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The article by Father Juan-Miguel Garrigues,
L'énergie divine et la grâce chez Maxime le Confesseur (published in the journal Istina, vol. 19, no. 3  pp. 272-296), is an interesting occasion for one to prove how critically important the truth regarding the distinction between essence and energies continues to be in the realm of theology. The acceptance or rejection of this distinction will determine either the abstract or the real character of theological knowledge, the attribution of theological truths to either rational certainty or existential experience.
Fr. Garrigues' study presents the traditional Roman Catholic arguments, somewhat refurbished. He rejects the distinction between essence and energies. At the same time he attempts to draw support for his position from the realm of Christology and particularly from the teaching which St. Maximus the Confessor developed to combat the heresy of monoenergism. Fr. Garrigues' presentation follows a kind of literary-historical analysis on the basis of the texts drawn mainly from St. Maximus. I say
a kind of analysis because in Fr. Garrigues' attempt one cannot readily discern a consistent adherence to the literary-historical method. His systematic conclusions are not drawn from the historical and literary analysis, but, on the contrary, the use of the sources is a posteriori, to defend a given system of argumentation.
An extensive study would be needed to prove the hermeneutic omissions and the intellectual leaps created by Fr. Garrigues' a posteriori use of the sources in drawing his conclusions. I shall mention, very briefly, several characteristic examples:
(1) An attempt is made to defend the Thomistic view on energetic (i.e. active) divine essence by referring to the doctrinal definition of the Sixth Ecumenical Council. Fr. Garrigues observes that this council's definition nowhere implies that the two energies of Christ — the divine and the human — are
really or formally distinguished from the corresponding natures. For this reason he regards as consistent with the spirit of the council's definition the Thomistic expression: the divine nature does not have one energy, but is active (energetic) (pp. 272-273).
(2) Referring to a passage of St. Maximus (Amb. 26, PG 91: 1265CD) in which the names of the hypostaseis are defined as expressions of the existential fact of personal relationship, i.e. the mode of existence (τρόπος ὑπάρξεως) of the nature which is the hypostatic otherness, Fr. Garrigues attributes to St. Maximus the scholastic understanding of the hypostaseis as internal relations of the essence (p. 277). With similar arbitrary interpretations, St. Maximus is made a proponent of the view of divine energy as an act of creative causality (
acte de causalité créatrice, p. 277) and of divine grace as a causal presupposition of the intentional habitus (
causalité de la grâce,
habitus intentionnel de la grâce, p. 286f).
(3) To St. Gregory Palamas is attributed the definition of the divine energies as accidentals (
Palamas s'enferme dans une definition des énergies divines comme accidents, p. 278), while the passage of Palamas which is quoted (Physical and Theological Chapters 135, PG 150: 1216CD) has precisely the opposite meaning.
(4) The saintly author of the Areopagitic writings is in principle rejected as a Neoplatonist; to the Cappadocian Fathers is attributed a kind of Eunomianism (p. 281); etc.
Concern over these arbitrary interpretations could develop into a strictly academic critique of the scientific soundness of the study in question, but this is not the purpose of this paper. The concern here is over the systematic presuppositions of Fr. Garrigues, which he attempts to defend with this fragmentary and a posteriori use of the sources. I believe that one could summarize these systematic presuppositions in the following statements:
(1) The divine essence does not have energies, whether uncreated or created, but is active.
(2) There are two possibilities of participation in God: participation in the existential cause (participation dans la causalité de l'acte d'être) and participation in God by intention (participation intentionnelle).
(3) The divine grace is neither created nor uncreated, but rather is the causal presupposition for the efficacy of divine salvation (
la causalité de grâce est l'efficacité salvifique), i.e., the presupposition for the creation in man of a habitus, a tendency or
state that coordinates man with the divine will.
(4) Consequently, the deification of man is merely a union of will or intention (union intentionnelle).
These systematic positions, which are also the presuppositions and the conclusions of Fr. Garrigues' problematics, do not, of course, exhibit the rationalistic formulations of the traditional anti-Palamite arguments. But neither do they abandon the classic Thomistic problematic, which is a problematic of essence in itself, of essence as being, and in which every relation with this ontic essence can only be merely external, a relation or experience according to the law of cause and effect.
This problematic of essence in itself implies a definite status of man over and against the truth about God: The first foundation of the truth of God is not achieved through the experience of the Church, which is an experience of personal relationship with the person of the Incarnate Logos, a relationship which is realized in the Holy Spirit and which reveals the Logos as witnessing to the Father. Rather, this first foundation is entirely anthropocentric, with an intellectual leap seeking to understand the divine essence in itself, its attributes and its objective relationships. And this rationalistic conception of essence not only obliges one to an ontic understanding of essence which overlooks the mode of being of the essence, but also leads by logical necessity either to the identification of essence and energy or to the essential separation of nature from the energies. The problematic of energy is reduced to a procedure of logical proof which refers the mystery of divine existence to the syllogistically necessary idea of a creating and moving cause of creation or a causal grace (causalité de Grâce) which contributes to the moral
improvement of man.
In Orthodox theology, on the other hand, the problem of the energies is put exclusively in terms of existential experience. The experience of the Church is the knowledge of God as an event of personal relationship, and the question raised is one of witness to and defense of that event, the question of
how we come to know God, who is neither intelligible nor sensible, nor at all a being among the other beings.1 The knowledge of God as an event of personal relationship reveals the priority of the truth of the person in the realm of theological knowledge. There is no room for bypassing the reality of the person by means of an intellectual leap directly to the essence:
Truth for us is in realities, not in names.2 The person recapitulates the mode of existence of nature; we know the essence or nature only as the content of the person. This unique possibility of knowing nature presupposes its ecstatic recapitulation in terms of a personal reference, i.e. the possibility for nature
to stand outside of itself, to become accessible and communicable not as an idea, but as personal uniqueness and dissimilarity. The ecstasis of nature, however, cannot be identified with nature itself, since the experience of relation is itself an experience of non-identification: the ecstasy is the mode, the manner by which nature becomes accessible and known in terms of personal otherness; it is the energy of nature which is identified neither with its bearer nor with its result:
The energy is neither the active cause nor the resultant effect.3
It is not possible, of course, to know the energy except through the one who acts; and, again, only through the natural energy can one know the one who acts as personal otherness as well as nature and essence. The will, for example, is an energy of nature. However it is accessible to us only through its personal bearer; we refer to the what of the will only because we know the how of its personal expression.4 The what of the will reveals to us the nature which has the possibility to will, while the how of the will reveals the personal otherness of its bearer.5 The will itself, however, is not identified either with the nature which has the possibility to will or with the person who wills, always in a unique, dissimilar and unrepeatable manner. For this reason we recognize in the will an energy of nature, ontologically (but not ontically) distinguishable from the nature as well as from the person.
Even though we distinguish the energy from the nature and the nature from the persons, we do not attribute any synthetic character to nature itself; we do not divide and we do not fragment the nature into persons and energies: the persons and the energies are neither
accidents of nature, but the mode of being of nature. The personal expression of each energy recapitulates
wholely the entire nature; it is the existence of nature. The how of the energy of will (or the energy of creativity or of love or whatever other energy) recapitulates the what of the natural energy of will; the possibility of nature to will exists and is expressed only through the otherness of the personal will. Painting, music, sculpture are creative energies of the human nature, but they do not exist except as expressions of personal otherness: as music of Mozart, as painting of Van Gogh, as sculpture of Rodin. Nor is there any other manner of expressing and defining essence or nature outside its active ecstasis in terms of personal otherness. The only way we can name nature is in the personally expressed energy of nature; energy
Essence and energy can both receive the same name (λόγος).6
The energies, however, are not the exclusive and only manner of
naming nature, for indicating the
actor through his
activities. The natural energy which is expressed personally represents that possibility of empirical knowledge which comes from a personal
communion in the essence or nature — without this communion becoming an identification with nature or with a
part of nature. According to the Fathers of the Orthodox East, personal communion makes possible a fulness of knowledge and has no relationship whatsoever with Fr. Garrigues' rational categories of participation entitative, participation intentionnelle, participation dans la causalité de l'acte d'être.
St. Maximus the Confessor uses as an image and an example of such communion the human voice, which
being one is participated in by many, and is not swallowed up by the multitude.7 If by taking this example we can arbitrarily consider human reason as essence, then we can say that the voice represents the energy of the essence of reason, the possibility for us to participate in the essence of reason as the voice reveals and communicates it, to participate, all of us who hear the same voice, in the same essence of the one reason — without this communion becoming our identification with the essence of reason, and without the fragmentation of the essence in as many parts as there are participants in the reason through the voice. Reason, expressed personally, remains unified and indivisible, while at the same time,
it is singularly participated by all.
If we should insist on this example of the voice and reason we could clarify one more observation relative to the possibilities of participating in the essence through the energies. The voice certainly represents a revelation of the energy of reason
homogenous to the essence of reason and makes possible a direct participation in reason, but a revelation of the energy of reason can also take place from within essences
heterogenous to reason: it is possible to formulate into reason other
essences such as writing, color, music and marble.
This example indicates that we can speak (together with St. Maximus) about two forms of energy of the same essence or nature: one form which is, as we called it,
homogenous to the nature of the one who causes the energy (an ecstatic self-offering of nature in terms of personal otherness); and the other form which reveals itself out of essences
heterogenous to the nature of the one who causes the energy,
an energy that is effective on things external, according to which the actor acts on objects outside of himself and heterogenous, and obtains a result, which is made up of preexisting matter and is foreign to his own substance.8
homogenous energy (to use St. Maximus' distinction) is revealed in the Church's experience of divine grace, which is uncreated (
heterogenous to creatures and
homogenous to God) and through which God is
wholly participated in9 and
participated singularly by all,10 remaining simple and indivisible, offering to the communicant that which He (God) possesses
by nature except
essential identity11 and elevating man to the rank of
communicant of the divine nature, according to the word of Scripture (II Peter 1:4). On the other hand, the revelation of God's energy in essences
heterogenous to God is seen in the character of beings as
creatures, created by divine energy. The personal logos of these
creatures (a logos of power, wisdom and art),12 even though it is
characteristic to each one of these creatures, in terms of the infinite variety of essences, reveals the
singular wholeness of the one divine energy and witnesses to the one, simple and indivisible God.13
As for man, we can probably say that the concept of
homogenous energy is applicable to the power of love and to the erotic ecstasy of self-giving in terms of which the existential truth about man is made
known. This is the mystery of the human nature and of the human person as singular otherness — when man
totally belongs to the loved one and is willingly embraced by him entirely.14 This
homogenous energy, however, interprets also the reality of the human body in terms of the singular otherness of each person: the body is par excellence the personal differentiation of the physical energies,15 the possibility of a meeting and a communion between the created energy of the human essence and the uncreated energy of the Grace of God.16 As for the revelation of the energy of man through the
heterogenous essences of man, it concerns the variety of human
creations, in the works of human art, wisdom, and power.17
The fundamental fact observed and verified in the distinction of St. Maximus between the
homogenous energy of an essence or nature and its
heterogenous appearance is that both of these forms of expressing the energy reveal the nature or essence as the
unified content of the person. The personal differentiation of the physical energies (the uniqueness and dissimilarity of each human body, as well as the absolute otherness of each erotic event and the differentiation of
creative expressions, for example, the music of Bach from the music of Mozart or the painting of Van Gogh from that of Goya) distinguishes the nature without dividing it, it reveals the manner by which nature is — and this manner is its personal singularity and otherness. The energies or distinctions disclose and reveal the catholicity of nature, as content of the person.
In the distinction of nature and energies Orthodox theology sees the very presupposition for a knowledge of God, as well as of man and of the world. If we reject this distinction and if we accept, with the Roman Catholics, the intellectual leap to the essence itself — an active divine essence — then the only possible relation of the world to God is the rational connection between cause and effect, a connection that leaves unexplained the ontological reality of the world, the formation of matter and its essential character.
For Orthodox theology matter is not a reality that simply has its cause in God. Matter is the substantiation of the will of God, the result of the personal energy of God; and it remains
active as the revelatory reason of divine energy. St. Gregory of Nyssa says that
all things were not reshaped from some subsisting matter into phenomena, but the divine will became the matter and the essence of creation.18 The will of God is an act, and the act of God is His word,
for in God the act is word.19 The word of God which expresses His will
is substantiated directly as a substance and a formulation of creation.20
Matter, therefore, constitutes the substantiation of the divine will. The logoi of matter, that is to say, its
forms, reflect the creative logoi of the divine conceptions and volitions.21 In its own organic content, matter is the result of the union of
rational qualities whose convergence and union defines the substance of sensory things.22 The
rational formulation of matter refutes from the start the ontic autonomous character of
things; matter is not the what of physical reality, the material which receives
form to reveal the essence, but the convergence of the
rational qualities, their coordination into the how of a unique harmony which constitutes the
type or the
form of things. The whole cosmic reality, the innumerable variety of kinds of essences are not the what of objective observation and rational conception; they are not the abstract effect of a rationally conceived active cause, but the how of the
personal harmony of
a musical harmony constituting a controlled and sublime hymn to the power which controls the universe.23
This continuously active
personal harmony of the world reveals the direct and energetic presence of God in the world as personal will and energy (and not as essence). It is an endlessly active invitation to a personal relationship with the personal God-Logos through the logoi of things. This active invitation is not essentially identified with the one who invites nor with the energy of the caller; the reason and the will of God is not identified with the created things themselves, just as the will of the artist is not identified with the product of his art, with the result of his personal creative energy. But the work of art is the substantiation and incarnation of the personal reason and will of the artist; it is the active call and possibility of a personal relationship with the creator through the logos of his creations. The work of art is in essence and in energy different from the artist (
the art in the artistic is one thing, and quite another is
the art in the person who undertakes it, as St. Basil points out).24 Therefore, the work of art represents and reveals the unique, the dissimilar and unrepeatable personal logos of the artist. Without personal relation, without a personal acceptance of the logos embodied in the work of art, the latter remains a neutral and uninterpreted object: the logos of the artist remains inaccessible, the truth of the
thing uninterpreted, the experience of the personal presence, the personal uniqueness and dissimilarity of the artist unattainable.
It is clear that the inference from the personal harmony and beauty of creation to the personal presence of the creator God-Logos is neither self-evident nor automatic nor simply rational; it is a moral-dynamic movement of participation in the
benevolent personal divine energy, an acceptance of the invitation which substantiates the beauty of nature — a moral movement of catharsis, a gradual and dynamic illumination of the mind,
to be surprised and to understand ... to be lifted up from knowledge to knowledge, and from vision to vision, and from understanding to understanding.25 The end (always endless) of this dynamic vision of the world is a revelation, through beauty, of the triune character of divine energy,
beautifying creation triunely.26 The beauty of creation is not the single-dimensional logos of a creative cause, but the revelation of the unified and at the same time triune mode of the divine energy which reflects the mystery of the singular and triune mode of existence of the divine life.27
The problem of the knowledge of God, but also of man and the world — of knowledge as direct personal relationship and existential experience or knowledge as abstract intellectual approximation — depends on the acceptance or the rejection of the distinction between essence and energies. The acceptance and rejection of this distinction represents two fundamentally different visions of truth, two noncoinciding
ontologies. This does not mean simply two different theoretical views or interpretations, but two diametrically opposite ways of life, with concrete spiritual, historical and cultural consequences.
The acceptance of this distinction between essence and energies means an understanding of truth as personal relationship, i.e. as an experience of life, and of knowledge as participation in the truth and not as an understanding of meanings that result from intellectual abstraction. It involves the priority of the reality of the person to every rational definition. In the infinite terms of this priority, God is known and communicable through His incomprehensible uncreated energies, remaining in essence unknown and incommunicable. That is to say, God is known only as a personal revelation (and not as an idea of
active essence), only as a triune communion of persons, as an ecstatic self-offering of loving goodness. The world also is the result of the personal energies of God, a
creation revealing the person of the Logos, witnessing to the Father through the grace of the Spirit, the substantiated invitation of God to relation and communion, an invitation which is personal and therefore substantiated
On the contrary, the rejection of the distinction between essence and energy means exclusion of catholic-personal experience and priority of the intellect as the way of knowledge, reducing truth to a coincidence of thought with the object of thought (adaequatio rei et intellectus),28 an understanding of nature and person as definitions resulting from rational abstraction: the persons have the character of relations within the essence, relations which do not characterize the persons but are identified with the persons in order to serve the logical necessity of the simplicity of the essence. Thus, finally, God is accessible only as essence, i.e. only as an object of rational search, as the necessary
first mover who is
unmoved, that is
pure energy, and whose existence must be identified with the self-realization of the essence. The world is the result of the
first mover, even as the grace of God is the result of divine essence. The only relation of the world with God is the connection of cause and effect, a
connection that organically disengages God from the world: the world is made autonomous and subjected to intellectual objectification and to (useful) expediency.
The problem of the distinction between essence and energies determined definitely and finally the differentiation of the Latin West from the Orthodox East. The West rejected the distinction, desiring to protect the idea of simplicity in the divine essence, since rational thought cannot accept the antinomy of a simultaneous existential identity and otherness, a distinction that does not mean division and fragmentation. For the western mind (expressed either with the directness of Thomistic rationalism or with the subordination of the patristic texts to a priori interpretations, as in the case of Fr. Garrigues) God is defined only in terms of His essence; whatever is not essence does not belong to God; it is a creature of God, the result of divine essence. Consequently, the energies of God are either identified with the essence, which is active (actus purus), or else any external manifestation of theirs is regarded as necessarily
heteroessential, i.e. a created result of the divine cause.29
This means that, in the final analysis, the theosis of man, his participation in the divine life,30 is impossible, since even grace, the
sanctifier of the saints, is itself an effect, a result of the divine essence. It is created, even though
supernatural, as western theologians have rather arbitrarily defined it since the ninth century.31
It is characteristic that Fr. Garrigues avoids defining divine grace as created, but insists on the effective character of grace (on the causalité de grâce) that brings about the
state (habitus) of virtue. In the text of Fr. Garrigues, the state of grace is deprived of any semblance of personal participation in the personally active divine grace. The
state is simply the effect of the causal character of grace and is realized as an objective change of the human intention.32 The
realism of theosis for Fr. Garrigues is only a realism of intention;33 it is understood in terms of moralistic categories,34 a rationalistic
improvement of the human character that has Christological content only as a pattern of the obedience of Christ.
The notion of divine energy as a causal-creative act (acte de causalité créatrice) as well as the notion of divine grace as a causal presupposition of the habit of intention (causalité de la grâce — habitus intentionnel de la grâce) exhaust, in Fr. Garrigues study, the relation of God with the world and of God with man in an entirely external and only rationally conceived aitiological connection. Out of these objectified and deterministic relations there appears for the Orthodox Christian the nightmarish danger of an impersonal acceptance of God, an ontically absolute and active essence that moves the mechanism of a deterministic
philanthropy, which destroys the truth of the person.
After reading Garrigues' study, one remains with one simple question: How is it possible, especially today, for a Roman Catholic scholar to ignore the historical consequences for western Christendom of the rejection of the distinction between essence and energies? How is it possible to discover new arguments for the defense of a theological position for which the West has paid such a tragically heavy price? It is not my desire to refer to historical events, such as the drama of the Middle Ages in the West, centered upon the desacralization of the world by means of Thomistic theology, the tragic opposition on the part of a multitude of mystical and
underground heresies that sought hopelessly somehow to rediscover sanctity in the created world, the austere and consistent process that led from Thomism to Descartes and from Descartes to the contemporary technological rape of physical and historical reality. The transference of the knowledge of God from the realm of direct personal manifestation through the natural energies to the level of intellectual and rational approximation of an
active divine essence, had as unavoidable results the sharpest antithetical separation between the transcendent and the immanent, the
banishment of God into the realm of the empirically inaccessible, the schizophrenic divorce of faith from knowledge, the successive waves of rebellion in western man against the theological presuppositions of his own civilization, the rapid fading away of religion in the West and the appearance of nihilism and irrationalism as fundamental existential categories of western man.
But the whole of this historical drama — which would require lengthy studies to be analyzed systematically and which had been foreseen by the Orthodox theologians of the East in the fourteenth century with astonishing lucidity — is being lived today by the Roman Catholic Church in its own body. During these last decades, all of us have been following with pain the tremendous weakening and disintegration of the Roman Catholic Church: its internal fragmentation, the loss of its authority, its theological disorientation. The crisis engulfs millions of people in total confusion over their personal life: without goals and without an existential hope, without a spiritual community which could serve as a psychological balance to the loneliness of the great cities, and without a vision of personal life as something other than biological survival and economic well-being.
With these given facts, one would expect Roman Catholic theologians to turn their attention to those means and to those criteria that could reveal a solution to this nightmarish crisis. If they did so, they might discover, particularly in the theology of St. Gregory Palamas and in the councils of the fourteenth century, not only the interpretation but also the solution of the drama that torments them. Instead of this, studies such as that of Fr. Garrigues show Roman Catholic theologians to be fettered to a new kind of sterile scholasticism that threatens Orthodox theologians of the so-called Neo-Palamite school with the anathemas of the Sixth Ecumenical Council (see p. 296 of Fr. Garrigues study).
Personally, I like to believe that this defensive return to scholasticism is merely an exception. The greatest asset of our theological generation is awareness that one cannot do theology on the level of abstract categories. We now know well that the crisis of our civilization is a crisis in the theological presuppositions upon which this civilization has been founded; we know that our theological
views have direct and practical consequences for either the ruin, or the salvation of man. And this awareness, no matter how costly it might be, is, indeed,
a great lesson.
Athens, February, 1975
(Translated from the Greek
by Rev. Peter Chamberas)
ToMaximus the Confessor, Dialogue with Pyrrhus, P.G. 91, 292D.wantandhow to wantis not the same; nor isto seeandhow to seethe same. Forto wantandto seebelong to nature, and it is a qualification of all who have the same nature and belong to the same species. Buthow to wantandhow to see... are manners by which the reality of wanting or seeing is used; it is a qualification that belongs only to the subject who wants and sees and distinguishes him from others according to the commonly accepted category of difference.
The will of all can be demonstrated to be one in reference to nature; but the manner of movement is different.Maximus the Confessor, Theological and Polemical Chapters, P.G. 91, 25A.
While energy belongs to the one who acts, nature belongs to the one who exists, Theological Chapters, P.G. 91, 200D.
... (God) who is wholly participated by all the worthy in a beneficent manner.Maximus the Confessor, Ambigua, P.G. 91, 1076C.
The person deified by grace is all that God is, except the essential identity.Maximus the Confessor, To Thalassios 22, P.G. 90, 320A.
The created things are indicative of power and wisdom and art, but not of essence itself.Basil the Great, Against Eunomius 2, 32, P.G. 29, 648A.
For some reason the effective power of each product is made into energy.
Ce qu' il faut rejeter: tout mode d'union mystique par lequel les fidèles, de quelque faÕon que ce soit, dépasseraient l'ordre du créé et s'arrogeraient le divin au point que même un seul des attributs du Dieu éternel puisse leur être attribué en propre.Cf. also the eastern view recorded by Gregory of Nyssa, On the Beatitudes VII, P.G. 44, 1280C.D.:
Man escapes from his own nature, becoming an immortal from a mortal that he is, and from one who has a price on his head to a priceless one, and from a temporal creature to an eternal one, being man becoming wholly god ... For if that which God is by nature, His property, is given by grace to man, then what else but a certain equality of honor is professed by virtue of the relation?
La grâce est gratuite et surnaturelle, where the relative reference to the dogmatic sources of the Roman Catholic Church are cited. Also, J.-H. Nicolas, Dieu connu comme inconnu, Paris, 1966, p. 218f.
...le réalisme de la divinisation: l'être intentionel n'est pas moins réel que l'être entitatif.
A partir de l'habitus de la grâce, la charité informe de l'intérieur toute la vie vertueuse de l'homme qui manifeste ainsi la ressemblance divine.
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