Kakhaber Kurtanidze | Academic Essay | 2021
The following text interprets one of the many features of the Russian “Political Mindset.” I am not going to prove all of my points. Instead, I present them as the proposals or even itinerary landmarks for only students of the Center for Russian Studies (Non-governmental organization).
The text consists of two parts. The first is about “political hesychasm,” and the second is about the so-called “Russian Silence.”
The hesychasm is a late Byzantine religious phenomenon. It is mostly the private-monastic mode of the Eastern Christian religious experience and became dominant of 14th-century byzantine minds and had its philosophical and political developments. It contributed to the Byzantine Empire's collapse and influenced the entire Balkans and the Russian orthodoxy's orthodoxy.
The 'Political Hesychasm” is a particular type of a premodern political worldview, and “Russian social silence” is its (inevitable) result. Moreover, “Russia-as-a-political-problem” is the result of an invasion of pre-modernity to modernity.
1. “Political Hesychasm.”
The concept of the “Political Hesychasm” has its opponents.
There is not and cannot be “political prayer,” as well as “political liturgy,” “political Eucharist”... and how there cannot be “Political Hesychia.” […] a political hesychasm is a hesychasm that has or acquires a political nature, is a political phenomenon or movement… hesychasm cannot have of a political nature.
Hesychasm is a transformative phenomenon consciousness or only one of the many kinds of the techniques of “Altering Consciousness” (whatever can be the claims of the Greco-Russian Orthodoxy). A private consciousness separate from the social and political spheres is inconceivable. The Christian worldview is based on Greco-Roman understanding of the universe (σύμπαν, universe), which exists and manifests itself only as of the threefold, cosmos-city-human reality and not otherwise. Even the life of the Christian hermits was described as the “citizenship in God” (ἔνθεος πολιτεία, Godly citizenship).
David Zilberman strongly links Russian communistic consciousness to the Greco-Russian orthodoxy in general and the hesychasm. With that in mind, let us read Nicholas Cabasilas, one of the foremost representatives of Hesychast minds.We also keep in mind that the l narrative of “the Descent of Christ into Hades” on an individual level corresponds to the “descent of the mind into the heart” for the Hesychast tradition during the payer. For Hesychasm, the heart is the center of human existence, where a psycho-somatically (holistically) united person participates in the grace of God and becomes a perfect person, or perfect consciousness (before that, he could not be). Thus, for Hesychasm, the human heart and hades are two centers of one reality and a creature-starting point (in Matthew's resurrection tale, the part of which is “the Descent of Christ into Hades,” the resurrected bodies are coming to City Jerusalem thus confirming “threefold-ness” of Greco-Roman universe). Each Hesychast makes this mythical-historical event his/her personal life. Let us extract some points from Cabasilas1 meditations on this mythical narrative.
1. Notwithstanding the monastic-hermitic discourse of hesychasm, the emphasis is not falling on diligence, vigil, patience, or other ascetic virtues, but on a very political concept of justice (δικαιοσύνην).
2. Cabasilas uses the phrase: people were given “know and succeed in” justice (γνῶναι τοῖς ἀνθρώποις καὶ κατορθῶσαι). This phrase underlines the importance of the ability to articulate feelings and emotions, that is the experience.
3. The poetic imaged of “Light of Justice,” or the “Rising Sun in Hades” and related to them have their source in “Sun of Justice” from the main hymn (ἀπολυτίκιον, тропарь) of Christmas Vigil, “…he makes his righteousness and life rise, like the sun, in our souls. Thus, it became possible for men, through the sacred Mysteries, both to know true righteousness and themselves to practice it”. The terminology of Cabasilass and especially ον τὸν ἥλιον ἀνατείλαντα (the sun had risen upon them) is related to the Troparion ἀνέτειλε τῷ κόσμῳ τὸ φῶς (the light of knowledge to rise upon the world) and Ἥλιον τῆς δικαιοσύνης (the sun of justice/righteousness). It is also necessary to have in mind that in the Roman Empire, Jesus replaced the Sun-Mithras cult. Therefore, the Birth of Sun's celebration on December 25 became the day of the Birth of Jesus, which was the new beginning of “Pax Romana.”
4. At one point, Cabasilas says that “ἰδεῖν δὲ τοῦ φωτὸς φανέντος, ἀναστῆναι δὲ τῶν τύπων, τῆς ἀληθείας ἀναδειχθείσης” According to the official translator, this phrase is given as “when the light would shine they would see it, and when the reality had disclosed they would rise above the types and shadows.” However, word by word translation would be as follows, “and Seeing the shining light, raising-up (ἀναστῆναι is aorist active infinitive) from the types [during] truths demonstrating up.” All the verbs are infinite, and the participles in the present tense. All this can be nothing but the Byzantine Greek, but it can also be the author's rational choice. The second instance would show that Cabassilas intentionally alludes that the particular events of lineal developments correspond to the human existential condition of here and now. As George Tskitishvili puts it
… is a perpetual event, one whose relevance is not confined to … time and place, but relevant to … all times and places. […Biblical] historical narrative …refers to those willing to assume the ascetic life and searching for the pattern that will achieve it. [… The] language of permanence [indicates towards] understanding [of] the Scripture that it is open to all who are willing to dwell in it.
It can be that Cabasilas here implies this kind of “permanence” of openness of laniary development to existential participation or, in other words, provides a “dwelling place” for individual conscience.
What the patristic texts describe as a “type” is a mimetic “impress” or figure in the narrative or action described [. . .]. Usually, types and anti-types contribute to the prophetic understanding of Scripture, and so past narrative points to present fulfillment, or present instance is prophetic of future reality [. . .]. The word typos may be used for any “model” or “pattern” or “parable” foreshadowing its fulfillment, whether an event or oft-repeated ritual. It is not its character as a historical event that makes a “type”; what matters is its mimetic quality.
So, an individual or one particular community ascetically or ritually (or in Cabasilas’s terms, sacramentally) participates in reviled “eternal truth or reality.” Thus, for Cabassilas here, both mysteries/sacraments and Hesychast prayer are mimetic events of “the Descent of Christ into Hades,” described in strongly political terms.
The conclusion is self-evident: hesychasm is in no way a narrowly individual discourse of “salvation of the soul,” instead, it brings with itself the universal or necessarily political theoretical-practical claims. However, what political reality does it project? A partial answer to this question is given in Chapter Two. For now, let us take a look at a recent text of the modern orthodox theologian Emmanuel Clapsis,where he tries to define the Christian approach to politics. Let us highlight two details of his text.
In Christian circles, the Church’s witness to the world is often contrasted with her sacred otherworldly tradition. Through political actions and involvement, it is often suggested that the Church skirts from her primary sacred responsibility. She substitutes immanence for transcendence. She replaces the Gospel of love and forgiveness with social reforms, legislative change, political programs, and actions. Thus, by focusing so much on social and political matters, the churches increasingly fail in their sacred mission to unite the world with God. They become inauthentic. If such an attitude prevails, the churches consciously choose to ignore political challenges or be indifferent to violence, injustice, racism, homelessness, violations of human rights, and assaults on human dignity.
Hesychasm is a particular technique, and its primary concern is the afterlife. As such, it should not be interested in politics and should be politically ‘indifferent to violence … human rights.” Only because man is inevitably a “living political being,” Hesychasm still is necessarily transferred to political domains and produces corrupt policies of imperialist-nationalist-totalitarian regimes. Thus, Casillas’s emphasis on political justice remains characteristic of premodernity, driven by criticism and resistance to injustice, slavery, violence, and abusive power. Though criticism and resistance are the festive ingredients of political consciousness, it still needs to be articulated to produce a more effective policy. Cabasilas provide political motives but are very far from providing necessary political procedures or techniques for real change.
Religion should help politics to be both thoughtful and less self-confident [and should remind it] that solutions to social problems must be linked to the “eschaton,” which comes by God’s initiative as a gift. [...] The task of the Church, in this context, is to unveil the despair and the separation that human political ideologies have caused to the world and simultaneously urge the world to move beyond them by offering herself as a model of how the world should be in its true nature.
Here Klapsis portrays the self-confidence of the orthodox theological mind. On the one hand, it is aware of the need for adequate political theology and praxis, and it seems it recognizes its defects. However, on the other hand, it still fails to appreciate modernity, blaming it for “despair and hopelessness “and wrong political ideologies. Nevertheless, it is impossible not to see that.
1. Modernity is rooted in the Christian world and inherited from it the burdens of its shortcomings.
2. Totalitarian or other defective regimes are not modernity's faults. Instead, they are outcomes of delayed and violently forthled modernity when the premodern ideologies like Hesychasm were still promoted as the rightest path to” 'eschaton,' which comes from God's initiative a gift.”
Orthodox theologians are not ready yet to say farewell to Byzantine-Russian pretensions being perfect images of this only-god-knows -how-it-looks-like this vague “eschaton.”
Summary of the first chapter.
1. Hesychasm necessarily implies the political dimension.
2. If this necessity is rejected, the need for the political articulation of hesychasm is delayed. At the same time, its ideals prevail in so-called 'Worship Communities”. Thus, the premodern approach to political thinking dominates. This implies that “political hesychasm” continues to exist and dominate uncritically. Furthermore, this implies the invasion of premodern reality (post) - (meta) -modern reality. Moreover, this again that the totalitarianism and obscurant nationalism is not only possible but inevitable in orthodox countries – the Empery of Evil is alive and is ready to bring the “holy eschaton on the earth.”
2. “Russian Silence.”
Yelena Mazour-Matusevichdiscusses the cultural-political role of “Hesychasm” in developing the “Russian mentality.”She does this by meditating on the epilogue of Pushkin's tragedy “Boris Godunov,”
–People! Maria Godunov and her son Feodor
have poisoned themselves. We have seen their dead
The People are silent with horror (ужасе)
– Why are ye silent? Cry, Long live the tsar Dimitry
The People are speechless. (безмолвствует).
The word безмолвствует/speechless perfectly expresses the inability to the articulation of formless feeling or emotions, failure to form rational concept out of the experience, incompetence in organizing rational social communications, and, in general, the inability to form a demos (δῆμος, cf. democracy) or a policy (city, cf. πόλις, politics). In contradiction of rationalization of concept, “Russia” also speaks the poem of the Russian poet Fyodor Tyutchev
Who would grasp Russia with the mind?
For her no yardstick was created:
Her soul (стать) is of a special kind,
By faith alone appreciated.
This translation of John Dewey is not precisely correct. The original стать means not precisely the soul but, 1. Physique, the general shape of the figure. 2. Character, and 3. Conformity, appropriateness, correspondence, to fit. So, Russia is the space that does not have any physique or bodily constitution, rational figure (one of the meanings of Greek λόγος is the ratio, count, to measure). It cannot be organized as politically appropriate organisms but rather some abstract “soul” like the Klapsis’s “eschaton.”
On the other hand, the Pushkin's ужасе (horror, fear, trembling) corresponds to the feelings or experience, which awaits its consequent articulation. It can also allude to a mystical fear (in “Boris Godunov,” there are many references to different 'mystical'). This mystical can be expressed, become verbal (λογική, rational) or speech. However, “the People are/remain speechless” and precisely this “speechless-ness” is preferred by Tyutchev. Mazour-Matusevich compares this “speechless-ness” to “social mutism”. It is very similar to what Merab Mamardashvili said that the demonstration is not a place of thinking. However, we all know that the motto of modernity is “Dare to Think” and according to Kant, enlightenment (modernity) primary consists in the demand of the “public use of reasoning,” based on “Private use of reasoning.” However, Russian thinkers doubted Kant. Even Mamardashvili had to defend Kant from Russian antipathy on the opening pages of his "Kantian Variations."
It is noteworthy that in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, in Ottoman Greek Christianity and following in Russia appeared textbook of Hesychast technique, the Philokalia (φιλοκαλία, “love of the beautiful or the good”). Greek philosopher Stelios Ramfos says that “it has the statutory importance for new hellenism and is like the natal chapter of modern hellenism” and that Hesychasm looks only towards the yesterday but not towards the tomorrow, and it's contemporary studiers are hanging on in the between the heavenly expectancy and non-earthly historicity. 
Comparing Western and Russian approaches to the concept of being Russian scholars Inna Kruglova and Oleg Naumov appeal to Lev Shestov’s description of Wester-Eastern difference, that while the Athens-West historically relays to the intellect, Jerusalem-Eats always bases itself on the foundations of the faith and keeps "silence," which emancipates from the "racio" and brings closer to the 'living." A similar conclusion also gives Mazour-Matusevich,
Hesychasm is naturally inclined to obscurantism for any teaching, which believes itself to be self-sufficient is by definition intolerant for the simple reason that absolute truth cannot not assert an absolute exclusiveness.
Lesley Chamberlain also says that for the Russian mind the "racio” was something at least suspicious, which had its consequences.
Central to Russia's experience of itself as a different place has been its startlingly consistent rejection of Descartes and the value of 'I think, I am'. […] In many ways this rejection of Western rationalism has spelled disaster for Russia. Reason is the backbone of the Enlightenment values by which Europe, as set out so recently by its Draft Constitution, still tries to live. The philosophy of Descartes holds dear values for individual freedom and integrity […] To be a culture without reason is like being a mammal without a backbone. But what Russia set in reason’s place - even from the early nineteenth century - was a moral quest, and this ethical gain has to be offset against the rational loss. […] The Soviet experiment was only part of that quest.
Consequently, as Mazour-Matusevichcontinues quoting another scholar.
A Russian instinctively fears simple and accessible truths, seeking everywhere a hidden sense, and creating a mystery out of nothing. There is no public opinion in Russia because everything public and transparent is perceived as a lie and evil. People, just like five hundred and a thousand years before, remain mute (безмолвный). 
These “five hundred and thousand years” reach to the hesychastic premodernity of Cabsilas and invade it to modernity as speechless-ness.
Social silence might have resulted from a prolonged and unchallenged application of certain religious practices to the public sphere.
The Hesychast Movement leader, Gregory Palamas, tried to transfer the monastic ideals (“eschatological ideals”) to the secular sphere. English chanter Alexander Lingas writes that Hesychasm was and remains a triumph of the Orthodox Church and that it was an incomparable period of musical creativity. He emphasized that overnight vigils are beneficial for the laymen too, as the human soul finds “healing and salvation” through well-rhythmed chanting (τη εὔρυθμω ψαλμωδία). In the nation of the monastic order, such a transfer of public education was limited to the teacher-obedient relationship.
From the second quarter of the nineteenth century, the Russian emperor Nicholas I banned philosophy in the educational system and introducedcensorship (he censored “Boris Godunov”). While modernity seeks to curb the abusive power by legislatures and political institutions, Russia insists on prolonging and trying to curb the word.
There is also a direct correlation between the cultivation of mystical silence and the authoritarian word's pervasiveness. It seems irrational to expect civil society in a country where some of its best thinkers still see the future within the frame of Hesychast mystery and perceive in social mutism a form of heroic resistance to power. Furthermore, the distrust of speech as a vehicle of spiritual truth eventually leads to the mistrust of all speech in general.
In such a situation, it is no longer surprising that Putin-Russia continuously increases censorship.
If for ancient culture and the Greco-Roman world parrhesia / παρρησία (eloquence, daring) is personal dignity and political responsibility (Michel Foucault), Russian censorship, or “Hesychast Rhetoric,” is at odds with Christian origins themselves. It is not so much the mystical technique or psychosomatic experience of mysticism that hinders modern politics, but rather the complete or incorrect translation of this experience into public discourse. Christian orthodoxy can be an example of public speaking or the motto of “dare to think.”
 For the “Political Hesychasm” see Петрунин В. В. (2009) Политический исихазм и его традиции в социальной концепции Московского Патриархата. СПб.: Алетейя. Stoeckl, K. (2010) Political Hesychasm? “Vladimir Petrunin’s Neo-Byzantine Interpretation of the Social Doctrine of the Russian Orthodox Church.” Study in East European Thought, 62: 125–133. Payne, D. P. (2006) The Revival of Political Hesychasm in Greek Orthodox Thought:A Study of the Hesychast Basis of the Thought of John S. Romanides and Christos Yannaras (A Dissertation submitted to Graduate Faculty of Baylor University in Partial Fulfilment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, August 2006). “–––––” Lexington Books (March 28, 2011). კურტანიძე, კ. “ევრაზიულობის კონცეპტის შემადგენლობისათვის” ისტორიის რეკონსტრუქციები, 4 (forthcoming). წმინდა გრიგოლ პალამა, წმინდა მთის ტომოსი მემყუდროეთა შესახებ, თარგმანი ედიშერ ჭელიძესი ჟურნალი"გზა სამეუფო", N 1(4). 1996 წ.
 Хоружий, С. С. (2012) Исихазм и «политический исихазм»: к уточнению понятий, Замечания к докладу В. В. Петрунина о политическом исихазме (Семинар «Феномен человека в его эволюции и динамике», Москва, 18.04.2012), 2,3. http://synergia-isa.ru/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/hor_polit_isikhasm.pdf.
 Cardeña, E. and Winkelman, M. (2011) “Altering Consciousness: history, culture, and the humanities.” Biological and psychological perspectives, 1-2
 For example, Мамардашвили, М. К.(1984) Сознание и цивилизация. Доклад на III Всесоюзной школе по проблеме сознания. Батуми, г. Из кн.: Мамардашвили М. К. (1992) Как я понимаю философию. М. с. 107-121. http://www.psylib.ukrweb.net/books/_mamar02.htm.
 Зильберман, Д. ‘VII. Исихазм и философия власти’, Православная этика и материя коммунизма, Перевод с английского Е. Гурко, под ред. С. А. Семенова (Издательство Ивана Лимбаха, 2014), с. 113-121. 116.
 Nichifor, T. (2014)“Hesychasm and Eucharist in the Fourteenth Century: Saint Nicholas Cabasilas and Saint Gregory Palamas.” In: Holy Eucharist and The Experience Of Repentance in the Orthodox Tradition, Editors, Rev. C. Jinga and D. Lemeni. Editura ASTRA Museum Editura Partoş. pp.110-139.
 Strezova, A. (2014) Hesychasm, and Art. The Appearance of New Iconographic Trends in Byzantine and Slavic Lands in the 14th and 15th Centuries. Cambera: Australian National University Press, p. 46.
 Νικόλαος ο Καβάσιλας, Περὶ τῆς ἐν Χριστῷ ζωῆς. Λόγος πρῶτος(Α΄), 33-34.
 See also another hymn of Nativity Vigil. There again we see an exact parallel between Nativity and Easter, on the one hand, and other, Cabassilas' intentional mix of the terminologies of two different myth-events to the Descent and in extension to historical-political everyday: “Ἀνέτειλας Χριστὲ ἐκ Παρθένου, νοητὲ Ἥλιε τῆς Δικαιοσύνης· καὶ Ἀστὴρ σε ὑπέδειξεν, ἐν Σπηλαίῳχωρούμενον τὸν ἀχώρητον. Μάγους ὁδηγήσας εἰς προσκύνησίν σου· μεθ' ὧν σε μεγαλύνομεν, Ζωοδότα δόξα σοι/ You rose from the Virgin, O Christ, the noetic Sun of Righteousness, and a star pointed to You, the Uncontainable contained in a cave. It led the Magi to worship You; and with them we magnify You. O Giver of Life, glory to You!”
 Following is one of the central hymns of charismas vigil, which perfectly decries the imperial ideology of the Greco-Russian Christians until today, “When Augustus reigned alone on the earth, the many kingdoms of humankind came to an end; and when You became man from the pure Virgin, the many gods of idolatry were destroyed. The cities of the world passed under one single rule, and the nations came to believe in one God. The peoples were enrolled by decree of Caesar; we the faithful were enrolled in the name of the Godhead, when You became man, O our God. Great is your mercy. Lord, glory to you.”
 Cabasilas, N. (1998) The Life in Christ, Translated from the Greek by Carmino J. deCatanzaro. New York, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, p. 55.
 Tskitishvili, G. (Rev). (2020) “The Mountain of the Knowledge of God”: The Sinaitic Foundation of the Ascetic Life in St. Gregory of Nyssa, OT 442: Perpetual Sinai: Inner Old Testament Hermeneutics. New York, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary, pp. 4-5, 19
 Young, F. M. (1997) Biblical Exegesis and the Formation of Christian Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 153.
 Clapsis, E. (Rev. Dr.), The Challenge of Christian Witness in the Political Realm,
 Mazour-Matusevich, Y. (2014) “Historical Roots of Russian Silence.”"New" Religious Movements? 64(2): pp. 295-311.
 Мамардашвили, М. (1992) Как я понимаю философию. Москва: Издательская группа «Прогресс» «Культура», с. 165-6: “Чаадаев имел при этом в виду характеристику России как социально-культурного феномена. Пытаясь определить его, он столкнулся с довольно странной вещью, которую я бы назвал ‘неописуемостью’. […] что не поддается описанию. […] Но она может быть в ирреальности. В зеркальном мире. […] Не случайно он называл ее ‘пробелом в понимании’. То есть чем-то, чего нет в историческом мире членораздельных форм, устоев, традиций, внятной артикуляции. Пушкин возражал против этого, но фактически собственной жизнью подтверждал верность этой мысли”.
 … the silence that Pushkin brings to attention is of a particular kind. […]. The best approximation might be the neologism “social mutism,” […] rendering this phenomenon, characterized by the absence or incapacity of articulate, commonsensical, and transparent speech. […T]his type of speech stays in opposition to mythic-poetic language, in other words, to all traditional forms of expression such as ritual songs or performances, proverbs, legends, poems, folktales, indirect allusions, parables, and so on. Social mutism refers to the lack of public opinion based on the general and socially shared distrust of logical discourse [Mazour-Matusevich, 295-6].
 Кругликова Галина Геннадьевна, Проблема человека в философии иммануила канта и философско-педагогических концепциях русских мыслителей второй половины хiх – первой трети хх века (Нижневартовск: Нижневартовский государственный педагогический институт, 2002), 123:
“Особенное неприятие в России вызвала его протестантски ориентированная идея «религии в пределах только разума», которую отечественные мыслители (и атеистически, и православно настроенные) принять не могли”. Or compare Михаил Булгаков, Мастер и Маргарита, “[…] мысль беспокойного старика Иммануила … в насмешку над самим собою, соорудил собственное шестое … Взять бы этого Канта, да за такие доказательства года на три в Соловки! доказательство! … И недаром Шиллер говорил, что кантовские рассуждения по этому вопросу могут удовлетворить только рабов, а Штраус просто смеялся над этим доказательством. … Над […ним] потешаться будут…”
 Мамардашвили, М. (2002) Кантианские вариации. Москва: Аграф, с. 25: “[…Кант] был добр и с пониманием относился к людям, считая, что по внешним поступкам (а поступок всегда есть внешнее) может судить о человеке только тот, для кого открыты в человеке тайны души. Для нас же, людей, тайны души не открыты, и потому судить по поступкам нельзя. Еще один парадокс. Вспомните в этой связи хотя бы о представлении по поводу Канта, возникшем в русской мысли и выраженном блоковским словом «Кантище» – какой-то испуганный и пугающий старичок. Непонятно, откуда это взялось и было выдумано”.
 Στελιος Ραμφος, Το αδιανόητο τίποτα. Φιλοκαλικά ριζώματα του νεοελληνικού μηδενισμού ( Αθήνα: Εκδόσεις Αρμός, 2010). Πέτρος Βασιλειάδης (ΑΠΘ), Το γενέθλιο κεφάλαιο του νέου ελληνισμού,
 Μωυσῆς Ἁγιορείτης (μοναχὸς ), Η «φιλοκαλια» και «το αδιανοητο τιποτα»,
 Круглова, И. Н. и Наумов, О. Д. (2015) «Молчание о бытии»: мистическая традиция и деконструкция Ж. Деррида, Вестник Томского государственного университета. Философия. Социология. Политология, 2. С. 97-106: 98, 100
 Mazur-Matusevich p. 300
 Chamberlain, L. (2007) Motherland. A Philosophical History of Russia. New York, NY: The Rookery Press, pp. xiv, xvii-xviii, 139
 Малявин, В. (2012) «Россия между Востоком и Западом: третий путь?» http://old.russ.ru/antolog/inoe/maljav.htm#s2, с. 3.
 Mazur-Matusevich p. 296
 Cabasilas, N. (1998) The Life in Christ, Translated from the Greek by Carmino J. de Catanzaro. New York, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, p. 21.
 Lingas, A. (1996) Hesychasm and Psalmody, Journal Publications-Society for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies. pp. 155-170. იხ. 157.
 Mazur-Matusevich p. 308