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Dissertation Title:

The Redemption of Perspective: Origen’s Exegesis for Reading the “Books of the Soul”

Candidate:

Michael Petrow

Date, Time & Place:

August 27, 2015 at 5:00 pm
Studio, Lambert Road campus


Abstract

This study explores the exegetical methodology of the early Christian philosopher Origen of Alexandria, and re-introduces him as a vital guide for the interpretation of the ongoing personal myth written in the living human documents of every soul.

Origen utilizes a three-tiered exegetical strategy, interpreting meaning first at the literal level—with both historical and religious implications, then interpreting a hidden but implicit psychological story within the text, and finally reading a deeper spiritual drama, taking place between the letters of sacred scripture.

After summarizing his methodology, this study first reads Origen literally, exploring written examples of his scriptural exegesis, extrapolating on his employment of historical critical tools, and literal, psychological and spiritual interpretations of recognizable passages, such as Noah’s Ark and the scandalous sojourn of Samuel through the underworld.

This study then attempts a psychological reading of Origen’s psychic exegesis. Here, within Origen’s reading of the soul of scripture, his story of the soul’s transformation is discovered, outlined in his Commentary on the Song of Songs. Using especially the Depth Psychology of C. G. Jung, this study amplifies Origen’s three stages of transformation wherein he proposes describing a rudimentary psychology of religious development. First, in his Ethike, the soul attempts to build a life of ethical accomplishment based on literal beliefs, encountering its own call to individuality and its shadow. Second in the Physike a soul grows through an encounter with meaninglessness and disillusionment, as it loses the internal certainties of literal belief. Instead it reaches to the outside world—especially the world of nature—to develop a natural intelligence, which brings it inevitably to an enlightening encounter with his/her own mortality. Finally in the Enoptike the soul discovers knowledge of itself as the path to true transformation, encountering itself as a plurality held together by love as the unifying archetypal essence of itself, its myth, and the cosmos.

Finally this study explores the spirit of Origen’s exegesis, and applies it to the reading of the storied lives of readers, the books of the soul, in both personal exegesis and spiritual direction.

Note

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Details
  • Program/Track/Year: Mythological Studies, Track G, 2007
  • Chair: Dr. Dennis Slattery
  • Reader: Dr. Maureen Murdock
  • External Reader: Dr. Alexander Shaia
  • Keywords: