Author Topic: Essence and Energies (Gregory Palamas)  (Read 949 times)

Offline Insanis

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Essence and Energies (Gregory Palamas)
« on: July 09, 2021, 06:39:46 PM »
I'm no expert on Palamite theology, although I have had exposure to it, it doesn't concern anything that I normally think about. The development of the distinction was actually a theological work to explain certain practices more fully, not to introduce practices. So, it is a theological concept that is attempting to explain a somewhat mystical practice.

I'm a Roman and I find the theological exposition of sacred doctrine by St. Thomas Aquinas to be more than sufficient. In fact, I tend to focus more on the moral theology than the exposition of the Trinity for example, because one is fraught with extremely nuanced terms about what is a mystery beyond our comprehension. Apophatic theology is usually what I prefer for this, as positive statements about God in this manner can easily be misleading, misunderstood, and heretical.

And personally, in my own expression, I rarely say any more than what the basic Catechisms state, as that is all we need. So while I know more than that, and have studied more, this thread is a very sensitive one to write and I hope that the responses are likewise careful.

The Ousia (Essence) and Energeia (Energies) distinction is therefore not something I would dwell on, although, like my study of St Thomas's work, I do have some exposure.

So, my questions are:

  • Opinions of theologians aside, has this distinction ever been condemned as heresy or declared as infallibly true?
  • Does this theological approach have any real errors as formulated? What errors will arise if the distinction is held to be real and true?
  • Would holding the distinction as a concept for explanation of a mystery, without saying it is true distinction in a doctrinal sense be any different from the previous judgement?
 

Offline Jacob

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Re: Essence and Energies (Gregory Palamas)
« Reply #1 on: July 09, 2021, 08:53:32 PM »
You might find the work of Father Christiaan Kappes interesting.  An example can be found here.

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Offline Prayerful

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Re: Essence and Energies (Gregory Palamas)
« Reply #2 on: July 10, 2021, 05:38:31 PM »
Vaticancatholic, aka the Dimond bros have much on it, capably argued in what I looked at, but if their core dogma is any guide, and from the bit I listen to, it isn't wholly an effort to understand.

Probably the nearest to condemnation is hostile reviews of it by approved writers. Drawing on the Dimonds again, Fr Joseph Pohle SJ d. 1922, it could be seen as severely erroneous, creating a needless division in the Godhead:

Quote
Between the essence (οὐσία) and the activity (ἐνέργειᾰ) of God there is a real distinction, inasmuch as the latter radiates from the former as something inferior, though still, in a sense, divine (Θεότης).........Hence the name Hesychasts; hence also the contemptuous nickname… Umbilicans, given to these heretics by Barlaam,...

The article rehearses the various authorities, criticising it specifically, or in the case of Pope St Agatho I, condemning it implicitly. It notes the authorisation of saintly honours among some Great Rite Catholics only postdates V2.

Personally I think the idea of becoming like God without compromising His transcendence is dubious. We can be like saints, but like God goes too far.
Padre Pio: Pray, hope, and don't worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.
 

Offline Insanis

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Re: Essence and Energies (Gregory Palamas)
« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2021, 06:04:33 PM »
Personally I think the idea of becoming like God without compromising His transcendence is dubious. We can be like saints, but like God goes too far.

I'm not sure what you mean here.

The following are some citations from the best of sources for consideration in explaining what you mean and what my mindset is:

Quote from: Catechism of the Council of Trent
Essential Happiness

Solid happiness, which we may designate by the common appellation, essential, consists in the vision of God, and the enjoyment of His beauty who is the source and principle of all goodness and perfection. This, says Christ our Lord, is eternal life: that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. These words St. John seems to interpret when he says: Dearly beloved, we are now the sons of God; and it hath not yet appeared what we shall be. We know that when he shall appear, we shall be like to him: because we shawl see him as he is. He shows, then, that beatitude consists of two things: that we shall behold God such as He is in His own nature and substance; and that we ourselves shall become, as it were, gods.

The Light Of Glory

For those who enjoy God while they retain their own nature, assume a certain admirable and almost divine form, so as to seem gods rather than men.
Why this transformation takes place becomes at once intelligible if we only reflect that a thing is known either from its essence, or from its image and appearance, consequently, as nothing so resembles God as to afford by its resemblance a perfect knowledge of Him, it follows that no creature can behold His Divine Nature and Essence unless this same Divine Essence has joined itself to us, and this St. Paul means when he says: We now see through a glass in a dark manner; but then face to face.' The words, in a dark manner, St. Augustine understands to mean that we see Him in a resemblance calculated to convey to us some notion of the Deity.

This St. Denis' also clearly shows when he says that the things above cannot be known by comparison with the things below; for the essence and substance of anything incorporeal cannot be known through the image of that which is corporeal, particularly as a resemblance must be less gross and more spiritual than that which it represents, as we easily know from universal experience. Since, therefore, it is impossible that any image drawn from created things should be equally pure and spiritual with God, no resemblance can enable us perfectly to comprehend the Divine Essence. Moreover, all created things are circumscribed within certain limits of perfection, while God is without limits; and therefore nothing created can reflect His immensity.

The only means, then, of arriving at a knowledge of the Divine Essence is that God unite Himself in some sort to us, and after an incomprehensible manner elevate our minds to a higher degree of perfection, and thus render us capable of contemplating the beauty of His Nature. This the light of His glory will accomplish. Illumined by its splendour we shall see God, the true light, in His own light.

The Beatific Vision

For the blessed always see God present and by this greatest and most exalted of gifts, being made partakers of the divine nature, they enjoy true and solid happiness. Our belief in this happiness should be joined with an assured hope that we too shall one day, through the divine goodness, attain it. This the Fathers declared in their Creed, which says: I expect the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.

On the Incarnation of the Word by Athanasius, a Doctor of the Church in the Holy Catholic Church states:

Quote from: Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word
For He was made man that we might be made God ; and He manifested Himself by a body that we might receive the idea of the unseen Father; and He endured the insolence of men that we might inherit immortality. For while He Himself was in no way injured, being impassible and incorruptible and very Word and God, men who were suffering, and for whose sakes He endured all this, He maintained and preserved in His own impassibility.

The Summa, my go to for explaining things like this:

Quote from: Summa Theologica, First Part of the Second Part, Question 112, Article 112
Article 1. Whether God alone is the cause of grace?

I answer that, Nothing can act beyond its species, since the cause must always be more powerful than its effect. Now the gift of grace surpasses every capability of created nature, since it is nothing short of a partaking of the Divine Nature, which exceeds every other nature. And thus it is impossible that any creature should cause grace. For it is as necessary that God alone should deify, bestowing a partaking of the Divine Nature by a participated likeness, as it is impossible that anything save fire should enkindle.

Scripture states:

Quote from: Genesis 1:27
And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them.

Quote from: Matthew 5:48
Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.


 

Offline Prayerful

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Re: Essence and Energies (Gregory Palamas)
« Reply #4 on: July 11, 2021, 08:39:13 AM »
Personally I think the idea of becoming like God without compromising His transcendence is dubious. We can be like saints, but like God goes too far.

I'm not sure what you mean here.

The following are some citations from the best of sources for consideration in explaining what you mean and what my mindset is:


The Palamite idea seems to be that someone can harness the energies of God through theosis or divinisation, which is not rejected in the West, but the rather the way of reaching it, that is, or particularly by a form of inner prayer called Hesychasm, which perhaps has similarities to the condemned (by Innocent XI) Western Quietism, although the elevation of contemplation over all seems the main similarity. Yet this arises from an energy, essence distinction which the West, which includes Greek Rite scholars like Barlaam of Calabria, which seems to add unneeded divisions in the Holy Trinity. The wariness in the West appears to have recommended it to Eastern Orthodox who increasingly turned inwards as their political world collapsed.
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Offline Insanis

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Re: Essence and Energies (Gregory Palamas)
« Reply #5 on: July 11, 2021, 09:12:03 AM »
The Palamite idea seems to be that someone can harness the energies of God through theosis or divinisation, which is not rejected in the West, but the rather the way of reaching it, that is, or particularly by a form of inner prayer called Hesychasm, which perhaps has similarities to the condemned (by Innocent XI) Western Quietism, although the elevation of contemplation over all seems the main similarity. Yet this arises from an energy, essence distinction which the West, which includes Greek Rite scholars like Barlaam of Calabria, which seems to add unneeded divisions in the Holy Trinity. The wariness in the West appears to have recommended it to Eastern Orthodox who increasingly turned inwards as their political world collapsed.

Certainly, that is what this thread was starting with. The questions were based on this background. Rehashing the background is not an answer to the questions:

So, my questions are:

  • Opinions of theologians aside, has this distinction ever been condemned as heresy or declared as infallibly true?
  • Does this theological approach have any real errors as formulated? What errors will arise if the distinction is held to be real and true?
  • Would holding the distinction as a concept for explanation of a mystery, without saying it is true distinction in a doctrinal sense be any different from the previous judgement?

The suspicions, debates, and politics of it all are not the issue.
 

Offline Prayerful

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Re: Essence and Energies (Gregory Palamas)
« Reply #6 on: July 11, 2021, 06:00:45 PM »
The Palamite idea seems to be that someone can harness the energies of God through theosis or divinisation, which is not rejected in the West, but the rather the way of reaching it, that is, or particularly by a form of inner prayer called Hesychasm, which perhaps has similarities to the condemned (by Innocent XI) Western Quietism, although the elevation of contemplation over all seems the main similarity. Yet this arises from an energy, essence distinction which the West, which includes Greek Rite scholars like Barlaam of Calabria, which seems to add unneeded divisions in the Holy Trinity. The wariness in the West appears to have recommended it to Eastern Orthodox who increasingly turned inwards as their political world collapsed.

Certainly, that is what this thread was starting with. The questions were based on this background. Rehashing the background is not an answer to the questions:

So, my questions are:

  • Opinions of theologians aside, has this distinction ever been condemned as heresy or declared as infallibly true?
  • Does this theological approach have any real errors as formulated? What errors will arise if the distinction is held to be real and true?
  • Would holding the distinction as a concept for explanation of a mystery, without saying it is true distinction in a doctrinal sense be any different from the previous judgement?

The suspicions, debates, and politics of it all are not the issue.

What is the issue then?

I answered, and you can see yourself that there has been no Papal condemnation, but many approved writers criticised it strongly for introduced unneeded distinctions, and it has some degree of similarity to quietism (I think so) which is condemned. When the West appeared to dislike it, the Orthodox East came to like it more.

And not looking at the essence, energy distinction means going through the approved writers and working out if Hesychasm is just an unwise approach or perhaps heretical. You cannot call it heretical. It has been criticised by qualified writers, but nothing beyond.

After the first no, the second two points, particularly given the nature of Hesychasm, and your unwillingness to delve into the background, cannot really be answered.

I might leave you to it. You want to control the terms of the discussion (asking if the theology is heretical, but don't discuss it, also don't discuss the history and background where it was considered but never quite condemned) and blast condemnation on those who disagree with you.

Padre Pio: Pray, hope, and don't worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.
 

Offline Insanis

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Re: Essence and Energies (Gregory Palamas)
« Reply #7 on: July 11, 2021, 06:19:42 PM »
I might leave you to it. You want to control the terms of the discussion (asking if the theology is heretical, but don't discuss it, also don't discuss the history and background where it was considered but never quite condemned) and blast condemnation on those who disagree with you.

You might be misinterpreting my intention. I know the background and such and it is other people bringing up irrelevant commentary on threads that had nothing to do with the original topic which led me to create this thread for them to respond to.

It is not "controlling the terms of the discussion" to make threads on a topic and want replies that are on topic. That is what led to this thread being created in the first place.

I didn't "blast condemnation". That is your perception, not reality.

Everybody can make a thread for a new topic. That is what forums are for.
 

Offline Insanis

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Re: Essence and Energies (Gregory Palamas)
« Reply #8 on: July 11, 2021, 06:23:14 PM »
I know the topic is very narrow, but that is the point of this subforum, for semi-scholarly discussions.

If someone asks a specific question, it isn't too much to ask that those questions be addressed. Due to the nature of this subforum, it is assumed that people responding know the background.