The paper deals with the theological and philosophical opposition of St. Gregory Palamas (1296-1359) and Kallistos Angelikoudes (fl. 1350-1400) to the Byzantine Thomists (amongst them mainly Demetrios Kydonis, and Varlaam from Calavria).
It shall provide a short review of the philosophical contribution of these discussions for an Orthodox understanding of the mind, intellect, will, and their metaphysics. Having established an Orthodox perspective in these areas, the paper shall embark on an indication of the differences between all philosophy based on this perspective, and the one stemming from Thomistic and Neo-Aristotelian doctrines.
An analysis of a specific example of how these differences work in modern philosophical examples of Thomism shall be attempted in an Orthodox critique of Anthony Kenny’s Thomism exhibited in his latest book entitled: “The Metaphysics of Mind” (Oxford University Press, 1989, 1992).
On March 28, 867 A.D., Photius delivered his famous Homily XVII at the celebration of the return of the icon of the Mother of God to the Church of Hagia Sophia. Centering his attention on the principle of appreciation he stated:
It is in these things that the deed which is before our eyes instigates us to take pride. With such a welcome does the representation of the Virgin’s form cheer us, inviting us to draw not from a bowl of wine, but from a fair spectacle, by which the rational part in our soul, being watered through our bodily eyes, and given eyesight in its growth toward the divine love of Orthodoxy, puts forth in the way of fruit the most exact vision of truth. (Text in Laourdas, 1959, 298, Homily XVII, II, 31 ff.; tr. Mango 1958, 290).
Exploring the meaning of “vision of truth” and its relationship to the philosophical principles in Byzantine aesthetics, leads to the conclusion that aside from the “platonizing” trend in this passage, Photius skillfully employed, although with serious modifications, Aristotle’s theory of art and mimesis to describe the source of the beauty and attractiveness of the icon of the Mother Virgin. This may surprise those who see only Platonic influences in his religious aesthetics. Actually Photius brought together Aristotelian and Platonic, or rather Neoplatonic, views to defend Byzantine art which had been at the center of the iconoclastic controversy. For Photius the icon was made through divine inspiration and depicted a divine theme, imitating the real archetype with exactitude: “With such exactitude has the art of painting, which is a reflection of inspiration from above, set up a lifelike imitation” (text in Laourdas, II 299, 12); again: “Neither is the fairness of her form, but rather is it the real archetype” (I 194).
Relating worship to religious aesthetic education was a paramount issue for Christian Orthodoxy. The icon elicits irresistible consent and grants to the soul of the beholder the ousia, the eidos of the visible. Thus, the viewers, by seeing the perfect sensible form, which is what the beautiful icon is, are granted “a grace of the eyes, and a grace of the mind, carried by which the divine love in us is uplifted to the intelligible beauty of truth” (tr. Mango, 295). Although there is a close affinity in language between Photius and Plotinus (especially in Ennead V. 8) as is evident in expressions referring to the creative act, the source of power of the icon, and the transcendent nature of the archetype with its immediate revelatory effectiveness, Photius’ strict adherence to his theological commitment to the orthodox faith did not permit him to subscribe unreservedly to Plato’s philosophy. The presence of Aristotelian elements in his aesthetics is a far more complex problem and calls for a special examination of their source.
The thesis defended in this paper is that the fuller understanding of the ontology of art that Photius found consonant with the orthodox tradition that secured the restoration of the icons, requires the employment of two traditions, Platonism and Aristotelianism, both recast to suit the fundamental belief of Orthodoxy. More precisely, the logic of his metaphysical assumptions is rooted in his broadened interpretation of Aristotle’s philosophy of ousia, which in general outline was developed in the Commentary on Aristotle’s Categories. By effecting a renaissance of the classical tradition, Photius reconfirmed the return of Orthodoxy to its Hellenic foundations and stemmed the tide of the Asiatic puritanism that had inspired the iconoclast movement.
In this paper I will try to show why J. Philoponus uses the Aristotelian theory of nous and the platonic theory of soul in order to refute two of the arguments of Proclus’ about the eternity of world, that is the arguments concerning its trancendent as well as its immanent cause. More analytically Proclus maintains that world is eternal and non-created because, among other arguments, (a) its first cause is unmoved and for this reason any movement-creation would alter it (ch. IV) and (b) because the world-soul as a principle of eternal movement must always move the world which, like world-soul itself, is also non-created and eternal.
I also hope to show, based on the philosopher’s elaborate study of the second argument [ch. VII] (concerning world-soul), the agonizing attempt of J. Philoponus, who has now become an enthusiastic Christian, to incorporate Ancient Greek concepts into Christian doctrine.
In my Paper, I put forward the view that the mystery of the incarnated economy of the Divine Word, characterised as “great and paradoxical” is at once justifiable. “Justifiable the incomprehensible” as the poet says. Justifiable does not mean that it can be understood by human reason, which is the nature of the mystery, but that, by becoming accepted through faith as a revealed truth, it renders possible the relationship between God and man, giving meaning to the view that man is created in the image of God and is related to the essential criteria constituting the nucleus of human reason, man’s being.
The fact that God is incarnated means that he likens himself to man and the fact that he likens himself to man means that he takes on the “form of a slave” (through anthropomorphosis) and the fact that he takes on human form means that it is possible to give him an image and for there to be discussion about Him.
It is this situation which establishes likeness as an essential element of Orthodoxy, and which acquired such intensity and took on huge proportions during the period of iconoclasm (8th and 9th centuries A. D.), and is also related to the essence of the Greek spirit, the main characteristic of which is logos, form and image. Thus, this view held by Orthodoxy concerning the acceptance of icons and of the image in general, in contrast to the non-iconic views concerning the Divinbe (Judaism etc) is related to the essence of man’s nature, to man’s sole healthy and natural state, while all the non-iconic and, consequently, anti-orthodox views are distorting and harmful to the health and nature of man’s being, and to his very existence.
Looking back on the formation of Christian doctrine, the great theological questions which have faced theologians can be narrowed down to two: How is the Trinity at the same time three and one, and how is Christ at the same time two and one? It came to be clear to the church fathers that the diversity and unity in both cases must exist on different levels of being. As this understanding came to be developed and elucidated, the ontological levels in which unity and diversity could be found came to be expressed chiefly by four terms adopted from the classical Greek world: śŗůťų, Ôéů›Š, ĖūřůŰŠůťų, and ūÚřůŲūÔÓ.
While it is difficult to address any one of these terms in complete isolation from the others, I will be focusing upon the history of the Christian adoption and adaptation of the term śŗůťų. While this term is generally rendered in English as ‘nature’, the understanding of what ‘nature’ actually meant (i.e., how concrete a reality it is) was clearly in a state of flux, or perhaps evolution, during the first five Christian centuries.
Much has been written about the term śŗůťų and its meaning to different theologians in different eras. My intention here is merely to synthesize some of these findings in order to shed light upon the nature of Christian adaptation of Greek philosophical terminology in general. Additionally, I will be taking into account some of the more recent speculation on the ontology of the Greek Fathers.
The paper will begin by examining the meaning of the term śŗůťų in Greek Philosophical usage, and see how it relates to the first Christian occurrences of the term. This early Christian (Christological) use came with Melito of Sardis, and soon after, with more precision, Origen. Terminological matters gained complexity with the efforts, spurred by the challenge of heresy, to arrive at more exact theological definitions. I will show how it was that several thinkers from divergent Christological camps (Apollinarius, Cyril, Nestorius) held a more concrete sense of the term śŗůťų, with important theological consequences. We will look at the ways in which a more generic meaning took hold and gained use at the council of Chalcedon, enabling the articulation of ontological levels which would attempt to satisfy both the Christological and the Trinitarian problem.
Taking śŗůťų as a test case, the conclusion will comment upon the viability of the Christian ‘baptism’ of pagan terminology in general.
Early in the history of Eastern Orthodox thought two attitudes to the relation of philosophy to theology emerged. One attitude, exemplified by St. John Damascene was that philosophy was an independent prolegomena to theology: thus in The Fountain of Knowledge we find a set of “Philosophical Chapters” preceding the section “On the Orthodox Faith”. The other attitude, exemplified by the “Corpus Areopagaticus” is that true philosophy is and should be permeated by and dependent on true theology. In this paper we examine the history of these attitudes in the Eastern Fathers and in modern Orthodox thought, especially Russian Orthodox thought. In conclusion, we examine the possibility of a reconcilliation or at least a friendly dialogue between two points of view.
According to Eternal Gospel (Ap. 14:6) of modern Russian Orthodox aspirant (1973-76) Christian Orthodoxy is a fullness and a cleanness of Christianity, i.e., what to be achieved on the Path of Everlasting life. Christian Church till now was a ‘Conservatory’ of Spirit of Christ’s Teaching and of internal forms of that transformations: She is some Para-Cosmic scientific school for Humanity.
Russian Orthodox Church and Russian culture are to a big extent a main heir of Byzantine culture and Greek Orthodoxy, and that fusion of ancient Hellenic philosophy and evangelic ‘God News’ about Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Heaven which was formulated by 7 World Councils (Conclaves) and mainly Greek Fathers of Church. So in our time (1973-1976) our Russian Orthodox monk could be able in the Eternal (Everlasting) Gospel to formulate integrating principles of extent of Christian Church teaching to our modern unstable society and named those principles the ‘Orthodox Synarchy’.
The historic work-out in the Russian and World Metaculture of all those patterns, ideas and possibilities have led us in modern time to conceive and formulate a teaching about a Noospheric Synarchy — an inherent structure of society of the Noospheric Age in which we enter inevitably. Both of these words are of Greek origin that say about a full succession on the concluding stage of the history of traditions of Ancient Hellenic culture, of philosophy and philosophic language. The term ‘Noospheric Synarchy’ is a scientific aspect of originally formulated in Eternal Gospel (1976) a principle of an Orthodox Synarchy — i.e. a conclave structure of ideal future Orthodox society, as accomplishment of those fullness and cleanness of Christianity.
Now firstly in history we were put before the problem of transformation of permanently corrupted earth’s state organizations into the scientifically oriented by the Divine Power the Noospheric Synarchy. This should resolve, beginning from Russia (a Synarchy Union), the issue of reconciliation of anarchic and monarchic tendencies of modern world in a Synarchic participation of some Moral Hierarchy (or True Church) in the social management. This should led from inadequate modern ‘democracy’ to a new Aristocracy of Spirit in the Orthodox Synarchy. This synarchic participation of the Aristocracy of Spirit should determine the lordship questions of Christian orientation of society: setting of aims and means of their attainment common to an individual virtues and freedom, and to the common good and justice.
Now these principles of Orthodox (Noospheric) Synarchy are scientifically and morally understood by Moscow Noospheric Center of Synarchy studies and formulated till a first paragraph of project of new Synarchical Constitution of a modern Orthodox Power, which should be put under All-Union Referendum:
‘Paragraph 1. The Union of Soviet Synarchy Republics is an all-popular Synarchy Power serving to the Conclave aims of development of all potentials of man and Humanity on the path of Eternal Life, by a way of a moral Noospheric mustering of all multidimensional spaces and powers of the Universe’.
In "Greek Patrology", George Pisides describes St. Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa, as “most mystic”.
Apart from his strict Christian family background and his close relationship with his friend, Saint Gregory Nazianzenus and his brother, Saint Basil of Caesaria, Gregory of Nyssa has bestowed on us a significant theological and interpretative work, imbued with the language of mysticism and the profound search after the knowledge of God and union with God.
Throughout his work — from the early texts which deal with the life of chastity, to his mystical and interpretative commentary on “The Life of Moses”, and “Song of Songs”, written at a later, more mature period, we encounter his authentic and genuine experience of mysticism. The theologian, (the Christian philosopher and thinker), co-exists and expresses himself in harmony with the mystic — the man who seeks after and longs for God.
Following in the tradition of Clement and Origenes, he elaborates a mystic theology which is based in its entirety on the theological doctrine of the Greek Orthodox East. From apathy he is led to theory and from there to mystical ecstasy. Through liberation from passion he guides the steps of the soul to the point where light will be thrown upon the intellect, and he gazes upon the worlds of the mind. And from the theoretical study of divine and celestial mysteries, through the power of divine love, he is led, with the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit to see and be united with God.
In this paper we shall examine two points of convergence between Plotinian Philosophy and Byzantine Aesthetics. The first point concerns the Byzantine Church Fathers’ views of Art and Beauty: there is clear affinity between the views of Basil of Caesarea, Dionysius the Areopagite, John of Damascus, Theodore of Studius on the one hand and the corresponding views of Plotinus on the other.
The second point concerns the formation of a theoretical framework suitable for the later development of Byzantine Art. It was Grabar who first supported the thesis that many of the characteristic elements of Byzantine painting could be better understood if seen in the light of Plotinian Philosophy. This thesis which has found many supporters was later placed in serious doubt in the work of P. Michelis. The two opposing views will be discussed.
The aim of my Paper is to examine the nature of light in the work of Gregory Palamas in connection with the corresponding teachings on light in the works of earlier Greek Philosophers, such as Plato and, particulartly, Plotinus, Proclus and Dionysios.
I will also examine the concept of light as a metaphor and symbol in the philosophers mentioned above and particularly in the mystical philosophy of Dionysios on which Palamas draws in creating the mysticism of hesychasm.
An analysis will be made of Palamas' metaphysics of light in the new dimension developed from the arguments with his opponents, with the uncreated light.