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This article is about uses of the word Logos in ancient Greek philosophy and in Christianity - for other uses, see Logos (disambiguation).

The Greek word λόγος or logos is a word with various meanings but which is often translated into English as "Word" but can also mean thought, speech, reason, principle, standard, or logic among other things. It has varied use in the philosophy, analytical psychology, and religion.

Use in ancient philosophy

Logos was used by Heraclitus, one of the more eminent Pre-Socratic Greek philosophers, to describe human knowledge and the inherent order in The Absolute universe, a background to the essential change which characterizes day-to-day life. Logos as the inherent rationality of the universe is also something of a precursor to the concept of the collective unconscious, described by Carl Jung, as these two fragments from Heraclitus suggest:

One must follow what is common; but, even though the Logos is common, most people live as though they possessed their own private wisdom. (Fr.2) The common is what is open to all, what can be seen and heard by all. To see is to let in with open eyes what is open to view, i.e. what is lit up and revealed to all. The dead (the completely private ones) neither see nor hear; they are closed. No light (fire) shines in them; no speech sounds in them. And yet, even they participate in the cosmos. The extinguished ones also belong to the continuum of lighting and extinguishing that is the common cosmos. The dead touch upon the living sleeping, who in turn touch upon the living waking. (Fr. 26)

By the time of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, logos was the term used to describe the faculty of human reason and the knowledge men had of the world and of each other. Plato (who had many mystical tendencies) allowed his characters to engage in the conceit of describing logos as a living being in some of his dialogues. Aristotle, who studied under Plato and who was much more of a practical thinker, first developed the concept of logic as a depiction of the rules of human rationality.

The Stoics understood Logos as the animating power of the universe, which further influenced how this word was understood later on (in 20th century psychology, for instance).

Use in Christianity

The prologue of the Gospel of John calls Jesus the Logos (usually translated as "the Word" in English bibles such as the KJV) and played a central role in establishing the doctrine of Jesus' divinity and the Trinity. (See Christology.) The opening verse reads: "In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God".

Scholars of the Bible have suggested that John made creative use of "Logos" to communicate to both Jews, who were familiar with the Wisdom tradition in Judaism, and Hellenists, especially followers of Philo. Each of these two groups had its own history associated with the concept of the Logos, and each could understand John's use of the term from one or both of those contexts. Especially for the Hellenists, however, John turns the concept of the Logos on its head when he claimed "the Logos became flesh and dwelt among us" (v. 14). Similarly, some translations of the Gospel of John into Chinese have used the word "Tao (道)" to translate the "Logos" in a provocative way. This may be due, in part, to the usage of the terms, “Logos,” and “Tao” as being interchangeable with the term, “Shabda” in Surat Shabda Yoga.

Gordon Clark famously translated Logos as "Logic" in the opening verses of the Gospel: "In the beginning was the Logic, and the Logic was with God and the Logic was God." He meant to imply by this translation that the laws of logic were contained in the Bible itself and were therefore not a secular principle imposed on the Christian worldview.

On April 1, 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (who would later become Pope Benedict XVI) referred to the Christian religion as the religion of the Logos:

"From the beginning, Christianity has understood itself as the religion of the Logos, as the religion according to reason...It has always defined men, all men without distinction, as creatures and images of God, proclaiming for them...the same dignity. In this connection, the Enlightenment is of Christian origin and it is no accident that it was born precisely and exclusively in the realm of the Christian faith....It was and is the merit of the Enlightenment to have again proposed these original values of Christianity and of having given back to reason its own voice... Today, this should be precisely [Christianity's] philosophical strength, in so far as the problem is whether the world comes from the irrational, and reason is not other than a 'sub-product,' on occasion even harmful of its development -- or whether the world comes from reason, and is, as a consequence, its criterion and goal...In the so necessary dialogue between secularists and Catholics, we Christians must be very careful to remain faithful to this fundamental line: to live a faith that comes from the Logos, from creative reason, and that, because of this, is also open to all that is truly rational." [1]

Comparison with other religions

Although Eastern religions do not use the word Logos because their sacred texts and practitioners do not use the Greek language, there are ideas with varying degrees of similarity to the philosophical and Christian uses. Two concepts with some parallels to Logos are Tao and dharma, and another from Hindu cosmology is the concept of Aum.

In New Age mysticism, the Odic force is sometimes described as "the physical manifestation of the creative Logos."

In ancient Egyptian mythology, Hu was the deification of the word spoken to create existence.

In Surat Shabda Yoga, “Logos” is considered to be synonymous with “Shabda,” such as in “the Word of God,” or “the Audible Life Stream.”

In Islam exact correspondence of the word is kelam " كلم ".

Logos in popular culture

  • Making use of religious, philosophical, and mystical overtones to the concept of the Logos, Gundam Seed Destiny, the anime television series, used the name "Logos" for the organization that is dedicated to ensure the survival of the men who thrive on the profits of war. That organization is also identified as the force behind the Blue Cosmos and the tragedy of Junius 7.
  • In the The Matrix films, the character Niobe pilots a hovercraft called the Logos.


ar:Logos br:Logos cs:Logos de:Logos fr:Logos nl:Logos ja:ロゴス pl:Logos ru:Логос sv:Logos

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