terça-feira, 21 de março de 2017

Aleksey F. Losev on Palamite disputes

"Essays on Ancient Symbolism and Mythology" is a lengthy book consisting of more than 900 pages. It ends with a chapter dedicated to the discussion of theological issues, including the criticism of Barlaam's point of view and the praise of the teaching of St. Gregory Palamas. The Russian philosopher stresses several important points concerning the fundamental differences between the Byzantine theologians. The first of all is Platonism. According to Losev, Barlaam, who studied the works of Aristotle in the West (and in Latin translations that were made under the influence of Neo-Platonism), inherited the principles of Western tradition and sought to combine Christianity with Platonic philosophy. For Losev, such strategy is absolutely unacceptable because: "Platonism in its theory of intelligent ascent does not concern matters of intimate confession, repentance, and of a struggle, i.e., the struggle with sinful thoughts." (Losev, 1993, p.871). The abstract mode of thought prevailed into the philosophical practice of ancient thinkers; there was no fire of the passions and inherent contradictions in one's personality. "Hesychasm recognizes the possibility of ascent", - Losev says, - "only under these conditions (confession and repentance till to the innermost intimacy and depth etc.), for Plato and Plotinus this is not required" (Losev, 1993, p. 871). The philosophical doctrine of Platonism, according to Losev, asserts "a gaze which sees only the body in being, and actually does not feel the fullness of internal life and living participation in the life and fate of personality" (Losev, 1993, p. 870). The Platonic abstract concept of body doesn't allow us to understand the integrity of human personality. Losev proposes a paradoxical formula: "Platonism is a-physiological, because it is corporeal; mystical Orthodoxy is cordial, because it is personal" (Losev, 1993, p. 871). In this sense, only one idea is absent in the philosophy of Plato — the idea of Salvation.

The second point of disagreement between followers of Barlaam and Palamas is that Barlaam visited Renaissance Italy and incorporated the ideas of Western thinkers into his theory. He rejected the practice of mental prayer because he did not believe in any real possibility of communication with God. The Russian philosopher reminds that in Barlaam's understanding "the God as an independent being and essence remained per se as an absolute unknown, and Energies, because of their intelligibility had to be completely separated from God, and had to be considered as created" (Losev, 1993, p. 872). On the one hand it was agnosticism in relation to God; on the other, it was a real dualism in the way that we are to understand Divine Energy. In Losev's opinion, this kind of interpretation was an ill-fated perspective arising out of the development of Western metaphysics. In this regard, the Russian scholar notes that "under the amplification of modem Rationalism, the Dualism of Barlaamism is turned into a Cartesianism and Occasionalism; under the amplification of Subjectivity is turned into a Kantianism; under the condition of weakening of the sense of Transcendence is turned into a Positivism, and so on" (Losev, 1993, p. 873). From this point of view, the confrontation between Palamism and Barlaamism can be seen as developing in opposite directions relative to the development of European culture. In Losev's words: "In Palamism, i.e., in strict Byzantinism, the God is an absolutely unfathomable abyss, who symbolically manifested Himself in certain energy and a name; in Barlaamism, i.e., in the Renaissance philosophy of the West, the God is essentially an abstract concept: in fact there is no God; there are only godless creatures" (Losev, 1993, p. 874).

It should be stressed that Losev discusses other dogmatic and ecclesiastical issues and religious differences among two directions in Christianity. In his interpretation, Catholicism, based on Aristotelian philosophy, combined idealism and corporeality, and thus, is subordinated to the creation that is characteristically reflected in the sculptures of Christ within the Medieval Gothic churches. Within the Orthodox tradition the transformation of the world came by music, eloquence and fine arts, and its attributes are the ringing of church bells and the prayerful contemplation with the use of icons. Furthermore, Losev could not accept the peculiar erotomania of the Medieval Catholic nuns' mystical visions. He believed that these revelations were initiated by sinful temptations; in this regard, he paid attention to the "sacred silence" of the Orthodox mysticism of Hesychasm.

In general, the Russian philosopher emphasised the difference between the ontologism of the East and the psychologism of the West that was shaped and determined by the writings of St. Augustine. If (according to Losev) in the Western ascetic Revelation there is a search for the path to truth with different inner feelings and personal attitudes, for the Orthodox monk it is always a concrete fact and a with certainty adoption of truth. Thus, it is very important that in the conditions of persecution by the Soviet state Losev turned to Palamism, to the Orthodox concept of Divine Energy, while his starting point was the syncretism of Russian religious philosophy and Solovyev's conception of Pan-unity; and he had done this before the publication of the pro-Palamism famous works of Russian theologians in emigration. "Ascetic and Theological Teaching of St. Gregory Palamas" of Hieromonk Vasiliy (Krivoshein) was published in 1936 and "The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church" by Vladimir Lossky appeared in 1944. Losev finished his studies of Palamite disputes very simply: he published the Acts of Constantinople Council (1351) against Barlaam and Akindynos in his own Russian translation.

Triune God: Incomprehensible But Knowable-The Philosophical and Theological Significance of St Gregory Palamas for Contemporary Philosophy and Theology -  Constantinos Athanasopoulos

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