Experiment and knowledge of reality in the Hesychast view

  1. Lemma
  2. Experiment and knowledge of reality in the Hesychast view
  3. English
  4. Tampakis, Kostas
  5. 2012
  6. European Journal of Science and Theology
  7. Hesychasm - Physics - Representation - Reality - Palamas, Gregory
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    1. The paper discusses the various contemporary notions of reality, especially the realistic and the representational views. The article attempts to correlate and contrast such views with those developed by Gregory Palamas and the Hesychasts during the 14th century.

      The paper starts by discussing how reality is usually taken to be independent of our capacity of knowing and directly accessible. The reality concept includes in its semantic area also the representation built on what is independent of us. Reality as a concept also includes two major versions corresponding to realistic description and to representationalist one. The author goes on to describe how an analogous situation appeared in a confrontation of ideas in the 14th century, called the hesychast dispute. Gregory Palamas, one of the protagonists of this dispute, had to explain the significance given by hesychasts to the vision of God, described as a view of divine light, not of an essence. The hesychast practice aims at seeing the uncreated light, which can be understood only as an active process of an unceasing disclosure of the Personal Ultimate Reality. The author calls that, a realistic doctrine of supernatural knowledge. Thus, in palamite thought, there is a rejection of any possibility of a direct knowledge of the divine nature, of what characterizes the essence of God. The author considers the implied gnoseological stake in this claim, which is that ultimate knowledge, as well as knowledge of any kind, involves the whole man and not just his intellect, the act of knowledge has the shape of a relationship.

      As a result, the author identifies an anti-essentialism corresponding to the anti-realist position of actual physics. In the hesychast controversy, the dispute centered on whether access to the ultimate reality could only be mediated by the hierarchy of the beings. The truth criterion for Palamas was exactly an ‘appeal to experience’.  Thus, the author concludes that hesychasm is different than other Christian spiritual practices exactly because it emphasizes experience as a method, as a verifiability criterion, and as validation.  This is the analogy between science and hesychasm, which the author identifies.