Friday, March 30, 2012

“Seeing God in Philo of Alexandria: The Logos, the Powers, or the Existent One?” The Studia Philonica Annual 21 (2009): 25–47

My first article on Philo's preeminent mystical experience: seeing God.

Link to PDF of the full article

For Philo of Alexandria, seeing God represents the pinnacle of human experience. However, his visio Dei accounts appear to be somewhat conflicted, and perhaps even inconsistent, about who or what is actually seen in this extraordinary experience. In many texts his allegiance to the doctrine of divine transcendence necessitates the inclusion of intermediaries, such as the Logos or the Powers; occasionally they are all the noetic philosopher can see of God (Mut. 15–24). In some contexts Philo even claims God is entirely invisible (Det. 86–87; Post. 168; Mut. 7–9), and at least one remarkable text insists the terminus of the visio Dei is arrived at in “contemplating the universe and its contents” (Spec. 1.41–50). Nevertheless, in many passages Philo accords the contemplative a vision of God himself, the Existent One (τὸ ὄν). These variances are attributable to a number of factors, including his use of prior traditions, the goals of his immediate rhetorical context and the LXX text he is exegeting, the nature of his three commentary series and the relative sophistication of their implied audiences, as well as his own spiritual and philosophic development. When Philo’s visio Dei texts are analyzed with these influences in mind, a reasonable degree of coherence emerges.