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Truth and Communion


The Truth is also

The Eucharistic perspective

The triadologic perspective

Negative perspective

The Christological perspective

The perspective of the "image" (icon)

Truth and Salvation -
the existential importance of the synthesis of the Greek Fathers

Truth and person

Truth and the

Truth and the Church - Ecclesiastical consequences
emerging from the synthesis of the Greek Fathers

The Eucharist as a place of the

4.     "Negative" perspective 

In the development of the negative theology reappeared the platonic - origenic understanding of the truth, but only for its basic element, to be taken back into the gnoseological and ontological claims. In Origen the highest level of the truth is expressed with the prefix self-, e.g. self-truth, self-justice, and others; on the contrary though, the negative theologians prefer the prefix hyper: hyper-truth, hyper-substance, and others. Here lies a new radical new orientation of the gnoseology and a taking away of the truth from its Greek basis, because the Greek thought was satisfied with the definition of the truth through the self-, but would have never exceeded the being or much more the mind, which remains to Greeks always connected to the truth, as its extreme theological location[i].

The core of the negative theology was located in the fact that the existing in it Greek ontology should be abolished and transformed, because we wouldn't be able to use terms of the human mind or creation, in which the term of being would also mainly exist, in order to declare God, the truth. Thus, the absolute dissimilarity of the existence of God is emphasized, as it exists in the heart of the biblical theology, so intensely, that the biblical understanding of God comes into intense contrast to that of the Greeks[ii]. Negative theology denies the Greek belief about the truth and expresses the belief that our knowledge on the being, meaning creation, should not be identified ontologically with God. God "has an existence that is simple, unknown, inaccessible to all things and completely inexplicable, because it exists over all affirmations and denials"[iii]. For this reason the truth also lies beyond the decision between affirmation and denial[iv]. The neo-platonic world of ideas in the "Hierarchy" of the areopagitic works led certain researchers into the error of speaking of a neo-platonic influence. The most essential though, does not lie in these virtual representations, but in the meaning that reveals itself. The decisive point exists in the fact that contrary to the neo-platonic effusions, the dionysiac "Hierarchy" does not claim that the lesser being, comes from the higher one[v].

For a better understanding of this thing, we must focus our attention on two characteristic points of the negative theology, which are seen mainly in Pseudo-Dionysius and Maximus the Confessor, meaning the term ecstasy, as in the discernment of substance and energy in God. The term ecstasy means, that God is love and as such he creates a continuous relation of love outside Himself. This "outside Himself" has great importance, because through this is discovered that love as ecstasy does not create an effusion with a neo-platonic sense, but a dissimilarity of the being and also the fact that it answers and returns to its original existence[vi]. Maximus explains this idea more fully and clearly; the being does not refer to Him in cosmology after all, as in Pseudo-Dionysius as well, but to the triadological existence of God[vii]. The distinction between substance and energy in God describes the relationship of God and the world as an ontological discernment, which is surpassed by love, but not by "nature" or "substance"[viii]. So it is that this discernment, connected to the idea of ecstasy, is the first successful effort in the history of the Greek thought to harmonize upon a philosophical basis the biblical ideas about discernment of God with the efforts of the Greeks on the unity of the being. In this philosophical development this fact discerned, which was summarized in the Eucharistic and triadological perspective, which we have already mentioned before. The importance of these concepts is going to be even more discerned, when we refer to the relation between truth and human existence.

If one understands the very core of the negative theology of this time in its basic purpose, then it is proven that it does not relate at all with a theological agnosticism[ix]. Its primary purpose rather lies in dividing the question about the truth and knowledge from the field of Greek ontology and in its place to be placed in the relationship between love and communion. The main erotic characteristic of negative theology can already be used as a key to the understanding and its evaluation. The mystic and ascetic theologians of that time with their views, to which they concluded from the erotic approach of the being, reached from another way to the same result with the Eucharistic and triadological views of the previous time: only through its identification to the communion[x] can the truth be harmonized to the Greek ontology. Primarily in Maximus the Confessor it can be seen, that in this approach there is no agnosticism and no escape from the world. The value of this great mind lies a lot more, in the fact that he achieved the fully processed synthesis of the Greek, Judean and Christian view of the truth. The question that was put from the beginning finds in this Father its answer at a broad scale.

[i] It is a fact that the platonic, neo-platonic and Gnostic philosophers spoke of a "passing away" of the beings and some of them used the prefix hyper-. But what is important is that the "passing away" is not to these philosophers a movement beyond the mind, but a movement away from all the other things so that it can reach the mind at a clear state. To the Greek philosophical tradition, which at this point Origen and his followers felt sympathetic towards, the mind always remains capable to know God (also see further up I). If the negative theology has been radically separated from that tradition, this lies in the fact, that to it the truth does not reside in the mind, but lies beyond it. (see Pseudo-Dionysius, Περί Μυστ. Θεολ. I, 3 MPG3, 1001Α. Also see I. Hausherr, Ignorance infini, in: OrChrP2, 1936, 357. Also the texts R. Roques, Contemplation, extase et tenebre selon le Ps. Denys, in: Dict. Spir. II, (1952), 1898.

[ii] The contrast between this negativism and the Greek view of God becomes clear, if one examines the idea of God in Plato. According to Plato, we reach the knowledge of God through the anterior viewing "of the soul", especially while it gives birth to something and transfers a "continuous flow of being" and then through the viewing of "order, which existas in the movement of the stars", meaning the "Word that set the universe into order" (Die Gesetze, 966d).

[iii] Maximus the Confessor, Μυστ. Προλ.

[iv] The deep meaning of this thought lies in the detachment of the truth from the situation of the fall, where the choice between "real" and "unreal" is put. (see further down, Part III, 1-2). This is decisive to preserve the identification of the truth to God Himself, because God exists beyond the capability of us choosing between the "real" and the "unreal". At a very important extract (Απ.MPG 91, 1296C) Maximus makes this particular observation in relation to the truth: Christ is over the truth because there is nothing to which can be subjected to the same examination, like him, or could be compared to him, while the "truth", of which we have experience, objects to the "lie".

[v] Also see R. Roques, L' univers dionysien. Structure hierarchique du monde selon le Ps. Denys, 1954, 77, footnote 6 and 135, footnote 3.

[vi] Pseudo-Dionysius of Areios Pagos, Περί Θείων ονομάτων, 4, 14. Also, Maximus the Confessor, Απ. 23: God "is silent while he leaves a continuous relationship of love and passion to them, who are able to accept it. He moves, by attracting upon Him naturally the desire of them , who are across Him in silence".

[vii] Also see P. Sherwood, St. Maximus the Confessor, The ascetic life-The four centuries on charity (Ancient Christian Writers 21, 1955, 32).

[viii] The roots of this discernment must be sought in Gregory of Nazianzos. (Or. 38,7). The development of this discernment leads to the theology of Gregory Palamas. Also see V. Lossky, Essai sur la theologe mystique de l'Eglise Orient. 1961, 83. The purpose is discrimination between Creator and creation. Also see P. Sherwood, the same, 32.

[ix] The identification of "negative" and "denying" can lead to a misunderstanding. Also see the repeating phrases of Dionysius ου κατ' έλλειψιν (Περί θείων ονομ. 3, 2, MPG3, 869A) μη κατά στέρησιν (As above, 1, MPG3, 1065A)and others with which he characterizes the positive content of the negative theology, which can be a superb theology (Περί θείων ονομάτων, 3, 2, MPG3, 869A). It is a theology which exceeds the scheme "positive vs negative" or "knowledge over ignorance"..

[x] We must take care on the importance of the prefix συν- in the use that Pseudo-Dionysius does in the term ecstasy. (Περί θείων ονομάτων 3, 1-2, MPG 3, 681-684). He points at society; the dissimilarity of each member becomes respected. Also see R. Roques, Contemplation..., ln. 1899 and on.


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