Today, atheism as well as Protestantism might be turned against Orthodoxy. But this assault is based on a deception. They detest Orthodoxy because they see her with their own criteria, with their own mentality. They see her as a variant of Catholicism. This is not due to an ill disposition on their part, but to a total inability to judge by other standards and to think with another mentality.
Catholicism, Protestantism, and atheism are on the same level. They are offsprings of the same mentality. All three are philosophical systems, offsprings of rationalism, that is, of the notion that human reason is the foundation of certainty, the measure of truth, and the way of knowledge.
Orthodoxy is on a completely different level. The Orthodox have a different mentality. They regard philosophy as a dead end which never led man to certainty, truth, and knowledge. They respect human reason as no one else, and they never violate it. They regard it as one of the useful factors in detecting falsehood and uncovering error. But they do not accept it as capable of giving man certainty, of enlightening him to see the truth, or guiding him to knowledge.
Knowledge is the vision of God and of His creation in a heart purified by divine grace and the struggles and prayers of man. «Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God».
Truth is not a series of definitions, but God Himself, «Who appeared concretely in the person of Christ, Who said: «I am the Truth».
Certainty is not a matter of intellectual harmony; it is a deep assurance of the heart. It comes to man after inner vision and is accompanied by the warmth of divine grace. Intellectual harmony, which is the outcome of a logical ordering of things, is never accompanied by this assurance.
Philosophy is characterized by conceptualization. The human intellect cannot accept reality as it is. It transposes it first into symbols and then elaborates upon the symbols. But the symbols are counterfeit figures of reality. The concepts are as distant from reality as a picture of a fish from a live fish.
The truth of the philosopher is a series of figures and images. These symbols present one great advantage; they are comprehensible. They are cut to man’s measurements and satisfy the intellect. But they also present a great disadvantage; they have no relation to living reality.
Living reality does not fit into the categories of the human intellect. It is a condition above reason. Philosophy is an attempt to transpore the suprarational into rational. But this is counterfeit and fraudulent. That is why Orthodoxy rejects philosophy and does not accept it as a way to knowledge.
The only way to knowledge is purity of heart. It alone permits the indwelling of the Holy Trinity in man. In this way alone is God and His whole creation known, without being conceptualized. He is known as He really is without becoming comprehensible and without being diminished in order to fit into the stiffing limits of the human intellect. Thus the mind (nous) of man, living and uncomprehending, comes into union with the living and incomprehensible God. Knowledge is the living contact of man with the Creator and His creation, in mutual love.
The experience of knowledge is something which cannot be expressed in human words. When the Apostle Paul came to know, he said that he had heard unspeakable words - something which is impossible for man to express.
Such is the deeper Christian theology - inexpressible. Dogmas are helpful formulations. But they are not actual knowledge; they simply guide and protect from error. A man can have knowledge without knowing the dogmas, and he can know all the dogmas and accept them without having knowledge. This is why, beyond the affirmative theology of dogmas, the Fathers placed the deep mystery of negative theology where no definition is acceptable, where the mind is silent and ceases to move, where the heart opens its door to receive the Great Visitor «Who stands at the door and knocks», where the mind sees Him Who Is.
And let no one think that these things are true only in regard to the suprarational knowledge which is a movement of God towards man. Man can know nothing with his reason, and he can be certain of nothing - neither of himself, of the world, nor even of the most ordinary and common things.
Who honestly waited to hear Descartes’ syllogism «I think, therefore I am» to be certain that he truly exists? And who waited for the philosophers to prove that the world around him is real in order to believe that it is? Besides, such a proof has never existed and will never exist, and they who are engaged in philosophy well know it. No one has ever been able to actually prove by his reason that our thoughts and our own selves, as well as the world around us, are not fantasies. But even if someone were to prove it logically, which is impossible, that logical proof would not be able to assure anyone.
If we are certain that we exist and that our friends are not figments of our imagination, this is not due to the proofs of the philosophers, but to an inward knowledge and an inward consciousness which gives us certainty of everything without syllogisms and proofs.
This is natural knowledge. It is the knowledge of the heart and not of the brain. It is the sure foundation for every thought. Reason can build upon it without fear of toppling. But without it, reason builds upon sand.
It is this natural knowledge which guides man in the way of the Gospel and enables him to separate truth from falsehood, good from evil. It is the first step which raises man to the throne of God. When man his free will ascends the first steps of natural knowledge, then God Himself leans over and covers him with that heavenly knowledge of the mysteries «which are not permitted for man to utter».
The preaching of the Apostles and Fathers, the Prophets, and the Gospel, the words of Christ Himself, are directed to man’s natural knowledge. This is the province of dogmas and affirmative theology. It is the manger where faith is born.
The beginning of faith is the heart’s ability to grasp that the truth speaks in the small book called the Gospel, that in that commonplace church of poor and faithful people, God descends and dwells. When fear takes hold of one because he steps on the earth which the hand of God laid out, because he gazes at the great and broad sea, because he walks and breathes, then his eyes will begin to shed tears - tears of repentance, tears of love, tears of joy - and he will feel the first caresses of unspeakable mysteries.
Natural knowledge exists in all men, but it is not of the same purity in all. Love of pleasure has the power to darken it. The passions are like a fog, and that is why few men find the road to truth. How many people have been lost in the maze of philosophy, seeking a little light which they shall never see?
In this maze it is not important if one is a Christian of atheist, Protestant or Catholic, Platonist or Aristotelian. There is one common identifying mark on them all - darkness. Whoever enters the cave of rationalism ceases to see. And whatever garments he is wearing, they take on the same dark color. In their discussions they understand each other very well because they have the same presuppositions, the presuppositions of darkness. But it is impossible for them to understand those who are not in the maze and who see the light. And no matter what those on the outside tell them, they understand everything with their own presuppositions and cannot seein what way the others might be superior.
Against False Union - Alexander Kalomiros
Against False Union - Alexander Kalomiros