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Gregory Palamas

Essence, Energy, the Heart and Tabor Light

Gregory Palamas
Gregory Palamas

Hi Friends -

This page is a placeholder for a future study of the theology developed by Gregory Palamas, a 14th century monk who synthesized 800 years of eastern spiritual thought and practice which had become known as Hesychasm (pronounced HESSY-chasm), which is translated into English as “inner stillness.” If you dig in to a study of Gregory Palamas or Hesychasm you will find three helpful ideas:

There are two qualities of God: God’s essence and God’s energies. The essence of God is transcendent, and therefore not knowable to humanity, except at certain times when God makes a revelation or God makes an act of grace, puncturing the natural order with that which can only be observed, for example to Moses on Mount Sinai in the form of a burning bush, or to Jesus on Mount Tabor in the form of a transfiguring light, or to Paul on his way to Damascus in the form of a light from heaven.

God’s energies, however, are immanent, immanent to nature, in the form of natural law, and immanent to humanity, in many forms, twelve of which we know in Unity as the powers of man. It is the energies of God which operate in accordance of principle, and which are at all times both knowable to humanity and accessible by human power.

So we have from Gregory Palamas an explanation of how metaphysics can declare that “God is principle” while Christian mysticism will at the same time declare that God is Grace and Truth. We study metaphysics in Unity because that is where we have “agency.” But we worship God in Inner Stillness because that is where God’s agency emits Grace and Truth.

We engage the whole person—mind and body—through the heart. Most people who have studied New Thought metaphysics soon come to an awareness that metaphysics is rooted in Platonism, a Greek philosophy that explores the interaction of Divine Mind with our human mind, the human mind being all too often misinterpreted as the soul. As Hypatia Hasbrouck famously wrote “My mind and the Mind of God are one.”

The problem with Platonism, or Neoplatonism, its 3rd century form, is not that it ties God Mind to human mind, but rather that it separates human soul from human body. That mistaken notion has a long, sorry history in the Christian church and in New Thought as well. The fact is that the true Christian does not ask “where will your soul go after you die?” but rather the true Christian asks “when shall your body be raised up?” The body is not an illusion, and the greatness of Charles Fillmore is that he knew the true body is spiritual, not flesh.

Most of mainstream Christianity is laughing—and laughing loudly—at those who practice the whole slew of questionable healing techniques practiced in Unity, such as affirmations, tapping, EFT, and Heart Math. But 600 years ago the same mainline Christians, schooled in Humanist and Neoplatonic thought, also laughed, and laughed loudly, at the controlled breathing and the Prayers of the Heart employed by the Hesychasts as well.

There is a heart-centered metaphysics; it is known as Christian mysticism, and it has been suppressed in Christian history far too long. Unity and other forms of Metaphysical Christianity are bringing it back, in my opinion, in the form of spiritual healing, which has been suppressed in Christianity for two millennia. And the Hesychast teachings of Gregory Palamas along with the healing traditions of Christian New Thought will help lead the way.

The culmination of mystical experience is the vision of Divine and Uncreated Light. It is the testimony of Gregory Palamas and a large number of Christian mystics that the light which comes in inner stillness and comes while practicing body-centered forms of prayer is trustworthy—trustworthy because it is uncreated, trustworthy because it is from God. Many in the western Christian tradition (Roman Catholic and Protestant) would ask, why does that matter?

It matters because salvation is not a legal status. Salvation as a legal status is a theological concept found only in the western church. Salvation in the eastern tradition is an opening to the beatific vision, the Tabor Light, which transforms (transfigures) the human being, body as well as mind, into a higher state. The Israelites were going in circles in Sinai until Moses saw the light. Jesus never asked “who do people say I am?” until he was transfigured by the Light on Mount Tabor. And Paul knew only hate in his heart until the light of heaven knocked him off his high horse.

Charles Fillmore and Ed Rabel taught time and again that our goal as Metaphysical Christians is the mystery hidden for the ages, an awareness of Christ in us, our hope of Glory (Greek: splendor, brightness). There is no need for confession, only for transformation. And we will experience that transformation as light.

I hope you will spend some time clicking around for references to Essence and Energies of God, Palamas, Hesychasm, Tabor Light, Mount Athos, and Orthodox Christianity. If you really go crazy and want to read the best regarded study then look for St Gregory Palamas and Orthodox Spirituality by John Meyendorff, the man who translated Palamas into English and who led his rediscovery in the mid 1900s.1

Mark Hicks
Sunday, November 29, 2020

  1. John Meyendorff, St Gregory Palamas and Orthodox Spirituality (Crestwood NY, St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1974)

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