Gregory Palamas

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.


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.


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.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
For Gregory Palamas, a 14th-century Orthodox monk, it was the
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In the new material, Muse suggests that human persons can cultivate mind-body unity by intentionally connecting the nous with the proprioceptive sensation of the body, drawing support from the writings of Saints John Climacus and Gregory Palamas and giving practical examples from both his work with clients and his own personal experiences of essential embodiment.
Also, reliquaries have a relation to symboliste fetishism, and Charles Barber takes them rightly to be unlike icons; but, resorting to Gregory Palamas, he discounts icons in favor of a flash of insight transmitted through the icon (like grace?).
Opposing views consolidated around two theologians of the time, Barlaam the Calabrian and Gregory Palamas. Barlaam's principal point was this: "Since direct experience of God is not possible in this life, it follows that the light which the Hesychasts claim to see with their bodily eyes cannot be the uncreated light of the Godhead; it must be a physical and created light (7)".
Gregory Palamas taught that "although the uncreated essence of God remains unknowable to humans both in this life and the next one, humans in this life can share in God through the uncreated energies bestowed by deifying grace." However, what is meant by "essence" and "energies" (one's nature or being and one's actions or operative power, respectively) is never explained.
(38) The most authoritative patristic exposition of the distinction between the essence and energies of God was provided in the fourteenth century by Gregory Palamas, who declared that God is one in supra-essentiality and multiple in energies.
Gregory Palamas wrote nine treatises defending the practice of the monks against the serious criticism of Barlaam of Calabria, who attacked the hesychasts' psychosomatic method of prayer.
Instead, the two central thinkers are the philosopher Plotinus and the monk Gregory Palamas.
In the fourteenth century, during the so-called Hesychast renaissance, the practice was brought to the center of Byzantine life by an Athos monk, Gregory Palamas (1296-1359).
The Greek Fathers of the subtitle could be either referring to: a) all Hierarchs roughly up to the Palaiologan era, with the pinnacle of theological thought being attributed by many to the Athonite Gregory Palamas (1296-1359, Archbishop of Thessalonica 1347-59), especially for his theology of the uncreated light corresponding to the Sixth Beatitude: "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God," Matt.
Norman Russell points to four factors defining such a shift in using the rather obscure term of theosis: "The rediscovery of the teaching of St Gregory Palamas, the impact of Russian religious philosophy, the rediscovery of the spirituality of the Philokalia (a collection of spiritual writings complied on Mount Athos by Makarios of Corinth and Nikodemos the Hagiorite and published in Venice in 1782), and the re-engagement of Orthodox scholars with the early Greek Fathers" (pp.