Bekkos over at De Unione Ecclesiarum has posted some citations from Saint Cyril of Alexandria. Since he has the Greek text there I won’t bother reproducing it here. Peter seems to think that Cyril’s position on simplicity, particularly with respect to the divine will and being are isomorphic with that of Aquinas rather than say Palamas. I don’t think that’s the case, but let’s take a look at the passages.
Hermias. And how, they say, is the divine simple if, in existence on the one hand and in will on the other, it is conceived of separately? For then it would be composite and as though it existed, in a way, out of parts that had come together into a closer unity.
Cyril. Therefore, since, in your view, the divine is simple and exists above all composition (and this view of yours is correct), his will is nothing other than he himself. And if someone says “will,” he indicates the nature of God the Father.
Hermias. So it would appear.
St. Cyril of Alexandria, Dialogues on the Trinity (Ad Hermiam), book V; SC 237 (de Durand, ed.), p. 290; PG 75, 945 C.
With the first citation here I’d like to call your attention to a few things. First, the Palamite position doesn’t deny that God is simple, but rather denies a specific understanding of divine simplicity so that references employing terms such as those above will be inadequate until a demonstration is forthcoming showing what concept is picked out by said terms.
Second, Palamas, as well as Maximus while affirming a genuine plurality in God deny that this amounts to composition. So again, denials of composition of themselves are inadequate to demonstrate that Aquinas’ view in the main is being advocated.
Third, it isn’t Palamas’ contention that the divine will is separate from the divine essence. If fact, Palamas seems to stick fairly closely to Maximus’ view of the will as an aspect of the divine essence. This is why both writers affirm that the three divine persons share one will.
On the other hand Cyril seems to give pride of place with whatever kind of identity or sameness that the divine will has with the divine essence in terms of the essence of the Father. Cyril seems to be perfectly in line with the Cappadocians here so far as the text provided could indicate. It is important to note here that what Cyril does not say. Cyril does not say that the divine essence is identical or the same as the relations or persons. So far, there isn’t anything particularly Thomistic in the citation.
And now the second citation,
Cyril. How then can that by which and in which God accomplishes his operations with regard to the creation and makes himself known as Creator of all things be a creature, subject to becoming? For perhaps it is already time for us to make this claim. If they pretend that such is the state of things, they will be obliged, even unwillingly, to confess the created character of the divine energy. And what is the consequence? An odious blasphemy, opinions opposed to good sense, good for bringing an accusation of the height of stupidity. For if one is not too poorly endowed with the decency which befits wise men, one will say that the divine being is properly and primarily simple and incomposite; one will not, dear friend, venture to think that it is composed out of nature and energy, as though, in the case of the divine, these are naturally other; one will believe that it exists as entirely one thing with all that it substantially possesses. Thus, if anyone says that his energy, that is, his Spirit, is something created and made, even while it belongs to him in a proper sense, then the Deity, surely, will be a creature, given that his operation is no other thing than he himself. Isn’t the claim abominable and hateful, and one which has a great tendency towards practical impiety?
St. Cyril, Dialogues on the Trinity, book VII; SC 246 (de Durand, ed.), pp. 200-202; PG 75, 1109 B-C.
First, notice the question that is asked. How can the divine “operations” be something created? What are the divine operations? Are they energies and what for Cyril is an energy? Then Cyril goes on to state that those who mistakenly think that these “operations” are created will be forced to take the divine energy as created. Now this certainly doesn’t sound like Thomas to me or any Thomist that I have ever read. Now granted, I have not read everything of Thomas and I don’t claim to have done so. On its face though I’d wager that if one read the Triads and then read Prima Pars from the Summa, they’d take this kind of language and expressions to be far closer to Palamas than to Thomas. So Cyril then says that taking the divine operations “with regard to the created order” as creatures is “blasphemy.”
But then comes the supposedly offensive part where Cyril says that God is incomposite and simple, but this lines up quite well with a good number of passages from Palamas where he says the same thing. Palamas doesn’t think that essence and energy amount to any composition in God because plurality doesn’t have its place by negating unity and unity is not achieved by reducing plurality to unity.
Then there is the curious statement by Cyril in reference to nature and energy that “as though, in the case of the divine, these are naturally other.” Here Cyril seems to be saying no more than that there isn’t any opposition between energy and nature as if they were two separate discrete substances. But neither Palamas nor Maximus think that the energies are “cut off” from the essence and this is not a point which should require much proof since it shows up even in non-Christian sources like Plotinus’ Enneads. Energies are not separate substances or stand alone entities. All Cyril here is defending is essentially monotheism. There is only one God and not two. My activities are in a genuine and real sense me, which is why I can be responsible for them. They express me for I am in them. In like manner the divine energies are not some other deity contiguous with God. They express God and are divine. with Cyril, how can one blaspheme by thinking of them as created effects?
It is further important to keep in mind that simplicity itself is taken as an energy of God. Cyril seems to talk this way when he writes of simplicity in relation to energy and nature. Maximus and John of Damascus write this way as well. Maximus in Chapters on Knowledge 1. 47-48 and John in his exposition of the Orthodox Faith. Saint John writes for example,
“The Deity is simple and uncompound. But that which is composed of many and different elements is compound. If, then, we should speak of the qualities of being uncreate and without beginning and incorporeal and immortal and everlasting and good and creative and so forth as essential differences in the case of God, that which is composed of so many qualities will not be simple but must be compound. But this is impious in the extreme. Each then of the affirmations about God should be thought of as signifying not what He is in essence, but either something that it is impossible to make plain, or some relation to some of those things which are contrasts or some of those things that follow the nature, or an energy” On the Orthodox Faith 1.9
“Therefore all these names must be understood as common to deity as a whole, and as containing the notions of sameness and simplicity and indivisibility and union: while the names Father, Son and Spirit, and causeless and caused, and unbegotten and begotten, and procession contain the idea of separation: for these terms do not explain His essence, but the mutual relationship and manner of existence.
When, then, we have perceived these things and are conducted from these to the divine essence, we do not apprehend the essence itself but only the attributes of the essence: just as we have not apprehended the essence of the soul even when we have learnt that it is incorporeal and without magnitude and form: nor again, the essence of the body when we know that it is white or black, but only the attributes of the essence. Further, the true doctrine teacheth that the Deity is simple and has one simple energy, good and energising in all things, just as the sun’s ray, which warms all things and energises in each in harmony with its natural aptitude and receptive power, having obtained this form of energy from God, its Maker.” On the Orthodox Faith 1.10
“Further the divine effulgence and energy, being one and simple and indivisible, assuming many varied forms in its goodness among what is divisible and allotting to each the component parts of its own nature, still remains simple and is multiplied without division among the divided, and gathers and converts the divided into its own simplicity. For all things long after it and have their existence in it. It gives also to all things being according to their several natures and it is itself the being of existing things, the life of living things, the reason of rational beings, the thought of thinking beings. But it is itself above mind and reason and life and essence.” On the Orthodox Faith 1.14
Now these statements by John don’t seem to be saying anything more radical or out of line with Cyril, Maximus or Palamas for that matter. But they don’t sound like Thomas to me.