The Fundamental Difference Between the “East” and “West” (Part II)

Diagnosis and Therapy

Let us turn our attention to those aspects of differences between Roman and Frankish theologies which have had a strong impact on the development of differences in the doctrine of the Church. The basic differences may be listed under diagnosis of spiritual ills and their therapy.

According to the Orthodox Church, the “East Romans,” Glorification is the vision of God in which the equality of all men and the absolute value of each man is experienced. God loves all men equally and indiscriminately, regardless of even their moral status. God loves with the same love, both the saint and the devil. To teach otherwise, as Augustine and the Franks did, would be adequate proof that they did not have the slightest idea of what glorification was.

According to the Orthodox, God multiplies and divides himself in His uncreated energies undividedly among divided things, so that He is both present by act and absent by nature to each individual creature and everywhere present and absent at the same time. This is the fundamental mystery of the presence of God to His creatures and shows that universals do not exist in God and are, therefore, not part of the state of illumination as in the Augustinian (Frankish Latin) tradition.

According to the Orthodox, God himself is both heaven and hell, reward and punishment. All men have been created to see God unceasingly in His uncreated glory. Whether God will be for each man heav-en or hell, reward or punishment, depends on man’s re-sponse to God’s love and on man’s transformation from the state of selfish and self-centered love, to Godlike love which does not seek its own ends.

One can see how the Frankish understanding of heaven and hell poetically described by Dante, John Milton, and James Joyce are so foreign to the Orthodox tradition (but in keeping with the “Latin” tradition).

According to the Orthodox, since all men will see God, no religion can claim for itself the power to send people either to heaven or to hell. This means that true spiritual fathers prepare their spiritual charges so that vision of God’s glory will be heaven, and not hell, reward, and not punishment. The primary purpose of Orthodox Christianity then, is to prepare its members for an experience which every human being will sooner or later have.

While the brain (according to the Orthodox) is the center of human adaptation to the environment, the noetic faculty in the heart is the primary organ for communion with God. The fall of man or the state of inherited sin is: a) the failure of the noetic faculty to function properly, or to function at all; b) its confusion with the functions of the brain and the body in general; and c) its resulting enslavement to the environment.

Each individual experiences the fall of his own noetic faculty. One can see why the Augustinian “Latin,” Frankish) understanding of the fall of man as an inherited guilt for the sin of Adam and Eve is not, and cannot, be accepted by the Orthodox tradition.

There are two known memory systems built into living beings, 1) cell memory which determines the function and development of the individual in relation to itself, and 2) brain cell memory which determines the function of the individual in relation to its environment. In addition to this, the patristic tradition is aware of the existence in human beings of a now normally non-functioning or sub-functioning memory in the heart, which when put into action via noetic prayer, includes unceasing memory of God and, therefore, the normalization of all other relations.

When the noetic faculty is not functioning properly, man is enslaved to fear and anxiety and his relations to others are essentially utilitarian. Thus, the root cause of all abnormal relations between God and man and among men is that fallen man, i.e., man with a malfunctioning noetic faculty, uses God, his fellow man, and nature for his own understanding of security and happiness. Man outside of glorification imagines the existence of god or gods which are psychological projections of his need for security and happiness.

That all men have this noetic faculty in the heart also means that all are in direct relation to God at various levels, depending on how much the individual personality resists enslavement to his physical and social surroundings and allows himself to be directed by God. Every individual is sustained by the uncreated glory of God and is the dwelling place of this uncreated creative and sustaining light, which is called the rule, power, grace, etc. of God. Human reaction to this direct relation or communion with God can range from the hardening of the heart, i.e., the snuffing out of the spark of grace, to the experience of glorification attained to by the prophets, apostles, and saints.

This means that all men are equal in possession of the noetic faculty, but not in quality or degree of function. It is important to note the clear distinction between spirituality, which is rooted primarily in the heart’s noetic faculty, and intellectuality, which is rooted in the brain. Thus:

1) A person with little intellectual attainments can rise to the highest level of noetic perfection.

2) On the other hand, a man of the highest intellectual attainments can fall to the lowest level of noetic imperfection.

3) One may also reach both the highest intellectual attainments and noetic perfection.

Or 4) one may be of meager intellectual accomplishment with a hardening of the heart.

Saint Basil the Great writes that “the in-dwelling of God is this—to have God established within ourself by means of memory. We thus become temples of God, when the continuity of memory is not interrupted by earthly cares, nor the noetic faculty shaken by unexpected sufferings, but escaping from all things this (noetic faculty) friend of God retires to God, driving out the passions which tempt it to incontinence and abides in the practices which lead to virtues.”[5]

Saint Gregory the Theologian points out that “we ought to remember God even more often than we draw out breath; and if it suffices to say this, we ought to do nothing else…or, to use Moses’ words, whether a man lie asleep, or rise up, or walk by the way, or whatever else he is doing, he should also have this impressed in his memory for purity.”[6]

Saint Gregory insists that to theologize “is permitted only to those who have passed examinations and have reached theoria, and who have been previously purified in soul and body, or at least are being purified.”[7]

This state of theoria is two fold or has two stages: a) unceasing memory of God and b) glorification, the latter being a gift which God gives to His friends according to their needs and the needs of others. During this latter state of glorification, unceasing noetic prayer is interrupted since it is replaced by a vision of the glory of God in Christ. The normal functions of the body, such as sleeping, eating, drinking, and digestion are suspended. In other respects, the intellect and the body function normally. One does not lose consciousness, as happens in the ecstatic mystical experiences of non-Orthodox Christian and pagan religions. One is fully aware and conversant with his environment and those around him, except that he sees everything and everyone saturated by the uncreated glory of God, which is neither light nor darkness, and nowhere and everywhere at the same time. This state may be of short, medium, or long duration. In the case of Moses it lasted for forty days and forty nights. The faces of those in this state of glorification give off an imposing radiance, like that of the face of Moses, and after they die, their bodies become holy relics. These relics give off a strange sweet smell, which at times can become strong. In many cases, these relics remain intact in a good state of preservation, without having been embalmed. They are completely stiff from head to toe, light, dry, and with no signs of putrefaction.

There is no metaphysical criterion for distinguishing between good and bad people. It is much more correct to distinguish between ill and more healthy persons. The sick ones are those whose noetic faculty is either not functioning, or functioning poorly, and the healthier ones are those whose noetic faculty is being cleansed and illumined.

These levels are incorporated into the very structure of the four Gospels and the liturgical life of the Church. The Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke reflect the pre-baptismal catechism for cleansing the heart, and the Gospel of John reflects the post-baptismal catechism which leads to theoria by way of the stage of illumination. Christ himself is the spiritual Father who led the apostles, as He had done with Moses and the prophets, to glorification by means of purification and illumination.[8]

One can summarize these three stages of (Orthodox) perfection as a) that of the slave who performs the commandments because of fear of seeing God as a consuming fire, b) that of the hireling whose motive is the reward of seeing God as glory, and c) that of the friends of God whose noetic faculty is completely free, whose love has become selfless end because of this, are willing to be damned for the salvation of their fellow man, as in the cases of Moses and Paul.

(End of Part II)

(Source: http://www.oodegr.com/english/dogma/diafores1.htm)

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