Hierarchies of Beings in the Patristic Thought. Maximus the Confessor, John of Damascus and the Palamite literature
The article traces of how the topic of the hierarchy of the participating beings, given by Dionysius the Areopagite on the basis of the Neoplatonic triad (tetrad) (Goodness) Being, Life, Mind, and, as it is supposed, of the doctrine of the hierarchy of natural beings in Gregory of Nyssa, was developed in the doctrines of Maximus the Confessor, John of Damascus and Gregory Palamas. Three philosophical paradigms of participation in substance, which were used in the Patristic thought, are identified, and the hierarchy of beings is viewed in their context. The traces of the Neoplatonic triad and tetrad are shown in the writings of Maximus the Confessor. The article analyzes Maximus’s treatment of the hierarchy of natural abilities possessed by the created beings, according to which each created being participates in God as well as the problem of what the participated beings are in respect of the participating abilities. John of Damascus’s doctrine of the hierarchy of participating beings is viewed, and its dependence on Dionysius the Areopagite is pointed out along with some difference in the nature and the levels of hierarchy in comparison with the hierarchies of Dionysius and Maximus. The reasons for the dissimilarities are discussed. The suggestion concerning the onset of he controversy on the nature of the hierarchy of beings in the Palamite controversy is put forward on the basis of a passage from Disypatos’s Short History, discovered by R. Browning. Gregory Palamas’s doctrine of the hierarchy of participating beings is analyzed along with its similarities and differences in the levels of hierarchies in respect to Dionysius. It is stated that unlike the previous authors, Gregory treats the topic of hierarchy of participating beings in strict connection with the supernatural participation of created beings in the divinity. It is shown that Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory Palamas used contrasting conceptual frameworks regarding the concepts applied to describing the deifying participation in God in their discussion of the hierarchy of beings. Finally, in the appendix, David Disypatos’s teaching on the hierarchy of beings with its specific features is presented.