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Author Topic: Essence and Energies...  (Read 4004 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: May 06, 2008, 10:56:04 AM »

Grace and Peace,

No one can see God and live... but the pure of heart will see God. Please help me understand better the Essence and Energies of God?
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« Reply #1 on: May 06, 2008, 11:12:49 AM »

Here are some threads dealing with the issue:

Essence and Energies of God IS God

More About the Essence/Energies Distinction

Hesychast Movement/Essence&Energies

We're currently working on updating tags to make searching easier.  Thanks!
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« Reply #2 on: May 06, 2008, 12:49:13 PM »

Is this distinction, of Essence and Energy radical in nature if we recognize the Energies as 'Uncreated' it appears that we would have to say 'no' unless we are going to say that God is one ontologically 'One'.

Your Thoughts?
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« Reply #3 on: May 06, 2008, 01:00:09 PM »

The best resource about this that I am personally familiar with is a book by Vladimir Lossky, titled "Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church" (unfortunately, I can only give you a link to its Russian original - http://www.wco.ru/biblio/books/lossk1/Main.htm). Losskiy dedicates a full chapter 4 of this book to the "uncreated energies." He analyses writings of St. Gregory Palamas, as well as several earlier Orthodox theologians - St. Macarius, St. (Pseudo-)Dyonisius, and other. In a nutshell, he summarizes what those authors wrote as God's energies being to God like sun rays are to the Sun. They are God, just like the rays emitted from the Sun are also the Sun. Yet, we, humans, cannot touch or dip ourselves into the star called the Sun; on the other hand, we can, and should, expose ourselves to these rays emitted from this star. Similarly, while we cannot mix with God, acquire (or even learn anything about) His nature, we can, and should, expose ourselves to His divine uncreated energies.
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« Reply #4 on: May 06, 2008, 01:20:51 PM »

Hi Heorhij,

As I understand it, you are a scientist? Regardless, what are you views on causality? Don't most modern scientific studies argue for a 'non-causal' understanding of reality? I 'will' show how this is connected if the moderators will be generous with me.

Thanks for your help.
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« Reply #5 on: May 06, 2008, 01:34:02 PM »

Would not the Theotokos be a living example that explains this relationship since she is blessed and full of grace? Since our understanding of grace is an uncreated energy and she is an undefiled created being partaking of what is uncreated?       Later edit here: My post was typed much earlier but I had forgotten to submit for over 1/2 hr & the concepts seemed simpler back in the day (1 hr ago at this poiunt). Roll Eyes
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« Reply #6 on: May 06, 2008, 01:53:25 PM »

Would not the Theotokos be a living example that explains this relationship since she is blessed and full of grace? Since our understanding of grace is an uncreated energy and she is an undefiled created being partaking of what is uncreated?

If there is no life without God, then isn't all life partaking of what is uncreated in that all live? It seems to me that corruption doesn't really start overtaking us till we stop growing... (corruption sets in) and we slowly begin to 'age' and 'corrupt'.

Your thoughts? Actually, anyone's thoughts are welcome.  Grin
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« Reply #7 on: May 06, 2008, 01:55:23 PM »

Hi Heorhij,

As I understand it, you are a scientist? Regardless, what are you views on causality? Don't most modern scientific studies argue for a 'non-causal' understanding of reality? I 'will' show how this is connected if the moderators will be generous with me.

Thanks for your help.

Hi Ignatius,

Yes, I am a university biology and microbiology teacher, but, unfortunately, I do not have any insight into this issue. I seem to recall that the modern view on various phenomena of the natural world is more "probabilistic" than deterministic, but that's about all I can say. (I am not much of a philosopher.Smiley)
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« Reply #8 on: May 15, 2008, 10:14:07 PM »


I think three patriarchs in the 15th century decried Palamas as an heretical innovator. I have problems with Palamas on this subject. God is an absolutely simple Being. Anything with parts [e.g., energy vs essence] makes God complex with parts. Anything complex is finite. If God's energy is not His essnence, but the former is still God, then there are others gods in existence.

The ecumenical councils never applied parts to God -- with the exception of the members of the Holy Trinity. Palamas' teaching does not have ecumenical authority.

This is my perspective. I hope this post will be approved.
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« Reply #9 on: May 21, 2008, 03:11:43 PM »

Euthymios,  I'm not the expert on anything here, but I tend to look at this issue differently.  Maybe someone who's well-versed on this topic can help us out.  At any rate, here's my take:

First, as Dionysios and Maximos say, God isn't a being and he doesn't properly 'exist' since being and existence imply their intelligibility.  Second, the cognitive distinction between essence, that which is unknowable, and energy, that which is revealed and unites with us (theosis), is simply that: cognitive.  The term 'essence' is simply a place holder for that of which we can know nothing since it is beyond our capacity.  If saints were to be united to the divine essence in theosis, they would be God by essence.  The distinction between essence and energies is only problematic if they are defined as parts of a whole, as in something created.  I think your problem reared its head again when you said, "The ecumenical councils never applied parts to God -- with the exception of the members of the Holy Trinity."  Here we already have either tritheism or monism.  For, if "god" has three parts, then that which constitutes "godhood" is either a set of attributes that is common to three individuals (which is implied in speaking of the three hypostases of the Trinity as parts), which is tritheism, or, if the three hypostases are truly to be united in a way other than common attributes but are regarded as parts, then the three parts, or hypostases, are simply three emanations of an impersonal essence. Since God isn't being and therefore isn't subject to predication according to created terms, then only that which God reveals about himself can be relied upon in order for us to understand him.  Photios' Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit is all about this problem as it is manifest in the filioque.  When we think of God as ontologically absolutely simple, as the Roman Catholics and many Protestants do, then we run into all sorts of problems as we confuse the divine essence, energies, and persons. 

I think Gregory is only telling us what he learned from the Fathers before him.
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« Reply #10 on: May 21, 2008, 10:02:32 PM »

Euthymios,  I'm not the expert on anything here, but I tend to look at this issue differently.  Maybe someone who's well-versed on this topic can help us out.  At any rate, here's my take:

First, as Dionysios and Maximos say, God isn't a being and he doesn't properly 'exist' since being and existence imply their intelligibility.  Second, the cognitive distinction between essence, that which is unknowable, and energy, that which is revealed and unites with us (theosis), is simply that: cognitive.  The term 'essence' is simply a place holder for that of which we can know nothing since it is beyond our capacity.  If saints were to be united to the divine essence in theosis, they would be God by essence.  The distinction between essence and energies is only problematic if they are defined as parts of a whole, as in something created.  I think your problem reared its head again when you said, "The ecumenical councils never applied parts to God -- with the exception of the members of the Holy Trinity."  Here we already have either tritheism or monism.  For, if "god" has three parts, then that which constitutes "godhood" is either a set of attributes that is common to three individuals (which is implied in speaking of the three hypostases of the Trinity as parts), which is tritheism, or, if the three hypostases are truly to be united in a way other than common attributes but are regarded as parts, then the three parts, or hypostases, are simply three emanations of an impersonal essence. Since God isn't being and therefore isn't subject to predication according to created terms, then only that which God reveals about himself can be relied upon in order for us to understand him.  Photios' Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit is all about this problem as it is manifest in the filioque.  When we think of God as ontologically absolutely simple, as the Roman Catholics and many Protestants do, then we run into all sorts of problems as we confuse the divine essence, energies, and persons. 

I think Gregory is only telling us what he learned from the Fathers before him.

Is it true that the essence/energies distinction is merely cognitive? If this is true, then that would go a long way in helping me with my difficulties regarding this matter.
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« Reply #11 on: May 23, 2008, 11:33:41 AM »

Grace and Peace Everyone,

Ultimately isn't the distinction of Essence and Energies only necessary to safeguard us from Pantheism understanding the ease of which one could reach that conclusion with emanationism?

Anyone?
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« Reply #12 on: May 23, 2008, 11:37:43 AM »

I kind of always thought that we were already protected from pantheism by the fact that we could never participate in all of God's essence because its infinite.
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« Reply #13 on: May 23, 2008, 01:33:25 PM »

I kind of always thought that we were already protected from pantheism by the fact that we could never participate in all of God's essence because its infinite.
As far as I understand the Orthodox teaching on this subject, we cannot participate even is SOME of God's essence because there is an abyss, a gap that cannot be bridged, between God's uncreated "ousia" (essence, substance, nature), and our created "ousia." I stand on my deck and look at the Sun. No matter how high I jump, I'm not gonna land on the surface of the Sun - it's just impossible, the gap between me and the star called the Sun is way too big. So, it's plain silly to contemplate, to how big an extent I could "participate" in the buildup of the star that we call the Sun. But if I as much as take off my shirt, the photons that are being constantly emitted from the surface of the Sun will stimulate my melanocytes, and my skin will become tan. I am not merging or "mixing" with the Sun (God, Trinity), but I can be opened to, and affected by, His energies (photons).
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« Reply #14 on: May 23, 2008, 04:00:45 PM »

As far as I understand the Orthodox teaching on this subject, we cannot participate even is SOME of God's essence because there is an abyss, a gap that cannot be bridged, between God's uncreated "ousia" (essence, substance, nature), and our created "ousia." I stand on my deck and look at the Sun. No matter how high I jump, I'm not gonna land on the surface of the Sun - it's just impossible, the gap between me and the star called the Sun is way too big. So, it's plain silly to contemplate, to how big an extent I could "participate" in the buildup of the star that we call the Sun. But if I as much as take off my shirt, the photons that are being constantly emitted from the surface of the Sun will stimulate my melanocytes, and my skin will become tan. I am not merging or "mixing" with the Sun (God, Trinity), but I can be opened to, and affected by, His energies (photons).

Very nice analogy.
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« Reply #15 on: May 23, 2008, 10:52:57 PM »

Is it true that the essence/energies distinction is merely cognitive? If this is true, then that would go a long way in helping me with my difficulties regarding this matter.

As far as I know.  There isn't a separation between the Divine essence and energies as parts of a physical (or at least intelligible) analogy (thereby excluding any analogia fidei), simply a distinction in the economy (our perception, or the penetration of the creation by He who is uncreate), which 'occurs' unto ages of ages.

I kind of always thought that we were already protected from pantheism by the fact that we could never participate in all of God's essence because its infinite.

I tend to look at this another way.  God's energies are infinite and their source is unknowable (Gregory says this somewhere in The Triads, sorry I can't give a quote).  However, these aren't impersonal energies or static emanations, but our confrontation with the persons of the Holy Trinity.  The problem with the beatific vision is that it isn't personal, but if it is, then we have the problem that God's essence is identified with His hypostases and, by implication, his energies.  This is where we run into the doctrine of 'absolute divine simplicity' which goes from Augustine to Anselm to Aquinas, etc.

BUT I'd really like a priest to contribute to this thread in case i'm a heretic. Lips Sealed
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« Reply #16 on: May 28, 2008, 07:08:45 AM »


I am Orthodox, but I see a problem with Saint Gregory Palamas' teaching with the essence/energy distinction. My argument goes something like this.

ESSENCE = GOD

ENERGY = GOD

Essence is not energy, according to Palamas.

Ergo, there is more then one God:

ESSENCE

and

ENERGY.

Both are co-eternal, but they are not the same thing. That makes two perfections and two or more God's. I see it as a philosohical impossibility because there cannot be two perfect Beings unless they are one in essence.

I see no way out of it, but I'm sure there is. I don't claim to be an expert on Saint Gregory Palamas.
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« Reply #17 on: May 28, 2008, 08:01:27 AM »

I am Orthodox,
No you aren't.
An Orthodox Christian is someone who holds Orthodox doctrine, not simply someone who calls themselves one.


I see it as a philosohical impossibility because there cannot be two perfect Beings unless they are one in essence.
This is where you are going wrong.
According to the Fathers including St. Gregory Palamas, the Uncreated Energies have neither hypostasis nor essence/substance. How can something with no substance and no hypostasis be another Divine Hypostasis or another Divine Substance? Think about it, if Energy is distinct from Essence, then Energy has no Essence. "But how can it exist?" I hear you ask. Well think about it again: God's Will exists, but it has no hypostasis, essence or substance of its own. God's Love exists, but it has no hypostasis, essence or substance of its own. Yet the Divine Will and the Divine Love are still Divine and have Eternally existed.
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« Reply #18 on: May 29, 2008, 02:22:26 AM »


If the distinction is only cognitive, then God'e essence IS His energy. My point is proven that there cannot be an objective or ontological distinction.
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« Reply #19 on: May 29, 2008, 08:09:32 PM »

If the distinction is only cognitive, then God'e essence IS His energy.
Yes. "If". But it isn't.

My point is proven that there cannot be an objective or ontological distinction.
Leap in logic. First prove that your "if" is an "is".
And how can there be no "objective or ontological distinction" between something which has ousia (essence) and something which does not? How can there be no "objective or ontological distinction" between something which has hypostasis, and something which doesn't?
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« Reply #20 on: June 01, 2008, 04:41:29 AM »

Yes. "If". But it isn't.
Leap in logic. First prove that your "if" is an "is".
And how can there be no "objective or ontological distinction" between something which has ousia (essence) and something which does not? How can there be no "objective or ontological distinction" between something which has hypostasis, and something which doesn't?


Everything that exists has essence. Otherwise it wouldn't exist. It is impossible for energy to be God, but not be God at the same time. Either it is God or it isn't. If energy is not His essence, then we are talking about two entirely different God's here. I can't believe Saint Gregory Palamas didn't see this logical contradiction.
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« Reply #21 on: June 05, 2014, 11:05:20 AM »

So... I still don't get it : What is the difference between God's Essence and His Energies? Do God's energies change?
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« Reply #22 on: June 05, 2014, 11:29:13 AM »

So... I still don't get it : What is the difference between God's Essence and His Energies? Do God's energies change?
What about your own energies? What is one of your energies?
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« Reply #23 on: June 05, 2014, 11:42:39 AM »

This intense contrast between essence and energy probably arose around the concept of theosis/deification so that it is clear that one does not become God in essence, but through participation in the same life of God (through His energies being united with man's).

Fr. Dumitru Staniloae (and others before and after) have made two important points regarding God's essence and energies: 1) that God is pure and ontological subjectivity. In other words, He does not have an objective essence (as if He is made of something or certain parts), but is pure person and all-immaterial. 2)  His energies are also manifestations of Himself because you cannot separate Him from His energies much like you can't separate an arm from a body. And that much more since He is ontological subjectivity and actually is not made of something -- it becomes very hard to draw the line between Himself and His energies because there is nowhere to draw the line (nonetheless the difference remains valid).
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« Reply #24 on: June 05, 2014, 01:29:34 PM »

So... I still don't get it : What is the difference between God's Essence and His Energies? Do God's energies change?

The difference between the two is that God's Energy is what has been revealed to us about God, whereas His Essence has NOT been revealed and therefore we can say absolutely nothing about it, because we know nothing since it has not been revealed.  

Here is a link to understanding the patristic view of God's Essence and Energies:

http://www.thewonderfulname.info/
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« Reply #25 on: June 05, 2014, 01:35:25 PM »

So... I still don't get it : What is the difference between God's Essence and His Energies?

like the difference between walking in the sunlight

and walking on the sun's surface

Do God's energies change?
no.
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« Reply #26 on: June 05, 2014, 02:28:44 PM »

So... I still don't get it : What is the difference between God's Essence and His Energies? Do God's energies change?

The difference between the two is that God's Energy is what has been revealed to us about God, whereas His Essence has NOT been revealed and therefore we can say absolutely nothing about it, because we know nothing since it has not been revealed.  

Here is a link to understanding the patristic view of God's Essence and Energies:

http://www.thewonderfulname.info/

So energies are not who God is, but just his actions into the world? Did I get this right? Why are they called "uncreated" ? If essence ≠ energy than who is to define God according to his energies and how can one ascribe only positive energies to God?


Could you explain this and cite some sources?

So... I still don't get it : What is the difference between God's Essence and His Energies? Do God's energies change?
What about your own energies? What is one of your energies?

What about them?

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« Reply #27 on: June 05, 2014, 02:51:53 PM »

Has anyone on here actually read St. Gregory Palamas?
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« Reply #28 on: June 05, 2014, 03:12:12 PM »

So... I still don't get it : What is the difference between God's Essence and His Energies? Do God's energies change?

The difference between the two is that God's Energy is what has been revealed to us about God, whereas His Essence has NOT been revealed and therefore we can say absolutely nothing about it, because we know nothing since it has not been revealed.  

Here is a link to understanding the patristic view of God's Essence and Energies:

http://www.thewonderfulname.info/

So energies are not who God is, but just his actions into the world? Did I get this right? Why are they called "uncreated" ? If essence ≠ energy than who is to define God according to his energies and how can one ascribe only positive energies to God?



God's Energies are God Himself, just like His Essence.  The difference is that we can know nothing of His Essence with our finite minds, but the only way we know anything at all about Him is through His Energies (which He revealed to mankind).   There is either created or uncreated.  Only God is uncreated, everything else is created.

There is a movement within the uncanonical Orthodox bodies that teach that God's Energies are created, even to go as far to say that His Divinity may be called God, but is NOT God Himself.   That heresy is called "God-fighters", since they fight against Gods Energies...Ofcourse, Gods Divinity is God Himself, just like any other Energy of God's...  
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« Reply #29 on: June 05, 2014, 03:58:01 PM »

Quote
God's Energies are God Himself, just like His Essence.  The difference is that we can know nothing of His Essence with our finite minds, but the only way we know anything at all about Him is through His Energies (which He revealed to mankind).   There is either created or uncreated.  Only God is uncreated, everything else is created.

Doesn't St Gregory Palamas make a distinction between energy and essence?

So created energies = creation?
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« Reply #30 on: June 05, 2014, 05:03:37 PM »

Quote
God's Energies are God Himself, just like His Essence.  The difference is that we can know nothing of His Essence with our finite minds, but the only way we know anything at all about Him is through His Energies (which He revealed to mankind).   There is either created or uncreated.  Only God is uncreated, everything else is created.

Doesn't St Gregory Palamas make a distinction between energy and essence?

So created energies = creation?

Yes, according to the West, God's energies are not innately Divine. Though, Rome is becoming more open-minded on this due to the Eastern Catholics.
« Last Edit: June 05, 2014, 05:03:53 PM by xOrthodox4Christx » Logged

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« Reply #31 on: June 06, 2014, 09:35:46 AM »

From St. Gegory Palamas on the Tranfiguration:




We believe that at the Transfiguration He manifested not some other sort of light, but only that which was concealed beneath His fleshly exterior. This Light was the Light of the Divine Nature, and as such, it was Uncreated and Divine. So also, in the teachings of the Fathers, Jesus Christ was transfigured on the Mount, not taking upon Himself something new nor being changed into something new, nor something which formerly He did not possess. Rather, it was to show His disciples that which He already was, opening their eyes and bringing them from blindness to sight. For do you not see that eyes that can perceive natural things would be blind to this Light?

Thus, this Light is not a light of the senses, and those contemplating it do not simply see with sensual eyes, but rather they are changed by the power of the Divine Spirit. They were transformed, and only in this way did they see the transformation taking place amidst the very assumption of our perishability, with the deification through union with the Word of God in place of this.........



 Why would they need a transforming of their eyes by the power of the Holy Spirit for a contemplation of this Light, if it were merely sensory and created? How could the Glory and the Kingdom of the Father and the Holy Spirit project forth in some sort of sensory light? Indeed, in what sort of Glory and Kingdom would Christ the Lord come at the end of the ages, when there would not be necessary anything in the air, nor in expanse, nor anything similar, but when, in the words of the Apostle, “God will be all in all” (1 Cor 15: 28)? That is to say, will He alter everything for all? If so, then it follows that light is included.




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« Last Edit: June 06, 2014, 09:42:31 AM by recent convert » Logged

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