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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Political Hesychasm

In a comment to my post on "Alexander Dugin, Bishop Tikhon, and President Putin," Wurmbrand asks for an explanation of the term “Political Hesychasm.”

Hesychasm (ἡσυχασμός) is, of course, the tradition associated with the late Byzantine monk Gregorios Palamas (died 1359) that focuses on the repetition of the Jesus Prayer, a sort of Orthodox dhikr. This was accepted by the Orthodox Church and condemned by the Roman Catholic Church.

The phrase “political Hesychasm” seems to have been coined by Vladimir Petrunin in Политический исихазм и его традиции в социальной концепции Московского Патриархата (Political Hesychasm and its Traditions in the Social Thought of the Moscow Patriarchate, 2009). It describes an understanding of relations between East and West ascribed to Pavel Florensky (1882-1937), a priest and scientist who did not survive the Great Terror, and the philosopher (and monk) Aleksei Losev (1893-1998), who did survive the Terror.

In Эстетика Возрождения (Esthetics of the Renaissance, 1978) Losev developed a highly original analysis of the Renaissance in terms of the ascendency of “anthropocentric Neoplatonism” and the consequent birth of individualism. He contrasts this in his introduction to Palamas and the Hesychasts, who he sees as central to a parallel Eastern Renaissance that drew on the Orthodox Neoplatonism of Dionysius the Areopagite.

Hesychasm and the Eastern Renaissance were not Losev’s main topic, but his book provides the basis for a view of Eastern Christianity in opposition to Western Christianity and the Renaissance that fits very neatly with Alexander Dugin’s Traditionalism.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Alexander Dugin, Bishop Tikhon, and President Putin

There has been much discussion about how much influence Alexander Dugin really has in the Kremlin. A partial answer is provided by a new article by Michael Hagemeister, “Der ‘Nördliche Katechon’ – ‘Neobyzantismus’ und ’politischer Hesychasmus’ im postsowjetischen Russland” (The Northern Katechon: Neo-Byzantinism and political Hesychasm in Post-Sovet Russia), Erfurter Vorträge zur Kulturgeschichte des Orthodoxen Christentums 15 (2016), pp. 5-36.

Dugin is not Hagemeister’s main topic. This is Bishop Tikhon, Georgy Shevkunov, who is visibly very close to President Putin, and may well be the president’s confessor. The article describes Tikhon’s influence and examines the ideologies that he represents, notably Neo-Byzantinism and political Hesychasm, which Hagemeister traces back to Gelian Prochorov in the mid 1960s.

Political Hesychasm, especially, is easily compatible with Traditionalism, as it sees modernity and the Renaissance in very much the same way as Tradiitonalism does. Dugin’s Neo-Eurasianism thus fits very comfortably with two wider and possibly more powerful currents, and the views of the influential Bishop Tikhon. Whatever Dugin’s own influence in the Kremlin, then, others with very similar views clearly have significant influence there.

My thanks to Birgit Menzel for bringing this article to my attention.