Quietism: Why we all need more of it in our lives | BBC Ideas


The A-Z of isms… quietism Quietism is a Christian philosophical
concept we should all know about and – if it is not too much
of a contradiction – talk about rather loudly. Why? Well, for something which
has ancient historical roots, the essence of quietism’s teachings – favouring disconnection and
contemplation over frantic action – is totally modern, and very now. In fact, quietism could be regarded
as one important antidote to the age of overload
we find ourselves in. Quietism says this… Forget worldly affairs
and just, well… stop. It’s not quite the same
as meditation or mindfulness, but there are similarities. And there are parallels
with other faiths too. History books will tell you that
quietism began – no pun intended – softly and without much fanfare. Back in the 4th Century,
Eastern Orthodox techniques of good old-fashioned
Christian prayer started it off. So think sitting
quietly, monastically, lost in the act of religious worship. But 10 centuries later,
the 14th Century Byzantine theologian St Gregory Palamas gave quietism
something of a twist, which made it flare
into widespread use – and more contentious territory. There was no name as such for this
modern mystical approach back then, but the message was clear. Instead of outward displays
like religious chanting and prayer, he encouraged contemplation
and stillness of the mind. The actual term “quietism”
was applied later on by the 17th Century
Spanish priest Miguel de Molinos, a Christian mystic
of great influence. Again it was controversial. He was denounced as a heretic for suggesting that
quiet internal reflection and contemplation of God was OK, alongside traditional outward,
and vocal displays of religiousness – like chanting and prayer. He was condemned by
Pope Innocent the Eleventh and died incarcerated
in Rome in 1696. But suppression of ideas
rarely works, and quietism never really
went away. The essence of quietism can also
be seen within many other religions. The Buddhist idea of Dharma
has distinctly quietistic values, with its focus on connecting
a person to their being rather than what they are doing. Quietism is alive and well
in modern philosophy, thanks to the 20th Century
Austrian-British giant of thought, Ludwig Wittgenstein. And its influence can
be seen clearly these days in the sea of
mindfulness apps on offer. In its more secular definition, quietism is simply a state
of calmness or passivity. And who in this modern, rushing,
overwhelming and overloaded world, doesn’t want a bit of that? Thanks for watching! Don’t forget to subscribe and click the bell to receive notifications for new videos. See you again soon.

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