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An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith

Translated by the Rev. S. D. F. Salmond, 1898.

CHAPTER XXII (unedited) Concerning Passion and Energy

Passion is a word with various meanings. It is used in regard to the body, and refers to diseases and wounds, and again, it is used in reference to the soul, and means desire and anger. But to speak broadly and generally, passion is an animal affection which is succeeded by pleasure and pain. For pain succeeds passion, but is not the same thing as passion. For passion is an affection of things without sense, but not so pain. Pain then is not passion, but the sensation of passion: and it must be considerable, that is to say, it must be great enough to come within the scope of sense.

Again, the definition of passions of the soul is this: Passion is a sensible activity of the appetitive faculty, depending on the presentation to the mind of something good or bad. Or in other words, passion is an irrational activity of the soul, resulting from the notion of something good or bad. For the notion of something good results in desire, and the notion of something bad results in anger. But passion considered as a class, that is, passion in general, is defined as a movement in one thing caused by another. Energy, on the other hand, is a drastic movement, and by .drastic. is meant that which is moved of itself. Thus, anger is the energy manifested by the part of the soul where anger resides, whereas passion involves the two divisions of the soul, and in addition the whole body when it is forcibly impelled to action by anger. For there has been caused movement in one thing caused by another, and this is called passion.

But in another sense energy is spoken of as passion. For energy is a movement in harmony with nature, whereas passion is a movement at variance with nature. According, then, to this view, energy may be spoken of as passion when it does not act in accord with nature, whether its movement is due to itself or to some other thing. Thus, in connection with the heart, its natural pulsation is energy, whereas its palpitation, which is an excessive and unnatural movement, is passion and not energy.

But it is not every activity of the passionate part of the soul that is called passion, but only the more violent ones, and such as are capable of causing sensation: for the minor and unperceived movements are certainly not passions. For to constitute passion there is necessary a considerable degree of force, and thus it is on this account that we add to the definition of passion that it is a sensible activity. For the lesser activities escape the notice of the senses, and do not cause passion.

Observe also that our soul possesses twofold faculties, those of knowledge, and those of life. The faculties of knowledge are mind, thought, notion, presentation, sensation: and the vital or appetitive faculties are will and choice. Now, to make what has been said clearer, let us consider these things more closely, and first let us take the faculties of knowledge.

Presentation and sensation then have already been sufficiently discussed above. It is sensation that causes a passion, which is called presentation, to arise in the soul, and from presentation comes notion. Thereafter thought, weighing the truth or falseness of the notion, determines what is true: and this explains the Greek word for thought, dianoia, which is derived from ........, meaning to think and discriminate. That, however, which is judged [Cf. 1 Cor. i. 10.] and determined to be true, is spoken of as mind.

Or to put it otherwise: The primary activity of the mind, observe, is intelligence, but intelligence applied to any object is called a thought, and when this persists and makes on the mind an impression of the object of thought, it is named reflection, and when reflection dwells on the same object and puts itself to the test, and closely examines the relation of the thought to the soul, it gets the name prudence. Further, prudence, when it extends its area forms the power of reasoning, and is called conception, and this is defined as the fullest activity of the soul, arising in that part where reason resides, and being devoid of outward expression: and from it proceeds the uttered word spoken by the tongue. And now that we have discussed the faculties of knowledge, let us turn to the vital or appetitive faculties.

It should be understood that there is implanted in the soul by nature a faculty of desiring that which is in harmony with its nature, and of maintaining in close union all that belongs essentially to its nature: and this power is called will or thelesis. For the essence both of existence and of living yearns after activity both as regards mind and sense, and in this it merely longs to realise its own natural and perfect being. And so this definition also is given of this natural will: will is an appetite, both rational and vital, depending only on what is natural. So that will [Max. ad Marin. et ad Incert. p. 98.] is nothing else than the natural and vital and rational appetite of all things that go to constitute nature, that is, just the simple faculty. For the appetite of creatures without reason, since it is irrational, is not called will.

Again boulesis or wish is a sort of natural will, that is to say, a natural and rational appetite for some definite thing. For there is seated in the soul of man a faculty of rational desire. When, then, this rational desire directs itself naturally to some definite object it is called wish. For wish is rational desire and longing for some definite thing.

Wish, however, is used both in connection with what is within our power, and in connection with what is outside our power, that is, both with regard to the possible and the impossible. For we wish often to indulge lust or to be temperate, or to sleep and the like, and these are within our power to accomplish, and possible. But we wish also to be kings, and this is not within our power, or we wish perchance never to die, and this is an impossibility.

The wish, then, has reference to the end alone, and not to the means by which the end is attained. The end is the object of our wish, for instance, to be a king or to enjoy good health: but the means by which the end is attained, that is to say, the manner in which we ought to enjoy good health, or reach the rank of king, are the objects of deliberation1 [Max. Dial. cum Pyrrh. et Epist. 1 ad Marin.]. Then after wish follow inquiry and speculation (zetesis and scepsis), and after these, if the object is anything within our power, comes counsel or deliberation (boule or bouleusis): counsel is an appetite for investigating lines of action lying within our own power. For one deliberates, whether one ought to prosecute any matter or not, and next, one decides which is the better, and this is called judgment (crisis). Thereafter, one becomes disposed to and forms a liking for that in favour of which deliberation gave judgment, and this is called inclination (gnome). For should one form a judgment and not be disposed to or form a liking for the object of that judgment, it is not called inclination. Then, again, after one has become so disposed, choice or selection (proairesis or epiloge) comes into play. For choice consists in the choosing and selecting of one of two possibilities in preference to the other. Then one is impelled to action, and this is called impulse (horme): and thereafter it is brought into employment, and this is called use (chresis). The last stage after we have enjoyed the use is cessation from desire.

In the case, however, of creatures without reason, as soon as appetite is roused for anything, straightway arises impulse to action. For the appetite of creatures without reason is irrational, and they are ruled by their natural appetite. Hence, neither the names of will or wish are applicable to the appetite of creatures without reason. For will is rational, free and natural desire, and in the case of man, endowed with reason as he is, the natural appetite is ruled rather than rules. For his actions are free, and depend upon reason, since the faculties of knowledge and life are bound up together in man. He is free in desire, free in wish, free in examination and investigation, free in deliberation, free in judgment, free in inclination, free in choice, free in impulse, and free in action where that is in accordance with nature.

But in the case of God [Basil (HexaŽm. Hom. 1), arguing against the ancient philosophers who taught that the world was made aproair---, affirms .counsel. in God in the latter sense.,] it is to be remembered, we speak of wish, but it is not correct to speak of choice. For God does not deliberate, since that is a mark of ignorance, and no one deliberates about what he knows. But if counsel is a mark of ignorance, surely choice [Max., Epist. 1 ad Marin.] must also be so. God, then, since He has absolute knowledge of everything, does not deliberate

Nor in the case of the soul of the Lord do we speak of counsel or choice, seeing that He had no part in ignorance. For, although He was of a nature that is not cognisant of the future, yet because of His oneness in subsistence with God the Word, He had knowledge of all things, and that not by grace, but, as we have said, because He was one in subsistence [Max., Dial. cum Pyrrh.]. For He Himself was both God and Man, and hence He did not possess the will that acts by opinion or disposition. While He did possess the natural and simple will which is to be observed equally in all the personalities of men, His holy soul had not opinion [gnomen] (or, disposition) that is to say, no inclination opposed to His divine will, nor aught else contrary to His divine will. For opinion (or, disposition) differs as persons differ, except in the case of the holy and simple and uncompound and indivisible Godhead18561856 v. infr., lib. iii. ch. 14.. There, indeed, since the subsistences are in nowise divided or separated, neither is the object of will divided. And there, since there is but one nature, there is also but one natural will. And again, since the subsistences are unseparated, the three subsistences have also one object of will, and one activity. In the case of men, however, seeing that their nature is one, their natural will is also one, but since their subsistences18571857 Or, personalities. are separated and divided from each other, alike in place and time, and disposition to things, and in many other respects, for this reason their acts of will and their opinions are different. But in the case of our Lord Jesus Christ, since He possesses different natures, His natural wills, that is, His volitional faculties belonging to Him as God and as Man are also different. But since the subsistence is one, and He Who exercises the will is one, the object of the will, that is, the gnomic will, is also one, His human will evidently following His divine will, and willing that which the divine will willed it to will.

Further note, that will (thelesis) and wish (boulesis) are two different things: also the object of will (the theleton) and the capacity for will (theleticon), and the subject that exercises will (the theleon), are all different. For will is just the simple faculty of willing, whereas wish is will directed to some definite object. Again, the object of will is the matter underlying the will, that is to say, the thing that we will: for instance, when appetite is roused for food. The appetite pure and simple, however, is a rational will. The capacity for will, moreover, means that which possesses the volitional faculty, for example, man. Further, the subject that exercises will is the actual person who makes use of will.

The word thelema, it is well to note, sometimes denotes the will, that is, the volitional faculty, and in this sense we speak of natural will: and sometimes it denotes the object of will, and we speak of will (thelema gnomicon) depending on inclination [Or, acting by opinion, or disposition].


The St. Pachomius Orthodox Library, St. Dionysius the Areopagite 2007.

Have mercy, O Lord, upon Thy servant the translator, upon Richard, and upon the parish of St. John of Damascus in Dedham.