Spiritual contemplation in Clement of Alexandria’s Stromateis : adaptation of the philosophical category θεωρία
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Although scholars have often acknowledged the spirituality in the writings of Clement of Alexandria (cir. 150-215 AD), a thorough study of the Platonic category θεωρία as it appears in this second century Father has never been undertaken. Most studies on Christian spirituality either ignore Clement's role altogether, or rush past him with little comment in favor of the great Origen (cir. 185-255 AD). Stromateis, Clement's most enigmatic work, contains over 75 occurrences of θεωρία. A close examination of these texts reveals that his use of the term is somewhat different from two of his greatest philosophical and spiritual mentors, Plato and Philo. Clement uses this term (usually translated "contemplation") to refer to a spiritual experience which occurs in space and time, as well as an ethereal one and one which occurs in the mind. A possible explanation for this difference lies with Clement's claim in the opening chapter of the work: he is the recipient of an oral tradition which has never been recorded, but which he plans to include in the Stromateis. This thesis demonstrates: 1) that Clement is the first Christian writer to adapt this philosophical category into Christian spirituality; 2) the primary purpose of Stromateis is to present the third stage in a spiritual pathway - to reveal θεωρία as the spiritual "meat" for the advanced believer; and 3) to present God and His contact with the Christian as immediate. In a radical move, going against the philosophical setting of the day, Clement presents this Platonic category as a means for the Christian to experience an immanent God.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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