definitions are "hotly disputed," Louth defines it as a "union with God, a union that is real, and therefore doubtless experienced." Williams refers to the concept in more wholistic terms;

'Spirituality' becomes far more than a science of interpreting exceptional private experiences; it must now touch every area of human experience, the public and social, the painful, negative, even pathological byways of the mind, the moral and relational world.

The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church states this in its definition on mysticism;

Psycho-physical phenomena, such as dreams, locutions, trances, visions, and ecstasies, have been frequent concomitants of mystical experience. But while these are recognised by Christian spiritual writers as possible accessories of true mystical insight, they are not held to be essential to it...

The problem, evidenced by this definition, is that there exists a wide range of what might be called "mysticism." From the heart searching of Augustine to the negative theology of Psuedo-Dionysius and the visions of Teresa of Avila: "mysticism" comes in great variety. The definition offered above causes one to think of the extremes like seeing visions, hearing voices, falling into a trance, out of body experiences, and conversing with angels. But, there also seems to be a mystical faith which is not so extreme yet is quite different from the normal Christian experience. This kind of mysticism would include hearing an inner voice which would be attributed to God, or prayerful experiences which would be described as intimate and very personal. In addition to the more extreme description given above, The Oxford Dictionary also reports that mysticism is,

...an immediate knowledge of God attained in this present life through personal religious experience. It is primarily a state of prayer and as such admits of various degrees, from short and rare Divine 'touches' to the practically permanent union with God...

Many believers speak of "epiphany" experiences: times where the senses are charged with the knowledge of the nearness of God. Perhaps a mystic would experience these times on a consistent basis.

Another aspect of this definition problem is that many are not comfortable with using the term "mysticism" and prefer "spirituality" instead. In his preface to Gregory's Life of Moses, John Meyendorff states;

One wonders, however, whether this term is adequate in the context of Eastern Christian spirituality. To the Western mind, mysticism is associated with forms of subjective, individual and necessarily esoteric knowledge, which, by definition, cannot be communicated to all.

Meyendorff is correct when he says that "mysticism" is typically thought of as a form of esoteric knowledge which is beyond description. The method of gaining this knowlege is understood by many "mystics" to be a state beyond the senses where the soul is in union with God, who is beyond description, and this is usually referred to as "contemplation," which is how qewra is usually translated. Whether one speaks of "mysticism" or "spirituality," it is a concept not easily grasped or defined. When dealing with the "mystical" aspects of Christianity it seems satisfactory to use either term. Along with the dissatisfaction of terms is the difficulty of diversity and of those who attempt to make the spirituality of the Fathers synonomous with all sorts of modern versions. Wakefield responds to this by saying,

Christian spirituality may seem to suffer from an embarrassment of riches. Confused syncretism and retreat into 'pietistic' and bigoted sentimentality are both to be deplored.

I agree with Wakefield and Louth: the spirituality of the Fathers is quite a different thing from much of what passes as "spirituality" in our day. This leads to one final point concerning our study of Clement: the discussion about Christian mysticism or spirituality, certainly everything said thus far in this section, is mostly based on writers after Clement. Historically, as we will see in the following two sections, studies on Clement have neglected spirituality and studies on spirituality have neglected Clement. This study addresses this gap in research.

Clement Home Page  |  go to  -  Academic Studies on Clement


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Clement of Alexandria and Christian Spirituality

Chapter 2
Origins of Christian Theoria
- introduction
- what is spirituality?
- studies on clement
- oral tradition
- oral tradition II
- minority tradition
- hidden - Stromateis
- theoria and oral tradition
- conclusions

Chapter 3
Technical Aspects of Theoria
- introduction
- apophatic theoria
- apatheia and theoria
- concept of mystery
more sections coming...
- the threefold pathway
- theoria - spirituality
- stromateis book VII
- practical spirituality
- silence, silent prayer
- egyptian christianity
- clement's theoria
- clement's influence

- CH101
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Clement of Alexandria Theology
Clement of Alexandria and Heresy
Clement of Alexandria and The Trinity
Clement of Alexandria and Contemplation
Clement of Alexandria and Prayer
Clement of Alexandria and Prayer
Clement of Alexandria Stromateis
3rd Century Fathers - Christianity
Clement of Alexandria
Origen of Alexandria
Clement of Alexandria and Stromateis
Stromata, Miscellanies or Stromateis
Clement of Alexandria and The Instructor
Cyprian - Lapsed Christians
Third Century Christian History
The Trinity in the 3rd Century
Paidagogus - Stromateis - Miscellanies
Origen - De Principii - Principles
Paul of Samosata - Trinity
New Testament Canon, Canonized
Questions regarding Christian Issues
Third Century Christian Issues
Diocletian Persecution of Christians
Diocletian Persecutes Early Church
Novatian Baptism - Cyprian of Carthage
Early Christianity New Testament
Early Christianity Constantine and War
Important Issues in Early Christianity