On Nature

Nature as Character A man’s personality or character is sometimes described as his “nature.” Nature as Environment All flora and fauna, and their habitats, is sometimes describes as the “natural” world, as opposed to being synthetic or man-made. Nature as Genus or Class A genus or class is sometimes defined in natural terms, i.e. by the phrases “human nature” or “divine nature.” for example. Vladimir Lossky, in his Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, uses the word “nature” in this sense. Lossky usually takes a Platonic position when he talks of a man’s participation in being, by sharing in “human nature” or “divine nature.” Nature as Essence Essence is sometimes used as the defining criterion of a thing. This defining function can be applied to a genus or class, or to a single noun-object or entity. Aristotle has used the word “essence” to apply in both these senses at different times in his categorising, pedagogic works. Nature as Physis Physis (φυσις) sometimes refers to a single, concrete noun-object or entity; say, a specific creature of God. This is especially true in Alexandrian metaphysics. On the other hand, in Constantinopolitan metaphysics, the word “physis” is applied to “essentially” define a genus or class. Constantinopolitan metaphysics uses a further word, hypostasis (υποστασις) to explain that by which a single, concrete noun-object or entity has its being. The historical argument between Constantinople and Alexandria hinged on the misundertanding of the word “physis” in their communications. Numerous times the parties came close to rectfying the misunderstanding, where either side acknowledges the linguistic formulations of the other as alternative expressions of the same, single dogma that they both share, yet political issues always impeded the formal remediation of the controversy. In Constantinopolitan thought, the term “hypostasis” is a speculative term that is useful for rational, cogitative reflection and rationcination, when considering a man as an “anthropos” (ανθροπος). Alternatively, Alexandrian metaphysics does not require the word “hypostasis” in its anthropological consideration of a single man. Alexandrian metaphysics prefers to limit itself to the concrete, perceptual recognition of a single man, rather than consider the “essential” characterstics of the genus or class of man considered in an abstract sense. Constantinople finally arrived at the verb “to enhypostasize” in its Christological formula, to explain how Christ has “enhypostasizes” both “human nature” and “divine nature” in Himself. Alexandria, on the other hand, reaches the same dogma, but without using the concept of “hypostasis.” Instead, Alexandria remains concrete in its description of Christ as a single “physis” to refer to that which the Constantinopolitans refer to as a single ”hypostasis.” Thinking and perceiving in concrete terms, Alexandrian thought uses the word “physis” to perceptually acknowledge that Christ is one, Christ is human, and Christ is divine. Simply put, where the Alexandrian Christological formula is apperceptive in its language, the Constantinopolitan formula is speculative in its language. In no sense is the repudiation of abstract reasoning a defect in Alexandrian systematic theology, or a primitive retardation of intellectual ability. Rather, it is a disciplined and cautious reticence to avoid the error, as they see it, of substituting the perceptual engagement of real things with the parsing of representative, mental objects.

Church Life

On the Libellum

Can a man consciously reject what he doesn’t understand? If he never consciously subscribed to a heresy, how can he conscientiously reject it now? If a man cannot distinguish between false heresy and true dogma, why should he sign anything? How much catechesis can a man take? Just enough to repeat dogma? Would we catechize a parrot? The answer lies in a man’s heart, the core of his soul. Here, a man senses spiritual life from spiritual death. He does so by the grace of the Holy Spirit. The sensate knowledge in the depths of his heart is transferred to his nous, and from there it is noetically interpreted into forms and symbols which are intelligible to his dianous, his mind. Now he is able to conjugate further pictorial symbols and verbal formulae in a rational way. Now he can sign statements. A man first needs the illumination of the Holy Spirit before he can sign any libellum.

Church Life

On the Trinity

Can I worship the Holy Trinity without understanding the Holy Trinity? Of course I can. In fact, I can do nothing else. In order to do so, I don’t need to philosophize about it. I don’t need words like, for example, kataphasis or apophasis, etc. I will simply pray to the Holy Trinity in the traditional, orthodox way, using the service-books of the Church, in accordance with Her customs. When I do so, my nous will start to recognise God and my dianous will realise what is happening. However, it is still good to understand metaphysics, as much as I can, but even if only to reject metaphysics. Why? For the sake of apologetics; and to avoid making mistakes in one’s own reasoning. Orthodox worship is pragmatic, tried and true. I receive it through the Church from the saints, those experts in prayer who have gone before me. I don’t care about any systematic description of this orthodox way of prayer. Rather, I let this pattern of prayer inform my soul and body. When that happens, I praise and glorify God the Father, my Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the All-Holy Trinity. I give thanks, I confess my sins, I ask for all the things we need. This is not a performance. If, sometimes, with the powers of my soul and body, I do not praise or glorify God, nor be thankful, nor be penitent, nor ask for what we need, but am only going through the motions of prayer, with neither understanding nor comprehension, then at least let me be honest about it. Let me not be a hypocrite. Without the engagement of the powers of my soul and body, I am only ‘acting-out’ being a man at prayer. Let me not claim any virtue in such an act, such a vain enactment of theatrical dogma. At such empty times, let me not stuff my head with with any systems of dogmatic thought that justify my emptiness. If I cannot recognise God with my nous, then at least let me recognise my own sin. When that happens, then at least prayer might begin again, and the powers of my soul and body begin to get involved with God the All-Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit once more.