Sunday, September 4, 2016

What is the Heyschast International?

Describing the spread of hesychastic theology—really nothing more than a renewed and reinvigorated form of traditional byzantine-roman Orthodox theology—the Romanian historian Alexandru Elian coined the term the “internationale hésychaste, This was a movement that could not be confined to Greek speaking lands. The disciples of the two Gregories, Palamas and the Sinaite, went to all Orthodox lands to proclaim the necessity of unceasing prayer for all Christians and the theology which undergirded and was presupposed in this experience. This theology was and remains today the most refined expression of Orthodox theology; it possessesthe power to change the individual persons and even entire nations affected by it.

The Hesychast International represents an alternative vision for the world; an alternative reading of the sources of western civilization. It is what Yiannaras and Romanides dubbed Romanity (Ρωμιοσύνη) or St. Justin Popovich called Theanthropic civilization or even what some have called (perhaps less accurately) Eurasianism. It is a word which denotes a possibility for all Christian culture –a possibility which was more or less consigned to obscurity with the destruction of the byzantine empire by the Turks in 1453. And yet it survived in the folk customs of the Greek people, in the monasteries, in the peasantry of Russia, in traditional ecclesiastical life throughout the Balkans.

Now, with the fall of the Soviet Union, Orthodoxy again breathes freely in many countries where it has traditionally been practiced, and perhaps even more importantly, Orthodox Christianity is spreading throughout the globe in many countries which were traditionally Roman Catholic or Protestant. While our brethren in the Middle East still continue to face the existential threat posed by globalist-funded Wahabi Islam, we are now free to not only cultivate the noetic life which has been preserved uniquely within our tradition throughout every age no matter the external circumstances, but also to bring out those elements which are unique our own intellectual tradition of expression—our distinct way of doing discursive theology and appropriating the Greco-Roman sources of our civilization.

It is this task which the Hesychast International is dedicated—to evoking and explicating what I believe is the existential alternative to the secularism and exhausted Christianities of the “West.” In the 19th and 20th century, Orthodox theology has too often distorted itself either by aligning or opposing an external enemy and this has led to any number of ruinous and exaggerated narrowing of our extremely rich tradition of thought. Here I intend to write from a theological perspective that is both broad but also strictly traditional—there will be no compromise of Orthodox, but neither will there be false opposition or generalizations in order to differentiate ourselves from the Christianities of the West. Where western theologians and philosophers have had valid insights, this will not be denied or considered without value in the course of refining and elaborating our theology. Why? Because our theology ultimately transcends the discursive categories which we are forced to use in articulating it. Theology must reason about realities and not simply concepts or words. This is the authentic meaning of experiential theology. The most genuine meaning of the word, “theology” is the deified man who lives the life of God. For those of us like myself who are only beginning our purification, we must trust the Fathers and draw upon their experience, but at the same time, we must not be afraid to engage the contemporary world and the problems which present themselves in a way that is both fresh and insightful while also being nothing less than patristic and traditional. The economy of God is itself a dialogue between a creation “godlike” in its freedom and a self-emptying but superabundantly loving God. As long as we approach the topics which we discuss with humility and love, we have nothing to fear.

Olivier Clément gives a good idea of the general contours for project I intend to begin here:

"A renewed Palamism taking up and rectifying the intuitions of Russian religious philosophy requires the definitive liberation of Orthodox theology from its long ‘Babylonian Captivity’. It is not a question of escaping from rationalized theologies in order to fall into the meagrely subjective existentialism which comes from Germany today, and has no real faith in the Resurrection and no power of transfiguration. Neither is it a question of neutering the Fathers by being content to repeat them. More than ever theology can only be the intellectual (and poetic) aspect of a total art; the art of dying so as to be reborn according to a liberating spirituality, the art of giving one’s life for one’s friends, the art of sharing in worship with one’s whole body, with one’s whole being, in the eschatological certainty that the world is ‘a game of God’." - Olivier Clément ("The Purification of Atheism")

No comments:

Post a Comment