Peresvet, Oslyabya, Divine Gloom

Oleg Korolev


Added on January 23, 2021

On September 8, of 1380 year, the epic battle of Holy Russia and the Golden Horde took place on the Kulikovo field. Warrior monks (which in itself is unique for Orthodox Christianity), the mystical fighters Peresvet and Oslyabya were sent by the great Saint Sergius of Radonezh to help Prince Dmitry Donskoy on the fight.

It sounds unusual, but my insight is that their mission was to resque souls of everyone, every participant of the combat! All fighters on both sides were self-liberated through the hit of apophatic spear of Peresvet.

This is what my painting “Peresvet, Oslyabya, Presvetly Gloom” is about.

The key to understanding the symbolism of the painting’s composition is found in the interpretations of the “Mystical Theology” of Saint Dionysius the Areopagite. As you maybe aware, the most Luminous Darkness, of the Divine Gloom is a theological term from the Orthodox Apophatic theology, which is based on the” negative” way of perception on it’s way of the search for the Ultimate truth through the denial of everything that which is not It.

In his Letter to Dorothy the Deacon, Saint Dionysius writes: “The divine darkness is that ‘unapproachable light’ (I Tim. 6:16) where God is said to live. And if it is invisible because of a superabundant clarity, if it cannot be approached because of the outpouring of its transcendent gift of light, yet it is here that is found everyone worthy to know God and to look upon Him. And such a one, precisely because he neither sees Him nor knows Him, truly arrives at that which is beyond all seeing and all knowledge. Knowing exactly this, that He is beyond everything perceived and conceived, he cries out with the prophet, ‘Knowledge of You is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it’ (Ps. 139:6).”

The most luminous Darkness is, as it were, an expression of the very moment of entering the ultimate reality. In comparison with one any image and name, including the image of a saint or a national hero, is only a product of the conceptual human mind, which is nothing more than a kind of conventional representation, a conventional meaning that exists only at a certain level of consciousness, in the relative.

The painting depicts Saints Alexander Peresvet and Andrey Oslyabya – two warrior monks who lived in the Grand Principality of Moscow’s Rus in the fourteenth century and took part in the Battle of Kulikovo. Both of them were disciples of St. Sergius of Radonezh, who himself, being moved by the Holy Spirit, sent them with the esoecial mystical mission to help Prince Dmitry Donskoy, who was leading the Russian army. Before the main battle, Peresvet took part in a duel with the Mongol warrior and, even being mortally wounded, still won the battle, remaining not knocked out of the saddle, which expressed the supreme heavenly will for the subsequent victory, the tool of which he happened to become. 

Holy men Alexander Peresvet and Andrey Oslyabya are Russian national epic heroes, in the picture their images are surrounded by angels, mystical animals and symbols. But still, these are the conventional, “positive “, theologically cataphatic, figurative representations, accepted conditionally. It should be noted that cataphatic theology is based on a “positive” perception and interpretation of the mythologeme and, unlike apophatic, operates with an image and describes the truth through the assignment of certain qualities to it.

The main metaphysical idea of the composition of the picture is to create a situation of meeting these two paths (“negative” and “positive”) in one visual space for their actual mutual neutralization and thus the possibility of opening of way to the Ultimate One which can not be expressed either through the statement of the image and myth, or through its total denial.

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