Palamism

St. Gregory Palamas, with whom Barlaam engaged in his most famous theological controversy.

Palamism or the Palamite theology refers to the teachings of Gregory Palamas (c.1296–1359), whose writings defended the Orthodox notion of Hesychasm against the attack of Barlaam. Followers of Palamas are sometimes referred to as Palamites.

Seeking to defend the assertion that humans can become like God through deification without compromising God's transcendence, Palamas distinguished between God's inaccessible essence and the energies through which he becomes known and enables to share his divine life. [1] The central idea of the Palamite theology is a distinction between the divine essence and the divine energies [2] that is not a merely conceptual distinction. [3]

Palamism is a central element of Eastern Orthodox theology, being made into dogma in the Eastern Orthodox Church by the Hesychast councils. [4] Palamism has been described as representing "the deepest assimilation of the monastic and dogmatic traditions, combined with a repudiation of the philosophical notion of the exterior wisdom". [5]

Historically, Western Christianity has tended to reject Palamism, especially the Essence-Energies distinction, characterizing it as a heretical introduction of an unacceptable division in the Trinity and suggestive of polytheism. [6] [7] Further, the associated practice of hesychasm used to achieve theosis was characterized as "magic". [4] More recently, some Roman Catholic thinkers have taken a positive view of Palamas's teachings, including the essence-energies distinction, arguing that it does not represent an insurmountable theological division between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. [8]

The rejection of Palamism by the West and by those in the East who favoured union with the West (the "Latinophrones"), actually contributed to its acceptance in the East, according to Martin Jugie, who adds: "Very soon Latinism and Antipalamism, in the minds of many, would come to be seen as one and the same thing". [9]

Background

Contemplative prayer

John Cassian (Ioannes Cassianus)

An exercise long used among Christians for acquiring contemplation, one "available to everyone, whether he be of the clergy or of any secular occupation", [10] involves focusing the mind by constant repetition of a phrase or word. Saint John Cassian recommended use of the phrase "O God, make speed to save me: O Lord, make haste to help me". [11] [12] Another formula for repetition is the name of Jesus. [13] [14] or the Jesus Prayer, which has been called[ by whom?] "the mantra of the Orthodox Church", [12] although the term "Jesus Prayer" is not found in the Fathers of the Church. [15] The author of The Cloud of Unknowing recommended use of a monosyllabic word, such as "God" or "Love". [16] This exercise, which for the early Fathers represented just a training for repose, [17] the later Byzantines developed into a spiritual work of its own, attaching to it technical requirements and various stipulations that became a matter of serious theological controversy [17] (see below), and remain of great interest to Byzantine, Russian and other eastern churches. [17]

Hesychasm

Hesychasm is a form of constant purposeful prayer or experiential prayer, explicitly referred to as contemplation. It is to focus one's mind on God and pray to God unceasingly.

Under church tradition the practice of Hesychasm has it beginnings in the bible, Matthew 6:6 and the Philokalia. The tradition of contemplation with inner silence or tranquility is shared by all Eastern asceticism having its roots in the Egyptian traditions of monasticism exemplified by such Orthodox monastics as St Anthony of Egypt.

In the early 14th century, Gregory Sinaita learned hesychasm from Arsenius of Crete and spread the doctrine, bringing it to the monks on Mount Athos. [7] The terms Hesychasm and Hesychast were used by the monks on Mount Athos to refer to the practice and to the practitioner of a method of mental ascesis that involves the use of the Jesus Prayer assisted by certain psychophysical techniques. The hesychasts stated that at higher stages of their prayer practice they reached the actual contemplation-union with the Tabor Light, i.e., Uncreated Divine Light or photomos seen by the apostles in the event of the Transfiguration of Christ and Saint Paul while on the road to Damascus.

Other Languages
Ελληνικά: Παλαμισμός
italiano: Palamismo