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Panayiotis Christou

Double Knowledge According to Gregory Palamas

Από: Π. Κ. Χρήστου, Θεολογικά Μελετήματα, τ. 3 (Νηπτικά και Ησυχαστικά), Θεσσαλονίκη 1977.


3. Theology and Vision of God

If we put aside the first way of theognosia, the natural way, and follow now the demonstrable and theological way, we find ourselves faced with a new ramification. The new distinction appears in the field of man's struggle to find God. Ancient ascetic writes distinguished three conditions in the progress of approaching God, viz. the practical, the natural and the theological. These were derived from Origen who held that the believer "through the practical way possesses Christ as his Lord, through the natural theory possesses Him as a King and again through theology as God" [xlii]. Evagrios preserves both the names and the meaning of these terms [xliii], while Diadochos of Photice modifies in some degree the terminology by using the words knowledge; wisdom and theology [xliv].

 Palamas, after he had reflected much on natural and theological theognosia, came to the conclusion that the achievements realised in the second way are far more notable than those realised in the first. But in the end he sees that another way opens up, a way that leads to immensely more precious benefits: the way to the vision of God, to θεοπτία. Theology is a discourse about God, while theoptia is in some way á conversation with God. There is a great difference between the two, as there is between knowledge of a thing and possession of it [xlv]. Isaac Syrus, speaking about two psychical eyes, the one for seeing the wisdom of God and the other for seeing the glory of his nature [xlvi], expresses with an image what Palamas describes analytically.

According to Palamas, "God is not substance so that we may only speak about Him, for He did not say, «I am the substance», but He said, «I am that I am» [xlvii]. The being does not spring from substance, but substance results from the being [xlviii]. Therefore, God is a personality that invites us; the personality whose presence we feel and to meet whom we press forward. If the substance of God remains inaccessible, His operations become accessible to us. The purified can by virtue of an excellent spiritual gift see the light of God just as the disciples had done in Thabor. And though this light is called a symbol, it is a natural one and does not exist apart from God; in other words, it is an uncreated operation of His [xlix]. This vision constitutes the beginning of a meeting which ends in the participation in the operations of God. Thus through his vision of God man rises without a bodily ecstasy to a personality that can speak with God and is able to become an associate οf God.

[xlii] In psalmos 126

[xliii] Practicus, prol. and c. 1

[xliv] Capita, 9, 66, 67

[xlv] Defensio Hesychastarum, 3, 2, 12.

[xlvi] Sermo 72, ed. SPETSIERIS, 281.

[xlvii] Ex. 3,14 

[xlviii] Defensium Hesychasterum 1,3,42.  

[xlix] Op. cit. 3,1,14.