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26). Adherents of apophatic theology subscribe to the belief that instead of intellect, it is far more productive to acquire mystical knowledge as this reflects an awareness of God's innumerable ways of manifesting himself. Describing the central differences between apophatic theology and Western religious philosophy, Lossky states that it involves replacing the Holy Trinity -- the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit -- with the more universal (non-Western) virtues of Goodness, Wisdom, Life, and Love. It is believed that replacing the Trinity with these virtues effectively reconciles the Trinitarian theology associated with Western religion with the mysticism of Eastern theology.
In addition to the importance of total ignorance as a central prerequisite to communion with God, apophatic theology relies on the individual engaging in a strict routine of pure contemplation and divine inquiry. To this end, adherents should pare down their existence to a simpler, direct engagement with God. It is believed that despite the fact that God's physical existence cannot be proven, God is nonetheless present in every aspect of life. In Orthodox Theology: An Introduction, Lossky writes that theology must be conducted in silence rather than out of prayer because silence involves a heightened degree of contemplation that enables people to communicate on a more direct level with God. As a result, it is not surprising that he evinces a strong nostalgia for religious monasteries, in which people are grouped together but in the more mystical fashion associated with the Eastern Church.
The invocation of monasteries is not terribly dissimilar from the grand processions of the Western Church; in both contexts, people are grouped together with the interest of improving their spiritual standing, and a sense of community is engendered. However, monasteries differ with regard to setting; the grand temples of the Catholic Church are far more opulent than the sparse, ascetic environs associated with religious monasteries. Moreover, it cannot be ignored that the interpersonal conduct between the religious adherents is vastly different between the two contexts; the adherents of the Catholic Church congregate in such a manner that they develop a sense of community, while those who attend a monastery engage in more solitary endeavors, often involving a prolonged absence from society that allows them to engage in a more mystical, immediate relationship with God.
The extensive introspection and contemplation associated with apophatic theology results in gracefulness, which Lossky posits as the physical manifestation of communion with God. According to Lossky, such gracefulness can be traced to the term, "Sophia," which is characterized by free-flowing, almost poetic gracefulness -- Lossky also uses the term "unsystematic" -- to describe this state of grace (Lossky, p. 15). It is important for people to relinquish their everyday routines and submit themselves to God's divine will, devoting every aspect of their existence toward communicating with God in his varied manifestations. Lossky asserts that commitment to God must come at the expense of all other aspects of worldy existence, and that this total commitment represents the only valid manner for communicating with God (Lossky, p. 22).
Ultimately, apophatic theology breaks from a Platonic, corporeal conception of God; there is no identifiable appearance to God, nor does he necessarily have an anthropomorphic presence. This has a number of implications; it makes apophatic theology more pervasive while at the same time making it more difficult to locate and clearly define in the manner of Western forms of religion. Adherence to apophatic theology necessitates a lifestyle that is entirely committed to contemplation and divine inquiry. Instead of locating God, the emphasis is placed on communicating with God. The mystical religious philosophy is particularly challenging because it requires an absolute submission to God, as well as an acknowledgment that faith is inherently personal and mysterious (Lossky, p. 25). Only through removing one from the concerns of their everyday existence can a person truly become spiritually aligned with God, and they must strip their existence down to a singular dialogue with God. Instead of reading texts that attempt to locate or chart God's existence through the ages, it is more spiritually pure to acknowledge the fact that God's presence is elusive yet universal.
Lossky, Vladimir. The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church. Yonkers: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1997.
Lossky, Vladimir. Orthodox Theology: An Introduction. Yonkers: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2001.
Lossky, Vladimir. In the Image and Likeness…[continue]
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