The 9th Century Crisis: Political, Theological, Social, and Prophetic

Farrell, Most Rev. Bishop Photios, S.S.B. God, History, and Dialectic: The Theological Foundations of the Two Europes and Their Cultural Consequences.  Excerpt from Volume II:

The Inception of the Two Europes

The Ninth Century Crisis and the Emergence of the Two Europes: The First Phase and its Central Ikon


The mediaevalist Norman Cantor made the following suggestive observation in a book on mediaeval historiography that is replete with intriguing implications:

We have not dealt with the making of the other Middle Ages — primarily Arab, Byzantine, and Jewish.  That is the subject of another inquiry.  It is my personal prejudice that while these other mediaeval civilizations are of enormous importance not only intrinsically but in respect to their impact on the West, for a variety of reasons, including sheer chance, the magisterial intellectua; structures that were created to priviliedge of the European Middle Ages in the twnetieth century were largely lacking with respect to the conceptualization of these other mediaeval socieities.[i]

The remarks are intriguing because they allude to the elevation of the historiographical tradition of Western Europe to “canonical status”, yet hint that something is amiss that cannot be explained solely by reference to the West.  Paradoxically, it is the Jewish and Islamic aspects of “the other Middle Ages” that are the most understood by the West, and the other Christian Middle Ages, that of the splendid edifice of the Byzantine Roman Empire and Church, that are so obscure.  And yet, it is the Byzantine Empire and Church which hold the key to the decryption of the central moment in the emergence of the two Europes, that moment in the ninth century when Augustinism becomes the broad theological culture of the Frankish empire, and has begun both to be driven by, and to drive, the political and cultural outlook of the West, and come into conflict with the First Europe’s representative in the West: the papacy.  Without that perspective, all remains obscure at best or unintelligible at worst.

And so we come to the central moment in the history of the Two Europes, that moment at which they begin to diverge in and take on definite shape, the great Act that lies almost at the exact mid-point between the inception of Christianity on the one hand and the final collapse of Western Christian unity during the Protestant and Catholic Reformations on the other: the Coronation of Charlemagne by Pope Leo III on 25 December, 800.  It is an event with a typological significance (for such was it interpreted, or rather, mis-interpreted by the Franks), looking back to Constantine and forward to Otto III, Friedrich II, Henry VIII, and the Peace of Westphalia (1648), for Charlemagne’s imperial-ecclesiastical policy becomes the first embodiment of the principle that will come to dominant the Reformation period: cuius regio eius religio, “whose the region, his the religion.”

One may imagine the powerful typological significance that the coronation of Charlemagne held, at least in certain quarters, and how it arose:  The congregation in the vast basilica fell silent, anxious to hear the words.  The faithful stood on their tip toes to catch a glimpse of the Act.  A man with white flowing hair, dressed in a Greek Emperor’s coronation robe, bowed his head reverently before the Pope, who stood in front of him, anointing him and placing a diadem on his head.  And then there was some Latin spoken: Carole magne, rex Francorum et Langobardum, tu coronatus  et constitutus Imperator Romanorum es,[ii]  or words to that effect.

But here, at the precipice, unanimity of interpretation stops; two historiographical traditions are about to diverge, and the historiography of the Second Europe hesitates, even now, uncertain of how to understand the confusion in the historical record that then ensues. We are told that the man who was crowned is shocked and surprised; one might perhaps go so far as to say, even angry.  And the man who crowned him is neither shocked, nor angry.  Indeed, we know nothing of his reaction to the event, except that his subsequent actions seem curiously inconsistent toward his new-found Frankish ally.  The man who was crowned was, of course, Charlemagne, Karl der Grosse, and the man who crowned him, that most enigmatic and subtle of the enigmatic and subtle Roman Popes, was Leo III. And in the events that spin forth from that day to the final schism between Rome and Constantinople in 1014-1054, it is Leo III, and not just Charlemagne, whose acts and motivations require the most explanation.  Clearly the primary evidence, the testimony of Charlemagne contemporary and biographer, Einhard the monk, indicates that something had happened to upset Charlemagne: the chasm has opened at his feet, perhaps.  But the daunting question remains: did Leo III know this would be the Frank’s reaction?

The standard historiographical explanation runs something as follows:  both Leo and Charlemagne previously agreed that he would be made Emperor.  There was a precedent in the Papacy’s long involvement and sanction of the Merovingian kings, for from the time of the Greek Pope Zacharias and King Clovis, the relationship between the Popes and the Frankish monarchs had been one ranging from cordiality to outright alliance.  Clovis, after all, had his dynasty largely by the sanction of the papacy.

Political Donatism of Papal Politics

But Charlemagne had other reasons to seek the imperial purple.  According to yet another standard view, it was a kind of inevitability; the title would give a kind of cultural and political completeness to Charlemagne far-flung dominions that they otherwise lacked; the title plus the Catholic religion would be powerful forces toward promoting greater cohesiveness.  And so, according to the broad outlines of the historiographic tradition of the Second Europe, Charlemagne, that consummate practitioner of ninth century Realpolitik was “waiting” (perhaps deliberately?) for Leo the geopolitically perspicacious Pope, who, seeing far into the European future, anticipated the necessity of a break with Byzantium and a reorientation Westward, and, stepping boldly onto the stage of history like a Hegelian “man of destiny,” altered its course with a crown.  And, naturally, both players became — and to a great degree — remain the heroes of this historiographic tradition.   This tradition gets at least some of the story right, for by focusing, not on Charlemagne, but on Leo, it casts him as the Pope who begins the process of breaking the papacy free from the Byzantine cultural orbit.

The details, or at least some of them, seem to support this interpretation quite conveniently.  Charlemagne had held a council in Frankfurt in 794.  There he charted an independent course for his imperial church.  The Ikons were accepted as religious art and decoration and could be employed for educational purposes, but were not to be venerated.   They possessed no liturgical function.  Leo’s predecessor, Pope Hadrian, however, remained loyal to the Roman, which is to say, Byzantine view of things, and did not confirm the King’s council.  Then, thankfully, Hadrian died, and Leo was elected by acclamation over the opposition of the candidate of Hadrian’s old Roman senatorial family.  Accosted by Hadrian’s relatives, who attempt to blind the new Pope and render him thus canonically unfit for office, Leo is first thrown into prison, then escapes, and makes his way to Paderborn, and to the Frankish king, thus opening one faction within papal politics to growing Frankish influence and, some would argue, domination,[iii] until the Papal reform movement “rescues” it and restores its independence of action.

And there, so the scholarly speculation continues, both men agreed upon a bargain:  Charlemagne would return with Leo to Rome, “try” him[iv] before his opposition, restore him to his throne, and Leo, in return, would make Charlemagne Emperor and favorite son of a grateful papacy.[v]  Moreover, in certain variants of this historiographical tradition that are more aware of the role of East Roman politics in the policies of the papacy and the Frankish king, both allegedly agreed to this because the woman Irene ruled “unconstitutionally” in New Rome.

Irene and Feminization

In point of fact, however, Irene’s reign marked a distinctive phase in the growing reflection on the meaning of theological concepts as applied, in Byzantium, to law.  When she governed the Empire as Regent for her son Constantine VI, prior to taking over total control, official Roman imperial documents referred to her not as “Empress” but precisely as “Emperor”.[vi] This indicates that the East Roman Empire has completed a crucial insight of constitutional development: the masculinity of the Emperor attaches less to the person and more to the office.  Irene the person may have been female, but the office and authority she exercized was essentially masculine.  It was this assertion that led, eventually, to her downfall in 802 in the coup led by Nikephoros, for such assertions implied a fundamental theological confusion that the Byzantine constitution could not accept.  And of course, neither could Byzantium’s papal ally.

It is important, however, to observe just exactly what the difficulty was. The difficulty was not over the fact that Irene exercised the actual authority of the imperium. If that were the problem, she would have encountered a more vociferous constitutional opposition when she exercised this power as Regent for her son. The real opposition began after she disposed of her son altogether, and claimed to exercise not only the authority of the Emperor as the head of government, but also to fulfill his specifically liturgical role as head of state.  In the latter capacity, the emperor was, as Justinian stated in the Sixth Novella, the semi-hieratic head of a hierarchy.  He was, in effect, the living ikon of Christ’s governance and providential ordering of the world.  Irene, as a woman, simply could not function in the “liturgy of state” as that ikon.  She could not mirror in earthly fashion the heavenly order, and in the East Roman view, this was to break the link between the two that was the Emperor’s person.  This liturgical function of government is indicated by one of the Byzantine Emperor’s most important legal powers and responsibilities: the election of patriarchs to fill vacant sees.

With this power, one encounters in graphic fashion the manner in which Justinian’s “symphony” of Church and Imperium worked.  The Emperor elected, but the Church consecrated and vested, a patriarch who, after all, was only a bishop. His jurisdiction as a partriarch depended less on the fact that he was a bishop, and more on the fact that he was a bishop in a particular place within the Empire, and thus his canonical authority as a patriarch depended not on his authority as a bishop in apostolic succession, but on the authority granted to him in canon law as a functionary within the good ordering of the Empire.  One need only recall that this was precisely the basis on which the 28th canon of Chalcedon argued for the elevation of Constantinople’s bishop to the status of a patriarch with equal canonical priviledges as that of the patriarch of the West, the Roman Pope.  No divine authority attached to the office of patriarch as such.  Only human and imperial authority did.

And here lies the basis of the later conflicts over Investiture in the West, for the Holy Roman Emperors, acting deliberately and consciously on this understanding of good order which they have borrowed from Byzantium encounter direct opposition with the Popes of Rome, for whom the papal office is not a matter merely of imperial legislation, but of divine right.  At stake in those controversies is thus not only what is understood to be the powers and office of the Emperor, but the powers and office of the bishop.  The gold of the emperor’s crown, a “sempiteternal” and quasi-everlasting substance, was like the gold of the bishop’s mitre, the visible symbol of the quasi-eternal character of his authority and powers,[vii] such that the hieratic and liturgical office never died, only the person filling it did.

It is in this context that Charlemagne’s geopolitical ambitions are born.  All could be accomplished in a single stroke: with the imperial title, Charlemagne could marry Irene, save her regime by restoring its liturgical and therefore constitutional legitimacy, the two Empires could thereby literally be married, and the Frankish King would indeed be a Roman Emperor, reigning and ruling a reunited Roman and Christian Reich stretching from the English channel to Asia minor. And Leo would, of course, be the first, most influential and powerful bishop in the Church.

But the Plan fell apart for two reasons favoured by the historigraphical tradition of the Second Europe: first, Irene was overthrown by a palace and senatorial coup led by the Logothete of the treasury, Nikephoros; second, as the new Emperor, Nikephoros would not, and did not, accept Charlemagne’s title, “Emperor of the Romans.”

But the “marriage” explanation, convenient as it seemingly is in terms of Byzantine constitutional theory, is not without its own difficulties; indeed, it serves to focus the historiographical difficulty much more acutely.  Charlemagne’s biographer, the monk Einhardt states, in an oft-cited quotation, that “the king would not have entered the basilica that day at all if he had had any idea of what Leo intended to do.”[viii] Here one encounters the historiographical difficulty, for if Charlemagne indeed desired the imperial title, and negotiated successfully with Leo to that end at Paderborn some months before his coronation, as most scholars agree, then Leo would have had to crown and anoint him according to the imperial ritual used by the Patriarchs in Constantinople.  This means in turn that Charlemagne would have had to have been vested with imperial vestments, and that implies, among other things, an elaborate preparation, not the least including being measured for the elaborate imperial vestments.  These considerations mean, finally, that the Frankish king would have to have known, before he entered St. Peter’s Lateran basilica, what was going to happen.[ix]

Or at least, he thought he knew what was going to happen.  For one must assume, if one is to be faithful to the evidence, that his surprise as recorded by Einhardt is genuine, and not feigned.  “He would not,” after all, “have entered the church at all that day, if he knew what Leo was going to do.”[x] So the basic and acute difficulty comes most sharply into focus: How does one account for the preparation for the event, and the foreknowledge on Charlemagne’s part that these preparations imply, and yet his very real surprise?

From the foreshortened perspective of the traditional historiography of the Second Europe, one cannot, for the very reason that that perspective is a consequence of the actions that spin forth from that Christmas day in 800 A.D.  While there are indeed two parts to “Europe”, a Byzantine and a Frankish, there are not yet Two Europes with which to contend, and therefore the Byzantine perspective must be totally reintegrated into the events of the ninth century in order to gain a broader basis from which to account for the historiographical difficulty.  The effects of such reintegration lead to a much different historiographical interpretation than ultimately obtains in the “canonical” tradition of the Second Europe.  These may be summarized as follows:

(1) Charlemagne is not the “hero” of the event, but the “villain”;

(2) Leo is not the perspicacious Pope who breaks with the East and casts the Papacy’s lot with the Western Empire, but is motivated by considerations which are the exact opposite of the way the Second Europe’s historiography traditionally portrays him, for he is the consistent spoiler of Charlemagne’s religio-geopolitical ambitions who, far from desiring or orchestrating a break with the East Romans, did everything in his power to prevent that break from occurring, even to the point of a serious theological censure of the whole Augustinian foundation and paradigm of the Frankish Church, of which, as Patriarch of the West, he was the acknowledged canonical head;

(3) Charlemagne’s geopolitical ambitions are disclosed in the Council of Frankfurt (794); 

(4) His actions subsequent to the coronation display the same ambitions, particularly in his possible orchestration of the Palestinian Crisis of 810, designed perhaps to force Leo once and for all into subjection to those ambitions;

(5) Leo’s actions subsequent to the coronation are not those of a pro-Frankish Pope, but of an ardently Roman, and therefore, pro-Byzantine Pope, which actions form the basis from which to speculate on his possible motivations in the coronation itself;

(6) Therefore, it is probable that Leo’s actions in the coronation are the actions of an ardently Roman and pro-Byzantine Pope, and this was somehow immediately made known to Charlemagne during the coronation itself, during which time Leo “spoiled” him of his ambition, and that this is the real explanation of Charlemagne’s surprise;

(7) The subsequent contest between Leo and Charlemagne thus form the ultimate backdrop for the later controversies between the Roman Popes and Patriarch Photius(ca. 858-881);

(8) Thus, the real origins for the German-o-Frankish Papal Reform movement are perhaps to be sought in the Papal defeat of Charlemagne’s ambitions, and in the Germano-Frankish desire to wrest the papacy from the Byzantine orbit.


The Disclosure of Charlemagne’s Geopolitical Ambitions at the Council of Frankfurt(794)

When the Council of Frankfurt was held in 794 under Charlemagne’s inspiration and summons, it was by no means clear which party –Ikonodules or Ikonoclasts — would win out in the East Roman Empire.  It will be recalled that the Ikonodules insisted not only on the value of Ikons as religious art and decoration, but on their theological significance as implications of the Incarnation; they therefore played (and continue to play) a significant role in the liturgical worship of the Byzantino-Orthodox East.  Conversely, the Ikonoclasts prohibitted the ikons altogether, both as focuses of liturgical veneration and as instructional aids.

The theological-geopolitics of Charlemagne’s agenda are thus evident: by insisting on the acceptability of ikons on the one hand, but by prohibiting their liturgical use or veneration on the other, Charlemagne attempts to steer a via media which, on the basis of the patina of theological and cultural “canonicity” that his council gave him, would allow him to contest the orthodoxy of whichever faction ultimately emerged victorious in Byzantium.  The obstacle to these ambitions was, of course, the Papacy of Pope Hadrian, which confirmed the Constantinopolitan Church’s dogmatic position as defined in the Seventh Oecumenical Council (787) held under the Empress Irene’s auspices, and which vindicated the theological position of the Ikonodules.[xi]

The scope of the Frankish king’s ambitions is now evident, as are the lengths to which he will go to pursue them.  His vision is first that of a restored and reunited Christian Roman Empire under Frankish hegemony.  And to achieve this, he is willing to play fast and loose with the dogmas and unity of the Catholic Church, even defying the Papacy,[xii] to achieve his ends.

But if this is indeed consistent interpretive paradigm of the period, then it is necessary to discover whether or not Charlemagne’s activities subsequent to his coronation support the thesis of a similar agenda after his coronation.  The answer is yes, and lies in the Palestinian Crisis of 810.

Chalremagne’s Ambitions Subsequent to the Coronation:

The Palestinian Crisis of 810 and the Council of Aachen in 813:


The theological crisis of the ninth century exists in two distinct phases.  The first comprises the period to 813, and consists of a conflict between Rome and New Rome on the one hand, and the Frankish imperial church on the other.  The second consists of the conflict between the papacy of Nicholas I and Patriarch Photius of Constantinople.[xiii] We shall refer to each phase as the Frankish vs. Roman phase, and as the Second European vs. First European phase, respectively.

The Frankish vs. Roman phase exhibits the same outlines of a consuming passion on Charlemagne’s part for a unified imperial-ecclesiastical realm.  At the outset, however, it is vitally important to understand that the immediate target of these events is not, as with the Council of Frankfurt, the Papacy and Byzantium.  Here the target is clear: it is Leo III and the papacy   which are Charlemagne’s principal targets.  Byzantium enters his calculations only as a foil to the Papacy.  Why this is so will become evident as the examination of the evidence proceeds, for it is in this phase that the specter of a tearing asunder of “Europe” into Two Europes becomes visible, with Leo III trying desperately to ward off a critical situation.

The principal piece of evidence in this regard is The Epistle of the Pilgrim Monks Living on Mount Olivet to the Roman Pontiff (807).[xiv] The letter contains statements by Frankish pilgrim monks that bear careful scrutiny, which are examined seriatim here:

(1) “John, who was from the Monastery of St. Sabbas…(said) that the Franks who are on Mount Olivet are heretics.  He also said to us that ‘all you Franks are heretics,’ and he reproved our faith by saying that it is no better than heresy.”


John is an East “Roman” monk, as is proven by his association with the well-known St. Sabbas monastery.  But the real significance of the Frankish monks’ remarks lies in the fact that John has accused them of a sort of national heresy.  This is significant, for in all the previous struggles with various heresies, the name of the heresy itself was derived from the heresiarch who invented or promoted it.[xv] Even Ikonoclasm, which might seem an exception, is in the literature and anathemas of the day described by association with the various Ikonoclastic emperors who promoted it.[xvi] Monophysitism, which became a nationalistic cause after Chalcedon is no exception, for its tenets can be traced unequivocally to Severus of Antioch and Philoxenus of Mabbug, and it is so referred to in the patristic literature of the period.[xvii] Here, then, is a first both in the controversial literature of theology and the historiographical tradition which emerges from it: a heresy whose personal origin the Graeco-Roman Christians of the East are unable to identify by the name of its founder.  Indeed, from their perspective, the Frankish doctrine seems so entrenched that it constitutes for them a sort of tribal, or national heresy, as opposed to the internationalism and Catholicism of Byzantine oikoumene.  Nor can John’s remarks be explained as examples of standard polemical hyperbole, given the even-handed and even confused tone of the Franks’ subsequent remarks in the same epistle.

(2) “And we said to him: ‘Brother, be silent.  Because if you call us heretics, you are calling the holy, Apostolic See heretical.'”


Here is nothing new; the Greeks have encountered such representations of Rome’s incipient doctrine of supremacy before, and rejected it.[xviii][20] But must have seemed new to them, and given them occasion to consider carefully their course of action, was the fact that the Franks as a whole appeared to accept a doctrine without hesitation, a doctrine which was unknown to the East Romans.  This confusion on the part of the East Romans is likewise of great importance in assessing the source of the Franks’ consternation and bewilderment in evidence later in the epistle.  The Franks, too, perceive the difference, not in terms of reference to individual theologians, but as a national deviation on the part of “the Greeks” from what the Franks assume is orthodox teaching.

(3) He sent laymen who wanted to throw us out, saying, ‘You are heretics and the books which you have are heretical.'”


At some point in the developing difficulties in Palestine, the “Greek” monk John, as far as the Franks are concerned, has incited the predominantly Roman Christian laymen of Jerusalem against them.  But one must remain somewhat skeptical toward what the Franks have assumed at this point.  To them, the crisis developed so quickly that they simply assumed that the first one to have noticed a peculiarity in their doctrinal and liturgical practice was also the one who incited the local Christian population to revolt.  But to the Graeco-Romans, who viewed themselves as the defenders and possessors of the Roman faith (i.e., the faith of the Empire whose heart was Constantinople), the Franks would have been seen as innovators.  Thus the Greek reaction is a natural one.  In any case, the Frankish monks were in a serious situation, and realized it:



(4) “(We responded):’Fathers and brothers, look at this man who says such things against us and against the holy Roman Faith, because such things we have never heard about our people.'”


This statement reveals the measure of their consternation, as well as, perhaps, a growing subtlety of diplomacy.  They have admitted to the local Greeks that they have never had their, or their entire people’s faith, so seriously challenged by those who they by now have discovered view themselves as both Roman and Catholic Christians.  Their use of “Roman Faith” here is illustrative of this, for to get the letter through the Caliph’s censors and Byzantium’s spies, a precaution would inevitably have to have been adopted.  This little statement is the first indication that the monks are genuinely confused, and are appealing to Rome both to sort out a situation that they are simply in no position to do, and perhaps to warn Rome of a serious development.  Their concern to warn Rome of a looming crisis becomes evident as the letter proceeds, for they are unable to obtain a satisfactory answer to their implied question:  What is the exact content of Roman faith? 


(5) “‘In the Creed we say more than you, ‘Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son,’ because of which words that John, an enemy of his own soul, says that we are heretics.'”


Here is the focal point of the controversy, the filioque. As the doctrine was never a part of the original creed, the local Greek population would have required little or no instigation by John of St. Sabbas to become hostile toward the Frankish monks.  It is more likely that John emerged as the spokesman for the Greeks.  And at some point in the controversy, they would certainly have encountered a consistency in their Greek opposition which they did not expect: no Greek would maintain that they had removed something from the Creed.  Rather, the Franks would have been rather stubbornly told, and shown with abundant and persuasive documentation, that they had inherited something which had been added, and done so without any detectable or apparent proper oecumenical authority.  That this is not reading too much into their remarks is evident by the next two statements, which should be read in conjunction with each other:


(6) “We begged the men of Jerusalem saying: ‘If you say that we are heretics, you impute heresy to the throne of Blessed Peter, and if you say that, you lead yourselves into sin.'”


(7) “Most benign father, while I thy servant… was in thy holy presence, and in the devout presence of thy son, the most pious Emperor Lord Charles, we heard it said in his chapel in the Creed of faith ‘Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son.'”


Here is rather more clear evidence that the Frankish monks are genuinely perplexed and concerned, for they are simply preserving the Creed in the form they heard in Charlemagne’s chapel.  In other words, the connection between the pilgrim monks and the Frankish Emperor is not hypothetical; it is direct and unequivocal. One may therefore infer that Charlemagne perhaps intentionally sent the monks to Palestine, and trained them liturgically for the purpose, for it is equally crucial to observe what the monks are not saying: they are not trying to defend themselves; rather, they are genuinely confused.  They have, accordingly, referred the whole controversy as far back to its original source as they know to trace it: to Charlemagne’s chapel.  Their remarks also contain yet a second significant omission: they make no clear comment to Leo as to what they think is the doctrine’s orthodoxy or heterodoxy.  They simply pass the controversy on to the only place they know to do it, to Rome. They do so perhaps because they are aware, given the size and consistency of the Greek resistance to them, that a vast and unthinkably catastrophic schism impends.


(8) “…Whence, holy Father, again and again, we ask and beseech thee, postrate upon the ground with tears, that thou deign to search out both  in the Greek as well as in the Latin the holy Fathers who composed the Creed concerning that phrase where it is said ‘Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son.’  For in the Greek they do not say as we do, but rather they say: ‘Who proceedeth from the Father,’ and they view that phrase which we say in the Latin as a serious matter.”



(9) “Deign to give an order to thy son the Emperor Lord Charles because we heard the words ‘Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son‘ in his chapel…”


This is the bombshell: after the Pope is asked to research the matter, the Frankish monks again refer the source for their difficulties back to Charlemagne, and give a final, curious twist to the whole episode by implying that they expect the order will be to suppress the addition. After all, if they were confident of a positive result, no order from Leo to Charlemagne would be needed, since the Frankish emperor was already using the filioque. In other words, the Greeks have, during the course of the controversy, won the Frankish monks more or less over to their own position, and the Frankish monks are writing to Leo to warn him that a crisis is about to break around him.  Why a crisis?

Because, as the Franks indicated at the beginning of their letter, the incipient supremacy of the papacy is at stake, and, as they probably knew all too well, the doctrine of the filioque was used throughout the Western Church over which Leo was patriarch. The only place it remains unused are in the suburbican dioceses of Italy themselves which were under direct papal jurisdiction.  In other words, whether or not one assumes Charlemagne has intentionally orchestrated the affair, Leo is nevertheless in a most untenable position vis-a-vis the Frankish emperor, for he is in a cruel twofold dilemma: (1) he is implicitly threatened with the schism of the whole western Church should he challenge the addition;  (2) and, should he challenge it, then as the Frankish monks have indicated, he is in effect challenging his own supremacy of jurisdiction in the Church.


We have argued thus far that Charlemagne had a consistent ambition which he pursed subsequently to the coronation as before it; we are furthermore persuaded that the evidence, while not conclusive, at least supports the thesis that Charlemagne orchestrated the whole affair to place the papacy precisely in this apparently no-win situation. Finally, as we shall discover, Leo had his own consistently Byzantine world-view which influenced and guided his own policies, a thesis which is nothing less than radical to the historiographical tradition of the Second Europe. The actions of both men in direct response to the Palestinian Crisis reveals these aspects of their character, motivations, and policies.

On the one hand, Charlemagne, whether or not he deliberately orchestrated the Crisis, certainly exploited it as if he had.[xix]  The extent of his dominions would have given him certain and sure intelligence on the fact that the filioque was in use throughout Western Europe except in Rome and Italy themselves.  And his contact with the East, through Irene and the Caliph of Bagdad, Harun al-Raschid, would have told him that it was not a part of the liturgical or dogmatic tradition of the East Romans.[xx] He can thus use the same tactics he employed at Frankfurt, only this time, he has, so he thinks, a much more potent weapon, for if Rome contests the filioque, it must excommunicate the bulk of its own church, relegate itself to a Byzantine backwater, and thus tear the foundation of its claims to supremacy from beneath itself, for it will then have indicated that it had tolerated a heresy for centuries.  On the other hand, if Leo approves the doctrine, Charlemagne knows he will have successfully torn the papacy from the Byzantine orbit and will have a powerful ecclesiastical weapon for use in contesting the claims to orthodoxy of the Byzantine church and its emperors and patriarchs.  It is, in a word (!), full scale ecclesiastical and geopolitical warfare. Thus, if the controvesry was not orchestrated, it was at the very least a godsend for Charlemagne, whose bishops, at the Council in Aachen (813), make the filioque a dogma de fide and send the decisions to Leo for his confirmation.  The cultural significance of this act indicates that the Frankish imperial Church has elevated itself to universal and canonical status, for a dogma de fide must perforce be applicable to the whole universal Church.

Paulinus of Aquileia and the “Theology of Interpolation” as the First Formal Statement of the Historiography of Dogmatic Development


The Carolingian theologians in and around Charlemagne’s court were not oblivious to the fact that the filioque simply was not explicitly taught by any father prior to Augustine.  Indeed, their justification for insisting on the doctrine as a dogma de fidei at Aachen was precisely based upon the theory that doctrine develops, and that their actions at the council were therefore justified, since they were rendering explicit what had earlier only been implicit.

The task of working this out fell to bishop Paulinus, who was made Patriarch of Aquileia in northern Italy by Charlemagne. The Council of Fruili which Paulinus convokes in 797 explicitly taught the filioque on the basis of a carefully worked out theory of how the Creed may be added to.

We must, however, go back to the time of Pope Hadrian to understand the urgency one senses in the documents of Fruili. It will be recalled that Charlemagne convoked the Council of Frankfurt in order to establish a theological basis on which to contest the results of the Ikonclastic controversy in Byzantium.  And it will be recalled that Pope Hadrian explicitly upheld th Byzantine view. In a written response to Carolingian assertions, Hadrian stated: “We have already shown that the divine dogmas of [The Seventh Oecumenical Council of Nicea in 787] are irreprehensible… For should anyone say he differs from the Creed of the above-mentioned Council, he risks differing with the Creed of the Six Holy Councils…” [xxi] In other words, the issue of the filioque had already been raised by the Frankish theologians in connection with the imperial ecclesiastical policy.  Hadrian is in fact responding to an assertion in the “Carolingian Books” (the celebrated Libri Carolini), which were the “official” statement of Charlemagne’s ecclesiastical policy, which accused the then Patriarch of Constantinople, Tarasius (uncle of Photius), as being “not correct in professing that the Holy Spirit proceeds not from the Father and the Son, according to the faith of the Nicene Creed, but that he proceeds from the Father through the Son.”[xxii] Citing passages of Athanasius, Gregory of Nyssa, Hilary of Poitiers, and various other fathers, Hadrian indicates he accepts the standard “Greek” understanding of the phrase “through the Son” as meaning simply that the Spirit is sent into the world by the Son, he nevertheless rejects the use of that phrase to teach that the Spirit has an eternal relation of origin from the Son.  This is important, because one of the fathers whom he cites is precisely Augustine, from the De Trinitate, where the filioque was first explicitly taught, a fact that could not have been lost on Hadrian.  Leo the Third’s predecessor, then, deliberately excluded what the Franks were trying to do.

Paulinus’ council at Fruili thus relies upon a different approach, the theology of interpolation.  This was based on several basic assumptions:

(1) Citing the fact that the Second Oecumenical Council of Constantinople (381) had added to the Creed, Paulinus maintained that the Creed could legitimately be added to if the addition were in accord with the original intention of the fathers; and,

(2) if such addition were not contradictory to the original meaning of the Creed.

With this, Paulinus has introduced the notion of intention into the mixture, which manifests itself by the attempt to prove, from Scripture and patristic citation, that the filioque was not, in fact, contradictory.  He has, in other words, committed the Frankish Church to a programme which must interpret Scripture in a sense fundamentally different from that of Hadrian and the Byzantino-Roman Church.  By introducing intention the attempt must be made to catalogue phrases that are similar to “from the Son”, such as “through the Son,” and prove that they mean the same thing.  One begins the search, like the Apologists searching the Greek philosophers for conceptions similar to Christian doctrines, for a kind of “filioquist protoevangel” in the pre-Augustinian fathers.

Paulinus’ council and its underlying “theology of interpolation” lays the basis for the overwhelming pressure that Charlemagne brings to bear on Leo.  And it is this pressure that in turn makes the Leo III’s actions in the face of it so significant, exhibiting Leo’s views and reading of the situation for what they had always been: that of a senior Roman hierarch still very much imbued with the Byzantine worldview.  His response to the Frankish Council is a breathtaking refutation of the whole worldview of the Frankish Church and the imperial policy on which it is based, for (1) he orders the filioque suppressed throughout Charlemagne’s realms(i.e., most of western Europe); (2) erects two silver shields in St. Peter’s Lateran Basilica of the Creed in Latin and Greek without the addition, as “a safeguard of the orthodox faith”; (3) informs the Frankish monks that he has no authority to alter the Creed as the fathers formulated it.

The Second Phase and its Central Ikon:The Schism Between Patriarch Photius and Pope Nicholas I


It is the second phase of the crisis that denotes the real emergence of Two Europes.  The Roman Catholic scholar Francis Dvornik’s magisterial study, The Photian Schism, not only did much to rehabilitate Photius in the Roman Church and to challenge the assumptions of its historiographic “memory” of the period, but also minced no words regarding its significance as a founding event in the formation of the two Europes. “The Photian case,” he wrote, “Is not merely a matter of Byzantine interest.  It concerns the history of Christianity and the world, as the appraisement of Photius and his work lies at the core of the controversies that separate Eastern and Western Churches,”[xxiii] and which therefore lies at the heart of the emergence of The Two Europes.

Photius’ critique of the filioque is often perceived only in a narrowly theological sense, but it must be seen in a wider sense, for it is nothing less than a dialectical deduction of ecclesiastical, historiographical, and cultural implications that flow from it.  It would not be going too far to say that Photius perceives that the filioque refounds the basis of the Christian civilization of the Second Europe on a dialectical basis.  Two historiographical traditions take definitive shape during this crisis, even, as shall be seen, which documents each party accepts as authentic, and which each alleges is pseudonymous.  We shall treat each issue in turn:

First, the theological critique of the filioque which Photius undertakes will be examined with a view to making clear the basis of the historical revisionism that begins to take hold in the Second Europe.

Second, we shall explore the way that new historiographical tradition operates, with a view to exhibit the reemergence of the Gnostic strategy of changing the meaning of the texts of the primary founding documents of that culture.

Finally, we shall explore the actual historical sequence of events that embroiled the Pope and the Patriarch in the controversy to highlight the way the two historiographical traditions diverge in their understandings of what happened.

The Theological Critique of the Filioque

Photius’ final word in refutation of the filioque is contained in his last work on the subject, the Mystagogy, written toward the end of his life in the period of his second exile (ca. 882-886).  At the beginning of this work, there is an important paragraph outlining the cultural consequences of the doctrine and its adoption by the Western Church.  Photius questions its legality, or canonicity:

Which of our common and holy fathers said that the Spirit proceeds from the Son?  Did any oecumenical confession [of faith] establish it?  And which of the great priests and bishops, inspired of God, affirmed this understanding of the Holy Spirit?… For the second of the seven Holy and Oecumenical Councils delcared that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father.  The third received that tradition, the fourth confirmed it, the fifth supported the same doctrine, the sixth sealed it, and the seventh contended for and proclaimed it.[xxiv]

These implications are explored in detail at the end of the work.  In essence, Photius maintains that the filioque subverts the proper nature of ecclesiastical authority by a programme of textual reinterpretation.  This reinterpretation takes five broad forms.

(1) First, he maintains that the filioque compells the West to search for implicit allusions to the doctrine in fathers prior to Augustine, since the speculative “theologoumena” or opinion of one man has been raised to dogmatic status:

“If Gregory and Zacharias, so many years distant from each other, did not have the knowledge about the procession of the Most Holy Spirit that you do, and if the ones who came between them on the succession list of Roman bishops enjoined the same doctrines without novelty, being warmed by faith, but rather advocated the same dogmas, then not only these two poles, but those men between them, helped, established, and proclaimed the same faith.  If those who follow these men anticipate and discover an alien doctrine not readily apparent in their writings, he is indeed torn from the Faith, because the chorus of the bishops of the episcopal throne of Rome hold fast to this Faith.”[xxv]

(2) Second, the meaning of biblical and patristic statements which appear close to the filioque must themselves be reinterpreted according to the new paradigm:

Either pervert that which is already written by the fathers,[xxvi] or subscribe to a single saying of theirs which is already perverse…. and thus is goes for those currently acknowledged as fathers.  But that means it may go the same way for those who will be called fathers in the future.[xxvii]

(3) Third, this reinterpretation of patristic and biblical texts must itself in turn be elevated to the status of a dogmatic tradition since it supports the new dogma:

Admittedly, those things were said.  But, if such a man, whether in some crisis, or Greek “rage”, or while fighting heresy, or through some weakness of discipline, falls into some unseemliness, then why do you still dismiss their testimony, and  take as a lawful dogma what they did not intend as a dogma?[xxviii]

(4) Fourth, such reinterpretation, however, opens within the consensus patrum a division between Augustine, who clearly teaches the doctrine, and other fathers who allegedly “anticipated” it on the one hand, and the Roman Popes who confirmed the Creed without the doctrine, splitting the unity of the Church at a very fundamental level, that of they way in which its historical monuments are received and its dogmatic tradition defended.  Paradoxically, in other words, the Photius who will be reviled by the Second Europe’s historiographic tradition after the schism which creates it is the same Photius who defends the papacy which will become the core of the Second Europe!

If there are, among the chorus of the fathers, those who reject your subtle contrivance against godly doctrine, then they are the fathers of the fathers.  And they are indeed some of those very same men whom you acknowledge to be your fathers.  So, if you acknowledge Ambrose, Augustine, and Jerome, then why do you not acknlwedge those others, but indeed, deny them?[xxix]

And to insure that his point is not lost, he then goes on to enumerate the Roman Popes who did not teach the filioque: Vigilius,[xxx] Agatho,[xxxi] Gregory, Zacharias,[xxxii] Benedict the Fourth,[xxxiii] his contemporary John the Eighth,[xxxiv] and most especially, Leo the Third:

Leo, another renowned man with wonders of his own to glory in, cut off each and every opportunity for the heresy to take root.  Because the Latin language, frequently used by our holy fathers, has inadequate meanings which do not translate the Greek tongue purely and exactly and thus often render false notions of the doctrines of the Faith, and because it is not supplied with as many words that can render the meaning of a Greek word in its exact sense, that God-inspired man fixed the concepts by decreeing the doctrines of the Faith in the Greek.[xxxv]

Photius is obviously referring to the fact that Leo had erected the celebrated silver shields of the creed in St. Peter’s Lateran Basilica in Greek and Latin, and without the filioque.  The importance of this quotation cannot be overstated, for it is direct testimony to the fact that the Byzantine Romans knew Leo’s motivations and actions, giving lie to the oft-asserted notion in some historiographical works of the Second Europe that the schism was the result, in part, of “growing estrangement” and the difficulty of communications between Rome and Constantinople.[xxxvi]

(5) Finally, having thus injected the element of opposition into the patristic texts by elevating Augustine’s doctrine to dogmatic status, “Augustinism” becomes the sine qua non of theological orthodoxy, and a localized paradigm becomes the canonical and cultural norm and splits the consensus patrum:

You put forward Ambrose, Augustine, and Jerome as well as certain other men as witnesses against the dogma of the Church, because they hold the opinion that the Spirit proceeds from the Son.  But this necessarily brings the holy fathers under the charge of ungodliness….

But which of us rightly serves the fathers?  The one who receives them with no contradictions against the Master, or the one who is compelled to wrestle against the established testimony of the Master’s voice….?

I will admit that the words ‘the Spirit proceeds from the son’ are to be found in the writings of those men.  What of it?  If those fathers, who taught such opinions, did not alter nor change the correct statements [of the Creed], then you who teach your word [i.e., the filioque] as a dogma… bring your own stubbornness of opinion into the teachings of those men…Having discovered this unruly thing, which they never imposed as a dogma, why do you men declare it to be your dogma and judge them guilty of blasphemy in an impious pretence of benevolence and affection?[xxxvii]

The Reemergence of the Gnostic Strategy of Interpreting Texts: The Basis of the Historiographic Tradition of the Second Europe

The Interpretation of Scripture: The “Of Equals From” Argument


For Photius, the filioque self-evidently changes noy only the way in which the Second Europe appropriates the consensus patrum, but of necessity it must extend its textual assumptions to the Scipture itself, in accordance with the Augustinian “scriptural defense” of the doctrine that the biblical expressions “Spirit of the Son” and “of Christ” mean that the Spirit proceeds from the Son:

The divine Paul, in the compass of the evangelical proclamation around which the whole world was gathered, stated ‘God sent forth the Spirit of His Son.’  By this, he did not, however, mean anything like what are are justly accused of having said….You, just as if you were caught up to the third heaven of transcendant and ineffable utterances, a law unto yourselves, proclaim that Paul was imperfect[xxxviii] in his writings.  Thus you exclude him from your faith, perfecting what was imperfect.  Instead of saying, ‘the Spirit of His Son,’ you teach… that the Spirit proceeds ‘from the Son.’[xxxix]

But this exegetical programme proves too much, because, just like the Eunomian insistence that different prepositions indicated eternal relations of origin, it collapses in the face of other scriptural statements:

Did he intend for you all those other sacred statements, by which he described the mischievous plottings of your rebellious insanity?  He says many sacred things in reference to the Most Holy Spirit, such as ‘Spirit of Wisdom,’ ‘Spirit of understanding.’ ‘Spirit of knowledge,’ ‘Spirit of love,’ ‘Spirit of a sound mind,’ Spirit of adoption unto sonship,’… Why do you frown at these statements?  Is it because you would fight against a procession of the Most Holy Spirit from each of these as well?[xl]

The other favorite texts employed by the Carolingian divines down to our own day in the Second Europe to defend the scriptural basis of the doctrine was St. John 14:12 and 16:13-14, and particularly the phrase, “He will take from that which is mine“.[xli] But, as Photius points out, this leads to even more absurd conclusions and textual acrobatics:

The Saviour did not say, ‘He will receive from me,’ but ‘He will receive from that which is mine.’…. Thus, you do not follow His word, because you say that the Spirit will take ‘from Me,’ just as if that means the same things as ‘He will receive from that which is mine.’  This does injury to the expression ‘from that which is mine’ because it changes its meaning into what is meant by the prase ‘from me.’  Therefore, on account of this new expression, which only your opinion, you have charged the Saviour [Himself] with three calumnies: you have said what He did not say, made Him say what He did not say, and taught an idea that does not even follow from His words, but which, on the contraryt, His teaching denies; and fourthly, you introduce dogmas in rivalry with Him.[xlii]

With this, in other words, the Gnostic tactic of assigning new meanings to old terms has resurfaced with a dialectical vengeance that is now allied to the notion of dogmatic development.  It is obvious, therefore, that for Photius, representing the First Europe and the consistent testimony of the Roman Popes, that the filioque is hradly a dispute about words.  It is much more. It is a dispute about their meaning and exegesis. The different doctrine of God is thus not only compelling a new historiographical assumption — that doctrine develops — but with that assumption, the foundational texts must be reinterpreted, and along the same broadly Platonic parameters that underwrote Gnosticism, Arianism, and Eunomianism.


The Humanistic Basis of the Doctrine


On the basis of a purely logical analysis of the dialectical basis of the filioque, Photius, following the tradition of Athanasius and the Cappadocians, drives that basis to logical absurdity.  The Mystagogy is liberally sprinkled with such arguments, and to reproduce them all here would be impossible.  Instead, we cite those places where Phtoius explicitly indicates that this is his method:

This sick doctrine, not being able to escape absurd conclusions about the Son, goes on to engulf the specific personal characteristic of the Father as well.[xliii]

And again: if two causes are promoted in the monarchial Trinity, why then, on the basis of the same reasoning, could not a third appear?[xliv]

And like the Cappadocians and Athanasius before him, Photius ascribes the basis of the doctrine mythological and Hellenistic structure from which it starts:

If two causes be discerned in the divine and transcendant Trinity, and if the Spirit thus flows from Two Persons, then where is the celebrated divine Majesty of the Monarchy?  Is this not but a restatement of the superstitious ideas of the Greeks, and therefore are they not Christian in outward semblance only?[xlv]

This reorientation of Trinitarian doctrine thus inverts the order or priority between Faith and Reason, for its basis is revealed to be “humanistic”:

In general, according to these new sophists, who appropriate the possession of truth to themselves, each Person is Lord over each of the Personal Characteristics.[xlvi]  Thus, to them it seems as if the converse proposition, namely, that the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, is contrary to the dignity of each Person.  In a word, however, it is ultimately we men who determine the processions of the essence, and therefore, it is we men who determine which Persons will not submit themselves to share in the characteristics of the other Persons.[xlvii]

The Theological Critique

The core of Photius’ theological refutation of the filioque lies in his pursuit of the doctrine to its various and mutually contradictory implications.  As was seen earlier with the Gnostics, Apologists, Origen and Arius, the dialectical structure of Greek philosophical thought in general, and Neoplatonic philosophy in particular, could be driven in two directions.  (1) On the one hand, all basis for ultimate unity could be lost, and the system could multiply constituent elements, as with Iamblichus producing “Ones above the One” or Arius’s logic implying an infinite regression of “Sons” of God.  (2) On the other hand, all basis for ultimate distinction could be lost, and all discreet entities could be reduced to an indistinguishable and indissoluble mass, as with Porphyry’s version of Neoplatonism or Sabellius’ understanding of the Trinity, where the three Persons are only appearances on the stage of history, there being only one Person acting out different roles at different times.  Photius relies deliberately on the historical tradition stretching back to Athanasius and the Cappadocians, and simply turns this dialectical structure back on itself to demonstrate its inadequacy to comprehend the Christian Trinity.  The Mystagogy is full of such passages, of extraordinary dialectical subtlety.  We reproduce a few of them here, under the points they address.

Of the Augustinian Ordo Theologiae


Of its Heretical Implications:Preserving Distinction by Arguing for Essential Subordination: Arianism and Macedonianism


If the Father and the Son have everything in common, then with all temerity you have excluded the Spirit from what is common to these other two Persons.  If the Father is Father to the son, not according to essence, but by reason of a personal property, and if this property has in turn been joined to the Son because of Their essential affinity, then the Holy Spirit cannot be excluded either.[xlviii]

Therefore, He is inferior to each of the other Two Persons and therefore inferior to the Son, Who in turn is of the same nature as the Father.  Thus, the Spirit’s equal dignity is blasphemed, once again giving rise to the Macedonian insanity against the Spirit.[xlix]


Of Its Heretical Implications: Preserving Unity by Arguing Personal Identity: Sabellianism


The filioque tends first to confuse the Persons both with the divine essence, and then, on that basis, to identify them with each other, thus implying they are not Persons at all, which is the heresy of Sabellius:

You should consider this: If the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son(what deceiving drunkenness of impiety!), why do not the Father and the Spirit beget the Son for the very same reason… and make common to all three Persons what uniquely characterizes the son as well, combining the other two Persons into one, in the same manner?  Our Sabellius thus sprouts up from all of you, but this time with an even greater portent, in a sort of monstrous ‘Semi-Sabellianism.’[l]

The phrase “semi-Sabellianism” is interesting, for it suggests that Photius is also aware of another difficulty, and that is that the filioque does not, in fact, reduce the Three Persons to just one Person, but rather, to Two.  It is neither really Trinitariran, nor merely a monad, but rather, “semi-Sabellian” or “semi-monadistic”. 


Of Its Heretical Implications:The Dialectical Multiplication of Constituent Elements: Polyarchy, Anarchy, Monarchy, and Patriarchy Revisited


There is a devastating set of quotations in the Mystagogy which implicate not only the theological, but cultural and political consequences of the doctrine by spelling out, in terms that would have been very familiar to a Gregory of Nazianzus, its collapse into polyarchy and anarchy:

Furthermore, if the Son is begotten from the Father, and the Spirit (according to this innovation) proceeds from the Father and the Son, then by the same token another person should proceed from the Spirit, and so we should have not three but four persons!  And if the fourth procession be possible, then another procession is possible from that, and so on to an infinite number of processions and persons, until at last this doctrine is transformed into a Greek polytheism![li]

In other words, the doctrine collapses into polyarchy.  But, as Gregory of Nazianzus indicated earlier, polyarchy is itself a form of anarchy:

Again, if the Father is a cause and the son is also a cause, which of these bold thinkers will at least clarify their doctrine and tell us which one of these Persons has more of the property of being a cause?[lii]

Thus the doctrine, for all that its defenders say about the Monarchy, reduces nevertheless to anarchy (literally, “no-sourceness”),

for if, according to this principle of anarchy, the paternal principle and cause is established as consubstantiall to all (three Persons), and the Son is therefore a cause, how can you escape the conclusion that there are two interchangeable causes in the Trinity?  For on the one hand, you firmly establish the idea that there is no source — anarchy — in Him, but at the very same time you reintroduce a source and a cause, and then go on simultaneously to transfer the distinctions of each Person![liii]

The Christological Implications: Nestorianism


There are Christological implications to the doctrine, since, as was seen, the Scriptural defense for it is based on expressions such as “Spirit of Christ” and “Spirit of the Son”.  Photius, utilizing the “of equals from” equation on which this defense is based, drives the filioque to two dangerous implications:

You have said that ‘the Spirit of the Son’ and ‘of Christ’ are nearly equal expressions.  But this by no means indicates that the Spirit proceeds from the Son… it says ‘Spirit of Christ’ because the Spirit anoints Him… The Spirit anoints Christ, but in what manner?  According to the humanity of the Word, Who took its flesh and blood and became man, or according to His preexistent deity?  If you say the second, then I suppose you have said every rash insolence that there is to say!  For the Son was not anointed as God!  Therefore, Christ was anointed according to His humanity…. But you go on to say that, since Scripture says that He is the ‘Spirit of Christ’ He therefore proceeds from Him.  But this in turn means that the Spirit of Christ proceeds from Him, not according to His deity, but according to His humanity.[liv]

That is, the meaning of the word “Christ” is precisely, “the anointed one.”  But, as Photius points out, in His divine Person and nature, Christ had no need to be anointed by the Spirit, since He was already God.  Therefore He is “Christ” because in His human nature, as man, He is anointed.  But if the Spirit proceeds from “Christ” because He is the Spirit of Christ, the the Spirit must proceed from Christ’s human nature.  His argument is that the filioque implies a kind of Nestirianism, since the one Son is treated as two separate or juxtaposed natures, and the Spirit proceeds from only one of those natures, rather than from the Person of the Son.

But Photius also deduces another implication close upon the heels of the first:



If the Spirit thus proceeds from Christ’s humanity because He is the Spirit of Christ, then:

He does not proceed before the beginning of time… but rather begins to proceed at the time when the Son took humanity to Himself.[lv]

Thus, the Spirit is a creature — Macedonianism again! — but this time that conclusion is reached not through Trinitarian, but through Christological dialectics.  But if the contrary proposition be maintained, that the Spirit is eternal and therefore God, at the same time that one insists that the Spirit proceeds from Christ because He is the Spirit of Christ (as the Frankish theologians actually maintained), then a wholly opposite set of implications follows:

And so He must proceed from Christ… not from Christ’s Deiety, but from that which he took from us and commingled with Himself.  If therefore the Spirit, as God, proceeds from the Son, from Christ, according to the humanity which Christ commingled with us, then the human nature must be concluded as being consubstantial with the Son and indeed may be spoken of as ‘of Christ’.  For you would make Him proceed both before and during His Incarnation, and not cast off His consubstantiality with either.[lvi]

And thus, at the end, the mask is off of the Neoplatonic structure basis of the filioque, for at the end, it reproduces the Origenist Problematic: either the Spirit is a creature since He is the Spirit ‘of Christ’ and therefore proceeds from His humanity, which is not eternal,  thus “splitting” the one Person of Christ into two, in quasi-Nestorian fashion; or, since the Spirit is God, and proceeds ‘from Christ’ as from Christ’s humanity, then the humanity, in order to be the source of the eternal Spirit, must itself be consubstantial and co-eternal with God.  It is this preexistence of humanity which was implicated in the heresy of Apollinarius and Monophysitism, just like the eternity of the world was necessary in Origen’s problematic to maintain the eternity of the Son.  And in any case, says Photius, “which of these two alternatives is the more wretched and detestable impiety and error?”[lvii] At the end then, the Augustinian and Second Hellenization of doctrine has reproduced the full set of consequences that obtained in the Origenistic and First Hellenization of doctrine. And therefore, Photius is defending the entire tradition of the rejection of that process when he rejects the filioque.  He is defending the Catholic Orthodoxy from which he, like the earlier Roman popes whom he cites in the Mystagogy, perceives the Frankish church is in danger of departing.

[i]Norman Cantor, Inventing the Middle Ages, p.  .[ii]Anastasius Bibliothecarius, Vitam Pontificem Romanum, PL  .[iii]cf., for example,    and the popularized representations of this tradition in Malachi Martin’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Church,  pp.   .[iv] There was much debate prior to this “trial” as to whether Charlemagne’s bishops, or any bishops, could try a pope.  So solution was found by having Leo swear an oath that he was fit for office.[v]J.M. Wallice-Hadrill, The Frankish Church,

[vi] Ernst Kantorowicz, The King’s Two Bodies, p. 80.

[vii] cf. Kantorowicz, op cit., p. 337.

[viii]Einhardt the Monk, The Life of Charlemagne, Penguin Books, p.

[ix]An added, an often overlooked difficulty, is the fact that the Byzantine silk trade was a virtual monopoly even at this time, and the secret of purple die was still very much a de facto Byzantine monopoly.  All this implies, of course, that the vestments were in all likliehood prepared in Byzantium by Irene’s government, adding yet another odd and unaccounted for piece of the puzzle, for it indicates some degree of knowing collusion between Leo III and Irene that has been overlooked.  This very real probability will assume even greater importance as the hypothesis unfolds.

[x] Einhardt, op. Cit., p., 

[xi] The Dogmatic Definition:

[xii]The fact that Chalremagne hold his council in 794, seven years after Irene’s council has been held, and its decrees approved and accepted by Pope Hadrian, is clear testimony of this.  The Council of Frankfurt is not only open defiance of the Byzantine Church, it is open defiance of Byzantium’s papal ally.

[xiii] It is significant that in most Eastern Orthodox lists of saints, the normal “cut-off” line for those Western saints acknowledged as Orthodox saints is 1054.  The same typically holds for the Roman Catholic Church.  However, Photius and Nicholas constitute the major exception to this rule, and thus indicate the beginning emergence of two historiographical traditions in the form of diverging lists of saints.  Nicholas is obviously venerated by the Roman Catholic Church as a saint, principally for his active promotion of papal supremacy.  Photius, likewise, is venerated by the eastern orthodox Church for his role in combatting the filioque and its cultural implications and therefore as one of the “pillars of Orthodoxy”(the other two being Sts Gregory Palamas and Mark of Ephesus, both of whom maintained a similar opposition to the papacy).

[xiv] For a complete, though somewhat inaccurate, translation of the relevent context, cf. Richard Haugh, Photius and the Carolingians, Belmont, Massachussets, p.

[xv] E.g., Arianism, Donatism, Sabellianism, Nestorianism, etc.

[xvi] Cf. The Synodikon of Orthodoxy, anamethamata    , referring to leo the Isaurian and so on.

[xvii] Cf. St. Maximus the Confessor(ca. 585-662), Opuscula Theologica et Polemica, PG 91:   , where Maximus refers to the Monophysites as “Severans” , St. John of Damascus refers to the Monophysites by name, but also by the term “Severans”.  Roberta Chesnut, Three Monophystie Christologies. Oxford University Press, pp.   The important point is that for the Orthodox of the day, Monophysitism was not unambiguously referred to as a “national” heresy.  It could still be considered a party following of an individual theologian, even though the political reality was that Egypt’s Christian population was irrevocably no longer a part of the Roman-Constantinopolitan oikoumene.


[xix] Personally, I believe that Charlemagne did deliberately orchestrate and prepare the crisis with considerable craft and cunning.  There is a certain amount of evidence to this effect: (1) Charlemagne and his advisors were certainly aware of earlier “false-starts” to the controversy; (2) the extent of his dominions permitted him easily to ascertain that the filioque was in use throughout the Western Church except in Rome and its suburbican dioceses, thus, he would have known that he would easily be able to confront the papacy with a fait accompli

[xx] Charlemagne was the legally acknowledged “Protector” of Christian holy sites in Palestine, and had exchanged emissaries with the famous Caliph.

[xxi] Epistola Hadirani Papae ad Carolum Regem PL 98, 1272.  Cited in Richard Haugh, Photius and the Carolingians, (Belmont: Nordland Publishing Co.: 1975), pp. 47-48.  Haugh observes that “Hadrian’s lengthy response reveals that the Papacy considered the Carolingian attack on an Ecumenical Council quite serious and a direct challenge to the ‘catholicity’ of the Church.” 

[xxii]  Mansi, 13:760. Cited in Haugh, op. Cit., p. 46.

[xxiii] Francis Dvornik, The Photian Schism (Cambridge, 1970), p. 5.

[xxiv] St. Photius, Mystagogy 5, PG 103: 

[xxv] Ibid., 85, PG 103:

[xxvi] Implying that such statements as may be capable of such treatment are first sought out and then “reinterpreted” accordingly.

[xxvii] Ibid., 75, PG 103:

[xxviii] Ibid., 71, PG 103:

[xxix] Ibid., 80, PG 103:

[xxx] Ibid., 81, PG 103:  : “You should consider the equally renowned Vigilius who… affirmed the unbending rule [of faith] with similar true dogmas, and sent this to other like-minded men.  This same father, your father, with equal zeal, proclaimed that the Holy and Consubstantial Spirit proceeds from the Father, also saying that if anyone introduced another doctrine contrary to the agreed and common doctrine of devout faith, then he should be delivered to an equally binding anathema.”  The practice to which Photius refers when he says “sent this to other like-minded men” is that which bishops, and especially Popes or Patriarchs, composed a confession of their faith upon election and consecration, and sent this to other Patriarchs as a testimony and assurance of their Orthodoxy.  Thus, Pope Vigilius sent such an OroV or confession to his counterparts in Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem on his election. 

[xxxi] Ibid., 82, PG 103:  : “Behold the fair and good Agatho, who was present at the Sixth Oecumenical Council…”  Agatho was not physically present.  Photius is referring to the fact that Rome sent legates to  the Council which was held in Constantinople in 681.  Agatho, with Zacharias and some other Popes during this period, was actually Greek.

[xxxii] Ibid., 83, 85, PG :  “And why do you pass over Gregory and Zacharias?”  “If  Gregory and Zacharias, so many years distant from each other, did not have the knowledge about the procession of the Most Holy Spirit that you do, and if the ones who came between them on the succession list of Roman bishops enjoined the same doctrines without novelty, being warmed by faith, but rather advocated the same dogmas, then not only these two poles, but those men between them, hept, established, and proclaimed the same faith.  If those who follow these men anticipate and discover an alien doctrine not readily apparent in their writings, he is indeed torn from the Faith, because the chorus of the bishops of the episcopal throne of Rome hold fast to this Faith.”

[xxxiii] Ibid., 87, PG 103: “The praisworthy Benedict, successor to that archepiscopal throne, agreed with and corroborated them.”

[xxxiv] Ibid., 88, PG 103:  “Now this man, my John… hath a courageous mind… This man, favoured among the Roman Archbishops by his more-than-illustrious and God-fearing legates Paul, Eugene, and Peter, bishops and priests of God who were with Us in the Council of the Catholic Church[the Council of 880-881 which prohibitted the filioque] confirmed and subscribed to that Symbol of the Faith… Yea, and aftyer that, the holy Hadrian wrote to Us according to the prescription of that ancient custom, sending us the same doctrine, testifying to the same theology, namely, that the Spirit proceeds from the Father.  Now which of these bishops of Rome, by life, though, or teaching, altered the profession of immortal life by subscribing to that heretical and diseased word?”

[xxxv] Ibid., 86, PG 103:

[xxxvi] cf., for example,

[xxxvii] Ibid., 65-67, PG 103:

[xxxviii] “Paul was imperfect”, i.e., that he did not explicitly teach the doctrine, but only alluded to it, and therefore that the doctrine developed.

[xxxix] Photius, op. Cit., 55, PG 103:

[xl] Ibid., 56, PG 103:

[xli] I cite the text in its familiar King James translation, but it should be noted that in the Greek it could also mean “from Him Who is Mine”, which is clearly the meaning that the Greek Fathers gave to it.

[xlii] Ibid., 21-22, PG 103:

[xliii] Ibid., 10, PG 103:

[xliv] Ibid., 12, PG 103:

[xlv] Ibid., 11, PG 103:

[xlvi] i.e., the Father’s ingenerateness, the Son’s generation, and the Spirit’s procession.

[xlvii] Photius, op. Cit., 18, PG 103:   emphasis added.

[xlviii] Ibid., 34, PG 103:

[xlix] Ibid., 33, PG 103:  “Macedonian insanity”:  Macedonius was a third century bishop who taught that the Father and the Son were fully God, but that the Spirit was not, but a creature.  Thus any doctrine that the Spirit is something less than the Father and the Son, either essentially or Personally, is to the Greek mind understood to be “Macedonian”.

[l] Ibid., 9, PG 103:

[li] Ibid., 37, PG 103:

[lii] Ibid., 39, PG 103:

[liii] Ibid., 14, PG 103:

[liv] Ibid., 91, PG 103:

[lv] Ibid., 91, PG 103:

[lvi] Ibid., 92, PG 103:

[lvii] Ibid.

50 Responses to The 9th Century Crisis: Political, Theological, Social, and Prophetic

  1. aaronfriar93 says:

    Yeah. I have been waiting for this quite some time. Good to see Dr. Farrell’s work on the net at least partially.

  2. Joseph P Farrell says:

    Hi folks. I’ve been reading some of the posts on this site about God, History, and Dialectic. First let me say that Photios Jones and Dr. Robinson have essentially the mindset of the work down correctly. However, I can see why some would post the things they do not having access to the whole thing. So I just wanted everyone to know that I have made arrangements to have GHD available in its entirety on CD-rom I hope sometime this year. It is a massive task to do this, so please be patient.

  3. the hobbit says:

    I contacted Dr. Farrell about trying to find copies of the book. Here is his encouraging response:

    “I have just made arrangements to have God, History, and Dialectic done into a CD-rom book…this will include some notes I did long ago for a second edition of the book that I never got around to. It will be awhile before it’s available so keep checking.”

  4. Completely and entirely unrelated, but I’m not sure I’ll get any comments unless I ask.

    So, I would appreciate your comments on these posts.

  5. Jonathan,

    Yes I saw it. Right now is finals and I am busy grading 1,400 pages of exams. I have written on this directly in relation to Sandlin previously. Needless to say, he doesn’t know the theological mechanics of the Christus Victor view so he infers that there is no explanation, just nice but empty metaphor.

  6. Jonathan C. says:

    It was posted by Andrew Sandlin, by the way. If not there, perhaps a post could be written about it here.

  7. Jonathan C. says:

    Photius, thank you so much for your help regarding Maximus’ letter to Marinus and your footnotes regarding the important distinction between Frankish and pre-Schism Roman theology. And I will look into the dissertation you recommended.

    TO ALL: Another off topic comment, but…someone abler than myself should challenge the tripe posted over at Reformed Catholicism recently regarding the Eastern approach to the Cross of Christ in the post: “Christmas as a Christian Holy Day”. Here is the statement:

    “Sectors of the church (like the East) that situate the incarnation as central tend to see man’s problem not so much as the guilt of sin but as the corruption of sin. The Fall incurred no guilt due to sin against the law of God (as is affirmed in the West) but rather the diminution of God’s life within man — man lost some of his humanity in the Garden of Eden and thereby suffered corruption. Salvation is the reversal of corruption and the reinvigoration of the divine life in man. Man’s problem is not so much that he is guilty but that he is corrupt(ed). In the incarnation, God provides a way for man to regain his lost status of sharing in the divine life.

    This view of the incarnation misses almost entirely the meaning of the Cross. It is not clear in this view, in fact, why the Cross is necessary at all. It is sometimes asserted that the Cross beat down the “frightful cosmic reality of [man’s] death,” but it is not evident why Christ’s death is necessary to accomplish this. Could He not have vanquished the power of death by His life, without having to die? And if not, why not?
    However, if Jesus’ death carried the penalty of man’s sin, we can well understand why He had to die. His death was substitutionary. He suffered in man’s place, so that man could avoid that suffering and awful death and eternal separation from God (1 Pet. 3:18).

    This is why we must always see the incarnation as part of redemptive history; it is redemptive-historical. The great turning point of history is Messiah’s death and resurrection, by which in the former he suffered the wrath of the Father in dying for man’s sins, and in the latter overcame the stranglehold of sin by the relentless power of the Holy Spirit. Sinners can be saved only because Jesus died and rose from the dead (1 Cor. 15:12-19). “

  8. Ben says:

    Perry, may I have your email address?

  9. Symeon says: has the entire text (or what is extent, at least) of St. Maximus’ letter to Marinus. There is no mention of any councils, six in number or otherwise. He did write a letter from Rome mentioning “six inspired and holy councils” but this was written after the Lateran Synod convened by Pope St. Martin in Rome that condemned monotheletism and this is without doubt what he was referring to.

  10. trvalentine says:

    I certainly agree with the above claim that

    the primary evidence, the testimony of Charlemagne contemporary and biographer, Einhard the monk, indicates that something had happened to upset Charlemagne

    and am dismayed at how many ‘historians’ dismiss this evidence in favour of their agenda (typically that Charlemagne really wanted to be emperor and was not the least upset by being crowned). But I think the primary evidence can be explained much more simply than the rather convoluted explanation above: per the Germanic culture of which the Franks were a part, the act of someone giving something to another means that something was the giver’s to give. By crowning Charlemagne ’emperor’, Pope Leo was demonstrating that the office of emperor was his to give (and take away). That made Charlemagne the pope’s liege. It is quite easy to understand Charlemagne was upset by being made beholden to the pope. I think this explanation is reinforced by how Charlemagne crowned his sons without the pope’s involvement and, upon Charlemagne’s death, his only surviving son, Louis, crowned himself, again without the pope.

    Charlemagne’s various anti-East Roman actions do not need a complicated origin. The desire to assert his kingdom as the true successor of the Roman Empire whilst discrediting the claims of the East Romans seems more than enough.

    Even though I think my explanation undermines the machiavellian motives suggested by Dr Farrell, it seems to me this particular issue is peripheral to the larger topic of the separation of the Roman Empire into ‘Two Europes’. That there was a division, that a ‘Second Europe’ was inaugurated (and A.D. 800 is as good as any date for its beginning) is a fact that few historians would deny. Thus, it seems the focus should be that the separation into ‘Two Europes’ is the more-or-less official point where Christianity divided.


  11. trvalentine says:

    but I am in a discussion/debate with a Roman Catholic on the Filioque, who cites a letter from Maximus the Confessor to Marinus as evidence that he [Maximus] thought the filioque to be compatible with Eastern patristic thought.

    According to Richard Haugh’s Photius and the Carolingians: The Trinitarian Controversy the letter purportedly written by Saint Maximos the Confessor to the priest Marinus is of doubtful authenticity for three reasons: (1) Saint Maximos elsewhere writes of a letter to Marinus falsely attributed to him, (2) there is no extant synodical letter by Pope Martin I stating ‘the Holy Spirit proceeds also from the Son’ as is claimed in this doubtful letter, and (3) the letter in question mentions ‘six’ councils when only five had been held. (Haugh, p. 32, fn 31)

    Obviously, we have no way of knowing whether this letter in question is the one Maximos says was falsely attributed to him and the absence of a synodical letter does not prove it was not written, but the reference to six councils is an extreme problem and suggests the letter may have been written after the Sixth Ecumenical Synod of 680-681, (Saint Maximos died in 662, Pope Martin in 655).

    If the letter is authentic, then we have evidence that Pope Martin I wrote a synodical letter that, because it professed the Filioque, had its orthodoxy challenged by Constantinople and Saint Maximos sought to defuse the situation, insisting that the Latins were ‘far from making the Son the cause of the Spirit, for they recognise the Father as the one cause of the Son and of the Spirit; the former by begetting, the latter by procession.’

    The letter in question claims the Latin Filioque was an attempt ‘to express the Spirit’s going forth through the Son’, that he had admonished the Latins to be more careful in how they expressed the faith, and that he felt confident that Constantinople’s reaction would make the Latins more cautious in the future. (Haugh, p. 33)

    One ought to consider that if Pope Martin made the mistake of professing the Filioque, Saint Maximos would have had a strong incentive to defend the pope of Old Rome. Having fled to Old Rome to escape persecution from the Monothelite heretics (officially supported by the Empire). It was the only city willing to protect Maximos against the imperial forces. It would not have been in Saint Maximos’ interests to turn against Old Rome when it was possible to interpret the statement in an orthodox manner.

    If the letter is authentic, we have evidence that as soon as Constantinople received the first indication of the Filioque, it condemend the error. Thus, if the letter is authentic, the oft-repeated claim that the East offered no protest against the Filioque until it was politically expedient to do so, is simply not true. If the letter is not authentic, then the supporters of the Filioque cannot claim Saint Maximos the Confessor defended the Filioque.

    If the letter is authentic, then we have a problem reconciling the words of Saint Maximos:

    [The Romans] have produced the unanimous evidence of the Latin Fathers, and also of Cyril of Alexandria, from the study he made of the gospel of St. John. On the basis of these texts, they have shown that they have not made the Son the cause of the Spirit — they know in fact that the Father is the only cause of the Son and the Spirit, the one by begetting and the other by procession — but that they have manifested the procession through him and have thus shown the unity and identity of the essence. (Letter to Marinus, PG 91, 136)

    with the words of Augustine:

    Further, in that Highest Trinity which is God, there are no intervals of time, by which it could be shown, or at least inquired, whether the Son was born of the Father first and then afterwards the Holy Spirit proceeded from both (On the Trinity, 15:26:45)

    Wherefore let him who can understand the generation of the Son from the Father without time, understand also the procession of the Holy Spirit from both without time. (On the Trinity, 15:26:47)

    From the above quotes, it is clear Augustine taught a double procession of the Holy Spirit outside time. Thus, the claim that Augustine’s Filioque is the Orthodox West Roman Filioque is not correct.

    Also of note, I find it quite ironic that Filioquists cite the purported letter from Saint Maximos in defense of their heresy, yet when the East Romans, at the Robber Council of Florence suggested using it as a basis for agreement, the Latins rejected it, insisting on the double processsion of Augustine.


  12. Symeon says:

    Is it really appropriate to be referring to an “Augustinian” filioque? Even Fr. Romanides says that St. Augustine’s filioque is the Orthodox West Roman filioque, like St. Ambrose’s.

  13. You guys are speculating about issues that Dr. Farrell never makes. If this post doesn’t get back on track, I’m going to start deleting posts that don’t have anything to do with the 9th century.


  14. Drew says:

    Can you send me an email? I need to ask you a question.

  15. handmaidmaryleah says:

    Thank you for clarifying your comment

  16. Greg DeLassus says:

    Russia is on the rise again, along with its Orthodox Church. Perhaps it become the example for the West: Orthodox, basically moral, and prosperous — all in the 21st Century. Hasn’t happened yet, but its the best hope in our age should the Lord tarry.

    Huh? How so? Granted, perhaps Russia will become re-invigorated by a resourcement of its Orthodox patrimony and become a shining example to the West. Perhaps. By the same token, however, perhaps the West will pull out of her own funk all on her own (it has happened before, after all) and become a beacon to Russia. Perhaps both will continue to decline inexorably. Perhaps both will rally back, each independant of the other. Anything can happen, but I am hard pressed to see why any one particular scenario should be regarded as an especially better hope than any of those others.

  17. Greg DeLassus says:

    We must remember that contemporary Greece is largely nominal in it Orthodoxy now.

    Sure, but by the same token France is largely nominal in its Catholicism as well, and has been for just as long. Why, then, is it fair to say that all of the rot in the west is to be attributed to its theology, but none of the rot in the east is to be attributed to its theology? As I alluded to earlier in my question to Mr Jones, it seems that the thesis which Farrell & al are building here is premised on a very convenient sort of special pleading.

    To be fair to Greg, the Orthodox church may be the refuge of truth, but its ability to express it to a wider audience is lacking.

    Uh huh. Once again, why is this benefit of the doubt to be extended only to Orthodoxy in these sorts of inquiries? How is it that one is allowed to wave away all the problems of “First” Europe as extrinsic to their own theology while insisting that all problems of “Second” Europe are necessarily intrinsic to western theology? Dr Farrell avers in the prologomena to this book that “the undertaking represented here was attempted because of my personal conviction that our ‘culture’… is in a state of profound moral crisis… [which] has specifically doctrinal and therefore conceptual roots.” From what I glean from the snippetts which are periodically shared on this site, we to understand that Dr Farrell thinks that this crisis is born of Catholic and Protestant theological errors and invites us to look to Orthodoxy for the solution to the crisis.

    My point is that in taking this approach, Dr Farrell is deducing a theological error from the datum of a culture in an obvious state of moral degredation. If that be the case, however, then it stands to reason that there must likewise be a theological error afoot in Orthodoxy, because traditionally-Orthodox lands are just as obviously afflicted with moral rot. The excuses adduced in the hope of avoiding that conclusion (“Orthodoxy’s ability to communicate to a wider audience is lacking,” “the rot in Russia is really the result of western influences on Orthodoxy,” etc) are all rather beside the point. Either something works or it does not, and if Orthodox theology does not yield demonstrably different results in the basic living conditions of Orthodox lands than are obtained with Catholic theology in Catholic lands and Protestant theology in Protestant lands then why are Farrell & al. singling the deficiencies of Augustinianism out for such special attention?

  18. anon says:

    is there a relationship between Dr Farrell’s analysis and the much-bewailed historiography of post-modern academia? Are all theological controversies, really, in the end about power and manipulation? Is it really acceptable to say the filioque was ultimately a political dilemma, goring poor Western Christendom on its horns of schism and papal supremacy?

    and where is the corresponding analysis of the collapse of Byzantine culture? Some commenters have attempted such questions, and are dismissed with the explanation that its modern form was, alas, poisoned by Western heresy. Can this possibly be true?

    And what of the collapse of pre-modern Byzantine civilization? Why did Constantinople fall? Why is all of the ancient Roman / Byzantine patrimony theologically and culturally muslim? If all areas of the Greco-roman patrimony were subject to political conquest by pagans, either Germanic or muslim, why did they succeed so spectacularly in the East? Are not such questions equally worthy of a probing historical-theological analysis?

  19. Greg DeLassus says:

    What you refer to as “a mess of Hellenistic pottage”, we call the Holy Orthodox faith.

    Er, no, I am afraid that you have misunderstood me. What I was referring to as “a mess of Hellenistic pottage” was the teaching of the Roman Catholic and/or Calvinist faiths (the two seem to be treated as interchangable around these parts).

  20. Miki says:

    Wow great piece. Out of interest in what manner did the filoque express itself in the Frankish Church in the numerous heresies outlined by the Mystagogy of Photius?

    To be fair to Greg, the Orthodox church may be the refuge of truth, but its ability to express it to a wider audience is lacking.

  21. evagrius says:

    Hah! Right! The martyrs of the Bolsheviks died so that Putin could rule Russia!

    Such tripe!

    And who is this “Bishop Photius” Farrell that writes this book?

    Is he some kind of “jive-ass” “Orthodox’ preacher like Father Divine?

    Such idiocy!

    No….the situation is far from being so simple…and everyone has to think deeply anew as to what’s really going on…

    I once thought that this site had some useful information but, like like the Bogart character in Casablanca, I’m mistaken.

    The dialogue here is worse than any third-rate movie I’ve seen.

    So sad….

  22. Death Bredon says:


    We must remember that contemporary Greece is largely nominal in it Orthodoxy now. Having come out of Turkish oppression, it has chosen the materialism of Western Europe — it is even a member state of the expressly and constitutionally Godless Fourth Reich (the EU).

    Likewise, the moral rot in Russia is due to Communism (a Western European post-Christian ideology that is quite foreign to Orthodoxy ).

    Finally, I am not suggesting a necessary quid pro quo between Frankish-Augustinian theology and material prosperity (though Calvinists might disagree with me). Rather, I think it is largely the historical accident of having no Persian or Islamic Empire pressing Western Europe’s back side that allowed the Germanic Tribes, turned Holy Roman Empire, turned Renaissance Europe, turned EU-Fourth Reich to eventual surpass even the wonders of Old Constantinople. In this sense, I simply point out that Karl de Grosse “got” or “showed” those Eastern Romans in the end. (I bet old Karl was laughing aloud from the beyond when the proud Byzantines were begging for military help at the Counsel of Florence!)

    Its not a catch-22, and no Faustian bargain is required. Prior to the fall of the Greco-Roman Empire, prosperity and Orthodoxy combined for over 1000 years! and, Russia is on the rise again, along with its Orthodox Church. Perhaps it become the example for the West: Orthodox, basically moral, and prosperous — all in the 21st Century. Hasn’t happened yet, but its the best hope in our age should the Lord tarry.

  23. Mark Krause says:

    No, Greece wasn’t brought down by communism. I’m not as clear on Greek history; I just know that today Greece is just as secular and consumerist as any western European country. And there was a fairly big communist party influence in Greece at various points in time (WWII for example).

  24. evagrius says:

    Hah! What potage did the Carolingians have in comparison to Byzantium of the eight century?

    Constantinople at the time was one of the world’s wealthiest cities, if not the most- a crossroad capital of goods, services knowledge and technology. Do you really wish to compare AAchen and Paris to Byzantium?

    So…Charlemagne made a “Faustian bargain”, ( “in six centuries your ancestors, though they be not the actual rulers, will be more powerful than these Byzantines who now lord it over you”).

    Only someone believing comic book history could believe such a scenario.

    Besides this, let’s remember that those of the “First World” could not make such a bargain. At first, they had all the goods. Then, under the Turkish/ Moslem yoke they had no chance to make such a bargain. Being kept under amber preserved their faith…it was not their choice or ability that did so but “history” that did so…easy to look down on others who had to make choices while one was “preserved” from doing so.

    Such thinking ( that of looking down on others who had to make choices), is an affront to the actual complexity of the situation.

    As for “scholasticism”, which type, which sort? That of the eight, ( which did not exist), or the ninth, tenth, eleventh and so forth?

    And how does “scholasticism” actually contribute to the actual situation at hand? Let’s not forget that “scholasticism” exists as a phenomenon in a variety of religions and cultures…there’s Latin, Arabic, Hindu, Tibetan, and Buddhist schoilasticism.. do all inevitably lead to decay?

    Let’s not forget that the Western European Renaiisance had quite a few Byzantine exiles as seed bearers…or is this a fact no one wants to acknowledge?

    I’m always amazed at how easily those who attach themselves to some ideology want to denigrate those from they originate…all in the cause of truth, of course.

  25. handmaidmaryleah says:

    “It seems, to follow his logic (as amplified by Death Bredon) that it matters not whether you keep the catholic Faith or trade it (as you folks see it) for a mess of Hellenistic pottage.”

    What you refer to as “a mess of Hellenistic pottage”, we call the Holy Orthodox faith. The only faith that can cure the soul. Within it one can know God. Holy Orthodoxy is life in Christ.

    In The Illness and the Cure of the Soul it says:
    -Spiritual life is not static, but dynamic. St.Maximos speaks of the “ever-moving cessation” and the “standing motion”. St.Gregory of Nyssa teaches that virtue has no limit. And naturally, when he speaks of virtues he does not mean human deeds, which are natural virtues, but the fruits of the Most Holy Spirit, which are the result of man’s communion with God. Perfection, says St.Gregory of Nyssa, has no boundaries. For virtue has only one condition, that it has no limits. Man is continually perfected and there is no end to this perfection. This will also continue in the life to come. There will be continuous progress for the man who has entered the stage of purification and illumination. St.Gregory of Nyssa points out that participation in the divine good becomes richer and fuller and it continually increases “him who is fed by it and this increase never ceases”. St.Gregory the Sinaite says that in the age to come the angels and Saints “shall not ever cease advancing in grace”. St.John the Sinaite teaches the same thing. He says that the good workers progress from the power of practical life (i.e. stage of purification) to the power of theoria and since love never ends its limit is unlimited. The progress of the good workers shall never cease, “receiving Light upon Light”. St. Gregory brings as an example the noetic angelic powers, who always receive glory upon glory and knowledge in addition to their knowledge. This ceaseless perfection takes place not only in the present life, but also in the age to come. Asking whether the Saints will infinitely advance in theoria in the future age, St. Gregory Palamas gives himself the answer: “It is obvious that they infinitely will”. Thus, the people of God constantly develop. They grow in spiritual life. There is never an end to this development and theoria. Man can never reach the perfection of Christ. This is evident even in the terms which are used in the Holy Scripture: The term “in the image” signifies something static, whereas a continuous evolution is implied by the phrase “in the likeness”. When we live in the Orthodox tradition, we cannot ever come to a stand still, because this leads us to pietism. The knowledge and experience of tradition begets humility, but also progress in spiritual life. ~Fr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos

  26. Greg DeLassus says:

    So no only Russian but also Greek culture was brought down by communism? How so? In any event, does it really matter? The reason why the West was able to exert so much influence on the East is because the West’s civilization was so much more intellectually vibrant and materially prosperous. In other words, as Dr Farrell and Death Bredon tell it, the Carolingian divines made a faustian bargain, trading the orthodox faith in exchange for a Hellenism which would make them rich and sophisticated. Meanwhile, “First Europe” kept piously to that old-time religion, and thus suffered the material deprivations that followed naturally from such a choice. These deprivations, however, made them eventually susceptible in turn to the blandishments of those western, Hellenistic heretics. As such, in the end it does not matter which choice one makes. If one chooses Charlemagne’s approach, one ends in death and if one chooses Photios’ approach one also ends in death. The whole thing is simply a study in ultimate futility.

  27. Mark Krause says:

    Greg, it seems that what ultimately led to the downfall of Greek and Eastern European culture is influence from the West. Especially in the case of Eastern Europe this seems true. Communism is a German idea no?

  28. Greg DeLassus says:

    I don’t believe those things happened based on Orthodox principles, whereas I do believe the contrary for the West on Augustinian principles…

    How does one define (or determine) what constitutes “Orthodox principles”? What are some of them (or all of them, if that is not too large a question)? And likewise for “Augustinian principles”? I have to kind of wonder if the answer to which this sentence belongs is not a case of rather convenient special pleading.

  29. Greg,

    You’re jumping way too far ahead. The point here is to highlight the OBSCURE that happened between Leo and Charles, and then the sense of urgency of a St. Photios.


  30. Greg DeLassus says:

    Dear Mr Jones,

    Fair enough, but isn’t that as much as to say that Farrell’s diagnosis of the problem of second Europe is of no more than purely academic interest? It seems, to follow his logic (as amplified by Death Bredon) that it matters not whether you keep the catholic Faith or trade it (as you folks see it) for a mess of Hellenistic pottage. The one way you turn out to be able to gin up enough economic and cultural advantage to hold the barbarians at bay for a Christian civilization which lasts 1000 years but eventually shoots itself in the head. The other way you end up (perhaps) pious, but so materially poor that you succumb to the barbarians and wither away and die even sooner than the other guys. In other words, the great deal which Dr Farrell makes of the decline of “Second Europe” is just more of the same old Byzantine haughtiness. “First Europe” is every bit as moribund and fading every bit as quickly. The take home message that comes through to me reading this conversation is that we are all doomed and all of these historical intrigues make not a bit of difference in the end.

  31. Greg,

    1) I don’t believe those things happened based on Orthodox principles, whereas I do believe the contrary for the West on Augustinian principles (and in those principles penetrating the East). Take a look at 17-19 century Russian “systematic” theology. It looks not like Patristic theology, but Augustinianism.

    2) Photios’ program or rather Justinians is long gone. There’s no place wthere the Imperium head or president or any such office holds and keeps a real liturgical function. I mean, think about it, besides Maximos, who’s a better “Neo-Chalcedonian” theologian than Justinian? There is none. Can you imagine the president functioning with a liturgical role as the head of state theologically, having to consider and take theological isues seriously and having his feet held to the fire by patriarch and the bishops?


  32. Greg DeLassus says:

    And, outside the Church, Western Europe and its colonial progeny have opted for the Hellinic, rather than the Holy, components championed by the Holy Roman Empire. Hence, Western Europe has morally rotted…

    Not that I am conceding the essential soundness of this analysis, but let us assume it is true arguendo. What, then, is the explanation for the moral rot of “First Europe”? Russia’s abortion rate is even higher than France’s. Greek rates of Church attendance are even lower than Italians’. The apostasy of so many Czechs and Swedes and Belgians is indeed appalling, but no more so than the (much more longstanding) apostasy of so many Albanians and Syrians and Byelorussians. If Charlemagne’s divines did indeed set us Latins on an inevitable course towards degredation, how exactly is the course steered by Photios & al in any wise superior in the fruits yielded among their followers?

  33. Death Bredon says:

    Was Karl always a megalomaniac or did one of George Stephanapolos’s ancestor’s drive him to it? Academic question as you say.

    The trick now, as you suggest, is to get the Germanic West back on track. I say use the old fashioned way — public conversion of Royalty; you now pop stars and celebs! Seriously — that’s how it has always worked. (How come no ever mentions that Bob Marley died in the bosom of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church?)

  34. Point taken, but 1) King Charles wasn’t interested in having a piece of the empire but the whole pie, his political ambitions and his intentions in the Ikonoclast controversey reveals this, and 2) you’re right the Romans were slightly arrogant in their ethnic superiority (not much has changed here truth be told) over Franks (as was the reverse, so both are guilty here), so he would’ve been snubbed anyways in wanting a cut of the pie (but that’s not what he wanted!).

    You’re correct about the paths they took, which makes the Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit prophetic and most brilliant piece of patristic writing in drawing out the dialectics Western Europe was headed towards. It stands as a fulcrum between Nicea and IV Constantinople.

    Let’s stop and go back to the pilgram monks at Mt. Olivet and their confusion: What is the Roman faith?


  35. Death Bredon says:

    Evagrius has a valid point.

    East Roman’s steadfast refusal to acknowledge Karl de Grosse as the Western Roman Emperor smacks of Hellenized Roman arrogance and just plain stupidity: better to have your potential rivals on the inside than the out — plus you just might Romanize. But once snubbed as a “mere” Barbarian pretender and usurper, Karl took advantage of Latin religious incongruities as a avenging sword against the arrogant “heretical Greeks.”

    And one has to hand it to the Karling Franks. Once snubbed out of a legitimate seat at the Greco-Roman table, Karl went to establish a Germanic faux-Roman Empire and basically showed the Hellenised East Romans just who was who in matters of political power, and eventually economic strength, intellectual accomplishment, and even cultural polish. Just compare the political, economic, educational, and cultural situations in today’s New York, London, Paris, Zürich, and Berlin to that in Athens or Moscow. Point: the Carolingian Franks won the “culture war” between the Germanic Tribes and the Eastern remnant of the Greco-Roman Empire, and they won big. Whose your daddy now, East Rome?

    Unfortunately for Western Europe, though, Karl’s encouragement and use of religious disunity and differences as a propagandist political sword against the “heretical Greeks,” with its concommitant dogmitization of dubious Latin theological peculiarities followed almost inexorably by Scholasticism, has ultimately led to a Christian-Hellenic syncratic theology within the West churches, whether Germanic Carolingian (a/k/a Roman Catholic) or “Reformed.” And, outside the Church, Western Europe and its colonial progeny have opted for the Hellinic, rather than the Holy, components championed by the Holy Roman Empire. Hence, Western Europe has morally rotted — in greater part due to the Rationalization of Christianity by the Western Church itself (!) — to the point that the Fourth Reich (a/k/a the European Union) is poised to be the nexus of power and that the German Mark (a/k/a the Euro) is valid currency all over Western Europe and the World! All this without a single shot fired!

    In sum, hindsight shows us that the impasse between the Carolingian or Karling Franks and the East Romans irreversibly split Christendom along ethnic, cultural, and theological lines. This weakened East Rome to the point of external conquest from without (Islam and intellectually-Germanic Communism — indeed Marx did his wor in the British Library in London and Lenin festered in German exile.) It also morally weakened the Germanic West (a/k/a Western Civilization) to a point of disintigration, that has culminated in Contemporary Secularisim — demarcated (for the sake of convenience) by the Beatles fist No. 1 hit in 1962. In short, the Great Schism was Christendom’s great lose-lose confrontation — once side did not live up to Christian moral standards (East Roman arrogance); the other did not hold to the theretofore well-defined Christian Faith (Platonized Frankish Theology) — indeed, the Western, Augustinian Synthesis was outside the ancient consensus patrum as was the ensuing Scholastic Movement.

  36. evagrius says:

    Gee, Now I know who the “Darth Vader” of European history is; ” Come with me to the Dark Side…just repeat the Filioque”.

    Sorry…but the “Great Man” theory of history, while having some applicability, doesn’t wash here.

    I’d like a bit more about Byzantine Greek cultural arrogance and a bit about the “effeminate” Byzantines who always found someone else to do their fighting for them…

    It’s nice to always find “one”‘ source for tragic events…but it’s often not the case.

  37. Jonathan,

    Here’s the ironic thing: Mark Eugenikos put forth the Letter to Marinus as a statement of reunion and that Latins rejected it because Maximus denied that the Son was a cause at all. We can say much more, but the fundamental things is that there was the standard Orthodox “filioque” (energetic procession and taxical relationship) that was always the teaching of the Church, East or West, and this new Augustinian filioque that grew which was the one adopted by the Frankish Church. The theologians and Latins in Pope St. Martins I day IN ROME were of the Orthodox variety as understood by St. Maximus, while the other variety was slowly spreading in Germany, France, and Spain.


  38. Jonathan,

    See if you can find this dissertation: The Use of Maximus the Confesor’s Writings on the Filioque at the Council of Ferrara-Florence (1438-1439) by A. Edward Siecienski

    If not, contact me at photius @ sbcglobal dot net


  39. Jonathan C. says:

    Gentlemen (anyone who can help), this is a bit off topic but I am in a discussion/debate with a Roman Catholic on the Filioque, who cites a letter from Maximus the Confessor to Marinus as evidence that he [Maximus] thought the filioque to be compatible with Eastern patristic thought. What can you tell me about this, and how do the Orthodox respond? I am less familiar with this letter and the circumstances surrounding it. I am more familiar at this point with St. Photius the Great’s theological arguments, but on the finer historical issues less so. Thanks for any help you can provide!

  40. Greg,

    You have an issue with Dr. Farrel’s proported claim that, “the filioque was simply not explicit taught in any Father prior to Augustine,” which is not really Dr. Farrell’s opinion or claim as you think but rather his reporting of such from the position on the exegetical data of the Carolingians themselves! Dr. Farrell believes that it wasn’t taught at all (and so do I), except in perhaps Origen which is a separate issue. My point is if you don’t like the quote part above, why not take it up with the Carolingians or state that they were mistaken and ignorant and that you know better. Why lay the blame at the feet of Farrell? It sounds like your argument is with Paulinus of Aquila and not Farrell.


  41. Greg DeLassus says:

    “was not even unambiguously present in Augustine…”

    Oh dear, now I am stating my claims rather poorly. I should rather have written “was not present unambiguously even in Augustine,” as that would have been less open to misinterpretation than that which I had written above. In any event, it seems that my interlocutors understood what I meant to say, so no harm done. I am simply clarifying in order to avoid any potential misunderstanding down the line.

    Meanwhile, I am a bit foggy on your recent response to me, Mr Jones. You say that I am confusing that which Paulinus claimed about the Pre-Augustinian tradition and how they read texts with that which Farrell actually believes about what Ambrose or Hilary meant. I am not really at all sure what Farrell believes about what Ambrose or Hilary meant in the first place, so I am hard pressed to see how I might confuse as much for that which Paulinus claimed. Could you please clarify for me? On the other hand, if you want to save such discussions for later, as I gather from an earlier post, please feel free to set this aside for the moment and I promise not to be a pest by distracting from the real point of the thread.

  42. When Farrell is speaking of the Filioque I think it is sufficiently clear that he has in mind the Florentine gloss. I think that idea is sufficiently clear in Augustine as something of a speculation on Arian principles trying to undo Arianism. From the period from Augustine to Maximus, I read it as a period of overlap and some confusion. There is the older energetic view and the newer Augustinian view in the west, but in terms of what is officially taught, the energetic view still holds dominance.

    Maximus in any case seems not to have understood the Latins as teaching what Augustine had in mind. I think there is sufficient material in terms of monographs and articles (not a few in Augustinian studies for example or Studia Patristica) that show that Augustine was his own man. While there is a lot of overlap, Augustine’s problems with matter and Manicheanism don’t seem to find a home in Ambrose, and much the same can be said concerning Manichean teaching concerning beauty for example.

    That said, I don’t think I need to demonize St. Augustine to say that he was wrong. Rome says he was wrong about original sin and the fate of certain children, but then we are called stupid and all kinds of other things (not necessarily by you) for saying Augustine made other mistakes. Should I enter heaven, I fully expect to see Augustine there.

  43. No it is not a rather poor claim, because he is representing exactly what Paulinus claimed about the Pre-Augustinian tradition and how they read texts. Your confusing that with what Farrell actually believes about WHAT Ambrose or Hilary meant.

  44. Greg DeLassus says:

    Last I checked Maximus is a considerably past Ambrose and as far as Maximus is concerned the Latin’s don’t teach a hypostatic generation of the Spirit from the Father and the Son. Even by that late date then, the Augustinian speculation is still that and under some rock somewhere. This explains well why it was resisted by the remnants of the Roman aristocracy as manifested in the Papacy under the Franks for so long. The filioque doesn’t become widespread through papal teaching until much later.

    Fair enough, but then surely you will agree that Dr Farrell stated his claim rather poorly. I was responding to the claim that “the filioque simply was not explicitly taught by any father prior to Augustine.” You seem now to be arguing that the “filioque” (meaning the doctrine as it has come to be understood and promulgated by Rome in the years since) was not even unambiguously present in Augustine, as plenty of Latins who purported to be following Augustine could relay their understanding of the term to Maximus, who could come away from it all with the impression that there is no claim about a hypostatic generation involved. My only point is really that anything that can be said about Augustine on this score can be said about Ambrose, so Dr Farrell is ever so slightly inaccurate here. It is a niggling point, to be sure, but there it is for what little it is worth.

  45. Greg,

    Given that the passage speaks of the Father also coming down with the Son and the Spirit, it seems clear to me that the “filioque” there is not a hypostatic generation. We grant, per the name of the blog, that the Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father and the Son, but that is not the Filioque of Florrence, which is a hypostatic filioque. Why assume that “eternal” means hypostatic in terms of the essence in modes of self relation?

    The section is dealing the our experience of the Trinity and not hypostatic generation. In any case, I would think that this kind of stuff would be moot, since Rome has pretty much admitted that John 15 from the Greek can’t be used to support the filioque, so that it is now clear that it is a free floating concept, scripturally speaking.

    It also seems clear that Maximus interprets the Latin doctrine as an economic and eternal relation in the letter to Marius. Now either Maximus is covering the butts of the Latins and is lying, he got their idea wrong, or he is correctly representing their view. Last I checked Maximus is a considerably past Ambrose and as far as Maximus is concerned the Latin’s don’t teach a hypostatic generation of the Spirit from the Father and the Son. Even by that late date then, the Augustinian speculation is still that and under some rock somewhere. This explains well why it was resisted by the remnants of the Roman aristocracy as manifested in the Papacy under the Franks for so long. The filioque doesn’t become widespread through papal teaching until much later.

  46. Let’s not focus on Ambrose here…let’s save that for a later post.

  47. Greg DeLassus says:

    Is it really the word-concept fallacy? I am willing to concede that it is possible that Ambrose is not using the word to mean exactly the same thing as a Catholic like myself might mean by it, but it seems clear from the context that he is using it at the least to say that the Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father and the Son, so for present purposes it is clear enough that the rot (as Dr Farrell would have it) starts before Augustine. Admittedly only twenty years before Augustine, so I may just be nitpicking, but I do not think that my nitpick may be brushed away so simply as the invocation of “word-concept fallacy.”

  48. Word concept fallacy Greg. Farrell has a huge analysis on Ambrose and not just on the filioque, but on sacraments, faith and reason, natural theology, and all kinds of other things.

    Ambrose’s patristic method in theology wouldn’t allow him to even recognize your religion.


  49. Greg DeLassus says:

    Gosh, this may just be nitpicking, because it only moves the idea back another twenty years, but is it really fair to say that “the filioque simply was not explicitly taught by any father prior to Augustine.” Ambrose uses the word “filioque” to describe the Spirit’s procession. This scarcely looks “ambiguous.” Admittedly, this may well simply mean that Farrell should be taking aim at Ambrose instead of Augustine, not that the partisans of the “filioque” are right. Still, as a matter of strict accuracy, it seems to me that Dr Farrell is wrong here.

  50. photios says:

    I left out many very important issues regarding Leo and Charlegmange that Farrell makes and I got tired of typing footnotes, so they are somewhat incomplete. I got the bulk of the relevant data in this monster post to highlight the main issues.


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