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Onomatodoxy (the Russian heresy of “Imyaslavie“)

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Name worship (Gr. Onomatodoxia) – a teaching that asserts that God’s name is God Himself, condemned by a Synodal Definition from the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). It arose in 1907 as a movement among Russian monks in St. Forest. His supporters became representatives of the Russian intelligentsia and a number of religious philosophers, such as Fr. Pavel Florensky, Fr. Sergiy Bulgakov, A.F. Losev and others. Prominent bishops, such as Archbishop Nikon (Rozhdestvensky), archbishop. Seraphim (Sobolev) (“idolatry is nothing but sophianism”), ep. Vasily (Zelentsov), patr. Sergius (Stragorodsky), Abbot Nikon (Vorobiov) and others. During the period 1913-1918 St. The Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church has repeatedly passed decrees condemning the teachings of the “Imebozhniki” as heretical. The issue is also subject to discussion at the Local Assembly, which fails to make a final decision until its closure. At the beginning of the 21st century, the discussions about imgodliness have been renewed again.

The history of “Imyaslavie” began in 1907 with the publication of books by the monk Hilarion “On the mountains of the Caucasus”. In this book, old man Hilarion told about his spiritual experience with the Jesus prayer as proof that the name of God is God himself and can work miracles. The book became extremely popular among Russian monks on Mount Athos in Greece. Many of them argued that, according to Plato’s teaching, the names of things existed before the appearance of the things themselves and, thus, the name of God should have been pre-created before the creation of the world and could not be anything other than God himself. Among other things, this could mean that knowing the secret name of God allows you to work miracles. This also requires extreme caution in using such names as Jehovah, Christ, etc. Their opponents, other Athos monks, considered this teaching pantheism, incompatible with Christianity. They argued that before creation God did not need a name, therefore his name was created and in fact it was a sound that did not have any mystical properties in itself. Supporters of imyaslavia began to be called imyaslavtsami (that is, subjects who glorify the name of God), and opponents began to be called imyabortsami (subjects who fight with the name of God).

The main supporter of the doctrine of name-worship was Hieroschemamonk Andreevsky Skete of Mount Athos Anthony Bulatovich, who published several books on this issue. The teaching was also supported by the “elder” Grigory Rasputin, influential at the Court, and he also had similarities with the teachings of Fr. John of Kronstadt. But the teaching of John of Kronstadt was not condemned, and name-worship was not seen in his writings before the emergence of this trend. The full quote referred to by the imyaslavists, claiming that John of Kronstadt shared their teaching, looks like this: “Let the Name of the Lord, the Mother of God, an Angel or a saint be to you instead of the Lord God Himself, the Mother of God, an Angel or a saint.” At the same time, there are significant differences between the teachings of John of Kronstadt and the imyaslavtsy. Quoted from: Orthodox view of the veneration of the name of God. Events on Athos in 1913. With the blessing of His Eminence Sergius, Archbishop of Ternopil and Kremenets. Lviv: Publishing house of the missionary department of the Lviv diocese of the UOC, 2003, p.102.

Essence of name-worship

The central position of the teaching of the name-glorifiers is that the name of God is inextricably linked with God himself.

Father Anthony Bulatovich based the doctrine of the Divinity of the Name of God primarily on the fact that the Name of God, according to the teaching of the Holy Fathers, is His energy or action (in Slavonic “action”; “action” is a translation of the Greek word “energy”), and the energy of God is God Himself.

Father Anthony wrote:

 Why did God create man? – In order to make the created being happy by sharing His Divinity with him. … to unite him with Himself by the union of Divine love and make a person a partaker of the Divine Nature. … in order to deify him, the deification of a person consists in the fact that the Energy of the Divine is infused into a person. The essence of the Divinity of God is incommunicable to creation, but Activity is communionable.

Thus, according to name-glory, the Name of God is His energy and He Himself.

Supporters of imyaslaviya insist that the logic of the Orthodox theologian Fr. Anthony Bulatovich fully corresponds to the teaching of the Fathers of the Church, in particular Fr. Gregory Palamas about the uncreation of Divine energy. Orthodox opponents of imyaslaviya indicate that in his writings Gregory Palamas nowhere calls the energy of God “God” (Theos), but teaches to call it “Deity” (Theotis).

The initial reaction of the Church Authority

The most authoritative opponent of the new doctrine in Russia was Archbishop Anthony of Volhynia (Khrapovitsky), who regarded imyaslavie as a heresy and a kind of Khlystism. In 1912, by decision of the Holy Synod, the book “On the Caucasus Mountains” was banned in Russia. It was not re-released until 1998.

In September 1912, the book was condemned in a letter from Patriarch Joachim III of Constantinople (although in 1907 he supported this book) to the rector of the Russian monastery of St. Panteleimon, who, like all the monasteries of Mount Athos, was in the direct canonical jurisdiction of the Patriarch: the message called the new teaching “meaningless and blasphemous” and exhorted its supporters to “leave behind soulful delusion and stop arguing and talking about things that they don’t know.”

In 1913, the teaching was reviewed by a commission of teachers from the Theological School of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the island of Halki, headed by Metropolitan Herman of Seleucia. The commission recognized the doctrine as unorthodox; The Synod of Constantinople condemned it as blasphemous and heretical, and the new Patriarch Herman V sent a corresponding letter to Athos dated April 5, 1913, which declared the teaching of name-worship to be pantheism.

In May 1913, an emergency meeting of the Holy Synod of the Russian Church was held under the chairmanship of Hieromartyr Metropolitan Vladimir (Bogoyavlensky). Three independently prepared reports were heard: by Archbishop Nikon (Rozhdestvensky), Archbishop Anthony (Khrapovitsky) and S. V. Troitsky. All reports recognized the teachings of the “name-worshippers” as non-Orthodox. As a result of the meeting, a synodal resolution was unanimously adopted, condemning the teachings of the “name worshipers”; the corresponding Epistle compiled by Archbishop Sergius (Stragorodsky) was published.

In August 1913, after the expulsion of the “name-worshippers” from Athos, the Synod issued a new resolution, even more strict, against the supporters of the new teaching and adopted the “Formula of Conversion for the Name-Worshipers Returning to the Teachings of the Orthodox Church.” A paper was sent to the monasteries of Russia condemning the “name god” with a proposal to sign it (for example, such a document is known, signed by all the elders of Optina Pustyn, who were at that time in the monastery). According to reports in the Russian monk magazine, in July 1913 the Decree was actively supported on Valaam.

On Athos, name-glory spread only among Russian monks and did not affect monks from other countries. Since the charter of the Holy Mountain strictly forbids heretics to be on it, the kinot of Athos could “under the guise of heretics … cleanse the Holy Mountain from Russians in general”.

Assault on the monastery

In accordance with the prescription of the Holy Synod, on June 4 (in a number of sources – June 5), 1913, the gunboat “Donets” delivered Archbishop Nikon Rozhdestvensky of Vologda and Professor Troitsky to Mount Athos in order to “pacify the monastic rebellion” (on June 11, steamer “Tsar” with 5 officers and 118 soldiers). The census conducted by the archbishop showed that among the 1,700 Russian monks, 661 registered themselves as name-fighters, 517 as name-glorifiers, 360 evaded the census, and the rest registered as neutral[6]. During June, Archbishop Nikon negotiated with the imyaslavtsy and tried to force them to change their beliefs voluntarily, but failed. On July 3, the Kherson steamer arrived, sent to expel the monks from Athos, and the soldiers of the 6th company of the 50th Bialystok regiment were ordered by the Russian consul to “take the rebels by attack, but without bloodshed.” The soldiers stormed the monastery of St. Panteleimon, in which the name-glorifiers barricaded themselves. Although the monks were not armed and did not actively resist, the troops displayed considerable brutality.

The monks were poured with water from hoses, the soldiers were ordered to beat the monks with bayonets and rifle butts. Allegedly, four monks were killed and at least forty-eight were wounded. After the storming of the Panteleimon Monastery, the monks from the St. Andrew Skete surrendered voluntarily.

The Kherson steamer delivered 621 monks from Athos to Russia[6] and on July 13 anchored in Odessa. Forty monks, deemed unable to survive the transfer, were left in a hospital on Mount Athos. On July 17, the ship “Chikhachev” delivered another 212 monks from Mount Athos[6]. Some of the monks voluntarily left the monastery, some went to Kamchatka to the missionary Fr. Nestor Anisimov. The rest of the monks signed papers stating that they reject imyaglory.

After interrogation in Odessa, 8 detained monks were returned to Athos, 40 were sent to prison, and the rest were defrocked and exiled to various regions of the Russian Empire in accordance with their registration. The main leader of the imyaslavtsy on Athos, Anthony Bulatovich, was exiled to his family estate in the village of Lutsykovka, Lebedinsky district, Kharkov province.

The book “On the mountains of the Caucasus” was ordered to seize and destroy in all monasteries.

Official assessment on expulsion from Athos

In February 1914, some imeyaslavtsy were received by Nicholas II. A kind welcome was perceived by them as a sign of a changing fate.

On May 7, 1914, under the chairmanship of Metropolitan Macarius (Nevsky) of Moscow, the Moscow Synodal Office conducted a trial of the leaders of the imyaslavie, about which there are conflicting testimonies. On May 10, this decision was partially recognized by the Holy Synod, which allowed the imyaslavists to hold positions in the Orthodox Church without formal repentance, but determined that the teaching itself should still be considered heresy. Metropolitan Macarius, having received in August 1914 an official telegram Auber

Prosecutor V.K. Sabler, in which he was allowed to admit to the priesthood those of the justified monks whom he found worthy, removed the canonical prohibitions immediately from about 20 persons and reported this by telegram to the Ober-Procurator, and then allowed others.

On August 27, 1914, the head of the movement, Fr. Anthony Bulatovich asked to be sent as a military priest to the active army, and his request was approved by the Holy Synod. On July 1, 1915, the Holy Synod received a letter from the founder of the doctrine, schemamonk Hilarion, asking if he had been excommunicated from the Church (Hilarion lived as a hermit in the Caucasus and may not have realized the extent of the unrest caused by his book). Hilarion died on June 2, 1916, without receiving an answer.

After the fall of the monarchy

The All-Russian Local Council, which opened in August 1917, was intended, in particular, to solve the problem of naming; it was attended by both active supporters and opponents of the doctrine. Among the theologians who spoke in favor of imyaslavie were Fr. Pavel Florensky and Fr. Sergei Bulgakov.

In October 1918, Patriarch Tikhon and the Holy Synod of the Russian Church issued a decree explaining the significance of the trial of Metropolitan Macarius:

… 1) the decision of the Moscow Synodal Office of May 7, 1914, considered by Hieroschemamonk Anthony to justify the very teaching of the name-worshippers, is in fact only a decision on the acceptance into communion of some Athos monks named in this decision, involved in the name-worshipping teaching, brought to the court of Moscow Synodal Office and declaring submission to the Holy Church, after a proper test of their beliefs, with the termination of the court case against them and the permission of priestly service for those of them who were in holy orders, – 2) that such is precisely the decision of the Moscow Synodal Office in this case was approved by the Holy By the Synod, by definition of May 10-24, 1914, No. 4136, with the instruction of the Synodal Office and His Grace Modest to bring admonished monks to the realization that the teaching of the name-worshippers, prescribed in the writings of Hieroschemamonk Anthony (Bulatovich) and his followers, was condemned by His Holiness the Patriarch and the Synod of the Church of Constantinople and St. The Synod of the Russian Church, and that, while showing indulgence to the infirmities of the erring, the Holy Synod does not change the previous judgment about the error itself … “

The issue was referred to the Local Council, which, however, did not have time to make any decision before its closing.

In January 1919, the leader of the imyaslavtsy, Fr. Anthony Bulatovich broke off communion with Patriarch Tikhon and returned to his family estate in Lutsykovka. There he was killed by robbers on December 5 of the same year.

In the early 1920s, there was a name-glorifying circle in Moscow, whose members were: A.F. Losev, V.M. Loseva, D.F. Egorov, N.M. Solovyov, P.S. Popov, Fr. F. Andreev; Priest Pavel Florensky was close to them.

In 1928, after the leadership of the Patriarchal Church was transferred to the Deputy Patriarchal Locum Tenens Metropolitan Sergius, many imyaslavtsy in the USSR completely broke communion with the Provisional Patriarchal Synod and became part of the Catacomb Church, which was largely due to the rejection of the imyaslavers’ policy of humility proclaimed by Metropolitan Sergius attitude towards atheistic power in the USSR.

In the Russian emigration, the teaching of imyaslavie in the 1920s-1930s continued to be developed by the priest Sergiy Bulgakov, whose fundamental book Philosophy of Names was published in Paris in 1953, after his death. S. Bulgakov wrote: “The name of God is not only a means of denoting the Deity or invoking Him, but there is also a verbal icon, therefore it is holy. So, the names of God are the verbal icons of the Divine, the embodiment of Divine energies, theophany, they bear the seal of Divine revelation.

One of ROCOR’s leading ideologists, Archbishop Seraphim (Sobolev), gave a detailed theological critique of the “name-worshipping” teaching in his work against the sophiology of Vl. Solovyov, Fr. Sergius Bulgakov and Fr. Pavel Florensky. In this work, three chapters (Nos. 18, 19, 20) are devoted to the refutation of the teachings of the “imyaslavtsy” – for for Fr. Sergius and Fr. Paul “sophiology” and “name worship” were in close connection with each other.

Metropolitan Veniamin (Fedchenkov), Exarch (since March 22, 1933) of the Moscow Patriarchate in North America did not hide his sympathetic attitude towards imyaslavl.

Since the 1990s, the ideas of name-worship have been propagated by ROAC clerics Abbot Gregory Lurie and Abbot Feofan (Areskin), who were subjected to censure by their hierarchies in connection with this.

Imyaslavie and mathematics

Archbishop Nikon, a fighter against name glorification, drew an analogy between names and mathematical concepts, implying that the latter do not exist in the real world. At the same time, the mathematician and philosopher A. N. Parshin, a supporter of imyaslavia, says that this argument can be turned in favor of imyaslavia, recognizing that names, like mathematical concepts, exist, but in a supersensible, intelligible world.

The Russian Moscow School of Mathematics was founded by D. F. Egorov and N. N. Luzin, who were both namesakers and personal friends of Fr. Pavel Florensky, as well as the philosopher A.F. Losev (who, in turn, were both men of name in theology). Florensky was Yegorov’s student and studied with Luzin, and they published together. Florensky published works where he argued the existence of parallels between abstract mathematics and religion. In particular, he stated that the mathematics of continuous functions is similar to rationalism, while some concepts such as transfinite numbers can only be explained on the basis of the philosophy of naming, where the Name of God is God himself.

Historians of mathematics Lauren Graham and Jean-Michel Cantor argue that the work of the Russian school of mathematics is still filled with mysticism, in contrast to the French school of mathematics, which, in their opinion, is based on rationalism.

The teaching of the Church Fathers and other holy fathers about names

• St. Gregory of Nyssa: “Another thing is an object that by its nature is subject to a name, and another is a name denoting an object. Being is not the same as naming. “God … has one name, which serves to the knowledge of His own being, namely, that He is one more than any name.”

• St. Basil the Great: “Names mean only essences, but they themselves are not essences.” “There is not a single name that, having declared the whole nature of God, it would be enough to express it.”

• St. Gregory the Theologian: “God is not what we imagine under the concept of God, or what we imagine under the concept of God, or how we depicted Him, or how His word described”.

• St. John of Damascus: “The deity, being incomprehensible, will certainly be nameless. Therefore, not knowing His essence, let us not seek the name of His essence.

• St. Justin the Philosopher: “God cannot be called by any proper name. For names exist to designate and distinguish things in their multitude and diversity, but there was no one before who would give God a name, and He had no need to give Himself a name, being only one ”.

Literature in Russian:

1. Name glory. Anthology. / Ed. Polishchuk E. S. – M .: Factorial Press, 2002. – 544 with ISBN 5-88688-061-5

2. Forgotten pages of Russian imyaslaviya. Collection of documents and publications on the Athos events of 1910-1913. and the movement of name worship in 1910-1918. – M .: Palomnik, 2001. – 525 p. ISBN 5-87464-101-9

3. Parshin A. N. Way. Mathematics and other worlds. – M .: “Dobrosvet”, 2002. P. 240. ISBN 5-7913-0053-0

4. Orthodox view of the veneration of the name of God. Events on Athos in 1913. With the blessing of His Eminence Sergius, Archbishop of Ternopil and Kremenets. Lviv: Publishing house of the missionary department of the Lviv diocese of the UOC, 2003. – 132 p.

5. S. Bulgakov. Name philosophy. M., 1997

Photo: Modern view of the Russian St. Panteleimon Monastery on Mount Athos

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