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Imiaslavie (Russian: Имяславие, literally "praising the name") or Imiabozhie (Имябожие), also spelled imyaslavie and imyabozhie, and also referred to as onomatodoxy, is a Christian dogmatic movement which asserts that the Name of God is God Himself. The movement emerged in the beginning of the 20th century but both proponents and opponents claim it to be connected with much religious thought throughout the history of Christianity (proponents claim its connections to the Church Fathers, while opponents claim the connections to the ancient heresiarchs).


Schema-monk Hilarion

The 20th century history of imiaslavie started in 1907 with the publication of the book On the Caucasus Mountains by a revered starets, schema-monk Hilarion. In his book, Hilarion told of his spiritual experience with the Jesus Prayer as a proof that "The name of God is God Himself and can produce miracles". The book became extremely popular among the Russian monks on Mount Athos in Greece. Many of them argued that since, according to Plato & Stoics, names and forms pre-exist prior to becoming “sensual manifestations in the world",[1] so the name of God must pre-exist before the world was created, and that the Holy Name cannot be anything but God Himself. Among other things, this was thought to mean that knowledge of the secret name of God alone allows one to perform miracles (a similar concept exists in Kabbalah).[2]

Persecution on Mt. Athos[edit]

Both Elder Hilarion’s book on Hesychasm and Fr. Anthony Alexander Bulatovich’s book defending Name-Glorification drew many monks of Mt. Athos into the controversy. Ecumenical Patriarchs Joachim III of Constantinople and Germanus V of Constantinople & the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church issued condemnations of Name-Glorification as being pantheistic without ever interviewing its supporters. Name-Glorifers on Mt. Athos were denied mail and money-transfers as well as the Sacraments. On June 17, 1913 The Russian Imperial Navy’s steamship "Tsar" arrived with to Mt. Athos with Archbishop Nikon, Professor Triotsky, 118 soldiers and 5 officers, to enforce the ruling of the Holy Synod. That same day the Protos, the monastic office of the Eastern Orthodox monastic state of Mount Athos, announced that if the "heretics" were not removed from Athos then all of the Russians would be removed by the Greeks.

July 16th 1913 another military vessel, the “Kherson”, arrived and the round-up of the unarmed Name-Glorifiers by Russian soldiers began. Shebunin, the Russian consul in Constantinople, ordered the soldiers of the 6th company of the 50th Bialystok regiment to take the rebels by storm, but without bloodshed. These soldiers were liquored up by the head of St. Panteleimon Monastery, Archimandrite Misail, for this purpose and things did get bloody. The “Kherson” doctor’s registry indicates that 46 monks from St. Panteleimon were injured and it is alleged that four were killed. This was the feastday of the miraculous icon of The Mother of God kept at Hilandar Monastery on Mt. Athos called Galaktotrophousa, The All-Holy Milk-Giver, one of the most intimate depictions of Mary in Christianity, depicting her nursing the Son & Word of God. The Name-Glorifier monks at the Skete of Saint Andrew were arrested on July 19th without confrontation.

The steamer with the captured monks stood near Athos until July 22. At that time 40 of the injured were placed in the Mt. Athos hospital and the remaining 621 monks (418 from Panteleimonovsky and 183 from St Andrew’s) set off for Odessa. Upon arrival customs agents take all of their possessions which are never returned. After interrogation in Odessa, 8 monks were sent back to St. Andrew’s, 40 sent to prison, and the rest had their shaved hair and beards shaved, are defrocked, and are resettled in the cities of their homeland. Those who were priests were forbidden to hold Church services. Many were denied the Church sacraments for the rest of their lives, even denied last rites and Christian burial. On July 17, 1923 another 212 monks who had chosen to voluntarily leave Mt. Athos arrived in Odessa on the steamer "Chikhachev", some wearing Jewish yarmulkes as ritual mockery. The population of Russian monks on Mt. Athos, recorded as being 3496 in 1910, was reduced to 1914 in 1914.[3][4][5]

Proponents and opponents[edit]

The main proponent of the imiaslavie doctrine was a Hieromonk of the Andreyevsky skete of Athos Mountain, Anthony Bulatovich, who published a few books on the subject. Those who promote this doctrine claim support from the writings of Saint John of Kronstadt, and the influential mystic and healer Grigori Rasputin, the popularly styled "mad monk" who was closely associated with the Russian Royal Family shortly before the October Revolution. St John of Kronstadt died before this controversy erupted, and his quotes, it can be argued, are taken out of context to support a whole set of ideas that are not found in his own writings. One of the most precise definitions of the Imiaslavie position comes from its advocate Aleksei Losev who writes that Imiaslavie is to be understood as “mystical formula”: “the exact mystical formula of Imiaslavie will sound like this: a) the name of God is energy of God, inseparable from the essence of God itself, and therefore is God himself. b) However, God is distinct from His energies and from His name, and that is why God is not His name or a name in general”[6]


On 27 August 1914 the leader of the movement Fr. Antony Bulatovich asked to be sent as an Army chaplain to World War I, his request was granted by the Holy Synod. He sent two letters to the Tsar between 1914-16. In his 1914 letter he warned: The procrastination and actions of the Synod "push" Russia into disasters: "What further disasters this will lead Russia to, only God knows this”.[7] On 1 July 1915, the Holy Synod received a letter from the original author, schema-monk Illarion, asking whether he was expelled from the Church (Illarion lived as a hermit in the Caucasus Mountains and seems to have been unaware of all the commotion his book caused). Elder Illarion stated in July of 1915 that the persecution coming from “the highest members of the Russian hierarchy, is a sure omen of the proximity of times in which the last enemy of truth, the all-pernicious Antichrist, has to come.” Illarion died on 2 June 1916, without having received an answer.[8]

In September 1917 the Pomestny Sobor of the Russian Orthodox Church was assembled to solve the problem with Imiaslavie, with both strong proponents and opponents of Imiaslavie present. The work of the Sobor was aborted due to the October Revolution. Among the theologians who spoke out for Imiaslavie were Pavel Florensky and Sergey Bulgakov. Fr. Antony’s 2nd letter to the Tsar was written in 1916 and in it he “correlates the military failures of Russia in World War 1 at the front with the struggle of the Synod against Name-Glorification”.[8]

Bishop Hilarion (Alfeyev), in 1999, wrote: "Even though the movement of the 'Name-worshippers' was crushed at the beginning of the century on the orders of the Holy Synod, discussion of the matter regained impetus in the years preceding the Moscow Council (1917–18), which was supposed to come to a decision about this but did not succeed in doing so. Thus the Church's final assessment of Name-worshipping remains an open question to this day."[9]

Imiaslavie and mathematics[edit]

The Russian Mathematics School is considered by some to have been created by Dmitri Egorov and Nikolai Luzin, both of whom were imiaslavians and personal friends of Pavel Florensky as well as philosopher Aleksei Losev (both imiaslavians in theology).[10][11]


Social Psychology Prof. Martin Bauer frames this as a conflict over "representation" which "centres on the issue of whether a word is more than just a flatus voci (Latin for a vocal fart)."[12]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Maurice Fluegel, Philosophy, Qabbala and Vedanta. Baltimore: Fleugel & Co., 1902; p. 247
  2. ^ Gedalyah Nigal, Translated by Edward Levin, Magic, Mysticism, and Hasidism: The Supernatural in Jewish Thought. Jason Aronson, Inc., 1994.
  3. ^ Tom E. Dykstra, Hallowed Be Thy Name: The Name-Glorifying Dispute in the Russian Orthodox Church and on Mt. Athos, 1912-1914 , 2014. ISBN 978-1601910301
  4. ^
    • Nicholas Fenne, Russian Monks on Mount Athos: The Thousand Year History of St Panteleimon's; Holy Trinity Seminary Press (September 28, 2021)
  5. ^ (in Russian) [ Of imyaslavtsy or imyabozhniki: Dispute about nature of the name of God and Athos
  6. ^ Dn. Lasha Tchantouridzé, “In the Name of God: 100 Years of the Imiaslavie Movement in the Church of Russia”; The Canadian Journal of Orthodox Christianity Volume VII, Number 3, Fall 2012; p. 225.
  7. ^ Pavel Florensky Brief biography of Starets Illarion and History of Imiaslavie in Russia
  8. ^ a b Pavel Florensky Brief biography of Starets Illarion and History of Imiaslavie in Russia
  9. ^ Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev. "Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: Orthodox Theology on the Threshold of the Twenty-First Century - Paper at the international scholarly conference "The Russian Orthodox Church from 1943 to the present" at the Transfiguration Monastery in Bose (Italy), 15-17 September 1999". Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. ^ "Bulletin, spring 2005: Graham" (PDF). AmAcad. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-03-07. Retrieved 2006-05-27.
  11. ^ "Unknown title". Examen database. Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2006-05-27.
  12. ^ Gordon Sammut et al. editors; The Cambridge Handbook of Social Representations; Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 2015; p. 43.

Further reading[edit]

  • (in French) Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev, Le Nom grand et glorieux. La vénération du Nom de Dieu et la prière de Jésus dans la tradition orthodoxe. Paris: Cerf, 2007.
  • (in French) Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev, Le mystère sacré de l'Eglise. L'introduction à l'histoire et à la problématique des débats athonites sur la vénération du Nom de Dieu. Fribourg: Academic Press, 2007.
  • Daniel Colucciello Barber, Deleuze and the Naming of God (2015), Edinburgh University Press
  • Robert Bird, Ph.D., "Imiaslavie and Baroque Spirituality." AAASS Convention, Pittsburgh, PA, 22 November 2002
  • Sergius Bulgakov (author), Boris Jakim (translator), Icons and the Name of God (2012), Eerdmans
  • (in Russian) Sergius Bulgakov, Философия имени [Philosophy of the Name], 1920)
  • Dr. John Eugene Clay, Arizona State University, "Popular Uses of the Jesus Prayer in Imperial Russia from the Old Believers to the Name-Glorifiers", presentation at AAR, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, November 2005
  • Tom E. Dykstra, Hallowed Be Thy Name: The Name-Glorifying Dispute in the Russian Orthodox Church and on Mt. Athos, 1912-1914 , 2014. ISBN 978-1601910301
  • Nicholas Fenne, Russian Monks on Mount Athos: The Thousand Year History of St Panteleimon's; Holy Trinity Seminary Press (September 28, 2021)
  • Helena Gourko, Divine Onomatology: Naming God in Imyaslavie, Symbolism, and Deconstruction (2005), Ph.D. dissertation at Boston University
  • Loren Graham, Jean-Michel Kantor, Naming Infinity: A True Story of Religious Mysticism and Mathematical Creativity, Harvard University Press, 2009
  • Valentina Izmirlieva, All the Names of the Lord: Lists, Mysticism, and Magic (2008), University of Chicago Press
  • Scott M. Kenworthy, Ph.D., "Church, State, and Society in Late-Imperial Russia: The Imiaslavie Controversy," presentation at American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies National Convention, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, November 2002
  • Scott M. Kenworthy, Ph.D., "Church, State, and Society in Late-Imperial Russia: Nikon (Rozhdestvenskii) and Imiaslavie," presentation at Midwest Russian Historians Workshop, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, March 2003
  • Kenworthy, Scott M. (2020-05-26). "The revival of the Name-Glorifiers debate in post-Soviet Russia". Religion, State and Society. 48 (2–3): 180–195. doi:10.1080/09637494.2020.1766931. ISSN 0963-7494. S2CID 221538946.
  • Michael T. Miller, The Name of God in Jewish Thought: A Philosophical Analysis of Mystical Traditions from Apocalyptic to Kabbalah (2015), Routledge

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