Hesychasm

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

Hesychasm (Greek: hesychasmos, from hesychia, "stillness, rest, quiet, silence") is an eremitic tradition of prayer in the Eastern Orthodox Church and Eastern Catholic Churches of Byzantine Rite practised by the Hesychast.

Based on Christ's injunction in the Gospel of Matthew to "when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray", hesychasm in tradition has been the process of retiring inward by ceasing to register the senses, in order to achieve an experiential knowledge of God (see theoria).

History

Even in prehistoric times civilizations used repetitive, rhythmic chants and offerings to appease the gods. Some of the earliest references to meditation are found in the HinduVedas. Around the 6th to 5th centuries BCE, other forms of meditation developed in Taoist China and Buddhist India.

In the west, by 20 BCE Philo of Alexandria had written on some form of "spiritual exercises" involving attention (prosoche) and concentration and by the 3rd century the Greek philosopher Plotinus had developed meditative techniques.

Western Christian meditation progressed from the 6th century practice of Bible reading among Benedictine monks called Lectio Divina, i.e. divine reading. Its four formal steps as a "ladder" were defined by the monk Guigo II in the 12th century with the Latin terms lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio (i.e. read, ponder, pray, contemplate). Western Christian meditation was further developed by saints such as Ignatius of Loyola and Teresa of Avila in the 16th century.

Secular forms of meditation were introduced in India in the 1950s as a Westernized form of Hindu meditative techniques and arrived in the United States and Europe in the 1960s. Rather than focusing on spiritual growth, secular meditation emphasizes stress reduction, relaxation and self-improvement.

During the 1960s, both eastern meditation traditions and psychedelics, such as LSD, became popular in America, and it was suggested that LSD use and meditation were both means to the same spiritual/existential end. Many practictioners of eastern traditions rejected this idea, including many who had tried LSD themselves. In The Master Game, Robert S de Ropp writes that the "door to full consciousness" can be glimpsed with the aid of substances, but to "pass beyond the door" requires yoga and meditation.

Christian meditation

Christian Meditation is a term for form of prayer in which a structured attempt is made to get in touch with and deliberately reflect upon the revelations of God. Christian meditation is the process of deliberately focusing on specific thoughts (e.g. a biblical scene involving Jesus and the Virgin Mary) and reflecting on their meaning in the context of the love of God.

Unlike eastern meditations, most styles of Christian meditations do not rely on the repeated use of mantras, but are intended to stimulate thought and deepen meaning. Christian meditation aims to heighten the personal relationship based on the love of God that marks Christian communion.

In Aspects of Christian meditation, the Catholic Church warned of potential incompatibilities in mixing Christian and eastern styles of meditation. In 2003, in A Christian reflection on the New Age the Vatican announced that the "Church avoids any concept that is close to those of the New Age".

Christian meditation is sometimes taken to mean the middle level in a broad three stage characterization of prayer: it then involves more reflection than first level vocal prayer, but is more structured than the multiple layers of contemplation in Christianity.

John Main and the World Community for Christian Meditation (WCCM)


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Theoria

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

According to the Hesychast mystic tradition of Eastern Orthodox spirituality, a completely purified saint who has attained divine union experiences the vision of divine radiance that is the same 'light' that was manifested to Jesus' disciples on Mount Tabor at the Transfiguration. This experience is referred to as theoria.

Theoria is Greek for contemplation. It corresponds to the Latin word contemplatio, "looking at", "gazing at", "being aware of," and it is an important term in theology.

Taking philosophical and theological traditions into consideration, the term was used by the ancient Greeks to refer to the act of experiencing or observing and then comprehending through consciousness, which is called the nous or "eye of the soul" (Matthew 6:2234). Insight into being and becoming (called noesis) through the intuitive truth called faith, in God (action through faith and love for God), leads to truth through our contemplative faculties. This theory, or speculation, as action in faith and love for God, is then expressed famously as "Beauty shall Save the World". This expression comes from a mystical or gnosiological perspective, rather than a scientific, philosophical or cultural one.

Christianity took up the use of both the Greek (theoria) and Latin (contemplatio, contemplation) terminology to describe various forms of prayer and the process of coming to know God. Eastern and Western traditions of Christianity grew apart as they incorporated the general notion of theoria into their respective teachings.

Several scholars have also demonstrated the similarities between the Greek idea of theoria and the Indian idea of darśana (darshan).

Christianity

Some Neoplatonic ideas were adopted by Christianity, among them the idea of contemplation, taken over by Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335 - c. 395) for example. The Brill Dictionary of Gregory of Nyssa remarks that contemplation in Gregory is described as a "loving contemplation", and, according to Thomas Keating, the Greek Fathers of the Church, in taking over from the Neoplatonists the word theoria, attached to it the idea expressed by the Hebrew word da'ath, which, though usually translated as "knowledge", is a much stronger term, since it indicates the experiential knowledge that comes with love and that involves the whole person, not merely the mind. In addition, the Christian's theoria is not contemplation of Platonic Ideas nor of the astronomical heavens of Pontic Heraclitus, but is contemplative prayer, the knowledge of God that is impregnated with love.

An exercise long used among Christians for acquiring contemplation, one that is "available to everyone, whether he be of the clergy or of any secular occupation", is that of focusing the mind by constant repetition a phrase or word. Saint John Cassian recommended use of the phrase "O God, make speed to save me: O Lord, make haste to help me". Another formula for repetition is the name of Jesus. or the Jesus Prayer, which has been called "the mantra of the Orthodox Church", although the term "Jesus Prayer" is not found in the Fathers of the Church. The author of The Cloud of Unknowing recommended use of a monosyllabic word, such as "God" or "Love".

Eastern Orthodox Church

In Eastern Orthodox theology, theoria refers to a stage of illumination on the path to theosis, in which one beholds God. Theosis is obtained by engaging in contemplative prayer resulting from the cultivation of watchfulness. In its purest form, theoria is considered as the 'beholding', 'seeing' or 'vision' of God.

According to the teachings of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, the quintessential purpose and goal of the Christian life is to attain theosis or 'deification', understood as 'likeness to' or 'union with' God.

Theosis results from leading a pure life, practicing restraint and adhering to the commandments, putting the love of God before all else. This metamorphosis (transfiguration) or transformation results from a deep love of God. Theoria is thus achieved by the pure of heart who are no longer subject to the afflictions of the passions. It is a gift from the Holy Spirit to those who, through observance of the commandments of God and ascetic practices, have achieved dispassion. According to the standard ascetic formulation of this process, there are three stages: katharsis or purification, theoria or illumination, and theosis or deification (also referred to as union with God). P>In the Cappadocian school of thought (350400AD), theoria is the experience of the highest or absolute truth, realized by complete union with God. It is entering the 'Cloud of Unknowing', which is beyond rational understanding, and can be embraced only in love of God.

In the theological tradition of St. Macarius of Egypt (ca. 300391AD), theoria is the point of interaction between God and the human in the heart of the person, manifesting spiritual gifts to the human heart. The highest form of contemplation originates in the heart, a higher form of contemplation than that of the intellect. The concept that theoria is alloted to each unique individual by their capacity to comprehend God is consistent. This is also the tradition of theoria, as taught by St. Symeon the New Theologian (9491022AD), that one cannot be a theologian unless one sees the hypostases of God or the uncreated light.


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