which is directed against Barlaam's belief that one can hone one's rational faculty and attain knowledge through a process of trial and error, closely resembles Gregory of Sinai's view that the human faculty for analytical thought can only be saved if it is never activated. The result is again a subversion of the neoplatonic model of graded spiritual ascent. However, unlike Gregory of Sinai, Palamas refused to engage in a debate about Maximos's spiritual legacy. This allowed him to present Barlaam's ontological framework and the otherwise perfectly acceptable notion of a 'folding-up' of discursive thought as secular in nature and as irreconcilable with monastic spirituality.98 As a consequence he could reject as ludicrous the conclusion that because of their restored humanity monks with scholarly interests were ready to approach God whereas the hesychasts remained on the level of animals.99
Palamas's polemic is certainly more efficacious than that of Gregory of Sinai but this is achieved at the expense of large parts of the Byzantine spiritual tradition.100 There can be little doubt that contemporaries would have understood Palamas's argument as a rejection not only of Barlaam but also of Maximos himself. Palamas's attitude towards the monastic tradition must be seen against the background of an increasingly heated debate, which made him take ever more radical positions. In many ways these positions harkbackto the beginnings of the movement: like Nikephoros, Palamas shows an utter lack of concern for the dangers of mystical experiences whereas Gregory of Sinai had been much more careful.101 A similar observation can be made when we compare Palamas with Pseudo-Symeon. We saw that Pseudo-Symeon replaced the traditional 'examination of thoughts' with the hesychastic method and thus virtually eliminated the role of discretion in the context of the first stage of a monk's spiritual ascent. Palamas now extends this approach to all its stages. When speaking about the fight against passions he rejects Barlaam's contention that monks need to use their minds in order to distinguish truth from mere semblance of truth. Instead he avers that monks should avoid making independent moral judgements and simply follow the precepts of the fathers,
98 Ibid., 11, 393.1-5 (triade 11.3.3); 11, 537.20-539.5 (triade 11.3.72). This flatly contradicts Maximos's teachings: e.g. Mystagogia5, in PG 90, 68ib.
99 Palamas, Défense, 11, 539.5-17 (triade 11.3.72).
100 Palamas displayed the same ruthlessness towards patristic theology: G. Podskalsky, Theologie und Philosophie in Byzanz: der Streit um die theologische Methodik in der spatbyzantinischen Geistesgeschichte (14.-15 .Jh.), seine systematischen Grundlagen und seine historische Entwicklung [Byzantinisches Archiv 15] (Munich: Beck, 1977), 157-60.
101 E.g. Palamas, Defense, 1, 213-15 (triade 1.3.48-9), with reference to a passage from Mark the Monk. Cf.the radically different interpretation of this passage in Gregory of Sinai in PG 150,1312A.
although this clearly contradicts the teachings of Maximos whom Barlaam without doubt quoted as authority.102 At the level of natural contemplation Palamas replaces the use of analytical thought with the recommendation that one should look at creation with wonder and awe, which in the Maximian framework belongs to the level of sense perception that precedes discursive reasoning.103
Palamas was not prepared to let go of 'knowledge' altogether. While he rejected Barlaam's claim that the Fathers had used 'light' as a metaphor for knowledge, he at the same time claimed that this light was the purveyor of knowledge.104 However, with this claim he ran into difficulties because hesychasts clearly did not possess knowledge in the way that Barlaam and other scholarly monks understood it. Therefore Palamas ended up extolling lack of knowledge as a positive quality: when he asks whether 'the knowledge of God that is present in Christians and the salvation resulting from it comes through knowledge of philosophy or through faith, which through ignorance abolishes this knowledge', he creates such a close link between faith and ignorance that the latter becomes a precondition for salvation.105
Palamas's response to Barlaam's model of monastic life is distinguished through its ruthlessness but it can hardly be called coherent: it is evident that he was less interested in presenting his own views on the role of reason than in effective polemic against his opponent.106 Here is not the place for an in-depth analysis of Palamas's treatises, which pose great problems to the interpreter not only because of their length but also because of their nature: according to the rules of ancient rhetoric Palamas often seems to concede positions but he only does so in order to anticipate all possible objections.107 Nevertheless, it seems safe to say that Palamas did not greatly advance the hesychastic argument in the debate with scholarly monks. Nor does his importance lie in
102 E.g. Palamas, Defense, i, 15.22-30 (triade 1.1.4). Cf. Maximos, Onlove, inPG 90, 985A; Elias Ekdikos, Gnostic sentences, in PG 90, 1158B. Palamas refutes an argument by Barlaam (based on Maximos, On love ii.6) in the context of prayer where the question of graded ascentloomslarge: Palamas, Defense, i, 355.9-27(triade 11.2.16). Significantly, Palamas calls Maximos illuminated 'at the level of knowledge' and 'at the level beyond knowledge': Palamas, Defense, i, 201.3-5 (triade 1.3.41).
103 Ibid., i, 59.3-16 (triade i.i.20). Cf. Maximos, Ambigua,inPG 91,1113D-1116A. This distinction is not recognised by Sinkewicz, 'Gregory Palamas', 167.
104 Palamas, Defense, i, 131.8-14 (triade L3.10) and passim.
106 Meyendorff, Introduction a letude, 173-94, where his systematising presentation gives a misleading impression of the text.
107 E.g. Palamas, Défense, i, 311.23-313.1 (triade n.1.42). Lack of attention to this strategy can lead to serious misrepresentation.
the propagation of hesychasm as a monastic lifestyle: here Gregory of Sinai clearly played a much greater role.108 Palamas's main achievement was to give the hesychastic vision a theological foundation and to have this foundation imposed on the Orthodox Church at large.
We have seen that Barlaam denied the central tenet of the hesychasts, namely that through visions it was possible for human beings to experience the divine. Accordingly he explained visions first as demonic illusions and later as figments of imagination.109 When attempts to disabuse the hesychasts of their errors met with no success he accused them of reviving the late antique heresy of the Messalians, who had claimed that they could perceive God's being with their senses.110 Such accusations posed a great danger to the practitioners of the hesychastic method because a similar position was attributed to the outlawed dualist sect of the Bogomils.111 To counter Barlaam's attacks Palamas developed a conceptual framework that to his mind reconciled the hesychastic experience with traditional concepts of divine transcendence: he introduced a distinction between God's essence, which is beyond the reach of created being, and God's glory or operations, which are equally divine but which can be participated in.112 In a second and final revision of his anti-hesychastic writings Barlaam not only denied the existence of such a distinction but also claimed that even the concept of a vision of divine glory was heretical.113 His argument was based on a precedent: the heresy trial of the twelfth-century cleric Theodore of Blakhernai. Like Palamas, Theodore had proposed a distinction between God's being and his glory to justify mystical experiences but he had nevertheless been branded as a heretic.114 However, this ingenious ploy failed to convince Barlaam's contemporaries, and in 1341 he found himself excommunicated first by a convention of Athonite monks and then by the patriarchal synod, which ordered his writings to be destroyed.115 Barlaam's defeat did not translate into an immediate victory for Palamas. The distinction between essence and operations remained highly controversial and Palamas
108 Rigo, 'Gregorio il Sinaita', 83-4.
109 Palamas, Defense, 1, 231.15-16 (triade 11.1.3); 1, 335.6-8 (triade 11.2.9).
110 Cf.Schiro, Barlaam Calabro, 324.131.
111 A. Rigo, Monaci esicasti e monaci bogomili. Le accuse di messalianismo e bogomilismo rivolte agli esicasti ed ilproblema dei rapporti tra esicasmo e bogomilismo [Orientalia venetiana 2] (Florence: Leo S. Olschki Editore, 1989).
112 See Sinkewicz, 'Gregory Palamas', 161-4.
113 Palamas, Defense, 11, 645-51 (triade 111.2.3-4).
114 Ibid., 11,569.28-571.5 (triade 111.1.7) makes clear that Theodore introduced this distinction during his trial expressly to ward off accusations ofMessalianism. Cf.Gouillard, 'Quatre proces', 22-3.
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