Christian Platonism

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Edward Young’s Night Thoughts – A New Edition for Modern Readers

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fancy_dropcase_NIGHT THOUGHTS by Edward Young (1683—1765) might easily be the greatest English literary work of the last 300 years.  A masterpiece judged by any standard, it rivals the works of Shakespeare and Milton and exceeds those of Young’s better-known contemporary, Pope. It is testimony to the infidelity of the modern age the neglect into which this great work has fallen.

Its topics?  Ones of greatest moment and timeless concern: Life, Death, Eternity, heaven-sent Philosophy, and the true meaning of the Delphic maxim, Know Thyself.

Young published Night Thoughts in nine installments or Nights.  The present new edition, with an introduction and notes for modern readers, supplies the first four Nights — originally conceived by Young as a complete work, and which supply the work’s main lines of thought. For a limited time an advance copy of the new edition is available for free here.

The topic, the motives, and the poetic skill of Young are magnificent.  The work is inspired, and one of the great jewels of English literature, not to be missed.flower

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Archetypal or Allegorical Interpretation of the Annunciation

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Today is the commemoration of the Annunciation, which celebrates the Angel Gabriel appearing to the Blessed Virgin Mary and announcing that she will bear a son who is to be named Jesus (‘Savior’). How might we interpret this event of the New Testament at an archetypal or allegorical level? Perhaps as follows:

To deliver us from the suffering and bondage of our own errors (selfishness, attachment to pleasure, fear, doubt, envy, etc.), God (or the God of our soul), by grace (unearned gift), communicates to the compassionate, nurturing, pure, and innocent principle of our soul (the Virgin Mary), that she will bring forth a Savior (manifest the Christ principle). Therefore despite our suffering and an awareness of our own tendency to error, and of our inability, because this tendency to error runs so deep that we by ourselves cannot correct it, we have hope in a still higher or deeper principle within, the Self-Realization or Christ principle.

Specifically, she is promised that she will bear a son who is both God and man. When the Christ principle is born within us, we are in correct relation to the universe, namely, that of bringing form, purpose, beauty, harmony, integrity and morality to the material universe, living simultaneously as a material and a spiritual being, connecting or yoking heaven and earth. This yoking is the meaning of the word ‘yoga’ (and of the word ‘religion’, the syllable ‘lig’ meaning connection, as in ‘ligament’).

Since salvation comes as a free gift from God, what is our role in the process?  It is to adopt an attitude of pious humility and trust.  We should most definitely be active in the process, but act in response to the promptings of God and the Holy Spirit, and not rely overmuch on ‘our own wisdom’ or be carried away by our own schemes for reform.  That is, our soul should say with the Virgin Mary, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord.”

Important symbols in paintings of the Annunciation are the lily (purity), and a book (Wisdom).

As always, it is to be emphasized that interpretation of Scripture at an allegorical level does not preclude a more literal or historical interpretation. For Christians allegory enhances, not replaces, traditional teachings. For non-Christians, it supplies a way to understand Christian Scripture as personally relevant.

A second point to repeatedly emphasize is that allegorical interpretation does not deliver a fixed doctrine or certain theory.  Rather, by its very nature allegorical interpretation is suited only to produce hypotheses, which one may then test and potentially confirm by personal experience, reading, or other lines of inquiry, or to suggest general principles which might lead to more accurate interpretative insights.

Book: Metamorphosis: the Transfiguration in Byzantine theology and iconography

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Metamorphosis: the Transfiguration in Byzantine theology and iconography
Andreas Andreopoulos
St Vladimir’s Seminary (SVS) Press, 2005
ISBN: 0881412953, 9780881412956

cover_Metamorphosis_Andreopoulos_smBook description:

“This book taps the vein of the blending of theology and art in the Middle Ages, in particular, the evolution of the imagery and theology surrounding the Transfiguration Of Christ. In this well-researched volume, Andreas Andreopoulos discusses in detail every philosophical and ritual application of the Transfiguration icon – the mountain, the cloud, the mandorla, the positioning of the apostles, the Old Testament prophets, and the image of Christ himself – taking the reader through an illustrated historical journey. The author simplifies the complex relationship between the dogma of the church fathers and Byzantine art and makes it understandable to a non-specialist audience. Nevertheless, theologians, historians, and art historians alike will appreciate the interdisciplinary value of this clearly presented documentation. Andreopoulos’s expert use of patristic texts and Jewish sources, as well as the New Testament and apocryphal writings and pagan sources, elucidates the development of art and doctrine that surround this scriptural epiphany.”
– Book jacket

“This book is a valuable addition to the literature on this subject. No one has treated it in depth before, and the work is a substantial contribution to the understanding of the evolution of the theology and visual representation of the Transfiguration.”
– Sheila Campbell, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies

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Written by John Uebersax

August 7, 2009 at 5:02 pm