Deification of man in Christianity – 3 – Illumination, deification, theoria and the Divine Light

Deification Front Cover

He who enjoys illumination is greater and receives more that he who only tastes, for he has within himself the assurance of his visions (Maximus the Confessor, Hom. 7,5-6, PG 34, col.527).

The Divine One purifies the man who desires Him: by this purification, He creates men of divine character, conversing as with friends with those who have attained this state; and uniting Himself as God with gods, and making Himself known to them perhaps to the same extent that He knows those who are known to Him (Gregory of Nazianzus, Hom, XLV.3, PG XXXVI, 625C-628A).

Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God (Mt 5:8).

Chapter 4: ILLUMINATION AND DEIFICATION

Union with God became discontinuous after the fall because man became imperfect. Therefore, man can become deified and attain theoria – start seeing God – only insofar as the heart of his soul (called the nous) has first been healed by the trials of purification and reopened by the illumination which occurs through baptism in the Holy Spirit (Vlachos, 2005, 2010). The phrase ‘baptism in the Spirit’ as used herewith refers to it as historically understood throughout Christian tradition (e.g., Kontzevich, 1989). Basil of Caesarea said that souls who become “illuminated by the Holy Spirit transmit this grace to others and at the same time receive many gifts, including foreknowledge of the future, understanding of mysteries, apprehension of what is hidden, distribution of spiritual gifts, heavenly citizenship, a place in the chorus of angels, joy without end, abiding in God, being made like God, and, highest of all, being made god” (De Spir. Sanc, 9.23). Illumination is thus “visible to those whose hearts have been purified, and . . . [is] utterly different from knowledge, though productive of it” (Gregory of Palamas, The Triads, I.3.3).

Deification is neither the process of simply acquiring the virtues as commonly understood, especially in Western Christianity, nor is it the end-aim of deification commonly known as participation in the Beatific Vision after death, for anyone who participates in the uncreated light, even if interruptedly at first due to lack of perfection, has started becoming deified; with deification itself being above all nature, virtue and knowledge. Cyril of Alexandria maintained that “Through knowledge and the gift of a divine vision, the Father leads those to whom He decides to give His divine grace towards the Son. When He receives them, the Son gives them life and to those whose own nature destined them to corruption He adds His own good grace, and pouring into them, as upon sparks of fire, the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit and transforming them utterly into immortality” (Commentary on the Gospel of John 4, [Jn 6.40], PG 73.545A). Deification is thus none other than the sheer grace granted to man by God, through His ceaseless desire to make us like unto Himself. And when illumination occurs, with this contingent upon being embraced rather than rejected, man enters directly into the latter stages of deification because he becomes united with God.

Chapter 5: DEIFICATION AND THEORIA

Suddenly the Almighty reveals Himself in boundless humility. The vision floods our entire being and instinctively we bow in adoration . . . Prayer to this God of love and humility rises from the depths of our being . . . Brought from nothingness into life, man is drawn by His Creator into the fullness of divine life (Arch. Sophrony, 1997).

Only those found worthy of seeing the uncreated Light are able to gain true knowledge of God (Vlachos, 2010).

When deification occurs, it is not just the soul that takes part in theoria but also the body, for man sees the divine light and hears the voice of God after both his soul and the physical senses have been transformed by divine grace (Vlachos, 2010). Theoria is defined as seeing the glory of God through union with Him and deification. Unless man, therefore, has first been transfigured by the Spirit, the uncreated, divine light remains invisible. The full vision of the divinity in the divine light, in fact, is the mystery of the eighth day. But for those “who are worthy of it attain the sight of the ‘Kingdom of God come with power’ (Mk 9:1) in this life, as the three apostles saw it on Mount Tabor” (Lossky, 1967/1974, pp. 59-60).

The Eight Stages of Theoria

The only proof of a soul in good health is when it attains theoria (Gregory of Palamas).

According to Peter of Damascus (1782), the eight stages of theoria are as follows:

  1. First Stage – knowledge of life’s afflictions and temptations. True awareness of God’s blessing amidst our trials and tribulations;
  2. Second Stage – knowledge of God’s graces and beneficence toward us. True awareness of our sins and passions;
  3. Third Stage – knowledge of our sufferings, both before and after death;
  4. Fourth Stage – understanding the life of Jesus Christ before His Passion and Resurrection. True knowledge of what the ascetics, martyrs, and saints have said and done;
  5. Fifth Stage – knowledge of nature and its inner dynamics (logoi; Maximus the Confessor);
  6. Sixth Stage – knowledge of the uncreated, providential energy of God;
  7. Seventh Stage – understanding the angels;
  8. Eighth Stage – theoria of God, the vision of the uncreated Divine Light. Real knowledge of God and true theology.

Stages One to Three happen to those who are concerned with practical virtue (praxis) in the spiritual life. These stages are those of purification and they can be likened to spiritual convalescence (Vlachos, 2005). Stages Four to Eight happen to those whose nous has been cleansed and reopened through illumination. This second set of four stages can be likened to healing. Meanwhile, Stage Eight is related to the era of the eighth day whereby seeing God will be paradise for the pure, but the fire of hell for the impure (ibid.). Adam and Eve lived in Stage Eight before the fall.

Gregory of Palamas (1338/1983) subdivided the eighth stage of theoria into three additionally separate stages:

  1. The first stage of Stage Eight consists of the illumination of the nous, the heart or eye of the soul;
  2. The second stage of Stage Eight is theoria, the vision of God; and
  3. The third stage of Stage Eight consists of uninterrupted theoria, the constant vision of God.

Isaac the Syrian (2011) maintained that a soul has two ‘eyes’ with which to perceive. One eye comprehends that which is hidden in nature: apprehended theoria. The other eye beholds the actual glory of God, the divine light: unadulterated, received theoria. When unadulterated theoria occurs, images become imprinted upon the nous by the Holy Spirit (Basil of Caesarea, 363/1980) Who uses this governing faculty of man to announce the future (Gregory of Palamas, 1983).

Chapter 6: THE DIVINE LIGHT

As to him who mysteriously possesses and sees this light, he knows and possesses God in himself, no longer by analogy, but by a true contemplation, transcendent to all creatures, for he is never separated from the eternal glory (Gregory of Palamas, The Triads, II.3.16).

The divine light is a datum of mystical experience. It is the visible character of the divinity, of the energies in which God communicates Himself and reveals Himself to those who have purified their hearts (Gregory of Palamas in Lossky, 1967/1974, p. 58). The divine light “is not the essence of God, for that is inaccessible and incommunicable . . . Sometimes, it makes a man go out from the body or else, without separating him from the body, it elevates him to an ineffable height. At other times, it transforms the body and communicates its own splendor to it when, miraculously, the light which deifies the body becomes accessible to the bodily eyes . . . Sometimes the light ‘speaks’ clearly, as it were with ineffable words, to him who contemplates it. According to Gregory the Theologian, it descends from the elevated place where it dwells, so that He who in His own nature from eternity is neither visible to nor containable by any being may, in a certain measure, be contained by a created nature” (Gregory of Palamas, The Triads, II.3.9).

The uncreated light, therefore, is visible in theoria as the deifying gift of the Spirit, which is “not only visible to man but is participable by him, and in participating in it he is deified . . . Man is incapable of experiencing the uncreated light through his powers of perception. His eyes are blind to such a sight. But on receiving the power of the Holy Spirit, they are transformed and become capable of such vision” (Mantzaridis, 1984, pp. 99-100). The divine light of God, Who robes Himself in it as though clothed with a mantle, is not just the “object of vision, but it is also the power by which we see; it is neither a sensation nor an intellection, but is a spiritual power, distinct from all created cognitive faculties in its transcendence, and made present by grace in rational natures which have been purified” (Gregory of Palamas, The Triads, III.2.14). The uncreated light, in fact, clothes man with “boldness before God, the boon of speaking to Him as friend to Friend and of interceding on behalf of others . . . It is the robe and crown of glory which Adam lost in Eden . . . the presence now of the world to come, the foretaste and pledge of the eschaton, here in our midst, as it shall be on the last day” (Symeon the New Theologian, 1995).

The divine, uncreated light spoken about herewith is the same as that of the Transfiguration of Christ at Mount Tabor and which was seen by Peter, James and John (Mt 17:1-9, Mk 9:2-8; Lk 9:28-36; 2 P 1:16-18). It is “evaluatively placed on the same level with the light of the future Second Presence of Christ. It is the same light which will continuously envelop the worthy ones during the future life. It is the prelude of God’s glory. This is the light of the future age, which will be visible with the eyes of the heart” (Tselengides, 2011, p. 6).

To encounter the divine light entails the return of the human nature of man from its state of spiritual sickness through the darkness of sin (Untea, 2010), and within the process of deification, it is the reverse of the hypostatic union of Christ, albeit limited to our partaking of the divine energies (energeia) and not the essence of God (ousia). Meeting the divine light, therefore, is to encounter the “glory of that God who while remaining imparticipable, invisible and impalpable, becomes participable by His superessential power, and communicates Himself and shines forth and becomes in contemplation ‘One Spirit’ with those who meet Him with a pure heart, according to the most mystical and mysterious prayer . . . [Christ] addressed to His own Father: ‘Grant them that as I am in You, Father, and You in Me, so they too may be one in Us’ in truth” (Gregory of Palamas, The Triads, II.3.66). It is the same vision of the prophets, the patriarchs and that seen by Stephen while he was being stoned to death (Acts 7:54-60). It is “the invocation of the great God and Father, the symbol of the authentic and real adoption, according to the gift and grace of the Holy Spirit, thanks to the bestowal of which grace . . . [we] become and will remain the sons of God” (Gregory of Palamas, III.1.28).

Deification and Theology

Theology is theoria – the vision of God (Gregory of Palamas).

All truly dogmatic work has a basis in mystical experience . . . all mystical work is connected to the realm of dogma, in that it expresses and exposes the content of the experiences of divine things (Lossky, 1967/1974).

To end, deification turns man into a theologian not because he has studied theology academically and intellectually, but because he attains theoria. At this stage of the spiritual life, man “communes with the angelic powers . . . approaches the uncreated Light and the depths of God are revealed to him through the Spirit. This man knows many things which are hidden from others, including mysteries that exist in Holy Scripture” (N. Stithatos in Vlachos, 2010).

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Deification of man in Christianity – 2 – Deification versus salvation / The Church Fathers on deification

Deification Front Cover

Chapter 3: DEIFICATION VERSUS SALVATION

He was made man that we might become god (Athanasius of Alexandria, De Inc, 54.3).

Through Christ, the Word made flesh, man has access to the Father in the Holy Spirit and comes to share in the divine nature (Paul VI, 1965).

Many, especially in Western Christianity, tend to commingle the terms deification and salvation as though they have the same meaning. However, this manifests poor understanding of the two terms as originally meant by the Fathers of the Church. In fact, when the language and context of deification and theosis are replaced with the language and context of salvation, Patristic theology becomes, in effect, displaced by Reformation language (Kharlamov, 2010), with the consequent loss of the original meanings. Salvation is part of deification, but the latter transcends the former as it does not simply constitute the forgiveness of sins through the Spirit descending into man’s soul, but man’s active incorporation into and participation in the Spirit Himself (Vlachos, 2010; Williams, 1999).

On the one hand, the forgiveness of sins by Christ, through the Spirit, is a regular grace in the lives of those who avail themselves of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. On the other hand, participation in the Spirit through divine grace results in the actual transformation of human nature by divine transcendence. A prime illustration of this difference between deification and salvation can be found in Motovilov’s narrative on the acquisition of the Spirit by his spiritual father, Seraphim of Sarov (1831/2010).

Addressing the major difference between deification and salvation, Williams (1999) specified that where references exist “to human participation in divine life, there we assuredly have a claim specifically of theosis. This kind of claim regarding participation in divine life is carefully to be distinguished, however, from the idea of divine indwelling in the human person. Both schemes of sanctification draw on the notion of union, but whereas the latter locates sanctification within the creature and in via, the former [deification] locates it at the level of the divine and insists upon the inseparability of life in via and in patria. [A marker of] the doctrine, then, is the union of God and humanity, when this union is conceived as humanity’s incorporation into God, rather than God’s into humanity, and when conceived as the destiny of humanity generally rather than the extraordinary experience of the few” (p. 32).

It can, in fact, be argued that it is deification as historically understood, not just salvation as commonly set forth by many in the Western Church, that is the implicit meaning of the phrase all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status are called to the fullness of the Christian life (Paul VI, 1964, Lumen Gentium, 5.40) in relation to the universal call to holiness of Vatican Council II. This because the Spirit of holiness is none other than the Spirit of deification; He is One and the same. That deification was the original and underlying intent of the above-referenced phrase in Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, is evident from the fact that Paul VI (1965) a year later specifically made reference to man’s participation in the divine nature in Dei Verbum, the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, and not just to mere salvation.

It was not merely salvation that God had in mind for us both since the creation of man and when He sent His only-begotten Son to die for us, but deification – the return of the possibility of our becoming gods by grace (2 P 1:4) both in via and in patria. It is deification, not just salvation, which commences after the purification of man has occurred, with the illumination of the soul and the reopening of the heart of the soul being an intrinsic part of the latter stages of deification. It should also be noted that the epitome of the deification of a created being is the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gregory of Palamas, 2005).

Below is a summary compilation of additional sayings of the Church Fathers on deification and theosis as God’s intent for man.

More From the Church Fathers on Deification

“He makes us partakers of the divine nature in His power” (Ambrosius of Milan, On Christ. Faith, 5.14).

“He Himself has made us sons of the Father, and deified men by becoming Himself man . . . He was God, and then became man, and that to deify us” (Athanasius of Alexandria, Cont. Arian, 1.11.38,39).

“The work is perfected, because men, redeemed from sin, no longer remain dead; but being deified, have in each other, by looking at Me, the bond of charity” (Cont. Arian, 3.25.23).

“The Word was made flesh in order to offer up this body for all, and that we, partaking of His Spirit, might be deified” (De Decret, 3.14).

“He has become Man, that He might deify us in Himself, and He has been born of a woman, and begotten of a Virgin, in order to transfer to Himself our erring generation, and that we may become henceforth a holy race, and ‘partakers of the Divine Nature,’ as blessed Peter wrote” (Lett, 60).

“If the word of God came to men, that they might be called gods, how can the very Word of God, who is with God, be otherwise than God? If by the word of God men become gods, if by fellowship they become gods, can He by whom they have fellowship not be God? If lights which are lit are gods, is the light which enlighteneth not God? If through being warmed in a way by saving fire they are constituted gods, is He who gives them the warmth other than God?” (Augustine of Hippo, On Gospel of John, Trac. 48.9).

“It is evident then, that He hath called men gods, that are deified of His Grace, not born of His Substance . . . If we have been made sons of God, we have also been made gods: but this is the effect of Grace adopting, not of nature generating . . . The rest that are made gods, are made by His own Grace, are not born of His Substance, that they should be the same as He, but that by favor they should come to Him, and be fellow-heirs with Christ” (On Psalms, 50.2).

“The Son of God hath been made partaker of mortality, in order that mortal man may be made partaker of divinity” (On Psalms, 53.5).

“That Godhead equal to the Father was made partaker of our mortal nature, not of His own store, but of ours; that we too might be made partakers of His Divine Nature, not of our store, but of His” (On Psalms, 139.1).

“God wishes not only to vivify us, but also to deify us. When would human infirmity ever have dared to hope for this, unless divine truth had promised it? . . . Our God, the true God, the one God, has stood up in the synagogue of gods, many of them of course, and gods not by nature but by adoption, by grace. There is a great difference between God who exists, god who is always God, true God, not only God but also deifying God, that is if I may so put it, god-making God, God not made making gods, and gods who were made, but not by a craftsman” (Serm, 23B).

“You are already gods” (Serm, 81).

“Hence comes foreknowledge of the future, understanding of mysteries, apprehension of what is hidden, distribution of good gifts, the heavenly citizenship, a place in the chorus of angels, joy without end, abiding in God, the being made like to God, and, the highest of all, the being made god” (Basil of Caesarea, De Spir. Sanc, 9.23).

“The Word of God became man, that thou mayest learn from man how man may become god” (Clement of Alexandria, Exh, 1).

“I desire to restore you according to the original model, that ye may become also like Me” (Exh, 12).

“They are called by the appellation of gods, being destined to sit on thrones with the other gods that have been first put in their places by the Saviour” (Strom, 7.10).

“What man is, Christ was willing to be, that man may be what Christ is” (Cyprian of Carthage, Treat, 6.11).

“The Son has made beautiful the servant’s deformity, and he has become a god, just as he desired” (Ephraim the Syrian, Nisb. Hymns, XLVIII.17-18).

“The Most High knew that Adam wanted to become a god, so He sent His Son who put him on in order to grant him his desire” (Nisb. Hymns, LXIX.12).

“Freedom made hateful the beauty of Adam that he might be god . . . But grace adorned its flaws and God came to be human. Divinity flew down to rescue and lift up humanity. Behold the Son adorned the servant’s flaw, so that he became god as he had desired” (Hymns on Virginity, 48.14-18).

“Who can mold, as clay-figures are modeled in a single day, the defender of the truth . . . be God, and make others to be god?” (Gregory of Nazianzus, Orat, 2).

“While His inferior Nature, the Humanity, became God . . . in order that I too might be made god” (The Third Theol. Orat).

“What greater destiny can befall man’s humanity than that he should be intermingled with God, and by this intermingling should be deified . . . that thou mayest become a god, ascending from below” (The Fourth Theol. Orat).

“He was transfused throughout our nature, in order that our nature might by this transfusion of the Divine become itself divine” (Gregory of Nyssa, The Great Cat, 25).

“The God who was manifested infused Himself into perishable humanity for this purpose, that by this communion with Deity mankind might at the same time be defied” (The Great Cat, 38).

“Just as God stepped out of his nature to become a partaker of our humanity, so we are called to step out of our nature to become partakers of his divinity” (Hilary of Aries, Intro Comm. 2 P).

“He who participates in the divine energy . . . becomes himself, in a sense, Light; he is united to the Light and with the Light he sees in full consciousness all that remains hidden for those who have not this grace. He thus surpasses not only the corporeal senses, but also all that can be known . . . for the pure of heart see God . . . who, being the Light, abides in them and reveals Himself to those who love Him” (Gregory of Thessalonica, Serm. Feast of Pres. Bl. Virgin).

“The object to be gained was that man might become god” (Hilary of Poitiers, De Trin, 9.38).

“When God was born to be man, the purpose was not that the Godhead should be lost, but that, the Godhead remaining, man should be born to be god” (De Trin, 10.7).

“Thou hast become God: for whatever sufferings thou didst undergo while being a man, these He gave to thee, because thou wast of mortal mould, but whatever it is consistent with God to impart, these God has promised to bestow upon thee, because thou hast been deified, and begotten unto immortality” (Hippolytus of Rome, Ref. Her, 5.30).

“It is therefore good for you to be in perfect unity, that you may at all times be partakers of God” (Ignatius of Antioch, Eph. 4.2).

“God stood in the congregation of the gods, He judges among the gods” (Irenaeus of Lyon, Adv. Haer, 3.6.1).

“To whom the Word says, mentioning His own gift of grace: ‘I said, Ye are all the sons of the Highest and gods; but ye shall die like men’ . . . it was for this end that the Word of God was made man and He who was the Son of God became the Son of man, that man, having been taken into the Word and receiving the adoption, might become the son of God” (3.19.1).

“Man does not see God by his own powers; but when He pleases He is seen by men, by whom He wills, and when He wills, and as He wills . . . those who see the light are within the light, and partake of its brilliancy; even so, those who see God are in God, and receive of His splendor . . . Men therefore shall see God, that they may live, being made immortal by that sight, and attaining even unto God” (4.20.5, 6a).

“The Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who did, through His transcendent love, become what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself” (5.Pref).

“As the opinions of certain [persons] are derived from heretical discourses, they are both ignorant of God’s dispensations, and of the mystery of the resurrection of the just, and of the [earthly] kingdom which is the commencement of incorruption, by means of which kingdom those who shall be worthy are accustomed gradually to partake of the divine nature” (5.32.1).

“We are gods, not so by nature, but by grace. ‘But as many as received him He gave power of becoming sons of God.’ I made man for that purpose, that from men they may become gods. ‘I said: You are gods, all of you, sons of the most High’” (Jerome of Stridon, Hom, 14).

“He Himself is God, and He hath called me god; with Him is the essential nature as an actual fact, with me only the honor of the name: ‘I have said ye are gods, and ye are all children of the Most Highest.’ Here are words, but in the other case there is the actual reality. He hath called me god, for by that name I have received honor” (John Chrysostom, Hom, 2).

“The man can become god, and a child of God. For we read, ‘I have said, Ye are gods, all of you are the children of the Most High’ (Ps. lxxxii. 6). And what is greater, the power to become both god and angel and child of God is put into His own hands” (Hom. Acts 32).

“All men are deemed worthy of becoming ‘gods’ and of having power to become sons of the Highest” (Justin Martyr, Dial. 124).

“The Word exercises an influence which does not make poets . . . by its instruction it makes mortals immortal, mortals gods” (Disc. to Greeks, 5).

“The man will triumph over the earth. He will be exactly similar to God (hic erit consimilis Deo) who has embraced the virtue of God” (Lactantius, Div. Inst, 6.23).

“The Logos became man, so that man might become Logos” (Mark the Ascetic, Let. Nic).

“It was by the offices of the first-born that they became gods, for He drew from God  in generous measure that they should be made gods, and He communicated it to them according to His own bounty” (Origen of Alexandria, Comm. J 2.2,3).

“From Him there began the union of the divine with the human nature, in order that the human, by communion with the divine, might rise to be divine” (Adv. Cel, 3.28).

“We shall be even gods, if we shall deserve to be among those of whom He declared, ‘I have said, Ye are gods,’ and ‘God standeth in the congregation of the gods.’ But this comes of His own grace, not from any property in us, because it is He alone who can make gods” (Tertullianus, Adv. Herm, 5).

“Although Adam was by reason of his condition under law subject to death, yet was hope preserved to him by the Lord’s saying, ‘Behold, Adam is become as one of us;’ that is, in consequence of the future taking of the man into the divine nature [hominis in divinitatem]” (Adv. Marc, II.25).

Deification of man in Christianity – 1 – What is deification? / On deification

Deification Front Cover

Note: As a public service for the people, poorly catechized Catholics, and those who may just want to know more about the subject topic, herewith are going to be presented the chapters of the small book Deification of Man in Christianity.

The first two chapters can be found below.

Chapter 1: WHAT IS DEIFICATION?

Deification is the attaining of likeness to God and union with Him so far as is possible (Dionysus the Aeropagite, EH 1.3, PG 3.376A).

God, you see, wants to make you a god, not by nature, of course, like the One whom He begot but by His gift and by adoption (Augustine of Hippo, Serm. 166.4).

Deification can be defined as “God’s perfect and full penetration of man” (Staniloae, 2002, p. 362). The deification or divinization of man is not “an identification with God; it is only an assimilation, a very eminent restoration of the original divine likeness . . . [whereby one] participates by grace in the perfections that God possesses by nature . . . The Spirit transforms the soul to the image of the Logos, the natural Son of God, thus making the Christian an adoptive child of God. Affecting, it seems, the very essence of the soul, this mysterious conformation is not of a moral nature only but of a physical nature; it is a veritable partaking of the divine nature and of the divine life” (Gross, 1938/2002, p. 272).

Deification is the “enhypostatic and direct illumination of which has no beginning but appears in those worthy as something exceeding their comprehension. It is indeed a mystical union with God beyond intellect and reason, in the age when creatures will no longer know corruption. Thanks to this union, the saints, observing the light of the hidden and more-than-ineffable glory, become themselves able to receive the blessed purity in company with celestial powers. Deification is also the invocation of the great God and Father, the symbol of the authentic and real adoption, according to the gift and grace of the Holy Spirit, thanks to the bestowal of which grace the saints become and will remain the sons of God” (Maximus the Confessor, Ad Th. 61, PG 90, 636C; Schol. 16, PG 90, 644C). Maximus (Chapt, 2.88) added that “The soul becomes god and rests from all its mental and physical works by participation in divine grace; at the same time all the natural operations of the body rest with it. They are deified along with the soul in proportion to its participation in the deification, to the extent that then only God will be visible, through the soul as well as through the body; the natural attributes are conquered by the overabundance of glory.”

Deification, then, is “both the light encountered (inasmuch as it is a visible apparition) and something that attaches to the person, becoming one with her and changing her. It is both God as other and God transforming the human person from within” (Williams, 1999, p. 105). Deification results in the theoria of the uncreated light (Lossky, 1967/1974), because its processes are directly related to theosis – the vision of the divine light (Lossky, 1944/1976, 1983).

Deification and Man

When Adam was first created, the Spirit of God clothe him in holiness and made him a perfect person. However, such perfection was not absolute but relative, in order that Adam and his descendants could “progress peacefully and rise up toward the perfect . . . to draw closer to the Unbegotten” (Irenaeus of Lyon, Adv. Haer. 3.23.5, [963]). It was progressive deification that was originally intended for mankind and presented to our first parent (Gross, 1938/2002; Symeon the New Theologian, 1994). But after Adam sinned (Gn 3:1-24), it was Christ, the new Adam, Who reopened the gate for the deification of mankind through the three spiritual stages of purification (of the heart), illumination (of the heart of the soul), and deification.

Chapter 2: ON DEIFICATION

Is it not written in your Law: I said, “You are gods?” (Jn 10:34).

He has given us most great and precious promises: that by these you may be made partakers of the divine nature (2 P 1:4).

Two kinds of deification exist. The first kind refers to the “elevation of man to the highest level of his natural powers, or to the full realization of man . . . [when] the divine power of grace is active in him. [The second kind refers to the] progress which man makes beyond the limit of his natural powers, beyond the boundaries of his nature, to the divine and supernatural level” (Staniloae, 2002, p. 263). For man to pass from the first kind of deification, which is well-known, to the second kind that is rarely heard about these days in Western Christianity, a leap of grace occurs, because “man too works during the first stage, but during the second, only God” (p. 364).

Thomas Aquinas maintained that in the latter kind of deification, “the gift of grace surpasses every capability of created nature, since it is nothing short of a partaking of the divine nature, which exceeds every other nature . . . God alone should deify, bestowing a partaking of the divine nature by a participated likeness” (Summa Theol. 2.1:112.1). He added that “this name God is communicable, not in its whole signification, but in some part of it by way of similitude, so that those are called gods who share in divinity by likeness, according to the text ‘I have said, “You are gods” (Ps 82:6)'” (Resp. I.13,9).

Aquinas also declared that “Man’s happiness is twofold . . . One is proportionate to human nature . . . The other is a happiness surpassing man’s nature and which man can obtain by the power of God alone, by a kind of participation of the Godhead [ad quam homo sola divina virtute pervenire potest secundum quandam divinitatis participationem], about which it is written (2 P 1:4) that by Christ we are made partakers of the divine nature” (Resp. I-II.62,1).

In deification, “the Paraclete illuminates from on high the man who attains in prayer the stage which is superior to the highest natural possibilities and who is awaiting the promise of the Father; and by His revelation, ravishes him to contemplation of the light” (Gregory of Palamas, The Triads, II.3.33). Those who experience theoria arising from the process of deification see God in themselves as though they are looking into a mirror.

After purification and illumination, “God no longer comes to us as before without appearance and without image . . . He comes under a certain image and yet it is the image of God. [He] makes Himself seen in His simplicity, formed out of formless, incomprehensible, ineffable light . . . He makes Himself seen clearly, He is perfectly recognizable, He speaks and hears in a way that cannot be expressed. He Who is God by nature converses with those whom He has made gods by grace, as a friend converses with His friends, face to face. He loves His sons as a Father; He is loved by them beyond all measure. He becomes in them a wondrous knowledge; a dreadful hearing. They cannot speak of Him as they ought, nor can they any longer keep silence” (Symeon the New Theologian, Serm. 90).

The purified, therefore, “contemplate invisible things . . . they participate in the intelligible gift of the light of God in their impassable and immaterial intelligence” (Gregory of Palamas, The Triads, II.3.26).

 

 

 

Is lucidity fantasy or commencement of deification? Christianity v. psychology

Photo: Alexei Boitsov

Some writers have defined lucidity as following fantasy and being a natural continuation of it, within the purported psychological framework of Lacan’s initial meaning of the sinthome. This was apparently done in an attempt to downplay or completely change the real significance of lucidity; willfully or otherwise. However, such an assertion by the said writers is not true because fantasy and lucidity belong to two different orders – realms, levels – of functioning, in relation both to the nature and the abilities of common man.

Fantasy, on the one hand, belongs to Lacan’s order of the Imaginary, which is one of the psychological orders. It originates from man. No true insight or understanding are present in fantasy, otherwise it would not be fantasy in the first instance. Lucidity, on the other hand, belongs to the order, the realm, of the Spirit, which is the supernatural order (not to be confused with the preternatural order). It originates from God the Holy Spirit and is a gift of grace. Lucidity carries within it both true insight – clarity of vision – and understanding.

As the supernatural order is, by its very character, a higher order than the psychological order, it can subsume the latter within it, if and when necessary, but not vice versa. One cannot, therefore, traverse fantasy qua fantasy, to reach lucidity in a natural manner. Moreover, it is well-known in the apophatic via negativa of Eastern Christianity (as opposed to the cataphatic via positiva of Western Christianity) that when lucidity is present, fantasy is absent because it is no longer needed. But how, then, does all this happen and what does it really mean?  Continue reading “Is lucidity fantasy or commencement of deification? Christianity v. psychology”

Faith – Why proselytising fails

“Faith, as a work of the Holy Spirit, comes to one person through another, but only when this other communicates the word of Scripture assimilated and confessed with faith, or with the capacity of experiencing communion in the Spirit” (Staniloae [1998] The experience of God: Revelation and knowledge of the Triune God, p. 42).

Faith and seeing God

The Son of God became man so that man might become god – Saint Athanasius (De inc. 54, 3: PG 25, 192B).

Yes, God Is and will remain – despite the present loss of your faith.

There are two kinds of faith: faith derived from hearing and learning, and faith derived from theoria. Although not separate from each other, the two kinds of faith differ, resulting in different kinds of knowledge of God.

Faith derived from hearing and learning (simple faith) results in the natural knowledge of God. Faith derived from theoria (perfect faith) results in the spiritual knowledge of God and the healing of man. We have become very used to the former, but thoroughly unused to the latter that we seem to have forgotten it indeed exists and is part and parcel of the life of humankind.

The shift from the mere natural knowledge of God, to the spiritual knowledge of God, is what is happening right now, necessitating purification in all the dimensions of life. This shift will continue, steadily increasing, until illumination of the heart of the soul, the nous, occurs and then all humankind will know God Is.

4* Review for Deification of Man in Christianity

Deification Front Cover“Although very concise, this small book offers a very good introduction to the Deification/Theosis of man, the very purpose of all our lives, particularly from the Eastern Orthodox perspective. It is replete with credible references, both biblical and from respected Eastern Orthodox saints, that together provide a sound basis for the postulation of the author, who here in this book attempts to represent the overarching view of the Eastern church to those less familiar or completely unacquainted. The book is readable within a couple of hours . . . [it] is recommended for those that would like a better understanding of Theosis but without having to encounter all the accompanying extraneous theological baggage.”

(Source: Amazon.co.uk)

On icons – 15

“In mystical experience, the soul is raised up from the visible realm to where visibility itself vanishes and the field of the invisible opens: such is the Dionysian sundering of the bonds of the visible. And after soaring up into the invisible, the soul descends again into the visible – and then and there, before its very eyes, are those real appearances of things: ideas” – P. Florensky (1996), Iconostasis, p. 45.

On icons – 14

“At the crossing of the boundary into the upper world, the soul sheds – like outworn clothes – the images of our everyday emptiness, the psychic effluvia that cannot find a place above, those elements of our being that are not spiritually grounded. At the point of descent and re-entry, on the other hand, the images are experiences of mystical life crystallized out on the boundary of two worlds” – P. Florensky (1996), Iconostasis, pp. 44-45.

On icons – 13

“In creating a work of art, the psyche or soul of the artist ascends from the earthly realm into the heavenly; there, free of all images, the soul is fed in contemplation by the essences of the highest realm, knowing the permanent noumena of things; then, satiated with this knowing, it descends again to the earthly realm. And precisely at the boundary between the two worlds, the soul’s spiritual knowledge assumes the shape of symbolic imagery: and it is these images that make permanent the work of art” – P. Florensky (1996), Iconostasis, p. 44.

How can we share in the divine life?

The question was asked, “How can we share in the divine life?” Since there is quite a bit that needs to be said to clearly address the topic of partaking in the divine life (2 P 1:4), I will be answering at length about this in a post to follow. Briefly, however, the answer is by becoming genuine friends with the One, True God; His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ and Their Holy Spirit – the Most Holy Trinity.

Sharing in the divine life

Through grace we become deified and come to share in the divine life of Holy Trinity – J. Baggley, Doors of Perception.

The divine essence and energies of God

The divine essence means the unknowable ground of divinity; the divine energies are those aspects of the divine life that are directed away from the Godhead itself, like rays emanating from the sun. It is through the divine energies that the act of creation is accomplished and that God is revealed and known as the Holy Trinity – J. Baggley, Doors of Perception.

On icons – 6

In the icon, we see a divine reality which goes beyond the dimensions of this earthly world, but which, at the same time, respects this earthly world because it is created by God to become transfigured in His Spirit. If the representation loses the character of God’s mystery, if it reduces this mystery to the sensible forms of matter, the icon loses its soul – E. Sendler, The Icon: Image of the Invisible.

On icons and the deification of man

The movement of love which proceeds from the Father spreads out His light on all creatures. By knowledge, episteme, and contemplation, theoria, creatures purify themselves of everything that blocks the realization of the likeness with God and thus elevate themselves to God to become deified – E. Sendler, The Icon: Image of the Invisible.