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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Panentheism and Eastern Christianity

Firstly let's make the distinction between Pantheism and Panentheism. Pantheism equates Cosmos (Nature, Universe) and God (maybe we should say rather Godhead).

Panentheism keeps the immanence of Cosmos, while adding to it a transcendental dimension. Simpler put, for a Panentheist, Godhead is not only Cosmos, it is also what's beyond.

It sounds a bit arid, I agree. Let's put it this way: if we consider Cosmos (Universe, Nature) as the whole that can be physically observed, then for Pantheism the Godhead is in the whole (not beyond), while for Panentheism the whole is in the Godhead (who extends beyond).

Important to understand is that both Pantheism and Panentheism equate (at least partially) Cosmos and Godhead. A line from Yeats comes in mind: How can we know the dancer from the dance?

It's much to say about this, here are just some quick notes.

Some argue that Eastern Christianity (Orthodoxy) is at least partially Panentheistic. I do not agree. Eastern Church professes the belief in one God who encompasses Essence (Οὐσία, Ousia), Persons (ὑπόστᾰσις, Hypostasis - Father, Son, Holy Spirit), and Uncreated Energies (ἐνεργέω, Energeia). The presence of God in the Universe is manifest through these Uncreated Energies. Here the keyword is Uncreated: Eastern Christianity keeps a net distinction between Creation and Divine Energies (Uncreated, as they are a manifestation of God, who is the Creator, not the Creation).

There would be also something to add here about what Eastern theology has to say about a human being who advances towards Theosis, but let's leave it now. Maybe later (not sure).

As I said above, these are just quick notes, nothing more. For those who want to study seriously the matter I recommend a very solid treatise: The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, by Vladimir Lossky.

(A Life in Books)



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