Father Kimel responded recently on his blog to another participant that one of the possible errors of Orthodoxy was “the distinction between the divine being and the energies.” I have seen the distinction glossed this way by many interlocutors on that board, and I have no doubt Fr. Kimel wasn’t being precise in his language, nevertheless, I think this reading betrays a certain fundamental misunderstanding of the Orthodox position and the Eastern Fathers. I would like to clean this up a bit in a few posts here which might shed some more light on the position. I responded:
There is no distinction between the divine being and the energies. This is a misunderstanding of the position. God’s “essence” is not being in any sense at all. As Gregory Palamas says, either God is being and we are not or we are being and He is not. We say that God is hyperousios ousios, and hyperousios is no adjective modifying ousios. The scholastics read Dionysius as God standing above all finite being, and hence their being an epistemic and metaphysical continuity between God and finite beings (the analogy of being). When we say God is hyperousios ousios, it means that God’s ‘essence’ “stands above his own being producing cause of all beings, that is, God as the divine energy.” (John D. Jones, Marquette) Furthermore, when we say “God’s essence”, it is only as a reference point as a causal designation. Quoting Jones again, “On this view, despite the grammatical form of hyperousios ousia, ousia is not a noun referring to a divine ‘essence’ characterized as hyperousios in one sense and as ousiopoios (being producing) in another. Rather, hyperousios “indicates” the Godhead as uncoordinated with all and, thus, beyond all names whatsoever; ousia, however, refers to God as manifested…in the divine energy.”–John D. Jones. “Manifesting Beyond-Being Being (hyperousios ousia): The Divine Essenc-Energies Distinction for Pseudo-Dionysius Areopagite.” St. Louis Philosophy Department Colloquium. April 15, 2005.