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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(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.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
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If the Hesychast really did see 'the uncreated light of the Godhead', it was believed that this was because this vision had been granted by divine grace.
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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.
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In the West, theosis became widely known through its hesychast teaching by Gregory Palamas and interpreted by the above-mentioned modern Orthodox theologians.
A Hesychast is one who practices Hesychasm in order to achieve "interior stillness and freedom from passions." To avoid extraneous thoughts and distractions is the primary aim of Hesychastic prayer.