Symeon the New Theologian


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Symeon the New Theologian

 

Born 949 in Galatia (Paphlagonia); died 1022 in Chrysopolis. Byzantine religious writer and mystical philosopher.

In his youth, Symeon studied in Constantinople and was in the imperial service; he later became a monk. His works develop the themes of deep self-examination, self-purgation, and illumination of the individual who has withdrawn into himself to cultivate spirituality. For Symeon, the authority of the church’s hierarchical institutions receded into the background before the absolute authority of the “spirit-bearing” ascetic, the bearer of personal sanctity. Symeon’s teaching concerning the personal relationship between mentor (“spiritual father”) and disciple (“spiritual son”) as the highest norm of religious life is typologically comparable to the doctrines of Islamic mysticism concerning the link between the murshid and the murid; it is precisely in such a chain of “inheritance” that “tradition” is preserved.

Symeon’s poems are important in the history of Byzantine literature because of the boldness with which the author reformed meters and brought poetic language close to the norms of living speech. Symeon’s mystical philosophy anticipated 14th-century hesychasm.

WORKS

Greek text with French translation:
Catéchèses, vols. 1–3. Edited by B. Krivochéine. Translated by J. Paramelle. Paris, 1963–65.
Chapitres théologiques, gnostiques et pratiques. Edited by J. Darrouzes. Paris, 1958.
Traités théologiques et éthiques, vols. 1–2. Edited by J. Darrouzes. Paris, 1966–67.
Hymnes, vols. 1–3. Edited by J. Koder. Paris, 1969–73.
In Russian translation:
Slova, fascs. 1–2. Moscow, 1882.

REFERENCES

Kazhdan, A. P. “Predvaritel’nye zamechaniia o mirovozzrenii vizantiiskogo mistika X-XI vv. Simeona.” Byzantinoslavica, 1967, vol. 28, no. 1.
Krivochéine, V. “The Writings of St. Symeon the New Theologian.” Orientalia Christiania Periodica, 1954, vol. 20.

S. S. AVERINTSEV

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The most prominent monastic saint of this period, St Symeon the New Theologian, is a controversial figure (both in his own day and later), and his influence complex and still not clearly understood.
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