Sunday, April 19, 2009

(4) The Pantocrator

Even a student can trace the sources of the Pantocrator. The
river runs back far beyond Christianity. One can detect the
outline of the Pantocrator in the sun-god Ra of ancient Egypt,
who over time evolved into a creator god. The roots of the
Pantocrator existed in ancient Israel as well, as presented in
the concept of El Shaddai--God Almighty.

As for the Greco-Roman world, the roots of the Pantocrator also
run through it. Some felt that the icon was based on the great
statue of Zeus. And in Early Christianity, Christians harkened
back to the pagan gods--and philosophy.

Ancient Greek philosophers held to their concept of the
Universal Logos, the Godhead, the Sustainer of the World,
a Cosmic Intelligence blending Mind with Reason. Early
Christian Fathers, oft classically trained, swept down onto this
idea of the Logos. Other Christians moved into Gematria--or
Sacred Geometry. The ancients were big into the symbolic
meaning of numbers. The Bible is actually full of this kind of

The pagans connected certain numbers of their pantheon of
gods, such as Apollo, Hermes, Abraxas, and Mithras. And
later Christians applied this number approach to Christ; hence,
Jesus Christ was given the number of 2368--the "Illuminating
Knowledge of the Solar Logos."

Not surprising, but the Early Christian theologians declared Jesus
as the "Incarnation of the Logos." He was the living human
embodiment of the Logos, the Godhead that held the universe
altogether. It was all like a great gigantic *continuum* of thought
that finally came together--personified in the Christ.

Need I say that I was profoundly affected by this approach that
I slowly discovered. It nearly pointed back to the earliest sources
of human thought, at least in the West. Anyway, I was much more
comforted by this approach to Christ. As the Lord of the Universe,
we could move him into our world, into our modern discoveries,
and go forward.

Easier said than done, however! How does this ancient concept
of the Pantocrator actually relate to our own time? The ancients
harken back to the Logos, giving it the characteristics of not only
Mind, Reason, and Word, but also Spirit. And remembering back
to some of Christ's last words, he said that he need return to the
Father so that the Paraclete might come. He was talking about
the Holy Spirit as advocate and counselor, as the Spirit of Truth.

I thought long and hard on this idea. If the Holy Spirit is ever
active, ever involved with us, how might this literally be? But
one must begin at the beginning--in determining, at least for
myself what this Great Spirit might actually be. Consequently,
an opportunity arose. During my last year at Oxford I applied
for and managed to wangle a scholarship from the Harvard Divinity
School, where I could take my advanced degree in Theology.
Thus, I decided to focus on the study of the Holy Spirit--called
"Pneumatology" in theological lingo.

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