epektasis

Linked Glossary of Terms
(references to De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee, unless indicated)

epectasis
epektasis

This is a term used in orthodox theology. To my knowledge, Dooyeweerd does not use this term. But it fits with much of his thought. This view fits with the emphasis by Dooyeweerd (and Baader) that the supratemporal is not static but dynamic, as well as with his view of fulfillment.

The term epektasis is used by Gregory of Nyssa to refer to the drawing of the soul ever onwards. He says that this will continue without end through an eternity of ages. The word ‘epektasis’ is one of the central motifs of his mysticism. The word refers to our ever-increasing capacity for growth. It is loving God in “eternity” or at least the supratemporal.

The word ’epektasis’ comes from from Philippians 3:13:

Forgetting those things that are behind, and reaching forth [epekteinomenon, from where the word epektasis] unto those things which are before, I press towards the mark.

Jean Danielou says of it,

There is at once for the soul an aspect of stability and possession, which is her participation in God, and an aspect of movement, which is the ever infinite gap between what she possesses of God and what He is…Spiritual life is thus an everlasting transformation of the soul in Christ Jesus in the form of a growing ardour, thirst for God growing as participation in Him increases, which is accompanied by a growing stability, the soul becoming simple, and fixed ever more firmly in God. J. Danielou: Platonisme et theologie mystique, Paris, 1944, pp. 305-307.

We move “out of,” in a continuous “epektasis,” beyond the stage we have reached to make a further discovery. (See: From glory to glory. Texts from Gregory of Nyssa’s mystical writings, with an introduction by Jean Danielou, John Murray, London, 1962).

Raimundo Panikkar, in The Silence of God: The Answer of the Buddha (Orbis, 1990), seems to have given the wrong etymology for the word. He refers to it as ‘epextasis’ and says that it is “the implicit synthesis between a static, substantialistic vision of reality and a dynamic, temporal conception of it.” Panikkar cites Nyssa: “Nothing of what the human mind can know is knowledge of God.” Panikkar says that this concept has been insufficiently explored. He points out that Abhishiktananda uses the word in his book Sagesse, but that Abhishiktananda does not explain the word. Panikkar explains the word ‘epextasis’ in this way: “Composed of epi-, which implies possession, and the divine immanence, ek-, which suggests emergence from oneself, and transcendence, and the root –sta-, which means precisely “to be here”–just to have a perfect coincidentia oppositorum.” I like Panikkar’s idea, but the root is not -sta. The word is related to teinein [to stretch] and tasis [a stretching,tension].

There may be more than just a similarity in ideas between Dooyeweerd and Gregory of Nyssa. It appears that Herman Bavinck, Wilhelm Geesink, and Jan Woltjer all had some interest in Cappadocian theology. They were all professors at the Free University, and they taught both Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven. In his “Historische achtergrond en toekomst MVCW (Dec 1970) 2-3” Vollenhoven distinguishes Geesink and Woltjer from Kuyper, referring to some Cappadocian theology::

Want terwijl Kuyper, in navolging van Augustinus in diens laatste fase -, Bonaventura, Malebranche en Pascal, bij het platoniserende type der speculatieve semi-mystiek aansloot, ging de belangstelling van Woltjer en Geesink naar het energetsiche type der wisselwerkingstheorie uit, bij de patres door Gregorius van Nazianze aangehangen en in de 19e eeuw door Lotze en later door Spencer, Mach, James, Husserl en Whitehead in moderne geest uitgewerkt.

[For while Kuyper, in following Augustine–with whose last phase Bonaventura, Malebranche and Pascal connected in their Platonising type of speculative semi-mysticism–the interest of Woltjer and Geesink was based on the energetic type of interactionism theory, related to the fathers through Gregory of Nazanzius, and in the 19th century through Lotze and later worked out in the modern spirit by Spencer, Mach, James, Husserl and Whitehead.]

And Klapwijk says [in “Calvin on Non-Christian Philosophy”] that Vollenhoven initially saw Kuyper as dualistic, and Woltjer as more the monistic side of thinking. In contrast to Kuyper, Geesink and Woltjer’s basic assumption was that “man totally is and ought to be image of God.” But Klapwijk says that in his last few years, Vollenhoven made remarks “on more than one occasion that he sides with Gregory of Nazianzus and Woltjer.”

In “Kuyper’s Wetenschapsleer” Philosophia Reformata (1939) 193-232, Dooyeweerd refers to Woltjer’s view that there are levels of individuality:

“Naarmate de sort hoger staat in trap, krijgt het individueele meer betekenis”

[As the kind is higher in level, it acquires more meaning ].

Dooyeweerd attempts to distinguish his own view from Woltjer’s view of levels of reality in that he holds to the idea of the religious root. But this alone cannot distinguish Dooyeweerd’s view, because he certainly holds to different levels as well as different realms (inorganic, organic and animal). Perhaps his idea of root is different (1) in the view of individuality itself and (2) in there being no progress from realm to realm, as in evolutionary thought, but only a perfection of existence within a realm, as it is fulfilled in the redeemed root of the temporal world. In addition, Dooyeweerd criticizes Woltjer’s view of the logos doctrine, and says that Woltjer has no room for the place of the heart.

Dooyeweerd says that true Christian faith finds its fulfillment in the religious “vision face to face” (NC II, 298). But this is not a static vision, and I like to interpret it in relation to Dooyeweerd’s own idea of perfection and fulfillment. It is then similar to the idea of epektasis in Gregory of Nyssa, where the soul is drawn ever onwards, and will continue without end through eternity.

Twenty years ago Michael Morbey argued for an orthodox interpretation of Dooyeweerd, but he seems to have been ignored. I hope that a comparison with orthodox ideas now now get the attention that this topic deserves.

Revised Oct 30/05

Advertisements