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July 20, 2012

"Mystical" Theology or "Secret" Theology

By Fr. John Romanides

By mysticism is meant the attempt to bypass or transcend the material aspect of reality by contemplating the immaterial archetypes in a divine intellect as though God is like an architect who executes His mental plans. The Neo-Platonic form of this tradition made its way into the Franco-Latin tradition by way of Augustine. This became the foundation of Augustinian monasticism which replaced Orthodox monasticm as represented by Sts. Patrick, John Cassian and Benedict based on purification and illumination of the heart and glorification which was not only for monks but for all laypersons as well.

From this viewpoint there is no real difference between Protestants and Latins since neither of them know the tradition of purification and illumination of the heart and glorification or theosis. The real difference between these children of Augustine is that Luther rejected Augustinian mysticism and the monasticism which derives therefrom. From this position we have the Latin distinction between the contemplative and active lives. Protestants choose the active life and on the whole left the life of contemplation to the Latins.

Because they are children of Augustine both Latins and Protestants have been cut off from glorification and with them the Orthodox victims of Peter the Great.

All Latins I know of have been presenting mysticism as an integral part of the so-called Greek Fathers since they have been reading them by means of their Augustinian glasses. Because of this St. Dionysius the Areopagite's Greek chapter on 'Mystike Theologia' is mistakenly translated 'Mystical Theology' instead of 'Secret Theology.' He calls this chapter 'Secret Theology' because the uncreated glory of God in ones glorification cannot be described in words nor understood with concepts. It is from the glorification of the saints that we know there is no similarity between the created and uncreated and that "it is impossible to express God and even more impossible to conceive God" (St. Gregory the Theologian). Also Vladimir Lossky's title of his book The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church has added quite a bit to the confusion.