In 1997, our editor-in-chief Archimandrite Luke published an article in Orthodox Life titled, “New Age Philosophy, Orthodox Thought, and Marriage.” One of the writings that the author criticized was by Archimandrite George (Kapsanis), the late abbot of the Athonite Monastery of St Gregory. We are now in receipt of a letter from that monastery explaining that key portions of the English translation, which Fr Luke used as his source, did not correspond to the original Greek text by Archimandrite George and could not be attributed to him. We therefore publish this letter below with the aim of clearing any accusation against Fr George. At the same time, Orthodox Life maintains that the sentiment contained in the erroneous English translations must be treated with utmost caution and skepticism in the light of Patristic teaching.
The text below has been lightly edited. Texts in Greek have been rendered in English translation or omitted where redundant.
Dear in Christ Fr Luke, your blessing.
I am writing to You with the blessing of our abbot, Archimandrite Christopher. We were informed by Andrew Walker, the editor of Pleroma Books publishing house, about your article “New Age Philosophy, Orthodox Thought, and Marriage”, in which you mention our blessed Elder and Abbot, Archimandrite George (Kapsanis) . In your article you referred to a passage from the book The Eros of Repentance (Praxis Institute Press, ISBN 1–872292-04–6 ), also used by Clark Carlton (The Faith…, pg. 228–229). You criticize its meaning and classify Elder George amongst the new age theologians.
The controversial passage in The Eros of Repentance and used by Clark Carlton is:
But what — more than anything else — manifests the imprint of God on the human soul is the power of desire (eros) within the soul… and the impetus which a sanctified eros leads the soul ίn its movements towards its divine archetype. The Saints, especially Maximus the Confessor and Dionysius the Areopagite, understand this power of eroticism as not referring simply to human sexual desire. Το put it better, the sexual urge is an expression of that natural yearning which is implanted within us by our Creator, and leads us toward Ηim.1
From this passage you have concluded that Elder George:
- Is a new age theologian believing “that sexual attraction … leads us towards Him.”
The author of this work, The Eros of Repentance, Archimandrite George, by means of this play on words nonetheless concludes that sexual attraction is a natural desire, implanted within us by God Himself, and leads us towards Him.2
- Contradicts preeminent Church Fathers like Saint Isaac the Syrian, Saint John of Damascus and others.
- and has confused the meaning of the term “eros” used by Saint Maximus the Confessor and Dionysius the Areopagite, and attributes a different viewpoint to their proper teaching.
…The “power of eroticism” is spoken of as if St Dionysius and St Maximus understood it as “not referring simply to human sexual desire.” However, according to the thought of the Fathers, it does not only not “refer” to sexual desire, but in general has nothing to do with sexual desire…3
We believe that you wrote your article in good faith, according to your sources, and this explains your conclusions. However, the Elder was an accomplished individual who never believed or said anything of the sort. While the criticism has to do with an inaccurate translation, unfortunately the Elder’s reputation suffers from it!
We knew him, his beliefs, his ethos, his teachings, his holy life and his holy falling asleep. He never held these beliefs or views, and he never taught such things as those presented in the English translation.
Our blessed Elder was extremely distressed with the misrepresentation of his work. Unfortunately he had continuous health problems from 1999 and consequently was not able to see about the correction of the errors of the translation.
After his falling asleep, we also wanted to make the corrections but had trouble in finding the original Greek article. The size of Elder George’s archives is massive. The title of the article in the English translation “Man as an image of God” as used in The Eros of Repentance did not coincide with any title in his Greek works. With the intentions to republish the book in a second revised edition, we attempted to reconstruct the passage according to Elder George’s mind without having the original Greek to refer to. Andrew Walker made this, somewhat corrected, revision known to you. From this revision you naturally had difficulty in understanding how such a large error in translation was possible, and especially with regards to the sentence removed from the second edition, that is: “The Saints, especially Maximus the Confessor and Dionysius the Areopagite, understand this power of eroticism as not referring simply to human sexual desire. Το put it better, the sexual urge is an expression of that natural yearning which is implanted within us by our Creator, and leads us toward Him.”
By the Grace of God, we recently found the Greek prototype with the title “The God-Man Christ teaches man as the Icon of God.” The article was published in our monastery’s periodical (vol. 7/1982) by Elder George himself. It is a section from a paper presented at the 5th Pan-Hellenic Theological Convention in Athens in 1982.
From this text you will notice that Elder George’s views are completely aligned with the teachings of Saint Maximus and Saint Dionysius, and all of the Holy Fathers.
“But what — more than anything else — reveals the divine imprint on the human being is the power of eros within the soul and this eros’s movement towards its Divine Archetype.
According to Saint Maximus the Confessor and Dionysius the Areopagite, “At times Scripture refers to God as eros (desire), and at other times as love, and at still other times as the desirable and beloved. Therefore, being Himself eros and love, He moves; while as desirable and beloved, He moves everything receptive to this eros and love towards Himself… It is thus that the great apostle, Saint Paul, having come into possession of divine eros and become a participant of the ecstatic power, divinely inspired cries out: ‘I live yet not I, but Christ lives in me.’ He speaks as a true lover and, as he himself says, as one having tasted God’s ecstatic power; no longer living his own life, but the Life of his Beloved, as exceedingly beloved.“4
This power of eros within the soul makes man thirst from the depths of his existence for unity with his Archetype, for Theosis, and to not find rest in created things and the finite. As Saint Nicholas Cabasilas says: “The thirst of human souls needs, as it were, an infinite water; how then could this limited world suffice?“5
Please note that in the original Greek text the following paragraph does not exist.
The Saints, especially Maximus the Confessor and Dionysius the Areopagite, understand this power of eroticism as not referring simply to human sexual desire. Το put it better, the sexual urge is an expression of that natural yearning which is implanted within us by our Creator, and leads us toward Him.
This insertion into the English translation, which adds ideas of sexual desires and eroticism, supposedly guiding one to God, is not in the Greek prototype! Also note that the quote from Saint Augustine, ‘Όυr hearts can have no rest until they rest in Thee” is likewise not in the original Greek!
You must furthermore keep in mind that Elder George’s views on this subject have been recorded in many other works of his. His views did not change from the time that he was a lay theologian and later a cleric and abbot on Mount Athos until his blessed passing on the day of Pentecost 2014. His works, as well as the testimony of countless bishops, clergy and laymen confirm the truth of this fact.
With this clarification, we hope to correct a false impression with regard to the person of Elder George. We wish that your spiritual work is conducted for the Glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
With love in Christ,
Mount Athos, 12th August 2016