The Imagery of Mysteries in St. Basil’s Address to the Youth

Seminar with Dr. Olga Alieva, National Research University Higher School of Economics, arranged by C-SAC, the Centre for the Study of Antiquity & Christianity

2017.01.27 | Mikkel Pade

Date Wed 24 May
Time 14:15 16:00
Location AU, Campus Nobel, Build.1453, Room 513, Jens Chr. Skous Vej 3

In the mid-twentieth century, after a long period of humanistic glory, St. Basil’s Address to the Youth has been radically reconsidered: according to most authoritative Basil scholars, it is not an exhortation to embrace classical paideia (as humanists once assumed), but a warning concerning its hazards or a slightly disguised apology of asceticism. However, one often leaves out of sight that Basil’s fellow Cappadocians Gregory of Nazianz and Amphilochius of Iconium generously borrowed from this writing in their own exhortations to study classics (Carmina II.2.4-5 by Gregory and Ad Seleucum by Amphilochius). Moreover, if we study closely the parallels between the three texts, we notice that they all make use of the mystical imagery to describe the process of education. In this respect, they follow the tradition established in philosophy at earliest by Plato, who was the first one to compare the process of cognition with the initiation into Eleusinian mysteries. After him, we find the metaphor “paideia is the Lesser mysteries” (or the like) in Aristotle, Crantor, Philo of Alexandria, Alcinoos, Theo of Smyrna, Plutarch, Clement of Alexandria and Origen, Iamblichus, Synesius, and Marinus, to mention just the most salient examples. It is therefore only natural that the Cappadocians spoke of classical paideia as a the gradual “initiation”  into the highest mysteries, those of the Scripture.  

More info: contact Jakob Engberg je@cas.au.dk 

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