Our Divine Double

November 7, 2014

This conference is closed to the public.

In the second and third centuries of the Common Era, we witness the sudden appearance of a peculiar figure in the religious imagination of the Eastern Mediterranean: the divine twin or double. We do not know the exact origin of this figure, but like ink that bleeds through the page, we find him seeping through the religious literature of late antiquity in all its diversity. Through an array of ancient sources—Christian and otherwise, philosophical and religious, surviving often in fragments and in at least five languages—runs this single thread: the notion that each individual has a divine counterpart or alter-ego whom one may meet. According to these sources, to encounter one’s divine double is to be fundamentally reoriented both to oneself and to the divine. This encounter is imagined and narrated very differently in the various sources. There is nevertheless a curious consistency: the individual who encounters his divine double comes to recognize that he is not, strictly speaking, an individual at all, but rather one half of a pair, a “dividual” (to borrow a term from the contemporary philosopher Simon Critchley). In other words, these sources imagine that the individual and his divine double will form a tense relationship of unity and duality. It is precisely this understanding of selfhood as a fraught relationship between unity and duality, this ancient “dividualism,” that Charles Stang aims to discern and describe.


Charles Stang

Faculty Associate (on leave fall 2014). Associate Professor of Early Christian Thought, Harvard Divinity School.

See also: Conferences, 2014