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Maximos the Confessor > Ambiguum 7

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message 1: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 415 comments Just a topic to get things started. I will have to take some time to read the chapter again, to see what it is all about, and I think it might be helpful to have some questions in the back of my mind, like for example:

1) Maximos starts with a quote from Gregory, that is misunderstood by many. How is it misunderstood?
2) What are the consequences of this misunderstanding (how does it lead to errors)
3) What arguments uses Maximos to explain his view
4) What do we learn about divine nature
5) What do we learn about human nature
6) What does it mean to me personally, how do I view my own nature

Feel free to add your own questions.

Also feel free to add (partial) answers to these or other questions in this topic. If at all possible with some quote from the book as 'evidence'. In my experience it has always been most helpful to quote the text whenever you say something about it, it really opens the text and lets you see things you hadn't otherwise noticed.


message 2: by Clark (new)

Clark Wilson | 555 comments Telegraphing my idiosyncrasies:

1. I try very hard to work from the text itself. So I don't read introductions unless they are by the author. Etc.

2. When I start work on a new text I ask it: "How you want to be read?" Only after I've answered that question do I work on substance.


message 3: by Clark (new)

Clark Wilson | 555 comments Here is a translation of the wider passage from Gregory of Nazianzus:

"... betrayed by this wretched, vile, and faithless body. How I came to be joined to it, I do not know; nor how I am the image of God and concocted of clay at the same time, this body that both wars against me when it is healthy and when warred against, brings me pain, that I both cherish as my fellow-servant and evade as my enemy; that I both try to escape as my chain and respect as my fellow heir. If I struggle to suppress it, I lose the helper I need to achieve my noble aims, knowing as I do why I was created and that it is through my actions that I am to ascend to God.
7. I show it consideration as a co-worker but I do not know how to suppress its insurgency nor how I can help falling away from God when the weight of its shackles drags me down and keeps me pinioned to the ground. It is an affable enemy and a scheming friend. What an incompatible alliance! I take good care of the object of my fear and feel dread before the object of my love. Before making war, I come to terms with it; before making peace, I am at odds with it. What is this wisdom that I embody? What is this great mystery? Or, is it his will that we, who are a portion of God and have our source in heaven above, should always look to him as we wrestle and fight against the flesh and that the weakness to which we are harnessed should serve to impress upon us our true worth, lest we disdain our Creator out of pride and an inflated sense of our own importance? that we may know that we are at once most exalted and most humble, earthly and celestial, ephemeral and immortal, heirs of light and fire—or of darkness—depending on which way we turn? Such is our hybrid nature which, in my view at least, takes this form so that whenever we feel exalted because of our likeness to God’s image, we may be brought down because of our clay."


Gregory Nazianzus. (2003). Select Orations. (T. P. Halton, Ed., M. Vinson, Trans.) (Vol. 107, pp. 43–44). Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press.


message 4: by Clark (last edited Jan 24, 2020 01:45PM) (new)

Clark Wilson | 555 comments Note 1: Gregory of Nazianzus is not his friend Gregory of Nyssa.

Note 2: The book we're working from has the chapter heading "AMBIGUUM 7". Ambigua is plural; Ambiguum is singular. (FWIW, Maximus wrote in Greek. Ambigua is Latin, hence supplied by others.)


message 5: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1420 comments Clark wrote: "2. When I start work on a new text I ask it: "How you want to be read?" Only after I've answered that question do I work on substance."

Has any text ever answered the question you put to it?


message 6: by Clark (last edited Jan 25, 2020 07:04AM) (new)

Clark Wilson | 555 comments Nemo wrote: "Clark wrote: "2. When I start work on a new text I ask it: "How you want to be read?" Only after I've answered that question do I work on substance."

Has any text ever answered the question you put to it?"


Non-fiction texts all answer. Sometimes the answers from poems are quite murky -- more my problem than theirs.

Anyhow, I first asked The Ambigua its name. It answered, "Maximus didn't give me a descriptive name other than 'To Thomas.' In Migne's Patrologia Graeca I am (in Greek) 'Maximus about Various Questions of/about Saints Dionysius and Gregory to Thomas the Sanctified,' and in Latin 'Maximus on Various Difficult/Troublesome Topics/Passages of Saints Dionysius and Gregory to Thomas a/the Sanctified Man.'" In that edition the running header is "Book of Uncertain Things".

So this tells me that the work is not likely to be a polemic ostensibly aimed at opponents, but a work explaining some troublesome topics to a friend/colleague. It is not a dissertation or a treatise that attempts to describe an intellectual realm exhaustively.

So for now I think the book has told me it wants to be read as if by a knowledgeable, inquiring friend or co-believer or colleague who cares about these things. The text itself might cause me to revise this initial idea.


message 7: by Nemo (last edited Jan 25, 2020 11:04AM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1420 comments Clark wrote: "Nemo wrote: "Clark wrote: "2. When I start work on a new text I ask it: "How you want to be read?" Only after I've answered that question do I work on substance."

Has any text ever answered the qu..."


I was reminded of a story about the great violinist Jascha Heifetz: After a concert, a lady came backstage and told Heifetz, "Your violin sounded wonderful tonight". He picked up the violin, put it to his ear and said, "Funny, I don't hear anything."

It seems to me, a text is like a violin, or a music score, it doesn't say anything by itself, someone has to interpret it, or make inferences from it, as you’re doing here.

Thank you for the informative discussion of the title. I didn't know that the Ambigua was mainly about Dionysius and Gregory.


message 8: by Nemo (last edited Jan 25, 2020 11:20AM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1420 comments Clark wrote: "Here is a translation of the wider passage from Gregory of Nazianzus:."

Thank you for posting the passage, Clark. It prompted to me to track down the book.

For those who are interested in reading Gregory's Oration 14, On Love for the Poor, quoted at the beginning of Ambiguum 7, here is the text at Google Books:

https://books.google.ca/books?id=Z3GT...

You can also download the PDF from our group library.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1ZS2...

[Goodreads was having problems processing comments yesterday. I tried to post this twice, but my comments didn't show up, although they were counted in the total.]


message 9: by Clark (new)

Clark Wilson | 555 comments Nemo wrote: "It seems to me, a text is like a violin, or a music score, it doesn't say anything by itself, someone has to interpret it, or make inferences from it, as you’re doing here."

Well, it seems it was important to you to say that. And you did.


message 10: by Clark (new)

Clark Wilson | 555 comments At the end of the ambiguum: "But enough of these things. If this discussion has not strayed from the truth, the thanks goes to God. For by your prayers God has led me to think rightly about these matters. If, however, the truth has escaped me in any way, you will be able to instruct me, because you have been inspired by God to know these things."

Again, the relationship between Maximus and the designated reader is not one of polemics or of someone instructing a student, but one of peers both guided (in some way) by God, peers both open to being informed or corrected.


message 11: by Nemo (last edited Jan 25, 2020 05:43PM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1420 comments Two slightly different translations of the first few passages. Whom did Maximus have in mind when he was writing this?

Harvard University Press edition:
Some people, reading these words and expecting, as it seems, no reward for labor undertaken in search of the truth, have resorted to a rather facile interpretation, which in fact is derived largely from the doctrines of the Greeks.
...
If, on the other hand, they should say that, because of their experience of the contrary, these rational beings were able, but not willing (i.e., to abide in the Beautiful), then the Beautiful would of necessity be loved not for its own sake,


St. Vladimir's Seminary Press edition:
It seems that some who read these words are unable to find their true meaning even though they have expended great effort. They have pursued a facile solution and borrowed too much from Greek teachings.
...
On the other hand, if our opponents should say that intellects could have adhered to the divine goodness, but did not, because they wanted to experience something different, then the beautiful would of necessity be loved not for itself,



message 12: by David (new)

David Smith | 12 comments I’m reading the Harvard pub and right off the bat I was intrigued by the translation of the excerpt from Gregory where it says we are a portion (μοιραν) of God. The word μοίρα just means degree, like 1 degree of a circle out of 360. I suppose that could mean portion as in “could I have a portion of your pie,” but that is theologically problematic so I figured I would check it out.

Lo, and behold, this is part of the ambiguity our friend Maximus is discussing. What does Gregory mean that we are a portion of God that has flowed down from above. Is this a preexisting rational soul that was fused with a material body as punishment? Maximus sets out to explain.

I’m excited to jump in with y’all. :)


message 13: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 415 comments O cool! So, you're saying that the ambiguity is about the word 'portion', which could seem to mean that we are parts of God, as in parts of a pizza.

I thought the ambiguity was about the word 'fall', as if it meant that receiving a body was a degradation, and human nature was better when it was purely spiritual.

See this quote:

According to their opinion there once existed a single entity (ἑνάς) of rational beings. We were all connatural with God and had our dwelling place (Jn 14:2) and foundation in God. Then came movement from God and from this they make it out that, as rational beings were dispersed in various ways, God envisaged the creation of this corporeal world to unite them with bodies as punishment for their former transgressions. Those who hold these things think that our teacher had intimated them in the words cited above.



message 14: by Clark (last edited Jan 26, 2020 06:22AM) (new)

Clark Wilson | 555 comments Nemo wrote: "Two slightly different translations of the first few passages. Whom did Maximus have in mind when he was writing this?"

A pointer might be the word "henad," which appears in the last paragraph of section 1 in this essay. When I searched for that Google gave me (among other things) a philosopher: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proclus . His might be among "the Greek teachings." Or not.

But it seems Maximus is talking not about pagan philosophers but Christian ones who "borrowed too much from Greek teachings."


message 15: by David (new)

David Smith | 12 comments Ruth - I think the entire Gregory quote presents problems! Haha. You’re right the “movement” is a problem too. But Maximus mentions the Greek doctrine when he says some thought there was that single entity of rational beings. At least part of the problem is the creator-creature distinction and prexistent souls.


message 16: by Clark (last edited Jan 26, 2020 07:17AM) (new)

Clark Wilson | 555 comments Hidden motive revealed: One reason I posted the extract from Gregory was the hope that we could avoid focusing exclusively on the words of the one sentence taken in isolation, but rather read it in its immediate context.


message 17: by Clark (last edited Jan 26, 2020 07:21AM) (new)

Clark Wilson | 555 comments Also, Louth calls these essays "difficulties" rather than "ambigua." The Migne Latin title I referred to above is "Maximi de variis dificilibus locis" -- the word is "dificilibus". The Dumbarton Oaks books are titled On Difficulties in the Church Fathers. So I think that "ambiguous" may be misleading and "difficult" more useful. Difficult. Troublesome. (None of these titles came from Maximus himself but from editors and scholars.)

Just for the fun of it: "dif-fĭcĭlis, adj. [facilis; hence, far from easy to do, to accomplish, to bear, etc.; v. facilis], hard, difficult, troublesome (very freq. and class.). ... II. In partic., of character, hard to manage or to please, obstinate, captious, morose, surly" :-)

Lewis, C. T., & Short, C. (1891). Harpers’ Latin Dictionary (p. 575). New York; Oxford: Harper & Brothers; Clarendon Press.


message 18: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 415 comments So, to summarize what we've got so far:

"Some people" (to answer Nemo's question) are probably the people who took Gregory's words out of context, which we won't do, thanks to Clark's quote.

Then, (to answer my question no 1): the misunderstandings are about: 1) being a part of God, and 2) the movement downwards. As David summarized: What does Gregory mean that we are a portion of God that has flowed down from above. Is this a preexisting rational soul that was fused with a material body as punishment? Maximus sets out to explain.

I suggest we now move on to the part where Maximos starts explaining how they got it all wrong, in the paragraph that starts with: But they do not realize how untenable their views and how improbable their conjectures, as a more reasonable argument will surely demonstrate., which, I think, will answer my question no. 2


message 19: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 415 comments I'll try to put the argument in my own words, to see if I understand it. I think he says this:

If we were once at rest in God, and yet then moved away, then it follows that
- either: there was something truly desirable outside God
- or: those perfectly good souls still wished for something evil

The first is impossible by definition and the second would be reason for despair, since what would stop that from happening again and again?


message 20: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 415 comments On a personal note: I find it a little hard to envision a state of perfect rest that is not boring. Do any of you recognize that?

But I now also remember the book we read from Gregory of Nyssa, on Moses, where he said that perfection on earth means growth. (So no standing still, but always improving) Perhaps therefore I have trouble envisioning a good type of rest, because in our present state it isn't always so perfect.


message 21: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 415 comments I also wonder a little about this sentence: On the other hand, if our opponents should say that intellects could have adhered to the divine goodness, but did not, because they wanted to experience something different, then the beautiful would of necessity be loved not for itself, but because of what had been learned of it from its opposite.

For isn't it often so that we learn to appreciate the good much better, and to greater depths, when we miss it?


message 22: by David (new)

David Smith | 12 comments I think your summary is right, Ruth, on my reading. There is so much Aristotle happening in this work that I’m having to work hard to process it all. I didn’t get the philosophy training I needed.

On the personal note: I suppose that static bliss would not be boring if it is in fact our perfect end. Aquinas asserted as much. From what I’ve read, recent theological discussion in the West has tended toward the view of eternal progress, a la Irenaeus and much of the East. I’m with you though; I tend to think of us in motion/activity/progress. I see our spiritual growth now as a foreshadowing of our eternal state. This seems to deal with the biblical imagery better than the static state of bliss.


message 23: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 415 comments Perhaps the idea of 'eternal progress' is also what Maximos explains later as how things truly are. For he writes:

For it belongs to God alone to be the end and the completion and the impassible. God is unmoved and complete and impassible. It belongs to creatures to be moved toward that end which is without beginning, and to come to rest in the perfect end that is without end, and to experience that which is without definition, but not to be such or to become such in essence.



message 24: by David (new)

David Smith | 12 comments You summarized well his first argument in two parts.

Maximus’s second argument is from logical sequence. He is channeling Aristotle if I understand it right.

Basically, impassible beings don’t move, and passible beings in motion have not yet come to rest. On both counts, it could not happen that rational beings descended from being previously “at rest in a primordial unity.” If they were at rest, they wouldn’t have moved. If they are moving, they haven’t yet reached their telos, their rest.


message 25: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 415 comments I've been wondering if insights from modern physics change anything in this argumentation about motion, rest and passions.

Nowadays, we say that a body in rest is one that keeps moving endlessly in the same direction. As in outer space, unhindered by any friction, unattracted by any sun (can't think of anything more boring than that!) .

But with some slight adjustment the argument is working even better. Because I think that 'being attracted' is an even better analogy for 'passions'.

And then, although we want to be always attracted by God, we don't want to be like moths attracted to a candle, we would burn then. But more like planets orbiting around the sun, perhaps?


message 26: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 415 comments Another question bubbles up for me now.

Maximos has explained what the fall is NOT. It is not a fall from rest into movement. Not going from being at rest with God to being moved by passions.

But does he anywhere say what he thinks the fall does entail? What is his definition of the state in paradise and the change in humanity when Adam and Eve sinned?

I suppose we will see that in the next paragraphs, (I've read it before, but don't really remember)


message 27: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1420 comments Ruth wrote: "On a personal note: I find it a little hard to envision a state of perfect rest that is not boring. Do any of you recognize that? "

Boredom is the opposite of rest/contemplation. Dostoevsky writes that “hell is the inability to love”. If so, boredom is the inability to commit.

(I have to confess boredom was my reaction to Ambiguum 7).

“Boredom is the root of all evil. It is very curious that boredom, which itself has such a calm and sedate nature, can have such a capacity to initiate motion. The effect that boredom brings about is absolutely magical, but this effect is one not of attraction but of repulsion”
— Soren Kierkegaard


message 28: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1420 comments David wrote: "Maximus’s second argument is from logical sequence. He is channeling Aristotle if I understand it right ..."

Yes. As far as I can tell, the logical framework of Ambiguum 7 is Aristotelian, although it also seems to be a commentary of Gregory of Nazianzus, quoting no less than 5 of Gregory’s orations. I’m not familiar with Gregory, and I wonder if he himself thought in Aristotelian terms.


message 29: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1420 comments Ruth wrote: " ..or isn't it often so that we learn to appreciate the good much better, and to greater depths, when we miss it?"

Yes, when we’re sick, we appreciate health more, by comparison. But we can’t really know what health is (like) unless we have actual experience of health..


message 30: by Clark (new)

Clark Wilson | 555 comments An isolated thought that others may already have said: It seems likely (given the footnote and other info) that "some people" were Origenists of some sort.


message 31: by Clark (new)

Clark Wilson | 555 comments What works and sections of works of Aristotle are people seeing so plainly in Difficulty 7?


message 32: by Clark (new)

Clark Wilson | 555 comments Does Maximus in his description of the rest, the Sabbath, leave any possible room for boredom?


message 33: by David (new)

David Smith | 12 comments Aristotle’s “Metaphysics” and “Nich. Ethics” is really what I’m thinking of. I read the ethics more recently and have no mastery over the content of either so I could be wrong. Conversely I’ve heard the Eastern fathers tend toward Neoplatonic, and the difference there is important, I just am not up on the content enough to say how right now.


message 34: by Clark (last edited Jan 28, 2020 07:55PM) (new)

Clark Wilson | 555 comments David, thanks for answering. Actually, I withdraw my question. I'm focusing on reading Maximus and I don't think it helps me to do that to know whether his arguments are like Aristotle's, or Plato's, or whoever's. In fact as far as I'm concerned it's a distraction.


message 35: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1420 comments Clark wrote: "What works and sections of works of Aristotle are people seeing so plainly in Difficulty 7?"

I understand that you withdrew your question, but answers to your question might help people understand Maximus' logic better. So I'll give it a shot, FWIW.

There are quite a few citations in the endnotes of the HUP Edition. First, Aristotle's works on Logic, esp. Categories, which are the foundation of Aristotelian thought. Then, On the Soul, Physics, Metaphysics, etc. It is perhaps easier to list which works of Aristotle Maximus hasn't referenced.

Just to give one loose exposition of Maximus' application of Aristotelian ideas: Desire is what initiates movement in sentient beings, according to Aristotle. When a rational being contemplates God in perfect rest, s/he would not desire anything else so as to depart from Him, because He is "by nature infinite and infinitely attractive", being infinite goodness, wisdom and beauty. There is nothing apart from Him.

In Ambiguum 7, Maximus doesn't address the Fall or the age-old question, "Whence comes evil", apart from restating the traditional doctrine on free choice of will. I don't know if he addresses it in-depth elsewhere.


message 36: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1420 comments Clark wrote: "Does Maximus in his description of the rest, the Sabbath, leave any possible room for boredom?"

Since I used the word "boredom" in my comment, I'll answer the question, rhetorical or not: The Rest that Maximus describes leaves no room for boredom, however, the way he approaches the subject does, at least for me.

I'm still not sure who Maximus' target readers are. For that matter, was Thomas the Sanctified a real individual or a literary device? Although (some) Platonists believe the world goes round and round in cycles, as we have also learned from Augustine. It seems improbable that, after seven centuries of Christian teaching, "some people" still thought there was perfect unity of rational beings in the beginning of the world, in the way Maximus describes. Even Origen doesn't make such an argument explicitly in his work On First Principles, although it is possible to interpret him that way, just as it is possible to interpret any literary works in different, even contrary, ways.

Maximus is answering a question in Ambiguum 7 that I wouldn't think of asking, which makes it a little hard for me to commit to his text.


message 37: by David (new)

David Smith | 12 comments Thanks Nemo, that’s helpful.

Clark, I think I know what you are saying about why you withdrew your question. But I wasn’t comparing ideas between two thinkers so much as saying Maximus’s whole argument rests on the premise of a certain metaphysical concept, which I think is Aristotelian. Understanding what influences a writer isn’t a distraction i don’t think, but necessary. Especially in theology, where terms take on so many different meanings across the centuries.


message 38: by Clark (new)

Clark Wilson | 555 comments Ruth wrote: "I'll try to put the argument in my own words, to see if I understand it. I think he says this:

If we were once at rest in God, and yet then moved away, then it follows that
- either: there was so..."


An excellent summary. IMO.


message 39: by Clark (last edited Jan 29, 2020 05:47AM) (new)

Clark Wilson | 555 comments David wrote: "Clark, I think I know what you are saying about why you withdrew your question. But I wasn’t comparing ideas between two thinkers so much as saying Maximus’s whole arg..."

We differ. I focus entirely on the current text unless the author of that text sends me someplace else (as in the case of Maximus quoting Gregory up front). My very strong opinion is that people usually are unable to see the current text because they are hunting for or are seeing connections with predecessors and influences, which I see as distractions in the simplest and most direct sense of the word. (My mentioning the Origen footnote was an exception. It was nearly a direct quotation, though.)

Here is a story: The first session of an intro art history course the prof put up on the screen a Mondrian thing. He asked the class what they saw. The first three or four people started talking about the artist, the named style, the time period, etc., etc. Finally a person said, "I see a rectangular frame. Inside the frame occupying the top left third of the frame is a yellow square, bounded by thick black lines. ..." That is what the professor schooled us to do.

I would maintain that the variability of the meanings of theological and philosophical terms over the centuries makes my approach more valuable, not less. I am trying to be able to state what *this* author means, in *this* text. If it is different from the way the term has been used before, even by the same author, fine. If it is the same way the term has been used before, fine.

I realize that most of the world differs with me on this. I'm at peace with that.


message 40: by Clark (new)

Clark Wilson | 555 comments Ruth wrote: "On a personal note: I find it a little hard to envision a state of perfect rest that is not boring. Do any of you recognize that? "

I suggest you replace "rest" with a nonsense word, say, "flarg." Then try to ascertain the meaning of "flarg" from the way it is defined and used in the text. Maybe I'd leave "rest" alone in the Scripture quotations, maybe I wouldn't.

Also I suggest that you stare at the word "desire" as Maximus uses it in this overall context.

Please do feel absolutely free to ignore these suggestions. :-)


message 41: by Clark (new)

Clark Wilson | 555 comments Here is an example in which I would claim my method proved valuable. https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...

Discussing that text, or discussing method at length, would best be in a separate thread, not this one.


message 42: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1420 comments Clark wrote: "... The first session of an intro art history course the prof put up on the screen a Mondrian thing...."

I’m guessing the professor was a proponent of the New Criticism?


message 43: by Clark (new)

Clark Wilson | 555 comments Nemo wrote: "Even Origen doesn't make such an argument explicitly in his work On First Principles, ..."

I'm not going to discuss this, but the quotation given in the footnote in the Blowers & Wilken book seems relevant. I post it just for information.

"See Origen, De principiis 2.1.1: “Now since the world is so very varied and comprises so great a diversity of rational beings, what else can be the cause of this diversity than the different ways in which those who flowed away from the original unity (ἑνάς) fell.”

St Maximus the Confessor. (2003). On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ: Selected Writings from St Maximus the Confessor. (J. Behr, Ed., P. M. Blowers & R. L. Wilken, Trans.) (Vol. 25). Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press.


message 44: by Nemo (last edited Jan 29, 2020 08:14AM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1420 comments Clark wrote: "Nemo wrote: "Even Origen doesn't make such an argument explicitly in his work On First Principles, ..."

I'm not going to discuss this, but the quotation given in the footnote in the Blowers & Wilken book seems relevant ..."


Relevant indeed. I could envision Origen and Maximus sitting at a round table, having a dialogue on the subject, and approaching unity in diversity. :)

Is the primordial unity referred to by Origen the same unity that Maximus envisions as the end?

To use an illustration, a human life starts as a single cell, then the cell divides and differentiates into different types of cells that form the diverse organs of human body. Similarly, the universe came into existence as a result of the Big Bang, unfolding from a “primeval point”.

It is possible that this is the sort of “original unity” Origen had in mind, which can be reconciled with Maximus description of the beginning of the world, and does not necessarily contradict the idea of perfect rest.


message 45: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1420 comments David wrote: "... Maximus’s whole argument rests on the premise of a certain metaphysical concept, which I think is Aristotelian. Understanding what influences a writer isn’t a distraction i don’t think, but necessary. ...."

I agree, although influences can be hard to prove in many cases, as similarities are not necessarily evidence of influence.

Focusing on the text itself and identifying influences are not mutually exclusive. Personally I find group discussions are most enriching when people approach the subject from different angles, with different emphases and perspectives.


message 46: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 415 comments Clark wrote: "I suggest you replace "rest" with a nonsense word, say, "flarg." Then try to ascertain the meaning of "flarg" from the way it is defined and used in the text. Maybe I'd leave "rest" alone in the Scripture quotations, maybe I wouldn't."

That's brilliant! I will certainly try that, it seems like an excellent method to get rid of my own preconceptions about such words.


message 47: by Nemo (last edited Jan 29, 2020 10:28AM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1420 comments Ruth wrote: "Clark wrote: "I suggest you replace "rest" with a nonsense word, say, "flarg." Then try to ascertain the meaning of "flarg" from the way it is defined and used in the text. Maybe I'd leave "rest" a..."

Try doing that to every word in the text. :)


message 48: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 415 comments We could turn the text into something that's a lot less boring :-D No, just kidding, I actually do enjoy the text.

Nemo wrote: "Maximus is answering a question in Ambiguum 7 that I wouldn't think of asking, which makes it a little hard for me to commit to his text"

I can see that makes it difficult. (I hope you don't mind too much ?)

For me, the text did answer a question that is always lingering in the back of my mind, although my question is probably opposite from the original question.

The original question being somewhat like: "was there a time when human souls were perfect", but my question stems more from a somewhat calvinistic view and asks how a totally depraved person can ever come to be at rest with God.

So I was especially blown away when I read the sentence "sin is not part of human nature" (but after a long search, I discovered he said that in ambiguum 5)

The main thought, that there is a good seed in us, because we are created by God, and that the main goal of life is to affirm that good seed, is really quite new to me. Totally opposite (in my perception) from what I always thought that we have to die and receive a new life. Therefore I really appreciate that Maximos argues with so many logical steps that I can follow along with.


message 49: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 415 comments Nemo wrote:
"To use an illustration, a human life starts as a single cell, then the cell divides and differentiates into different types of cells that form the diverse organs of human body. Similarly, the universe came into existence as a result of the Big Bang, unfolding from a “primeval point”.

It is possible that this is the sort of “original unity” Origen had in mind, which can be reconciled with Maximus description of the beginning of the world, and does not necessarily contradict the idea of perfect rest."


Intriguing thoughts there. I wondered what you meant with "Maximos' description of the beginning", would that be perhaps this quote:

For God is the beginning and the end. From him come both our moving in whatever way from a beginning and our moving in a certain way toward him as an end.



message 50: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 415 comments I'll try some more summarizing.

He says: God caused us to exist. So we started with some sort of movement, namely from non-existence into being. "For everything that comes into existence is subject to movement, since it is not self-moved or self-powered." (But he also says that being necessarily precedes movement? Isn't he contradicting himself here?) Anyway, we started moving, and will keep moving until the end.

What end? Rest, which means being fully embraced/infused by the ultimately desirable, or eternal well-being (ascertained using Clark's flarg technique).

How do we move to that end? Basically by acting according to our good nature and perceiving that this is good, and by loving doing good more and more. Also by learning to refrain from wanting anything that is not good.

Now I don't know how fast you are all reading, but I have just reached the end of part 1 of Ambiguum 7. Hope I'm not going too slow.


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