Know yourself: Saint Antony on the knowledge of God.

In his Third Letter, Saint Antony tells us, “He who knows himself knows God” (Chitty SLG 1975 pg 11).  He bears witness in the Spirit that all who know themselves know God and glorify God aright, knowing God’s own God-centred knowledge of God which undergirds God’s God-centred glorification of God.  For Antony the Great, desert father of monks and solitaries, it was evident that the heresy of Arius was due to the fact that he did not know himself (Letter 4 pg.13).  He who knows himself knows God and so knows that Christ’s ‘I AM’ in our midst is uncreated.  Taught by the Spirit of Truth, seers who see who sees here at centre, see nothing created at centre and awaken to the uncreated grace of Christ offering love’s glory to the Father, crying, “Abba, Father!” (Rom 8:15).  The Spirit’s awareness of the ineffable Oneness of the Father and the Son is shared with all, paternal awareness generating filial awareness in all who by grace awaken to the Son’s awareness of sonship, which is Christ’s inheritance of graced sanctification and deification (theosis), (Rom 8:17).  

 Saint Antony taught that in knowing oneself, God is known, making us all members one of another.  This means that In Christ, wisdom is like a vine whose branches are aware of God their stem, aware that all who know ‘I AM’ are members one of another, like limbs of one body or branches from one bough.  For Antony, we are all members one of another in noetic awareness, which he calls “noetic substance.”   Self-knowledge in purity of heart is like a translucent mirror that is aware of being aware of God’s ever-present presence, aware of light of glory in the midst.  Antony also knows ‘I AM’ is undying in those who know themselves and who therefore know the undying life of God that does not dissolve when the body dies.  For Antony, Christ is the wise physician who heals the great wound, curing the fall from glory which underlies all falls from grace.  One who knows himself knows the difference between the created and the uncreated and so no longer confuses the created with the uncreated.  He who by grace knows himself, knows indivisible union between the created and the uncreated.  He knows himself in God without confusion, knowing God in himself without division. Christ the wise physician cures satanic separation by healing idolatrous confusion, showing that diabolical division is cured when confusion is healed.  Of course, Antony knows this must be spiritually seen to be believed, yet without whole-hearted trust in God’s wisdom and the Name, seeing may remain no more than a fleeting, passing experience.

Saint Antony also taught that all who know their true name will also see the Name of Truth (Letter 3 pg.9).  Since ‘I AM’ is God’s Name, God being One, ‘I AM’ is One, Christ is One in all who awaken in the Spirit to God in the midst, one in the Name ‘I AM.’  Interpreting Jacob’s nocturnal wrestling contest with the angel at Penuel, he says that the Hebrew name Isreal means, “Mind that sees God.”  What, as Jacob, he did not know, as Israel he turns and sees, unveiling the complete Name, the Name that reveals consummate Completeness.  The complete Name carries with it the uncreated fire of divine judgment, initially consuming confusion so as finally to heal division (Luke 12:49).  The pure in heart see God, so are able to discern, by the light of his Name, the glory of his Kingdom.  Love for one another arises from ‘I AM’ through ‘I AM,’ in ‘I AM,’ being the love poured out from God the Father through God the Son, revealed in the Spirit as love in Holy Trinity, uncreated love which is infallibly God-centred, not self-centred.   We are all members one of another in the Name, consequently all who love God, love their neighbour and all who love their neighbour, love God.  Moreover, whoever loves God aright, loves himself aright, because he who truly knows himself, knows God.  This opens to true Christ-like humility, not to be confused with self-centred self-deprecation or self-abnegating self-obsession, for without wisdom’s own true humility, the Kingdom of God remains irredeemably far off.

Saint Antony knew that there is no self-knowing knowledge of God that does not know God through God, for no-one knows God but God.  The Name is God from God and light from light, God seeing God through God, God beholding God in God.   The wisdom of Saint Antony is the wisdom of the Spirit’s insight that sees who sees, of awareness aware of being aware, God’s Spirit in union with our spirit, awareness that nothing created obscures uncreated awareness from uncreated presence, God’s wisdom from his glory.  ‘I AM’ is known through ‘I AM,’ but only ‘I AM’ is aware of this awareness, only God knows God through God.  It is God who knows himself when God is known.  Christ’s ‘I AM’ is now, as he always was; moreover, he is always now as he shall ever be, the same yesterday, today and forever.  Knowing himself, Christ knows the Father, knowing that all else passes away except the unveiled Face, the Name of Truth.  ‘I AM’ is the first and the last, the beginning and the end, the original archeological theophany and the final teleological christophany of the Name.  

To know oneself before one dies is to die before one dies to all that divides self-aware awareness from God, all that intervenes between wisdom and glory, all that separates seer from seen, for ‘I AM’ is God revealing God in his Name.  Self-centred delusion releases into God-centred wisdom in the uncreated light of the Name.  ‘To be or not to be’ is no longer the crucial question once wisdom sees who sees, hears who hears, tastes who tastes originating Oneness of Being, wisdom aware of being aware.  Originating ‘I AM’ is unceasingly generating ‘I AM,’ the Son, in the timeless now of pure awareness.   The Spirit of ‘I AM,’ proceeding from ‘I AM’ the Father, abides in ‘I AM’ the Son, awakening hearts in Christ to the mystery of his Name.

Saint Antony knew that knowing himself, he is known by God, because revelation of ‘I AM’ is revelation of God, God beholding God, revealed by way of the Spirit’s circular movement of procession and return.  Aware of being aware, the Spirit of wisdom knows as she is known, a circular movement which is the Spirit’s awareness of God the Father generating the Son, proceeding from the Father to abide in the Son.   Downstream from  Holy Trinity, Saint Denys noted the circular movement of all angelic intelligences, whilst Saint Gregory Palamas agreed this circular movement transcends the linear motion of distracted minds, concurring with Denys that this angelic circular movement is infallible ( Philokalia Vol 4 p 336; Triads 1:ii:8).  What Antony saw centuries before was that all true knowledge of self is knowledge of God, imparting God’s awareness of God’s presence, including the infallibility of God’s certainty of God revealed when knowledge of self is knowledge of God.  By proceeding forth and returning, the spirit of pure awareness participates in the Spirit, in whose image and likeness it was created.  The Spirit proceeds from the Father and returns through the Son to the glory of the Father, a truly circular and infallible movement, without error, yet releasing error when it arises into revelatory truth as Spirit of Truth.  

The Spirit descends at Chrismation in answer to turning’s purifying ascent in Baptism, a turning that dies before dying when it sees, a death that overcomes death by death when it knows, dying to all that death can destroy as it loves.  One who knows himself knows God in himself and himself through God.   Knowing ‘I AM’ in ‘I AM,’ the Spirit knows in Truth, unveiling God’s certainty of God, God’s certainty in God.  Awareness knows presence with a certainty that infallibly cuts through or leaps over all dithering or doubt.  Uncreated awareness is circular co-inherence in Holy Trinity, God turning back into God, God turning round into God, through God.  By proceeding, the Spirit descends so that by returning she may ascend, gathering everything into Oneness of presence and awareness.  In God, awareness is certain of presence, just as wisdom is certain of glory, a certainty that is infallible because it is God’s certainty of God.  Of course, nothing is certain except God, whose knowledge of God is alone certain and infallible.  God’s ‘I’ awareness inheres to God’s ‘AM’ presence, forever sure of Oneness as Oneness.  Glory belongs to ‘I AM’ alone, for there is no real otherness usurping God.  ‘I AM’ is God and there is no other, which is why to know ‘I AM’ is to know God, one awareness, one presence, one Oneness of awareness and presence:  ‘HaYah asher HaYah’ : ‘I AM who I AM’ (Exodus 3:14).  Hallelu Yah!