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of the most extraordinary events in the modern history of Christianity: the 1913 episode in which the Imperial Russian Navy attacked a Russian monastery on Mount Athos, over suspected heresy. Excerpts: The row began in 1907, when a book entitled “In the mountains of the Caucasus” was published. It was written by an elderly monk called Ilarion. Before moving to a remoter, Caucasian spot, he had spent many years at St Panteleimon’s (see picture above), the biggest Russian house on Athos: a giant establishment, home at that time to about 2,000 monks. St Panteleimon’s was the only one of the peninsula’s 20 monasteries that was formally under Russian control. (There were a couple of other vast Russian houses on Athos, dedicated to Saint Andrew and the Prophet Elijah, but they were notionally subordinate to nearby Greek monasteries; this helped ensure that the ruling council of Athos remained overwhelmingly Greek.) What the Russians lacked in political power, they made up for in numbers and spiritual passion, exemplified by Ilarion’s book. It extols the benefits of reciting the “Jesus prayer”, a simple supplication whose repetition had been part of eastern Christian practice for centuries: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.” In a tender, cautious tone, the book argues that just as “in God’s name, God himself is present”, the name of Jesus Christ, when recited prayerfully, radiates sanctity; it is more, infinitely more, than a set of letters. In a tender, cautious tone, Ilarion’s book argues that the name of Jesus Christ, when recited prayerfully, radiates sanctity; it is more, infinitely more, than a set of letters Ilarion had touched upon one of monotheism’s most sensitive spots. In any philosophical system in which the starting-point is the radical, primordial distinction between the Creator and the created, a hard question arises. To which side of the line should words, images or phenomena be assigned that belong to earthly reality but also pertain to God? And is it ever possible for something or someone to be on both sides of the line at once? Turns out that the so-called Name Glorifiers may be in the process of rehabilitation: Metropolitan Hilarion, the Oxford-trained prelate who heads the Russian church’s external arm, has studied the name-glorifying dispute and concluded that it is still an open question who was right. That is a controversial thing to say in a church where the official line is that the glorifiers were pushy rioters who deserved a good dousing. For the glorifiers’ views, though apparently abstruse and unworldly, are subversive. Mysticism—any movement in which people believe they are having a direct experience of the divine—undermines the authority of religious leaders. In the history of virtually all faiths there has been a tension between visionaries and prophets on one hand and hierarchs and administrators on the other. In the Russian case, to say the name-glorifiers were right would imply that the masters—religious and political—of tsarist Russia were wrong.
Egorov was a reserved and deeply religious man. friends saw him dutifully kiss the hands of priests lurking around his home. Dmitri Egorov had spent 1902-1903 in Europe. the grandson of a serf. Rehabilitating the glorifiers could also disturb the recent. When the attempt at revolution was beaten down in 1905.” Florensky replied that agnosticism and atheism were responsible for Russia’s chaos and confusion.That could be awkward for today’s Russian elites. Egorov sent his brilliant student to Paris to meet. Khrapovitsky. Luzin maintained strong ties with Florensky. Still. and settled into a comfortable life of lavish entertaining: Tchaikovsky. He had caught a glimmer of a path to truth. If I do not find a path to seek the truth … I will not go on living. Pavel Florensky. an “intuitive-mystical understanding. and invited Luzin to stay near him in his monastery town. Now mutation in biology. nurtured a strong belief in the liberating power of science. Thankfully Georg Cantor had at last challenged continuity. At Moscow University. More: Throwing himself into set theory back in Moscow.—this is an unbearable sight…. Back in Moscow. both secular and ecclesiastical. “I owe my interest in life to you. Hoping that he might gain his balance abroad. who had since entered the Theological Academy. into the latest plague— Marxism. and subliminal consciousness in psychology were all following suit. It is not clear precisely when both . Nikolai Luzin. “to see the torment of life….” Luzin wrote home to his friend Florensky. the son of a railroad engineer from Yevlakh in present-day Azerbaijan. Mathematics. from punk-rockers to NATO) of a strong. Ivan Grzhimali.” he wrote to him. on the other hand. where he had studied with some of the greatest mathematicians of the age. and worst of all. including Lebesgue. had just recently converted to religious faith following a revelation. a hope that philosophical materialism would make the world a better place some day. and here is where the escapades of the monks of the Aegean return to our story. among others. he married the daughter of one of Russia’s most famous violinists. Lebesgue and Borel. I cannot live by science alone…. had been responsible for the atrocity. he became convinced that intellectually the nineteenth century had been a disaster.” and Florensky had been his guide. in fact. the latter was founded by the name-fighting bishop. Rachmaninoff. “To see the misery of the people. welldisciplined nation. Luzin suffered a mental breakdown. in whose history Bolshevism was only a blip.” and instantly abandoned all thoughts of suicide. the “determinism” of differential functions having seeped into Lyell’s and Darwin’s gradualism in geology and evolution. into psychology and sociology. hard-won reconciliation between the Patriarchate of Moscow and the “White” Russian church abroad. Influenced by Bugaev. Excerpts: And so it wasn’t all that surprising that one of Bugaev’s brightest students should have developed a deep interest in the connection between mathematics and religion. as they present themselves as protectors (against a multitude of foes. Ilya Repin. It was there that Luzin read his friend’s thesis “On Religious Truth. presenting his Continuum as a “mere set of points” rather than a dogmatic directed line. electrons jumping orbitals in physics. the trauma of the brutality had shaken his positivist aspirations to their core. Humanity could finally graduate to higher places. the notion that all transitions from one point to the next need to pass through all the intermediates. here is a fantastic story about how some heretical Russian Orthodox monks on Mount Athos led to breakthroughs in higher mathematics. What’s more. The culprit was continuous thinking. Egorov had two outstanding students.
but this was only the beginning. but already in 1906 they enjoyed calling each other by names other than their own. More things under heaven and earth… http://www. and befriended monks who had endured firsthand the navy’s brutal attack on St. ones that by rejecting determinism would rescue mankind from catastrophe. Florensky believed. When news of the rebellion on Mount Athos reached Russia in 1913. In both cases—God and infinity—the key to bringing abstractions into reality was bestowing upon them a name. Florensky spoke up publicly in its favor. Infused with mysticism.theamericanconservative. Lebesgue had asked whether a mathematical object could exist without defining (meaning naming) it. so naming sets via increasingly recursive definitions was a mathematical act that conferred a reality in the world of numbers.com/dreher/heretical-monks-higher-mathematics/ .men first learned of Name Worshipping. Cantor and before him the ancient Neoplatonists had shown the way. Soon two worlds were becoming entwined. Just as naming God via glossolalian repetition was a religious act that brought the deity into existence. new forms of mathematics and religion were being born. and now the answer was becoming clear. Pantaleimon.
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