September 8, 2021
Episode 124: Charles M. Stang on the Divine Double in Late Antiquity
This episode brings together a number of strands of late antique religion and philosophy we have been discussing in the podcast – notably Plotinus, Mani, and the Hermetica – along with the Gospel of Thomas, an early Christian text known from Nag Hammadi which we discuss here for the first time. Linking these disparate cultural currents is the idea that human beings have a higher self, a divine counterpart or even ‘twin’, with which we are called on to identify. This identification, a paradoxical form of self-unification and simultaneously of divinisation, is a fascinating feature of these quite different cultural currents, and plays out in different ways within each, but, as the interview reveals, this model of self-unification with a divine double is even more widespread than the short list we have given here would indicate.
Charles M. Stang holds up the divine mirror in what is one of the most fascinating interviews we have had the pleasure of conducting here at the SHWEP.
Charles M. Stang is Professor of Early Christian Thought at Harvard Divinity School. His interests include: the development of asceticism, monasticism, and mysticism in Christianity; ancient philosophy, especially Neoplatonism; the Syriac Christian tradition, especially the spread of the East Syrian tradition along the Silk Road; other philosophical and religious movements of the ancient Mediterranean, including Gnosticism, Hermeticism, and Manichaeism; and modern continental philosophy and theology, especially as they intersect with the study of religion.
Works Cited in this Episode:
- The Cologne Mani Codex: see the notes to Episode 123.
- Paul, Letter to the Galatians 2:20: ‘I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.’
- Pierre Hadot. Exercices spirituels et philosophie antique. Études Augustiniennes, Paris, 2nd edition, 1981.
- Stang 2016: see below.
- Jon Ma. Asgeirsson, April D. DeConick, and Risto Uro, editors. Thomasine Traditions in Antiquity: The Social and Cultural World of the Gospel of Thomas. Number 59 in Nag Hammadi and Manichæan Studies. Brill, Leiden, 2006.
- Henri Corbin. The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism. Omega, New Lebanon, NY, 1994.
- April DeConick. Recovering the Original Gospel of Thomas. T&T Clark, London, 2006.
- Andrei A. Orlov. The Greatest Mirror: Heavenly Counterparts in the Jewish Pseudepigrapha. State University of New York Press, Albany, NY, 2017.
- Charles M. Stang. Our Divine Double. MA/London, 2016.