ND   JMC : History of Medieval Philosophy / by Maurice De Wulf

83. Philo. -- The complete fusion of Jewish theology and Grecian philosophy was the work of PHILO the Jew (30 B.C.-50 A.D.). The following are the most characteristic of Philo's theories

(1) General relations of Jewish theology to Grecian philosophy. -- Philo proclaims the absolute infallibility of the Sacred Books and the subordination of philosophy to theology. But if philosophy is to be subject to theology, the latter cannot do without the aid of the former. Philo sets great store on Grecian science: it is in fact, for him, the very incarnation of rational speculation: Grecian philosophy, even down to its polytheism, is an incomplete and imperfect form of the doctrine contained in the sacred writings. To overcome the difficulties which must beset this contention, Philo has recourse to the allegorical interpretation of the Bible, and thus establishes an affiliation between the teachings of the Bible and Grecian philosophy.

(2) The dualism of the Infinite God and the finite world. -- His idea of the Divine transcendence forces Philo to hold that God is without attributes (apoios), that He is inconceivable and ineffable. We know that He is, not what He is. But these very negations have for basis the perfection of Jehovah; and Philo not only emphasizes the negative concept of God but strongly insists on the positive concepts of Goodness (Plato) and Omnipotence. Imperfection and limitation, being irreconcilable with the notion of God, cannot find their principle in Him. Their principle is matter (Plato and the Stoics). Philo explains the action of God on the world, by having recourse to a series of intermediary beings which he calls forces (dunameis). These Divine forces are not only exemplar-forms, but immanent principles of activity, proper to each natural substance (Stoicism). Philo identifies them with the angels (Judaism) and the daemons (Grecian religion). His notion of these Divine forces is not at all clear: on the one hand, they are distinct from God, since they are to communicate with a world essentially distinct from Him; on the other hand, they partake of the nature of God, since they are the intermediaries of His action on the world. Philo considers them as somehow proceeding from God, without adopting the theory of strict emanation. The primordial Divine force is the logos, the wisdom of God. Is this a personal being, like God Himself? Philo gives no definite answer to the question. The world is the result not of creation properly so called, but of an application of Divine power to matter preexisting in a chaotic state. The Jewish philosopher was apparently so engrossed in Grecian speculations that he could not shake himself free of them and give philosophical expression to the fruitful doctrine of creation, which is written so clearly on the first page of Genesis. The same dualism is prominent in Philo's psychology: the soul is a Divine principle, an angel, a daemon, united to a material body which is antagonistic to it (Plato). This opposition is made the principle of a religious mysticism.

(3) Religious Mysticism. -- The trammels of the body prevent man from knowing God in Himself; He is known only in the Divine forces in which He manifests Himself. The more a man becomes detached from the body, the nearer he approaches knowledge and virtue (Stoicism). Nevertheless, we can rise to the knowledge of God as He is in Himself if a supernatural illumination unveils the Infinite to us. In this higher state in which God reveals Himself to us human consciousness disappears: this is the annihilation of man in the presence of God, the state of ecstasy, the prophetic state, to which any one may possibly be called.

<< ======= >>