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Hell Really Exists

Hell Really Exists

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of sinfulness and demonic agency.66 The fight against such thoughts and the struggle for dispassion is traditionally considered the first step on the road to perfection. Gregory implies that the 'wise in the word', who devote themselves to the acquisition of abstract knowledge, have done nothing to control their irrational urges and that they have thus repeated the fall of Adam in their own lives. As a consequence he can present all their subsequent activities as 'non-rational'.

The second part ofthe chapter shows that Gregory is not content with such a roundabout criticism. There he attributes 'abstract reflections' to the 'wise in the word', who are now referred to as the 'more intellectual', whereas he ascribes 'evil thoughts' to a different group, the 'more uncouth'. At the same time, however, he links the two thought processes by tracing both back to 'the spirit of worldly wisdom', by which he means the devil. The purpose of this configuration is evident: it permits him to reject intellectual pursuits (Aoyoi) as a qualification for sanctity. In a further step Gregory then juxtaposes this 'worldly wisdom' with 'hypostatic wisdom', that is the Divine Word. The two forms of wisdom and knowledge are not only different from one another but also mutually exclusive: engagement in the one precludes ascent to the other. In itself such juxtaposition might be considered commonplace in a hesychastic text.67 However, in the context of the Words it is startling because, as an effect of divine grace, visionary experience belongs to the supernatural level and has no place in the chosen framework of 'rationality', which is strictly limited to the sphere of human nature. The oddity becomes even more pronounced in the next chapter, where Gregory draws the conclusion that only the 'sensation (aiaO^CTis) of grace' and not 'reflections on thoughts' and 'apodictic proofs of things' can be considered knowledge of truth.68 The phrase 'sensation of grace' is the first unequivocal reference in the Words to the hesychastic experience and thus identifies the 'saints' as hesychasts. By comparison, 'proofs' and syllogistic reasoning are clearly linked to the 'wise in the word'. It is evident that, unlike visions, such pursuits involved the exercise of human reason, which provided the 'wise in the word' with a justification for considering themselves more rational and therefore superior to hesychasts.69 As a hesychast Gregory had to reject such a conclusion. We have already seen that restoration of rationality is achieved through victory over evil thoughts, which Gregory denies the 'wise

66 Maximos, Ambigua, in PG 91, 1124A.

67 A similar criticism is made in Theoleptos, The monastic discourses, ed. Sinkewicz, 112.

68 Gregory of Sinai, Words, PG 150,1240A [= ed. Beyer, 39].

69 In the Chapters of the twelfth-century author Elias Ekdikos the 'less enlightened' are indeed juxtaposed with the AoyiKWTEpoi, i.e. the 'more rational': PG 127, 1160A.

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