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The Other Clement of Alexandria: Cosmic Hierarchy and Interiorized Apocalypticism

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Clement of Alexandria's Excerpta ex Theodoto, Eclogae Propheticae, and Adumbrationes depict a cosmic hierarchy featuring, in descending order, the divine Face, the seven beings first created, the archangels, and the angels. This account is problematic in that it seems to incorporate a contradiction: one set of texts presents a fix cosmic hierarchy populated by different types having at its top the seven protoctists. A second set of texts, however, interprets this process of initiation as a continuous ascent on the cosmic ladder, marked by an ongoing cyclical transformation of humans into angels, of angels into archangels, and of archangels into protoctists.

This article sets forth the principles governing Clement's hierarchical cosmos, and proposes a solution to the apparent contradiction between the two accounts. In essence, Clement of Alexandria internalizes the cosmic ladder and the associated experience of ascent and transformation, offering an early example of what scholars have termed "interiorized apocalypticism."


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