practice. The author achieves the transition from one framework to the next in the statement that 'the mind sees . . . itself as being completely light and full of discretion'. Accordingly discretion is not linked to the examination of one's thoughts as in the second practice but rather is tacked on to a technique that results in visionary experiences. The common criterion of'attention' thus conceals radical differences in how this aim is achieved. Indeed 'attention' can only have this function because it is given more than one meaning in the text. As we have seen, the author defines it in his preface as the ability to detect all thoughts that are about to enter the heart and to determine their nature and origin. However, the term is then used in this sense only in the discussion of the second practice, which is based on the 'examination of thoughts'. In the first practice, on the other hand, it denotes focus on an object, the sky. Such a use has clearly nothing to do with the way the author defined the term at the beginning. However, it later allows him to collapse the two notions into one: in the third practice 'attention' to the navel results in a vision of the transfigured heart, which at the same time makes visible all demonic thoughts that are present in the heart. He could do so because the 'inward turn' of the hesychastic method, which distinguished it from the first practice, permitted a conflation of the heart as the object of visionary experience with the heart as a metaphor for the 'place' of thoughts.20
The author's ingenious exploitation of conceptual and terminological ambiguities has an obvious reason: despite its radically different character he wants his approach to pass muster within the value system that is defined by the advocates ofthe second practice. Indeed, the treatise may well have been composed as a response to attacks from proponents of this second practice: the author complains that they regarded themselves as 'attentive' (•poctektikós) and that they criticised others for not being so. There can be no doubt that the second practice with its exclusive focus on incoming thoughts is a caricature of the teachings of the Sinaite authors John Klimax, Philotheos and, in particular, Hesychios.21 At the same time the description of the third practice contains numerous literal borrowings from Hesychios's Spiritual Chapters.22 In the light of the previous discussion it seems likely that the author inserted these quotations in order to bolster his evidently specious claim to be part of this tradition, which he then merely improves.
21 Cf. e.g. Hesychios, Chapters, in PG 93,1496AB, 1497c.
22 Cf. Hausherr, Methode d'oraison, 134-42, who identifies borrowings from Hesychios and also from the Heavenly Ladder.
Was this article helpful?