|Symeon the New Theologian
Turkey (949 - 1032) Timeline
Christian : Eastern Orthodox
Poems by Symeon the New Theologian
Books - Links
When he was 14, George met a monk at the monastery of Studios named Symeon the Pious. George accepted Symeon the Pious as his spiritual director while continuing to prepare for a life in politics.
Somewhere around age 20, George was overcome by an ecstatic state in which he experienced God as a living presence of radiant light.
Despite this radically transformative experience, he spent several more years attempting to fulfill his family's expectations, eventually becoming an imperial senator. However, his continuing mystical experiences were not compatible with such a public life and, at age 27, he renounced his previous life and became a monk, entering the monastery at Studios to continue under the direct guidance his spiritual director, even taking on the same monastic name -- Symeon.
The closeness teacher and disciple shared worried the monastic authorities and the two were separated. The young Symeon was given the choice of remaining at Studios and no longer receiving spiritual guidance from the elder Symeon, or he could go to another monastery and keep his spiritual director.
So as not to lose the guidance of Symeon the Pious, the young Symeon chose to move to the monastery of St. Mamas in Constantinople. There, Symeon was ordained a priest and eventually became the abbot of the monastery, reviving the monastery's life of prayer and meditation. While abbot of St. Mamas, Symeon wrote extensive treatises (called the Catecheses) as guidelines for the ideal monastic and God-focused life, emphasizing the power of contemplative prayer and meditation.
The mystical spiritual practices that he advocated led to further conflicts with authorities and Symeon was exiled in 1009 to a small hermitage on the far side of the Bosphorus.
Disciples began to gather around Symeon and soon the small hermitage grew into a full monastery. It was there that Symeon wrote his most personal work, Hymns of Divine Love, a collection of poems describing his mystical experiences.
Symeon's doctrines and poetry emphasize not only the possibility, but the necessity of personally experiencing the Divine. He also stated that one need not be a monk or renunciate, saying that one "who has wife and children, crowds of servants, much property, and a prominent position in the world" can still directly experience communion with the divine.
Giving him the title of "Theologian" does not mean that he was a formal, rationalist Christian philosopher, as we might use the term today, especially in Western Christian and philosophical traditions. Within Orthodox Christian tradition, the epithet of "Theologian" has been only given to a few figures, specifically indicating that this is a figure with direct experience of God. In other words, he is considered to be a mystic of full Realization.
Poems by Symeon the New Theologian
- As soon as your mind has experienced
- By what boundless mercy, my Savior
- How are You at once the source of fire
- How is it I can love You
- In the midst of that night, in my darkness
- O totally strange and inexpressible marvel!
- The fire rises in me
- The Light of Your Way
- We awaken in Christ's body
- What is this awesome mystery
- You, oh Christ, are the Kingdom of Heaven
Recommended Books: Symeon the New Theologian
Mysticism in World Religions: Symeon the New Theologian
Quotes by St. Symeon organized by topic.
Theosophy Library Online - Great Teacher Series - Symeon the New Theologian
Good biography and introduction to St. Symeon's philosophy from a Theosophical perspective.
Symeon the New Theologian: Vision of Divine Light
An essay exploring the mysticism of light in the writings of Symeon the New Theologian.