Thursday, 5 February 2015

Nathaniel Kidd: Gnome looks like a Demon: A Demonomorphic Reading of the Gnomic Will in Maximus the Confessor

The scholarly treatment of the gnomic will in Maximus the Confessor is frustratingly complex, and in many respects, seems to have reached a gridlock (cf. P. Blowers article in Union Seminary QR, 2012 3:44). I propose, however, that progress can be made in the conversation by a change of strategy, viz., reading the gnome against the background Maximus' demonology, rather than his philosophical anthropology. This approach goes against the grain of the standard discussions about the gnomic will which privilege the technical descriptions of human action that Maximus presents in the Disputatio cum Pyrrhoand Opuscula 1, and suggests instead that thegnome is firstly and primarily an ascetical category that needs to be accounted for in Christology and human psychology only secondarily and derivatively.
In this register, I suggest that the gnomemight be appreciated as the primary interior locus of demonic potentiality consequent to the Fall. If this definition is accepted, it becomes relatively clear why such a faculty would need to be excluded from the person of Christ, and enables a much stronger explanation of how Christ could affect the healing such a psychological force without himself actually sharing in it. This approach, moreover, has the happy outcome of resolving Maximus' technical insights more deeply into the imagery of the Judeo-Christian tradition, where the struggle against the "evil inclination" (yetzer ha-ra) is a familiar theme. Drawing attention to this coincidence highlights the potential for an ongoing pastoral appropriation of this otherwise obscure Christological doctrine.

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