This monograph is concerned with the analysis of the anthropology of hesychasm in the context of the Byzantine culture. Spiritual and mystical phenomenon of the hesychasm is presented as an integral whole has been developing in the lap of the Eastern Orthodox Church. The tradition of hesychasm (or keeping silent) has existed since the first ages of Christianity in the East but it received its theoretical comprehension only in the Fourteenth Century — in the works of St. Gregory Palamas, Thessalonica’s Archbishop.
The man and the profound problems of his existence as expressed in the doctrine of hesychasts are regarded by O.S. Klimkov in conformity with the historical and cultural circumstances of the epoch of the beginning so called the “Palamite controversy”.
The first part of the monograph deals with the history of the studies of the Byzantine hesychasm in science. The author consider thoroughly numerous investigations of this subject and underlines special topicality of the existential problems of man’s being in the context of the modern consciousness of the mankind that have been regarded by hesychasts.
The second part of the monograph brings to the basic features of the Byzantine culture. The author outlines general trends of its development and treats in more detail for the epoch of the “Palaeologus’s Renaissance”. Philosophical, theological and mystical traditions in the whole body of the culture of the Byzantine Empire have been carefully analyzed by the author.
The investigation of the doctrine of man as presented by hesychasts and their opponents has been developed by Rev Oleg Klimkov in the third part of the monograph, which is the most significant in this volume. It consists of four chapters, the first one being dedicated to the study of the history of the orthodox anthropology in the Byzance before the Fourteenth Century. The author considers various concepts of man belonging to the Fathers of the Orthodox East.
Chapter 2 of this part deals with the theoretical treatment of the tradition of Byzantine hesychasm made by Palamas and his followers. The Christian mysticism of the hesychasts has been analyzed in terms of the philosophical and theological thought. The concepts of essence and energy in their relations to God who manifests Himself in concrete Persons and by concrete acts.
The third chapter is dedicated to the consideration of the anthropological views of hesychasts of the Eastern Church. O.S. Klimkov begins his investigation from the problem of the structure of man, passes over the reasoning about the image and likeness of God in man as an existential and dynamic reality and crowns his analysis the final purpose of human life.
Recognition of the image and likeness of God in man by hesychasts leads to the comprehension of the high role of man in the universe and the idea of man’s creative responsibility in the world. Following Palamas concept of the psycho-physical unity of human being O.S. Klimkov stands up against the monophisite suspicious view of man. The author analyzes the power of creation belonging to man in the context of the problems of culture and history to be saved.
The most profound aspect of anthropology of hesychasm is the notion of future of man. The meaning of human existence is not confined with the limits of temporary being — as all religions claim. But only Christianity offers the highest view of exceptional significance individual person. Existential intensive Christian personalism of Byzantine hesychasts leads them to the idea of theosis (deification) as the end destiny of man. Theosis is understood by them as real transformation of human nature as result of synergy — union of divine grace and human efforts. Deification is complete salvation of every human person in his inimitable exceptional being.
Rev Oleg Klimkov regards religious practice of asceticism necessary the achievement of theosis in the context of the anthropology of hesychasm. This practice is a form of treatment of sin that is regarded as illness of soul. The way to God goes trough the knowledge of himself by man. Man gets deeper into his soul and has to fight against the passions of his own nature which are the inner causes of sin. The psychology of passion and the practice of the “uninterrupted Jesus prayer” that is “memory of God” have been analyzed at the end of this chapter.
Chapter 4 of the third part of the monograph covers the symbol of “heart” as the key concept of the doctrine of man of Byzantine hesychasm. The author believes heart to be the center of the all somatic and spiritual life of man. It thinks, senses and it is the organ of conscience and love and the main point of human organism. The entire religious experience and emotions are into heart. According to Palamas the heart is origin of mind. “Christian materialism” of the hesychasm is based on the fact of the Incarnation of Logos.
Heart is the crossing point of the two worlds: God speaks with man in the profundity of human heart. Real religious experience can be achieved only in this way. Heart is a source of both the good and the evil. This antimony associated with the problem of freedom of human person needs deification as its complete solution.
Then O.S. Klimkov analyzes relationship between the loss of the “culture of heart” and actual problems of modern civilization that has already threatened the integrity of human being.
Thus the religious experience acquired in the process of spiritual activities of man that done in all depths of heart and aimed at achieving theosis. And it is this experience can be very helpful for developing most topical problems of religious and philosophical anthropology which is to take into consideration the principal latest discoveries of the profound psychology and modern psychology of religion.