My presentation of the patristic evidence in my Apologia Apatheia was at best haphazard. More unfortunately, it was incomplete. So, without attempting any kind of deliberate systematization, I would like to offer an additional list of relevant patristic quotations which will hopefully further illustrate my point that impassiblity is primarily a question of the sinlessness of God in the Fathers, not a lack of emotions. I intend to continue to update this post as I, inevitably, find more quotes which support my thesis about the truly classical definition of impassibility.
Maximos the Confessor, Four Centuries on Love, 2.16
Passion is a movement of the soul contrary to nature either toward irrational love or senseless hate of something or on account of something material. For example, toward irrational love of food, or a woman, or wealth, or passing glory or any other material thing or on their account. Or else it can be toward a senseless hate of any of the preceding things we spoke of, or on account of any one.
Gregory Palamas, Triads, II.2.7
To become “insensible” is in effect to do away with prayer; the Fathers call this “petrification.” (This importance of this post is highlighted in a note by the translator which discusses the word for “insensible”: “analgesia – lit. incapability of feeling pain, i.e., spiritual blindness or obtuseness: not to be confused with impassibility, control of the disordered passions, or purity of heart.”)
Impassibility does not consist in mortifying the passionate part of the soul, but in removing it from evil to good, and directing its energies towards divine things…and the impassible man is the one who no longer possesses any evil dispositions, but is rich in good ones, who is marked by virtues, as men of passion are marked by evil pleasures; who has tamed his irascible and concupiscent appetites (which constitute the passionate part of the soul), to the faculties of knowledge, judgment and reason in the soul, just as men of passion subject their reason to the passions. For it is the misuse of the powers of the soul which engenders the terrible passions, just as misuse of knowledge of created things engenders the “wisdom which becomes folly.”
…the prize goes to him who has put that part of his soul under subjection, so that by its obedience to the mind, which is by nature appointed to rule, it may ever tend towards God, as is right, by the uninterrupted remembrance of Him..Such is the way which leads through impassibility to perfect love, an excellent way which takes us to the heights.
The Declaration of the Holy Mountain
If anyone does not acknowledge that spiritual dispositions are stamped upon the body as a consequence of the gifts of the Spirit that exist in the soul of those advancing on the spiritual path; and if he does not regard dispassion as a state of aspiration for higher things that leads a person to free himself from evil habits by completely spurning what is evil and to acquire good habits by espousing what is good, but considers it to be a deathlike condition of the soul’s passible aspect, then, by adhering to such views, he inevitably denies that we can enjoy an embodied life in the world of incorruption that is to come.
For if in the age to come the body is to share with the soul in ineffable blessings, then it is evident that in this world as well it will also share according to its capacity in the grace mystically and ineffably bestowed by God upon the purified intellect, and it will experience the divine in conformity with its nature. For once the soul’s passible aspect is transformed and sanctified – but not reduced to a deathlike condition – through it the dispositions and activities of the body are also sanctified, since body and soul share a conjoint existence. As St. Diadochos states, in the case of those who have abandoned the delights of this age in the hope of enjoying the blessings of eternity, the intellect, because of its freedom from worldly cares, is able to act with its full vigor and become capable of perceiving the ineffable goodness of God. Then according to the measure of its own progress it communicates joy to the body too, and this joy which then fills both soul and body is a true recalling of incorruptible life.
Peter of Damascus, A Treasury of Divine Knowledge, I
[The hesychast] loves the supernatural God with all his soul and imitates His dispassion with all his strength.
A Treasury of Divine Knowledge, XIV
Dispassion is a strange and paradoxical thing: once someone has consolidated his victory over the passions, it is able to make him an imitator of God, so far as this is possible for man. For though the person who has attained the state of dispassion continues to suffer attacks from demons and vicious men, he experiences this as if it were happening to someone else, as was the case with the holy apostles and martyrs. When he is praised he is not filled with self-elation, nor when he is insulted is he afflicted. For he considers that what is pleasant come to him by the grace of God and as an act of divine concession of which he is unworthy, while what is unpleasant comes as a trial: the former is given us by grace to encourage us in this world, while the latter is given us to increase our humility and our hope in the world to be. Such a person is impassible, and yet because of his power of discrimination is acutely aware of what gives pain.
Dispassion is a not a single virtue, but is a name for all the virtues. A man is not merely one limb; for it is the many limbs of the body that constitute a man; and not merely the limbs, but the limbs together with the soul. Similarly, dispassion is the union of many virtues, while the place of the soul is taken by the Holy Spirit. For all activities described as ‘spiritual’ are soul-less without the Holy Spirit, and it is given by virtue of the presence of the Holy Spirit that a ‘spiritual father’ is given this title. Yet if the soul does not reject the passions, the Holy Spirit will not come to it; nor, on the other hand, unless the Holy Spirit is present can one properly speak of the all-embracing virtue of dispassion. And if someone were to become dispassionate without the Holy Spirit, he would really be, not dispassionate, but in a state of insensitivity…The one who attained dispassion becomes impassible out of his perfect love for God.
Diadochos of Photiki, On Spiritual Knowledge and Discrimination, 98
Dispassion is not freedom from attack by the demons, for to be free from such attack we must, as the Apostle says, “go out of the world;” but it is to remain undefeated when they do attack…we can break through the black ranks of the demons if, because of our good works, we are protected by the armor of divine light and the helmet of salvation.
Pseudo-Anthony, On the Character of Men, 89
Evil is a passion adherent to matter, but God is not the cause of evil. He has given men knowledge and understanding, the power of discriminating between good and evil, and free will. It is man’s negligence and indolence that give birth to evil passions, while God is in no way the cause.