Orthodoxy, Predestination, and Poetry

The Theological Oration of John Scotus Eriugena to the Council of Bishops gathered in Rheims in the Year of Our Lord 843 by Archbishop Hincmar, of the same:

Joseph P. Farrell

16 Responses to Orthodoxy, Predestination, and Poetry

  1. Daniel Jones says:

    Okay Proclus. All I want to hear from you is an acknowledgement that AT LEAST it looks like Plotinus is being inconsistent. Farrell notes that Plotinus believes God is Beyond Being. He just doesn’t think Plotinus is consistent. And what about the quotes from Plotinus “that multiplicity is defective because it is not one” or that “distinction is opposition.” Those are not Orthodox statements, by any means, nor do I think they can be pounded out to be.


  2. proclus says:


    I’m not an expert in Plotinus. I am simply siding with Perl. But one thing I am sure of is that we ought not “spoof-text” Plotinus. He is a sophisticated thinker but one whose manner of expression is often obscure. His scheme needs to be looked at as a whole before one draws conclusions about what a particular passage may or may not mean.

    The problem with transubstantiation is that ultimately it is a denial of the Incarnation. That is why, pardon me for saying so St. Thomas, it is “stupid.”

  3. Daniel Jones says:


    Fair enough. But I do not see Palamas agreeing with this:

    He is his own act, and is what He is not by chance but according to His own activity…So He is not ‘as He happened to be,’ but as he Himself wills…His essential being is his self-directed activity, and this is one with Himself.–Enneads VI:8:17

    “His essential being is his self-directed activity…” What do you think that phrase means?

    And I don’t think transubstantiation is an absolutely stupid idea, I think they were just trying to do the best they could. Things for this school are either substance or they are accidents. But I do disagree with the doctrine for the reasons that you indicate.


  4. proclus says:


    I agree with you and Palamas that the dialectic does not align one with God. What Platonism does do, however, is free us from our idolatry for things like a “supreme being” and prepare the mental ground so that we can be united to the God “beyond being” who, qua “beyond being,” cannot be grasped by concepts (even simplicity) but is beyond all affirmations and all negations. Palamas is not saying anything that Plato or Plotinus wouldn’t fundamentally agree with. Recall that Plotinus is known as the philosopher of “mystical experience;” that is why he is so readily dismissed by the Aristotelian-analytical school of “philosophy.” What Palamas has that Plato-Plotinus don’t have is the locus of Christ-Church, the final revelation.

    The problem with Aquinas is that unlike Palamas he doesn’t hold both sides of the Platonic antinomy that “the divinity beyond being is the being of beings.” See Summa 1a 3 8. This is why Aquinas has to come up with absolutely stupid ideas like trans-substantiation. For Thomas the eucharist can’t be two “substances” both bread and God. The eucharist is no problem for a Platonist, for it is the very same mystery of creation-incarnation, the beyond being graciously becoming the being of every being. The Word perfects-completes the eucharist-creation by his incarnation, he doesn’t change it or “confect” it. The bread is and becomes both bread and God.

    Maximus, “The things which are by nature far separated from each other return into one, converging with each other in the one nature of man, and God himself becomes all things in all things, embracing and enhypostasizing all things in himself, whereby we are and are called Gods and children and body and limbs and parts of God.”

    Thanks for you-know-what. I’m getting close.

  5. John Stamps says:

    Hi Photius,
    You’re right.
    It’s working now.
    Take care.

  6. Daniel Jones says:


    The link appears to be working for me. Try it again.


  7. John Stamps says:

    Hi Friends,
    I’m trying to read Farrell’s “The Theological Oration of John Scotus Eriugena to the Council of Bishops gathered in Rheims in the Year of Our Lord 843 by Archbishop Hincmar, of the same:” via the URL you directed us to, but the link no longer works. I ended up reading Google’s cached version (woohoo). Fascinating stuff. But what’s up with this piece? Is it for real? Can you give us some context about it?
    Thanks in advance.
    In Christ,

  8. Daniel Jones says:


    Do you believe the dialectical method is the sure-fire way of attaining and becoming united with the truth? Gregory Palamas sure didn’t think so, that was the whole point of the hesychastic controversey. Is union with the truth acquired through dialectics or experience? Dialectics can be useful as Palamas will make use of it at times, like pushing his opponents view to reductio ad absurdum, but one doesn’t not obtain truth by it. Farrell is right on here.


  9. Cyril says:

    As far as bursting bubbles, a friend of mine who was Farrell’s student at St Tikhons bought those books on the pyramid of Giza: they’re not science fiction, but claim as fact that the pyramid was an ancient weapon developed by a still more ancient but advanced human civilization. My friend was dumbfounded. Perhaps this is a warning for those leaving canonical Orthodoxy.


  10. Perry Robinson says:


    Sorry to burst your bubble, but I have been entirely won over to the idea that the Dionysian corpus wasn’t written by a Syrian source but rather Damascius, a head of the Academy and convert to Christianity who also I believe was a disciple of Proclus.

  11. proclus says:

    And, yes, it was me, along with Severus and John of Scythopolis, who authored the Dionysian corpus. I would be hesitant to follow Farrell in his alleged rejection of platonic dialectical ascent to the Good beyond being who has graciously, mysteriously, and antinomically become the being of beings. After all, in the post above Farrell is celebrating the latin master of greek patristic-platonic dialectic, John the Scot.

  12. proclus says:


    Would you please be so kind as to erase comment three and re-protect my on-line identity. I believe I have good reasons, stemming from my current position, which prevent me from making criticisms of the western theological tradition in my own name.

  13. David Richards says:

    Farrell is eloquent (I admit to not having a chance to reading any of his books). I especially like this theological formulation: “If God the Father predestined only a few eternally, then God the Son died only for the elect, thus there are some men who, not rising again in Christ, the Second Adam, will not inherit anything from the First Adam. Not inheriting our common corruption and death, from our common father, they will therefore have no need of Christ and His Resurrection.” Of course, this is something I already knew, but he put it more concisely and forcefully than I ever could. Good stuff.

  14. Cyril says:

    Yes. He was ordained a priest in the OCA, but ran afoul of then bishop Herman while teaching at St Tikhons (he didn’t like going to the monastery church as–if I remember correctly–he didn’t think it traditional enough [I shall double check on this]). He then drifted about and joined himself to the Celtic Orthodox church where he took the name Photios. He has since, I believe, renounced this consecration, though where he is now eccelisastically I don’t know, but I don’t think him an episcopus vagans anymore.


  15. Daniel Jones says:


    Farrell is a bishop? He’s received the sacrament of orders?


  16. Cyril says:

    Perhaps Proclus is wishing to testify that it was he who copied Dionysius, and not the other way round.

    On an equal note, I have now found that Joseph Farrell (aka bishop Photios of the Celtic Orthodox Church) has written a number of sci-fi type novels [ http://www.bestprices.com/cgi-bin/vlink/bookauthors/books-by-author-Joseph-P.-Farrell.html ]. Of course none of this can compare with the bizare world that was my parish’s annual meeting yesterday. Some of us objected to the parish sponsoring bus trips to Atlantic City, for which we were dubbed with having the kind of fanaticism that leads to heresies. All night that verse kept haunting me: The moderation for Thy house hath eaten me up. I was joined in my proto-heresy by one of Joseph Farrell’s former students, who got me his three volumes on God, Dialectic and History.

    It was reading Farrell’s books that prompted a question (at last to the point) I posed some months back, and all which relates to dialectic and ADS: if the law of contradiction as Aristotle initially posited it is first a rule touching being, and the rule as regards logic is thus consequent, does this not rule out an ADS interpretation. Since God is beyond logic He is also beyond being (pace Hart) and thus beyond also the dialectical category (which Plotinus’s to hen was not) of unity. Perhaps this is too simplistic, but I am largely following Farrell here. When I get the chance I will dig out his section on Plotinus and reproduce a discrete part.

    All the best,


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