Subject, Self and Soul—Biblical Anthropological Approaches and Orthodox Exegesis: A Possible Perspective for a Transdisciplinary Discourse
The fundamental encounter between science and religion takes place inside knowledge. If the progress of the human society is circumscribed to the scientific knowledge, we must take into account the fact that the supra-systemic rhythms, which confer meaning to the scientific process, belong ontologically to the transcendent. Thus understood, this reality will invite to dialogue both the scientist and the theologian, because the stake of the human society’s development requires common science-religion projects, concrete applications of the sacred potentialities in the process of the human becoming. And because of the fact that the process of science produces good results within the aggrandizement of the horizon of knowledge, but it could have also destructive effects, the moral controlling of the cognitive act is required not only from the religious point of view. Thus, a lasting social development requires a common and a unitary way of thinking and acting, an ethical and stable system which may trace the meaning itself of knowledge, any transgressions causing disturbances, crisis, collapse.
An ethical system of knowledge preserves the existence, including the human society, in the sphere of normality. The reality of the world is not only a scientific one or a religious one. The reality of the word is an integral one. The scientific knowledge does not preclude another order of reality; on the contrary, it reveals it and renders it permanently evident. The relation between the reality of the world and its normality determines the coordinates of the human becoming, the ones of the social progress, understood as a re-ordering of the being for achieving its resemblance1. Thus, before speaking about the normality of the social, as it is described by the structural anthropology, we think it might be opportune to introduce here a succinct presentation of the biblical anthropological discourse and of the way in which the eastern Fathers of the Church understand the integral unity/ reality of creation.
“The contemplation of the culture of the XXth century is at the same time confusing, paradoxical and fascinating. From time immemorial, treasures of wisdom and knowledge have been gathered, and yet, we continued to kill each other. It is true that the riches of a culture are practically intransferable to another one”2, but through their structure which reveals the truth, they transcend the autarchic and the self sufficiency, they are not just some autonomous structures. Thus, I raise the following question: is a cultural unification able to eradicate the corruption and the amorality of the contemporary society? A sufficient answer is difficult to be provided, but I will try to give a possible answer by appealing to a biblical passage which I call simply “the Babel accident”3. Culture may be seen as a positioning of the human understanding “from before”4 Babel, thus is an integral zone of communication, in a unity of understanding, but the act of understanding is achieved by man. This is why I suggest now the motive of a concrete anamnesis/ commemoration5 of the Christian anthropological corpus. Man can be an answer, although he is also the one who “contemplates” today the fruits of the culture of the XXth century, he is the one who, as a “subject”, has the knowledge and the evaluation of the reality. But the “Manifesto of Transdisciplinarity” speaks about: the levels of reality, the included middle and the complementarity, concepts which must be dealt with by the man, but depending from what point of view: from the scientific knowledge’s point of view or from the knowledge-through-faith point of view6. Here is the reason why I will introduce in the introductive section an illustrative passage from the Structural Anthropology of C. L. Strauss, in order to see that there is a common theleological perspective between the two ways of knowledge or forms of achieving knowledge. The sphere of the formal synonymies might also be taken into account, but this issue belongs to semiotics and there is not the time for such an approach now. Nevertheless, I underline the fact that the great Romanian theologian, Father Dumitru Staniloae7, spoke of a possible epistemology of faith, which points out, in our opinion, in a sufficient way, the complementary aspect of the two forms of knowledge. Therefore, I will assert one more time the fact that between the two ways of realizing the gnoseological act there is an organic relation and that the event of the scientific knowledge should be seen as a real constituent of the natural revelation and, because of this, it would not have any more any tendency of autonomization and any temptation of considering itself as self sufficient, but it would be continuously opened toward revelation/ transcendence.
Social, un-conscious (subliminal, subconscious) and structural (epistemological landmarks at C.L. Strauss8). I will reiterate some elements of the work of Strauss because I would like to point out a structural level characteristic of the primitive civilizations which apparently disappeared and which, according to the author, has its sources in the structures of an “unconscious spirit”.
Once converted to science, Levi Strauss started a radical reconstruction of anthropology, in the spirit and according to the naturalistic pattern of science, establishing a categorial paradigmatic constellation which would allow the socio-humane disciplines to become equal in status and in rights with the exact sciences of nature. And maybe the starting point of this paradigmatic constellation is not the concept of structure, but the one of unconscious or unconscious spirit. This concept is the supporting point, but at the same time, the Achilles’ heel of his entire construction9. Through it he wants to explain everything and to it he wants to reduce, in the last analysis, everything10. An unconscious11 which could be finally identified with the formal and the most general structures of the human spirit, with the laws and the logical structures of this or, in the last analysis, with the basic structural configuration of the human brain. Its primordial function is the symbolical one, whose current expressions are, for instance, the language, the myths and the parental relations. The whole social life may be reductively related to the unconscious, to the conditions of the symbolical thinking. Starting from these aspects, C. Levi-Strauss defines step by step his paradigmatic formula, which makes appeal to concepts as: nature, culture, rule, rational, symbolic, significant, structure, communication, gift, alliance, involving in this construction new scientific resources, such as: cybernetics, the symbolic logic, the theory of communication, the theory of information… in order to enter through the walls which separate us from the world of “the hidden”12 by using interpretative methods of the diachronic meaning and of the synchronic one, necessary to the achievement of the steps of knowledge, which goes from deciphering its structure toward its genesis. We may say that in this process of structural anthropology, the main orientation aims at including in its area of research the foundations of the human existence, its relationships with the existence in general13, and especially with the social and the cultural14.
I have given this brief account of the structural anthropology of Levi-Strauss, because I wanted to reveal the fact that post-Babel still exists in creation through the agency of the human “unconscious”, an enthelechycal orientation and organization, but its analysis remains, in most of the cases, tributary to the Marxist ideology, dominant in the epoch, a situation which requires a complement, and this complement may by delivered by the theory of the communication of the reality’s levels through the agency of the included middle, which is for us, Christians, “ruah YHWH”. Likewise, the mentioned work deals happily with the level of anthropological discourse which we call “physiological, physical anthropology” and the one of “social anthropology”, and sometimes it allows the reflexes of the “theleological anthropology” to be seen, but never deals with them analytically. Here is the reason why we will develop our paper in this direction.
In a time in which the option is for the civilization of the super-structures, we think that this appeal to the archaic structuralism may provide us a minimum of knowledge in the way of identifying the causes of the social and cosmic entropy: the loss of the cultural roots generates a development of the type of “the sons of Enoch”, even a vertical development, but which collapses at the first storm, having no foundation. Identifying the foundation is possible by bringing man back in his condition of a rational being, responsible of creation, through whom the Creation takes part consciously/ unconsciously to Life.
I would like to end this introduction with some remarks made by G. Marcel15: the formula of Einstein: “the most incomprehensible thing is that the world may be comprehensible” shows “the incompleteness” of the mystery of knowledge, and this fact is due to the abandoning of the mystery of knowledge, by the scientists, to theologians and popularizers; therefore, G. Marcel focuses his thinking not only on the mystery of knowledge, but also on the mystery of the union between body and soul, on the mystery of love, hope, presence and being. For him, a mystery is a problem which defies its own given characteristics, which invades them and by this travels as a simple problem… it’s a problem which trespasses its own immanent conditions of possibility, it is something in which I am entirely engaged, achieving a unity which cannot ever seizing itself and cannot be but an object of creation and faith16.
Man – subject/ person and self/ con-science (theleological anthropology). If G. Marcel spoke of the mystery of knowledge, the Romanian philosopher Petre Tutea17 speaks about the “mystics of knowledge”, which connect the truth to Divinity and the real man to immortality and freedom understood as “divine slavery”. Therefore, truth must be thought soteriologically and eschatologically, thus religiously, metaphysics and logic not going beyond what is useful, comfortable and pleasant, drowning themselves in the torrent of the “historical errors”, as it is shown by existentialism and the esthetics of the absurd. Socrates said that the man’s possibility of remembering or of re-cognizing the truth can bring him salvation, but this truth is inside man, being the very centre of his essence. These are only some reasons of our approach directed toward realizing a “theleological-patristic anthropology”, having the title: Man, Church, Cosmos.
I made constant appeals, both when I have introduced the concept of un-conscious and when I spoke of co(m)-memoration, to the socratical “to re-cognize”, “to remember”, because I would like to preface the exegetical discourse of anthropogenesis with a wonderful revelation, with the Transfiguration of our Saviour, Jesus Christ (Mathew 17: 1-7). In the eastern spirituality, this theophanic moment is essential for the mystical knowledge, but regarding the doctrinal substance, I confine myself in suggesting one special author: Saint Gregory Palamas18. What I would like to point out by this biblical event is the fact that three persons appear here, of whom two died a long time ago: Moses and Elijah. Beside the aspect of the uniqueness of every person, let us notice the fact that the three historical protagonists who were in the centre – Peter, John and Jacob – had the opportunity to see the face in the splendor of his divinity, thus observing or re-cognizing in this their own telos (purpose). Thus, we can easily understand the fact that the main answers to the questions of anthropology may be provided to us in a satisfactory way from Christ, as he is dogmatically defined by the Synod of Calcedon (451) as God and man in a hypostatic union: unmixed and unchanged, undivided and un-separated, making the human ones divinely and the divine ones humanly, by reason of the communication of the properties. Peter, Jacob and John met the authentic man in all his glory, during this episode which takes place in the eternity of the kingdom of God rather than in history19.
The light of Tabor represents the subject dealt with by Saint Gregory Palamas20, it is the light of Resurrection, too, and this is why man must be understood in his dimension which regards resurrection. About this issue we will speak, perhaps, some other time, at the moment those who are interested may take a look at our paper: “The anastasic component of the human person”21.
Morphologies and language delimitations. I enjoy very much to return to the horizon of the great men of the Romanian thinking, therefore I will make appeal today to some of the famous sayings of Petre Tutea. And I do this not out of romantic reasons, this is not the case. I do this because he was also very interested in the anthropological matter, as it is obvious from his transcribed and published works. He says that “the eternal religious man acquired the certainties lost by the historical man, who moves asymptotical towards the ideal… the modern scientist, situated between hypothesis and experiment, hardly accepts the fact of situating the truth in religion and its redemptive function (…). Science, united with religion and art, means freedom and immortality. The limits of the speculation of the immanent scientist do not go beyond meta-psychology and meta-logic, the language moving him between intuition and method, not going beyond the useful, the comfortable and the gratuitous, existing only one way of reaching the truth, the revelation”22; “a divine message must not be depreciated at a human level, at the moving between the interpretation of the signs and silence”, because “at the foundation of the universal-historical morphology lays the cosmological and anthropological integrism, the whole: the macrocosmos and the microcosmos are units, and because the unit is qualitative and not quantitative, measurable – as in the categories’ tables of Kant – it is under the power of the sacred mystery, the integration of the parts not being able to be sustained materially-empirically or formally-logically, rising from creation”23.
The morphologies are elements of the analytic process which aim at solving the structures of language, but the language has in its structure a restrictive and reductive coordinate, an impact of subjective approach/ reception determined especially by anthropopathies (that is, human feelings). In the case of the anthropological discourse, at the narrative level of the anthropogenesis, the morphai (shapes) are: dust, image, resemblance; it is about the exercise of complementarity between the text of Genesis 1: 26-27 and the text of Genesis 2: 7. The dust is not a mystery, but it is destined to the sacred; the other two contain “the power of the sacred mystery”: the image and the resemblance, which have their source in God, that divine paradigm which existed since eternity, and in the same time, they spring out from the creation, they appear as an epiphany out of creation, although, according to Nellas24 and I. Popovici25, they are telos (purpose) of creation: the filling up with image or the ecclesial accomplishment of creation; the ecclesial medium is fundamentally anastasic.
The report of the anthropogenesis is located by the biblical anthropologies in the texts of Genesis 1: 26-27, Genesis 2: 7 and the parallel places which deals with the same issue. But the theologians do not make any distinction in these passages between two types of action: the deliberation inside the Holy Trinity (Genesis 1: 26), which is accomplished in eternity and cannot be analyzed according to the epistemology of the immanent hermeneutics, and the real act of creation (Genesis 1: 27; 2:7), which takes place in time and which can be approached by a classic hermeneutics. Making this distinction, we may see that in the first text we have an act which is specific to the continuum of the eternity, therefore, there is both “telem” and “demut” – image and resemblance – but there is also the thelos of the human being inside creation specified26. Afterwards, at the historical level, we have only “telem”27. Rendering evidence of man as a person is a fact that appears in the subsequent descriptions28, according to which Adam gives names to the beings created by God, acknowledges Eva29 as a structure of the human ontological unity and he is able for a dialogue30 with the Divine. Based on these grounds, we say that one of the fundamental characteristics of the person is its calling toward dialogue. For the Greek Fathers – Cyril of Alexandria, for instance – the starting point is the hypostasis, the person. At first sight, it would seem a simple detail. Nevertheless, its importance is enormous, because he points out the fact that both for man and for God, the foundation of ontology is the person. Only in His quality of a person, God is what He is in His nature – a “perfect God”; only in his quality of a person, that is, as love and freedom, the man in Christ is “a perfect man”. Therefore, a perfect man is only that one who is really a person, who exists and has a way of existence, who is constituted as a being, following the way in which God exists as a Being – this is what “hypostatical union” means, in the language of the human existence. Christology is, thus, the good news brought to man: the human nature can be assumed, “hypostazied”, apart of the ontological necessity imposed by its biological hypostasis. The last one does not lead, eventually, but to the tragic individuality and to death. Due to Christ, man can finally “exist”, to assert his existence as a person, relying not on the inviolable laws of his nature, but based upon his relation with God, identical with the one had by Christ, as a Son, with His Father, a free relation and out of love. This adoption of man by God, the identification of the human hypostasis with the one of the Son, is the very essence of the baptism31 and a re-connection of the dialogue between man and God.
In the moment in which Adam reveals himself to us as a person, it is important for us to observe that he does not assume a certain structure of the human being as being an immediate consequence of the human ontological unity, he doesn’t assume in this hypostasis the nefesh – the soul; he speaks about “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” which “have been taken”. I make this observation because I want to point out the fact that in the human being, as Saint Gregory of Nazianz tells us, there is that divine spark, that life and light by which the human being is potentially opened to the transcendence. Moreover, the act of nominalization, of baptizing the creatures gives us the possibility to point out another characteristic of the person in its quality of being a subject, and that is reason/ rationality. In order to underline this characteristic, I will make appeal to the thinking of Saint Maximus the Confessor, as contained in the scholia of Father Dumitru Staniloae. First, I would like to introduce an observation made by M. Henry: “the embodied condition of man is given by the fact that I don’t have a body, but I am my body, by the bond between corporality and the transcendental experience of the ego, by the fact that the life of the body is a way of the absolute life of this ego”32. Unfortunately, reducing the body to its objective manifestation, to the level of an element of the exterior world and of simple anonymous physical, chemical and biological processes, was the cause which led to its mutilation and its isolation from its essence, which is the subjective body of the inner experience, and this led further to a profound deterioration of the idea of human nature. Although proper to modernity, this reduction has its roots in an archaic conception, which dominates the entire thinking of the western tradition. In this conception, a common place of our culture, man is seen as a twofold being, is understood as a paradoxical synthesis of two heterogeneous elements radically opposed: the immortal spirit and the contingent, finite and absurd body; as a consequence, the embodiment of the spirit in man appears as a contingent event which marks the human reality with an insurmountable finitude33. Therefore, man should be understood as a dichotomic unity destined to resurrection (in romanian, that would be inviere – resurrection, but if written in-viere, it means in living/life). That is why I said earlier that the answer to the perpetual interrogations determined by anthropogenesis is offered to us by Christ, because “Christ is the archetype and the cause of all those who become His icons, raising himself above time and nature, because He is through nature, not through will and grace, above time. He is really without mother or beginning, by His immaterial and eternal birth from the Father, and without father, according to the birth from below, without seed. The One and the Same is without father and without mother. One of the two births of the same One is without mother, the other is without father. None is sinful. The birth given by the mother doesn’t bring a temporal subject into the world, but the One born from eternity by the Father”34. And when we said: “those who become His icons”, we meant by that an achievement of the concept of “telem”, as well as the fact that “God has put in a natural way in each man the power toward salvation, not in the way that he can save himself, but in the way that he desires it and can share it through grace, becoming virtuous, by staying in relation with God”35. Because of this, the Eastern Church does not insist upon synchronic or diachronic analyses, in analyses of shapes, but tries to point out the fact that “the Word or the Reason of God penetrates the whole being of man through virtue and conscience, making them fruitful… The Word of God, persisting in man, in his conscience, penetrates his reason, which thus adapts itself to the reasons of God. Through conscience, it organizes, rationalizes the bodily moves of man, than enlighten his understanding, penetrating in the end the entire man. The two reasons are intimately bound, but remain two, the human one following the divine one, as the word of God ties to Himself, as an answer, our word, without annulling him, in a dialogical union”36. Between our understanding and God, we put a lot of human thoughts gathered during time, thoughts which have no sensibility towards the mystery. Through the sensibility of our being, we take no contact with God, although this being is created especially for this purpose. The spiritual face is the seeing power of the mind, for as the face of the body carries the eyes or the sense of sight toward the material ones, so the mind carries the seeing power toward the spiritual ones.
If the seeing power of the mind saw the spiritual ones as the eye does, the ear listens and receives with faith the mysteries communicated by God, whose presence is detected by the mind. These seeing and hearing strengthen the most the human liberty against the exterior temptations and place man on the ladder of his perfection as a spiritual person, that is, on the way: of the purifying of the sins; of the contemplation of the reasons of things through the purified mind, which is no longer constrained by cares and pleasures to stop to the materiality of things; of mysterious or apophatic knowledge of God, received in the mind purified through prayer, that is, through the concentration in God and the abandonment of all the ideas of things. Saint Maximus the Confessor considers that the human soul, once purified of vices, is lead by the Word of God Himself towards the clear knowledge of God. The Word of God teaches the soul in such a great measure that this one comes to know God as One Being in three hypostasis or Persons37. We may thus say that the reason, as an element of defining the person, is not a simple faculty of knowledge, but has a power of confronting and fighting against the malefic powers and the actions of them. Therefore, it is not about a reason that has to precede faith, in the way of Abelard (intelligo ut credam), but about a reason which must not be separated from faith, either really, or chronologically, it is about the divine reason of man with the help of which he perceives and understands the sum of the divine reasons, embodied in things or in the words of the Scripture, with which it feels in harmony, because these reasons have an intrinsic evidence.
Thus, the person is not a simple subject generating useful acts, but a wise person, out of the Spirit of God, that is, a person marked by the wisdom understood as sacerdotal ministry inside creation, in the way of identifying the divine reason of things, of identifying and acknowledging the “legal character” of their nature, and then as working (leitourgia) in the way of providing them the medium of perfection in order that the kalokagathia of the creation prior to sin may be restored again (Genesis 1: 31). This is the reason why I say often that it is very important to work and to make efforts for the sanctifying of the other and thus you will also have a share in his holiness.
In order to experience the character of another man as a subject toward us, we must restrain the massive torrent of our selfish impulses and to pay heed to him, but not through sight, it is not enough! The sight places us in the situation of contemplating a world which we consider as being a part of the sphere of ego. When we look at a person, if we only take a look, we do this for us, in order to find if we like it or not. We must pay attention to that person by hearing what that person tells us. The word is the main “discoverer” of the subject of our fellow man. Not a word through which a logical and impersonal meaning is expressed, like that word through which a professor develops a theory or describes the constitutive parts of an insect. That word may be listened distinct from the concrete person who utters it, and then its meaning becomes an object of thinking, of our subject. Only the word which expresses the will of the collocutor reveals directly to us its subject. But we can let also this word to pass by, if we are not willing to restrain our egoism, if we think only to our plans, desires and interests. And we are threatened by this peril especially when we perceive in the other’s words nothing but a selfish will, an intention of dominating us, of using us. Then, the reaction of our own selfishness is produced, which renders us impervious to the experience of the other’s subject38. Only that will of the other, manifested through word, helps us to experience intensely, clearly and durably his subject, which we perceive not pursuing any selfish purpose, any reduction of us to the state of an object, but pursuing our communion, our understanding and our love. Only the word of the other, which requires also our word, which requires an answer to the question, the word which moves between us is the one which gives birth to your subject and mine; the monologue word cannot do this. Only then a human person becomes really a “you” to us, when we make from ourselves a really “I”39, plenary fulfilled by the character of the subject, of the relation I – You. The real “I” does not live in isolation, asserting with passion his egocentricity, but neither in reducing himself at the state of an object, under the dominion of his fellow man as a unique subject40.
I made my choice for the opinion of Father Staniloae, although it would have been more familiar, for the western environment, to take into account the opinion of E. Levinas. I would mention briefly, only in order to sketch a possible definition of the self, the following synthesis of Levinas and Derrida: the image is the event which gives the order a centre and which constitutes the principle41 of the world – one of the deepest ontological meditations regarding the significance of the image at Levinas. The signifying saturation of the image is manifesting itself without the support of the exercise of comprehension, which would correlate it with some outward relations or would translate it in some meaning linguistically outlined. The image signifies even before42 its signification may be specified, precedes the explanatory effort, which is possible only together with the linguistic convergence. The signs of the meanings are previously contained in the interiority of the image as in a principle of possibility; the light in which the language places the meanings with which it operates is detached from the horizon of the image’s light. The image gives the measure of signifying before the meaning of the measure is established, brings order by its simple perseverance which leads, in a solemn silence, to a meaning above being. The image signifies in the way of circularity, that is, it signifies the fact that there is already a signifier which elaborates, in the patience of the presence, landmarks of meaning; it signifies by signifying itself as signifier, that is, it divulges its personal originarity of meaning above the being. The primary signification that the image has is that of staying as centre which irradiates signification. Its work lights in the metaphysical obscurity of the impartial il y a, brings expressiveness in the horizon of the nocturnal elementarity, shows the promise of a genesis which may set up landmarks, order, orientation, relation and emphasis43. The image, meaning and illumination, how profound! The fundamental meaning discovered by us in the rationality of the world is that it comes from the supreme Person (through image) and it is addressed to another person, that is, the fact of the most special importance which God grants to the human person. Rationality is the intelligible way of a person to communicate itself to another person, in order that the communion between them might be developed and achieved. Person is much more than rationality by its endless intentionality toward the other, by its boundless love, by its unlimited freedom. But these are not meaningless. Rationality is the way of communicating the profound meanings implied in these. Within the communion inside Trinity there is the infinite meaning. The will of Trinity to raise man to the communion with her, as to his supreme and infinite sense44, is communicated to man in a rationally and intelligibly way, adjusted to him. The things, as images of the divine reasons, must not be depreciated by using them in a way which causes dissensions. But we are able to do this only when we are not the slaves of them, but when we see in them their divine sense, promoting communion. The rationality itself of things, which was not made by us, makes transparent to us the sense of their divine origins and their purpose, which is that of rising us to God. And the very sense of them requires that we should turn to good account the rationality of things45. The malleable rationality of the world, full of a multitude of potentialities, corresponds to the indefinite potentialities of reason, imagination and the progressive and creative human power. The plenary and yet malleable rationality of the matter receives a full meaning, by making this malleability actual, only if the human reason follows in its work ethical principles, a responsibility toward the human communion and toward God. By this, a perspective of a transparence and transfiguration, which can advance toward resurrection, is opened in it46.
These are only a few of the perspectives through which the person/ the subject is thought of in the eastern spirituality and thinking; the person is much more than what is expressed by the concept of individual, even more than the horizontal dialogicity; a man becomes a person only then when he manifests himself freely and consciously as a promoter/ actant of the vertical dialogicity. He is subject of both the cultural and the cultic act, which must crown him in a spiritual sense.
The Self. In order to define the self, I would like to refer to an act mentioned above: naming all the creatures by Adam. According to our faith, when God created things as materializations of His reasons, at the same time, He endowed man with reason as an organ of knowing them. Therefore, we may say that man has the duty toward God to know this created work through the ability of the human reason of perceiving it, because in the view of this work, He created man with a reason adequate to it. On the other side, man is obliged to know these reasons of things, otherwise he cannot use them and cannot live among them47.
But God implied in this rationality, in the same time permanent and elastic, of things, as well as in the possibility of knowing and using it by man in a conscious and rational way, constantly new meanings of things and of the human being. “The reasons” of things and the human “reason” have implied in them constantly new “meanings”, which appear by applying the human reason to the reasons of things48.
Through things, God gave to the human beings the possibility to think and to talk – by the fact that He thought their reasons and gave them after creating for them a plastic clothing – as well as the necessity of thinking and expressing them, in order to make use of them in their relations to one another and, through this, the dialogue between Him and them, that dialogue which He wanted for them, to be realized. In this, all things find their sense. This is the meaning of the words from Genesis: “Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field” (Genesis 2: 19-20). Thus, God Himself ask the man to talk, because He urged him or put in his nature the necessity of discovering the words which He communicated to him through things, or the meanings which He gave to the things. Therefore, even the words addressed by God to us through things stimulate us to understand them. And their understanding is able to provoke an answer from us. There is no word understood by a man, towards whom he takes no attitude, that is, he gives no answer. Man started to talk when he started to answer God, being obliged by God to answer through the things He put in front of him; man started to act as a partner of dialogue with God. God accepts the names which man gave to the things, being in dialogue with Him, because these names were given to the things by God Himself. In the very command of creation, in that “Let there be”, the names of the things were already contained. Therefore, by naming things, our being starting to actualize itself and to develop itself as a partner of a dialogue with God. Only in this dialogue with God about things, our being is proved to be superior to the things as objects, as God is, too. By this, our person is somehow lifted at the same level as God, as two subjects which talk about things as objects, the person itself being superior to the things and being able to have, through the dialogue with Him, an equal “status”, according to His kindness.
But God gives not to man the meanings and the names of the things He created just like that, He waits for the effort of man in solving them, according to the ability and necessity He put in him. God waits that man might discover His endless thoughts deposited in things and express in his own words more and more of the indefinite meanings He wants to tell him through the created things. We should understand better and more completely His thoughts deposited in things and the words which He addressed to us through them or still addresses to us by the new situations in which we find ourselves. The world reveals other and other aspects, other and other possibilities of combining the elements, other and other possibilities created by the relations between humans and results from the relations of humans with things49.
Only because things receive some transparency or relativity in the relation with the communion inside the Holy Trinity, they reveal their more and more profound meaning and their importance in the spiritual achievement of man.
A right attitude toward things is a right attitude toward fellow men, toward God and vice versa. And our right development depends on this, because through things we know more and more the loving intentions of God toward us. The better we know things, the more we know the wisdom and the love of God toward human beings, and the more we know these, the more profound the meanings of the things appear. Each of us sees them according to the measure in which our image is enlightened by the light due to the communion with the Proto-image, and this process is an act of situating the person in the medium of con-science; this achievement of the person in conscience is, in fact, the perfection of the self, because each person is unique, has its own personality, and it is not annulled or annihilated even by God.
Ekklesia and recapitulativeness – the man: leitourgos of Creation (the responsible reason). Man was called microcosmos, macrocosmos or macro-anthropos. Saint Maximus the Confessor chooses macrocosmos, because man is called to recapitulate in himself all the creation, being able to embrace it without losing his identity, as one who is distinct from it, therefore realizing a greater unity than the world exterior to him; on the contrary, the world, as cosmos, as nature, cannot entirely contain man in itself without losing him, without losing the most important part of reality, which is able to give a meaning to the whole. The fact that man is called to become a greater world is better expressed by the term macro-anthropos, which expresses the fact that the world is called to become itself entirely humanized, that is, to receive the stamp of the humane, to become pan-humane, thus becoming real a necessity implied in its sense. The inferior steps of existence, the chemical, the mineral and the organic ones, although they have rationality, have no purpose in themselves; their purpose is that of being the material condition of the man’s existence and of their existence, but they are not conscious of their purpose, in the way of the human dialogical conscience. The human being, able to become conscious of the rationality of creation, receives, together with this capacity of understanding, the responsibility for achieving the purpose of creation.
The rationality of man, who, with the purpose of his existence and his good development, uses the rationality of nature, is infinitely superior to the last one, because nature develops itself rigidly and without knowing anything about its purpose. Nevertheless, in contemplating this rationality of creation, man reaches to a higher understanding of the meaning of existence50. In this way, speaking of the affirmative-rational knowledge about God through the things of the world, Saint Gregory of Nazianz says: “That God exists and that He is the making and the sustaining cause of all, this teaches us the seeing and the natural law: the first one, by looking at the visible and well arranged and wonderful ones and, to put it that way, moved and carried in a motionless way; the second one, by deducing from the visible and well arranged ones their Ruler. For how it is possible that such a universe may come into being without God, Who gives existence to all and sustains all? Because neither the one who looks at a guitar well made and at its good harmony and its good arrangement, nor the one who listens to the melody of the guitar can omit the maker of that guitar or the player of that guitar, but think of him, even if he didn’t know him by sight. Thus it is to us evident, too, the One Who created all that exists, who moves them and preserves them, even if we didn’t know Him with our understanding. And the one, who doesn’t advance with his knowledge, following the natural proves, is very ungrateful”51.
Only the man, as responsible reason of creation, uses consciously the rationality of creation and, through his work, raises himself to a life of spiritual communion and to the conscience of some higher meanings and purposes of nature. Only in man, the rationality of indefinite potentialities of nature receives a meaning, a sense, or reaches more and more completely to its fulfillment. It is useful only for man, both for its biological existence and especially for his spiritual growth; only the man, as a rational and conscious being, who knows better and better the rationality of nature and its meanings, becomes himself more rational through it, he actualizes more and more his reason. Discovering and turning to good account the multiply superposed rationality of the world, in a free way and together with his fellow men, for a better usage of its resources and for understanding its inexhaustible meanings, the man grows in his communion with the other; and this becomes a source of knowing other meanings, always higher and higher. By knowing the rationality of nature through his reason, the man discovers his responsibility towards it, towards the fellow men and towards God, and the development of this responsibility is equivalent with the increasing discovery of the meanings of the world and of the human existence52.
The analytic reason sees the world and each thing in it somehow separately. But in the man who lives completely his existence, it is accompanied by an understanding which intuits, through the progresses of the analytic reason, the higher and higher meanings of things and their supreme sense. According to our Christian conception, the reason advances in the knowledge of things and of the logical relations between them, because it is guided by the reason or the understanding which intuits the higher and higher meanings and the supreme sense of existence. The analytic reason is convinced by the very results it achieves at every level that until now it reached not to the final and complete explanation of reality, and the intuitive reason or the understanding, which intuits at every level higher and higher meanings, urges it to other researches and provides in the same time the consciousness that the supreme or the plenary meaning of every analyzed unity is a mystery connected to the mystery of the entire reality and of the supreme reality, which will be never completely known by it.
Ministry and transdisciplinarity. I do not return to the definition of the two concepts, they can be sufficiently understood by what has been said by Basarab Nicolescu, T. Magnin, Van Breda etc.; what I would like to add is the fact that these three particles of transdisciplinarity: in, inside and beyond are the best achieved in the experience of God; here, according to Dionysius the Areopagyte, Saint John Chrysostomus etc., at least two levels of reality are united and celebrate together: the angelic world (the triumphant Church) and the created world, understood as Church (the militant Church), but there is also a third heaven (II Cor. 12: 2), the heaven of the Trinity’s throne, and these three are in an eternal doxological unity in the Holy Liturgy. This doesn’t mean that we want to annul all the epistemology, all the science and to say: “back to prayer and asceticism”! No! We want to reestablish the sense of the understanding of creation and of the position of man inside creation as responsible reason of creation. And here is how: Saint Maximus the Confessor speaks about a priestly ministry of man and of angels, but makes the distinction between the two types of ministry, showing that, in order to reach the level of the angels’ priestly calling, the human beings must continuously practice a ministry proper to them, as priests in the framework of the cosmic creation of things and animals53. This fulfillment of the function of priest of the cosmic creation is achieved by the human being as the human being discovers the unseen reasons of things and renders them efficient in their true content, and therefore, in a proper manner, in the visible creation54. The eastern patristic thinking often invokes the image of the cosmos as church – ekklesia – showing the way in which the ecclesial aspect of the created world is discovered to man: “the ones from creation which have a cause, if rightly observed, through this observation rise the mind to the reflection of the One, and unite it, by making it free of all, in a simple way, with the unitary meaning of the One, if the mind observed them as it is proper to do. And the ones which have the One as Maker and Worker by nature, because He, through them, gives to the mind a shape similar to them, have the power to make the mind able to know the very One Himself. Now, the cosmos has really become for this man a Church, in which the God the only One may be seen”55. In the same meaning, Saint Maximus the Confessor, contemplating the creation seen as a nave, shows that we must distinguish the human subjects as a special category, as priests in the making who, serving God, open the world for a more efficient work of God in it56. In other words, all men are priests called to transfigure the sensitive aspect of the cosmic creation, letting God be seen clearer and clearer, as the One in Whom everybody and everything will be united.
The gifts which the human being possesses by endowment render the fulfillment of the ministry as priest of creation possible, by discovering the rationality which characterizes the entire cosmos. The discovery of this rationality is possible to man by scientific activity; the organizing of the nature’s forces according to their reasons and for our purpose is realized through our work, and the pointing out of their harmonious beauty is realized through art. Toil, science and art are nothing else but workings through which the human being fulfills a ministry of praising God, full of gratitude for the advantage he has from the gifts of creation. As priest of the visible creation, the man brings back to the Creator, as a gift, the gifts received from Him, enriched through his work and science. This is the sacred or the priestly ministry meant for us in the framework of the cosmic creation, is another face of Eucharist57. The work and the self-giving – even his own nature – are the two faces of the human destination, and these constitute together our liturgical ministry in the wide meaning of the word, as progression towards the meeting with God and between each other in the framework of the cosmic creation. This is the cosmic liturgy mentioned by Saint Maximus the Confessor, as progress of ours towards God and as a stronger and stronger union between us, by advancing towards God58.
In this cosmic liturgy which leads us to God and to the stronger and stronger union between us in Him, the efforts of parents in bringing up and educating their children, as well as the endeavour of discovering the divine reasons of the forces of creation and the working of writers and of the artists, which makes the human living together more beautiful, all these are included. The work and its sweat, initially a punishment (Genesis 3: 17-19), became a ministry of God and the fellow men, the fulfillment of the liturgy “in the cosmic nave”.
The eastern Fathers of the Church do not confine themselves in understanding the cosmos as a Church; the very human being is understood as ekklesia, and the human person as a priest of it. Thus, the universal priest of the laymen is shown both in the fact that it discovers the unseen reasons of things and, through this, it contributes to the discovering and promoting the Church character of the cosmic creation and of the personal being, and in the fact that the believer becomes priest in the church of his personal being59. Accordingly, the ministry of man within the framework of the cosmic creation doesn’t mean only the ministry in the cosmic nave, as Saint Maximus said, but also that he himself must become a church in which he is priest. He must develop also in his being the quality of church, which has God as its centre, and his quality of priest, serving God Who dwells in the altar of his heart.
Saint Mark the Ascetic wrote very clear about the man as church. The believer is also a church actualized according to his faith, in which he himself offers his gifts to Christ. What deserves our attention is the fact that Saint Mark the Ascetic sees the priesthood of the human person closely related to and dependent upon the central priesthood of Christ. The same thing takes place in the Liturgy inside the Church, where the One who brings Himself as a sacrifice, in order that the present ones may take a share in it, through the visible priest, is Christ, the unseen High Priest. The same fact we have to see in the cosmic liturgy, in which Christ, Who is the source of all gifts which we offer to God, after becoming man, made Himself also the High Priest Who offers this gifts, and together with them, He offers us to the Father, as gift, too, because after He gave us the goods of the nature and us as gifts to each other, we have neglected our duty to bring them and to offer us to God and to each other60.
Inside the human being there is Christ as High Priest of our inner church and together with Him, we are also priests in it. This is said by Saint Mark the Ascetic, asserting that we are offering to Christ, Who is inside our heart as in an altar, all our thoughts from the very moment of their appearance, before they are bitten by the beast of lust or anger. Through these thoughts, we live an inner life dedicated to Christ, but in connection with the outward world, therefore, not devoid of sanctifying effect upon this, too. In other words, the priestly ministry before the altar of the heart influences the ministry of man as priest of the whole creation; in this way, Saint Mark the Ascetic sees the sacrifices brought to Christ by us on the altar of our hearts as an offering not only of our being, but also of all our thoughts and our feelings, showing that we must not give up to our life in the world, but bringing it with all its deeds to Christ. In other words, Saint Mark the Ascetic places our inner priesthood, efficient in the church of our being, in close relation with our activity in the world, having the duty to cooperate for its perfection and holiness.
Through this inner liturgy, there is a unification of all the moves and the tendencies of the believer towards themselves and towards God in the church of our being also accomplished. And this helps, in its turn, to the unification of every human being with the others in God, in its activity in the framework of the cosmic creation, by intensifying the activity in the proper Church. For a man who is not united with himself – a unification which is possible only in God – cannot unite himself with the others either61. The believer does not celebrate this personal liturgy when he is not in connection with the creation and with the human community.
But the priestly work of Christ inside our heart does not confine itself only to the receiving of our thoughts and our being itself, but shows itself in our sharing with Him. And this happens because in every true love there is a mutual sharing. And the Communion (the Eucharist) is an act of mutual love between love and Christ. Saint Simeon, the New Theologian, and the hesychasts, who reached the highest point of their unity with Christ, irradiating as light inside their own being, speak both of the surrender of Christ to them and the surrender of them to Christ. Thus, the man may experience the most ineffable mystery. In this way, Calist Catafygiot says: “When the power of the Spirit springs forth in the heart, from the profound abyss of the divine source and from the understandable seeing, it is proper to be quiet. Because then the divine service (latreia) is in an ineffable way celebrated and the worship of the mind towards God, in spirit ant truth, takes place”62.
Neither in the human sanctuary of God, nor in the cosmic one, nor in the proper liturgical one, the sharing in God can have any limit. In all these sanctuaries of God, by sharing in Him, we experience His infinity. Sharing in Him, we realize that His life goes beyond any limit and surpass what we can receive. On the other hand the human being, although living in history, is itself, in its quality of image of the God-Person, somehow incomprehensible, or at least has something which cannot be explained or understood: “Even though persons are entirely incarnate in nature, culture and history, there is something in persons which always rises beyond the calculable, predictable and understandable”63.
1 I make use of this concept which belongs to the religious anthropogenesis, because demut – ressemblance is proper not only to man, who is also a part of the structures of creation, a part of the integral reality, but to the integral creation, too.
3 This passage is to be found in the Book of Genesis, chapter 9, dealing with the event of mixing the languages, which has, as a consequence, the collapsing of the Babel tower, seen as a symbol of the excessive autonomization of man in relation to God. Thus, the question is about the unity in law, to be in the same law/ nomos; moreover, the Law hints at the same time at the Lawgiver, too, therefore, it is not a limitation, a way of restricting the human liberty. “More precisely, it is not and cannot be any more a representation. And this happens because the Law is the one which prescribes the action itself, which belongs to Life, and it does not develop its essence but in it” (M. Henry, I am the Truth, p. 253). For more details, see the works which deal with the subject of translating the Holy Scripture: the ones of Umberto Eco, Paul Ricoeur, H. G. Gadamer.
4 The expression “in before” is, according to Henry, to be in sight, to be a phenomenon, therefore ob-iectum, as a present reality, not as something from the past; it is what Petre Tutea means, when he says that Christianity does not realizes only an anamnesis, it realizes a commemoration, or what Huizinga says: the Christian cult is something very serious.
7 Dumitru Stăniloae (1903-1993) was the most outstanding Romanian Orthodox theologian of the contemporary period. Born in Transylvania, he was a professor of theology at the Sibiu Theological Academy from 1929 to 1946, and at the Bucharest Theological Institute from 1947 to 1973. Without exaggeration it can be said that he single-handedly transformed the orientation of Romanian Orthodox theological thinking in the post-war period. His work is characterized by a return to the patristic sources, an emphasis on the close relationship between theology and spirituality, and an effort to assist his Church in its difficult adjustment to the new socialist society imposed on Romania after World War II. Stăniloae is widely considered to be among the most important Orthodox theologians of this century.
This study focuses on Professor Stăniloae’s contribution to the modern ecumenical movement. A glance at the list of his publications reveals that he devoted much energy to this field, especially after his emergence from five years of imprisonment under the Communist regime and return to theological activity in 1963. It is evident that Stăniloae was genuinely concerned about Christian divisions and made a serious effort to contribute to the advancement of Christian unity. Moltmann, for instance, has referred to Stăniloae as “the most influential and creative contemporary Orthodox theologian.” See his introduction to D. Stăniloae, Orthodox Dogmatics (Zurich, 1985), p. 10.
A study of Stăniloae’s work presents one with at least three crucial points which together form his epistemological credo: a) natural and supernatural revelations do not contradict but rather complement each other, b) genuine knowledge is only possible within the framework of personal communion, and c) there is always a “two-way” continuity between the apophatic and cataphatic. As these points are three elements of a holistic epistemology which shapes his entire theological project, Stăniloae continuously reiterates them, albeit within different contexts and from different perspectives. As such, they make the process of analysis and critical exposition a frustratingly difficult task. We shall now attempt to analyze Stăniloae’s epistemic system, looking at these three interweaving points in turn.
9 Claude Levi-Strauss studies the causes, for instance, of the natives from Trobriand and Caucaz in order to determine, beyond the limits of the Radcliff-Brown scheme, a law of relationships for the matriliniar and patriliniar backgrounds, but within the framework of this law, there is evidence of the way in which, when you know a couple, it is possible to deduce the other. Here is the reason for which we assert that in the framework of the anthropological discourse, we must not speak about distinctions/ differentiations as causes of separations, but as instruments of defining the identity, and in this situation, the unity of the genus remains/ is preserved as a transcendental reality. Here is the point in which we may recollect the complex, and yet beautiful discourse of Emmanuel Levinas about “alterity”: L’Ecriture et la diference, Paris, Seuil,1979; Alterite et transcendence, Fonfroide-le-Haut,1995.
10 See the chapter “The Structures of Myths”, in The Structural Study of Myth, p. 246-290, in which the author suggests the leit-motif of Franz Boas, who asserts that “the mythological universes are destined to be pulverized in order that from their remnants new universes may come into being”, that is, all as an integral and integrating reality.
11 Regarding the term “unconscious”, I would make the exercise of Derrida, the one of deconstruction, and I would notice the possible form of expression: un-conscious, and thus, I could suppose that the theory of the natural gifts is evident and that man realizes in social a certain arranging which belongs naturally to its un-conscious knowledge, but which is an image in the making of his enthelechycal existence (see enthelecheia at M. Heidegger). Here I would like also to notice the observation made by Heidegger that “we go astray, we seclude ourselves, because we pass by the secrets/ the mysteries of the world”.
13 I cannot develop here the discourse of M. Henry from his op. cit., note 3, but I notice, however, the fact that he takes the way of relation beyond the strict scheme of the structures of horizontality, he takes it in the sphere of transcendence, a scheme supposed and expressed by Claude Levi-Strauss in the chapter “Are the dualist organizations a reality” (p. 158-197): earth – water (horizontal) and sky (vertical), a scheme which introduces us in the theory of the included middle, but which, at the same time, aims at the i-llogical character of the faith.
14 It is not about only a relation, but of a reflection. See the chapter “Art” (p. 291 and the following ones), or the plan of the village Omarakana (p. 162), “a structure with a great signification, whose analysis would prove to be highly instructive” (Malinovski). This scheme may be compared with “the schematic representation of interpretation in terms of the included middle of Trinity” (see T. Magnin, op. cit., p. 207), but it refers to the axle X at C. Levi-Strauss, while at T. Magnin, it refers to the axle Y.
16 Apud T. Magnin, op. cit., p. 126-128. There is a mystery of knowledge: knowledge hold itself on a way of participation which no epistemology may hope ever to express, because it itself presumes it as “meta-problematic”.
18 The Philokalia or collection of the writings of the Holy Fathers which show how the man can purify, enlighten and perfect himself, tome VII, writings of: Nichifor, Teolipt, Gregory of Sinai and Gregory Palamas, introduction, translation and notes by Father Prof. Dumitru Staniloae, Ed. IBMBOR, Bucharest, 1977. The book of Dumitru Staniloae is also worthy to be mentioned: The Life and the Teaching of Saint Gregory Palamas, Ed. IBMBOR, Bucharest, 2006.
20 The Philokalia or collection of the writings of the Holy Fathers which show how the man can purify, enlighten and perfect himself, tome VII, writings of: Nichifor, Teolipt, Gregory of Sinai and Gregory Palamas, introduction, translation and notes by Father Prof. Dumitru Staniloae, Ed. IBMBOR, Bucharest, 1977, p. 263 passim: “It is to be noted that the glory or the light irradiates concretely from the divine Person, and to us, it was made accessible by the Person of the Word become man. In any person, there is an inexhaustible treasure of life and light, by staying in connection with God, according to his nature”.
26 Genesis 1: 26: “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
38 Martin Buber, Ich und Du, Berlin, 1936: „The relation to you is direct. Between Me and You there is no abstraction, no previous knowledge, no fantasy; between Me and You stands no purpose, no desire and no anticipation” (p. 13). Eberhard Grisebach relies in his critics upon these ideas. According to him, any ethics or pedagogy interested in any system or any ideology cannot pull the man out of the prison of ego and cannot lead him to the real encounter with his fellow man (apud D. Staniloae, Jesus Christ or the Restauration of Man, Sibiu, 1941, p. 19).
40 F. Ebner, Wort und Liebe, Regensburg, 1935, p. 124: „The “I” cannot ever find himself in himself, and must seek for him in “You”; “The false “I” wants “You” as an object of [his] power; the false “I” becomes easily itself an object”.
41 “Always behind its signs and deeds, in its interiority for ever mysterious and private, breaking, through its liberty of speech, all the totalities of history, the image is not from the world. Its origin is. I cannot talk about it but speaking to it; and I cannot reach it but as I must reach it…” (J. Derrida, Violence and Metaphysics, 1998, p. 150).