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St Silouan and the 'imyaslavie' controversy


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#1 Andrew Don

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Posted 05 May 2009 - 09:40 PM

I am new to Saint Silouan and I am just becoming acquainted. Given that he was on Mt. Athos at the turn of last century and the prominence of the Caucasus region in parts of Elder Sophrony's biography, I was curious if anyone knew what role or experience Saint Silouan had in the imyaslavie controversy?

Thanks

Andrew Don

#2 Ryan

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Posted 11 October 2013 - 07:59 PM

I have no idea what St. Silouan thought of the matter, but his disciple, Elder Sophrony, seems to have a favorable view of imiaslavie in his book His Life is Mine. He describes the controversy as one between "prophets and poets" on one side, and "scientists and technocrats" on the other. He does not outright say who is on which side, but some reading between the lines makes it clear where his sympathies are. In the same book, he later expounds on the Name in a way which indicates his sympathy for imiaslavie- for instance, he says:

 

The Name Jesus as knowledge, as 'energy' of God in relation to the world
and as His proper Name, is ontologically bound up with Him. It is
spiritual reality. Its sound can merge with its reality but not
necessarily so. As a name it was given to many mortal men but when we
pray we utter it with another content, another 'frame' of spirit. For us
it is the bridge between us and Him. It is the canal along which the
streams of divine strength flow to us. As proceeding from the Holy God
it is holy and it hallows us by its invocation. With this Name and
through it prayer acquires a certain tangibleness: it unites us with
God. In it, this Name, God is present like a scent- flask full of
fragrance. Through it, the Celestial One can be sensed imminently. As
divine energy it proceeds from the Substance of Divinity and is divine
itself
.


Edited by Ryan, 11 October 2013 - 08:04 PM.


#3 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 11 October 2013 - 10:08 PM

The passage quoted is not from 'His Life is Mine' but from 'On Prayer'.


Edited by Andreas Moran, 11 October 2013 - 10:12 PM.


#4 Ryan

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Posted 11 October 2013 - 10:59 PM

It appears to be in both books. (I have not read On Prayer).



#5 Olga

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Posted 11 October 2013 - 11:01 PM

My understanding of imiaslavie is that the name of God is, indeed, God Himself, and not an attribute of His. If my understanding is correct, then the passage above from St Silouan is not problematic.



#6 Ryan

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Posted 11 October 2013 - 11:18 PM

Elder Sophrony says the Name of God is an energy of God. What does St. Gregory Palamas say about the energies of God?



#7 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 12 October 2013 - 12:03 AM

It appears to be in both books. (I have not read On Prayer).

 

There is something similar in both books but the texts differ.



#8 Jean-Serge

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Posted 12 October 2013 - 06:06 AM

Saying that God's name is His energy is one of the smokescreen used by name-worshippers to mask their heresy. In order to mask themselves, they will call themselves name glorifiers



#9 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 12 October 2013 - 09:31 AM

I am not a theologian but it should be made clear that Archimandrite Sophrony was not being ‘sympathetic’ to those who thought that the Name of Jesus is God.  The Athonite Russian monks felt the grace of God when they prayed the Jesus Prayer but being simple men they did not understand it and they made a mistake in how to call their experience.  Accordingly, Fr Sophrony did not condemn them.  That does not mean that he was sympathetic to them but he sought to explain more precisely how they should have described their experience.  There is a fine but important distinction between saying that the Name of Jesus is God, which we cannot say, and saying that praying in His Name brings us into communion with God which is what Fr Sophrony does say.  An important passage is this:


“He Who is above all Names in His Substance reveals Himself to the reasonable beings created in His image under many Names: Eternal, All-knowing, Almighty; Light, Life, Beauty, Wisdom; Goodness, Truth, Love; Saviour, Hallowed, et al. In each and through all of these we feel the presence of the One God, and in virtue of His indivisibility we possess Him altogether. It is meet to think thus but at the same time not one of these attributes affords us full comprehension of Him 'as He is'. His Being in Its Essence transcends all Names. And yet He goes on revealing Himself in Names.” – On Prayer, pp 129-130.


We can perhaps say that the Name of Jesus has a spiritual reality and leads us to the presence of God rather in the way icons do.
 



#10 Ryan

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Posted 12 October 2013 - 11:56 AM

Andreas- There is nothing in the above quote that contradicts what the imiaslavtsy taught- they never said that the Name is the essence of God. Their basic argument was that the Name is an energy of God and is therefore God, just like the Taborian light. Again, Elder Sophrony says "As divine energy, it proceeds from the substance of divinity and is itself divine." This is essentially imiaslavie. Recall the Church's teaching on the uncreated light- the light is the energy of God, therefore it is God, though not his essence, and is far beyond any created light. Likewise, the Name Jesus as name of God is divine and is thus quite distinct from the mere name "Jesus" or "Joshua" as attached to any mortal being.



#11 Ryan

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Posted 12 October 2013 - 12:19 PM

In this paper Metropolitan Hilarion says the following:

 

Even though the movement of the “Name-worshippers” was crushed at the
beginning of the century on the orders of the Holy Synod, discussion of
the matter regained impetus in the years preceding the Moscow Council
(1917-18), which was supposed to come to a decision about this but did
not succeed in doing so. Thus the Church’s final assessment of
Name-worshipping remains an open question to this day.
I would emphasise that this is by no means simply an issue of local
concern, nor of merely historic interest, but a matter of no less
theological significance than the argument between “Palamites” and
“Barlaamites” in the middle of the fourteenth century. Name-worshipping
was an expression of the centuries-old Athonite tradition of the
activity (prayer) of the mind, while the “synodal” theologians were
backed by the traditions of Russian academic scholarship.

 

Notice that, just like Elder Sophrony, he compares the controversy to that between the Palamites and the Barlaamites and says that imiaslavie was "an expression of the centuries-old Athonite tradition" of mental prayer.



#12 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 12 October 2013 - 02:01 PM

I can say that the Fathers at Elder Sophrony's monastery here say emphatically that he was not a 'Name-worshipper'.



#13 Ryan

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Posted 12 October 2013 - 03:10 PM

It would hardly be surprising if Elder Sophrony never declared himself a name-worshiper- to do so would be to call down pointless controversy and turmoil. Nevertheless he seems to have in essence expressed the same basic idea. Metropolitan Hilarion, who wrote an in-depth study of the controversy in Russian, came to the same conclusion. He gives the following summary of imiaslavie as it was developed by Fr Sergius Bulgakov and Elder Sophrony:

 

Imyaslavie in the form in which it is expressed by Fr Sergius Bulgakov and Archimandrite Sophronius (Sakharov), can be represented in the following theses:

 

1. The name of God is God Himself in the sense of the presence of God in the name of God, but not in the sense of identifying the name of God with God. Name of God is God, but God does not have a name (Bulgakov).

2. The Name of God is the power of God in the sense that in the name of God, God works (Bulgakov, Sofronii). The Name of God is the human incarnation of the divine energy (Bulgakov). Every energy of God can be called "Divine" (Sofronii).

3. The Old Testament distinction between God and the name of God corresponds to the Palamite distinction between the essence of God, and the energy of God (Bulgakov).

4. God's essence is unnameable, referred to as the energy of God (Bulgakov).

5. God's name is the repository of the living God, the place of His presence (Bulgakov, Sofronii).

6. The Name of God is a verbal icon of the Godhead (Bulgakov). As well as an icon, it serves as a bridge between man and God (Sofronii).
However, unlike the icon, becoming a place of God's presence, it is transubstantiated, losing its material nature and becoming a "symbol". Therefore, it is hierarchically above the icons (Bulgakov).

7. God's name can cause contemplation Tabor Light (Sofronii). Name of God is the light of Tabor (Bulgakov).

8. The Name of God refers to God as well as the predicate to the subject (Bulgakov).

9. The  Name of God is a projection of the transcendent to the immanent, the divine to the human (Bulgakov).

10. The Names of God exist in man and for man (Bulgakov). However, they are not merely human, not only do humans name God
in their own language, but God names Himself in human language (Bulgakov, Sofronii).
Consequently, the names of God are a product of the synergy of God and man (Bulgakov).

11.Any name of God points to a particular property of God, but God is one. (Sofronii).

12. The Names of God are ontologically connected with God Himself (Sofronii).

13. Any name of God may be treated as one of the incarnations of the Holy Trinity, and all three hypostases (Sofronii).

14. In the name of God are the sacraments of the Church (Sofronii).

15. The Name of God - the core of Orthodox worship (Bulgakov, Sofronii).

16. In the name of God is the outer shell and the inner content. The outer shell of God's name can be the same with the outer shell of
other names, it becomes the seat of the presence of God when attributed to God (Bulgakov).
All the power of God's name lies in its content, not in the outer shell (Sofronii).

17. The sound enveloping the name of God does not work magically (Bulgakov, Sofronii).

18. The effectiveness of prayer in the name of God does not depend on the mood or psychological state of prayer. The Name of God is effective in itself, but its action is not felt by man when he prays absently (Bulgakov), but when praying with a sense of ontological connection between the name and the one referred to. (Sofronii).

19. The name of Yahweh in the Old Testament, the New Testament has replaced the name of Jesus (Bulgakov, Sofronii).

20. The name of Jesus - not only divine, but divine-human (Bulgakov).

21. The name Jesus in relation to Christ is not equal to the names of other Jesuses. Only the outer shell is the same, but not the internal content (Bulgakov).

22. The dispute between the Name Worshippers and their opponents reflects the difference in approach to the nature of the name between, on the one
hand, the nominalists and rationalists, on the other - realists and idealists (Bulgakov, Sofronii).

 

The difference between Bulgakov and on. Sofronii lies only in the fact that the latter does not use the"imyaslavsky formula" and does not mention the name of God is God,
though very close to the following statement when he says the name of God as the power of God, and the energy is called "Divine."
Furthermore, Fr. Sofronii does not put the name of God above the icons and does not identify it with the light of Tabor, but compares it with the icon and says that it can cause the coming of the divine light. On the whole, Fr. Sofronii converges with Bulgakov - namely, that the name of God is the power of God, a receptacle of God's presence, ontologically connected with God Himself.



#14 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 12 October 2013 - 05:42 PM

Ryan, who translated this, and have you got the original Russian version, and can you cite the source? 

 

Are you of the opinion that Archimandrite Sophrony's writings on the Jesus Prayer in 'His Life is Mine' (I would have mentioned also 'On Prayer' but you say you have not read that) are heretical?



#15 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 12 October 2013 - 05:52 PM

PS  "It would hardly be surprising if Elder Sophrony never declared himself a name-worshiper".  What I said was that those fathers and theologians who have studied Fr Sophrony's writings say he was not a 'name-worshipper' - which is different.



#16 Ryan

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Posted 12 October 2013 - 06:26 PM

Ryan, who translated this, and have you got the original Russian version, and can you cite the source? 

 

Are you of the opinion that Archimandrite Sophrony's writings on the Jesus Prayer in 'His Life is Mine' (I would have mentioned also 'On Prayer' but you say you have not read that) are heretical?

 

Hi Andreas- I do not read Russian- I used Google to translate the Russian original, which is available here: http://www.hesychasm...Name/secr00.htm The quoted section is from the last chapter.

 

No, I don't think Elder Sophrony wrote anything heretical.



#17 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 12 October 2013 - 07:14 PM

"No, I don't think Elder Sophrony wrote anything heretical."

 

Well, that's good to know.  So, what's your point?

 

Thank you for the link.  I intend going to the monastery here on Monday.  As it happens, a friend of mine, a hieromonk from the Holy Trinity St Sergius Lavra, is at the monastery helping Fr Nikolai (Sakharov) to organise the original papers of St Silouan and Fr Sophrony (there is a mass of unpublished material).  I will print out this thread and the link and ask their opinion.



#18 Ryan

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Posted 12 October 2013 - 09:03 PM

"No, I don't think Elder Sophrony wrote anything heretical."

 

Well, that's good to know.  So, what's your point?

 

The original question was, What did St. Silouan think of imiaslavie? As I said, I have no idea what St. Silouan thought of it, but his disciple Elder Sophrony seems to be in essential agreement with it. This may or may not give some indication as to where St. Silouan's sympathies were.

 

Thank you for the link.  I intend going to the monastery here on Monday.  As it happens, a friend of mine, a hieromonk from the Holy Trinity St Sergius Lavra, is at the monastery helping Fr Nikolai (Sakharov) to organise the original papers of St Silouan and Fr Sophrony (there is a mass of unpublished material).  I will print out this thread and the link and ask their opinion.

 

Thanks. It will be interesting to hear what they have to say about it.



#19 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 12 October 2013 - 09:40 PM

My feeling is that it is going too far to say that Fr Sophrony was 'in essential agreement with' imiaslavie; when today I mentioned Fr Sophrony and imiaslavie in the same breath, the response from one father was a quick, 'no, no, no',  but I am not qualified to say, which is why I hope to get a steer on this on Monday.



#20 Ryan

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Posted 12 October 2013 - 10:01 PM

Part of the problem is that most Orthodox who have heard of imiaslavie get a very distorted picture of it- for instance, that it says that the name "Jesus" is itself the essence of God or that the mere sound of it has some magical properties. If that is what I thought imiaslavie was I too would be very quick to distance myself and any elder I respected from it.






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