Hesychasm is silence and silence is not the absence of sound but wholesome completeness imparting wholeness through the uncreated energies of wisdom and glory. Stillness is awareness of presence deifying us, not a philosophy that imposes wordy control by taking sides. Desert wisdom loves silence because it loves wisdom that glorifies the Name, not because it is asserting its opposition to one philosophy or another. Some Orthodox theologians attack the philosophy of scholastic essentialism in the name of their voluntaristic personalism. Desert wisdom is silent when philosophical extremes threaten to tear Christians apart, extremes such as essentialism as opposed to personalism, insinuating some sort of irreducible dualism between the divine essence and the divine persons.
Stillness is the silent air breathed in by wisdom in her glorification of God in his Name, transcending every delusional confusion and every dualistic division. Philosophies do not usually spring from purification, illumination and glorification of God but are often war games of the mind that inevitably oppose one another as enemies or assimilate each other as victors or victims in their endless games of sophisticated controversy. Hesychasm may sometimes sound like an ‘ism’ that is playing games of the mind, but that is only to misconstrue its truth on the basis of the language some in academia use of it. In fact, the stillness of God stills the mind by awakening the eye of the heart to deifying awareness of God’s presence, opening the ear of the heart to glorification of his presence in illumined awareness, God’s deifying energies of wisdom and glory unveiling God in his Holy Name.
Divine energies such as wisdom and glory are expressions of God’s essence as well as ways of partaking in the divine life of God’s three persons, Holy Trinity, so there is always a possibility that when purification, illumination and glorification are neglected, warring philosophies move in and take over. It is one thing to enter into dialogue with mediaeval scholasticism or with modern existentialism, it is another to be taken over by one of them in the war games of the mind that divide them. The thinking mind listens to silence whereas the illumined heart is silence, the deifying silence that sees and hears the mysteries of glory in the heart. Descartes taught, “I think therefore I am,” which accurately defines the egocentrism of the modern thinking mind but desert elders pointed to awareness ever present and presence ever aware without trace of created predicates.
Inspired by the ‘I AM’ sayings of the Fourth Gospel, elders taught that God’s Name is ‘I AM,’ God ever aware and ever present in the midst. ‘I AM’ is God’s Name revealing deifying God-centred wisdom and glory in our midst. Glorifying awareness of God’s presence embraces the deifying presence of his wisdom, for both wisdom and glory hallow God’s Name. In other words, desert wisdom turns us inside out and outside in, releasing the war games of the thinking mind. Stillness is unrestricted spacious wholeness, free of the binary oppositions of the dualistic mind. Silence is not afraid of paradox and when dualistic thought ends up with its inevitable contradictions, wisdom gloriously shines forth in the midst, opening illumination to the mysteries of God-centred glorification. Wise stillness is not a Cartesian ‘cogito ergo sum,’ but an awareness of presence that is present in awareness, releasing back into its origin, which is ‘I AM’ who ‘I AM,’ revealing God in his Name.
The Holy Name ‘I AM’ communicates the deifying energies of wisdom and glory, infinitely transcending all war games of the binary mind. There is no common measure between the philosophies of the reasoning mind and the wisdom of the illumined heart. There is, however, a common uncreated energy uniting the illumined heart with the light of Holy Trinity, but it lies not in what we do but in the light of the wisdom and glory of God. God’s Kingdom comes when God’s Name is hallowed because ‘I AM’ is holy, eloquent in its silence and deifying in its stillness. No clever philosophy can ever save us from falls from glory or release its captive adherents into liberating wisdom or hallowing glorification. It can only persuade us to take sides in one war game or another, setting us for or against this or that philosophy. This is no true love of wisdom but just one more seductive betrayal of wisdom or another. The desert loved wisdom and so called itself philosophy but never confused this holy wisdom with sophistry. Orthodox Hesychasm was clearly right to see through Scholastic essentialism but it does not follow that Hesychast wisdom is to be confused with exsistentialst personalism, although there is always a constructive dialogue to be had with these philosophies as with recent versions of Scholasticism. Hesychast wisdom holds steady in glory as it stands steadfast in wisdom, and it is glorification not sophistry that completes what illumination initiates.
The desert bears unbroken witness to the union of wisdom and glory, seeing the wisdom of the cross of unselfish love to be inseparable from the glory revealed by God’s Name, glory which is love’s unselfish glorification of God through God, unveiled by the Spirit in Holy Trinity. The wisdom of the Cross is the wisdom of unselfish love, whose glory shines forth in the midst as God’s hallowing Name. It is the mystery of the Cross of glorification that releases the mind from war games, discerning the difference between wisdom and sophistry. Theologia Crucis co-inheres in theologia gloriae when wisdom conjoins with glory in the Name. Sacraments are not truly understood by shallow ritualism nor is the Jesus Prayer understood by narrow conventional religion. When wisdom is neglected, glory is not permitted to purify and illumine the heart. When ritualism and ethnic religion usurp Orthodox Christian wisdom, Holy Orthodoxy is cut off from its heart. Warring philosophies such as scholasticism and exsitentialism step into the vacuum with yet more war games of the troubled mind, leaving Hesychast tradition confused and divided, even by its own wholesome antimonies.
Stillness silences the mind by illumining the heart, drawing the mind down into the heart, as light awakens light and glory opens to glory. The Holy Trinity renews the heart when God remembers God in God, as the unceasing prayer of the Spirit restores glorification of the Father through the Son. It is glorification that nourishes love of wisdom, freeing stillness from the war games of the mind. It is glorification that opens wisdom to glory, releasing the extremes of warring philosophies from all trace of extremism. Glory loves wisdom beyond all else, for glory is wisdom’s beloved in the Holy of Holies, unveiling the glory of wisdom in God’s Name, ‘EHYEH,’ ‘EGO EIMI,’ ‘I AM.’ (John 8:58).