Mystical anthropology in Gregory of Nyssa's Homilies on the Song of Songs
The Thesis is an attempt to explicate Gregory of Nyssa's mystical anthropology in one of his most mature of mystical writings, the Homilies to the Song of Songs. Gregory's mystical anthropology draws its basis from his philosophical anthropology, and explores the implication of the nature and destiny of man in terms of the concept of divinisation or the transformation of human nature by the indwelling Christ. Gregory utilises the neo-Platonic concept of the ascent of the soul to its original perfection, but transforms this concept by the biblical doctrine of Grace and Incarnation. Holding to the unbridgeable gulf between the Created and the Uncreated, Gregory proposes the abandonment of all senses and entrance into the darkness where God ist and he postulates the divinisation of human nature without end based on that unbridgeable gulf. Gregory's philosophical anthropology would be incomplete without his mystical anthropology. The divinisation of human nature does not imply an idiosyncratic idea of the soul in flight, "from the alone to the Alone". The soul, as Gregory understands it, is firmly attached to its ecclesiastical community, where it has its space-time existence in a life of imitating its Lord in his love for mankind. Its destiny is ultimately linked with the destiny of the body of Christ, the Church. Gregory's concept is then compared with Origen's, whose ideas are said to have the most influence on Gregory's. Analysis shows that there are extrapolations of Origen's theology in Gregory's, but there are obvious discontinuities. The fact of the Incarnation is stressed by both writers, but the soul in Origen seems to pass beyond faith in the Incarnation in its ascent to God into the light of the full knowledge of God; whereas Gregory places his theology on the faith of the Incarnation throughout the soul's ascent, not into increasing light, but into increasing darkness where God is. An illustration of Gregorys mystical anthropology can be detected in his other writing, the Life of Macrina, where he describes his sister using the familiar imageries from the Song of Songs i. e. virgin, bride, Thecla, refining gold and guidance to her ascetic community. Her ascent in perfection is also described in the language of the doctrine of Epektasis. Gregory seems to see in Macrina a real life paradigm for his mystical anthropology.