Any understanding of human dignity in the twenty-first century demands an understanding of the Judeo-Christian Logos (Memra in Hebrew). Without it, there is only chaos and darkness, dispiritedness and confusion, blackness and the abyss. One only has to witness the evil sown by the attempted coup against the Judeo-Christian Logos in the last century by Mars, Demos, and Leviathan and its agents in the ideological struggles of that fell time to realize how fragile and yet how necessary a vital comprehension of the concept is. Progressivism, fascism, socialism, communism, and democracy all despised the Logos, seeing it, properly, as that which stifled all utilitarianism as well as all materialistic ambitions.

The concept of Logos itself had noble and ancient roots, far more so than any of the man-made ideologies of the previous century.

Heraclitus, a nobleman from Ephesus (ca. 500 B.C.), was the first to identify the concept and give it definition as “that universal principle which animates and rules the world.” Primarily identified with fire, it could also mean word, thought, and imagination. In the nineteenth-century, German philosophers had understood Heraclitus’ Logos as one of four Greek rivals for the Urstoff (the primary matter), along with water, earth, and air. Perhaps most importantly, though, Heraclitus identified the Word as Reason, a Reason that rules the universe. Later, Galen, the great Greek philosopher and physician of the Roman empire described the Logos in the following terms: He “did not make the world as an artisan does his work, but it is by wholly penetrating all matter that He is the demiurge of the universe” [Galen, “de qual. Incorp.”]. Plutarch wrote that the Logos was a “go-between” between God and man. The Christian theologian Tertullian argued that the Logos mixes with the matter “as honey does the honeycomb.”

Long after Heraclitus wrote, the Stoics—under Zeno and Cleanthes—adopted the Logos as their “god”: the natural law that holds together and rules the world. Through it and its greatest gift, reason, all human beings possessed dignity. To violate the natural law, to attempt to thwart the Logos, was a grave sin.

Influenced by the Stoics, but not one himself, the Roman Republican Cicero also accepted the Heraclitan and Stoic concept of Logos, recognizing reason as the voice that connects not only man to man (his contemporaries as well as those men in the past and the future), but man to God.

This animal—foreseeing, sagacious, versatile, sharp, mindful, filled with reason and judgment—that we call a human being has been begotten by the supreme god in a certain splendid condition. It alone, of all kinds and natures of animate beings, has a share in reason and reflection, in which all the others have no part. Moreover, what is more divine than reason—I will not say in a human being but in the entire heaven and earth? When it has grown up and been fully developed, it is rightly named wisdom. Therefore, since nothing is better than reason, and since it [is] in both human being and god, the primary fellowship of human being with god involves reason; and among those who have reason in common, correct reason is also in common. Since that is law, we should also consider human beings to be united with gods by law. Furthermore, among those who have a sharing in law, there is a sharing in right. And for them these things are [missing text here] and they must be recognized as being of the same city—if they obey the same commanders and men in power, even much more so. [1]

Much as Socrates spoke of the Polis and, later, St. Augustine wrote of the City of God, Cicero here has defined the Cosmopolis, the city of all women and men of good will across and through time.

A younger man than Cicero, but still his contemporary—at least by broad historical standards—Virgil also wrote of the Stoic Logos, especially in his fourth Eclogue, predicting an actual incarnation, roughly 50 years before Jesus of Nazareth came into the world.

Now dawns the last age of Cumæan song!
Once more the circling centuries beg in—
The Virgin reappears and Saturn reigns:
From heav’n descends a novel progeny;
Now to this child in whom the iron race
Throughout the world shall cease and turn to gold,
Extend thy aid, Lucina, chaste and kind,
For thy Apollo reigns. This glorious age,
Pollio, will dignify thy consulate;
Then shall great months their wondrous course commence
Under thy rule what trace may yet remain
With us of guilt, shall vanish from the earth
Leaving it free for ever from alarm.
He will accept his life as of the gods
With whom the heroes mingle; seen by them
The whole world will he rule, now set at peace
By his great father’s power [2]

It would be impossible to find a clearer pagan expression of the Incarnation than this, thus explaining why Virgil has held such a high reputation in the Christian world, especially as understood by Dante.

However tempting all of this might be for the modern Christian to adopt as his own, one modern Jesuit philosopher offered a stern warning:

But we are not entitled to suppose that Heraclitus regarded the One, Fire, as a personal God, any more than Thales or Anazimenes regarded Water or Air as a personal God: Heraclitus was a pantheist, just as the Stoics in later times were pantheists. It is, however, true that the conception of God as the immanent, ordering Principle of all things, together with the moral attitude of acceptance of events as the expression of divine Law, tends to produce a psychological attitude that is at variance with what would seem to be logically demanded by the theoretical identification of God with the cosmic unity. [Copleston, A HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY, volume I: 43-44]

Still, whatever Father Copleston’s caution, the pagan Logos did enter Christian thought… and very deeply. Sometime around 100 AD, St. John the Beloved and the Revelator wrote his Gospel, the last of the four orthodox gospels to be written. In its first fourteen lines—an ancient variation of a prose poem—John adopted the Judeo-Greco (though, it should really be Greco-Judeo) concept of the Word (Logos/Memra) to explain the Incarnate Second Person of the Trinity.

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Notes:

[1] Natural Law, Natural Rights, and American Constitutionalism: On the Laws (De Legibus)

[2] Wikisource: Eclogues of Virgil (1908)/Eclogue 4

The featured image is “Mythological Figures among Ruins” by Clemente Spera, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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