A translation of Juan Nadal Cañellas, “Le rôle de Grégoire Akindynos dans la controverse hésychaste du XIVe siècle à Byzance,” in: Juan Pedro Monferrer-Sala, ed., Eastern Crossroads: Essays on Medieval Christian Legacy (Piscataway, N.J.: Gorgias Press, 2007), pp. 31-58.

Juan Nadal Cañellas : Gregory Akindynos’s role in the 14th-century hesychast controversy in Byzantium (2007).

Not long ago I heard someone say, “What a time we are living in, when it is easier to break apart an atom than it is to break down a prejudice!” I could only agree with this person. In fact, there are prejudices that simply will not die. Especially those which have been passed down by official historiography, regarding which one easily forgets that history is written by the victors.

Such is the case with that remarkable man, Gregory Akindynos — an outstanding intellectual, an authentic hesychast, a famed spiritual director, and a wise and rigorous exegete of the Fathers of the Church, the likes of whom were not to be seen in the final two centuries of the history of Byzantium. He had the misfortune to find himself on the losing side (the side of the civil authorities) in the civil war which erupted in 1341 after the sudden death of Emperor Andronikos III, a war between the regent of the empire, Anna of Savoy, and the usurper John Kantakouzenos. When the partisans of the latter, bitter enemies of Akindynos, took control of the ecclesiastical power following their leader’s military victory in 1347, they mercilessly imposed a damnatio memoriae of our good Akindynos. These enemies or, to speak more properly, their later followers, had an unfortunate revival during the twentieth century with a series of unfortunate publications, due principally to a priest of the church of the Russian exiles in Paris, John Meyendorff, whose historical falsifications and manipulations are beginning today to be exposed by informed and impartial authors even from within Orthodoxy. Thus, Akindynos is slowly but surely regaining the honorable position that rightly belongs to him in the history of the theology and religious life of Byzantium during the first half of the fourteenth century.

As is well known, the so-called Hesychast Controversy of fourteenth century Byzantium is made up of two different but connected periods: first, it commences with a dispute over the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. After this discussion it developed into a polemic over the mode of participation in God, whereby the Christian is divinized. We shall soon see the link that unites these two debates.

But first it will be necessary to introduce the three persons who, in these disputes, play the role of protagonists: Barlaam the Calabrian, Gregory Palamas, and Gregory Akindynos.

1) Barlaam the Calabrian

At an unspecified date between 1325 and 1330, a monk, short of stature [1], aged about 35, disembarked at the port of Amvrakia in Greece and walked up to the neighboring town of Arta, capital of the Despotate of Epirus. We know very little about his youth except that, at baptism, he had been given the name Bernard, which subsequently, upon his taking monastic vows, was changed to Barlaam, and that his family name was perhaps Massari. He remained at Arta for a certain time. Later he would go take up residence at Thessalonica.

It was not uncommon for Italians to travel to Byzantium during this period [2], but, in the case of Barlaam, his motives for voyaging to Greece from Calabria, where he had been born at Seminara, are not known to us. Gregoras the historian says that Barlaam desired to study Aristotle in the original text; others have offered other, more or less imaginary, reasons, even to the point of saying that the Calabrian monk “must have been a sort of Latin spy who had come East in order to destroy Orthodoxy and its strongest bulwark, Athonite monasticism, even while pretending to defend them.” At the start of his controversy with Barlaam, Palamas — perhaps not without irony — wrote that Barlaam had abandoned his homeland to go in quest of the true faith [3], which raises the question of whether Barlaam had been born Orthodox or Catholic [4]. Nevertheless, we would maintain that, when people people have sought to understand the reason for Barlaam’s passage from Calabria to Greece, they have not taken sufficiently into account the fact that he made his way precisely to Arta. The Despot of Epirus at this time was John Orsini, son of the count of Cephalonia and of Zante, a clever and unscrupulous man who attempted by all means, including his own conversion to Orthodoxy, to gain the loyalty of his Hellenic subjects. At his court he gave pride of place to Greek learned men, among whom the best known was a moderately important figure, Constantine Hermoniakos, whom Barlaam probably met (even if our sources are silent on this point) during his sojourn in the small town of Arta. If, then, one takes into account the increasing difficulties which the Latins created for the Byzantine dioceses of Calabria [5] under the Anjous who, allied with the pope, favored latinization, Barlaam might have sought to go and place himself at the service, or under the protection, of John Orsini.

But if Barlaam was an ambitious man, as he is described for us, Arta could not have satisfied him, and even there, moreover, he did not feel altogether beyond the sphere of Rome’s latinizing pressures [6]. He must soon have felt the attraction of Salonika. After the fall of Byzantium to the Franks in 1204, this city, more than other cities of the empire such as Nicaea, Ioannina, Trebizond and, later, Mistra, had become “a second Athens, to which, as to nowhere else, flowed philosophers, rhetors, literary men, musicians, and artists, everyone who admired Greek letters, producing a way of life that was altogether praiseworthy” [7]. Moreover, at Salonika, following a series of circumstances, there existed what nowadays would be called an influential, cultivated bourgeoisie, the μέσσοι, making it possible for Thessalonica to experience, during the 1300’s, its “golden century.”

At that time in Thessalonica it was possible freely to open a school and teach [8]. That is what Barlaam did as soon as he arrived, and he taught throughout the whole of his first stay in the city, which, to all appearances, must have been fairly lengthy. He devoted himself to giving courses in mathematics, geometry, music, and astronomy, that is to say, in the Quadrivium of the medieval universities of the West. He also lectured on Plato, and he probably already at that point began commenting on the works of Dionysius the Areopagite, considered at that time a disciple of Hierotheus, first bishop of Athens, converted by the Apostle Paul. Barlaam had, so it would seem, an enormous success from the outset of his teaching, something which leads one to think that he had already had experience teaching about these matters. Among his students at Thessalonica were persons later distinguished for their ecclesiastical life and knowledge.

Proud of his success and too sure of his intellectual prowess, Barlaam visited Constantinople and came in contact with the intellectual élite of the capital of the empire, especially Nikephoros Gregoras, a confrontation from which, it is said, he came away worsted. In spite of this, the Grand Domestic John Kantakouzenos and the emperor himself paid tribute to the depth and breadth of his understanding, as well as to his devotion to Orthodoxy.

2) Gregory Palamas

He was born in 1296, the first child of the family of an official at the imperial palace in Constantinople. He had access to the education that was received by the sons of employees of the court. But since he chose the monastic life at the age of nineteen, Gregory was unable to pursue his studies beyond the “general education” (ἐγκύκλιος παίδευσις) which was the elementary and general program which every cultivated man learned at school. His future enemies Barlaam and Gregoras would characterize him as “ignorant,” “uneducated,” and “unlettered.” For his part, to refute this accusation, he wrote in one of his polemical treatises, speaking in the third person, that, when he was seventeen years old, “asked one day by the great emperor Andronikos … to speak about Aristotle’s logic, Palamas … expressed himself so well that all the scholars who, at that time, were part of the emperor’s entourage were jubilant; as for for the Great Logothete (Theodore Metochites), that universal sage, he was filled with admiration and said to the emperor: If Aristotle himself were here in flesh and bone, he would have praised him. And he added: This is how those people who, by nature, are endowed to devote themselves to studying Aristotle’s logic ought to be” [9]. Unfortunately this rudimentary knowledge of the Stagyrite, which remained rudimentary because of Palamas’s early choice of life, would subsequently give a bad turn to the construction of the Palamite theodicy, as we shall later have occasion to point out.

So it was that Gregory Palamas, at the age of nineteen, decided to become a monk. Because it was not possible for him to make the journey directly to Mount Athos, he spent the winter at Mount Papikion, midway between Constantinople and Salonika. This mountain had become famous since the eleventh century for the numerous monastic foundations that were to be found there. But, at the moment when Palamas arrived, certain of its monasteries had become infected with Messalianism, that is, with members of the sect of the Bogomils, who were frequently termed “Messalians” by the Byzantines. According to the testimony of Palamas’s friend and biographer Philotheos Kokkinos, these men came to the monastery where Palamas was staying in order to debate theological issues with him [10]. Fr. Meyendorff, when commenting upon these contacts, and in order to protect in advance his favored one from the grave accusations leveled against him of having fallen deeply into this heresy, writes: “Even though it would be difficult to verify the historicity of this narrative, … it is possible that it corresponds to an historical fact, and we accordingly could see in it an example of personal contacts between Bogomils and Orthodox monks; Bogomilism and Hesychasm — which in the Balkans spread through very similar social milieux — could have traits of spirituality which each has borrowed from the other” [11].

Leaving aside for the moment this question, the fact is that Palamas and his brothers finally arrived at Mount Athos at the beginning of spring, 1316, spending time at different monasteries, and staying there for a few years. There Palamas — as could hardly have occurred otherwise — received a monastic formation based on a nearly exclusive reading of the works of spiritual or neptic fathers and hymnographers. Among them, Diadochus of Photike, Evagrios of Pontos (taken sometimes erroneously for Nilus or Maximus), Symeon Metaphrastes, Symeon the New Theologian, and Nicetas Stethatos, to cite only those from whom Palamas supplies extracts in his Triads. To these fathers he added, in his treatises, Pseudo-Dionysius and Maximus the Confessor, interpreted in a manner convenient to him. Indeed, Palamas later on expressly acknowledged, in his polemic with Akindynos, that he had not had the opportunity to read the great Fathers of the Church: “As for me,” he says in his Dialogue between an Orthodox and a Barlaamite, “even if it was not long ago since I [first] had the occasion to come in contact with these Fathers …” [12].

After the stay at Athos, Palamas and his younger brother Makarios (his other brother Theodosios having died in the meanwhile) departed for Salonika, where Palamas had himself ordained a priest in 1326. Thereupon he went with ten companions to live at a hermitage near the town of Veria in northern Greece, and he stayed there for four or five years. The reasons why Palamas and his ten companions left the Holy Mountain are not altogether clear [13].

Let us interrupt our narrative at this point, since it is at Veria that we find the first encounter between Palamas and Akindynos.

3) Gregory Akindynos

He was born at Prilapon, the present-day Prilep in the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), from a Byzantine family of affluent farmers, as I have had occasion elsewhere to prove [14]. We know that he had relocated to Thessalonica at an unspecified date but no doubt at the age at which one begins one’s higher studies, since this was, in all probability, the reason for his relocation. Supposing that he was born around 1300, his arrival at the capital of Macedonia — or, as they said at that time, of Thessaly — could be placed between 1320 and 1323. As even his enemies acknowledged, at Thessalonica Akindynos had undergone a very deep course of studies, both secular and theological. His teachers were Thomas Magistros, a remarkable personality and a great humanist, and the archdeacon Bryennios who was also himself a humanist, an admirer of Gregoras, sensitive to the beauties of Atticism and of historical science. Thanks to his academic success, Akindynos, once finished with his studies, obtained the post of tutor to the sons of the nobility of Veria, with whom he ever afterwards maintained a correspondence.

Thus we find ourselves at Veria, where, as was mentioned earlier, Gregory Palamas had been residing since 1326 [15]. It was perfectly natural that the young humanist and theologian, newly arrived in the small town, should encounter the Athonite monk who doubtless must have possessed a certain reputation as a spiritual director. In point of fact, Akindynos submitted his soul to the guidance of Palamas, who quickly discerned in him a naissant monastic vocation. It is crucial to underline that, at Veria, Akindynos entered into a sincere and deep friendship with Palamas, a friendship which, lingering on as a hope in Akindynos’s heart in spite of their future quarrel, would never completely be erased, as we shall have occasion to observe. Palamas, for his part, showed his appreciation for his young friend’s talents by giving him a small astronomical treatise by Gregoras, a book which he had brought back from Constantinople after he had gone there in 1330 to be with his dying mother and to bring his two sisters, as nuns, to Veria.

During the next year (1331), an unforeseen circumstance, the incursion of troops of Serbian bandits, rendered life at Veria uncertain, and this led to a decision by Palamas and his monks to return to Mount Athos. Akindynos decided to follow them, intending there to embrace the monastic life. Having arrived at the Holy Mountain, they took up their abode within the precincts of the Great Lavra of St. Athanasius.

In becoming a monk, Akindynos had made it his chief goal to realize in practice that which, as a simple layman, he had been teaching, the perfect compatibility of rational knowledge with virtue. For him, the “external wisdom” had a quite concrete and limited purpose. Those who occupy themselves with Greek literature (he later wrote) do so “for the sake of the language, for elegance of discourse and to acquire knowledge of various fields,” but they are, at the same time, quite aware that the conceptual framework of Greek religion “was very impious, as it is also that on account of which Christ became man, to render free those who had been enslaved to it” [16]. Palamas, during Akindynos’s stay at Athos, where Akindynos was under his spiritual guidance, did what he could to convince his novice to abandon this view of secular knowledge, but he was not successful. Some years later, at the start of his dispute with Barlaam, Palamas reminded him of his advice and their frequent conversations on this matter: “Recall the exhortations which I so frequently addressed to you when I was with you, and, with all your might, guard yourself from the vain superciliousness of the external philosophy” [17]. In spite of this, when, at the Great Lavra, the council of monks refused at first to admit Akindynos to the monastic profession, Palamas, in a gesture of sincere friendship, advised him to prepare, according to his best humanistic abilities, a speech in praise of the Great Lavra of St. Athanasius, and Akindynos pronounced it before the assembly of the elders who were gathered with the hegumen. Nevertheless, the plan did not gain the desired result. At that point, Akindynos decided not to remain at Athos any longer; he was convinced that the type of monastic life that was fostered there, where it was said that the cult of ignorance was enthroned, did not suit him. All the same, he appreciated the Athonite ascetics’ mode of life and, when the occasion arrived, he saw to it to defend them against Barlaam’s calumnies. “I am not opposed to you because of what you say concerning theology,” Akindynos wrote to him, “but because, from the start, you fervently devoted yourself to maligning the holy hesychasts and to meddling with them in an indiscreet manner” [18].

Following his stay at Athos, Akindynos returned to Salonika where he became personally acquainted with Barlaam, whose renown as a scholar, as well as his reputation for vanity, were doubtless already known to him. Nonetheless, between the two men there was born a sincere friendship.

Following a short stay in this city, after accepting a suggestion by Gregoras with whom he was in correspondence, Akindynos made his first trip to Constantinople. There, besides visiting Gregoras, he made the acquaintance of illustrious figures of the capital city’s Byzantine social world, and decided to receive his monastic tonsure at the monastery of St. Athanasius where, with better results than at Mount Athos, he pronounced a discourse of monastic profession, mingled with a eulogy of the refounder of the monastery, St. Athanasius I, Patriarch of Constantinople, who had died in 1310.

Having come then to the definite decision to live his monastic life at the capital of the empire, Akindynos made a return visit to Salonika merely to collect his belongings and have them sent on to the monastery at Constantinople, where, within the monastery’s walls, he had obtained a small house which thenceforward would become his residence and his center of spirituality, where he would live in the company of two disciples.

With this, we have arrived at the start of the year 1334. Now, a little afterward, during the same year, two legates from Pope John XXII arrived at Constantinople to treat of the Union of the Churches, which is to say, to discuss the eternal problem of the procession of the Holy Spirit. The picture which the historian Gregoras paints for us at that moment shows that the unexpected presence of the legates at Constantinople provoked a state of anxiety amongst the politico-ecclesiastical circles of the capital. The emperor was applying pressure for the Church to begin negotiations with the legates. But the patriarch, an excellent canon lawyer but a mediocre theologian, was not equipped to deal with them, nor were his prelates. Besides, the patriarch was not even convinced that he really ought to take up these discussions again. Nevertheless, the nobility began reproaching him for the shameful silence of the Byzantine Church. At that point Gregoras, who shortly beforehand had refused the emperor’s invitation to take charge himself (though he was a layman) of negotiations with the legates, intervened, making a long speech before the patriarch and his synod, advising them not to enter into discussion with the Latins, and, it would appear, he persuaded his audience. In spite of this, Andronikos III had already decided in favor of a rapprochement with John XXII in order to prevent the attack of the League which Venice and the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes had organized against Byzantium, a league which now counted among its adherents also the king of France, the pope, and the king of Cyprus. Andronikos had to find a solution to the impasse. It was at this point that Barlaam came to mind, who, in spite of his defeat before Gregoras (if a defeat it was), continued to enjoy the high opinion of the emperor and that of his Megas Domestikos, Kantakouzenos. Furthermore, he came from Italy, knew the Latins’ dogmas and spoke Latin and Italian. At that moment he happened to be at Constantinople, or rather he had been invited to come there. The fact is that, once there, he expounded his point of view concerning the utility of negotiating with the legates. He was, accordingly, elected representative of Byzantium, undertook the negotiations, and wrote his treatises against the Latins [19] in response to the document which the legates had furnished to the Byzantine authorities containing the official doctrine of the Roman Church. He did this, as Kantakouzenos states, to the satisfaction of the emperor and of the Megas Domestikos — that is to say, himself. But these treatises unfortunately were to become the cause of the release of the chain of events of the ensuing controversy. By all indications, the negotiations with the Latins were broken off, probably on account of the legates’ insistence that they support themselves by the authority of the pope and take him as supreme arbiter; this had already happened numerous times in the past, but now, following the Second Council of Lyons, Rome believed it had full right to invoke this. This pretension evidently provoked an immediate halt to the conversations and makes clear the reason for Barlaam’s three treatises against the primacy of the Bishop of Rome [20].

Even if Barlaam’s performance satisfied the emperor and the Megas Domestikos, who had incidentally learned in the meanwhile of the disintegration of the aforementioned League and who, consequently, no longer saw themselves as endangered, the same was not true for a great part of the Byzantine intellectual world who took the view that their Church had been represented by a foreigner and a Latin to boot, and that this person had not correctly expounded the Orthodox doctrine. Palamas, always attuned to what was going on at Constantinople, had Barlaam’s treatises sent to himself. They managed to reach him in a very incomplete state, from which Palamas deduced that Barlaam admitted two principles in the Trinity and, furthermore, placed the authority of pagan authors above that of the Fathers of the Church, something that was completely untrue. Without losing time he wrote a long letter to Akindynos in which he said that, since the philosopher Barlaam had gone to Constantinople where Akindynos was now living, he besought him to ask him how he had been able to make such statements, and then to report back to him his response [21]. Akindynos carried out this request and then wrote back to Palamas to make it clear to him that the opinion he had formed about Barlaam was incorrect [22]. Nevertheless, Palamas plainly was not satisfied and he pursued a new correspondence with his former novice, who in all his letters — and, in all the subsequent controversy, this would be Akindynos’s conspicuous, characteristic trait — advised both Palamas as well as Barlaam to observe moderation, prudence, objectivity, and above all Christian charity. But when he saw that the controversy was, in fact, unavoidable, Akindynos thought that, to calm people’s minds, it would perhaps be necessary to put in writing, in simple, straightforward speech, the Orthodox doctrine on the procession of the Holy Spirit. He would have been able to do this himself, thanks to his profound theological training; but upon entering the monastic order he had made it his aim to devote himself entirely to contemplation and to have nothing to do with theology. This decision is something he repeats a thousand times during the course of his treatises and he testifies that, if he was finally brought to speak on theological issues, this was due to an express commandment of the Patriarch and to the dumbfoundedness which the, according to him, aberrant dogmatic pronouncements of Palamas had produced in him. “As for me, O most divine Lord, Pastor of the ecumenical Church of Christ” (Akindynos wrote near the end of one of his treatises), “I believe that I have fulfilled your commandment to the best of my abilities, although I had, from the beginning, no particular desire to accomplish this work and can make no boast for having accomplished it. I thus find myself very ill at ease with regard to this task, and I bear now the responsibility of being the cause of these treatises and of these works which have brought us so much affliction, troubles, and storms” [23]. And in another place he affirms: “For our part, to speak truly, we would not have come to speak at all about these matters, having no desire to play the theologian, neither upon these specific issues nor on others. But when we heard talk of the multitude of uncreated divinities, unequal and dissimilar among themselves, something which we understand pertains to the religion of the Greeks and is incompatible with the piety of Christians, we were plainly filled with astonishment and dismay” [24].

Accordingly, having no desire to engage in a quarrel over the manner in which Barlaam had defended the Orthodox position, Akindynos asked Palamas to set down in writing his view on this doctrinal issue. Soon thereafter Palamas saw to it that his Apodictic treatises on the Procession of the Holy Spirit were sent to him at Constantinople [25].

But before discussing these writings, we must make a slight detour to say that, in the meantime, upon Palamas’s initiative, a direct exchange of letters had already taken place between him and Barlaam, in a tone that was anything but conciliatory. Certain Palamite affirmations had led Barlaam to conduct an inquiry aimed at understanding what was this strange spiritual theory to which Palamas was alluding, according to which the contemplative monk, persevering in the Jesus Prayer, hidden in an obscure corner of his room and contemplating his navel, arrived at seeing a light which, if red, was from the devil, and, if white, was the vision of the divinity itself, appearing as light as at the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. In consequence of the information obtained, Barlaam had written a treatise titled Omphalopsychoi, that is to say, “Those who have their soul in their navel,” in which he savagely attacked the hesychast monks.

It is impossible to trace here in detail the whole course of the events that followed. Akindynos continued to play the role of a peacemaker, with a wisdom and prudence which astonishes who follow this history closely. His spiritual daughter, the Princess Irene-Eulogia Choumnia, wrote to him: “How is it that you have, at your young age, a wisdom like that of a very old man?” [26] With this clear-sighted wisdom Akindynos, in congratulating Palamas for his Treatises, did not hesitate to make an ironical allusion to the very title of the treatises which Palamas had termed “Apodictic.” In fact, no proof can be called apodictic unless it is self-evident, and it is impossible to have a proof of that kind when one is faced with proving some assertion concerning the mystery of the Trinity.

Palamas, in the letters addressed to Barlaam that followed, opposed his critique by affirming that the pneumatikoi (spiritual men) in their contemplation truly see God as he is, and that from there they derived their certainty which, from that perspective, itself constitutes a piece of evidence [27]. Barlaam, if he had been scandalized already by what he had learned about the hesychasts’ psychosomatic method of prayer, was now dumbfounded. He believed it to be beyond doubt that what Palamas was saying coincided precisely with the doctrine of the heretical Bogomils, who at that period were mistakenly termed Messalians. He therefore wrote up a new treatise which he titled Against the Messalians wherein he explicitly accused Palamas of heresy, and presented it to the Holy Synod as documentary proof for his formal denunciation.

When Patriarch John Kalekas had seen this report, he directed an order to the ecclesiastical authorities at Salonika to have Palamas arrested and sent to Constantinople to be judged. When Akindynos heard this news he ran to the patriarchate; here is the course of events as he himself recounts them:

“At that point, I completely forgot my indignation and, assuming the audacious air of someone who held an important place in the holy synod, I came before you, my lord. To be sure, before coming I notified you in writing that this letter which had been sent, not to Palamas so that he should come, but to others to order them to send him as though he had been already condemned, was not such as was to be expected of Your goodness and gentleness. What did you do in such a situation? You did not reprimand me, saying ‘Who set you up to be our judge?’, but you took the trouble to hear what I was saying and, after having heard what had already taken place, you recalled the letter that was with Barlaam and you recalled it from him in the name of your ecclesiastical authority. Since he said that he no longer had the letter in question, and that he had already sent it, you did not say to yourself, and you did not say to me, ‘What can we do? It’s a shame, but there’s no way now for us to do anything else,’ but immediately you ordered me to write up another letter addressed to Palamas himself, such as Palamas himself would have wanted, and the thing was accomplished. You gave the order that the letter be remanded to me and to me you gave the order that I should deliver it to the person to whom it was addressed. As for me, after thanking you as was due, I delivered the letter to Palamas” [28].

Akindynos accompanied the patriarchal letter with a note which has been preserved for us, in which he asks Palamas to consider all that he was doing for him; as for the letter which Palamas had received from him, it was discussed in person.

At the same time, Akindynos sent another letter to a mutual friend, David Dishypatos, beseeching him to come to Constantinople to help Palamas defend himself against the accusations of the evil Barlaam. It is necessary to persuade Palamas to suppress what is matter for accusation on the part of Barlaam, Akindynos said, and David will be able to obtain this more easily because of the influence he has on Palamas, and he continues:

“This role is hardly suitable for me because, from the start, I did not always see eye to eye with him on what he wrote, and I exposed it as being [possibly] susceptible of the accusations of which it is accused, even if now I have spoken and acted as a sincere friend and I trust that, because of me, no one believes here that he is a ditheist. But he seems very stubborn in what concerns the accusations of his adversary, accusations which are not without some foundation, concerning which he wrote to me not long ago; he sent me, in fact, a long letter on these subjects, which definitely confirms his theological convictions” [29].

Akindynos finished his letter to Dishypatos by saying that it was necessary at all costs to avoid a schism between the partisans of Barlaam and those of Palamas.

Akindynos’s rapid courier reached Palamas before the order of arrest brought by Barlaam’s emissary could be delivered. Without wasting any time, Palamas set on his way. He arrived at the capital “in the midst of winter,” thus, around December 1340/January 1341. For his part, David Dishypatos also made his way there and arrived three days after Palamas.

Again, we must now let Akindynos speak for himself:

“After some days, Palamas arrived and came to lodge with me. When I questioned him about those things of which Barlaam had accused him and concerning which he himself had sent me, a little earlier, a letter which actually confirmed the said Barlaam’s accusations, he confessed that he employed certain expressions among those for which Barlaam had taken him to task, but he attempted to show me that these expressions were in no way amiss and that we ought neither to make a big fuss over them nor concern ourselves with them in any way, seeing that they were mysteries of contemplative, spiritual men. In saying this, he sought to explain away what we found troubling, but he failed to convince us; he was in fact behaving in this matter entirely contrary to the tradition of the holy Fathers. Since he was unsuccessful at persuading us, he finally asked us not to speak at all about this whole matter until we should have put Barlaam to flight, who, quite apart from all this, was the common enemy of our monastic habit; after that, he promised he would remove from his treatises everything that caused us grief and disturbed us” [30].

What especially calls for attention in the preceding text is its mention of these verbal formulas used by the contemplatives, to which it makes allusion, and which, some years earlier, had been unknown among Palamas’s circle. In fact, in 1330 such formulations were never mentioned at Athos when Akindynos was staying there for a relatively long period: “Truly,” he says in one of his Antirrhetics, “we embraced nothing of this impurity when we were living in hesychia; we would not have been fooled on this matter, seeing clearly (as we do) that this is a heresy in no respect less serious than the other impieties which have existed over time” [31]. One must therefore conclude that something had taken place in Palamas’s mind to cause him to embrace these ideas for which Barlaam now accused him and which also shocked Akindynos. In the last of his letters to Barlaam, Akindynos had said to him that his theory of divinizing created grace, just like that of Palamas concerning the uncreated divinity, inferior to the divine essence and visible in itself, was “for me a novel and unheard-of theology” [32]. The monk Niphon, who around 1351 (hence, a contemporary) wrote his Against Palamas, says that Palamas did not invent his heresy, but took it from the hesychasts who were communicating it among themselves in secret. The same claim would be made some yours later, around 1370, by Isaac Argyros who said that Palamas’s error could be traced back to the Messalians who carefully hid their doctrine from the Church. Palamas must have spent time among them at Athos where they were numerous at that era. Still other attestations from that time, to the same effect, can be found. Summing up all these testimonies, Prof. Rigo concludes: “In fact, in their concern to trace back the heresy of Palamas to its origins, a well-defined circle of Antipalamites during the 50’s and 60’s of the fourteenth century identified Athonite ‘Messalianism’ as the primary source of this doctrine” [33]. On the other hand, Antonio Rigo’s study, from which the foregoing citation is drawn, goes into minute detail in researching the veracity of the accusations of Messalianism directed against Palamas by Barlaam and, later, Akindynos. In the end, he reaches the following conclusion: “These scant indications seem to show that, although the circle of Gregory the Sinaite and of Kallistos was, at least apparently, sharply opposed to the Bogomil group of Joseph (of Crete), the group headed by Palamas, Kokkinos and Bucheir maintained a certain relationship with the latter” [34]. This confirms that, between Palamas’s second arrival at Athos in the company of Akindynos in 1330 — or more precisely, after Akindynos had left Athos in 1332 —, and 1336, when Palamas launched his polemic against Barlaam by sending his first letter to Akindynos, he had known and adhered to an Athonite circle of spirituality that we might characterize as orientalizing macarian. In this group, to the traditional hesychast method of prayer there was added a doctrinal content which this method originally did not possess. To accomplish this, these monks interpreted biblical and patristic texts through the lens of hymnographers and ascetic and mystical authors who may be termed “Monastic Fathers.”

Akindynos, as we are aware, had known Palamas at Veria between 1326 and 1330; thereafter he stayed at Athos, more or less in his company, until 1332. During these years Palamas had been, in some sense, his spiritual director. Akindynos could thus believe that he knew Palamas pretty well, and, when Barlaam began making his accusations, his reaction was to tell him that “it is scarcely credible that this man would appear a heretic” [35]. During the time Akindynos lived with him, Palamas had thus led the sort of hesychast life that Akindynos desired himself to live, and doubtless the example of Palamas had something to do with his monastic vocation. The hesychasts, Akindynos says in one of his letters, contrary to the strange idea Barlaam had of them, “are men of immense piety, simple Christians who live in poverty, in peace, who believe that, as their body is destined for the earth, so their soul is destined for heaven, who are able to say with St. Paul, ‘we know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified’” [36].

We think, then, that it has been sufficiently shown that, between 1332 and 1336, there took place a change in Palamas’s mental outlook wherein he drew closer to the Macarian circles of Athos. Akindynos, nevertheless, remained unaware of his friend’s change in outlook; he had expected to find him the same Palamas he had known; and, as he himself said, he had been convinced that the whole dispute with Barlaam and the ideas battered back and forth there were only fruits of polemics and exaggerations due to wilfulness. He was waiting for the completely coherent explanations on the part of his friend. This suffices for us to recreate the atmosphere which existed at Constantinople and, in particular, among the followers of Akindynos, at the time when Palamas arrived there in order to defend himself against Barlaam’s accusations, around January 1341.

As we have seen, Akindynos had in no way been convinced by the explanations Palamas had given him; but, in friendship, he thought and did not for a moment doubt that his friend would hold to his promise to suppress the theological errors of his treatises, once Barlaam had been disposed of. He decided therefore, “by reason of our ties of friendship and nationality” [37], to help Palamas. Immediately, he presented him to the patriarch and to the synod, where he eulogized him with all the means at his disposal, avoiding all mention of matters wherein Palamas was innovating. And, in his report, from which all these pieces of information are drawn, he adds straightway his motivation: “I recognized his innovations, and I did not reveal them in any way, in the hope that he would carry out what he had promised me he would do after Barlaam’s defeat” [38]. Palamas also spoke before the synod; for fear of being caught red-handed, he only treated of the subjects of prayer, virtue, tears, and something about light, matters concerning which no fault could be found in him. Thus the meeting adjourned.

But even if the synod managed to satisfy itself with these explanations by Palamas, it was necessary to deal with the charges which Barlaam had made against him. The latter, for his part, was up to date on the stratagem devised by Akindynos, even if Akindynos, immediately after his statement before the ecclesiastical authorities on Palamas’s behalf, had retired into his hermitage, not wanting to intervene any further in this affair. Barlaam understood, therefore, that he was in a bad position, and moreover that he could not count on the support of the emperor and the great domestic, who were absent from Constantinople. He therefore announced his decision to make an appeal to Caesar, that is to say, to the emperor Andronikos, and his decision to await the latter’s return. This delay would play against Barlaam’s interests, because it permitted his enemies to organize themselves all the better.

When Andronikos III and Kantakouzenos had returned to the capital a little afterwards, the patriarch Kalekas apprized them of the affair, and the three came to an agreement to avoid, at all costs, dogmatic discussions in a public synod, understanding what troubles an event of this kind might produce. When the day of the meeting arrived, Barlaam was debarred in every way from explaining what he considered to be Palamas’s dogmatic errors, and since Palamas, now that the accused had become the accuser, spoke solely of prayer and of Barlaam’s criticisms of the manner of life of the eastern monks without going into details, Barlaam was obliged to ask for pardon and to submit himself. His fate was sealed. He took good account of this and, on the following day, he fled Constantinople and went to Avignon where he became the teacher of Petrarch and where, upon the latter’s recommendation, Clement VI nominated him bishop of Gerace, a diocese of Calabria, on October 2, 1342.

Akindynos had voluntarily kept aloof from this synod by a pang of conscience. He had been too conscious of having contributed decisively to his old friend’s defeat. But he had had to choose. Barlaam had been a friend on an intellectual level, whereas the friendship with Palamas was closer to heart. He had chosen Palamas, as we have already heard him say, “by reason of our ties of friendship and of nationality” [39]. But when, some years later, he justified his attitude with the words we have just cited, our Akindynos was unable to keep himself from adding, “an attitude for which he later paid us back with a very nasty recompense” [40].

How well founded was this complaint of Akindynos’s we find in Palamas’s behavior towards him from that moment onwards. On the day after the synod, Akindynos, who still remained in his monastic cell at Xerolophos, must have met with Palamas. Palamas was exultant on account of his victory over Barlaam, which he magnified beyond its real significance. Akindynos rejoiced in this, no doubt, but the moment had come for him to remind Palamas of his promise. Certain of his unacceptable, that is, even heretical, theological expressions ought to disappear from his writings. Palamas’s reaction was entirely different from what Akindynos, aware of his own decisive contribution to the outcome of the quarrel, had expected. Palamas turned savagely against him. Moreover, he set himself to expounding his theology in its most extreme form. Akindynos, in his report to the Patriarch Kalekas, declares:

“He, by contrast, puffed up beyond measure at what had taken place, and absolutely refusing to conform to what he once was, who had told me and promised me that he would get rid of those novelties which were troubling me, now instead wanted to publish them with all freedom. But we are now on his heels [Mais nous lui sont tombés dessus], and we have never been persuaded of that which he wanted to preach and dogmatize that went beyond the articles of religion professed by all the world” [41]. He also wrote in his Treatise IV, §11: “Remaining alone and taking advantage of the other man’s, that is, Barlaam’s, flight as a pretext for his own impieties, he acted in the same manner as did Arius who, once Sabellius had been unmasked — that Sabellius who taught an impiety the opposite of his own, since perversities, too, are opposed one to another …” [42].

Besides all this, Palamas demanded of the patriarch a new convocation of the synod in order to lay formal charges against Akindynos. This meeting took place during the month of July. At it, the Palamites failed to obtain what they sought, but they had already devised an alternative solution. Here is how Akindynos describes it some years later in his address before the patriarch and the synod, who had been eyewitnesses of these events:

“At that point the rioting began, and, laying hands upon my monks, who were two in number, they beat them violently, and if some people who respect the law of Christ had not pulled them off and held them back, they would have finished them off with the sword. And afterwards, shouting aloud, they set these same men upon me with the intention of killing me, calling me a Barlaamite in front of the crowd, whereas I, as you know, was more opposed to Barlaam than anyone else was. But the hand of Almighty God delivered me from their hands” [43].

We know that the man who was charged with assassinating him was a monk by the name of Menas. This attempted murder is related also by Palamas himself, though in recounting the story he gives not a word of sympathy towards the victim who had been his friend and great protector [44]. What a contrast with the sentiments of that genuine hesychast, Akindynos, who wrote to Palamas: “We take no pleasure in your defeats, if you think it good of us to think of you, while we call to mind the times gone by…. You in fact have been as a brother, whom we considered, at all times past, as the most beloved of all friends. May heaven cause me to enjoy no good if it is not true that such were our relations with you!” [45]

This is not the moment to recount in detail the series of events which followed. The patriarch attempted at first to bring Palamas over to his side of his own volition, but he did not succeed. On the contrary, Palamas began to write an endless series of treatises in defense of his dogmas and against Akindynos. And when the patriarch summoned him to ask him his reason for behaving in this manner which went against the decree of the synod of June against Barlaam, where the church had decreed, under pain of the most severe ecclesiastical punishments, “That neither by writing nor in speech is anyone to raise the least question with regard to these matters” [46], Palamas fled the city. In view of this, Kalekas charged Akindynos with refuting the heterodox teaching of Palamas, without publishing these refutations, which were meant solely for the patriarch and the members of his synod.

In the meantime, Palamas, who was probably involved in a political plot in favor of his friend Kantakouzenos who, since the death of Andronikos, had revolted against the regent, Anna of Savoy, and found himself in open civil war against the constituted power of the state, fled again even further, to Heraclea in Thrace, where he remained three months before being discovered and brought to the capital where he was, at first, kept under arrest at a monastery. Escaping this, he took refuge in the part of the basilica of Hagia Sophia that served as an asylum. He there organized so great an agitation that it was necessary to lock him up in the imperial prison. Nevertheless, it must be said that during all the time of his [forced] isolation he enjoyed full liberty to propagate his ideas by means of his followers who came to visit him. Even in the imperial prison Palamas had every means to continue composing his treatises, and he had there with him his disciple Dorotheos who served as his secretary. The government of Kalekas, accordingly, does not appear to have been tyrranical. Palamas enjoyed a relative liberty to propagate his ideas; he relied, moreover, upon his friends who lived freely in the city, for instance, Isidore, who remained in place as the elected bishop of Monemvasia, and who not only set to work with his Dorian seamen but brought to its conclusion a vast Palamite propaganda. Very different to this humane treatment would be the conduct of the Palamites towards [Palamas’s] adversaries in the aftermath of the military victor of Kantakouzenos.

To sum up in a word what took place during the civil war, which lasted five years and three months, suffice it to say that Palamas began publishing an interminable series of treatises in defense of his dogmas and full of insults and calumnies towards the civil and ecclesiastical authorities, and especially towards Akindynos. He was willing neither to show them to the patriarch nor to appear before the synod to give a reason for them. He continually slipped away so as not to have to justify his assertions. And seeing that, in spite of all of this, his affairs were still getting nowhere, he plotted with members of his party, in particular with Isidore, the bishop-elect of Monemvasia, who had established at Constantinople a confraternity of Dorian seamen (at that time, the inhabitants of Monemvasia, at the southern end of the Pelopponese, were termed “Dorians”), a new attempt to assassinate Akindynos. Here is the intended victim’s account of it:

“You (the patriarch and the synod) decided that it was necessary that his profane innovations be consigned to the flames. Having become informed of this, he endeavored to have me excommunicated by the Church and to hand me over to the crowd. If only that were all that he had done…, but — along with his good servants who, like him, see God’s glory and his uncreated, essential divinity with the eyes of the body — he did all he could to have me murdered. He trusted that, were I to disappear, his affairs would prosper, having well understood that the cause of piety was laid entirely on my shoulders — although he failed to consider that, for vigor of speech as well as for other qualities, I take last place among a multitude of pious men, except perhaps for strictness of piety, at least in respect of what I confess if not in respect of my practice — for, as to this point, I hold that there is nothing more important, and I am not afraid to expose myself to danger in defense of piety. But as for him, just as he is always deceiving himself, so he has also deceived himself in this. And for this reason, any of them were allowed to kill me. So it was that a certain Dorian, hired by them, came to assassinate me. But, repenting, he refused to carry out the business and confessed the nefarious scheme. He was not the first person to confess to this and own to it, for they themselves, prior to this, had openly declared and spread the word about this threat” [47].

Thus, thanks in large part to the activity of Akindynos, the diffusion of Palamism was not prospering; on the contrary, the machinations of the usurper Kantakouzenos, the patron of Palamism, against the constitutional power of the regent Anna of Savoy were floundering. Finally, however, on a day not well established near the beginning of February 1347, Kantakouzenos returned to the capital victorious. Akindynos, who had never wanted to engage in theological debates and who had been obliged to do so against his wishes by an express order of the patriarch, decided to withdraw from the city to seek a peaceful place where he might devote himself to hesychast prayer, which had always been his life’s goal. We know that he died nevertheless shortly thereafter. In leaving the imperial city, he had left behind a moving spiritual testament to his disciples and friends:

“I salute you, my friends, all of you … may I see you again here and take joy one day in upholding this piety which we have received from the Fathers and from the Savior himself, and may we preserve it immutable to the end. But if it should please God, who guides our steps as he alone sees fit, that you should never see me again, and that I may never again see you — you who have been for me lights more dear and more radiant than the visions of Palamas — but, instead, if we should finish our lives in separate places, be with me by your remembrance, or rather, let us be joined with one another in our prayers as much as we shall be in this present life; when we shall have been delivered from the calamities of this world, then we shall be together in God” [48].

This was the last of event of his life to be spared from time and from the play of human wills. Fortunately, the greater part of his works has come down to us, and it is by them that he ought to be judged. Ideas are less ephemeral than lives and sometimes retain an effectiveness that the death of their creator cannot take away.

And, to conclude this summary exposition of the role which Akindynos played in what has been called the fourteenth-century hesychast controversy, two words need to be said concerning his fundamental contribution to the preservation of doctrinal orthodoxy.

Palamas admitted that he was revealing dogmas hitherto unknown. He says this expressis verbis in the introduction to what is called the Hagioretic Tome [49]. These hitherto-unknown dogmas can be summarized thus: deification is an uncreated energy of God which eternally surrounds his essence, and it is by participating in this energy that man becomes deified. The same thing can be said of all the qualities which exist in the world here below: living beings participate in the divine energy of life, sensitive beings in the divine energy of sense perception, rational beings in the divine energy of reason. Palamas believes that Akindynos, who says that God is indivisible and that every being participates in God as a whole, is mistaken, and he justifies his point of view in the following way:

“Those who believe that we participate, in this way, in God as a whole … confuse and mix together everything in a single reality…. That is to say that, since (they say) everything participates in God, each of those things which participate, participate in God as a whole. And since he who participates in God as a whole is not deprived, according to them, of any of God’s qualities, there will be no beings which are non-living, nor others which are non-rational, nor some which are immaterial spirits and others which are otherwise; on the contrary, all will be beings, living, rational, intellectual and spiritual, since, if any of them is deprived of one of these qualities, it does not participate in God as a whole” [50].

For Palamas, “God is all-powerful because he possesses all the powers.” Thus, to some beings there is granted a participation in certain powers and to other beings there is granted a participation in other, different powers [51].

To anyone who has received some philosophical initiation, it will immediately become clear that we are dealing here with an absolutely material and anti-metaphysical conception of the divine nature, quite apart from its being a theological error. Palamas was incapable of getting beyond the absolute aseity of the divine nature that he found in the Pseudo-Dionysius, with its source in Neoplatonism. He attempted to make an Aristotelian correction to it, taken nevertheless from an Aristotle wrongly interpreted.

Akindynos, in correcting him, indicated to Palamas what were his two fundamental mistakes. First, that the difference of beings due to their participation in God does not arise from the fact that some beings participate in certain energies and others in others, but — as Maximus the Confessor explains, and as Akindynos magisterially expounds him — the difference comes from the mode of participation. Whereas Palamas places the origin of the differences of beings within God himself and in the participation in different divine energies, Maximus and Akindynos see the root of the differences in the creatures themselves, and show that this difference consists in the manner in which creatures are capable of participating in God.

In the second place, Akindynos destroys the Aristotelian corrective which Palamas had introduced to save his system. In fact, the Aristotelian theory of what are called “proper” accidents, that is to say, accidents inseparable from the essence (to be “capable of laughter,” Aristotle said, is not the essence of man, but it is an accident inseparable from man’s essence), in the image of which Palamas fashioned his divine energies which are not essence but which are inseparable from the essence, cannot be applied to the Prime Mover or divine essence, since to do so would imply admitting in this essence an imperfection and a potentiality, for it would have need of an accident to be able to act. Akindynos says to Palamas: “God is not all-powerful because he has all the powers, but because his nature, simple and of itself active, is able to do all” [52]. This then is the reason why Palamas’s doctrine cannot properly be termed a theology, but at best a theodicy, and quite a lame theodicy at that.

One final remark, to complete this summary of Akindynos’s contribution to the preservation of Christian dogma. The dogmatic progress in theology and Christology realized by the great councils of the first centuries had never consisted in suppressing one of the apparently contradictory elements to resolve the Christian antinomy: it was held that there is one God in three Persons in the Trinity; in the Incarnation, the existence was affirmed as much of the divine as of the human nature, and, with regard to the problem posed by the Monothelites, there was a defense of the existence in Christ of two natural wills, a divine one and a human one, undivided, not changing one into the other, without confusion, united in our one unique Lord Jesus Christ. The heretical tendency is always to simplify the problem by suppressing one of the two terms, while the orthodox solution always arrives at integrating the two truths. This is exactly what we find in the case of Palamas as far as concerns the relation between the Deus absconditus and the Deus sese manifestans, the participable God and the imparticipable God. Palamas cuts short the difficulty by saying that one part of God is participable and another part is not; that one side of God is visible and that he possesses another side which is invisible. If this could be done without incurring any further consequences, we could leave it to each person to choose whether or not to adhere to this doctrine. But the fact is, by this conception, divine simplicity is seriously compromised. And from divine simplicity there arises the true notion of aseity which, in the Christian understanding received from the Fathers, in particular from the Greek Fathers, is the foundation of the sole conception of God capable of preserving and supporting the mystery of the Trinity and the mystery of the economy of salvation.

We might go on here to refer to the role of Christ in Palamite theology. The renowned historian of Byzantine theology, Fr. Gerhard Podskalsky, has devoted a long, very carefully and meticulously written study to this subject; he states, at its conclusion, that, with Palamas, the theology of the Incarnation is placed in question by a metaphysic strongly tinged with Neoplatonism. Akindynos had already affirmed this in speaking about the works of his old friend: “His treatises,” he said, “give not the slightest consideration to Christ’s coming in the flesh” [53].

By contrast, Akindynos’s christocentrism is remarkable. “Here is the whole foundation of our salvation,” he writes in one of his treatises, “that there has really come to pass that which seems impossible to all those who do not admit that the Creator of all has a power superior to what is found among created beings and things, that is to say that God should have become man for the salvation of human beings; those who have believed this and who are filled with thankfulness and are aware of God’s love towards mankind have been saved by the All-powerful Word” [54]. And he concludes by addressing affectionately his old friend Palamas: “‘He whom you have not seen and cannot see,’ according to the divine Paul, he is in you, he himself and not another, if you have love for your neighbor, and not if you think you are beholding an uncreated divinity with the eyes of your body, something which is absolutely impossible” [55].


[1] Corpore pusillum, praegrandem tamen scientia, says his pupil Boccaccio in the work De genealogia Deorum, ed. V. Romano (Bari, 1951), p. 761.
[2] Cf. Weis, “The Greek Culture of South Italy in the Later Middle Ages,” PBA 37 (1951), p. 29.
[3] First Letter to Akindynos, 4. Complete Works of Palamas, ed. P. Chrestou (Thessalonica, 1962), I, p. 206, lines 15-16.
[4] On this question, see M. Jugie, “Barlaam est-il né catholique? Suivi d’une note sur la date de sa mort,” EO 39 (1940), pp. 100-125. The author sufficiently proves that Barlaam had been born Orthodox, which may give credibility to Palamas’s thesis that he had come to Byzantium “for love of the true faith,” if one takes this phrase in the sense, not of a conversion, but of a deepening of his doctrinal conviction. We think nevertheless that this was not in fact the reason for this voyage or, at least, not the decisive reason, as we shall indicate shortly.
[5] Concerning the dependence of the archdiocese of Reggio in Calabria upon the patriarchate of Constantinople, still at the start of the fourteenth century, see the abundant bibliography in Leone, Fiorenzo, p. 17, note 11. Revelatory also, upon this subject, is the statement of the famous philosopher and learned Franciscan Roger Bacon (1220-1292) who, in ch. 6 of his Compendium studii philosophici, says to the pope: “Nec multum esset pro tanta utilitate ire in Italiam, in qua clerus et populus sunt pure Graeci in multis locis” (F. R. Bacon, Opera quaedam hactenus inedita [London, 1859], p. 439).
[6] Pope John XXII (1245-1334): “Neopatrensi vero archiepiscopo provinciam (Epirus and Eptanisos) dedit, ut ad Cephaloniae comitem, qui ad Graecorum schisma defecerat, ad Latinum ritum revocandum operam defigeret” (Raynaldus, Annales Ecclesiastici, V [Lucca, 1750], anno 1320 § XLVIII, p. 149 [cited by D. Nicol, The Despotate of Epiros (Cambridge, 1984), p. 83, note 5]).
[7] O. Tafrali, Thessalonique au quatorzième siècle (Paris, 1912), p. 150. For this statement, the author is inspired by the words of the Praise of St. Demetrius made by Nicholas Kabasilas (cf. ibid., note 1).
[8] O. Tafrali, Thessalonique au quatorzième siècle, p. 163.
[9] Palamas, Antirrhetic I against Gregoras, 14. Complete Works of Palamas, ed. P. Chrestou (Thessalonica, 1988), IV, p. 242, lines 15-17.
[10] Philotheou Konstantinoupoleos tou Kokkinou, Agiologika Erga, A’ Thessalonikeis Agioi, ed. D. Tsames (Thessalonica, 1985), p. 441, lines 15 and ff.
[11] J. Meyendorff, Introduction à l’étude de Grégoire Palamas (Paris, 1959), chapter titled “Rencontre avec le Messalianisme” (Contacts with Messalianism), pp. 50-51.
[12] Palamas, Dialogue between an Orthodox and a Barlaamite, 20, Complete Works of Palamas, ed. P. Chrestou, II, p. 165, lines 1-2.
[13] On the relations of Berrea with Mount Athos, cf. A. Rigo, Monaci esicasti e monacio bogomili. Le accuse di messalianismo e bogomilismo rivolte agli esicasti ed il problema dei rapporti tra esicasmo e bogomilismo (Florence, 1989), p. 267.
[14] J. Nadal Cañellas, “Gregorio Akindinos ¿eslavo o bizantino?”, RSBN 27 (1990), pp. 259-265.
[15] This date has been well established by A. Rigo, “La vita e le opere di Gregorio Sinaita,” Cristianesimo nella storia 10 (1989), pp. 588-589.
[16]  Gregorii Acindyni Refutationes Duae … nunc primum editae curante Juan Nadal Cañellas, CC.SG 31 (Brepols-Turnhout: Leuven University Press, 1995), Treatise II, §60, p. 166, lines 20-24. On the educational function of profane letters, Akindynos was entirely in agreement with his teacher Thomas Magistros (see S. K. Skalistes, Thomas Magistros, o bios kai to ergo tou [Thessalonica, 1984], p. 277), as well as, surely, with Basil of Caesarea (Aux jeunes gens sur la manière de tirer profit de lettres helléniques [To young men, on how to profit from Greek literature], ed. Boulanger [Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1935]) and with John of Damascus (Dialectica, ed. Kotter, PTS 7 [Berlin, 1969], p. 52, 43-51).
[17] Second Letter to Akindynos, Complete Works of Palamas, ed. P. Chrestou (Thessalonica, 1962), I, p. 220, line 18 – p. 221, line 1.
[18] Letters of Gregory Akindynos, ed. Angela Constantinides Hero (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 1983), letter 8 (Second to Barlaam), p. 26, lines 4-6. Akindynos takes advantage of the opportunity to correct also the impression Barlaam had made by the opposition he had showed him; he reproaches him not only for the fact that he attacked the monks, but also for indiscreetly meddling with Palamas’s theological positions (ibid., lines 6-7).
[19] Barlaam Calabro, Opere contro i Latini … a cura di Antonis Fyrigos, ST 347-348 (Città del Vaticano, 1988), vol. I-II.
[20] These opuscula have been edited and published by T. M. Kolbaba, “Barlaam the Calabrian. Three Treatises on Papal Primacy. Introduction, Edition, and Translation,” REB 53 (1995), pp. 41-115.
[21] First Letter to Akindynos, Complete Works of Palamas, ed. P. Chrestou (Thessalonica, 1962), pp. 203-219.
[22] Letters of Gregory Akindynos, letter 5 (First to Palamas), pp. 12-16.
[23] Gregorii Acindyni Refutationes Duae, Treatise IV, §25, p. 357, 1 – 358, 12.
[24] Ibid., Treatise III, §51, p. 235, lines 1-8.
[25] It is important to note that the Treatises which have been published under this title in the Complete Works of Palamas, ed. P. Chrestou, I, pp. 19-153, are not those which Palamas composed in 1334. We are dealing here with a later reworking, made by Palamas himself in 1355 in order to introduce into it his new theory on the multiplicity of God’s energies different from his essence. As we have elsewhere proved, Palamas had the deplorable habit of rewriting his texts in order to escape the criticisms to which his strange assertions had exposed him. Fortunately, thanks to a contemporary translation into Old Slavonic, we know the first version of the Palamite treatises On the Procession of the Holy Spirit, in which there is found not the slightest allusion to this distinction. The manuscript of this translation, which contains also other works by Palamas in their original version, has been studied by I. Kakridis, Codex 88 des Klosters Dečani und seine griechischen Vorlagen. Ein Kapitel der serbisch-byzantinischen Literaturbeziehungen im 14. Jahrhundert (Munich, 1988). For the later re-editings of Palamas’s writings, see the chapter, “Palamas’s writings and their re-editings,” in our edition of CC.SG 31, pp. L-LIX.
[26] A. Constantinides Hero, A woman’s quest for spiritual guidance: The correspondence of the princess Irene Eulogia Choumnaia Palaiologina (Brookline, MA, 1994), letter 12, p. 64, lines 20-22.
[27] Even further, Palamas had already, in his first letter to Barlaam, taken care to distinguish the apparition of light that showed itself upon the head of Proclus, produced by a demon, from that which appeared to the hesychasts, identified with the divine energy. Cf. Palamas, First letter to Barlaam, 47, Complete Works of Palamas, I, p. 252, line 23 – p. 253, line 11. For the photophany of Proclus, see Bios tou Proclou, ed. J. F. Boissonade (Paris, 1862), pp. 162-163.
[28] Logos pros ton makariotaton patriarchin kyr Ioannin kai ten peri autou synodon … ed. Juan Nadal Cañellas, in: C. G. Conticello and V. Conticello (eds.), La Théologie Byzantine et sa Tradition (Turnhout, 2002), II, §3, pp. 259-260, 69-86.
[29] Letters of Gregory Akindynos, letter 12 to David Dishypatos, p. 58, 44-52.
[30] Logos pros ton makariotaton patriarchin kyr Ioannin kai ten peri autou synodon … ed. J. Nadal Cañellas, in: C. G. Conticello and V. Conticello (eds.), La Théologie Byzantine et sa Tradition, II, §4, p. 260, 87-100.
[31] Second Antirrhetic against Palamas, Mon. Gr. 233, f. 66v.
[32] Letters of Gregory Akindynos, letter 10, p. 46, 200.
[33] A. Rigo, Monaci esicasti e monacio bogomili. Le accuse di messalianismo e bogomilismo rivolte agli esicasti ed il problema dei rapporti tra esicasmo e bogomilismo (Florence, 1989), pp. 143, 144.
[34] Ibid., p. 275.
[35] Letters of Gregory Akindynos, letter 8 to Barlaam, p. 24, 7-8.
[36] Ibid., p. 24, 80-84.
[37] Gregorii Acindyni Refutationes Duae, Traité IV, §11, p. 330, 35-36.
[38] Logos pros ton makariotaton patriarchin kyr Ioannin kai ten peri autou synodon … ed. J. Nadal Cañellas, in: C. G. Conticello and V. Conticello (eds.), La Théologie Byzantine et sa Tradition, II, §4, p. 260, 103-105.
[39] Gregorii Acindyni Refutationes Duae, Treatise IV, §11, p. 330, 35-36.
[40] Ibid., p. 330, 36-37.
[41] Logos pros ton makariotaton patriarchin kyr Ioannin kai ten peri autou synodon … ed. J. Nadal Cañellas, in: C. G. Conticello and V. Conticello (eds.), La Théologie Byzantine et sa Tradition, II, §5, p. 260, 117-122.
[42] Gregorii Acindyni Refutationes Duae, Treatise IV, §11, p. 330, 41-45.
[43] Logos pros ton makariotaton patriarchin kyr Ioannin kai ten peri autou synodon … ed. J. Nadal Cañellas, in: C. G. Conticello and V. Conticello (eds.), La Théologie Byzantine et sa Tradition, II, §8, p. 262, 172-184.
[44] Palamas, On the divine energies, Complete Works of Palamas, ed. P. Chrestou (Thessalonica, 1966), II, §50, p. 135, 22-28.
[45] Gregorii Acindyni Refutationes Duae, Treatise III, §75, p. 281, 74-79.
[46] Synodal tome of 1342, ed. Hunger, Das Register des Patriarchats von Konstantinopel (Vienna, 1995), II, p. 254, 485-486.
[47] Gregorii Acindyni Refutationes, Treatise IV, §11, pp. 332-333, 123-144.
[48] Spiritual testament, Marc. Gr. 155, fol. 32r-v.
[49] “Just as, if a Jew with an unbelieving mind should have heard the prophets assert that the Word and the Spirit are coeternal with God and exist before the ages, he would have closed his ears, thinking that he was hearing forbidden matters, contrary to piety and to what was confessed by pious men, … so likewise now the same thing may perhaps happen to someone who, with an unbelieving mind, hears about the mysteries of the Spirit, known only to those who have been purified by virtue.” (Palamas, Hagioretic Tome, Complete Works of Palamas, ed. P. Chrestou, II, p. 567, 8 – p. 568, 5.)
[50] Palamas, Dialogue between an Orthodox and a Barlaamite, 46-47, Complete Works of Palamas, ed. P. Chrestou, II, p. 209, 19 – p. 210, 11.
[51] Palamas frequently repeats this conception of his of divine omnipotence. It is already clearly expressed in his third Triad: “I shall do myself a favor by asking this man [Barlaam], for whom the essence alone is without beginning while whatever is not this essence is a created nature, whether or not he considers this essence to be all-powerful. That is to say, does it possess the powers of knowing, of foreseeing everything in advance, of creating, of keeping things united, of being providential, of divinizing and, in a word, all the powers, or does it not possess them? For, if it does not possess them, then this essence, being alone without beginning, is not God!” (Triads, 3, 2, 5. Complete Works of Palamas, ed. P. Chrestou, I, p. 660, 10-15.) Later Palamas repeats the same thing in his Third letter to Akindynos (§§ 2-3. Complete Works of Palamas, ed. P. Chrestou, I, p. 296, 21 – p. 298, 10), in the Dialogue between an Orthodox and a Barlaamite (§ 52. Complete Works of Palamas, ed. P. Chrestou, II, p. 214, 10-11), and elsewhere.
[52] Akindynos, in his first Antirrhetic against Palamas, recounts the following event: “Speaking with a churchman who knew his subterfuges, even if not as yet very thoroughly, Palamas, it is said, finally argued in this way: leaving aside the subject they were discussing, he unexpectedly asked Maximus (for that was the interlocutor’s name): ‘Before creating the world, was God all-powerful or not?’ The other, knowing that Palamas considered God to be all-powerful, not because he is able to do all things, as the Scriptures teach us, but because he possesses in himself all the powers, answered, without taking account of Palamas’s malice: ‘He is not all-powerful in the sense you speak of, but as the holy Fathers teach us,’ and, when he wished then to add: ‘He is able to create, not because he has in himself a whole series of powers, as you pretend, but because he can do all,’ Palamas cut him off and addressed himself to those who were present with savage and truly demonic, diabolical cries, saying: ‘So then, this man would not say that God was all-powerful before the creation of the world, but that after the creation he became what he was not before!’” (Antirrhetic I, Mon. gr. 223, fol. 23v.)
[53] Acindyni Refutationes Duae, Treatise IV, § 31, p. 365, 6-8. Gregoras also was aware of this fault and characterizes Palamite theology as “a total negation of the economy of the Incarnation of God the Word” (Nikephoros Gregoras, Antirrhetika I, ed. H.-V. Beyer [Wien, 1976], p. 301, 15 – 303, 1). We would be very pleased to understand how Fr. Meyendorff can justify his assertions, so often repeated in his writings, according to which Palamite theology is fundamentally christocentric (Introduction à l’étude de Grégoire Palamas [Paris, 1959], p. 225). Many Neopalamites attempt to salvage Palamas’s christocentrism by producing citations from his homilies. But mixing together Palamas’s homilies and his dogmatic treatises is only a stratagem. The two collections have nothing in common. See, on this subject, the pertinent remark of Eva De Vries – Van der Veiden, in her book L’élite byzantine devant l’avance turque à l’époque de la guerre civile de 1342 à 1354 (Amsterdam, 1989), pp. 156-157, note 15.
[54] Acindyni Refutationes Duae, Treatise III, § 37, p. 217, 13-20.
[55] Ibid., Treatise IV, § 24, p. 357, 31-35.


One Response to “Juan Nadal Cañellas : Gregory Akindynos’s role in the 14th-century hesychast controversy”

  1. bekkos Says:

    I recognize that this is a very long page. I tried today to add “jump links,” to make it easier to navigate to the footnotes; so far, however, that has not worked. So I am providing here a link to another, more readable copy of the paper, on Google Docs. If you click upon the following link, it should work: Nadal Cañellas essay (2007).

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