Stephen bar Sudaili, the Syrian mystic, and the book of Hierotheos

Frothingham F. Stephen bar Sudaili, the Syrian mystic, and the book of Hierotheos. -1886

During the first centuries of Christianity, East Syria and
Egypt were the two great centres of false mysticism and
pantheism, and between them there ever existed the closest
relations. Although Egyptian thought and the Valentinian
system exercised a great influence over Syrian thought, yet
the latter possessed certain special characteristics; for while
the Alexandrian schools threw their universal eclecticism into
the mould of Greek thought, and gave a philosophical char¬
acter to their speculations, the Syrian schools were distin¬
guished by a vivid fancy and a bold speculation, to which
they did not seek to give a philosophical or a logical form.
On the other hand, if we try to connect by analogy the
Syrian Gnostics and mystics with preceding systems of thought,
we easily perceive the close relation in which they stood to
the later Persian system, to the debased Ghaldaean worship,
and to the Jewish Kabbala, which probably flourished in their
very midst among the Jewish settlements of Babylonia. The doctrines of Bardesanes and of Manes preserved great
force and influence in the East Syrian Church, even until
the middle of the fourth century, when S. Ephraem wrote
and labored against them with all the influence he could
wield, as heresies which had deep root among all classes.
From this time forward Syrian mysticism took a more eccle¬
siastical form, and pantheistic doctrine became subtly infused
into the orthodox forms of belief, producing a steadily pro¬
gressive inversion of the Christian faith. Frothingham, Bar Sudaili. 1