#profile-container h2.sidebar-title {display:none;}

OS (Commentary) -- 28

171 ‘Giving birth to light’ and ‘giving birth to lightning’ and ‘radiating light’ and ‘fire-bearing’ let the guard of the mind (nous)

Note that the subject of this chapter is the guard of the mind, which we ourselves have called the gate to contemplation.

be called, suitably and in a manner which manifests its nature.

What is being discussed is Theology and the adoption as son, divinization (theosis), dispassion in the sense of St John of Sinai.

For it surpasses, to speak the truth, limitless bodily <ascetical practices>

We ourselves have inserted ‘ascetical practices’ to give a good and clear sense to the text.

and many virtues.

That the guard of the mind should surpass limitless bodily ascetical practices we have learned from St Maximos the Confessor in the quotations that St Hesychios has already given from that Father of the Church. That it should surpass many virtues—clearly, virtues of the soul—we are learning for the first time.

On account of this, it is therefore necessary to call this very virtue with honourable names—for the sake of the beautifully shining lights

These are contemplations—natural contemplation.

which are given birth from it—

St Hesychios is speaking from experience. The extraordinary thing about his mysticism is his moderation in bodily asceticism and his moderation of manner: one could hardly call this mysticism ecstatic, wild or ‘visionary’.

the suitors of which [virtue] from sinners and useless and profane and without gnosis, without understanding and unjust, are able through Jesus Christ to become just, useful, pure, holy and understanding—

We think that this state of being ‘just, useful, pure, holy and understanding’ is not merely repentance and the simple acquisition of a layman’s level of virtue, but, on the basis of what follows, the adoption as son, divinization (theosis).

and not only, but also to contemplate secret things and to theologize.

This language is quite reminiscent of St Maximos the Confessor as quoted by St Hesychios in OS 68, above: ‘He who unceasingly makes his occupations round those things which are within is continent; and not only, but he also contemplates, theologizes and prays.’ We take ‘contemplates secret things’ to refer to the various stages of natural contemplation. Here, ‘theologizes’ means to speak of God on the basis of experience. However, in the next sentence, it is clearly a matter of Theology, unitive prayer to the Holy Trinity:

And having become contemplatives they swim in this most pure and limitless Light

This is a remarkably accurate evocation of unitive prayer to the Holy Trinity.

and they touch him with unspeakable touches

What a charming image! It is reminiscent of the bride and Bridegroom in the Songs of Songs.

and they dwell and live their lives with him—seeing that they have tasted, for the Lord is good [cf. Ps. 33, 9]—

What love is manifested by St Hesychios! What tenderness of spirit! There is nothing here of pride or arrogance. We see here the humility of the true son adopted by God and dwelling with his eternal Father!

so as clearly to be fulfilled in the archangels of this sort the word of the divine David: ‘But the just will confess in your name and the upright will inhabit with your face.’ [Ps. 139, 14.]

These are the sons by adoption. Here, we can understand the significance of St John of Sinai’s definition of dispassion, taken as divinization (theosis) or the adoption as son: the Hesychast has entered into the spiritual condition that the righteous will have after the General Resurrection.

For really, in truth, really, only these truly invoke and confess to God, to whom they also love to speak, forever loving him.

Clearly, those who have been adopted as sons now live the blessedness of the Resurrection. That is why we have taken the dispassion of Step 29 of the Ladder of St John of Sinai to be Theology: ‘Certain ones, then, define dispassion as the resurrection of the soul before (the resurrection) of the body. Others, then, (define dispassion to be) perfect knowledge of God, second (only) to that of the angels.’[1]

172 Woe to the [man] within from the things that are without.

That is, those sensible objects which are perceived by the senses. We think that the basis of this chapter is OTT 40: ‘The mind would not be able to see the place of God in itself not having become higher than all <mental representations> which are in (sensible) objects.’ In this chapter, OS 172, St Hesychios is addressing the problem of the ‘mental representations which are in sensible objects’, and suggesting a method to overcome them.

For the man within

The mind (nous).

will be greatly sorrowed by the senses without,

As is clear both from the context of this chapter in OS and from the content of OTT 40, St Hesychios is speaking of the Hesychast at the stage of the transformation from the higher stages of first natural contemplation to Theology. The reason that the Hesychast ‘will be greatly sorrowed by the senses without’ is that the mental representations of the objects of sense will interfere with his attainment to unitive prayer to the Holy Trinity, Theology. In this regard it is well to recall KG V, 42:

V, 42 The world which is erected in the thought is considered as being difficult to see by day because the nous is attracted by the senses and by the sensible light which shines, but it is possible to see it by night, when it is luminously imprinted at the time of prayer.

and he, sorrowed, will make use of the lash against the senses without.

We think, for reasons that will be clear below, that St Hesychios is counselling the actual use of the lash in certain circumstances. Recall our references to the use of the stick by the saintly Elder Joseph the Hesychast against temptations from the demon of fornication. Here, it seems to be more a matter of the distraction to mystical prayer offered by the senses rather than of actual demonic assaults, although it is possible that there is an ambiguity in the text. Here we again see, as in OS 164 where the Hesychast was at the stage of natural contemplation prior to the present transformation to Theology, a certain hostile attitude to the body on St Hesychios’ part. Our own puzzle is this: given that the ascetic is at such an advanced spiritual stage, surely he is not troubled by the flesh? As Evagrius asserts in TPL 36, ‘Those (demons) which rule over the passions of the soul persist until death; those which rule over the passions of the body retire more quickly.’ We ourselves accept what St Hesychios is counselling, at least in theory, but we are not sure what would be the cause: if it is merely a case of distraction from unimpassioned sense-perceptions of objects of sense, is not the lash an extreme solution?

While we were preparing this book, however, we came across a very interesting biography of a disciple of the saintly Elder Joseph the Hesychast, Fr Charalambos (1910–2001), formerly Abbot of the Monastery of Dionysiou on Mount Athos.[2] This biography, written by a long-time disciple of Fr Charalambos, contains very interesting and precise information on the use of the stick by the Elder Joseph and the members of his entourage. The author, drawing on conversations which he himself had with Fr Charalambos and which he quotes, explains the following points: The stick was used not only for thoughts of fornication, but for all impassioned thoughts, and it was used by each member of the entourage of the Elder Joseph during the night vigil of prayer when impassioned thoughts distracted him from his prayers, which of course were the Jesus Prayer prayed intensively and exclusively for six hours, and this apart from the cultivation of the continual practice of the Prayer during the rest of the twenty-four-hour day.[3]

Elsewhere in the book, Fr Charalambos is again quoted on the subject of the stick. There he makes clear that the stick was a ‘thick stick (chontre berga)’. In the hour of need, it was applied to the thighs. It was quite painful. In the particular case that Fr Charalambos is quoted as referring to, it was used on account of temptations from the demon of accidie.[4]

The theoretical basis of this use of the stick is given by Fr Charalambos and his biographer as self-condemnation, which St Hesychios certainly advocates, although never explicitly with the lash or the rod. It is clear from the presentation in Charalambos, on the pages given, that the use of the stick in self-condemnation by members of the Elder Joseph’s entourage played exactly the same role as rebuttal in the Hesychian system. That is, instead of rebutting the thought the way that St Hesychios outlines in OS, the monk in the Elder Joseph’s entourage would, when troubled by an impassioned thought during the night vigil of prayer, use the stick on himself in self-condemnation—and with great success in expelling the thought and raising his mind to contemplation.

We met Fr Charalambos many times and we held—and hold—him in very high regard as a humble, holy priest and monk endowed with very evident charisms of discernment, clairvoyance, and, we do not doubt, prevoyance; and after his death we have esteemed him as a Father of Athos. It would give us very great joy if Fr Charalambos were to pray for us.

Our only comment on this use of the stick is that St Hesychios advocates the use of rebuttal as the primary method of expelling a demonically sown thought, and that in combination with humility, attention, continual invocation of Jesus Christ and the memory of death. The use of the stick St Hesychios sees as somewhat secondary to his method.

He who has done those things that are in the letter

We understand this to mean ‘he who has actually made physical use of the lash’.

has already known those things that are in the contemplation.

Reading theoria, as always, as ‘contemplation’ and not as ‘theory’, we take this to mean the following: ‘Yes, he will understand what I (St Hesychios) am saying—and why—but more importantly he will be about his business, contemplation, no longer distracted by objects of sense.’ Compare this to what we have just said about the efficacy in expelling the impassioned thought and in raising the mind to contemplation, of the use of the stick in self-condemnation by members of the Elder Joseph’s entourage during their night vigil of prayer.

The next four chapters form a coherent exposition of the Hesychian system from praktike through contemplation:

173 According to the Fathers,

Perhaps St Maximos the Confessor as quoted earlier by St Hesychios.

if our man within keep sober, he will also be able to guard the man without. However, both we and the evil-working demons commit the sins together;

This is an important remark on the cooperation between man and the demons in the practice of an act of sin.

and the latter in thoughts (logismoi) only—that is, as they wish, they form the sin completely in imaginative paintings in the mind (nous)—;

Evagrius, in TPL 39, has a somewhat more subtle—and more ambiguous; see our commentary there—analysis: the demon approaches and its spiritual bad odour, what we are now calling its demonic energy or operation (energeia), excites the relevant passion, leading to the inception of an impassioned mental representation of an object of sense (‘imaginative painting’) in the mind.

we, then, both by means of thoughts (logismoi) within and by means of works (erga) without.

We need not reiterate the stages of temptation here.

For, lacking the grossness of bodies, the demons by means of thoughts (logismoi) only, and by means of treachery and fraud,

St Hesychios has experience of the demons.

purvey hell to themselves

The demons are condemned and know it, but they add to their guilt.

and to us.

This of course is their goal, to take us with them.

The next passage is an important one:

For if the guilty things were not deprived of the grossness of the body, they would neither cease to sin also through works (erga), ever preserving the will

Their own will. The demons are minds (noes) with free will, albeit depraved.

ready to act impiously.

A well-chosen word.

This chapter has much in common with, and may show the direct influence of, the Life of Anthony, Chapter 28, especially Chapter 28, 6–7.[5]

St Hesychios continues his summary:

174 The one-worded

This is monologistos. We discussed this word, relatively unusual, in the commentary just before OS 54, in the context of the model of temptation in On Holy Baptism of St Mark the Ascetic. Monologistos does not mean ‘of one word’, but ‘simple, not complex’. Its use here conveys the sense that the Prayer of Jesus is a simple phrase or sentence, that it is not complex.

prayer (euche) kills and reduces their frauds to ashes.

We have already seen how.

For, called upon by us continually and untiringly,

Again, a passage which shows that the Prayer is to be repeated ‘continually and untiringly’—unceasingly.

Jesus, God and the Son of God,

This formulation resembles the opening lines of St John’s Gospel. It might be an indication of the formula that was in use in St Hesychios’ circle.

in no way concedes to them

The demons are minds, not instinctive drives.

to show secretly to the mind (nous) in the mirror of the intellect (dianoia) either the beginning of the attack, which, truly, they

The Fathers mentioned above. Here, the reference is to St Mark the Ascetic. See OS 2.

also call ‘assault’,

We have many times seen St Hesychios’ presentation of the assault.

or a form,

We take this to mean ‘an impassioned mental representation of an object of sense’.

or even to speak certain words in the heart.

Evagrius does not refer to these words except in the context of the demon of blasphemy, but they occur.

This sentence seems to suggest that Jesus, ‘called upon by us continually and untiringly’, prevents the demons from sowing the assault. We quoted in the commentary on OS 28 a passage from GC 85 that seems to suggest the same thing:

For the breeze of the Holy Spirit, setting the heart in motion towards winds of peace, completely extinguishes the arrows of the fire-bearing demon while they are still borne in the air.[6]

Moreover, St Mark the Ascetic seems to suggest the same thing in the extract from Question 11 of On Holy Baptism quoted in the commentary just before OS 54, above:

An assault of Satan, then, is the one-worded appearance of a wicked object, where even the very approach to our mind (nous) occurs through our little faith. For since we have received a commandment not to take care for anything but with every guard to keep our own heart and to seek the Kingdom of the Heavens, which is within us, when the mind (nous) stands apart from the heart and from the aforesaid search, directly it gives place to the assault of the Devil and becomes receptive of the evil design.[7]

Moreover, both St John of Sinai and St Hesychios refer to the state of attainment of the Hesychast when he ‘has spit on the demons once and for all’[8] or when he reckons their assaults as ‘the arrows of infants’.[9]

However, we know from TPL 36 that Evagrius Pontikos’ considered opinion was that the demons which rule over the passions of the soul persist until death. Given the danger in an advanced ascetic of falling prey to pride, to false prophecy or, in general, to a temptation of a passion of the soul or to a temptation of the mind (nous), it is dangerous to accept at face value a doctrine that we are prevented by the continual repetition of the Jesus Prayer from being tempted. There are times, certainly, when the conscious presence of the Holy Spirit is so great that the demons can do nothing, but these are not permanent states. We would think that what St Hesychios means is that by Grace we are protected from harm if we reject the assault at the very beginning. For St Hesychios’ consistent doctrine is that we must, even at this very high stage of spiritual attainment, practise the guard of the mind diligently, and that implies that we must keep our mind and heart free of images not by not being tempted but by rejecting the temptation at the earliest possible instant, before it has spread through our intellect.

St Hesychios now makes the point that corresponds to Evagrius’ point in OTT 40:

If the demonic form

Not the form of the demon in the sense of a little man with horns and a tail, or of a beast with wings and so on, but the impassioned mental representation—demonic form—of an object of sense, sown by the demon.

does not enter into the heart, then, as we have said, the heart is empty also of thoughts (logismoi),

AlphabeticY’ reads here: ‘…or even to speak certain words in the heart, the demonic form not entering into the heart, or thoughts (logismoi), as we said, for it is the custom…’ We think the main text’s reading is to be preferred, since it is clearly more consistent with St Hesychios’ doctrine of the guard of the mind.

That the heart must be empty of thoughts (logismoi) is the point of OTT 40. Indeed, it corresponds to St Hesychios’ definition in OS 3 of the guard of the mind.

for it is the custom of the demons by means of thoughts (logismoi) imperceptibly to speak and to teach evil to the soul.

This is clear and important. These ‘thoughts (logismoi)’ are the impassioned mental representations of objects of sense that evolve into full-fledged demonic thoughts (logismoi). Although St Hesychios here seems to be speaking more broadly than merely concerning the emptiness of the heart from impassioned mental representations in the guard of the mind, the next chapter indicates that that is his meaning:

175 From continual prayer (euche), therefore, the air of the intellect (dianoia)

The field of consciousness of the person praying, here centred in the heart.

is pure of dark clouds, of winds of spirits of wickedness.

The demonically sown mental representations bear a demonic operation (energeia) into the air of the intellect centred in the heart. This demonic energy, which St Hesychios describes as ‘dark clouds’ or ‘winds of spirits of wickedness’ is purged from the heart by continual prayer. As we discussed previously, this purgation is due both to the repetitive play of the spiritual mental representations introduced by the continual repetition of the formula and by the response of Jesus our Lord and Master to our humble, sincere use of the formula as an invocation of his mercy.

The air of the heart being pure,

We take the mind to be in the heart, so that the intellect itself is positioned in the space of the heart. Hence, St Hesychios can pass from the air of the intellect to the air of the heart without difficulty, although his shifts of terminology are confusing.

it is impossible for the divine light of Jesus not to shine in it—

This was Evagrius’ point in OTT 2 and 40.

St Hesychios, however, now adds an extremely important caution:

if we are not, that is truly to say, puffed up by vainglory, conceit and ostentation,

These passions are passions of the soul, notably of vainglory and pride. The Hesychast is subject to temptations from the demons which rule over the passions of the soul until death.

and raised up towards that which is unattainable;

What St Hesychios has in mind is clear: equality with God, knowledge of his essence; the one implies the other.

and we find ourselves without help from Jesus on account of the fact that Jesus hates such things, being Pattern and Exemplar of humility.

Remember that St Hesychios is speaking to Hesychasts who have attained, or who are on the threshold of attaining, Theology.

The next chapter concludes this series.

176 Let us therefore have prayer (euche) and humility, these two things, which things are armed against the demons with sobriety

Here, ‘sobriety’ is to be understood as attention, the ‘superintending continuity of attention in the ruling part of man’ (OS 7), and, most likely, also rebuttal and the memory of death, so that the passage as a whole is most likely a reference to St Hesychios’ basic method.

as [with] a flaming sword. For it is lawful

Both ‘permissible’ and ‘possible’ are to be understood for ‘lawful’.

for us—living in this way at any rate—

St Hesychios insists on the need for sedulous application of the method, at whatever stage of attainment the Hesychast may find himself.

every day and every hour to hold festival with secret rejoicing in the heart.

These lines come after St Hesychios has been addressing the gnostic who has experienced or is close to experiencing Theology and the adoption as son: this festival of continuous contemplation is attained with much labour. For many, it is attained in the next life even if they are practising Hesychasts in this life.

St Hesychios in the next three chapters again repeats his teaching in even more general theoretical comprehensiveness.

177 The eight most general thoughts (logismoi) of evil, in which is contained every thought (logismoi)

Compare TPL 6: ‘The most general thoughts (logismoi) are eight in all, in which is contained every thought (logismos).’ Our translations here are literal, so that the reader who cannot refer to the Greek can see that St Hesychios has to a certain extent paraphrased Evagrius. We think that the placement of this chapter here, in a summary of St Hesychios’ doctrine near the end of OS indicates that St Hesychios understands Evagrius quite well, but has taken account, especially in the earlier parts of OS, of what he thinks his reader can be expected to grasp.

The rest of this chapter of St Hesychios, apart from the allusion to Classical Greek mythology, has much in common with TPL 74 and 75:

74 The temptation of the monk is the thought which ascends through the passionate part of the soul and which darkens the mind.

75 The sin of the monk is the consent towards the forbidden pleasure of the thought.

and from which all [thoughts (logismoi)] have their origin—as every demon (accurst god)

‘(Accurst god)’: These words are in the original text, but for the sake of clarity we have treated them as a parenthetical remark by St Hesychios. They might well be a later gloss, or part of a later gloss: the original text of St Hesychios might have read ‘as every demon of the Danaäns…’ or even ‘as every god of the Danaäns…’.

of the Danaäns

This is the Homeric name for the Greeks who besieged Troy.

according to their myths is from Hera and Zeus—,

This Classical allusion is not merely a larding of his text by St Hesychios; it clarifies a point about which the reader might have been wondering: what it means for there to be eight most general thoughts in which is contained every thought. St Hesychios is saying that what that means is that all impassioned thoughts—demons—are given birth from some one or other of the eight most general impassioned thoughts. I have an impassioned thought. It may not obviously be a thought of avarice, vainglory and so on, but were I to study the matter spiritually, perhaps with the aid of the Ladder of Divine Ascent, I would discover that the impassioned thought I have has as parent one or more of the eight most general impassioned thoughts. St Hesychios here says nothing about the three generator thoughts, gluttony, avarice and vainglory, that Evagrius discusses in OTT 1 and concerning which St Hesychios has quoted St Mark the Ascetic in OS 57–9.

all come up to the gate of the heart

‘Come up’ means ‘ascend’. The demon approaches from without (TPL 39); the thought ascends through the passionate part of the soul (TPL 74) to the gate of the heart (OS 6). The subjective experience referred to is the becoming conscious to the mind which has descended into heart and which is stationed in the gate of the heart, of the impassioned mental representation of an object of sense. Since the intellect is an operation of the mind which establishes or generates the field of consciousness of the person, this becoming conscious to the mind presents itself as an event in the intellect, the field of consciousness. The mind itself is not the field of consciousness but an intelligible substance, one operation of which is the field of consciousness, the intellect. Hence, the significance of the coming up of the impassioned mental representation to the gate of the heart is that the impassioned mental representation there becomes conscious to the Hesychast who has his intellect centred in his heart: there is an encounter in the gate of the heart between the Hesychast as agent who is conscious and performing a certain task—repeating the formula of invocation with extreme attention—and the impassioned mental representation of the object of sense. The Hesychast is keeping attention, and when he is performing his task as prescribed by St Hesychios, he exercises this attention in the gate of the heart, perceives the impassioned mental representation and is able to rebut the demon so that the impassioned mental representation does not spread like a noxious gas throughout his field of consciousness and engage him in impassioned intercourse. However, St Hesychios is here describing the case where the Hesychast is not applying the method properly:

and, finding the mind (nous) unguarded,

The Hesychast is here not keeping attention, not practising the guard of the mind. He is negligent.

one by one enter in, in their own season [cf. Ps. 126, 5].

Since the ascetic has not rebutted the thought and invoked the aid of Jesus Christ with the Prayer. St Hesychios here is merely explaining the initial stages of the process of temptation in his own language.

Whichever of the eight thoughts (dialogismoi) having ascended should enter the heart, it introduces a swarm of shameful thoughts (logismoi)

This has two senses. The first sense is that the impassioned mental representation opens the door to other thoughts of the same demon, or even, later, of other demons: it has breached the wall. The second sense is that the first impassioned mental representation spreads like a noxious gas through the air of the intellect and engages us in impassioned intercourse: we ourselves provide the ‘swarm of shameful thoughts’ by engaging in impassioned conversation with the impassioned mental representation, behind which is a demonic mind. We discussed this in some detail both in the commentary just before OS 54 and in the commentary on OS 143.

and, thus darkening the mind (nous), it calls the body out,

This language is consistent with a mental representation sown by the demon of fornication. However, the process of temptation is the same for any of the eight most general thoughts, and we have already seen that sin in act can only be committed through the instrumentality of the body for any of the eight most general thoughts.

rousing it to the labour of shameful practices.

Each of the eight most general thoughts calls us out to sin in act through the instrumentality of the body.

178 He, therefore, who keeps close watch for the head of the snake

This is the impassioned mental representation of an object of sense. The image is of the snake coming out of its hole: first, if we are attentive, we see its head.

and who through courageous rebuttal makes use of angry words as if he were throwing a punch,

One punch is enough. Only a fool is a brawler.

has beaten off the war.

The fundamental principle: cut the thought off at its inception.

‘The war’: This is the struggle of the Hesychast to defeat the impassioned thought after it has spread through the intellect and attained a forward base by means of the Hesychast’s own impassioned intercourse with it.

For, crushing the head [cf. Gen. 3, 15],

Through the punch of rebuttal.

he has avoided many wicked thoughts (logismoi)

The fundamental doctrine. Recall, however, that according to the doctrine of Evagrius in OTT 40, which St Hesychios accepts, there is this further reason that the Hesychast must cut off the impassioned mental representation: the mental representations of objects of sense, both impassioned (as here) and unimpassioned, block the mental representations of contemplation and Theology.

and the most wicked works.

Sin in act.

And at that time the intellect (dianoia) perseveres unwashed by waves,

That is, our intellect is preserved from the demonic energies (energeies) accompanying the initial impassioned mental representation of an object of sense. The freezing of the initial impassioned mental representation of an object of sense by the rebuttal[10] not only prevents the initial impassioned mental representation from evolving into ‘much thought (polunoia)’, but also blocks the ‘waves’, the demonic energies (energeies), that would be introduced into the intellect (dianoia) if the initial impassioned mental representation were allowed to proceed to ‘much thought (polunoia)’ and intercourse. Of course, the invocation then dissipates the frozen initial impassioned mental representation and completely extinguishes the assault, so that ‘the intellect (dianoia) perseveres unwashed by waves’.

God having accepted its watchfulness in the thoughts (logismoi)

By acting in the way that St Hesychios is counselling us, we have acted in a way pleasing to God. We have rejected temptation. We have kept his commandments. We must understand that here, St Hesychios merely for reasons of style is silent on the invocation. ‘Watchfulness’ should be construed as the whole apparatus of Hesychian sobriety.

and having given it in exchange the gift

Recall the doctrine of St Mark the Ascetic that what the ascetic receives he receives as the grace of the Master readied for the faithful slave, not as the wage of works.

of knowing how it must prevail over the opponents,

This is the gnosis of the immaterial war.

and how it is necessary little by little

‘Little by little’: An extremely important point. This purification does not happen over the space of a month.

to purify the heart from thoughts that defile the man within.

The man within is the mind (nous). This is the gnosis that the ascetic receives in imperceptible steps through the practice of the guard of the mind.

As the Lord Jesus Christ says: ‘Out of the heart come wicked thoughts (dialogismoi), fornications, adulteries; and these things are what defile the man.’ [Cf. Matt. 15, 19.]

It is useful to consider the full passage at Matt. 15, 19: ‘For out of the heart come out wicked thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, acts of false witness, blasphemies.’ We have italicized the words that St Hesychios has omitted. The full list covers many other passions, such as anger, pride and avarice, that are absent in St Hesychios’ own list.

The next chapter is important for its explicit introduction, through the mouth of St Anthony, of the concept of clairvoyance. It is also important for its witness to the doctrine of virtue as the operation of the parts of the soul according to nature. It also demonstrates that the Life of Anthony is one of the sources of St Hesychios’ anthropology.

179 Thus, therefore, the soul is able in the Lord to stand in its own symmetry


and beauty and uprightness, as it was created by God from the beginning, very good and upright,

Compare the Life of Anthony, Chapter 20, 6.[11] What is being discussed here is the restoration in Theology of the image of God that Adam had before he fell. Consider this saying of the author of the Life of Anthony, St Athanasios of Alexandria: ‘He [the Word of God] became man so that we might be made gods.’[12]

as says the great servant of God, Anthony: ‘The soul having the mental part (to noeron)

‘The mental part’: This could be rendered ‘the spiritual part’.

according to nature, virtue is constituted.’

Life of Anthony, Chapter 20, 5.[13]

And again he said: ‘For the soul to be upright—this is the mental part (to noeron) in it according to nature as it was created.’

Life of Anthony, Chapter 20, 7.[14]

And after a little he again says: ‘Let us purify the intellect (dianoia);

The mind (nous). The critical edition of the Life of Anthony starts a new sentence after ‘the intellect (dianoia)’, but the sense is in any event clear. The critical edition shows slight differences in the grammatical forms of the verbs that might be very well due to copyists’ errors. In the Life of Anthony, the sense of this particular phrase is more ‘Let us be purifying the intellect (dianoia)’.

for I believe that <a soul (psuche)>

This word is present in the critical edition of the Life of Anthony but missing in the text of OS in Philokalia G. It is necessary for the sense of the passage.

purified in every way and standing according to nature is able, becoming clairvoyant,

For this rendition of the underlying Greek word, we are dependent on modern Athonite explanations of the terminology.

This happens.

to see more and further than the demons,

While the demons have a greater acuity than men since they are unembodied minds (noes), they know neither the heart of man nor the future, nor do they know things at great distances. They infer the condition of the heart of a man from his words and external behaviour similar to words (OTT 37); they guess the future (St John of Sinai in the Ladder, St Anthony in the Life of Anthony); and having learned a fact from their own presence in a place, they travel quickly to another place to reveal that fact to someone, as if that person had attained to clairvoyance (Ladder, Life of Anthony). Only God knows the heart of man, the future, and, in most cases, things at great distances.

having with it the Lord who reveals.’

Life of Anthony, Chapter 34, 2.[15]

The gifts of clairvoyance and prevoyance require two things: purification of the mind (nous) and the presence of the Lord who reveals. If one of the two is missing…

Thus says the renowned Anthony, as Athanasios the Great says in his Life of Anthony.

There is much in common between OS and the Life of Anthony. It certainly is one of the sources of St Hesychios’ doctrine, especially of his anthropology and, particularly, of the notion that the mind (nous) was created good (OS 43, etc.).

The restoration of the image of God is the vocation of all men. Indeed, that is the sense the famous adage, quoted above, of St Athanasios himself: ‘He became man so that we might be made gods.’ St Athanasios is speaking of the Incarnation of the Word, the purpose of which was to give man a way to restore the likeness to God in himself, to restore the kath’ homoiosin. In most men, this vocation is realized after their death: in part by the soul in the next life; in part, after the General Resurrection. The Hesychast has as his vocation the restoration of the kath’ homoiosin in ‘pure and immaterial prayer’[16] in this life, insofar as it is possible for man in general and for the actual Hesychast in particular. Although St John of Sinai speaks, as we have quoted him previously, of dispassion as the resurrection of the soul before the General Resurrection, and this is the restoration of the kath’ homoiosin, it is clear that even in the case of a man who has attained to dispassion in the sense of St John of Sinai, this attainment is imperfect when viewed in the absolute sense: only after the General Resurrection will the fullness of the adoption as son, the fullness of divinization (theosis), the fullness of the kath’ homoiosin, be attained.

The next chapter begins yet another series, this time passing through the necessity of prayer to discuss purity of heart, here taken to be dispassion in the sense of St John of Sinai.

previous | Table of Contents | next

[1] Ladder G Step 29, 2; = Ladder E Step 29, 4.

[2] Charalambos.

[3] Charalambos pp. 82–5.

[4] Charalambos pp. 276–7.

[5] Anthony p. 214, ll. 25–29.

[6] Diadochos p. 144, l. 17–p. 145, l. 13.

[7] Mark Volume I, p. 366, ll. 24–32.

[8] St John of Sinai quoted in the commentary before OS 87.

[9] St Hesychios in OS 186.

[10] See the discussion of the long extract On Holy Baptism in the commentary just before OS 54.

[11] Anthony, p. 190, ll. 20–1.

[12] Discourse on the Incarnation of the Word, par. 54 (5): Migne 25, col. 192B. For a thorough discussion of the restoration of the image of God, see Chapter V of Volume I.

[13] Anthony, p. 188, l. 17–p. 190, l. 20. We have taken our starting-point for the references to the Life of Anthony from the references in Philokalia F.

[14] Anthony, p. 190, ll. 25–6.

[15] Anthony, p. 228, ll. 7–11.

[16] St Maximos the Confessor, quoted by St Hesychios in OS 71.


Post a Comment

<< Home