Thursday, 7 February 2019

Aristotle Papanikolaou: What does deification look like? Maximus, virtues, and the architecture of the soul

This paper will sketch Maximus the Confessors’s discussion of theosis as an architecture of the soul that is constituted by a cooperative alignment of its rational and affective parts. The virtues are not simply the mortar binding these various parts together, nor are they simply the building blocks giving shape to the ‘theotic’ soul; they are the very tools that move the various parts into their intended place and remove the obstacles obstructing knowledge of God. It is customary to speak of Maximus’s understanding of knowledge of God as an ecstatic union beyond reason, but this is only one side of the coin, as it forgets the importance of the affective part of the soul. Union with God as ecstatic experience is conditioned on the rational part of the soul’s formation of attention-as-contemplation of the intentions, or logoi, of created realities. This mind can only reach ecstatic union if the affective part of the soul is formed in love—the irascible in agape, and the concupiscible in eros—such that “when in full ardor of its love (eros) for God the mind goes out of itself, then it has no perception at all either of itself or of any creatures. For once illumined by the divine and infinite light, it remains insensible to anything that is made by him . . . through love the mind is ravished by divine knowledge and in going outside of creatures has a perception of divine transcendence” (Centuries on Love1.10 and 1.12)

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