By Protopresbyter Fr. Konstantinos Stratigopoulos
Saint Gregory Palamas wrote something amazing; that a person’s soul possesses essence and energy.
Now, you shouldn’t let the terminology confuse you. “Energy” is whatever we can see expressed: emotions and feelings are energies of the essence, which we cannot approach. “Energy” is all those things that express our behavior. Essence and energy.
Saint Gregory Palamas says that the soul of animals (note here how he admits that animals have a soul; the only question is, what kind of soul is it?) is the life force of their body. There is no essence to their souls; it is only energy. They feel hungry, they prance and jump about, because they possess nothing more than the energies that are displayed through the body. That is why, when their body is disintegrated, that energy is disintegrated along with it. It is nothing but an energy.
It says so in Holy Scripture also. It says: "The blood of the animal is its soul." But this is not the soul that we perceive as being "in the image of God"; it is merely an energy of the animal. Therefore, as you can see, we humans have both “essence” and “energy” in our souls. Only man has “essence”. Energies are merely certain vital movements.
The animal is not just flesh, but it has movements; the Creator gave these to the animal. But they are only energies, not the essence. Saint Maximus the Confessor says: "The soul of man moves, is nutritive and augmentative." (Motion-nutrition-augmentation: these are energies of the soul). He also says that the soul is “impulsive”. Animals also act on impulse (they have urges) and that is an energy, but he says that in man there is also “logic”; and the Grace of God "logically" comes and establishes itself upon the soul. That is the energy of God.
Animals have the augmentative element and the impulsive element, but they do not possess the logical element; that is why Saint Basil of Caesarea – a Father of the Church – said the following so eloquently in his book titled the Hexaemeron:
“It is because animals do not possess this essence of the soul, that God substituted their lack of logic with a predominance of the other senses. We all know how animals are able to leap better than people; they run faster than us, and they do other things that we don’t do, because they lack that essence of the soul. Where logic resides, there they only have the impulsive and the nutritive elements. If we disregard the essence of the soul, what are all the other things? Mere animal expressions: anger, annoyance, nervousness, agony, I feel hunger, I don’t feel hunger, I have needs."