Divine Energy

Divine Energy (or Energies) is God’s activity in the universe, God’s Life. The Scholastics, medieval Western philosophers of religion, tried to approach this by translating the Greek terminology as “operations,” but as usual, it’s more than that.

Everything has energies – rocks, plants, animals, people, and God the Trinity. Even the inertia of a boulder or a blade of grass can be considered an energy. Energies are distinguishable from each other and from the thing’s essence. If I shake your hand, I am not my hand, yet I’m in some way present in that hand and that handshake nonetheless. The same with God. God creates and sustains the universe(s) by His Energies. They are distinct from His Essence, otherwise you have pantheism. Yet He is present via His Energies in a real way, just like my handshake (insofar as anything pertaining to God can be said to have anything in common with creature!).

Created things have created energies, the Uncreated has Uncreated Energies.

The Holy Trinity has one Energy or set of Energies, not three; that’s one of the ways in which the Trinity, though Three, is One. Everything with essence has energy…and God has Essence – not essences. The Trinity has One Will and One Energy or set of Energies, that’s how close the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are to each other. (So when we are told to picture the Father trying to convince the Son to go down to Earth and save humanity…that never happened!) Sometimes we speak of “the Energy of the Holy Spirit” or “the Divine Energy of the Son,” but we don’t mean these in any exclusive sense as within the Trinity.

Another way to think of energies is to realize that Christ ate, drank, and walked around, exercising His human energies…and healed and performed other miracles through His Divine Energies.

In the history of the Old Testament, the New Testament, and since, God’s Energies have often manifested as Light. As I’ve mentioned, the epitome of this is the Transfiguration of Christ on Mt. Tabor. We desire and pray to see the Light or Glory of the Lord (in set prayers of the Orthodox Church) because that experience indicates a certain attunedness of OUR energies with God’s. But we don’t see it if we’re substantially enslaved by sin and the passions, lest we burn from the Divine Energies as Fire. (This is the Orthodox teaching of hell, as its opposite, as I’ve mentioned, is heaven.) So when I speak of tuning the human will to God’s, it’s similar to attuning the human energy to God’s…except insofar as energy differs from will. And that is the difference between willing to do something, and actually doing it. It stands to reason that if I never carry out my good intentions, I’ll burn for eternity when I die…not because God does anything to me, but simply my exposure to His Energies in contradiction to my own, burns instead of lights. Think of it this way: Whereas created fire lights from a distance, but burns close-up, Uncreated Light lights close-up, but burns at a distance!

Think of a marriage, where the couple become closer and closer together, and a certain harmony develops between their wills and between their energies. Harmony between OUR wills and energies, and God’s, is what we want, out of love, like a marriage. And remember, God as married to His people is a sense that goes back to the Old Testament!

This is also to point out that we creatures will never see or “contemplate” God’s Essence, only His Energies, because no creature is able to see the Creator. And “communion with God” is energetic, not essential (ie, not with regard to essence).

The best way to this is to submit oneself to the guidance of an Orthodox spiritual father or mother — “director” so to speak — with this experience, able to guide you to it too. Minimally, it’s to follow the timeless counsel of the Orthodox Church: worship, pray as Orthodox, do good, study Scripture and Tradition, partake of the Orthodox Mysteries or “sacraments,” self-discipline, fasting, etc.

And be careful, because the devil is able to mimic some manifestations of “light.” Sometimes even the Saints have been fooled. Hence guidance is required.


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