04 March, 2009

Cucumber Melon

I always get a kick out of the general tenor of people's reactions when I touch on anything we study here at UD. Ancient literary classics, Euclid, Aristotle, Church Fathers. . .'how boring!' Well, not really. It doesn't take an excessive amount of natural astuteness, really not even a grand degree of nerdiness, to begin to find these texts vastly amusing.

You perhaps don't believe me. Perhaps you mutter to yourself various epithets describing me as an excessive nerd. Perhaps you think my testimony is unreliable.

Read this.

Just for a bit of background, this is an excerpt from the writings of St. Irenaeus' massive work Against Heresies. He's attacking the absurdity of the Gnostic myths explaining the creation of the world, and in so doing uses this hilarious example.

Iu, Iu! Pheu, Pheu!— for well may we utter these tragic exclamations at such a pitch of audacity in the coining of names as he has displayed without a blush, in devising a nomenclature for his system of falsehood. For when he declares: There is a certain Proarche before all things, surpassing all thought, whom I call Monotes; and again, with this Monotes there co-exists a power which I also call Henotes,— it is most manifest that he confesses the things which have been said to be his own invention, and that he himself has given names to his scheme of things, which had never been previously suggested by any other. It is manifest also, that he himself is the one who has had sufficient audacity to coin these names; so that, unless he had appeared in the world, the truth would still have been destitute of a name. But, in that case, nothing hinders any other, in dealing with the same subject, to affix names after such a fashion as the following: There is a certain Proarche, royal, surpassing all thought, a power existing before every other substance, and extended into space in every direction. But along with it there exists a power which I term a Gourd; and along with this Gourd there exists a power which again I term Utter-Emptiness. This Gourd and Emptiness, since they are one, produced (and yet did not simply produce, so as to be apart from themselves) a fruit, everywhere visible, eatable, and delicious, which fruit-language calls a Cucumber. Along with this Cucumber exists a power of the same essence, which again I call a Melon. These powers, the Gourd, Utter-Emptiness, the Cucumber, and the Melon, brought forth the remaining multitude of the delirious melons of Valentinus. For if it is fitting that that language which is used respecting the universe be transformed to the primary Tetrad, and if any one may assign names at his pleasure, who shall prevent us from adopting these names, as being much more credible [than the others], as well as in general use, and understood by all?

No comments: