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KGN -- Ia

Appendix 2: The Kephalaia Gnostica (Text)

Translator’s Note

We have translated the Kephalaia Gnostica of Evagrius Pontikos into English from the French translation of M. Antoine Guillaumont, who translated from the Syriac version intégrale (S2), established by M. Guillaumont, which is, presumably, the authentic Syriac translation of the lost Greek original. The reader should refer to the French, or, better, to the Syriac, in cases of doubt as to the meaning of the text. The reader is warned that many of the opinions of Evagrius Pontikos, especially in the Kephalaia Gnostica, were anathematized by the Fifth Ecumenical Synod in 553. The reader is referred to Volume I, The Orthodox Doctrine of the Person, Chapter III, ‘The Cosmology of Evagrius Pontikos’, for a discussion of the Anathemas of the Fifth Ecumenical Synod in relation to the Kephalaia Gnostica and for lists of chapters of the Kephalaia Gnostica which pertain to each Anathema.


Patrologia Orientalis
Tome XXVIII – Fascicule 1
Antoine Guillaumont
Paris, France
Firmin-Didot et Cie.

(…)* Interpolation made by the French translator to complete the sense in French.

(…)† Interpolation made by the English translator to complete the sense in English.

[…] Scriptural references, most provided by the French translator.

First Century

1 To the First Good there is nothing opposed, because it is in its essence that it is the Good, and to the essence there is nothing that could be opposed.

2 The opposition is in the qualities and the qualities are in the bodies; the opposition is therefore in the creatures.

3 Every reasonable nature is an essence that knows and our God is knowable; he dwells in an undivided fashion in those in whom he dwells, like worldly (terrestrial) art, but he is superior to that, in that he exists substantially.

4 Everything which has been produced, either is susceptible of an opposition or is constituted of an opposition. But it is not all that is susceptible of an opposition that is also joined with those (things)† that are constituted of an opposition.

5 The principles do not engender and are not engendered, but the mediateness[1] engenders and is engendered.

6 By comparison, we are one thing and another thing is that which is in us, and another thing that in which we are; but all together (they)† are that in which we are and ‘that in which’ is ‘that in which we are’.

7 When those things which are together will be lifted up, there will be lifted up also the number; and when the latter will be lifted up, that which is in us and that in which we must be will be one thing only.

8 When that in which we must be was separated, it engendered that in which we are; and when that which is in us is mixed, it will lift up that which will be lifted up with number.

9 When we will have been in that which is, we will see that which is; and when (we will have been)* in that which is not, we will engender that which is not; and when those things in which we are will be lifted up, there will no more be that which is not.

10 Among the demons, some are opposed to the practice of the commandments, others are opposed to the mental representations of nature, and others are opposed to the logoi which concern the Divinity, because the gnosis of our salvation also is composed of these things.

11 All those who now possess spiritual bodies reign over the worlds which have been produced, and those who have been joined to praktika[2] bodies or opposed will exercise the royalty of the worlds to come.

12 Unique is he who is without mediation, and this One, in return, by intermediaries is in all.

13 Among the logikoi,[3] some possess spiritual contemplation and (spiritual)† praktike,[4] others praktike and contemplation, and others shackles and the judgement.

14 You see each of the arts in him who presides there, but you will find in all these things the gnosis of him who is, if our Lord ‘has made all things with wisdom’ [Ps. 103, 24].

15 When the four[5] will be lifted up, the five[6] also will be lifted up; but, when the five will be lifted up, the four will not be lifted up with them.

16 That which is separated from the five has not been separated from the four; but that which has been separated from the four is delivered also from the five.

17 When that which is in us will be changed, those things will be changed in which we are, and that many times, until that which is should no longer be named by modes.

18 The end of praktike and of torment is the heritage of the saints; but that which is opposed to the first is the cause of the second, and the end of this is the heritage of those who are opposed.

19 The gnosis which is in the four is the gnosis of the mental representations of creatures, and the gnosis of the One is the gnosis of him who alone is.

20 When only the mental representations of all that which has been produced by chance will be left in us, then only he who is known will be the sole known of him who knows.

21 Among the goods and evils which are considered as without necessity, some are found in the interior of the soul and others outside it; but it is not possible that things which are said naturally to be evils might be outside it.

22 The bodies of the demons possess colour and form but they escape our sense because this quality does not resemble the quality of the bodies which fall under our senses. Indeed, when they wish to appear to men, they transform themselves into the complete likeness of our body, without showing to us their (own)† body.

23 The mental representations of things which are on the earth are ‘the goods of the earth’. But if the holy angels ‘know’ these latter things, according to the word of the woman of Tekoa [cf. 2 Kgs. 14, 20; 2 Kgs. 14, 1–3], the angels of God eat the goods of the earth. But it is said that ‘man has eaten the bread of angels’ [Ps. 77, 25]; it is therefore evident that some ones also among men have known the mental representations of that which is on the earth.

24 If the ear (of wheat)† is in potentiality in the seed, perfection in potentiality also is in him who is susceptible (of it)*. And if that is so, the seed and that which is in it are not the same thing, nor the ear and that which is in the seed; but the seed of that which is contained by the ear and the ear of this seed are the same thing. Indeed, even should the seed become (an)† ear, the seed of that which is in the ear has not yet received the ear. But when it will be liberated from the ear and the seed, it will possess the ear of this first seed.

25 Those who wish to sift us by means of the temptations [cf. Luke 22, 31] either question the intelligent part of the soul or exert themselves to seize the passionate part of it (i.e. the soul)†, or (to seize)† the body or the environs of the body.

26 If the human body is a part of this world and ‘The form of this world passes,’ [1 Cor. 7, 31] it is evident that the form of the body also will pass.

27 The principal contemplations are five, under which every contemplation is placed. It is said that the first is the contemplation of the Holy and Adorable Trinity; the second and the third, the contemplation of those who are bodiless and of bodies; the fourth and fifth, the contemplation of judgement and providence.

28 Among the great number of ways, three are the ways of salvation which possess in common (the ability)† to destroy sins; but two of these possess in their own right the fact (of being able)† to deliver from the passions, and the virtue of the third is that it will be a cause also of glory. Glory accompanies the first; psalmody, the second; and exaltation, the third.

29 Just as, in the case of bodies, the colours, the forms and the numbers depart, so in the case of the four elements the matter also is destroyed; in their case, indeed, it (i.e. the matter)† possesses this, that it was not and that it has been.

30 Only fire is distinct of the four elements, by reason of that which in it is living.

31 Just as, among men, Israel, among the nations, the nation of Judah and, among cities, Jerusalem, thus also the sign of the symbols of the mental representations is ‘the part of the Lord’ [Deut. 32, 9].

32 Men who have seen something of that which is in the natures have grasped only their common life; only the righteous have received their spiritual gnosis. And he who disputes about that resembles him who says ‘I have been in the company of Abraham, when he was advancing on the road with his two wives.’ The former has said the truth, but he has not seen ‘the two covenants’ and he has not understood who they are who are born of them.

33 Just as each of the arts has need of a sharpened sense which is suitable to its matter, so the nous also has need of a spiritual sense so as to distinguish the spiritual things.

34 The sense is naturally made so as to sense sensible things by means of itself, but the nous is at all times alert and waits (to see)* what contemplation will give itself to it in vision.

35 Just as the light, while it makes us (able)† to see all, does not have need of a light with which it might be seen, so God, while he makes all things to see, does not have need of a light with which he might be known; He, indeed, in his essence ‘is light’ [cf. 1 John 1, 5].

36 The sense and the organs of sense are not the same thing, nor the sensitive and the sensible. Indeed, the sense is the power with which we have the custom of sensing materials; the organ of sense is the member in which dwells the sense; the sensitive is the living being who possesses the sense; the sensible is that which falls under the sense.[7] But this is not so in the case of the nous, for it is deprived of one of the four.[8]

37 The spiritual sense is the dispassion of the reasonable soul, which is produced by the grace of God.

38 Just as, being awoken, we say various things concerning the sleep and when we are asleep, we learn (them)* by experience, so when we will have been in him we will receive the proof by experience of all the things which we hear on the subject of God, being outside him.

39 When we were produced in the beginning, the seeds of the virtues were found naturally in us, but not at all (the seeds)† of vice. It is not (the case)† that, indeed, the power of that of which we are susceptible should also be in us absolutely, because, whereas we are able not to be, the power of that which is not is not in us, if the powers are qualities and that which is not is not a quality.[9]

40 There was a time when evil did not exist and there will be a time when it will no longer exist; but there was not a time when virtue did not exist and there will not be a time when it will not exist. For, indeed, the seeds of the virtues are indestructible. And that rich man who was condemned to Sheol on account of his vice and who had pity on his brothers [cf. Luke 16, 19–31] also convinces me of this: for to have pity is a beautiful seed of virtue.[10]

41 If death is second by reference to life, and sickness second by reference to health, it is evident that vice is second by reference to virtue. Indeed, the death and the sickness of the soul are vice, and virtue is also more ancient that mediateness.[11]

42 It is said that God is there where he acts, and where he acts the more, there he is present the more; for he acts the more in the natures (which are)† reasonable and holy. Therefore he is present most of all in the celestial powers.

43 God is everywhere, but he is not some part; he is everywhere because by his ‘wisdom full of variety’ [Eph. 3, 10], he is in everything which he has produced; but he is not some part, because he is not among the beings.

44 If the Kingdom of the Heavens is known by that which is contained and by that which contains, the torment also will be known by that which is opposed to these things.

45 There is nothing among the bodiless (powers)† which might be in power in the bodies; indeed, our soul is bodiless.

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[1] French: médiété. In KG I, 41 O’Laughlin (O’Laughlin p. 126) renders the Syriac word ‘mediation’.

[2] Praktika is an adjectival form of praktike. See fn. 4.

[3] Logikoi means the rational beings, those which possess nous.

[4] Following our own convention, praktike means ‘the practical life’.

[5] The four elements.

[6] The five senses.

[7] For the chapter to this point, O’Laughlin (O’Laughlin p. 161) quotes from the Scholia in Psalmos, in Migne under the name of Origen, a fragment which reads (our translation): ‘The sense and the organ of sense are not the same, neither the sensitive. For the sense is the power according to which we have the custom to apprehend materials; the organ of sense is the tool (organon) in which the sense is seated; and the sensitive is the animal (zoon) which possesses the senses. The sensible is that which has the nature to fall under the senses.’

[8] Here, ‘four’ refers to the four categories in this chapter, not, as customarily, to the four elements.

[9] Cf. On the Thoughts, Chapter 31.

[10] Cf. On the Thoughts, Chapter 31.

[11] See fn. 1.


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