Hesychasm

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Hesychasm

 

(from the Greek hesychia, “quiet,” “silence,” “detachment”), a mystic trend in Byzantium.

Hesychasm is used in two senses. In the more general meaning, hesychasm is an ethicoascetic teaching on the path of man to union with god through “purification of the heart” by tears and through concentration of consciousness within itself; to achieve this, a set of techniques for psychophysical self-control was devised, which bears some outward resemblance to the methods of Yoga (the inclined sitting posture, regulation of breathing and circulation, constant mistrust of spontaneous “wishes,” and the practice of the so-called Jesus Prayer, entailing single-minded repetition of the very same phrase several thousand times in succession). The teaching was created by Egyptian and Sinaitic ascetics of the fourth through seventh centuries (Macarius the Egyptian, Evagrius, and John Climacus). During the religious restoration of the 14th century it underwent renewal and development; by no means was this an original creation. Only in this sense can one speak of the hesychasm of Gregory Sinaites and of his Russian followers (Nil Sorskii, for example).

In the narrower sense hesychasm is taken to mean the religio-philosophical teaching that Gregorius Palamas elaborated in disputes with spokesmen for theological rationalism, a teaching that included the thesis of the distinction between the essence and the energies of god (the doctrine of the uncreated nature of the “light of Mount Tabor”). Palamism, which historically was combined with a sociopolitical position supporting Emperor John Cantacuzenus, was after a prolonged struggle declared official Orthodox teaching at the local Blachernae Synod in 1351.

REFERENCES

Uspenskii, F. Ocherki po istorii vizantiiskoi obrazovannosti. St. Petersburg, 1891. Pages 246–364.
Syrku, P. K istorii ispravleniia knig v Bolgarii v XIV v., vol. 1, part 1. St. Petersburg, 1899. Pages 78–102, 168–240.
Ostrogorskii, G. “Afonskie isikhasty i ikh protivniki.” Zapiski Russkogo nauchnogo in-ta v Belgrade, 1931 [issue 5].
Prokhorov, G. M. “Isikhasm i obshchestvennaia mysP v Vostochnoi Evrope v XIV v.” In Trudy otdela drevnerusskoi literatury, vol. 23. Leningrad, 1968. Pages 86–108.
Lossky, V. Théologie mystique de Téglise d’orient. Paris, 1960.
Ivanka, E. von. “Hesychasmus und Polamismus.” Jahrbuch der öster-reichischen Byzantinischen Gesellschaft, 1952, vol. 2, pp. 23–34.

S. S. AVERINTSEV

References in periodicals archive ?
The hesychast usually sits cross-legged and with a bowed head, and the prayer follows the rhythm of one's breathing.
The hesychasts of the Holy Mountain make every effort to attain exactly this type of life.
Barlaam found Hesychast teachings and practices deeply disturbing.
The most celebrated expression of the Hesychast movement in Russia are its icons, whose silent language became the visual rendering of the movement's spirit.
One of the central points in this discussion is the nature of the human experience of God in prayer as a part of the hesychast controversy, which arose in the 14th century between Gregory Palamas and Barlaam of Calabria.
The book here links the Maximian interpretation of the Dionysian "divine powers" with the hesychast "participation in the divine energies".
In the aftermath of the Hesychast debate, the alternative view (theophanies as created manifestations), professed by Palamas's adversaries, was ruled out as contrary to the spiritual tradition of the saints.
See Reinhard Flogaus, "Palamas and Barlaam Revisited: A Reassessment of East and West in the Hesychast Controversy of 14th Century Byzantium," Saint Vladimir's Theological Quarterly 42 (1998) 1-32; Alexander Golitzin, "Dionysius Areopagites in the Works of Saint Gregory Palamas: On the Question of A 'Christological Corrective' and Related Matters," Saint Vladimir's Theological Quarterly 46 (2002) 163-90; Romanides, "Notes on the Palamite Controversy.
In speaking of the Philokalic renaissance, however, I do not have in mind simply the book Philokalia, but the total Hesychast tradition that this work represents, which has undergone a striking revival during the last fifty years on both the theological and the practical level.
Gregory Palamas, the chief spokesman for the hesychast cause during the fourteenth-century controversy.
Divinization, the experiential heart of the hesychast tradition, is that graced process by which a person is brought into union with God.
s personal experience of conversion to the Orthodox Church and pilgrimage to the monastic republic of Mount Athos, and informed alike by the profound ascetic history and theology of the monastic and hesychast traditions, the book opens with a chapter describing the encounter of a young French philosopher with a contemporary Athonite monk.