Notes on the Palamite Controversy and Related Topics
by Fr. John S. Romanides
Note about the name Latin. The Romans gave the name Latin to those Italian tribes who revolted demanding Roman
citizenship. Instead they were given the Latin name in 85 BC. The name Latin had belonged
to the ancient Greek-speaking Latins who had been absorbed into the Roman nation along
with the Greek-speaking Sabines. The Italian Latins of 85 BC were given the Roman name in
212. Finally various Germano-Frankish tribes took or were given the name Latin. We use the
name Franco-Latins for these Germano-Frankish tribes in order to distinguish them from the
Greek speaking and Italian speaking Latins of Roman history.
The occasion of this paper is the recent publication (I) of the book
entitled Introduction ? l Etude de Gregoire Palamas, 
and (II) of the Greek texts with French translation of St. Gregory Palamas HYPER TON
HIEROS ISICHAZONTON (D?fense des Saints H?sychastes), 
both by Father John Meyendorff, Professor of Church History at St. Vladimirs
Orthodox Seminary, and Lecturer in Byzantine Theology at Dumbarton Oaks Research Library.
Almost a decade was spent preparing this work for a doctorate. Father John makes an
admirable attempt to describe an extremely important segment of the religious intellectual
history of the Byzantine Empire.
The primary purpose of this article is not to describe the contents of
these publications, but to discuss the authors presentation of the Palamite
Controversy and theology in relation to Franco-Latin and East Roman theology generally.
The translation of the texts in question will be dealt with only in so far as it reflects
the success or failure of the author to understand the issues at hand. An evaluation of
Father Meyendorffs contribution to the history of Byzantine theology will follow
For several years Father Meyendorff has been contending, in various
articles, that the debate between St. Gregory Palamas and Barlaam the Calabrian does not
represent a clash between Franco-Latin and East Roman theology, as has been generally
believed, but rather a domestic quarrel between certain Byzantine humanists and a large
segment of Byzantine monastics and their adherents.  Meyendorff
frequently refers to Barlaam as a humanist, a Platonist, and a nominalist 
and seems to think that the Neo-Platonism of the Areopagite is the basis of his
nomilalism.  He claims that an Occamistic kind of thinking was
somehow in the Byzantine atmosphere,  and that in the person of
Barlaam such thinking represented a kind of naturalistic theology with an overemphasis on
natural revelation  and on mans share in the
soteriological process.  Father John contends that the
controversy revolved around the interpretation of Pseudo-Dionysius, and claims that
Palamas applied correctives to the Neo-Platonism of the Areopagite, with the implication,
as it seems, that Barlaam was not far wrong in his reading of the texts. In accordance
with this kind of analysis, Palamas is represented as a thinker with originality, as
opposed to the theology of formal repetition which characterized such persons
as Akindynos and Gregoras.
These and other topics will be dealt with in two parts: (I)
the theology of Barlaam,  and (II) the
theology of St. Gregory Palamas.
+ + +
Perhaps the most amazing and most revolutionary claim of Father
Meyendorff is that Barlaam was both a nominalist and a Neo-Platonist or Platonist. Until
now the histories of philosophy and theology have been presenting these traditions as
mutually exclusive. It was commonly agreed that William of Occam destroyed the Platonic
basis of mediaeval scholasticism by his denial of the objective existence of universals
both in the essence of God and in creation, undercutting thereby the very basis of analogia
entis and its natural theology and law, and preparing the way for an exclusive
emphasis on analogia fidei characteristic of a large bulk of the Protestant
tradition. Had Father Meyendorff explained how it is possible for one and the same person
to be both a nominalist and a Platonist he would have revolutionized our knowledge of the
intellectual history of Europe. Unfortunately, he never attempts to do so, and leaves one
bewildered with the question of how and why he could make such an extraordinary (and
certainly original) claim. 
That Barlaam was indeed a Christian Platonist and not a nominalist is
obvious from a reading of the quotations from his works to be found in the condemnation of
1341 and in the texts of Palamas translated by Meyendorff. Barlaam claims that in the
divine and creative mind there are logoi of which images (EIKONES)
exist within the human soul.  Elsewhere he speaks of
universals placed by God within the soul from its creation. 
He also speaks clearly of an analogical knowledge of the divine ideas or
forms (THEOEIDON).  Both the existence of the
uncreated divine ideas in the essence of God reflected in created images, and the
analogical method of arriving at a knowledge of God based on the existence of these ideas
and their reflections, are exactly what William of Occam rejected in favor of an exclusive
emphasis on revelation as the proper source of knowledge of God. In direct contrast to
Occam, Barlaam insists on the place of universals in constructing an adequate theology
about God. He claims that knowledge of universals is superior to knowledge of individuals.
 Although Palamas does not reject natural theology in
principle, he firmly attacks the Calabrian on this point by insisting that the use of
universals in the quest for knowledge about God is the very source of Greek philosophical
errors.  He further claims that any dialectical method
derived from such principles is forbidden by the Fathers in matters concerning God.  It is, therefore, very strange that Meyendorff, who published
texts of this debate, can make Barlaam out to be a nominalist and Palamas an Aristotelian
on the question of demonstrative knowledge concerning God. 
Had he said the reverse he would have been closer to the truth.
At least in their common rejection of a knowledge of God based on a
Platonic intuition of static divine ideas or universals, there is much more similarity
between Occam and Palamas than between Occam and Barlaam. In the common refusal of Occam
and Palamas to identify any universal ideas with the essence of God, the intent is partly
the same to protect the divine nature from all forms of determinism. Both agree
that creatures are not copies of uncreated universal ideas, since the latter do not exist,
and since for both only individuals are real; nor are creatures copies of any proper
single ideas which are either identical with the divine essence or different from the will
of God. The fundamental difference between Occam and Palamas is that Occam identifies the
divine will with the divine essence, and simply rejects the very existence of uncreated
ideas; whereas Palamas goes a step further than the Scotistic formal distinction and makes
the patristic real distinction between the essence and attributes or energies of God,
insisting on the volitional and formless character of the uncreated energies by calling
them ANEIDEOI (an obvious attack on Plato), ASCHIMATISTOI, and THIA THELIMATA. In this
connection, Meyendorff has neglected to mention that Palamas further rejects the existence
of uncreated universal ideas by insisting that each creature, and not each species or
genus, has its corresponding uncreated, divine energy or will. 
Another important difference is that Occam follows the common Western principle of not
generally admitting a prophetic knowledge of God, in this life, to be in terms of an
immediate vision of anything uncreated.
A further proof that Barlaam cannot be classified as a nominalist is
the fact that he criticizes the Latins and Thomas Aquinas for identifying all things in
God with the divine essence.  This criticism, plus Barlaams
rejection of Palamas real distinction between essence and energy in God, means that
the Calabrian is most probably making the Scotistic formal distinction. If he were a
nominalist, he would not criticize the Latins for identifying all things in God with the
divine essence, but would take them to task for making even a Thomistic virtual
distinction, since the Occamists refused to make any distinction whatever. That Barlaam is
making the Scotistic formal distinction is strongly indicated by Cardinal Bessarions
claim that the Calabrian introduced Scotistic anti-Thomistic arguments into Byzantine
theology.  This fact does not mean, however, that Barlaam was
a strict Scotist, since he accepts the doctrine of innate ideas in the human soul
another indication that he is no nominalist.
Meyendorff seems to be under the impression that what he takes to be
Barlaams nominalism is due to one-sided adherence to the principles of Neo-Platonic
Areopagite apophaticism.  This adherence is presented as the
general philosophical background which Barlaam applied to the Filioque question and
by means of which he concluded that both East Romans and Latins are wrong in believing
that they can demonstrate their own positions.  However,
Father Johns starting point is incorrect.
What Barlaam is actually saying is that there are two ways of arriving
at a knowledge of God through TA MATHIMATA (the philosophical sciences) and through
revelation. Both are gifts of God.  What it is not given in
the one or the other, transcends the powers of human reason and cannot, therefore, be
known, at least decisively. However, when a truth is given in either the one or the other,
then the soul is sufficient for it.  Therefore, when given in
revelation, even the spiritual things do not transcend human reason OYDE TA
PNEYMATIKA TON ANTHROPINON HYPERVENEI LOGISMON.  This is not
the apophaticism which Father John reads into the Calabrians thinking.
The Filioque question, for Barlaam, cannot be settled by
demonstration, because the arguments of both sides cannot be deduced from any principle
given by God either in philosophy or revelation. Therefore such a question as the
Procession of the Holy Spirit transcends human reason and cannot be demonstrated. If it
were revealed, there would be no need of demonstration, since it would be a first
principle, and it would not transcend human reason. Father John makes the mistake of
deducing from Barlaams specific skepticism regarding demonstrative proof on the
question of Filioque a universal skepticism concerning the Knowability of God. 
Barlaams starting-point makes it possible for him to contend that
in the patristic tradition there is a third position on the Filioque question which
is not that of the mediaeval Franco-Latins or East Romans. He maintains that this third
position, which puts the issue beyond the reaches of reason and therefore of demonstrative
proof, is the key to union. Barlaams starting-point also explains why Palamas
accuses him of reducing what in Patristic theology are the suprarational experiences of
faith to the level of rational inquiry. For Barlaam, knowledge of God is rational, and
only things not known of God are suprarational. For Palamas, knowledge of God is based on
the suprarational experience of the prophets, apostles, and saints; it transcends all
rational knowledge and cannot, therefore, be understood or defined in rational categories,
or dealt with dialectically and syllogistically, taking non-existent universals as a
starting-point. These observations indicate strongly that in the persons of Barlaam and
Palamas one is confronted with a real clash between the credo ut intelligam tradition
of the post-Augustinian West and the apophatic theology of the East Roman Fathers. One
cannot doubt the sincerity with which Barlaam believed himself to be Orthodox. Yet this
sincerity in no way proves that upon coming East he left his Franco-Latin presuppositions
in the West, or simply came, as Father John contends, as a non-Latin Byzantine theologian
These preliminary observations raise serious questions concerning
Father Meyendorffs success in dealing with and understanding Barlaams
philosophical and theological background certainly a most important key to
understanding not only St. Gregorys reaction to the Calabrian, but also that his
friend Akindynos, his enemy Gregoras, and the Patriarch Calecas. The fact that these three
last-mentioned opposed St. Gregorys version of Orthodox doctrine undoubtedly speaks
of a definite division within the Byzantine theological camp; but the fact that they also
at first publicly either opposed or avoided open support of Barlaam especially on
the question of the createdness/uncreatedness of the revealed glory of God is a
strong indication that the Italo-Greek from Calabria did not belong, as Father John
thinks, to any well-established theological or philosophical tradition in Byzantium. This
fact explains why he could not easily be defended by those who in substance agreed with
him theologically. Had there been an East Roman tradition in his favor, he would have been
openly supported from the very outset. East Roman philosophers and theologians were not
such as to shy away from a good debate. As it was, it took some time for those who finally
agreed with Barlaams theology to speak up and be counted.
The mere fact that much of the debate revolved around the
interpretation of Pseudo-Dionysius does not prove the Byzantine character of Barlaams
thought, especially when one realizes the Areopagites place of authority in the
Franco-Latin West. That Barlaam attacks Aquinas is also no proof that the Calabrian is
anti-scholastic, since Thomas was still under strong attack from even non-nominalist
quarters. On the contrary, the Calabrians intimacy with the thought of Aquinas (who
had not as yet been translated into Greek), Duns Scotus, and Augustine (who had been
partially translated) points strongly to his being chez lui with Franco-Latin
scholastic categories. The very fact that he went East to study Aristotle further in the
original, even though he was already a master of the Aristotelian Categories and Physics
(having studied them in Latin translation),  points strongly
in this direction. Father Johns assumption that Barlaam is a Byzantine rather than a
Western Platonist and humanist is only stated and never demonstrated. Perhaps Father John
will eventually produce a monograph demonstrating Barlaams Byzantine humanism by
tracing his lineage. Such a work would render a tremendous service to the current
East-West dialogue, since it would prove that certain peculiarities of Franco-Latin
theology have deep roots in the Eastern tradition. That this is the only possible road to
making Barlaam out to be a Byzantine rather than a Latin Platonist and humanist, is
necessitated by the fact that he has definite Latin peculiarities in his theology quite
unknown to the Eastern Patristic tradition; and these peculiarities partly explain why
even those in Constantinople who wished to support him found it impossible to do so.
Later, when some did speak out, certain of them did so by insisting that they complied
with the Calabrians condemnation, and that it was Palamas who had betrayed the
decisions of 1341.
In the course of this paper it will become clear that Father John was
over-impressed by Barlaams anti-Latin works and did not take seriously
the fact that the Calabrian was aiming at a pre-scholastic position especially on
the Filioque question, which he believed was the key to union, and which he
heroically maintained in spite of all opposition until his condemnation and subsequent
return to the Franco-Latin Church, where he became a bishop. On the other hand, it seems
never to have occurred to Father John that Barlaam at first shared the sentiments of other
Latin writers of his time on the question of papal authority vs. the Imperium
and Ecumenical Synods, a question which was not finally settled for almost a century after
Barlaams statement on the case. Perhaps he was not the mauvais th?ologien
that he is made out to be. He may rather have been a good conciliar Latin who got involved
in cross-talk with people whose theology he did not really understand and who
could not comprehend the basic position from which he spoke. Father John never adequately
answers the question why Barlaam came East and then worked for union with the West,
especially in view of Barlaams acting as though the Christians of Byzantium were
plunged in ignorance. At first the Calabrian gave the impression that he came East
convinced that the Greek speaking East Romans possessed the true faith; but then he worked
hard and passionately for union by way of compromise. An explanation of these two facts,
either in terms of the traditional Byzantine suspicion that Barlaam was a Latin spy, or in
some other terms, is certainly to be expected in such a study. His failure to explore
these facts casts some doubt on the historicity of Father Johns interpretation of
the events he undertakes to describe, and explains his inability to separate Barlaams
teachings from Palamas accusations against, and evaluation of, his position. If one
takes Barlaams Latin theological background seriously, one can see that on certain
issues Palamas simply argued past the point, exactly because he did not fully understand
the Calabrians Latin point-of-departure. As we shall see, this last contention is
clearly demonstrated by Palamas initial arguments against Barlaam concerning the
uncreatedness of that glory of God revealed to the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and
saints while they were still on this side of death.
Following the Augustinian tradition of the West, Barlaam took it for
granted and passionately argued that the glory of God revealed in this life to the
patriarchs, prophets, and apostles was a created glory, and that in each separate case of
revelation this glory came into existence and passed out of existence, being of only a
short duration. Having been theologically formed by such works as Augustines De
Trinitate,  the Calabrian knew quite well that it was not
the uncreated Divinity itself which was revealed in the Old and New Testaments, but
temporarily-existing creatures which symbolized divinity, and thereby elevated the minds
of those who were the objects of revelation to various levels of the comprehension of
ultimate truth. Only later in his life did St. Augustine make what became the classical
Latin exception of an ecstatic vision of the divine essence in this life in the cases of
Moses and St. Paul. The fact that Barlaam was shocked when he realized that heretics
similar to those fought by Augustine were tolerated by the Byzantine Church, points
directly to his Latin formation. It was quite to be expected that, being ignorant of East
Roman Church life, he very confidently accused the monks of heresy and of having not
divine, but satanic, visions and experiences. 
Palamas believed that the Old and New Testament visions of the glory of
God were real visions of the uncreated God, in which visions the body participated;
whereas Barlaam excluded not only the body, but also the intellect itself from any such
vision, and claimed that this glory revealed was in each case a creature which only
symbolized divinity. In this view, the whole question of Macarian and Evagrian
anthropologies is not so fundamental to the issues in question as Meyendorff thinks.  Allowing, for a moment, this distinction within the East Roman
Patristic tradition, - Which of the Platonising Roman Fathers agrees with
Barlaam in denying the reality of the vision of the uncreated glory of God not only to be
body, but to the intellect also? Which of the Platonising Fathers ever says
that there is any such thing as a created glory of God? This writer knows of none.
However, the whole Franco-Latin, post-Augustinian scholastic tradition agrees with
This is the historical setting within which the beginnings of the
so-called Palamite Controversy must be studied and appreciated.. Only when one realizes
the zeal with which St. Augustine argued against the Hesychasts of his own age can one
appreciate Barlaams explosion and hysteria on learning about the Byzantine Churchs
toleration of claims to visions of the uncreated glory of God in this life. His passionate
self-confidence and zeal cannot be explained otherwise than in terms of the fact that he
was Latin in his formation, and never suspected that the Eastern Church differed from the
Augustinian West on this point. Why did a supposedly humanist Barlaam, who was willing to
compromise in the Filioque, become so hysterical over claims to visions of the
Uncreated?  If, as Father John contends, Barlaam was a
Pelagianizing Neo-Platonist, why did he go heresy-hunting over such a question? Meyendorffs
contention that Barlaams dualistic anthropology was the basis of his objection to
the Hesychasts prayer-practices  certainly cannot explain the
fanaticism and persistence with which he attacked the monks. Furthermore, it is one thing
to say that Barlaams understanding of the bodys place in salvation was for
Palamas no salvation at all, and it is quite another thing to claim that the Calabrian
himself believed the body to be outside the soteriological process. Actually, in view of
the Hesychasts insistence that the body participates by grace in the vision of the
uncreated glory of God which for them is an integral part of the prophetic and
apostolic experience, and of the final salvation and deification of the body it is
obvious that most Franco-Latin theologians, and especially those of the highest repute,
would have reacted exactly as Barlaam did, and would have been accused by Palamas of
excluding the body from salvation. Thus one can appreciate the reason why the Calabrian
believed with a passion that he was defending, like Augustine before him, the purity of
the Christian faith now plunged in a sea of monastic ignorance. One can understand his
amazement when even the enlightened humanists of Byzantium not only failed at first to
comprehend and appreciate his hysterical insistence on defending what he took to be
Christendoms common heritage, but even lost patience with him and finally abandoned
In view of the obvious similarities which have been and will be
indicated between Barlaam and the Augustinian tradition, Father Meyendorffs repeated
mention of the alleged Augustinianism of Palamas on certain doctrines is indeed very
strange. As a key to understanding the principles involved in the controversy over the
ways to knowledge about God, Father Meyendorff discusses Palamas understanding of
fallen man deprived of grace, and thus demonstrates how and why Palamas could not accept
Barlaams alleged natural way to knowledge and salvation. 
St. Gregory is pessimistic about mans natural ability to know and to reach God, and
this pessimism is very correctly attributed to his understanding of creatureliness and
sin. On this point he is supposed to be l un des auteurs les plus augustiniens
de l Orient chr?tien. 
Actually, Father John is making a basic confusion. Exactly in contrast
to Palamas, Augustine is quite optimistic about mans natural ability to come
(intellectually) to a knowledge of God through the study of creatures, and never abandoned
the opinion that the Platonists believed in the Holy Trinity. 
Augustinian pessimism does not manifest itself primarily in the realm of mans
natural ability (or inability) to know the truth, but rather in the realm of the human
will: Man without grace can know God, but cannot love God, and therefore cannot overcome
pride and be saved. Without grace man cannot even have the initial desire to do the will
of God. However, once captured by irresistible prevenient grace, he is led, if
predestined, by habitus and persevering grace irresistibly. In contrast to this,
Palamas is relatively pessimistic on the philosophical level as well as in regard to mans
doing good; but he is not pessimistic in regard to mans desire to do
the will of God. Father John very ably describes Palamas attack on Barlaams
philosophical optimism, without, however, appreciating this optimisms connection
with the general Augustinian tradition; and this lack of appreciation is no doubt due to
his failure to notice the Calabrians Augustinian definition of habitus grace
and his Latin understanding of the lumen gloria... Having initially confused
philosophical optimism with Pelagian tendencies, Father Johns oversight is at least
In reconstructing the elements of Barlaams thought from his
debate with Palamas, one is at a double disadvantage. Not merely do we possess for this
purpose only those fragments of the Calabrians lost works quoted by Palamas, but we
have them already interpreted by their very selection, since they have been placed out of
their own context into the polemical thought-structure of St. Gregory. In this situation,
every single fragment becomes immensely important, especially isolated phrases which may
indicate a whole series of theological presuppositions perhaps misunderstood or
underestimated by the writer who is doing the quoting. Palamas is primarily interested in
pointing out the irreconcilability of Barlaams position with the patristic
tradition, and only guesses at the total position from which the Calabrian speaks. Father
Meyendorff correctly points out that for Palamas all talk of created saving and
deifying grace is a denial of graces supernatural character, since for him the
supernatural can only be uncreated.  One can,
therefore, appreciate why Palamas accuses Barlaam of teaching a natural way to salvation.
This fact does not mean, however, that grace is really natural for Barlaam, as Father John
thinks, since in the Latin tradition participated supernatural grace is
something created, there being no direct or real participation in the uncreated divine
Another good example of the cross-talk between Palamas and
Barlaam is the debate over the created/uncreated glory of God. Arguing against Barlaams
Augustinian position, Palamas goes to much trouble to prove that the glory revealed to the
patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and saint in this life is identical with the eternal light
of the future glory in which the saints will participate. 
Thus it is not the glory which ceases to exist with each revelation; it is, rather, the
visionary experience had by those who are the objects of revelation which is temporarily
terminated. Palamas takes it for granted that the glory of God in which the saints will
participate in the future age is uncreated. Therefore he thinks that to demonstrate
the identity of the glory of God that is revealed in the Old and New Testaments with the
glory of the future age, is automatically to prove this glorys uncreatedness. But
for Barlaam this is no argument at all, because for him there are two glories, the created
lumen gloria of Latin theology by which or in which
the elect will see the divine essence, and the uncreated glory which is the very same
divine essence. Palamas quotes Barlaam as having written, the incommunicable glory
of God, being eternal, is none other than the essence of God; but the communicable (glory)
is other than the essence of God, and indeed is not eternal, for the cause of this (glory)
is the cause of all things.  That Barlaam is here
referring to the Latin created lumen gloria is obvious from his refusal
to call that glory which is revealed to the prophets and apostles a deifying gift,
THEOPOION DORON.  Actually, for Barlaam the knowledge derived
from seeing the Old and New Testament glory of God is inferior to intellection. Being
Latin in his formation, Barlaam could never speak of any deifying or communicable glory or
grace in the Old Testament, or, for that matter, of any deifying glory or grace at any
time before the Crucifixion. There can be no doubt that Barlaam pointed out two glories in
order to refute Palamas argument, already mentioned, which was based on the
assumption that the future glory can only be uncreated. This fact is strongly indicated by
Palamas exasperation on realizing that for Barlaam all the energies and powers of
God distinct from the divine essence are created; and it is in trying to show this
realization to his readers that he quotes Barlaams statement about two glories. At
this stage Palamas meets the new challenge by proving that the uncreated glory of God is
not the divine essence and is participated in by the elect.
Barlaams teaching concerning the double glory of God is not only
a very strong indication of his Latin provenance, but is also proof that he did not
believe in any natural process of salvation at least as far as the Latin Church was
concerned, since without the supernatural gift of the created lumen gloria
it is impossible for the human intellect to see the divine essence. If Barlaam did believe
in a natural salvation, there would be no need of any communicable created glory. That
this is his actual position on grace is further indicated by his definition of ceaseless
prayer. Barlaam rejects outright the very idea that a monk should pray uninterruptedly,
and ridicules the claim that during such prayer one may have a vision of the uncreated
glory of God, since in this life God may be experienced only in ecstasy which
leaves no room for any discursive thought, even the short Jesus-prayer. Faced by the need
to interpret I Thess. v. 17, the Calabrian came up with the answer that St. Paul here
means the habitus (EXIS) of prayer: This habitus of prayer is to be able
to do, think, and bring to pass nothing which God does not will. He, therefore, who
has this habitus prays incessantly.  Since
Barlaam defines the term habitus (EXIS) as grace the other times Palamas quotes him
using it, it is quite obvious that the Calabrian is using the Augustinian definition of
irresistible habitus grace for purposes of defining St. Pauls mind on prayer.
This rejection of actual uninterrupted prayer in favor of a ceaseless prayer
conceived as a state-of-grace activism expressed in good works, is typical of
post-Augustinian Latin theology. In this passage Barlaam is not speaking of prayer as a
passive state opposed to conscious activity, as Father John thinks.  Barlaam is not saying that in this state man can simply do
nothing, but that he can do nothing which God does not will. Actually, Barlaam is going to
much trouble to prove that discursive prayer is far from ecstasy, which is for him the
only true form of mystical contemplation. From Barlaams own definition of ecstasy in
terms of a denudation of sense and discursive thought, there could be no question of
doing, thinking, and bringing to pass.
A further proof of Barlaams Latin provenance is his claim that
one definition of a contemplative man is a person who thinks he has visions of the divine
essence.  He goes to much trouble to explain why such people
believe they see the divine essence, and to interpret the possible alternative experiences
they do have, whereby they actually see created reflections of the uncreated.  Palamas ridicules the very idea that a contemplative could be
defined as a man who has any kind of visions of the divine essence. 
One must bear in mind that whereas in the Latin West there is a strong mystical tradition
which claims visions of the divine essence in this life (e.g..., the Eckhartians),
there is certainly no such tradition in the Patristic and Byzantine literature of the
Orthodox East. The Fathers are emphatic in denying the possibility of any vision of the
divine essence not only in this life but also in the next. The East Roman Fathers deny
vision of the divine essence even to angels. This denial of course means that the Latin
notion of beatific vision is rejected outright.  It is clear
that Barlaam had in mind certain Western mystics and at first took it for granted that he
was faced with a similar tradition among the Hesychasts, who claimed visions of the
uncreated. Here again we are faced with a good example of cross-talk... In
arguing against an Eckhartian kind of mysticism, Barlaam thought at first that he was
adequately answering the Hesychasts claims; and, of course, Palamas is amazed at the idea
that the Hesychasts claims to visions of the uncreated glory of God should in any
way be distorted into immediate or mediated visions of the divine essence.
One of the clearest indications of Barlaams Latin theological
provenance in his claim that the prophetic visions by way of symbolic creatures and
imaginary visions are inferior to intellection (CHEIRO NOISEOS). 
The vision of the Old and New Testament glory of God being for Barlaam, as for the
Latin West generally, a creature which symbolizes a truth being revealed is
inferior to the revelation of truth which comes directly to the intellect. In view of
Barlaams insistence, wherever else he is quoted by Palamas, that there can be no
knowledge of God which does not come through knowledge of creatures, there seems to be
here a contradiction. If all knowledge of God comes through the media of creatures, why is
a revelation by means of such creatures as the glory of God inferior to intellection? If
one were to remain faithfull to the basic epistemological principle set forth by Barlaam,
how can there be intellection apart from the senses and the imagination? Either Barlaam is
contadicting his basic epistemological principle of knowledge of God by means of
creatures, or else he is making an exception.
For background material on Barlaams opinions, one may turn to
Thomas Aquinas discussion of the Division of Prophecy in his Summa
Theologica, pt. II-ii, q. 174, art. 1-6. In art. 2 he quotes a
gloss from the beginning of the Psalter which says that the most excellent manner of
prophecy is when a man prophesies by the mere inspiration of the Holy Ghost, apart from
any outward assistance of deed, word, vision, or dream. He goes on to say, it
is evident that the manifestation of divine truth by means of the bare contemplation of
the truth itself, is more effective than that which is conveyed under the similitude of
corporeal things, for it approaches neare to the heavenly vision whereby the truth is seen
in Gods essence. Hence it follows that the prophecy whereby a supernatural truth is
seen by intellectual vision, is more excellent than that in which a supernatural truth is
manifested by means of the similitudes of corporeal things in the vision of the
imagination. It is obvious that Barlaam holds similar opinions concerning prophecy
and revelation. Father John is therefore wrong in accusing Barlaam of teaching natural
revelation to the detriment of a supernatural knowledge of God. 
The very fact that Barlaam accepts revelation by means of momentarily-existing creatures,
such as the Old and New Testament glory of God, should itself have convinced Meyendorff of
this point. That Barlaam believes revelation by intellection to be superior to that be
means of creatures and imagination is proof (I) the high Latin regard he has for
revelation through means transcending the order of those natural laws he and other Latins
set concerning the knowledge of God, and (II) his Latin theology.
In view of Father Johns articles on the Filioque, one
would take it for granted that he has studied St. Augustines De Trinitate and
is, therefore, familiar with the first four books, which devote so much space to a
refutation of what seems clearly to be a IVth-Vth century hesychast tradition in North
Africa.  Yet Father Meyendorff avoids discussing any possible
connection between Barlaam and the Augustinian Latin tradition on this point. Instead he
goes to much trouble to invent a special Byzantine Areopagite tradition in which to place
Barlaam. However, to trace Barlaams symbolism to St. Dionysious the Areopagite by
way of a Byzantine interpretive tradition is not a matter of simply comparing the two. One
must prove that Barlaams interpretation of Dionysius is similar in nature to that of
other theologians of the Roman East, beginning from the age of the Areopagite himself, and
ending before Franco-Latin influences began penetrating certain Byzantine circles. The
question is not, as Father John thinks, to determine what one thinks the Areopagite
is realy saying, and then to compare this interpretation to Barlaams. What one
imagines to be the real teaching of the Areopagite is not important in this case. What is
alone important here is to find out whether there actually is in the East an interpretive
tradition in regard to the Areopagite which is essentially that of Barlaam. Besides not
doing so, Father John dismisses with a wave of the hand the possibility that Barlaams
interpretation of the Areopagite is essentially conditioned by Latin presuppositions. Also
he never once asks what influence Augustine himself may have had on certain Byzantine
cirles, especially after the translation into Greek of part of his De Trinitate by
Maximus Planudes in the second half of the XIIIth century. In view of these definite
possibilities, it is impossible simply to quote Barlaamite principles concerning
revelation by means of created symbols from Akindynos and Gregoras, and take it for
granted that they represent an old and well-established Byzantine school of thought, based
on formal repetition or stemming from an Evagrian Platonic or some such
Father John makes much ado about the Platonic symbolism of
Pseudo-Dionysius as represented within a Byzantine tradition as the key to Barlaams
nominalistic thought,  and thus makes a
fundamental mistake similar to that concerning the Evagrian and Macarian antropologies and
their importance to the controversy in question. At this point one may ask again: Is there
an Eastern patristic tradition which interprets Dionysius as saying (or which simply
claims, as Barlaam does) that the glory of God revealed in the Old and New Testastaments
is created and merely symbolizes the uncreated divinity? And that vision of this glory is
inferior to revelation by intellection? Or that in the future age there are two glories,
one created and communicable and the other uncreated and incommunicable? Or that in Old
Testament revelations, angels symbolized divinity? Or that divine grace is a created EXIS?
Or that this habitus operates irresistibly? Or that a contemplative is one who
somehow has visions of the divine essence? Hypothetically admitting for a moment that the
Areopagite does agree with Barlaam on any of these points, is there any East Roman Father
or even East Roman humanist, before Franco-Latin theological infiltration into the East,
who interprets St. Dionysius as the Calabrian does?
After describing Le symbolisme Barlaamite, 
which in reality is that of Augustine and every last scholastic of the West, and after
quoting passages demonstrating an identity of opinion on this point between Barlaam on the
one hand and Akindynos and Gregoras on the other, Father John expects the reader to
appreciate from such symbolism le danger que faisait courir au christianism byzantin
la th?ologie nominaliste.  Then, by claiming that this
revelation through created symbols reduces the Eucharist to something purement
symbolique,  he sees a danger which has never occurred
to and has never worried the Latins, since for them there was no communicable sacramental
grace before the Crucifixion, and since for them the light of the Transfiguration has
never been associated with the sacraments. And after describing this revelation by
created symbols which became common to the whole Latin West after Augustine
prevailed, Father John concludes, Il s agissait donc d un mouvement fort
semblable a celui que suscita en Occident la pens?e de Guillaume d Okham et dont
lun des aboutissements fut la r?forme protestante. 
For some reason Father John seems to think that William of Occam invented the Augustinian
explanation of revelation by created symbols such as the Old and New Testament glory of
God, and in his struggle against this Platonic-nominalistic symbolism Palamas
would seem to have saved the Orthodox East from Protestantism. Basing himself on such
observations, Father John goes on, a few pages later, to an amazing conclusion which makes
Palamas and the Latin anti-nominalistic Scholastics defenders of essentially the
same truths. Sur beaucoup de points, l enjeu de la controverse que l
opposait ? ses adversaires ?tait au fond identique ? celui qui, depuis le XVI si?cle,
oppose en Occident R?formateurs et Contre-R?formateurs. La diff?rence ?ssentielle est quen
Orient les d?fenseurs du sacramentalisme r?aliste ignoraient les cat?gories
philosophiques, h?rit?es de la Scholastique, et n opposaient aux nominalistes que
des formules bibliques et patristiques traditionnelles. 
It seems that for Father John the Orthodox insistence on the uncreatedness of sacramental
sanctifying grace and the Roman insistence on the createdness of infused sacramental grace
are essentially the same, and that both doctrines are of equal value against the general
Protestant position. He comes to this conclusion partly by thinking that the Latin West
generally, and scholasticism particularly, are of one accord with Palamas in rejecting
Barlaams and Protestantisms general denial of the vision of God to the viator.
And this denial, according to Father John, reduces the sacraments to mere symbols. So he
would have it that Palamas and the Latin scholastics were struggling against a common
enemy, nominalism, which prepared the way for a future common enemy, Protestantism.
 Vol. III of Patristica Sorbonensia, edited by H. I. Marrou and published by
Editions du Seuil, Paris, 1959. Hereinafter cited as Introduction.
 Vols. xxx and xxxi of Spicilegium Sacrum Lovaniense: Etudes et Documents, Louvain,
1959. Hereinafter cited as D?fense.
 Les debuts de la controverse h?sychaste, in Byzantion, xxiii,
1953. Un mauvais th?ologien de l unit?, in L Eglise et les
Eglises, II, Chevetogne, 1955. Introduction, pp. 74, 282. Humanisme
nominaliste et mystique chr?tienne ? Byzance au xiv si?cle, in Nouvelle Revue Th?ologique,
Vol. LXXIX, 1957.
 Introduction, pp. 67, 70, 84, 85, 173, 195, 201, 205, 212, 216, 221 n. 115,
223, 224, 252, 253, 259, 261, 269, 281, 282, 286, 288, 289, 290, 323, 347, 348, 350, 356,
 Introduction, pp. 193, 323.
 Introduction, pp. 173, 175, 323-324. Since Occam is the only nominalist
mentioned by Meyendorff, it seems clear that by nominalism he means Occamistic
 Introduction, pp. 186, 223, 258, 259.
 Ibid., p.186.
 For a recent discussion on Barlaams philosophy see G. Shiro, O VARLAAM
KAI H FILOSOFIA EIS TIN THESSALONIKI KATA TON DEKATON TETARTON AIONA, Thessalonica,
 Prof. P. Christou of the University of Thessalonica, in his article PERI TA AITIA
THS HESYCHASTIKIS ERIDOS, in GREGORIOS PALAMAS, 1956, admirably develops his reasons why
he believes Gregoras and possibly Barlaam should be considered nominalists. Apart from a
bibliographical notice, Meyendorff avoids any reference to the view of this important
 D?fense, Tr. I, quest. I, pp. 5-7.
 D?fense, Tr. II, 1, 27, p. 279.
 Within a text condemned by the Council of 1341. J. Karmiris, Dogmatic and
Symbolic Monuments, Athens, 1952, p. 302.
 D?fense, Tr. II, 3, 34, p. 445.
 Text edited by Meyendorff, La premi?re lettre de Palamas ? Akindynos, in
THEOLOGIA, Vol. KST, Athens, 1955, p. 85. See also First letter of Palamas to Barlaam ed.
G. Papamichael, in EKKLISIASTIKOS FAROS, Vol. XIII, 1914, pp. 249 ff.
 Introduction, p. 174. We will return to this important question in Part
 D?fense, Tr. III, 2, 25, p. 687.
 Quoted by Meyendorff (La premi?re lettre de Palamas ? Akindynos, in
THEOLOGIA, Vol. KE, Athens, 1954, p. 607) without the realization that this criticism
indicates that Aquinas himself is much closer to the nominalist position than Barlaam
could ever be.
 Ibid., p. 605 n. 1.
 See note 5 above.
 Introduction, pp. 67, 173 ff. For a development of approximately the same
ideas see G. Shiro, op. cit.
 D?fense, Tr. II, 1, 27, p. 279; II, 1, 26, p. 277.
 KAI AI ARCHAI TON MATHIMATON KAI H PROFITEIA KAI ITISOYN APOKALIPSIS,
TIAFTA ESTIN, OIA MH DOTHENTA MEN, HYPERVAINEIN ANTHROPINON LOGISMON, DOTHENTA DE,
EXIKNEISTHO AYTON THN PSYCHIN. D?fense, Tr. II, 1, 26, p. 277.
 D?fense, Tr. II, 1, 28, ?. 279.
 G. Shiro ably describes Barlaams syllogistic method at arriving at these
conclusions, but makes the same mistake as Meyendorff in generalizing his Filioque
skepticism into a universal principle for all theological matters. Op. cit., p. 14.
 G. Shiro, op. cit., p. 8.
 For a primitive form of Barlaams views, see Augustines De
Trinitate, II, v, 10; vi, 11; viii, 14; ix, 16; x, 17, 18; xiii, 23; xiv, 24; xv, 25,
26; xvi, 26; xvii, 32; xviii, 35; III, pref., 3; iv, 10; x, 21-xi, 22, 24, 26, 27. For
remarks on Barlaams Augustinian Latin background see my article Debate Over
Theodore of Mopsuestias Christology, in Greek Orthodox Theological Review,
Vol. V, No. 2, 1959-60, p. 180 ff., especially notes 144 and 145. As is to be expected,
Barlaam does not quote St. Augustine on this question, and perhaps this explains Father
Meyendorffs failure to look into a possible connection between the two. After so
many years of debate over the Filioque question a reference to the authority of St.
Augustine could not be decisive for the Greeks, unless supported by the Greek Patristic
 Palamas reports that Barlaam changed his former accusation of satanic
to natural upon the publication of his work. D?fense, Tr. II, 1, 3, p.
231. See note 46 below.
 Introduction, pp. 196 ff. One gets the impression that this distinction is the
crux of Meyendorffs approach.
 For description of Barlaams frenzy (EMANI) over claims to vision see D?fense,
Tr. II, 3, 58, p. 509.
 Introduction, pp. 70 ff., 195-222.
 Introduction, pp. 175 ff.
 Confessions, VII, 9. Compare this to St. John Chrysostom, quoted in J. S.
Romanides, TO PROPATORIKON AMARTIMA, Athens, 1957, p. 99.
 Introduction, p. 230.
 D?fense, Tr. I, 3, 43 ff., p. 203 ff.; II, 3, 20:50, p. 429, 489.
 D?fense, Tr. III, 2, 13, p. 667. This text is quoted by Meyendorff without
notice of its possible Latin derivation. Introduction, p. 283.
 D?fense, Tr. III, 1, 31, p. 617.
 D?fense, Tr. II, 1, 30, p. 283.
 Introduction, p. 204.
 D?fense, Tr. II, 3, 7:12, pp. 399, 409.
 It is interesting to note that about the tome Barlaam went to Avignon (1339) on a
mission for unity on behalf of the Emperor, Benedict XII, the Pope who received him, was
not very far from issuing his Condemnation of Armenian Errors, among which was the Greek
Patristic teaching that in the next life the saints do not see and will not see the divine
essence, but rather the uncreated glory of God. A study of the bearing this may have on
Barlaams KATA MASSALIANON may help in understanding the Calabrians renewed
zeal against the Hesychasts, in spite of the fervent appeals of his friends and Palamas to
drop the matter and his promises to do so.
 D?fense, Tr. II, 3, 58:59, pp. 509, 511; III, 1, 23 ff., p. 601; III, 3, 2, p.
697. In this last passage Palamas is attempting to prove that for Barlaam the prophetic
visions of the Old Testament are demonic. This attempt can be understood only in the light
of Palamas claim that in the original text shown to him by Barlaam the Hesychasts
religious experiences were described as demonic and the Hesychasts prayer practices as
OMFALOPSYCHIA. Tr. II, 1, 3. On the basis of the original text Palamas wrote his First
Triad. Evidently Palamas was embarrassed upon the circulation of Barlaams work,
since not only the caricature of OMFALOPSYCHIA, was missing, but also the accusation of
demonic experiences. Hence his attempt in Tr. III, 3, 2. Palamas is at a loss to explain
the change. A clue to Barlaams conduct, however, may be seen in Palamas claim
that in the Calabrians original work there were no references to the prophetic
revelations or to the essence of God. Tr. II, 3, 13, p. 413. At first Barlaam obviously
did not associate the Hesychasts tradition with the prophetic experiences and, therefore,
felt free to describe them as demonic. When he was forced, however, by Palamas and the
Hesychasts to make this association, he evidently then realized that he could best argue
by refuting his opponents with what he believed to be the universal teaching of
Christendom concerning prophetic revelations. Hence his shift from caricature to serious
theological debate. This explains why he dropped the term OMFALOPSYCHIA and exchanged the
term FYSIKA for that of DAIMONIODH. That the change in Barlaams tactics began with
his personal contact with Palamas is evident from the fact that St. Gregory already refers
to the Calabrians teaching about the prophetic experience in Tr. !, 3, quest. (pp.
103-105), in spite of the fact that he informs us that Barlaams original manuscript
contained nothing on this topic.
 See note 7 above.
 See note 28 above.
 Introduction, pp. 257 ff.
 Introduction, pp. 259 ff.
 Introduction, p. 261.
 Ibid. See also p. 350.
 Introduction, p. 269.
From the The Greek Orthodox Theological
Review, Volume VI, Number 2, Winter, 1960-61. Published by the Holy Cross Greek
Orthodox Theological School Press, Brookline, Massachusetts. It has been mirrored from the
author's website at http://www.romanity.org.