THE FIRST CHURCH IN EUROPE
"Do you see now that in place of the nous and the eyes and ears, they acquire the incomprehensible Spirit? It is through Him that they hear, see and comprehend. For if all their noetic activity has come to rest, how could the angels and men like angels see God except by the power of the Spirit? This is why their vision is not sensory. They do not perceive it through the senses. Nor is it an act of noetic perception, since they do not find it in thoughts, nor in the knowledge that comes from them.
"They only discover it after all noetic activity ceases. So it is not the product of either imagination or discursive reason; neither is it an opinion nor a conclusion reached by syllogistic argument."
[Saint Gregory Palamas. First Triad, Part 3, sec. 18]
The contemporary non-sensory definition of science has often made it necessary to use indirect means to investigate the psyche. Many sources of more direct inner-knowledge have been so discredited as to be ignored by the majority of its specialist investigators. This forgotten knowledge concerns what happens inside the human psyche. In its turn, this loss has repeatedly damaged the way we think about religion except in individuals whose philosophical understanding extends beyond the bounds of those same forms of the sensory, the measurable, and the precisely definable. What is temporarily lost is part of that 'interior' knowledge of man; knowledge that was once the possession of the 'early fathers' of the first Christian Church to be established in Europe. Certain elements of this teaching were developed further, particularly in early monasticism, where they survive to this day. For two millennia it has been so consistent in the Greek world that not only can it be regarded as a coherent Tradition, but when its meaning is lost it retains the quality that if it is put into practice with a living connection to its origins, it can restore its earlier meaning. In this way, the tradition remains as an unchanging thread.
It seems clear that it does not replace the Gospel teaching and the unwritten doctrine of the Apostles, but that it was added to the Gospel teaching to support the unwritten record. It is generally forgotten because it demands so much of its readers, and much of it is first found particularly in Saint Paul's 'epistles'. It is intended to prepare those who follow it for investigation and active application of the extensive and spiritually effective early Christian teaching, with its practical application to life, and it seeks to provide what is needed to correct for what has been lost from the full form of that doctrine in our times.
In modern times its philosophical expansion, rephrased to meet the needs of the modern world and often forced to deny its Christian origins, called itself by names such as the 'Fourth Way'. In addition, there has been a general fragmentation of the Church into many denominations on the basis of small alterations in doctrine. My observation is that these differences in doctrine lead to different results which can be seen as a 'dilution' of the original Tradition, and that this dilution is leading in many places towards a decline in the spiritual reality at the heart of Christianity.
Saint Paul's teaching, as we find it in the New Testament, defined the spirituality of the original European Church as one Church as far as possible with a single doctrine, before it became divided. It was directly through this Church that all our western Churches entered Europe from Palestine, and from there the original tradition of the Christian Church passed into our modern world.
Constantine's Church was first centred on the court in Constantinople. In the year 313, Constantine established toleration of the previously persecuted Christian Church, beginning a major change in Roman thought that began to spread Westward through the Empire. Under Constantine, the establishment of Christianity as the official religion of the Empire brought into the open the rapid growth and unique thinking of the Christian communities that by then had taken root throughout the Greek speaking world. In 331, the main seat of the Emperors shifted from Rome itself to Constantinople - the 'second Rome' - and certain things happened in the ensuing period. Under Emperor Constantine, a rapid shift in ways of thinking had developed, establishing Christianity, once a persecuted minority religion, as the established Church of the Eastern Roman Empire.
As the Western Empire continued to decay, authority West of Rome returned to the tribal Chiefs who by then had for a considerable time been under Roman rule. Many of those chiefs began to live in Rome itself, but what is only now becoming more obvious as the result of a change in the way history is now researched was the fact that while many of the better educated Romans in the Eastern Empire read or discussed in cultured Greek, the Western tribes, no longer acting as mercenaries to protect the Empire, used their military skills to survive, and for linguistic ability depended on captured slaves who ran what administrative services those tribes maintained.
Little of the knowledge developing in the Eastern Empire reached the West at that time, and much of it has only reached the West in our time in formal, intellectualized form; as verbal descriptions without the supporting evidence of direct experience that could be proved by recognition.
This division between the literal churches with their doctrinal agreement and the Church of the Fathers based on experience, has endured to the present era. An example of this is that around 1990 I was able to observe that the great Christian bookshop 'La Procure', adjacent to the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Saint Suplice in Paris, had on its shelves only three or four 'Early Fathers' of the hundreds who had been the main formative influence in Constantine's Church. Even today, this communications failure is the real cause of the difference in thinking between what is basically a single astern Church striving to teach a single doctrine and and several thousand Western Churches - of greater or lesser importance - teaching 'as many doctrines as there are churches.'