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Adam's imagination and memory


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#1 Guest_Loretta

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Posted 14 February 2003 - 03:22 AM

I'm reading Unseen Warfare - The Spiritual Combat & Path to Paradise of Lorenzo Scupoli, edited by Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain and revised by Theophan the Recluse.

In Chapter 26 (How to correct imagination and memory) it reads:
Know that according to St. Maximus, a great theologian, the first man, Adam, was also created by God without imagination. His mind, pure and free of images, functioned as mind and so itself acquired no form or image under the influence of the senses or from the images of sensory things. Making no use of this power power of imagination, he did not visualise the outline, shape, demensions, or colour of things, but with the higher power of the sould, that is thought, he contemplated purely, immaterially and spiritually only the pure ideas of things or their inner significance. But the devil, slayer of mankind, having himself fallen through his dreams of equality to God, instilled in Adam's mind that he too was equal to God and these fantasies led to Adam's fall. For this he was cast down from this immaterial, pure, intelligent and imageless life, akin to the angles, into this sensory complex, multiform life, immersed in images and fantasies - the state of animals devoid of reason.

Would someone please comment on this for me?




#2 Owen Jones

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Posted 14 February 2003 - 01:38 PM

1. This shows the powerful influence of Plato on Greek Patristic thought.
2. It shows that sin is more than just disobedience in the legal sense, it involves a corruption of sense perception.
3. Hence, salvation must begin with a restoration of our true faculties of sense perception (the inner meaning of Pentacost)
4. The modern theory of instincts (Darwin, Freud) is inimical to the Patristic theory of sin. And it is only a theory. There is no evidence that man is governed by instincts like the lower animals.
5. He is using highly technical terms that we must be careful not to critique until we know what they mean.
6. While God made us simple, reality is complex. A simplistic view of salvation maybe fine for many of the faithful, but the Church cannot afford to over-simplify reality.
7. We really cannot understand patristic theology unless and until we acquire the mind of the Fathers. That comes through asceticism.


#3 Richard Leigh

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Posted 19 February 2003 - 11:10 PM

My sources for the following are the Glossary in the Palmer, Serrard, Ware, translation of the Philokalia, with some background from works in the Philokalia itself, plus Hierotheos Vlachos' *The Illness and Cure of the Soul in the Orthodox Tradition* and a study of the salient portion of Bk !V or Plato's Republic in the Bollingen Series (its translator is Michael Joyce).

The Fathers began from Plato's definition of the soul found in The Republic Book IV, where Socrates argues from the general population to the individual person that the human soul is comprised of three serarate functions, aspects, or capacities: The Reasoning or Logical, the "High Spirited" or what we might call Emotional, and the Desiring, or "Acquisitional".

The Fathers added the 3rd or 4th century concept of the "nous," as will be explained shortly. This word appears in biblical Greek 24 times in the NT, where it is translated "mind" or "understanding" in the KJV. The translation by the Holy Apostles Convent in Buena Vista Colorado translate it the same way with only three exceptions: They use "mind" where KJV uses "understanding" at Lk. 24:45 and Rev.13:18 and "reason" where KJV has "mind" at 2Thes.2:2. I took this little detour only to show that the patristic use of the term had specialized it beyond its first century biblical use, as acknowledged by competent Orthodox scholarship today.

So the patristic understanding of human psychology was that the soul has four functions of which, listed from bottom to top, we find Plato's three: (1) the Capacity for Desire, (2) the Capacity for Emotion, particularly wrath, or at least anger, (3) the Capacity for Reason. As far as Plato was concerned, Reason was to rule them all, but the Fathers saw differently. In their corporate and private prayerful struggles against sin and the flesh in the desert they discovered a faculty they used the word "nous" to designate, i.e., (4) the Capacity for Direct Perception of God. Hence the nous is sometimes called "the eye of the soul." Not because they found they had this capacity unviolated, but because they found they didn't.

They noticed in their struggles that temptations would come to mind in the form of mental images. These images were coming to mind because the Fathers were becoming more and more conscious of what we might call the "inner world" as they directed their attention away from perceptions of the senses. "Imagination" is the capacity to form images on the mind. It is also called "Fantasy." Fantasies were noted to come from one of the two aspects of the soul that were not Reason, i.e., the Desiring and the Emoting capacities. Which one any particular fantasy was produced by could be discerned by the nature of the fantasy itself. A point I'm not yet clear on is whether "thoughts" (logismoi") are productions of the Reasoning capacity analogous to "images" from the other two capacities or whether they are simply received by the Reasoning capacity from somewhere else.

It was understood that God and unembodied Sprit creatures could also produce images in the human mind, but God and His Angels would opperate through the nous only. Tthe demons could opperate through the fleshly capacities already named.

The Nous of fallen humanity is not available to God, because it is clouded over, in darkness. Before this had occurred the Nous was clear. St. Maximos the Confessor is only saying that Adam's perception of his universe was "Spiritual Knowledge" (Gnosis in a good sense), i.e., knowledge inspired directly by God through the Nous. After the fall, Adam lost the capacity for direct communication with God and so for the knowledge of God's universe through that relationship with him.

I don't agree that "The modern theory of instincts (Darwin, Freud) is inimical to the Patristic theory of sin. And it is only a theory. There is no evidence that man is governed by instincts like the lower animals."

Rather, St. Evagrios the Solitary says in "Texts on Discrimination in Respect of Passions and Thoughts" 19: " Of the unclean demons, some tempt man in so far as he is man, while others disturb him in so far as he is a non-rational amimal.The firsrt, when they approach us, suggest to us notions of self-esteem, pride, envy or censoriousness, notions by which nonrational aimals are not affected; whereas the second, when they approach, arouse incensive power and desire in a manner contrary to nature. Hence the Holy Spirit says of the thoughts that come to men in so far as they are men: 'I have said, you are gods, and all of you are children of the most High. But you shall die as men, and fall as one of the princes' (Ps. 82:6-7). But what does He say of the thoughts which stir in men non-rationally? 'Do not be as the horse and muld, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be controlled with the bridle in case they attack you' (Ps. 32:9)." "The Philokalia" Vol ! (Palmer, Serrard, Ware, trans) p. 49

I believe that the Fathers would say that fallen man is governed by passions, like the animals, i.e., outside influences to which they are passive, unless, as Plato and the Stoics would say, they gain control over their passions by Reason. Since this is never entirely satisfactory, because, according to the Fathers, the reason has become the person's new inner god due to the darkening of the Nous, one only really gets free of passions when the Nous is enlightened, the true meaning of Pentecost.

Richard



#4 Owen Jones

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Posted 19 February 2003 - 11:39 PM

Both Plato and Aristotle placed the noetic intellect at the top of the hierarchy of being. It goes like this:

Divine Nous
Noetic intellect (human)
Ratio (what we would call reason today, or logic)
Animalic
Vegetative
Inorganic
Apeirontic depths

(may have left one out) Most commentaries on Plato and Aristotle underestimate what they meant by Reason. Yes, it is the governor of the passions, but it is an experience of transformed senses that is the result of divine noetic participation. The Fathers and Plato are talking about much the same thing when they refer to intellectus. Of course, it is incumbent upon the Fathers to show how they DIFFER from Plato.

As for the modern view of instincts, it is viewed as the cause of conflict, not a symptom of it. It is supposed to explain everything else, all being derived from the survival instinct, whereas our animalic nature, according to the Fathers, is quite different. It is one thing to say that we as human beings participate at all levels in the hierarchy of being, including the animalic nature. It is another thing entirely to equate this with the modern view of instincts. The fact that animals behave they way they do is, after all, the result of MAN's disobedience. Not the survival instinct. And even an atheist as Robert Ardrey has shown, the surivival instinct is not the predominate instinct in the animal kingdom. If anything, it is just the opposite. It is the sacrificial instinct.


#5 Richard Leigh

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Posted 20 February 2003 - 06:16 PM

THanks for the update. I'd like a referrence to Plato on nous.

As far as modern psyhology goes, instincts are out, I mean, no one knows what they are, so they aren't even in consideration. Behaviorists (also on the way out) are only concerned with what to do to get in controll.


#6 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 21 February 2003 - 01:25 AM

Dear Loretta and others,

A very interesting thread here. With regard to the initial question on an 'imagination' in Adam, as brought up in the quotation from Unseen Warfare, Owen's caution against too quickly reading through unfamiliar (in usage) terminology is helpful. Just what is meant by 'imagination' in this text is probably difficult immediately to glean from within the context of a society and culture for which the term means something rather different than it did in the era and context in which the text was composed.

It is helpful, in this context, to keep in mind the essential difference between knowledge/understanding via direct perception, and knowledge/understanding via deliberative or discursive reasoning. In the text of unseen warfare, there is represented the common patristic theme that the former method of knowing, that of direct experience, is the height of the life of the nous or divine intellect; and that knowledge via discursive reason (i.e. logical thought processes, deliberations, extrapolations, etc.) is, while not of itself bad, a lesser form of knowledge. This distinction is at the heart of the Orthodox apophatic tradition, and at the very core of the understanding of contemplative prayer and genuine theologia.

Within such a context, specific terminology is tailored to the discussion at hand. Richard indicated this in a comment from an above post:

"Imagination" is the capacity to form images on the mind. It is also called "Fantasy."


Used in a context similar to that encountered in the quoted passage, 'imagination' is equated, to some degree, with the type of knowledge driven less by direct experience ('vision') and more by the intellectual calling forth of images ('imaging' or 'imagining'), piecing them together in such a way as to bring about a certain conception of understanding. It is the author's contention that in his state of initial creation, Adam was formed by God as functioning wholly within the realm of divine experiential knowledge. He did not have to 'imagine' reality, for he was able to behold, to see, to know first hand.

This should not be taken to mean that Adam did not 'think' -- that he was merely a mindless drone with no active intellect of his own. It is the author's intention to show specifically that he had a perfect intellect, inasmuch as the human is made perfect in God, and was able to exercise his nous in the same manner of direct creativity as God in whose image Adam was made. Adam can be said to have been ultimately 'thinking', supremely engaged in genuine knowing, specifically because his knowledge was direct, and not merely the logical deliberation upon mental images ('imagination').

(As a note, the text of Unseen Warfare then goes on to discuss this kind of 'imaging' as being corruptible and corrupted - and in this demarcated context he can call imagination a negative thing, to be avoided by the faithful in their spiritual battles. But we must read such comments from within this context.)

As an aside, the Fathers are insistent, over all, that Adam's ability to know in this manner (i.e. formless, direct knowing) is not a sign of his having been created fundamentally differently from those who came and do come after him; i.e., it is only economically a 'state' which has been lost. Since the entrance of sin into the world and the human condition, 'imagination' (as the author of Unseen Warfare uses the term) has been predominant in human knowing, but it is the whole witness of the Church that the direct knowledge had in Paradise is possible still today.

INXC,
Matthew

#7 Guest_Loretta

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Posted 23 February 2003 - 05:45 PM

Thank you Matthew,

Your posting explains the passage clearly.

#8 Deiniol Clarke

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Posted 25 February 2003 - 05:59 PM

Hey Loretta,

I think, that from a more simplistic point of view, than maybe the others, this passage simply reflects the questions that are to be asked in today's technological economy before any other. Note how now, in the West we tend to think more about Technology rather than ourselves! This means therefore, that now we no longer have the time, to think about things as God does. Yes, you may think that we can never match the mind of God, but keep into rememberance Jesus says in Matthew:

"and you will be perfect." [or in heb: you can be perfect.] This mind set, is simultanaeously that of Adam's before the fall. A classic example: the mystery of the Trinity - in a higher state of mind, we would know why the Trinity was a mystery - the reason it is a mystery, is the very essense that it "**IS**" a mystery! Are mysteries, mysteries to be solved?
A very interesting thread all the same!

Yours in Christ,
Deiniol

#9 Thomas Moore

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Posted 18 May 2007 - 12:32 PM

There is a very good article in the new SVS Quarterly which sheds some light on this discussion. The article is "Humility as the harbinger of imageless prayer in the Lausaic history" by Demetrios Katos. In it he argues against both "a simplistic, anthropomorphized understanding of divine nature" and "polemical rhetoric motivated by anthropomorphic pessimism". He shows how recent re-readings of the Evagrius - Palladius heritage show that "imageles prayer should not be identified with a suspicion of creation or a diminution of one's personhood. Rather imageless prayer is a signpost of humility and apatheia, a marker that one is truly receptive to divine life."

#10 Kusanagi

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Posted 13 August 2007 - 11:10 AM

I'm reading Unseen Warfare - The Spiritual Combat & Path to Paradise of Lorenzo Scupoli, edited by Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain and revised by Theophan the Recluse.

In Chapter 26 (How to correct imagination and memory) it reads:
Know that according to St. Maximus, a great theologian, the first man, Adam, was also created by God without imagination. His mind, pure and free of images, functioned as mind and so itself acquired no form or image under the influence of the senses or from the images of sensory things. Making no use of this power power of imagination, he did not visualise the outline, shape, demensions, or colour of things, but with the higher power of the sould, that is thought, he contemplated purely, immaterially and spiritually only the pure ideas of things or their inner significance. But the devil, slayer of mankind, having himself fallen through his dreams of equality to God, instilled in Adam's mind that he too was equal to God and these fantasies led to Adam's fall. For this he was cast down from this immaterial, pure, intelligent and imageless life, akin to the angles, into this sensory complex, multiform life, immersed in images and fantasies - the state of animals devoid of reason.

Would someone please comment on this for me?


It means before the suggestion of the devil Adam did not have aspirations like we do now. for eg. one day i would like to be a lawyer etc. He was like a child. There was no sitting down and thinking "what if?". After the suggestion Adam had in his mind and thought about being equal to God and he must of visualised in his mind or imagined what it would be like. He started comtemplating and might of thought what God says was wrong etc and doubt came in.

#11 Aaron Taylor

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Posted 24 June 2008 - 06:18 AM

I've discovered some similar material about Adam's imagination in St Nikodemos's Handbook of Spiritual Counsel, wherein he actually quotes from St Maximos about this. It's in Chapter Nine on 'Guarding the Imagination' under the heading 'The Devil is Greatly Related to the Imagination and for This Reason Uses It as an Organ of Deception' (p. 150 in the English trans.). Unfortunately, both the Greek text (mine is published by Panagopoulos in Athens in 1989) and the Paulist Press 'Classics of Western Spirituality' English translation by Peter Chamberas have a very barebones citation for this quote (2nd Century of Theology, Ch. 75), and when I looked for the passage in the Philokalia (I tried the '2nd Century on Theology and the Incarnate Dispensation of the Son of God' as well as the '2nd Century of Various Texts on Theology, the Divine Economy, and Virtue and Vice') I didn't find it. To make matters even more confusing, while the sentence beginning 'For the mind of Adam at first was not impressed by the imagination,...' is included as part of the quote from St Maximos in the English translation (it is part of a block of text indented to set it apart from St Nikodemos's words), in the Greek text that sentence alone seems to fall between two quotes of St Maximos. That is, you get: 'In the beginning...the mystery of theology.' For the mind of Adam...etc. 'The passionate physical perceptions...word of truth.' As though that sentence alone out of the whole quote is St Nikodemos's and not St Maximos's. Is there anyone who can shed any light on this dead-end citation and discrepancy in the boundaries of the quote?

#12 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 24 June 2008 - 12:25 PM

I have often wondered about Adam's not having an imagination in relation to his giving names to all the animals as said in Genesis 2:19-20. This must have meant that Adam had some sort of imagination or creative faculty, musn't it? And by the way, Adam having until then been alone (which God thought was not good for him), what sort of language can Adam have used for these names? Did Adam invent a language? Did Adam gives class names to the animals (as in 'Frisian' cattle) or personal names (such as 'Daisy')?

#13 Aaron Taylor

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 02:56 AM

I have often wondered about Adam's not having an imagination in relation to his giving names to all the animals as said in Genesis 2:19-20. This must have meant that Adam had some sort of imagination or creative faculty, musn't it?


I've been studying this imagination issue a bit, and I'm convinced that when the Fathers say Adam didn't have an 'imagination', they definitely do not mean that he had no creative power or faculty whatsoever. The Fathers are saying that Adam did not mentally visualise absent or non-existent things, he didn't mentally abstract himself from the immediate here and now, because he didn't need to. His ability to perceive and to participate creatively in God's own act of creation had not been dimmed by the Fall and was therefore greater than ours, not lesser. The meaning of this word 'imagination' has become confused since the Romantic movement, when the idea of a great magnitude of creative power was attached to the notion of being able to form mental images. It may be that there is some mystery to how our Forefather could perceive and accomplish creative acts before his fall, but I trust that the Fathers know what they're talking about when they say he did it without forming mental images of absent or non-existent things.

I am of course open to correction on any of these points, but that's what I've come up with so far!

#14 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 05:14 AM

The meanings given in my dictionary to the words 'imagine' and imagination' make it clear that Adam would not have had an imagination. Imagination is mixed up in meaning with fantasy.

His ability to perceive and to participate creatively in God's own act of creation had not been dimmed by the Fall and was therefore greater than ours, not lesser.


This feels right; perhaps we can say Adam was inspired in the proper meaning of that word. St Silouan says repeatedly that a person knows God in the Holy Spirit.

#15 Ryan

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Posted 04 July 2008 - 03:03 PM

I am probably not quite understanding what "imagination" means in this context, but I'll put this question out: Is Orthodox hymnody, as well as divine poetry in general (Psalms, Job, etc.) an expression of divine revelation/ beauty, as opposed to imagination?

#16 Ryan

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Posted 19 August 2008 - 06:11 PM

I'm going to add to my previous question, and ask, does the imagination have any role in icon-writing? Aren't iconographers creating images in their mind, before they paint them, of people and things absent or non-existent?

#17 Matthew Panchisin

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Posted 19 August 2008 - 06:49 PM

Dear Ryan,

I would say no, the existent of the holy Angels help them. I recall one iconographer a wonderful Greek Orthodox Christian mentioning to me in complete honesty how an Angel helped him.

Perhaps without the acknowledgement of the presence or existence of people or things within icons imagination does come into play then.

In Christ,

Matthew Panchisin

#18 Ryan

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Posted 20 August 2008 - 02:09 AM

So, I suppose in that case iconography is more a result of revelation.

But I am also wondering what all of this implies for artists who are Orthodox, who aren't always working in purely sacred media. Kontoglou had his secular paintings, Dostoevsky and Solzhenitsyn have their novels, Njegos his epic poems such as the Miltonic "Ray of Microcosm." Could these works be produced without the imagination?

#19 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 20 August 2008 - 02:17 PM

So, I suppose in that case iconography is more a result of revelation.

But I am also wondering what all of this implies for artists who are Orthodox, who aren't always working in purely sacred media. Kontoglou had his secular paintings, Dostoevsky and Solzhenitsyn have their novels, Njegos his epic poems such as the Miltonic "Ray of Microcosm." Could these works be produced without the imagination?


It is often assumed that art/literature, etc absolutely requires the use of the imagination.

However this is not at all so since art can be produced simply from our innate sense of beauty.

In much art that is more modern a kind of critical extrapolation is also employed (eg literature, movies, etc). This draws on our innate creativity in the sense of our ability to create to some degree a whole reality. Tolkien speaks of this as an innate ability and I believe it to be true.

Why such art has become a particular marker of the modern world I am not sure. A compensation for that creativity involved in the creation of a new world we are given by Christ but have mostly neglected in our time; or else a spin off of the connected increased focus on one's own inner world; or maybe both of these together.

In any case such art does not absolutely requre the use of imagination and in fact would be distorted by it. Once this door of imagination is opened, we then enter more and more into a world of passion driven fantasy.

This would be a portrayal not of art but of some individual's personal disintegration and finally madness.

In Christ- Fr Raphael




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