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Vladimir Nikolayevich Lossky ( ; – February 7, 1958) was an influential Eastern Orthodox theologian in exile from Russia. He emphasized theosis as the main principle of Orthodox Christianity.

Professor Lossky was born in 1903 in Göttingenmarker, Germanymarker. His father, Nikolai Lossky, was professor of philosophy in Saint Petersburgmarker. Lossky lived with his family in Petrograd from 1920 until his father and family were exiled from Russia in 1922. He studied at the Faculty of Arts at Petrograd University continued his studies at Prague and eventually graduated at the Sorbonnemarker in Paris with a specialized studies in medieval philosophy. After a stay in Praguemarker, he moved to Parismarker two years later and remained there until his death in 1958. He served as the first dean of the St. Dionysus Institute in Paris, where he also taught dogmatic theology. Lossky is best remembered for his book, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church.

Lossky was profoundly changed as a child when he witnessed the trial which led to the execution of Metropolitan Benjamin of St Petersburg by the Sovietsmarker. Metropolitan Benjamin was later canonized by the Orthodox Church. [232392]


Lossky's main theological concern was exegesis on mysticism in the Orthodox tradition. He stated in The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church that the Orthodox maintained their mystical tenets while the West lost them after the East-West Schism. A loss of these tenets by the West was due to a misunderstanding of Greek terms such as ousia, hypostasis, theosis, and theoria. He cites much of the mysticism of the Eastern Orthodox Church as expressed in such works as the Philokalia, St John Climacus's Ladder of Divine Ascent, and various others by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, St Gregory of Nyssa, St Basil the Great, St Gregory Nazianzus, and St Gregory Palamas. Father Georges Florovsky termed V Lossky's Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church as a "neopatristic synthesis".

Lossky's main tenet of the Mystical Theology was to show through reference to the Greek Fathers works of the ancient Church that their theosis was above knowledge (gnosis).This was further clarified in his work Vision of God (or theoria). In both works Lossky shows some of the differences between Eastern Orthodoxy i.e. Saint Dionysus the Areopagite's work and Plotinus and the tenets of Neoplatonism. Asserting that Eastern Orthodoxy and Neo-Platonism, though they share common culture and concepts are not the same thing and have very different understandings of God and ontology.

Lossky, like his close friend Father Georges Florovsky, was opposed to the sophiological theories of Father Sergei Bulgakov and Vladimir Soloviev. In the words of Lossky's own father N. O. Lossky, "One characteristic of his theology that should be underscored, is that he was not, and always refused to be, a direct descendant of the famous Russian "religious philosophy" 1. The term Russian religious philosophy being Neoplatonic as such, having its origin in the works of the slavophil movement and its core concept of sobornost. Which was later used and developed by Vladimir Soloviev.

Eastern Theology definitions

Lossky also expressed in The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church that the Trinity is a doctrine with its technical terms rooted in Hebrew hermeneutics, Greek Platonic and Neoplatonic philosophy as well. The triune God being of one essence or being, which is reflective of mankind hypostatically, inside out. God and experience coming into the person from the external world and into the soul by the influence of the Holy Spirit. The freewill of man functioning as a means to choose good or evil and or choose God or reject God (ie blasphemy the Holy Spirit). Hypostasis meaning existence of God. Ousia as essence or being, is the aspect of God that is completely incomprehensible to mankind and human perception, since it is beyond created or is uncreated. The essence of God, being in the Father (primordial origin) and then given to the Son (begotten of the Father not made) and the Holy Spirit (which proceeds from the Father) both as the hands of God. Ousia as essence or being, defined as, "It is all that subsists by itself and which has not its being in another".

The Triune God in essence is the only uncreated being

The concept of the Triune God being a single God in essence or Ousia (as uncreated). A single God who as Father or infinite origin is an existence, as Son or flesh is an existence and as Spirit is an existence. One God in one Father.

God the Father

The Father of the Trinity is uncreated hyper-being (beyond being) in essence or ousia as such is the truly infinite, primordial or original, uncreated origin, the reality of which all things and beings originate from, as the Father Hypostasis. The Father hypostasis in using the term God is used primarily as a name for the Father.

God the Son

The Son of God or Jesus Christ expressing the logos or perfection as the highest ideal, in the material world and God in the flesh. Christ as well, representing mankind, which he inherited from the Theotokos. Christ manifest as generated and or begotten (not made) in essence uncreated, by and from God the Father as another reality, Hypostasis of God.

God the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit himself being light, life, animation and the source of uncreated light photomos, enlightenment and/or illumination, who proceeds or is manifest by procession from God the Father as another Hypostasis of God. The Holy Spirit and the Christ being the hands of God the Father, reaching in from the infinite into the finite (see St Irenaeus).

Created Being

All things that are not God are created beings or are created in their essence. Mankind possesses free will in his finite nature, mankind exists in an indeterminate world. Things as such in their subsistence, are dependent upon something other than themselves. As such divine beings (such as Angels) are created beings the origin of their being is ex nihilo. All things that are not God, are created in essence or being. God as hyper-being, and or in essence uncreated can be, by way of his existences, the infinite while generating himself as a man and also be the spirit, that by procession, animates life.

Energies of God

All three hypostasis sharing a common essence or ousia or being, which is referred to as God. The ousia of God being completely unknowable or incomprehensible to mankind since it is uncreated where as nothingness as well as mankind are created (see Nikolai Berdyaev). The energies of God the Father having the same hyper-being in that they are without cause and or uncreated (see Gregory Palamas). God's energies as uncreated and indestructible. God the Father (the Father as the monarchos) in his being is not self generated, nor generated from any other, hence the incomprehensibility of God. The Trinity having existences (hypostasis) that are comprehensible, but a being that is not created and beyond all things (including nothingness) therefore God's hyper-being (ousia) is incomprehensible. Lossky points out that God's existences can be spoken of but not his being. If one then speaks of God's essence or being as anything outside of incomprehensible, one speaks in direct contradiction to the theoria of Christianity and as such are not true theologians and are instead speaking of God through speculations, rather than experience.

Mysticism and theology

For Lossky, Christian mysticism and dogmatic theology were one and the same. The Christian life of prayer and worship is the foundation for dogmatic theology, and the dogma of the church help Christians in their struggle for sanctification and deification. Without dogma future generations lose the specific orthodoxy (right mind) and orthopraxis (right practice) of the Eastern Orthodox path to salvation (see soteriology).

See also


  • The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, SVS Press, 1997. (ISBN 0-913836-31-1) James Clarke & Co Ltd, 1991. (ISBN 0-227-67919-9)
  • Orthodox Theology: An Introduction, SVS Press, 2001. (ISBN 0-913836-43-5)
  • In the Image and Likeness of God, SVS Press, 1997. (ISBN 0-913836-13-3)
  • The Vision of God, SVS Press, 1997. (ISBN 0-913836-19-2)
  • The Meaning of Icons, with Léonid Ouspensky, SVS Press, 1999. (ISBN 0-913836-99-0)
  • Sept jours sur les routes de France: Juin 1940 Cerf, 1998. (ISBN 2-204-06041-0)
  • Theologie Negative et Connaissance de Dieu Chez Maitre Eckhart 1960. Vrin, 2002. (ISBN 2-7116-0507-8)
  • History of Russian Philosophy «История российской Философии »(1951) by N. O. Lossky Publisher: Allen & Unwin, London ASIN: B000H45QTY International Universities Press Inc NY, NY ISBN 978-0823680740 sponsored by Saint Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminarymarker
  • Derived with permission from Vladimir_Lossky at OrthodoxWiki.
  • Being With God by Aristotle Papanikolaou University of Notre Dame Press February 24, 2006 ISBN 0268038309


  1. History of Russian Philosophy By N.O. Lossky section on V. Lossky
  2. The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, SVS Press, 1997. (ISBN 0-913836-31-1) James Clarke & Co Ltd, 1991. (ISBN 0-227-67919-9) V Lossky pg50-51
  3. John Damascus- Whatsoever the Son has from the Father, the Spirit also has, including His very being. And if the Father does not exist, then neither does the Son and the Spirit; and if the Father does not have something, then neither has the Son or the Spirit. Furthermore, because of the Father, that is, because the Father is, the Son and the Spirit are; and because of the Father, the Son and the Spirit have everything that they have.[1]
  4. "Now man is a mixed organization of soul and flesh, who was formed after the likeness of God, and moulded by His hands, that is, by the Son and Holy Spirit, to whom also He said, "Let Us make man." Genesis 1:26." Against Heresies (St. Irenaeus) Adversus Haereses (Book IV, Preface)
  5. The Teachings of Modern Christianity on Law, Politics and Human Nature

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