Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Michael Bakker: Maximos' aporia of Christ's γνώμη, the stages of willing and the νοῦς as king of the soul

Maximos the Confessor presents us with a problem by both affirming and denying a γνώμη in Christ. A way out of this aporia is offered by two other elements from his writings: the stages of the willing process and the image of the soul as city.

I tend to associate the twelve (!) stages with the discursive reason (λόγος), which by cumbersome deliberation tries to decide on the right course of action. In contrast, Christ and the saints decide on a higher level: that of the intellect (νοῦς): “Through the medium of reason, they raised up to the level of intellect their power of sensation (αἴσθησις).” Christ and the saints thus do posses a γνώμη, but it is not shaped gnomically, but noetically.

QThal 49 illustrates the latter way of willing by presenting the νοῦς as king ruling the city of the soul, who has as his chief court officials λόγος, ἐπιθυμία and θυμός.

Applied to the Christ’s agony in Gethsemane this would mean that Christ received from his senses the natural desire not to die. He even formulates it is as an uttered request to the Father. Ascending from the rational level to the noetic level, however, He decides to keep his natural will fully aligned with His divine will. This decision is then passed on below to reason, which says “not as I will, but as You will” and further down to His body directing it to go to His disciples.

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