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Hesychasm: Orthodox Spirituality Compared and Constrasted with Other Religious Traditions

Dr. Thomas Mether The following collection of articles was posted to the Orthodox List in February, 1998. Since my professional training is in Philosophy and History of Religion, I have a fairly detailed knowledge of other religious traditions and how they compare with Orthodox Christianity. As a result, my Orthodox students have many questions for me that I guess they feel their priest, usually trained exclusively in Orthodox Christianity, is not equipped to answer. So, I am sometimes placed in the uncomfortable position of answering questions about Orthodox spirituality. The question that has been raised many times is about the similarities and differences between the Hesychast tradition and other contemplative traditions, such as Theravada Buddhism and Hindu Yoga. While there have been some things written on this issue, I believe the key points have not been made at the right level of analysis or detail. Thus, discussion of these traditions’ similarities and differences thereby remains at a rudimentary and overly abstract level. I hope to cast some more light on this question. First, since we are dealing with universal human nature, it should come as no surprise that there are important similarities between different religious traditions in terms of their ethics, their contemplative traditions, and even some of the individual techniques of their spiritual practices. But, as I hope to clarify, there are even more important differences, fundamentally rooted in theological or philosophical differences, especially when we are comparing the Hesychast tradition of Orthodox Christianity with either Theravada Buddhism or Hindu Yoga. Moreover, if some believe that theological doctrines or philosophical views are mere abstractions without much practical bearing upon the practical life in its ethical, psychological, and spiritual dimensions, I hope this talk convinces them otherwise. Similarities I will begin by pointing out some of the similarities between these three traditions’ views on the soul (or mind) and its faculties. Despite some minor conceptual variations, in essence, there is broad and overlapping agreement about the nature of the faculties of the soul and about their operational possibilities within various phases of their development in the spiritual life. For our purposes here, we need only to discuss the cognitive powers of the soul. According to all the traditions under consideration, behind the five senses there is one common inner sense. This common inner sense is the phantasia (this is not to be confused, as it is in modem times inexperienced with the interior life, with imagination or eikasia, phantasia is the noetic power to make present through one’s own power to be present while eikasia is the dianoetic power to imagine in terms of concrete images as opposed to abstract concepts) in the Hesychast tradition (the Latin west calls it the “sensus interior”), the pratyaksa in the Yoga tradition, and the mano-vijnana in the Buddhist tradition. This common inner sense is the lowest form of the mind’s highest faculty of intuition, of direct and immediate consciousness, or what is the nous in Hesychasm (intellectus in the Latin west), buddhi-caitanya in Yoga, and manas or vijnana in Buddhism.

from which it must be carefully distinguished. svaprakasatva in the eastern traditions) that accompanies any perception or feeling or thought or experience in a way that makes the self (its various inner states and its actions) have the inner unified sense of belonging to itself (oikeiosis) in an accountable and responsible way. It is now time to turn to the dianoia. the very experience of being an I. in contrast to the other two traditions being discussed.” I quote the glossary of the Philokalia. made self-luminously lucent. As the conceptualizing power of . In fallen humanity. nous is the faculty of immediate experience that allows us to live and participate in our lives.provided it is purified . Unlike the dianoia or reason. our on-going conscious experience will be an on-going process of deepening insight or a constant and continuous “eureka. intuition. the „eye of the heart‟” (Makarian Homilies). rather. As the heart of the soul. or „simple cognition‟ (the term used by St. nous is the ruling power (egemonikon) of self-determination or auto-execution (autoexousion) of the soul which in its outwardly directed manifestation as a power is the thelein or will. In Hesychasm. the nous is the self-perceiving power or power of self-perception or self-sensing (synaithesis in Hesychasm. from which we learn that nous is: “the highest faculty in man. it denies the Vedantic concept of atman. Dianoia: The Faculty of Reasoning The dianoia is the inner discursive power of reasoning by means of concepts. the asmita or I-principle in Yoga. through which . it constitutes the innermost aspect of the heart . And. namely. in all three traditions.. The intellect is the organ of contemplation. of living through some event in an immediate sort of way. It is the faculty that makes the difference between living through something or actually experiencing it rather than merely thinking about it. We will return to this later when we examine the ultimate status and significance of ethics in these traditions. the very feeling of I am is the reflex of the divine call into a communion of relationships ordinarily known in its faded and fallen state as syneidesis or conscience.Nous: The Faculty of Intellection In all these traditions. the intellect does not function by formulating abstract concepts . It is the mind’s power of non-conceptual awareness. Nous is conscious experience.. It is the nous that is clarified.. by means of direct experience. Isaac the Syrian). made wakeful. and the aham in Buddhism (Buddhism’s notoriously famous doctrine of anatman does not deny the I. In all three traditions. and made into a habit of non-distracted awareness or alertness in these spiritual traditions. We just examined the nous briefly. there is the distinctive and highly significant teaching that this very sense of I. that our self is identical with eternally unchanging Brahman or divine Spirit). it is also experienced as the occasional flash of insight when we say “Eureka!” In awakened humanity. As the conceptualizing power of thinking by abstract concepts the dianoia is referred to as the logistikon (ratio in Latin west) or logical intelligence. the nous is also the eso anthropos or inner man in Hesychasm or the purusa or person in both Yoga and Buddhism. As such. it is the eso ego or inner I in Hesychasm. of being there. Nous is in the heart while the dianoia (the ratio in the Latin west) is in the head... but understands .he knows God or the inner essences or principl es o created things by means of direct apprehension or spiritual perception.. self-concentrated. The intellect dwells in the “depths of the soul”.

Development of the Soul Although to describe in more detail how would take us too far afield. It is not immediate experience but the second-hand reflection upon and thinking about experience or anything. or. it is no surprise that there is a superficial agreement about the nature of their training within a spiritual practice. An increase in the revealing power of the light of nous clarifies for dianoia the subject-matter or “data” it inquires into and thinks about in order to consolidate its comprehension. contranatural. this threefold spiritual practice is also seen as a twofold training mainly of the will (and its affections) and of the mind. praxis is the training of the will. There is a twofold training of the soul’s capacities for ethical virtues or praxis. and samadhi. and enstasis/hesychia. Spiritual Practice Corresponding to the consensus about the various powers of the soul and their developmental possibilities. the threefold practice is sila. inner talking. Sila is the training of the will and affections of the soul by the practice and cultivation of the moral virtues. As indicated. As indicated. . dianoia is like the moon or mirror reflecting the light that comes from another source. and of the soul’s powers for intellectual virtues or theoria. because dianoia is second-hand it is called the reflective power. prajna. Again. Dianoia is the thinking. According to both the Buddhist and Hindu tradition. Thus. There is also some agreement about the nature of the ethical and intellectual virtues of the soul (mind). all three traditions are pretty much in agreement about the nature of the passions of the soul in its fallen. Enstasis/hesychia is the training of the nous into a self-lucent and self-concentrated state of wakeful non-distraction. Prajna is the dianoetic training of the reasoning. John the Apostle’s sense) state. which we will not get into detail now. a training in the ethical virtues and in the intellectual virtues. logical part of the mind into its peak virtue.envisioning or imagining by concrete concepts or inner images the dianoia is referred to as the eikasia (imaginatio in the Latin west) or imagination. diakrisis/sophia. The threefold schematization of the Hesychast way is comprised of praxis. and their cultivation into the ethical virtues. In Buddhism and Yoga. or samsaric (Yoga and Buddhist term roughly equivalent to both “external man” and “world” in St. affections of the soul. But praxis and theoria can also be schematized as a threefold spiritual practice. conceptualizing. there is agreement about the nature of the intellectual faculties of the soul (mind) and about the nature of the intellectual virtues of these two faculties in their higher forms of development. and thus. conceptualizing. The Hesychast tradition can be schematized along very similar lines. reflection of nous and what nous reveals. All three would agree there are two kinds of virtue: practical or ethical and intellectual or contemplative. Each tradition would recognize as a form of ethical virtue what the others would regard as a form of virtue. In both these traditions. Nous is the light of the mind itself like the sun. the Eightfold Path and the Eightfold Yoga of Patanjali are also described as the threefold spiritual practice. samadhi is the noetic training of the power of consciousness or pure awareness to be increasingly intense degrees of self-concentrated states of nondistraction and self-awareness. Diakrisis/sophia is the training of the dianoia into virtuous form.

it is the better known state. and all its faculties. and deified eternal life after the Likeness. also known as the “beyond nature” or “according to grace” state of ascending participation in the Uncreated Energies. Differences It is to these differences between Hesychasm. Despite the alleged superficial and deceptive similarities of the peak of the spiritual life that has been created by those who engage in highly selective quoting and juxtapositioning of bits and pieces of texts from various mystical traditions in an effort to support the view that all religions are one at the top. while beginning as apparently three separate lines of effortful developmental training. about the nature and problems of the contra-natural state than there is about the natural state or about our ultimate supra-natural destiny.There is also agreement between all three traditions about how these three intially separate lines of training mutually interact with each other and reinforce each other’s development. To best understand why there are these vitally important differences and what they mean. in more advanced phases their mutual augmentation becomes increasingly effortless and spontaneous unified way of being. reveal the fundamental differences that were there. As a result. Second. and fallen subsistence. But as the meaning of the Greek word “phármakon” reveals in ancient Greek medicine. depending on the exact nature of the disease . we were created in the natural state in the divine Image but were meant to grow in synergy with the Uncreated Energies into the deified Likeness of God. Differing conceptions of the ultimate nature and purpose of human life provide differing cures for the contra-natural disease we all suffer from. 2. of course. also known as the “contrary to nature” state. Buddhism. These three states are: 1. let us follow the Fathers of the Church. First. the sub-natural or contra-natural state. and Hindu Yoga that I now turn. not surprisingly. and following their lead. there are the following possible three states of human existence. The natural and supra-natural states are less well known. of the soul. Accordingly. There are two things to point out about these states. originally. particularly in how the Cappadocians treat and weigh what is true and of value in Greek philosophy. But as we can see with the Fathers. This is because you can only fully agree about exactly how the contra-natural state is contranatural only if there is shared knowledge of what the original design plan of purpose of human life intended us to be. and life as created in the Image. under the surface. all along. what we actually find is that both the nature and purpose of the more advanced phases of the spiritual life are topics where there is an increasing divergence of opinion. there is more agreement between all three traditions. also known as the “according to nature” state. according to whom. the supra-natural state. especially with the Syrian Fathers dealing with what was true and what was error in Buddhist practice (as represented in Bactria). even to the Fathers of the Church. So. while there is much agreement about the nature and problems of the beginning stages of the spiritual life from the contra-natural state to the natural state. even the agreement about the nature of the contra-natural state is more limited than is apparent at first sight. So. this consensus rapidly disappears. and 3. the natural state. and thereby. But it is at this point that the really crucial differences are made clear. we are in the contra-natural state.

functions. Contrary to the (schismatic. in whom all things have their being. It is not similar techniques that we need to look at but their purpose. the Body of Christ (through whom all things were made. and under the right conditions for a correctly diagnosed disease in order to have the right effect. and cures. at the right time. As the Body of Christ. as the Syrian Church is fond of reciting.is the inner purpose of creation. Aristotle defined the human creature as intrinsically the social and political animal. The first characteristic of Orthodoxy is the emphatically important truth for spirituality that God is Trinity. To be a medicine. Intimately stemming from the fact that God is Trinity is the second distinctive characteristic of Orthodox Christianity. for what shall be last is the very realization of what was first ordained. The spiritually relevant meaning and implication of this fact. Creation is the outer staging. God’s economia of salvation is God’s career in politics in history. Christianity is not my personal and private salvation through Jesus. We need to understand the vastly different purposes. God’s politics is the outward missionary expansion of his Church and the inner building-up of his Church into a perfected Communion of Saints after . But in order to do that.the Church. is that reality is ultimately and inescapably interpersonal communion. out of nothing. it is a Church . their actual function within a larger operational context. God’s people called out of the world unto Him. out of the world. the very same substance or treatment can either serve as a medicine (phármakon) or poison (pharmákion). The Church is God’s ideal polis. a substance or treatment has to be given in the right amount.as diagnosed in terms of some exact conception of health.that is. the covenant . out of Egypt. The Church is the fruit from which the tree that bore it was born first. Those who inwardly shall be last spiritually participate in that fruit from which the tree that bore it was itself born. that our God is the God of history who intervenes in human affairs is also to say he is the supreme politician. The people. as a people covenanted to God. and will find their fulfillment) . This is simultaneously a cosmological and inward truth. That is. Distinctive Characteristics of Orthodox Christianity It is to these purposes we will turn to examine in order to reveal the very real differences in function and outcome behind the apparent similarities of even the same spiritual techniques. based upon different views of what human life is supposed to be. we first need to note two very distinctive characteristics about Orthodox Christianity that determine the fundamental purposes. it is a deifying process of becoming a communion of persons mutually participating in the Uncreated Energies of the Life of the Trinity and increasingly after its Likeness. their intended effect. To say. the spiritual life and our salvation have everything to do with Church membership. a relationship to God is to be called and chosen. the Church. the Kingdom come. that similar. Plato sought the ideal polis. and thus. The same holds true for spiritual treatments. for our purposes. in contrast to the nature deities of paganism. Roman Catholic derived) Protestant sensibilities that are dominant in our culture and affect too many Orthodox. out of Ur of the Chaldeans. Christianity is not a religion. techniques. and outcomes of any spiritual techniques that may make the Hesychast tradition superficially appear similar to Buddhism or Yoga. In Judaism. serving different diagnoses of what is wrong. and the Communion of Saints. or even. ex nihilo fashion. exactly the same spiritual techniques are made to serve.

Buddhism and Hindu Yoga view it as a phase that transcends and leaves behind the ethical sphere of interpersonal relationships because one is to transcend even one’s own finite personal identity and merge into the impersonal void. like a discarded rocket booster as the contemplative capsule really begins its journey. or nirguna Brahman. prudence. while all three traditions agree that the practice of the virtues is the preliminary practice that purifies the character and lays down the psychological foundation for the cultivation of the two intellectual virtues in the contemplative component of the spiritual life. so to speak. The other two aspects of it. ethical praxis is the whole point of the spiritual life. the dianoetic training of the reasoning and deliberative dianoia (also augmented by the ethical and noetic training that frees it from interference from the passions) is to make it fit to serve conscience (syneidesis) in a discriminating and deliberative manner by which we rationally match appropriate means to appropriate ends that are themselves appropriately prioritized for the service of God and neighbor. the essence of ethics is ahimsa or non-harm because the intention or purpose is to get free of any entanglements. and Hindu Yoga. namely dianoetic and noetic training. We turn now to examine the status of ethics in these traditions. Ethics In Buddhism and Hindu Yoga. which in its nothing to do with prudery or rather cowardly calculative self- . in Buddhism. With a purified nous. not leave it behind! While Buddhism and Yoga admit that a disturbed conscience and bad habits perturb the dianoia so that its power to be fully rational is inhibited and that they contra-naturally obscure the natural clarity and self-lucidity of the nous. While these two distinctive characteristics of Orthodox Christianity may appear to be abstractions that are apparently remote from our daily lives or the life of the spirit. but which is faded in our contra-natural condition. The main difference between Hesychasm and the other two traditions is now before us waiting to be spelled out. And both the practice and the virtues cultivated are roughly the same as those found in Orthodox Christianity. as we have noted. But the purpose and ultimate status of ethics in Buddhism and Hindu Yoga is different in two important ways in contrast to the purpose and status of ethics in Hesychasm. So. In Hesychasm. there is an ethical practice of the virtues. they immediately determine the differences in purpose. while all three traditions agree that the contemplative stage is a higher and more advanced stage. and drops off. the first difference is that in Buddhism and Hindu Yoga ethical praxis is merely a preliminary practice. function. Thus. Syneidesis or conscience is naturally the innate prefiguration of the Church as that which ought to be. And this is because.the Likeness of the trinitarian communion of divine persons. are totally geared to serve the ethical component. they don’t see why this is the case from an Orthodox point of view. conscience is our innate inward call to become part of the Body of Christ. Ethical Praxis in Hesychasm By sharp contrast. and outcome of similar or or even the same spiritual techniques that may be found in the Hesychast tradition. For Orthodox Christianity. for the Hesychast tradition. the virtue of the reasoning part of mind to match appropriate means to appropriate ends that are properly prioritized is phronesis (that is. or Buddha-nature.

is the source of the divine nature (physis) and essence (ousia). the entire substance of the spiritual life of the Christian is relationships. with the divine ousia. Theoria: The Vision of God Combined. Orthodox contemplation is gnosis because it is personal relationship. as Augustine admits. and thus. contemplation. In contrast to not only Buddhism and Yoga but also to all forms of western Christianity.” that is. Personhood trumps nature even if it is divine nature. in the divine trinitarian life after its Likeness. gnosis is born. the virtue of both the dianoia and nous is called “theoria. sought to restore the earlier western view shared with the east that beyond and higher than the cognitio abstractiva in the service of scientia (the Greek episteme) was an intimate cognitio singularis or simplex intuitiva (the Greek gnosis) of persons in their singular uniqueness). In sharp contrast to Buddhist. such as found in Aquinas. Thus. Prayer is relationship. paganistically and mistakenly. sophia is the graced skill of communing in a way that conscience is perfectly actualized and fulfilled as skilled agape. the west never understood the importance of this point. In another respect. as the Church. it is the term used for sexual intercourse as when Adam “knew” Eve in Genesis. after the 1277 Condemnations against trends that went too far towards repaganizing Christian theology which the Roman Catholic Religious Organization [RCRO] did not reverse. In the LXX. Because our destiny is to partake. Yogic. Episteme used to be the high contemplative ideal in ancient Greek philosophy which did not recognize persons in their individual singularity as an ultimate or hypostasic reality over impersonal nature (physis) even if this impersonal nature was the unknown God or Unmoved Mover. according to Duns Scotus. the combined dianoetic and noetic perfection of phronesis in the service of conscience is sophia. The noetic training in stilling the dispersed. gnosis is thereby higher than episteme or science which deals with natural types and kinds. There is no quality of relationship to God that is not intrinsically tied to the quality of how well one relates to the least of these your neighbors. or pagan Greek forms of contemplation (theoria). which is the perfection of conscience (syneidesis). Because God is Trinity and reality is ultimately and inescapably interpersonal relationships. and vigilant presence of insightful self-responsibility through the call through conscience (syneidesis). obscured. Through phronesis and sophia. but also most importantly. But a better description is the vision of God. the same block is there in your relationships. It is all about improving the quality of how well you relate to others: God or neighbor. a person. is the personal source of the Son and Spirit. non-evasive.concern that the world seeks to make us believe prudence is) when related to our lives and our neighbors. except for Bonaventure who insisted on the monarchia of the person of the Father as the source of the divine being. But perhaps the most descriptive term for the nature of specifically Christian contemplation is gnosis. and distracted nous into a limpid state of wakeful presence and transparent sincerity with oneself is to make it fit to be the fully awake. There is no advance in prayer that is not an advance in how one is in relationships. Orthodoxy teaches that the hypostasis of the Father. If there is a block in the prayer life. . western trinitarian theology typically begins. who. and thus. Sophia or wisdom is the perfection of know-how in being a member of the Church or it is the intrapersonal perfection of our synergistically skilled participation in interpersonal communion. The term gnosis emphasizes the intimate personal familiarity (including direct self-knowledge in the form of immediate and inwardly honest clear selfexperiencing) we have of persons in their singular uniqueness (their haecceitas. through agape or love. By contrast.

So. Rather. to love as we have been loved.” Since reality is inescapably interpersonal. But. “if you want to end with God. so to speak. That is. a block in the quality of the prayer life is a block in how we relate to others. instead of merging “alone into the supreme Alone” after having transcended the allegedly merely personal and merely ethical sphere. Whether you are curious about. Hesychast spirituality is the transfiguration and deification of our society and fellowship with persons . Patristic Spirituality vs. meditative. the Jesus Prayer expresses a personal plea. is encapsulated within the Jesus Prayer as one pill that does not require the careful and expert supervision of a great staretz that the other forms do. While for us God should be our highest priority. and coming in the likeness of men" (Philippians 2: 6-7) so that he places Himself on an equal level with our neighbors. [he] did not consider it something to be held onto. “being in the form of God. The awakening and focussing point of the Jesus Prayer is our relationships to each other. He doesn’t.whether divine or fellow creature. and focus the mind’s noetic power of wakeful attentiveness. interpersonal. taking the form of a bondservant. The Jesus Prayer captures all the poignancy of our situation. Its whole point is to awaken our deeper ethical and interpersonal responsiveness to others within the Communion of Saints. there is no transcendence of or leaving behind or leave-taking of the ethical. as the famous pagan RCRO pseudo-Meister Eckhart (student of Aquinas) put it. yoga. ethics is the beginning of the spiritual life because it is the very substance and goal of the spiritual life. or whether you are preparing for missions in places where these traditions thrive in their authentic form and not in some watered-down American New Age form. we have no relation to Him that is not made contingent by Him upon our relation to others. so instead of “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us” we might substitute “relate to us as we relate to others. it is a personal plea for mercy. Given a trinitarian God. And inconveniently.000 Talents. God gives you people. or contemplative traditions. or have to study in college the various mystical. Not only that. Sin is missing the point. the Jesus Prayer only works correctly and serves the intended purpose if and only if conducted within the context of an ethical askesis and participation in the life of the Church.” Again. This is what makes the Jesus Prayer different from a mantra (contrary to a whole list of Jesuit publications). perhaps we are safe to say that in the prayer life God isn’t his first or highest priority in his relation to us.One might almost want to say the self-emptying quality of the Incarnation or its kenosis applies to the mystical life. but made Himself of no reputation. Or. Rather. and because we otherwise fail in our relationships. Modern Emotionalism . Unlike a mantra. Mercy for what? Mercy because like the servant who owed and was forgiven the great debt of 10. we fail to forgive as we have been forgiven. think of the some of the sentences of the Lord’s Prayer as formulas within which other variables can be plugged in. according to the nyptic Fathers in the Philokalia. Like a mantra. or personal sphere for some state allegedly “beyond good and evil. calm.” The same principle applies to why ethics is a preliminary practice in Christian spirituality. you have to begin with God. whether God or neighbor. In Hesychasm. There is a Jewish saying. or have encountered. ethical virtue is the very point and goal of the spiritual life of the Christian. the whole Hesychast pharmacopeia. it does indeed still. The essence of the various forms of dianoetic and noetic training found in the Hesychast tradition. so to speak. push His way through the crowd we neglect and ignore in order to insist that He be known to us before others. don’t let their apparent similarities fool you into missing the point of Hesychast spirituality.

We do not know what to feel or how to pray and need to be taught. In the beginning. for example. It was called enthusiasmos. even the praiseworthy attempt to be deeply attentive is misguided. so to speak. The very basic difference between spirituality and the pseudo-spirituality of this emotionalism (that has deep ramifications to brought out later when we discuss the differences between nous. you do not try to make the effort attend because you feel unworthy. That puts you in a bad mood of which you feel ashamed. and thus. In modern times.mania. Such a state of mind and its concerns is the exact opposite of the sober wakefulness needed. our soul’s are not the previously furrowed or prepared “raw material” that can be appropriately worked on towards transformation. One’s feet or back hurts. Modern devotionalism is the kind of emotionalism that the older Spiritual Directors warned against. feeling. don’t FEEL like it.Tracking the history of the decline of authentic spirituality in the Roman Catholic Religious Organization [RCRO] has many key events or points that cannot be all listed here in a single post. Lets call it “self-meddling preoccupation with one’s attitude. the prayer will teach us what to feel. what to feel. and so on) is to be find in some of the older catechism “talks” some exceptional Fathers had with adult converts who were recently Baptized/Chrismated (originally. self-preoccupied. Without these other two. It is true. But such as we contra-naturally are. One has no feeling for these things. But since its own authentically spiritual tradition was effectively dying (murdered by the RCRO itself). One is impatient. So. ethical and intellectual virtues. We must work solely with focussing our thought (by stilling) and attention. I summarize them. and so. football game and nap after the Liturgy. and elicit the appropriate response from us if and only if we are participating seriously in the ethical askesis and liturgical life of the Church as prior and contextual conditioning. the instruction was the night after chrismation when the newly chrismated stayed in the church with the Bishop or Father). and attention focussed on the prayer evenat the stage of verbal prayer. This is why the Church gives us formal prayers to “recite” and the Psalms. The nyptic Fathers teach that the type of emotionalism that characterizes the western forms of modern devotion are to be avoided. onemay feel cold. and hysteria. and as dissipated in one’s own self-preoccupied fantasies of being a good worshipper as the fellow thinking about his meal. and perhaps. and what to imagine during prayers and Divine Services.” One is just to attend to the prayers and Divine Services with a certain fullness of presence. often in the eyes of others and oneself. In the talks that have been recorded. we do not have the power to attend fully and faithfully (its a lost natural capacity that needs to be regained as a skilled habit). The attempt to attend takes the form as a concern with what to think. how to worship. and auto-erotic narcissistic concern for being right and correct. there was a void that could not withstand the flood of modern devotionalism. One’s kids are an irritating embarrassment and you hope others didn’t notice. Even the RCRO was at first highly critical of what was called “devotio moderna” during the late medieval and early modern period. as distracted. dianoia. The best thing is to enter this topic gradually. and then. There is method behind how topics are introduced. one falss into making it an issue of . there is a consistency from the 5th century to the 19th century that reveals the catholicity of these instructions. that one is to try to pray with all one’s thought. This is precisely to be as consumed. Again. It is a selfish. nor the right attitude or feeling and any attempt on our part to emotionally try to feel the right feeling is imagination.

irritated. Psalms. apatheia.). The Spirit will brood over your inner abyss and draw forth into being the new forms your attitude should take. The old pagan Greek ideal of contemplation (theoria) was impersonal episteme. But again. with effort to ethically overcome one’s vices during the day and between confessions and to be attentive. They take us into what is the nous. augmenting each other. pain. you will find they come and go but stay longer. and eventually begin to fuse into a single state of wakeful. By contrast. and beyond nature increasingly after the divine Likeness in deifying synergy with the Uncreated Energies through the Church’s participation in the trinitarian life. not the transcendence of it. will suddenly appear. there is no advance in the prayer life that is not intrinsically tied to relation to one’s neighbor. the emotionalism of modern devotionalism is passional quicksand. To notice this is a first moment of discrimination (diakrisis). at first. and inattention. One is always catching oneself distracted. By contrast. some measure of hesychia is obligatory. Orthodox “mysticism” is the perfection of ethics and community. noting one’s distraction. ecclesial. and inattentive. Well that is a highly synoptic overview and digression. and there is always the everpresent relationship to another person: God or neighbor. Eventually. reinforcing and augmenting it.emotion. Stop! Attend! Later. you will find they will positively strengthen your power to attend. This being only attentive and alertly receptive is the first baby step in stillness (hesychia). and hesychia begun in these baby steps will begin to mutually interact on each other. A block in prayer is due to a block in how you relate to others. Make no attempt to feel what one thinks one should feel. just attentive. obedience. even contemplative prayer in Orthodoxy is personal relationship. higher than episteme is gnosis. be gone. I emphasize the word only. receptive. one will find that the Spirit of the prayers and Divine Services of the Church themselves will evoke and draw out the attitude of worship that should be called forth from your heart. these basic skills of diakrisis. Prayers. That is the role of the Holy Spirit through the Services. at Divine Services. This is the first baby step in dispassion (apatheia). Even in the beginning. in which the “alone meets the Lone” (Eckhart). we must be only receptive and attentive. As they do. You will instantly be tempted to recapture or mimick them. Intensified. Listen. for this to happen. Thus. But this takes us far into deep waters on the three states of human existence contrary to nature. . While there is a tendency in western “mysticism” of the individual to “transcend” the ethical and ecclesial sphere of interpersonal relationships and community as People of God. Gnosis is personal familiarity with a person. what is sarx. irritability. One notices how this insight may also lead one to forget again to try to just attend. and why Orthodox spirituality is more about Church membership than a lone soul’s “union” with the divine (you’d be surprise how infrequently “union” in the western sense of “mystical union” is used in the east. try again to just attend. if diligently working out one’s salvation. These feelings and their attitude. So. according to nature in the divine Image. as the Body of Christ hypostatically deified by His divinity. it can become refined into many fine shades of erotomania (eroticism and mania-manic). Orthodox spirituality is always communal. (pseudo-spiritual) passional concern over what to feel. Instead. and Hymnography of the Church. what is eso anthropos. much later. This will correlate with some beginning in true (private) prayer. Fantasy begins when I try to search for a way to give myself or make myself have the appropriate attitudes and feelings. Much. and then.

The Hague 1974: Frances Yates. Attend.Again. it is not about you. At Padua in particular. Collins brings out. Due to the influence of heterodox Byzantine humanists with heterodox views of Hesychasm. the picture is both complicated and obscured by the fact that in the renewed controversy over the immortality of the individual soul. in some self-preoccupied concern to have the right attitude and feeling. no sick emotionalism. be receptive. This is a collated synopsis of many of the talks to beginners or newly adult chrismated. the attentive and receptive state of undistractedness and stillness is far from and unknown to many living in the present age. Hermetic. Even normal friendships do not arise by busily psyching ourselves up into unilaterally defining (thereby shutting the other party out) the ideal attitude and feeling to have in it. Press 1964). So. watch for the Bridegroom. Think. During the Renaissance. the condemnations of 1489 and 1513 creates a situation in which no one is representing their real views in public or in print. Chicago: Univ. As A. The Secular is Sacred: Platonism and Thomism in Marsilio Ficino’s Platonic Theology. eds. there is a broad spectrum of views and a renewed Averroism amongst the Arts Faculty of various universities (eventually influencing Spinoza) that is combined. B. within the Aristotelian tradition. . While there remains in the west a rough but ill-understood consensus with the east about the nature of the supra-natural states with their infused impressed species. Meanwhile. Collins. Reciprocity involves being patiently awake to the other. being attentive to the other. Thus. Hesychasm is advanced ethics. starts the period of Renaissance Platonism.B. because orthodoxy is relationships.B. shutting the other out. phantasia. a very complicated and confusing picture emerges with respect to the nous. in some cases. Schmidt. they are frequently cited in the discussions and works by both Arts and Theological faculties and in the notes by their students (Ch. “Philosophy and science in sixteenth-century universities. Yet. we find a surprising combination of Thomistic. there develops a misguided and increasingly wrongly motivated Renaissance quest to rediscover the missing phase leads to the distortion of phantasia into fantasy. contrary to modem devotionalism. there is the earlier disappearance of the culture of inner presence or awakening of the inner sense asa lower power of nous corresponding to the transition from the contra-natural state to the recovered natural state in some lineages of the western mystical tradition. being sensitive and receptive to the other.” The Cultural Context of Medieval Learning. Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition. and Platonic themes even in Ficino himself (A. Renaissance Platonism combines medieval Aristotelian views when it comes to intellection and the intellectual soul. while the Hermetic and Platonic texts (including Plotinus) were not part of university curricula. and the spiritual life. First. The demise of the concept of impressed species in the period of transition from the late middle ages and Renaissance to the modem era reflects a decline in the practical and theoretical knowledge of both intellection and contemplation in the errant and schismatic Roman Catholic Religious Organization [RCRO]. with Neo-Platonic mono-psychism. First. Second. one can’t unilaterally make up one’s mind what quality of feeling the relationship to another is to take. Chic. there is the re-discovery and translation of Hermetic and Platonic texts brought to western Europe with an influx of Byzantine Humanists with a heterodox view of Hesychasm. Tracing this history has two components. Roman Catholic Phantasia I cannot fully address this issue here but will offer some comments in support of my contention. Ethics involves reciprocity with another.

primarily . it might be compared to Machiavelli’s The Prince. of binding (vincire) the attention suggestively of masses or a single individual. this quest for the lost science of phantasia becomes increasingly and exclusively an investigation of the magical and political potential of the suggestibility of a sleeping phantasia in its contra-natural state... As Couliano describes it.. as “the great manipulator” creating “lasting impressions.(ibid. and publicity agent. with Giordano Bruno.” Bruno is the first to exploit the concept of magic to its ultimate conclusions. censor. due to the political situation of the time and the patronage system for philosophers who were not part of a university. Dordrecht-Boston 1975. Sylla. 88-89) . Chicago: Univ. as Lossky would put it) combined with an interest in Platonic doctrines in the RCRO Theological faculties..J. Third. Couliano. De vinculis in genere (Of bonds in general) by Bruno is one of those little-known works whose importance in the history of ideas far outstrips that of more famous ones. propagandist. xviii) As Couliano brings out in the course of his study. Machiavelli with political manipulation." (Couliano. ibid. the manipulation of phantasms are concerned.E.. This quest becomes distorted and deviates from its original aim. Read the Franciscan Correctionium fratris Thomae that came out of the 1277 Condemnations. . But how colorless and ridiculous the Machiavellian prince . director of mass communication media. Anyway. As Couliano argues: "Insofar as . Eros and Magic in the Renaissance. The magician of the Renaissance is both psychoanalyst and prophet as well as the precursor of modern professions such as director of public relations.. by the time of the Renaissance. of Chic.. the original “mystical” quest for the lost element of the spiritual life that the Hesychasts preserved but the RCRO of the west had lost becomes one in which magic becomes the science.. magic . spy. we find that there is an increasingly abstract and rationalistic study and discussion of contemplative practice with no practical expertise (the fever of concepts inflates. But one constant does stand out. a science awakening of inner presence that is the phase of moving from the contra-natural to natural state in Hesychasm increasingly disappears in the west after Aquinas and largely due to his rationalistic influence that the Franciscans tried to stop. as a magician.P. indeed the cynicism of. its contents. In its frankness. Press 1984). But the unfortunate and increasingly dominant aspect of the western quest was a growing fascination with and study of the nature of suggestibility and hypnosis found even in contemplative states due to the absence of a perfected phantasia (interior sensus) into a state of presence (I. attempts to create lasting impressions. 485-530).” As researched by Couliano. envisaging this science as a psychological instrument for manipulating the masses . politician..D. especially as the subject matter of the two works is connected: Bruno deals with psychological manipulation.. everyone is interested in finding possible lost components of noetic culture and in rediscovering the lost science of “Sapienza. As indicated... the lost element being sought in this Renaissance quest for lost wisdom was the gnostic science of awakening phantasia (sensus interior) to ever greater degrees within the power of nous in a way it was restored from its current contra-natural state and manner of functioning. compared to Bruno’s magician. Murdoch and E.

nor of any type of efficiency. Catholic mystical theology seems to have difficulty explaining the so-called difference it had attributed to affection in just the previous century between an infused impressed species and what was simply an inspiring expressed species of modern devotionalism. which the earlier Christian tradition (east and west) diagnosed as sick pathology. 1923. in opposition to their Dominican opponents.To cut a long story short. 1884. The distinction between phantasia and imaginatio was increasingly lost to the spiritually blind and incompetent RCRO directors. The influence of pre-modem and early modern views made rapid in-roads into Catholic ascetic and mystical theology. is assimilated to eighteenth-century causal views of sensation as a process of receiving ideas/impressions efficiently. trans. Fr. even in their discussions of so-called “mystical contemplation!” Instead. 3) and that the unitive state is an “inner sensation” of the “emotional effects of the Divine presence” on affection (“Repy of the Carmelite Congress of Madrid. In both the apparent consensus that mystical union was a state of affection and in the debate over whether the impressed species was really in the manner of id quo (as older theologians had taught) or whether it wasn’t really id in quo. we can document the progressive degenerative spread of this illness within the RCRO by examining St. Spiritual Doctrine. By the time of the Carmelite Congress of Madrid for the third centenary of the canonization of Teresa of Avila in March 1. phantasia becomes fantasy. many mystical theologians during the seventeenth century were already thinking of mystical union as a state of affection rather than as a state of intellection. other than mechanical. 1855. Francis de Sales (1567-1622). rational understanding of intellection. Under the pathological influence of the emotionalistic devotionalism and without any authoritative persons to diagnose the fact that it was a sickness. Fantasy comes to be seen as a dangerous power of delusion and unreality. instead of being the formal or eminent specification of the kind of act a particular act of intellection is in the order of immaterial existence. Mackey. By this time. or even. and “quasi-experiential” nature of “Teresian” spirituality (Theme vii. Philip of the Trinity (1603-1671) Summa theologiae . Fr. there is symptomatically revealed (in addition to replacing intellection with affection) a lack of significant experiential. Even the Ignatian Exercises are a variety of this disease and counterfeit spirituality. Species impressa. Thus. All past discussions of id quod or id in quo versus id quo make no sense and drop out of the picture.” Mensajero de Santa Teresa. represented by Father Arintero. practical. Louis Lallemant (1578-1635). By the eighteenth century. such as the sick erotomania of Terese of Liseux. even at the level of intentional or immaterial existence. Eng. Treatise on the Love of God. became in several forms the recommended path of the deluded RCRO. 1923) In these RCRO writers there seems to be no “inner” experiential sense of intellection. Meanwhile. It also reveals just how far the inroads of the Cartesian (Bruno through Telesio) interpretation of Suarezian rational psychology (already a distortion) had already extended into Catholic ascetic and mystical theology by this time. the erotomania playing upon the phantasia in its contra-natural state. the Discalced Carmelites stated that intellection was a theoretical piece of scholastic nonsense contrary to the actual. of formal cause in cognition. Madrid: March 15. the work of Bruno on how to manipulate the masses through erotically manipulating their sleeping phantasia becomes “transformed” and adopted by a spiritually blind RCRO into the devotio moderna. Faber. the general trend of Catholic ascetic and mystical theology seems to have not even a second-hand rational (bookish) grasp of the nature of intellection.

Instruction sur les etats d’ oraison. and only retains that he is cited as author of the material. or display copyrighted work in public. (private German translation. Lejeune. according the the Hesychasts. Scaramelli (1687-1752). or distribute. He waives exclusive rights (under US Code. Title 17) to make copies (copies free to public can be made). Cursus theologiae mystico-scholasticae. Note: The preceding articles are copyrighted by Dr Thomas Mether. Mystici in tuto. Levett. Mere Agnes de Langeac (1602-1634). trans. But that is just its contra-natural manner of functioning. or produce derivative works (it can be translated recorded etc. phantasia becomes mere fantasy. Directoire mystique. . Fr. 1934). Faber in 1890 (never published. Fantasy comes to be seen as a dangerous power of delusion and unreality. perform.). galleys). Ven. of Roman Catholic Manual for Directors. again.mysticae. trans. 1850. Introduction to the Mystical Life. Eng. Manuel de theologie mystique. So. Eng. Bossuet (1627-1704).

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