|previous article in this issue||next article in this issue|
Document Details :
Title: Mystical Process in Isaac the Syrian
Subtitle: Tears, Penthos, and the Physiology of Dispassion
Author(s): BRADFORD, David T.
Journal: Studies in Spirituality
Volume: 26 Date: 2016
Tears is understood in the ascetic tradition of Eastern Christianity as a prolonged process of spiritual development motivated by compunction (penthos). One of its dominant behavioral expressions is weeping. The experience and theology of tears are reviewed in the first part of this essay. Evagrius’s writings on tears are reviewed in the second part, and Cassian’s in the third. The fourth begins with a review of the anatomy and physiology of weeping, followed by an application of the scientific material in an analysis of several chapters on tears, prayer, and stillness (hesychia) written by Diadochos of Photike and Mark the Ascetic. In the fifth part, tears and ordinary weeping are compared in terms of their social and evolutionary dimensions. In the sixth, a process analysis of tears is contrasted with hierarchical classifications in which the experience of tears is divided into discontinuous stages. The seventh part is a process analysis of Isaac the Syrian’s description of the full course of tears. The eighth shows that tears culminates in dispassion and establishes a new homeostasis of the autonomic nervous system. For Isaac, tears leads to the personal realization of eschatological expectations, as discussed in
the final part.