Concessions and Provisos

Thank you for your comments concerning my post on “Changing Religions vs. Changing Churches“. I agree with much of what you say, and I’m happy to concede a few points—though, as you’ll see, with some important provisos.

1. I’m happy to admit first of all that the idea of deification or divinization is also present in the Catholic West, as long as you concede (as you have) that it’s largely implicit and seldom, if ever, given the same front-and-center emphasis as it is in the East.

2. I’m happy to admit furthermore that spiritual direction can be found among traditional Catholics, as long as you concede (as you have) that much of it is of a primarily devotional and moralistic bent, and that what one certainly doesn’t find in the West is a “golden chain” (Saint Symeon the New Theologian) of spiritual elders corresponding, for example, to the silsilahs of the Sufis.

3. And I’m happy to admit finally that Hesychastic technique, uninformed by God’s grace, does not and cannot “produce” theosis as the inevitable or necessary effect of a purely human causality—but then neither does yoga alone “produce” samadhi—as long as you concede (as you have) that such a technique is characteristic of the East in a way that it’s not of the West.

Two further points, amounting to cautions:

First, I don’t see how your reference to Catholic stigmatics like Padre Pio is any way relevant; a man or woman can come to bear the marks of Christ’s passion without knowing how or why, nor would the person who did know “how” it happened, if there are any such, set about teaching others how they might share the experience. Whereas in the East the whole point of Hesychast teaching is to lead the disciple to the master’s own “acquisition of the Holy Spirit” and experience of uncreated Light.

Second, while admitting that theosis is never automatic, I’m reluctant to say it depends solely (as you would have it) on “God’s decision”. I understand, of course, that we mustn’t forget that God is sovereign, but at the same time we should never suppose His actions are in any way arbitrary. To say (as I do) that God cannot but fill the man who has made himself truly empty imposes no more of a limit on God than saying He cannot but love or that He cannot but tell the truth. God cannot not be God.

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