with Christ, appears as the teacher that gives human beings the 'unerring knowledge of beings' together with 'intelligence' and 'scientific knowledge'.80 This passage not only justifies the intellectual pursuits of Christians but also defines the spirit of wisdom as 'having many parts': a qualification which is reminiscent of the term 'many-worded' that Gregory applied to the demonic 'spirit of the world'. The characterisation of supernatural knowledge, as 'uniform' and 'not broken up in parts', is borrowed from a well-known passage in the Pseudo-Dionysian treatise On Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, which explains the Greek term for 'monk' (ijovayos) as signifying that monks lead a 'life that is not broken up in parts and that is uniform, which makes them one in the sacred folding-up of the things that are divided to one God-like monad and God-loving perfection'.81 This passage is heavily indebted to neoplatonic philosophy, from which it adopts the distinction between discursive thought that takes place in the rational soul and intuition that is a function of the higher faculty of 'intellect' (vous). However, in neoplatonism discursive thought is not seen as an obstacle to reaching the higher level but rather its precondition: through a process of increasing abstraction the human mind ascends from the manifold symbols to the uniform reality behind these symbols.
At the beginning of his Words Gregory limits himself to oblique allusions to this concept. A proper discussion only takes place in chapter 127. In this uncommonly long chapter Gregory defines different stages in the spiritual development of monks to which he applies the terms 'grammarian', 'orator' and 'philosopher':
'Grammarians' are those who devote themselves to the active life (•paKTiKos), in the sense that they are physically (aw^aTiK«s) engaged in the world of action, while 'divine orators' are those who contemplate nature (^uaiKws), in the sense that they stand midway between knowledge and reasons for existence (tous Aoyous twv ovtuv); in the sense too that they apply apodictic logic to the universals in the spirit (twv oAwv Ev •veu^om) through the divisive (SiaipETiKf) power of reason. 'True philosophers' are those who have within themselves the supernatural union with God in a palpable and direct manner.82
Here Gregory sets out a tripartite system of spiritual ascent where the struggle against passions and the pursuit of virtue is followed by the search for God
80 Wisdom 7:21.
81 Pseudo-Dionysius, De ecclesiastica hierarchia, 6.1.3: ed. G. Heil and A. M. Ritter, Corpus DionysiacumII:Decoelestihierarchia,Deecclesiasticahierarchia,Demysticatheologia,Epistolae (Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1991), 116.15-19.
82 Gregory of Sinai, Words, in PG 150, 1292D [= ed. Beyer, 60-1].
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