Talk:Essence–energies distinction (Eastern Orthodox theology)

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This passage needs help[edit]

I removed the following passage from the article. It largely lacks citations (unless that one citation at the end is supposed to cover the whole passage, in which case the passage should be a lot more concise). It also provides a citation at the beginning (Ludwig Ott) that, I think, creates an original synthesis with the rest of the passage. Can we bang out the passage here on the talk page?

According to Ludwig Ott, the Catholic Church as a matter of dogma rejects the separation of God's incomprehensible essence from God's attributes.[1] Therefore[citation needed] making God his activities or energies, rather than saying God is in essence, being, nature and substance distinct from his activities. Just as Eastern Christians make the distinction between God in essence and God in hypostases. Here distinction does not reflect discord (duality) but rather is complementary. The denial of separation between God's essence, being, nature and substance and God's creation (from those activities) itself in Pagan philosophy is called Pantheism. In the denial of what God is in essence, being, nature, substance (ousia) from what God does via energies, acts, power, force (energeia and dunamis). This line of thought is the basis for the accusations of Pantheism. The concepts of energeia and dunamis are taken from various Pagan Hellenic Philosophers including Aristotle and Plotinus.
This distinction here between Hellenistic philosophy and Eastern Christianity is that, from the perspective of Hellenistic pagan (folk) philosophy, God is a substance, essence, being or nature, comprehensible (immanent) which as a modalistic, linear sequential monad, or singularity that emanates, reality. In contrast, from the perspective of Eastern Christianity, God's ousia is apophatic and beyond all forms of finite expression and understanding. Here in Eastern Christianity God because of his ousia is beyond anything and all things comprehensible. God is beyond energeia and dunamis, God as infinite called the Father hypostasis has within his essence, being, nature, substance, of infinite, incomprehensibility and can not be defined or contained into any form of comprehension.
Therefore undermining and also transcending metaphysics, God's ousia is not reconcilable to human reason or human rationale and as incomprehensible means God is strictly not one, God is not unity, God is beyond these concepts and is therefore in ousia not definable, experience-able, detectable. God manifests to man in experienceable (but non-confinable) ways as his existences or realities which include his energies (activities). Eastern Christians, believe that, at best, God is hyper-being in ousia. Orthodox theologians charge that, through the philosophical teachings of the West, this distinction is denied in Western Christianity. Western Christianity the East charges would not arrive at this teaching if Western theologians used theoria rather than speculative philosophy to validate their understanding of God.[2]


  1. ^ Cite error: The named reference LudwigOtt was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  2. ^ FRANKS, ROMANS, FEUDALISM, AND DOCTRINE/EMPIRICAL THEOLOGY VERSUS SPECULATIVE THEOLOGY Father John S. Romanides [1] A basic characteristic of the Frankish scholastic method, misled by Augustinian Platonism and Thomistic Aristotelianism, had been its naive confidence in the objective existence of things rationally speculated about. By following Augustine, the Franks substituted the patristic concern for spiritual observation, (which they had found firmly established in Gaul when they first conquered the area) with a fascination for metaphysics. They did not suspect that such speculations had foundations neither in created nor in spiritual reality. No one would today accept as true what is not empirically observable, or at least verifiable by inference, from an attested effect. So it is with patristic theology. Dialectical speculation about God and the Incarnation as such are rejected. Only those things which can be tested by the experience of the grace of God in the heart are to be accepted. "Be not carried about by divers and strange teachings. For it is good that the heart be confirmed by grace," a passage from Hebrews 13.9, quoted by the Fathers to this effect.

Off-topic material[edit]

WP:TOPIC says: "The most readable articles contain no irrelevant (nor only loosely relevant) information. While writing an article, you might find yourself digressing into a side subject. If you find yourself wandering off-topic, consider placing the additional information into a different article, where it will fit more closely with the topic. If you provide a link to the other article, readers who are interested in the side topic have the option of digging into it, but readers who are not interested will not be distracted by it. Due to the way in which Wikipedia has grown, many articles contain such redundant texts. Please be bold in deleting them."

This applies to much in this article. No explanation is given in the text of the supposed relevance to the distinction in God between his essence and his energies of the concept of synergy, which instead concerns human cooperation with God's action, not the relation between God's energies and his own essence. Esoglou (talk) 19:41, 4 January 2011 (UTC)

I'm not disagreeing with you but I am wondering if there is more than one way to skin this cat. Is it important that the title of this article remain "Essence-Energies distinction"? In some sense, the topic is important because it is a critical difference between the Eastern and Western conceptions of God's nature. On the other hand, much of this is connected to other related concepts (e.g. theoria, hesychasm, etc.) The connection of these concepts is is covered, albeit lightly in Palamism. What would happen if we renamed this article something like Conceptions of God (Eastern Orthodox) or Nature of God (Eastern Orthodox). Then, the "Essence-Energies distinction" could be a major section but there would also be room for sections on synergy, existences of God, realities of God, etc. We would still want to establish the connections between these various concepts but there would be less concern that those other topics were "off-topic".
Note that we already have articles titled Conceptions of God and God in Abrahamic religions so there is precedent for having articles that focus on the larger topic.
Also note that I have today created a new article titled Hesychast controversy which I intend to focus on the historical and political aspects of the controversy as opposed to the theological aspects. I have come across a lot of historical information regarding the so-called Fifth Council of Constantinople which discusses the political machinations of the various factions. I started to feel that the historical narrative of what happened was starting to overshadow the description of the doctrine. Thus, as we start to shrink the section titled "Development of the doctrine" in Palamism, there is more room for that article to focus on the various aspects of the doctrine.
--Pseudo-Richard (talk) 19:54, 4 January 2011 (UTC)
WOW let that ignorance show!!! So Esoglou and Richard have read the wonderful book Aristotle East and West by David Bradshaw [2] and the section in the book about how Aristotle's unmoved mover had to be reasonable and validated through reason as did Plotinus and that Palamas by making God both uncreated, immanent and transcendent surpasses philosophy and the limits of human logic. Hmmmmm. Hey here's some video of Professor Bradshaw for people to lazy to read. [3] Making the Judeo-Christian God more complete and both the God of the spiritual and material. Making God all encompassing rather than strictly a deterministic God that is validated by reason (also called philosophy) but rather "a God validated by the higher concept of an ignorance that transcends knowledge". Theoliptos of Philadelphia. LoveMonkey (talk) 20:32, 4 January 2011 (UTC)
It would be an excellent idea to start another article on, say, "Eastern Orthodox conceptions of God" and move to it what is unrelated to this article's topic. The question of the distinction between God's essence and energies is not an exclusively Eastern Orthodox one. Western Thomists would say it is a virtual distinction. (You remember my analogy of the distinction between the current President of the United States and Michelle Obama's husband: it is not by virtue of being her husband that he governs the United States, nor is it by virtue of being the current President of the United States that he has husbandly relations with her.) Scotists would say it is a formal distinction like that between a three-angled geometrical figure and a three-sided geometrical figure. And so on. Even more than what is already given about Western views on the distinction could be added. The distinction in question deserves more than a subsection in a larger article with many subsections, especially a larger article devoted exclusively to Eastern Orthodox conceptions. Esoglou (talk) 20:36, 4 January 2011 (UTC)

The both of you still ignoring. LoveMonkey (talk) 20:48, 4 January 2011 (UTC)

We await even a first attempt to explain the relevance of the "Synergy" section to the topic of the article. Esoglou (talk) 21:14, 4 January 2011 (UTC)
Read the book or at least the passage from the book posted in the link Esoglou. Since you can preview it and already did from your editing on the passage. Go read it and stop arguing with me to educate you about the subject and actually go read it yourself. LoveMonkey (talk) 21:18, 4 January 2011 (UTC)
You don't see me going to Roman Catholic theological articles and edit warring. Your being hypocritical. LoveMonkey (talk) 21:19, 4 January 2011 (UTC)
I have no obligation to produce an explicit citation to prove the relevance of this section to the topic of the article. LoveMonkey doesn't seem to intend to produce one. If nobody does, this section can be deleted, like the still undefended "Byzantine and Russian philosophy" section below. Esoglou (talk) 21:31, 4 January 2011 (UTC)

LoveMonkey, regardless of whether you have an obligation to educate Esoglou, we collectively have an obligation to educate the reader. Given that this is not solely an esoteric topic of interest only to EO theologians, we should consider that some of our reading audience may be lacking in background vis-a-vis EO theology. I think I serve as a good benchmark. Despite my lack of formal education, I do have some non-trivial exposure to theology. If I can't understand it, I wager the majority of lay readers won't be able to either.

This is not a competition to see which of us is better educated. Neither is it a school in which we debate whether we should educate ourselves or be educated by our peers. It is a collaborative effort to produce an encyclopedia article that serves the reader. To reiterate: the focus of our efforts should be to help the reader understand the topic. Whatever furthers that purpose is appropriate. Whatever hinders that purpose is inappropriate. Please leave whatever interfaith and interpersonal issues you have at the door and get on with the project already.

--Pseudo-Richard (talk) 22:07, 4 January 2011 (UTC)

Synergy is indeed mentioned by Bradshaw here. I have added a URL link to the citation. The problem remains that Bradshaw's discussion of synergy only links it to the energies of God, not directly to the Essence-Energies distinction. LoveMonkey seems to want to grow this article into a general discussion of man's relationship to God through his knowable energies vs. his unknowable essence. It's not a completely unacceptable idea although it might seem more relevant if we renamed the article along the lines of one of my proposed titles. --Pseudo-Richard (talk) 22:22, 4 January 2011 (UTC)

Again NO. Richard and Esoglou are here using google to try and prop up their opinions of the theology with Google searches. Their uninformed opinions that show when they say things like they just said. Case in point David Bradshaw's book has the chapter 9 named 'Palamas and Aquinas' starting on page 221 that discusses the difference between the theology of Palamas in contrast to the theology of Aquinas and includes and it clarifies what the Essence and Energy distinction is. You see Essence and Energy distinction is not a standard term so searching sources that talk about with that phrase will not necessarily surface any results in a google book search. And this is just one book or source that I have provided that they would rather make assumptions about rather than read for themselves. As for informing readers. Well that a two fold thing. As if uninformed people write then they will pass disinformation. This is repeatedly my concern. I am not here to explain to people and make sure that they understand anything and if that is the criteria of an encyclopedia then ALL ENCYCLOPEDIA HAVE FAILED AT THERE TASK. It is not for the encyclopedia to make people intelligent enough to do anything. No book or books could ever do that so stop implying it. As there is obvious limits to that and almost all of the science articles on this encyclopedia would then have to be deleted simply because someone came here and stated that they did not understand. As if someone could explain to you how the Annihilation of a photon does not violate the scientific law of conservation of energy. As if Hawkins information paradox also can't be said to do the same thing. Since when is wikipedia or any encyclopedia here to insure that everyone can understand everything it contains. You are suggesting that the information be compromised for an impossible to reach and subjective goal. LoveMonkey (talk) 15:02, 5 January 2011 (UTC)
Actually, the problem would seem to be that pages 186-230 are not available via Google Books preview. --Pseudo-Richard (talk) 15:47, 5 January 2011 (UTC)
Which is my point. I own a copy of this book. As I own a copy of almost all of the sources I have used. Therefore not making it so that I am limited by google searches. I have read the sources and that is why I use them and have added them to the articles I work on. I am only asking of other editors what I myself do first. Your questions and perspective are so off base and misinformed from partial data that considering the subjects that you and Esoglou work on that you appear to asking almost insane things like for me to disassemble a pick up truck with a rotten catfish. There is not logic to the approach you have to data you are editing other then to POV the data to an opinion of it that you already have. This is induction and the problem of induction can do nothing but create Black Swans. I have clarified myself repeatedly don't be a turkey[4] LoveMonkey (talk) 15:52, 5 January 2011 (UTC)
Whatever evidence one or more editors may personally possess, the section remains with no explicit citation to prove that it concerns the distinction between essence and energies in God. Esoglou (talk) 16:10, 5 January 2011 (UTC)
(edit conflict with LoveMonkey's comment below)
Different editors perform different functions on different articles. Your function on this article at the moment is primary author. Doesn't mean you own the article but it is true that you have written significant portions of it. Other editors such as Esoglou and myself might help by adding to your work or by reviewing and critiquing your work. I expect that you understand the sources better than I could hope to. What we need is for you to present the material that you have access to in an encyclopedic tone (not in a tone that is catechetical in style). And to tie the assertions to specific sources. If the prose is clear, then quotes might not be necessary. If the assertion is questioned, then a quote might help to establish it. None of this is new to you. You've been over-prolific in you provision of quotes on other articles. I don't understand why you are not forthcoming now.
Some of my questions around the "existences of God" and the "realities of God" were not that hard to answer although it took quite a bit of Googling to find the answer. It would have been more congenial if you had just pointed me to the right place to start. I'm still struggling with the "Economy of God". The one source that I found kind of explains it but I'm having trouble organizing the ideas into a presentable form for this article. If someone else would take a whack at it, I'd appreciate it.
--Pseudo-Richard (talk) 17:16, 5 January 2011 (UTC)
No it does not. As I have provided a source and YOU Esoglou are saying the source does not say what it is cited in saying. So no it is not a matter of providing a source. It is a matter of Esoglou engaged in citation tag abuse in order to edit war. Esoglou would rather strike down my overview of the source and then say it does not say what I have posted and then act like a citation WITH A HYPERLINK TO GOOGLE BOOKS is not already in the section. Since by Esoglou's standard every sentence would have to be almost verbatim from another source or sources and wikipedia would have to have someone copyedit each line of text to insure that nothing was a copyright violation. LoveMonkey (talk) 17:13, 5 January 2011 (UTC)
It would be good to assume good faith. Can you clarify? Which source have you provided and where has Esoglou said that id does not say what it is cited to say? --Pseudo-Richard (talk) 17:16, 5 January 2011 (UTC)
So Richard you don't see in the article that the section has a citation at the end of it to the Bradshaw book? You can't see it is citation number 24? What are you seeing? Do you not see that the citation is there? Is it missing from your viewing of the article? Please clarify. LoveMonkey (talk) 17:22, 5 January 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── The article has two citations to Bradshaw:

  • Bradshaw, David (2004). Aristotle East and West. Cambridge University Press. pp. 264-265.
  • Aristotle East and West by David Bradshaw pg 91 pg 95 Publisher: Cambridge University Press (December 27, 2004) ISBN-10: 0521828651 ISBN-13: 978-0521828659

I've looked at pages 264-265. I haven't looked at pages 91 & 95 because that citation was attached to text that seemed unobjectionable. You stated above that chapter 9 of David Bradshaw's book "discusses the difference between the theology of Palamas in contrast to the theology of Aquinas and includes and it clarifies what the Essence and Energy distinction is." The problem is that 186-230 are not available via Google Books preview. Thus there are ten pages (221-230) that I cannot read online. Is there anything in those pages that clarify his concept of "synergy" relative to the EE-distinction? If so, would you be so kind as to provide a quote to help us understand and so that we can present that idea in the text, either as a direct quote or as a paraphrase?

BTW, Googling for "Essence-Energies distinction" returns lots of results. It's only when the words "existence", "reality" or "synergy" are added to the search terms that the number of results drops dramatically. I wonder if the problem is that those words are used in Russian or Greek but have not made it into English sources. I confess that part of the problem was that I was looking for sources that specifically mentioned "three existences" or "three realities" and those locutions are particularly hard to find.

--Pseudo-Richard (talk) 18:26, 5 January 2011 (UTC)

Tell me Richard why would someone write a chapter for something that they could distill down to a quote? LoveMonkey (talk) 16:07, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
The intent of your question is unclear but I will respond based on my reading that your underlying assertion is that Bradshaw's chapter on synergy cannot easily be distilled down to a quote of a few sentences. Why write a book when the topic can be covered in an encyclopedia article? Most things can be summarized down to a few sentences or a paragraph. Presumably the chapter provides context and supporting details.
It may well be that Bradshaw's concept of synergy is worth a separate article unto itself. Somehow I doubt it as the term "synergy" does not seem to be widely used in English sources discussing Orthodox theology. (Of course, this is based on Google searches and that only provides suggestive evidence not definitive evidence.)
Look, all I'm saying is that, if you want to mention Bradshaw and synergy, the topic deserves a fuller treatment than what we currently have which seems to be a quick mention "in passing" if you will. I can't find any information on Bradshaw and synergy online so it is incumbent on you to provide this fuller explanation for the reader's sake. If you don't want to do this, then let's just omit mention of the topic completely for now.
--Pseudo-Richard (talk) 16:40, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
And what I am saying is you don't get it. And that includes Wikipedia. Why are you selectively picking what can or can not be covered in an article on your own criteria? I sourced the section and Esoglou denies the source. If you dispute the source say so. It is already sourced you are acting in bad faith and then trying to say that you are not. It's that simple. If an entire section of a book is given a distill generalization or two and you disagree with that generalization say so. Which right now is the case. You are arguing over if you can or not read the book to validate what almost the ENTIRE book says. And then changing the question and acting like you are asking the same question. WHICH YOU ARE NOT. Go back and read this section again. Or is your opinion so right that it can contradict itself and anyone whom points that out be damned? LoveMonkey (talk) 17:23, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
Perhaps the next step is a RFC. However, in the meantime, why not try this experiment? Find two people in your real life: one can be knowledgeable in theology but not an Orthodox and the other should be fairly ignorant of theology but should be a Christian. Then ask them to read this article and give you their opinon about the synergy and the "Byzantine and Russian philosophy" sections. I wager they will respond as I have. My point remains: your focus should be on serving the reader and I assert that the reader is not well served by either of the two sections. I'm not saying you have to delete the sections. I'm saying they need to be better explained to the reader. --Pseudo-Richard (talk) 17:43, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
You know, what the heck. In addition to the above two, go find someone who knows Orthodox theology, either a student, professor or priest and ask them what they think of the two sections. It would be preferable if the person in question was a native English speaker since this is the English Wikipedia. --Pseudo-Richard (talk) 17:56, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
I'm sorry for my ignorance regarding your comments, but I have not connected on Wikipedia during the last days, and I didn't checked my talk page. I haven't seen yet the entire discussion (and maybe I'm not saying anything new), but I'll try to answer some of the issues discussed here. Regarding synergy, I think it is also related to the current topic, because the EO consider that the synergy or cooperation between God and humans is possible through His uncreated energies (and the following books claim that "Palamas concurs with all the Greek Fathers who have preceded him in stressing the need of our human cooperation with God's uncreated energies.", "...true self might come to fullest development in God through a synergy of cooperation with the uncreated energies of the indwelling Trinity", the same author also states that "the super-essential essence of God is absolutely unparticipable", and regarding David Bradshaw, he also claims in his book "Thus the divine energeiai are for Gregory the operations of God in the world at large and in the human heart- operations which God calls upon each person to share and thereby make his own. In effect Gregory presents an understanding of participation as synergy, a way of knowing another by sharing in his activity", "For creatures to participate in the esse of God synergistically would therefore be for them to participate in the divine essence. And of course that is inadmissible.", "The eastern conception of synergy depends on understanding energeia"). And about the "realities of God", I think it is also important to mention in this article that the hypostases (or personal existences) are distinct from the essence and energies "It is important to note, however, that Palamas does not simply employ a dyadic contrast between essence and energy within God, nor yet a dyadic contrast between essence and hypostases, but he deliberately insists upon a three-pointed contrast between essence, energy, and hypostasis....As Palamas himself puts it: Three realities pertain to God: essence, energy, and the triad of divine hypostases", it seems that these quotes were taken from some of Kallistos Ware's writtings, titled "God Immanent yet Transcendent: The Divine Energies according to Saint Gregory Palamas"). I'm not against making more detailed new articles (and I think it is a good idea), but I think these EO issues regarding "synergy" and the "realities of God" can indeed also be mentioned in this article. I also wish to thank you for your recent activity in editing these articles, even if we probably do not agree on all these issues. Cody7777777 (talk) 23:07, 8 January 2011 (UTC)
Almost anything in Eastern Orthodox theology could be shown to be connected with the Divine energies: the Incarnation, the sacrament/mysteries, heaven, hell, ... perhaps everything mentioned in the Nicene Creed and much more besides. The trouble here is with the insertion into this article, which is about the distinction between essence and energies, of many things that say nothing whatever about the nature of that distinction. What is the distinction between the essence and energies? In particular, what is the difference, in the case of God, between his essence and his energies? Is it a distinction between things that are really distinct from one another, or is it instead, in the case of God, a reality-based conceptual distinction (a "virtual distinction"), or is it some other kind of distinction? This article is not about the Divine energies as such: it is about the distinction between the energies and the essence. Either we treat this article as concerned only with the distinction mentioned in the title, or we turn the article into one on the relation that Eastern Orthodox theology sees between the Divine energies and the whole of reality, both created and uncreated. Esoglou (talk) 07:54, 9 January 2011 (UTC)
As far as I see, the sources cited above stated that humans do not participate synergistically in the essence of God, but in His energies, and this seems to clearly involve the Essence-Energies distinction. So, I have to say that I do not really understand what's wrong if this article (which now discusses only EO views) mentions the relation between synergy and the EE distinction (and this is actually just a short mention, the details about synergy are discussed in its subarticle). Cody7777777 (talk) 01:07, 10 January 2011 (UTC)
I agree. And so the article text should be changed to say what you mention (that humans participate synergistically in the energies, not the essence, of God), instead of talking about the relationship of God (essence? energies? Hypostases?) with man, pagan society and philosophy, "synergy" (rather than, for example, "energies") as the best word to summarize the differences between the two traditions, and saying nothing whatever about the distinction between essence and energies. If only it were changed in line with what you say, that section would no longer be off-topic. 08:13, 10 January 2011 (UTC)

Proposed move to Essence–Energies distinction (Eastern Orthodox theology)[edit]

I've already explained the rationale above. The purpose is to make room for a new article which will cover not only the Eastern Orthodox view of this topic but the views of others outside the Eastern Orthodox Church as well. My hope is that this will be a non-controversial move. If LoveMonkey agrees, I doubt anyone else will object. I'd like to just go ahead and make the move without having to go through the standard 7-day process of proposing the move and waiting for comments. I just don't think there are a lot of people who will weigh in with an opinion so let's hash it out among the three of us and get on with it. --Pseudo-Richard (talk) 20:18, 6 January 2011 (UTC)

I wrote the following for the section immediately above, but I suppose this is a better place to insert it.
On the concrete level, I don't understand what you envisage as happening after you "move the current article text to 'Essence-Energies distinction (Eastern Orthodox theology)'" (and, I suppose, let LoveMonkey remove all expositions of other theological interpretations of the distinction, so that it is limited to Eastern Orthodox theology). We cannot just throw away the work that has been done on how the difference in God between his energies and his essence is viewed outside the Eastern Orthodox Church and on the different views that exist on what precisely Palamas taught (since some say he did not in fact hold that there is a real difference within God between his essence and his energies). I find it hard to picture the two articles beginning as identical copies of the present one with bits cut out to make them different. In particular, don't you think that there will be strong opposition from one quarter to omitting from the general article certain material that to most editors seems to have little or no relation to the topic of the (general) article? In that case what will you have gained? Esoglou (talk) 20:30, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
I'm not planning to omit anything that is in the current article from the general article except possibly trimming some of the details of the EO doctrine. Without making a definite commitment to doing this, what I have in mind is the sections on the existences and realities of God which should probably be mentioned in the general article but maybe in just a one sentence summary of each. What I am really hoping for is that the EO version of the article will be liberated to wax at great length about the teachings of the EOC regarding the Essence-Energies distinction. (Really, I think much of what has been added lately is about the Nature of God and man's knowledge of and interaction with that nature. Thus, I don't think the recent additions are specifically about the EE-distinction per se but it's not important enough to spend much time and effort quarreling about it.)
Once the EO-specific article has been created, I would copy the entire article back to the old title and then seek to reorganize and expand it along the lines outlined in the preceding sections of this Talk Page. We can hopefully avoid charges of "making the EO doctrine out to be something that it is not". The EO doctrine can be described in the EO-specific article using whatever sourced text LoveMonkey can find and present. Western criticisms of that doctrine can be summarized in a section of the EO-specific article and expanded upon in the general article. Common conceptions of the EE-distinction prior to Barlaam/Palamas can be presented in the general article. The Western rehabilitation and rediscovery of Palamas can be covered in the general article. Does that vision make sense to you? --Pseudo-Richard (talk) 21:49, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
As I understand it, what is proposed is that: a) a specific article on Eastern Orthodox theology on the difference between God's essence and energy be set up with the same content as the present article, but eliminating or at least reducing what the present article says about Western views; and b) the present article should on the one hand be expanded to cover the distinction even without direct relation to God (adding material about pre-Christian use of the two terms οὐσία and ἐνέργεια by Aristotle (and others?) and maybe something about related Platonic and Neoplatonic thought, some references to use of the two terms by the Church Fathers, perhaps both with and without reference to God), and on the other hand it should reduce the space given to Eastern Orthodox thought, by summarizing it and referring to the specific Eastern Orthodox article for greater detail.
What perplexities I have about the proposal I would lay completely aside, if Phatius gave the proposal his go-ahead. But before he can properly be consulted, a major problem must be solved: Will LoveMonkey accept the proposal? Richard has made appeals above to LoveMonkey to indicate his mind on the proposal, but LoveMonkey has made no comment yet. What does LoveMonkey say? Esoglou (talk) 07:40, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
Esoglou, you have understood my proposal. I would be interested in knowing what "perplexities" you might have about the proposal. All I'm seeking to do is to create a situation which will allow for a more expanded treatment of the "essence-energies distinction" without provoking continual howls from LoveMonkey about people making Palamism something that it is not. It is meant to be a kind of amicable divorce that recognizes that a single combined article would be hard-pressed to describe both the EO and non-EO perspectives adequately. I would like it very much if LoveMonkey would concur with this proposal but, unless someone tables a convincing argument against it, I plan to move forward with it even if it means going through the Requested Move process (7 days!) or an RFC (even more delay). I do agree that Phatius' opinion would be helpful here. I would even ask for Cody's opinion except he doesn't seem to be responding to the last couple of requests that I made of him. --Pseudo-Richard (talk) 08:51, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
I suppose my perplexities are only about the feasibility of the project, both because of the complexity of extending the subject beyond the area of essence and energies in God and because of my doubt whether only two (?) active editors will be able to overcome the possible opposition of one very active editor to any reduction of the material now included (compare his insistence on unsourced and curious claim that a term was "coined by the Roman Catholic Church"). I do think Phatius should be consulted before making any move. Esoglou (talk) 09:14, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
Just popping in in response to Richard's post on my talk page. In the following, "general article" refers to the Essence-Energies distinction article, and "Orthodox article" refers to the proposed Essence-Energies distinction (Eastern Orthodox theology) article.
  1. I see no problem with Richard's proposal in principle. Indeed, if there had originally been both a general article and an Orthodox article, editors probably wouldn't have gotten into this huge dispute.
  2. Like Esoglou, I have reservations about how effective the proposal will be at resolving the dispute at this point. We still need to know what LoveMonkey thinks and, in particular, whether he will object if stuff like the "existences of God" section gets trimmed from the general article.
  3. My WP:SYN worries still haven't been completely laid to rest. I wonder whether the general article should be titled Essence-attributes distinction rather than Essence-Energies distinction. True, some Western theologians do discuss the essence-energies distinction under the name "essence-energies distinction", but (judging from the information currently in the article) this occurs largely (or even solely) in responses to Orthodox theology. Perhaps sources that use the term "attributes" (e.g. the discussion of virtual, formal, and nominal distinctions that Esoglou added) can go into the Essence-attributes distinction article, whereas sources that explicitly use the term "energies" can go into the Essence-Energies distinction (Eastern Orthodox theology) article. I suppose that would defeat the purpose of Richard's plan, though, since it would result in discussing Western views in both articles...
  4. Naming issues aside, if LoveMonkey agrees on allowing Richard to limit the general article's Orthodox material to sourced statements that explicitly mention the EE distinction, then I give this proposal my blessing. It's worth a shot.
Hope this helps. --Phatius McBluff (talk) 17:46, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
Thanks very much for your prompt response. I suspect your issues about synthesis could be better addressed if the general article (and possibly even the Orthodox-specific article) had a title along the lines of Nature of God (Christian theology) or Conception of God (Christian theology). However, in the interest of taking baby steps and getting things done, I will stick to my original proposal. If LoveMonkey has no objection, I think we should move forward with this proposal. --Pseudo-Richard (talk) 18:47, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
I suppose, Richard, you do realize that your proposal is the equivalent of just copying the material here to a new page with the new title, a single operation. I don't understand the need for two distinct operations (first a moving/renaming, then a copying), but doubtless you have good reasons for preferring the more complicated way - to which I am not raising objection.
There is still no comment from LM on your proposal. That may be an element in your preference for the twofold operation. Esoglou (talk) 19:46, 8 January 2011 (UTC)
This probably more than you really wanted to know but since you asked... Due to the intricacies of copyright issues, it is important to the copyright wonks that a trace of attribution be kept so that it can be ascertained (in theory even if nobody is likely do it in actual practice) where the text for every Wikipedia article came from. Thus, copy-paste moves are frowned upon as they do not bring along the edit history. (This is why you'll often see my edit summaries say things like "copying text from Palamism". This is the preferred way to maintain the audit trail of where the text came from. Using the "Move" function to change the name of an article will move the edit history with it and that is the preferred method. Now, in practice, there are all sorts of situations where it is not possible to preserve the edit history. This most often happens when something less than a whole article is being moved. Basically, the edit history can only be associated with one article. In our case, it can either be with the EO-specific article or the general article. I am assuming that the EO-specific article will preserve more of the original text than the new general article will and so I figured it would be better for the edit history to be associated with the EO-specific article. It wouldn't be a disaster if we did it in the way you suggested. I just figured that it was better to keep the edit history where the bulk of the contributed text would reside. There, aren't you sorry you asked? --Pseudo-Richard (talk) 19:58, 8 January 2011 (UTC)
Doubtless you know best. There is still no reaction by LM. Esoglou (talk) 11:45, 9 January 2011 (UTC)

Energies and attributes[edit]

In view of the worries expressed by Phatius, I think it is useful to mention some considerations about the relationship of the category "divine energies" to that of "divine attributes". As has been said several times, Western theologians have rarely written in particular of the "divine energies" as a separate category. The divine energies (operations, activities) have generally been dealt with simply as examples of the divine attributes, more precisely the active divine attributes. The brief skeleton-like treatment in Pohle (already cited in the article) considers the energies to be attributes (pp. 146-147). More detailed explanations in theological manuals divide the attributes into two categories. The passive attributes, such as self-existence, simplicity, eternity, immensity and unity, which "are not active operations of the Divine essence, but inactive relations of it, and are not modes of energizing but of existing". The active attributes are of God in action, such as omnipotence, omniscience, wisdom, goodness. "These (active) attributes are the Divine essence, whole and entire, contemplated in a particular mode of external operation" (William Greenough Taylor Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, vol. 1, p. 335). I have italicized some words to show more clearly that, although the author does not use the phrase "divine energies", when he speaks of the active attributes of God, he is speaking of what are also called energies.

Not only Westerners, but also Orthodox Lossky considers the energies attributes, saying: "The attributes-energies for St. Gregory Palamas by no means are abstract concepts applicable to the divine essence" (Vladimir Lossky, In the Image and Likeness of God, p. 57 ). And in his account of the Eastern tradition, La Due writes: "The energies, which are common operations of the Trinity, show forth in creation those qualities and attributes that can be known of God" (William J. La Due, The Trinity Guide to the Trinity, p. 162). Esoglou (talk) 19:48, 7 January 2011 (UTC)

V Lossky did not write in English his books are translations. LoveMonkey (talk) 21:07, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
Same holds for Saint Paul. Esoglou (talk) 21:11, 7 January 2011 (UTC) The fact that it is a translation of Lossky that I cited and not the original is of no more significance than is that fact that in Wikipedia the letters of Saint Paul are usually cited in translation rather than in the original Greek. Esoglou (talk) 21:28, 10 January 2011 (UTC)
Just a reply to Esoglou, and then I really need to stop visiting this article during my every moment of free time.
I completely agree with you, Esoglou, that an individual would be justified in concluding that all parties would consider the divine energies to be attributes. My worry is not about accuracy.
My worry has to do with the actual wording of Wikipedia policy. According to the WP:SYN policy, if I want to use source S for an article on X, then S must explicitly say that it is about X.
Suppose I have two sources, S1 and S2. S1 says, "Christianity is an Abrahamic religion." S2 says, "Zoroastrianism influenced the Abrahamic tradition." Strictly speaking, it would violate WP:SYN for me to go to the Christianity article and write, "Zoroastrianism influenced Christianity", citing S1 and S2 as my sources. Even writing, "Christianity is an Abrahamic religion, and Zoroastrianism influenced the Abrahamic tradition" is problematic: it implies that Zoroastrianism influenced Christianity, and yet I have no proof that either S1 or S2 believes that Zoroastrianism influenced Christianity. (For all S1 and S2 say, perhaps Zoroastrianism only influenced Judaism and Islam.)
I see something similar happening in this article. We have sources that describe various types of distinction (nominal, virtual, formal) between the divine attributes and the divine essence. Only one of these sources, Pohle mentions Palamism, and even he doesn't use the expression "energies", preferring "attributes". These sources' statements are included in a section devoted to various positions on the nature of the essence-energies distinction. This looks like a straightforward original synthesis ("original SYN"; heehee ^‿^).
Granted, we do have sources, Romanides and Philips, who explicitly apply the terms "formal distinction", etc. to the EE distinction. But in that case, we should just use Romanides and Philips in this article. Move Pohle and company to a different article, one titled The divine attributes or something like that. If you're worried that this article's readers won't know what the terms "formal distinction", etc. mean, then you have two options: (1) find some place in Romanides and Philips where they define those terms; (2) hyperlink to the articles on formal distinction, etc. --Phatius McBluff (talk) 21:51, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
While I do think that it can be shown verifiably that the energies of God are attributes of God (something that nobody denies), the essential thing is that the differentiation between various kinds of distinctions does not concern only the attributes of God. The differentiation is also expressly applied, for instance, to the the distinction between the human and the divine nature of Christ, which the Coptic Church would recognize as being virtual but not real. But even more to the point, the dispute about the distinction between the essence and the energies of God is precisely over the qualification of this distinction as real. There is no dispute about the existence of a distinction between them. If we are to talk about the nature of the distinction, if we are to talk about the dispute both in the Eastern hesychast controversy and in the disagreement between East and West on the matter, we must explain that what is disputed is whether it is or is not a real distinction, and something must necessarily be said about the other kinds of distinction that are recognized, at least the principal ones. Obviously, two that must necessarily be mentioned are the merely conceptual distinction and the reality-based conceptual distinction. There would be no need to mention the formal distinction, were it not for the fact that Romanides mentions it. Besides, there is a Wikipedia article on the formal distinction. On the other hand there is no need to mention the modal distinction, put forward by some Catholic theologian whose name does not come clearly to my mind at this moment. Esoglou (talk) 08:42, 9 January 2011 (UTC)
The most radical way, and so, I suppose, the most effective way, to overcome Phatius's worries is to remove any mention of the word "attributes" from the article's explanation of the nature of the distinction between God's essence and God's energies. What I have then consequently added to that section can of course be further developed by Wikipedia editors to whatever extent seems necessary or desirable. Esoglou (talk) 11:38, 9 January 2011 (UTC)

I think I may as well mention here some more instances that I have encountered in which the divine energies are expressly called divine attributes, by writers from East and West. I have found no source whatever that denies that they are divine attributes.

  1. All the Cappadocian Fathers (that is, Gregory the Theologian, Basil the Great and John the Chrysostom) came to refer to the energies of God as “divine attributes” - The Energies of God by Megas L. Farandos, Athens University Professor. From the book: «The Orthodox Teaching on God» Athens 1985. Chapter 7, pages 423 – 478.
  2. The energies came to be identified in the Palamite tradition with divine virtues or attributes, God's will, and with the ideas of logoi with which God planned eternally the temporal creation, similar to the manner in which Thomas Aquinas characterized the divine energies or operations - Partakers of the divine nature: the history and development of deificiation ... p. 235.
  3. Dumitru Stăniloae likewise defines the uncreated energies as "nothing other than the attributes of God in motion" - Partakers of the divine nature: the history and development of deificiation ... p. 235.
  4. Lossky argues that God is unknowable in His essence, but the Father has decided to be present in His energies, attributes which are knowable to us. Through His presence in energies, we may know God as Love, Wisdom, etc. However, Lossky maintains that there is no distinction in quality between the attributes of God as energies and the essence of God. - The Doctrine of the Trinity: Barth and Lossky
  5. The attributes of God, such as Sophia, are identified with God's energies and not with God's essence - The Encyclopedia of Christianity, Volume 5 By Erwin Fahlbusch, p. 417
  6. One must distinguish in God between the absolutely unknowable essence and the knowable perceptible attributes, the energies or the activities of God - Encyclopedia of theology: A Concise Sacramentum Mundi By Karl Rahner Esoglou (talk) 14:46, 12 January 2011 (UTC)

I stress that, in view of the opposition encountered, I do not intend to reinsert in the article the mention of the divine attributes. The above is for interest only, not for action. I do think it would have been helpful for the article to provide an account of how certain theologians apply precisely to the divine attributes (such as the energies) the various ways in which they understand distinctions: as real, virtual etc. But I don't think it is necessary for the article to do more than make clear that what is in question is not the existence of the essence-energies distinction (which nobody denies nor could deny) but the nature of that distinction. Esoglou (talk) 14:46, 12 January 2011 (UTC)

Well... based on these quotes, I think Phatius' concern about synthesis is now seen to be overblown. I will ask him to take a look and reconsider his objection. I still maintain this article would be more suitably titled Nature of God (Eastern Orthodox theology). This would make the discussion of the existences and realities of God more germane. --Pseudo-Richard (talk) 16:18, 12 January 2011 (UTC)
There is no need. Let it be. Esoglou (talk) 16:32, 12 January 2011 (UTC)
Um... so I arrived here after Richard posted a message on my talk page, but not before Esoglou posted "Let it be", apparently indicating that he didn't want Richard to seek my reconsideration. Now that I'm here, I might as well say what I was going to say.
I'm not sure what objection Richard wants me to reconsider. Is it my objection to the word "attributes"? I have no objection to mentioning "attributes" in this article. By all means, add a whole section explaining that the divine energies are considered to be attributes. I was only concerned with the use of Roman Catholic works that discuss the divine attributes (without even mentioning the word "energies") as sources for applying the categories of "formal distinction", "real distinction", etc. to the EE distinction.
Is it my objection to discussing how the categories of "formal distinction", "real distinction", etc. apply to the EE distinction? The addition of Romanides, who explicitly discusses how these categories apply to the EE distinction, has rendered that objection obsolete.
Perhaps Richard wants me to reconsider my objection to mentioning the more general application of those categories to the essence-attributes distinction (apart from any consideration of the term "energies"). At this point, I have no objection to this either, as long as we keep separate claims separate. By all means, add a paragraph describing different views of the essence-attributes distinction. My only request, at this point, is that that paragraph be kept distinct from (1) the paragraph discussing Romanides's application of the categories to the EE distinction and (2) the paragraph (if it ends up being added) explaining that theologians identify the divine energies as attributes. --Phatius McBluff (talk) 18:54, 12 January 2011 (UTC)

Well... I have to confess that I'm getting a bit muddled and, at the moment, I'm not that interested in dispelling the fog in my head. I've suggested several times that the article be moved to Nature of God (Eastern Orthodox theology) but no one has expressed support so I think I will just fade back into the woodwork at this point. All this talk of formal, virtual and real distinctions between essence, energies, attributes, existences and realities is starting to look like theological mumbo-jumbo to my poor uneducated brain. My interest lies more in history anyway so that's where you'll find me plugging away. --Pseudo-Richard (talk) 19:11, 12 January 2011 (UTC)
I think there is a great difference between information on the various kinds of distinctions and the other topics you mention. It quite evidently is about the nature of the essence-energies difference - indeed you could say it is essential for understanding what the dispute is about, since there is no dispute about the existence of the distinction - but the relevance of the other topics is by no means evident. Esoglou (talk) 19:43, 12 January 2011 (UTC)

I'm (still) taking a break[edit]

Despite my recent comment on this talk page (which was in response to a request from Richard), I still plan to avoid editing this and other Palamism-related articles for the time being. It's just not worth the stress that has accompanied the editing thus far. If you post a comment on my talk page, asking me for input on some specific Palamism-related issue, then I'll be glad to provide my two cents. But after that, I'll disappear again. Just wanted to make my game plan clear. (This plan is subject to change at any time, of course.) --Phatius McBluff (talk) 19:00, 12 January 2011 (UTC)


I have marked this as {{GOCEreviewed}} and removed the copy edit tag from the page because of the merge proposal and the extensive debate here. It's only worth copy editing when the content is reasonably stable. I have done the same at the other article. This is obviously a significant topic, so once these issues have been resolved, please do tag for copy edit once more if it's still wanted. --Stfg (talk) 11:07, 23 February 2012 (UTC)

Duplicate articles: merger & move-proposal[edit]

There is a lot of duplication of material between the Essence–Energies distinction and Essence–Energies distinction (Eastern Orthodox theology) articles: Difference between the pages.] Should these be merged back? —Telpardec  TALK  09:53, 13 September 2014 (UTC)

I've merged the articles, and removed a lot of undue text. Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 10:51, 23 June 2017 (UTC)