Going Upwards with Everything You Are. The Unifying Ladder of St Maximus the Confessor

  1. Lemma
  2. Going Upwards with Everything You Are. The Unifying Ladder of St Maximus the Confessor
  3. English
  4. Costache, Doru
  5. Orthodox theological tradition and practice > Patristic studies
  6. Science and Orthodoxy, a Necessary Dialogue
  7. Maximus the Confessor - Unifying ladder - Five polarities
    1. This paper endeavors to analyse some main features of the thought of St Maximus the Confessor, emphasizing its relevance to the process of approaching what represents this major challenge of our times. It presents St. Maximus’ theory of everything or unifying ladder, describing the five steps towards accomplishing a complex unified reality. The paper contends St. Maximus’ thought, especially his second step, presents a coherent view on science and spirituality, knowledge and life. The paper begins by placing St. Maximus in his spiritual tradition, alongside Clement of Alexandria, Athanasius the Great, Gregory of Nyssa and Dionysius the Areopagite. However, the author considers St. Maximus’ contribution to be identifying mankind’s raison d’être, as being called to get involved together with Christ in the effort of intensifying the coherence or unity of reality. By this, his theory of everything represents simultaneously an imago mundi and the description of a concrete human experience within the world. Moreoverit it represents a dynamic worldview, distant from any non-anthropic ossified cosmology. The paper then discusses the five polarities of St. Maximus, concluding that, according to them, the human person should live according to the rationality in things and consciously co-work together with the creator Logos. The author then discusses how the Stoic concept of microcosm is used to contextualize the journey that man must take to accomplish the five unifications. The second part of the paper discusses the second step in the unifying ladder, identifying as the main issue in the relation between paradise and civilization. The author notes that, in St. Maximus, this discussion is elaborated in a framework of biblical thinking, in which one does not speak about paradise in topological terms, but rather of a paradisial way of living. He then goes on to underscore how St. Maximus considers paradise and civilization not as antithetical, but rather as complementary. The point is to learn how to live spiritually within our modern civilization, the way the man and the woman in the story of the biblical paradise learned to live their difference at another level than that of genitalia. St Maximus’ second mediation, of paradise and civilization, teaches us to try to pursue our upwards journey with everything we are and represent: soul and body, male and female, spirituality and technology, wisdom and science. The paper ends by proposing how St. Maximus’ thought can be used to reframe the dialogue between science and Orthodoxy.