IV. Principal defenders of Palamism in the XIV-XVth centuries – Moderate Palamism (col. 1795)

Originally posted on 1/8/2011.

Thanks to Dr. Peter Gilbert of De unione ecclesiarum for supplying me with the French text of the DTC articles.

An ongoing translation of Fr. Martin Jugie’s work. The translation is not always literal; I changed some syntax and phrases to make them less awkward in English, and some words to English words that capture the nuance better than the literal translations.

Please correct me if I mess up the diacritical marks; I have an extremely hard time distinguishing them due to the printing quality.

This section is: IV Principal defenders of Palamism in the XIV-XVth centuries – Moderate Palamism (col. 1795)

The formulas aside, we must recognize that most of the Palamite theologians of the 14th and 15th centuries retain what constitutes the gist of the doctrine of their master. Like [Palamas], they conceive of God in an anthropomorphic manner, and place in Him the metaphysical composition of essence and person, substance and accident. All teach the propositions expressed in the anathemas and the acclamations of the Synodikon of the Sunday of Orthodoxy.

2. We already indicated in col. 1754 that the monk David Dishypatos is a faithful disciple of Palamas, and mentioned the short treatise on the origin of the controversy, which cod. Paris. graec. 1247, fol. 1-51 preserves for us, a Treatise on the Blasphemies of Barlaam and Acindynus, addressed to Nicholas Cabasilas. For him, the comparison of the sun and its rays captures the idea that we must have of the one divine essence and its multiple energies, and of their relationship.

3. Philotheos Kokkinos, another disciple of the first epoch, is, more than Palamas himself, the theologian of official Palamism. It is he who wrote the Hagioretic Tome, the anathemas against Barlaam and Acindynus, the Tome of 1341, with the collaboration of Nilus Cabasilas; cf. P.G., t. CLI, col. 677D; he who slipped the new doctrine into the profession of faith of bishops; he who canonized Palamas, wrote his life, and composed in his honor the office that is still chanted in the Graeco-Russian Church. Of his numerous writings on the anti-Palamite controversy only his five books against Nicephorus Gregoras are published. In P.G., t. CLI, col. 7731186, following the bad edition of Dositheus, Τόμος ἀγάπης. It must be noted that the two λόγοι and the Epilogue given in the appendix, col. 11391186, constitute in reality the first three books of his work against Gregoras, who also counts [?] fifteen books, as several manuscripts indicate. Cf. G. Mercati, Notitie di Procoro e Demetrio Cidone, di Manuele Caleca, di Teodoro Meliteniota, ed altri appunti per la storia della teologia e della letteratura bizantina del secolo XIV, 1930, p. 245. See the article: PHILOTHÉE KOKKINOS.

4. After Philotheus, it is John Cantacuzene who deserves first place among Palamite theologians. Undoubtedly, as we showed above, he sacrifices and rejects many of the formulas of his master; no doubt also, when he speaks with a Latin like Paul, Archbishop of Smyrna, later Patriarch of Constantinople, he mitigates as much as he can the substance of the doctrine, using artifice and reticence. But he nevertheless maintains the main theses of the Tome of 1351. It was after having abdicated and becoming a monk that he took up his pen to defend the doctrine he had caused to triumph by force while he was emperor. His main work on the matter is a lengthy refutation of The Palamite Transgressions of John Cyparissiotes, contained in the cod. Laurentianus VIII, 8. The prologue alone, which is a short historical survey of the controversy, was published in P.G., t. CLIV, col. 694700: Προοίμιον εἰς τοὺς παρὰ τοῦ μονάχου Χριστοδούλου συγγραφέντας λόγους κατὰ τῆς τοῦ Βαρλαὰμ καὶ Ακινδύνου αἱρέσεως. Cantacuzene the controversialist is, in fact, sometimes called the monk Joasaph, sometimes the monk Christodoulos, and sometimes he remains anonymous. His other polemical writings, all unpublished, are: 1. A Refutation of Prochoros Cydones, contained in Paris. 1241; 2. A Refutation of Isaac Argyros, in Paris. 1242, fol. 9-70, and in other manuscripts. The work was written after a discussion with the monk Argyros, who argued that grace and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are created. Cantacuzene teaches that they are uncreated and eternal, just like the Taboric Light. 3. An Apology for Palamite Doctrine addressed to Paul, Latin Patriarch of Constantinople, and comprising four dogmatic letters written in response to the patriarch’s questions. This correspondence with the Latin prelate is highly interesting, and we shall have to revisit it at another time. Cantacuzene attenuates as much as he can the real distinction posed by Gregory Palamas between God’s essence and His energy, to the point that in certain passages he seems to admit only what we call a virtual distinction. But in others, he maintains the Palamite thesis, saying, for example, that the essence and the energy differ between themselves as between cause and effect, and that the essence remains inaccessible, invisible, and imparticipable, while the energy is participable. What he categorically rejects is the formula cherished by Palamas, “θεότης ὑπερκειμένη, θεότης ὑφειμένη” [“superior divinity, inferior divinity”], and he remarks that this expression is not found in the Tome of 1351: “οὔτε ἐν τῷ τόμῳ εὕροι τις ἃν ὑφειμένην θεότητα, οὔτε παρ᾽ἡμῶν λέγεται.” See the correspondence in question in Barrocc. 193, fol. 307-354.
6. The two Cabasilas, Nilus and Nicholas, the uncle and the nephew, were also converted to Palamism. It is with Nilus, and not with Nicholas, as Boivin wrote in his edition of the Byzantine History of Gregoras, that the latter had a long dialogue on the Palamite theses, reported in books XXIIXXIV, P.G., t. CXLVIII, col. 13281450. Nilus finds nothing wrong with the doctrine of Palamas. He teaches in particular that grace and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are uncreated. We note the following from his booklet, contained in Vallicel. 87, fol. 428-433 vº: “όγος ούντομος πρὸς τὴν κακῶς ἐλαμβανομένην φωνὴν παρὰ τῶν αἱρετικῶν Ἀκινδυνιανῶν τοῦ θείου Γρηγορίου τοῦ Νύσσης λέγοντος. ἄκτιστον δὲ πλὴν τῆς θείας φύσεως οὐδέν, καὶ ὅτι οὐχ ἡ τοῦ Θεοῦ φύσις ἄκτιστος μόνη, αλλὰ οὐν αὐτῆ καὶ τὰ φυσικἀ αὐτοῦ ιδιάματα.” The title alone tells us that Nilus is an authentic disciple of Palamas.

From his nephew Nicholas, who was fortunately represented by the other works, we know the treatise entitled Κατὰ τῆν τοῦ Γρηγορᾶ ληρημάτων, contained in the excellent Paris. 1213, fol. 282-284 vº.

8. In the 15th century, the controversy has not completely extinguished. Barlaamites and Akindynists are still found in Byzantium, and we see many theologians occupied with refuting them. Simeon of Thessalonica, in his Dialogue against Heresies, speaks of the anti-Palamites in very severe terms. It is true that he attributes to them mistakes they have never taught, for example this one: “μηδεμίαν δύναμιν προσεῖναι λέγοντεσ τῷ Οεῷ.” Dialogus contra haereses, c. XXX-XXXI, P.G., t. CLV, col. 144158.

9. We find a true disciple of Palamas in Joseph Bryennios. We have one of his sermons preached at court, where he seeks to prove by the holy apostles John, Peter and Paul, that the energy of God, grace, and the Light of Tabor are uncreated, and that the elect in Heaven see not the divine essence, but its light. He also explicitly teaches that the divine hypostases really differ from the divine essence and that they are something else: “Similarly,” he said, “in affirming only one essence in God, which is something other than the three hypostases, we do not introduce composition in God and we do not make a quaternity; similarly, by placing an energy in God, ἐνέργεια, which is something other than the essence and the three hypostases, we do not compound Him: οὐσίαν λέγοντες ἐν τῷ Οεῷ μἰαν, ἅλλο τι οὖσαν παρὰ τὰς κατ᾽αὐτὸν ἁγίας τρεῖς ύποστασεις, οὕτε σύνυεσιν, οὕτε τετράδα ποιοῦμεν.” Treatise on the Energy of God in Ἰωσὴφ μοναχοῦ τοῦ Βρυεννίου τὰ εὑρηθέντα, ed. Eugene Bulgaris, t. II, Leipzig, 1768, p. 112-140, see especially p. 118-123. Elsewhere, he reproaches St. Thomas Aquinas as a blasphemer for teaching that in God the essence is identified with the power and energy and with each person considered separately, and that it can be seen by the saints: First Lecture on the Procession of the Holy Spirit, Oeuvres, t. II, p. 414. See also his Sermon on the Transfiguration, t. III, p. 25-36.

10. Another strict Palamite was Mark of Ephesus, who dedicates his longest work to refuting the writing of Manuel Calecas: On Essence and Energies. Cf. the article MARC EUGÉNICOS, t. IX, col. 1981-1983, where this work is described and his doctrine is explained. It is still unpublished, except for what concerns the third part: Κεφάλαια συλλογιστικὰ κατὰ τῆς αὐτῦς αἱρέσεωσ τῶν Ἀκινδυνιστῶν καὶ πρὸς Λατίνους περὶ οὐσιας καὶ ἐνεργείας [Syllogistic Chapters against the Heresies of the Akindynists and to the Latins on Essence and Energies], published by Seraphim of Pisidia, in the edition of Eustratios Argentis: Βιβλίον καλούμενον ᾽Ραντισμοῦ στηλίτευσις, Leipzig, 1748, p. 221-227, then by W. Gass, Die Mystik des Nikolaus Cabasilas, Greifswald, 1849, p. 217-233. Let us remark that not all these editions give the Chapters, in particular the one we cited in the article PALAMAS, col. 1760.
11. Versed as he was in the knowledge of Latin Scholasticism and especially Thomistic theology, George Scholarios must have been pretty embarrassed by the doctrine of his Church on the real distinction between God’s essence and His energy and certainly [by] the uncreated Tabor Light. This embarrassment is visible in his two dissertations he left us on the subject, one polemical: Πρὸς χῦρ Ἰωάννην τὸν Βασιλικὸν ἐρωτήσαντα περὶ τῆς τοῦ μακαρίον Θεοδώρου τοῦ Γραπτοῦ ῥήσεως, ἀφ᾽ἧς οἰ ματαιόφρονες Ἀκινδυνισταὶ θορυβοῦσιν, ἔτι δὲ καὶ περὶ ὧν οἱ αὐτοὶ περὶ τοῦ Πνεύματος τοῦ ἁγίον σοφίξονται; and the other, irenic, entitled: Περὶ τοῦ πῶς διακρίνονται αί θεῖαι ἐνέργειαι πρός τε ἀλλήλας καὶ τὴν θείαν οὐσἰαν, ἧς εἰσιν ἐνέργειαι, καὶ ἐν ἧ εἰσιν. Cf. Œuvres complètes de Georges Scholarios, t. III, Paris, 1930, p. 204-239. In the first, written in 1445, in which our theologian addresses the major Patristic texts the anti-Palamites used against the theology of Palamas (a passage which belongs not to Theodore Graptos, as the Byzantines of the 14th and 15th century believed, but to St. Nicephorus, Patriarch of Constantinople, cf. Antirrheticus I adversus Constantinum Copronymum, 41, P.G., t. C, col. 304C305A), the Palamite thesis on the uncreated Taboric Light and the real distinction between God’s essence and His energy is strongly mitigated, though not completely abandoned. The principal passage is the following: “As the nature is, so is the energy of God, that is to say, since nature is infinite, uncreated and eternal, the energy is too, because in God the energy is on equal footing with the nature, unlike what one sees in all other beings, in which is found an essence, then an energy which, although substantial, is in the order of accidents. Here is how to explain it: God’s essence is formally infinite, but His energy is not formally infinite, because many infinities are impossible. However, because it has existence only with the essence, which is infinite, the energy is also infinite: such that the essence and the energy, considered as such, differ between themselves as [between] the infinite and the not infinite. Infinity, in fact, does not belong to the goodness of God’s idea of energies, but, on the contrary, is attributed to Him on account of the essence; on the contrary, infinity itself and because of itself fits [matches, i.e., corresponds to] the essence of God. Although the fact that one and the other have the same mode of existence, which is required by divine simplicity, the two constitute only one infinity and only one God, the formal distinction here cannot introduce either a division or composition of realities, whereas the divine nature is based on a unique and very simple subject: τῷ δὲ τὸν αύτὸν τῆς ὑπάρχξεως πρὸπον ἔχειν. τῆς θείας τοῦτ᾽ ἀναργχαζούσης ἀπλότητος, ἔν τε ἅπειρόν εἰσιν ἅμφω καὶ εἷς Θεος, τῆς εἰδικῆς διακρίσεως οὔτε διαίρεσιν ἐκεῖ πραγμἀτων οὔτε σύνθεσιν δυναμένης ἐργάζεσθαι, ἄτ᾽ ἐφ᾽ ἑνὸς ὑποχειμένου καὶ ἀπλουστάτου τῆς 0είας φύσεως ἱδρυμένης.” Op. cit., p. 225-226. Admittedly this language isn’t of the same clarity, and Scholarios is no longer here to explain it. If we understand him correctly, the Byzantine theologian is very close to “the formal distinction on the part of the thing” of Duns Scotus. The very word “formal distinction” is found there and must come from Scotus himself, of whom Scholarios was not ignorant. This interpretation is all the more plausible than that of pure nominalism which our theologian lent to the Acindynists, whom he combats here. According to him, they posed a mere distinction of reason between God’s essence and His energy and various attributes, the distinctio rationis ratiocinantis [distinction of reasoned reason] of our Scholastics: “ἠγνόσυν δὲ ἄρα, ὡς ἕσικε, τίς τέ ἐστιν ὡς ἀληθῶς ἡ τῆς ἐπινοίας διάκρισις, ὅτι ὅρων ἐστὶν ἐν τῇ ϕυχῇ καὶ ὑπ᾽ αὐτῆς πεποιημένων ἣ πεπλασμένων.” Ibid., p. 212, §5. For his part, he says, before any act of our intellect, the various attributes of God are formally distinguished, “εἰδικῶς,” from the divine essence and between each other. This formal distinction he also calls real, “πραγματική”; but it is a real distinction weaker than that which distinguishes the divine persons among themselves: “τῆς δὲ πραγματικῆς ἐκείνης αὗθις ἀδρανεστέραν, ἧ τὰ θεῖα διακρίνονται πρόσωπα.” Ibid., p. 215, §6. Among the Palamites, Scholarios is the only one to express it this way. In vain, in his tract of which we are speaking, does he connect himself with Palamas and eulogize him. It is too obvious that we are far from the anthropomorphic verbiage of the Hesychast theologian and the real distinctions taught by his true disciples. His real distinction is almost equivalent to the distinctio virtualis cum fundamento in re commonly taught by Catholic theologians, and this, in our opinion, is not substantially different from the formal distinction a parte rei of Scotus.

There remains the question of the uncreated Taboric Light. Scholarios maintains [that it is uncreated] in his first tract, but he explains it in terms of the general theory on the relationship between the essence and the attributes, and he actually identifies it with the divinity itself. The vision on Tabor was a manifestation of the divinity: “τὰ δ᾽ ἐν τῷ ὄρει γινόμενα τότε αὐτὸ τοῦτο θεότητοσ ἐπίδειξις ἧν.” By a very rare miracle, the Apostles on Tabor enjoyed the beatific vision [i.e., of the divine essence] and possessed for a moment the Kingdom of God: “ταύτην τὴν βασιλείαν ἐνίοις αὐτῶν καὶ πρὸ τοῦ θανάτου διἀ τὴν τῆς ο᾽κονομίας ἀνάγκην ἐπηγγείλατό τε δείξειν καὶ ἔδειξεν.” Ibid., §8, p. 221.

The polemical tract of which we have spoken was written in 1445, while the author was in the full heat of the controversy against the Latins. The other essay on the divine essence and its energies was written after the capture of Constantinople. Scholarios had probably read more carefully in the meantime, the two “Summae” of St. Thomas Aquinas, of which he left us a summary in Greek, in his handwriting. What is certain is that the doctrine expressed in this second pamphlet, from which any polemic is absent, is even closer to the Catholic solution. First, there is no mention of the Taboric Light. In addition, the author, before giving his solution, examines the various kinds of mental and real distinctions. He can then decide on the issue with greater precision. “The divine perfections or energies,” he said, “are distinguished between themselves and from the essence they are in, but this distinction is neither completely real as those found in other beings, nor merely mental. A completely real distinction destroys the divine simplicity; a purely mental distinction between them renders our theology futile and unnecessary. This distinction, in terms of reality, is less than the distinction between the divine persons among themselves. It is called real, as opposed to the distinction of pure reason. The concept of each of perfection is really distinct from the concept of others. In this sense they are really and formally distinguished, and these distinctions are not simply the product of our mind: διακρίνονται δὲ οὕτε πάρτα πραγματικῶς κατὰ τὴν τῶν ἄλλων τῶν ἐν τοῖς οὖσιν οὕτω διακρινομένων διάκριστιν, οὕτε κατ᾽ἐπίωοιαν μόνην… Ἐκάστη τῶν θείων ἐνεργειῶν πρᾶγμά ἐστιν ἐν τῷ Θεῷ κατὰ λεπτοτέραν τοῦ πράγματος ἔννοιαν, ὅτι δῆλον ὄτι τι τοῦ πρὰγματός ἐστι κἀν τῷ πράγματι πρὸς ἀντιδιαστολὴν τῶν δευτέρων νοητῶν.” Op. cit., p. 235-239.

True Palamism, we see, dissolves under the analysis of George Scholarios, the Aristotelian student of St. Thomas. We have another indication of his final thought. In his summary of the two Summae of the Angel of the Schools, he decidedly notes in the preface that St. Thomas deviates from Byzantine Orthodoxy on the two points of the procession of the Holy Spirit and the distinction between the essence of God and His energies. However, when he gets past the articles that treat of the procession of the Holy Spirit ab utroque, he accurately summarizes without objection the many articles in which the Latin theologian affirms the real identity, in God, of the essence and the attributes and energies, and also the real identity of each person with the essence. Can we not acknowledge that he implicitly endorsed the Thomistic doctrine and that he is, deep inside, very embarrassed by the official Palamism of his Church, which is repugnant to his reason?

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