01 January 2009

On the Following of References

So here’s something I found frustrating. Part of my master’s thesis deals with the imagination. Naturally, I’m interested in anything the Fathers have to say about this topic—the earlier and more authoritative, the better. Well, at one point in his Συμβουλευτικόν Εγχειρίδιον, St Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain quotes from St Maximus the Confessor about the imagination. In the English translation of this book, it is a long block quotation, set off from the rest of the text by indentation. The last three sentences read as follows:

He who would remove passion and suffering from the body achieves practical virtue; he who would remove forgetfulness and ignorance from the soul has properly attained the natural vision; and he who would release the mind of the many impressions, has acquired the mystery of theology. For the mind of Adam at first was not impressed by the imagination, which stands between the mind and the thoughts, setting up a wall around the mind and not allowing it to enter into the most simple and imageless reasons of created beings. The passionate physical perceptions of the visible things are scales that cover over the clairvoyance of the soul and prevent its passage over to the authentic word of truth. (Qtd. in St Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain, A Handbook of Spiritual Counsel, trans. Fr Peter A. Chamberas [NY: Paulist, 1989], p. 150)

Now it was the second sentence—‘For the mind of Adam . . .’—that most interested me, and I set about trying to find this passage in St Maximus. The endnote informed me that it was to be found in ‘Second Century of Theology, ch. 75’ (St Nicodemus, p. 152), apparently one of St Maximus’s Philokalic texts. Well, neither ch. 75 of the ‘Second Century on Theology and the Incarnate Dispensation of the Son of God’, nor ch. 75 of the ‘Second Century of Various Texts on Theology, the Divine Economy, and Virtue and Vice’ (both of which are found in Vol. II of the English Philokalia) bore any resemblance to the passage from St Nicodemus, although the latter did mention the imagination. None of the chapters near 75 in either text matched either. Nor did a search through the index or a scan through all of St Maximus’s Philokalic writings help.

So, I thought, perhaps the translator or editor made a mistake in the citation. So I turned to the Greek edition I own (St Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain, Συμβουλευτικόν Εγχειρίδιον [Athens: Panagopoulos, 2001]). Well, the citation there was exactly the same as that in the English edition. But that was not the most frustrating part of it.

In Modern Greek books no one ever uses block quotes. They don’t even use quotes at the beginning of new paragraphs within a longer quotation. One must pay very close attention to the text in order to be certain where quotes begin and end. So when I came to the chapter of the Handbook in Greek that corresponded to the chapter I’d read in English, I found the following:

« . . . Ὁ τοίνυν τῆς σαρκός ἐξελών τήν ἡδονήν καί τήν ὀδύνην, τήν πρακτικήν ἀρετήν κατώρθωσεν, ὁ δέ τῆς ψυχῆς ἐξαφανίσας τήν λήθην καί τήν ἄγνοιαν, τήν φυσικήν διήνυσεν εὐπρεπῶς θεωρίαν· ὁ δέ τόν νοῦν, τῶν πολλῶν ἀπολύσας τύπων, τήν θεολογικήν ἐκτήσατο μυσταγωγίαν». Οủ γάρ ὁ νοῦς τοῦ προπάτορος ἐτυποῦτο διά τῆς φαντασίας, ἥτις ὡς μεσότειχον ἱσταμένη μεταξύ τοῦ νοῦ καί τῶν νοητῶν, διατειχίζει τόν νοῦν, καί δέν ἀφίνει τοῦτον νά εἰσέρχηται εἰς τούς ἁπλουστάτους καί ἀφαντάστους λόγους τῶν ὄντων. «Λεπίδες γάρ εἰσιν, ὡς ὁ αὐτός θεῖος Μάξιμος λέγει, ὡς ἀληθῶς ἐπικείμεναι τῷ διορατικῷ τῆς ψυχῆς καί ἀπείργουσαι τήν πρός τόν ἀκραιφνῆ τῆς ἀληθείας λόγον διάβασιν, αἱ τῶν ὁρωμένων κατ᾿ αἴσθησιν προσπαθεῖς θεωρίαι». (p. 157)

So as you can see, here the sentence in question about the mind of Adam (‘ὁ νοῦς τοῦ προπάτορος’) is not included within the quotation marks. It is almost as though that sentence alone is not part of the quote (while, curiously, the aside, ‘ὡς ὁ αὐτός θεῖος Μάξιμος λέγει’ is included!). Of course, I have no way to solve the mystery without being able to find the passage in St Maximus’s works anyway.

Finally, I asked the single person whom I know personally that is thoroughly familiar with St Nicodemus’s books, Fr George Dokos (who has translated the Exomologetarion and the Concerning Frequent Communion, both for Uncut Mountain Press), whether he had any answers. He told me he had spoken to a guy writing a paper on the imagination at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, where Fr George and I have both studied, who told him about exactly the same problem! Now, at this point I could try diligently to contact the translator, Fr Peter Chamberas, or I could try to get in touch with another expert on St Nicodemus and the Fathers. Consulting the first edition is not a really feasible option. Anyway, for the time being I have decided to throw up my hands in despair. And post this on my blog.


Lanternativa said...

OMG, I'm dealing with the same problem right now. It's an immense pain to identify the original locations of the quotes. Sometimes I have the impression that guys like Nicodemus or Theophan the Recluse just made things up. Really. They apparently quote from this or that Father but when I-m going to check, surprise: nothing! Oh...

Ierom. Atanasie Popescu said...

We can find some comments of St. Maximus about Adam's imagination in Ambigua, 119-121 where he comments St. Greogory's words. Maybe from here St. Nicodemus got the ideas about Adam's imagination.

Ierom. Atanasie Popescu said...

We can find some comments of Saint Maximus on Adam's imagination in Ambigua 119-121 where he comments on some of Saint Gregory of Nazians words. Maybe from there Saint Nicodemus got his "quotation".

Ierom. Atanasie Popescu said...

We can find some comments of Saint Maximus on Adam's imagination in Ambigua 119-121. Maybe from here St. Nicodemus got his source.