Gregory Palamas

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Gregory Palamas

 

Born 1296 in Constantinople; died Nov. 14, 1359, in Salonika. Byzantine theologian and church figure. Advocate and formulator of the mystical teachings of hesychasm, of which he provided the philosophical foundation.

In a polemic with the representatives of theological rationalism (Barlaam of Calabria, Akindynos, and Nice-phorus Gregoras) Gregory Palamas supported the thesis according to which the ascetic-hesychast in a state of ecstasy perceives directly the uncreated and immaterial emanation of god (the so-called Taborian Light, which, according to the Gospels, the apostles saw on Mount Tabor). Dissociating himself from pantheism and influenced by the idealistic dialectics of Aristotle, Gregory developed the teaching on the distinction between god’s essence and his “energies” or self-manifestations. The essence of god exists in itself and is inaccessible; the energies permeate the world and are communicated to man. but in such a way that the “simple” nature and indivisibility of the divine being are not disturbed, and the unity of his essence is preserved in the diversity of the energies. After a long struggle, this teaching was adopted in 1351 as the official doctrine of the Byzantine Church.

Gregory Palamas’ anthropology, which was subordinate to the practical goals of ascetic mastery of oneself, included complex psychological observations. He sought above all an “awakening” of the spirit that would spread to the flesh as well. In his opinion, the human spirit in contrast to the incorporeal spirit of the angels, is godlike precisely because of its ability to “give life” to the flesh. Gregory Palamas exerted a powerful influence on the tradition of late Byzantine mysticism. In 1368 he was canonized.

WORKS

In Patrología cursus completas, series graeca, vol. 150. Compiled by J. P. Migne. Paris. 1865.
In Russian translation: Tri tvoreniia. Novgorod. 1895.
In Pamiatniki vizantiiskoi literature 9–14 vv. Moscow, 1969. Pages 366–74.

REFERENCES

Krivoshein, V. “Asketicheskoe i bogoslovskoe uchenie sv. Grigoriia Palamy.” In the collection Seminarium Kondakovianum VIII. Prague, 1936. Pages 99–154.
Meyendorff, J. Saint Grégoire Palamas et la mystique orthodoxe. Paris, 1959.

S. S. AVERINTSEV