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HeyJ L (2009), pp.



Barry University, Miami Shores, USA

Throughout the history of Christianity, theologians have employed a wide range of

approaches in attempts to explain its central mysteries. One of the foremost among these
mysteries is its doctrine of the Trinity—a view of the divine nature that is, among all other
monotheistic religions, unique to Christianity itself. One recent treatment, for example,
can be found in The God of Evolution wherein Denis Edwards investigates what we can
come to know more fully about the Trinity by looking upwards from the point of
evolutionary change, from as basic and fundamental a perspective as the molecular.1 He
views the biological world as ‘interconnected and interrelated on all levels’2 and reflecting
in its own way the ‘Persons-in Relation’3 type of being that is the Christian God. This
serves as his point of departure for gaining further insights into the aspects of the inner life
of the Trinity (perichoresis). Charles Kingsley’s quote that ‘whereas it was ‘‘once thought
God made all things, now we know something even more wonderful, he made all things
make themselves’’’4 is very apropos in appreciating the significance of Edward’s project.
The self-creation of creation imitates in an even more marvelous way than previously
thought the various creative activities of the Trinity.
This paper takes the opposite extreme as its direction of focus, that of the
transcendental qualities of being. If the molecular and cellular level that is of primary
concern to Edwards can with justification be described as the or very close to the
most irreducible and basic level of material reality whose evolution can be used as
reflections of the immanent relations of the Trinity, could not the same be done with the
transcendentals, especially being, truth, goodness, those concepts characterized as the most
abstract and universal notions that the human mind has delineated so as to organize the
vast range of experiences in a more deeply understandable way?
For Bernard Lonergan, being is the final all-inclusive and most unrestricted notion that
the human mind is capable of conceiving.5 With its transcendental qualities, truth and
goodness, being is the totality that constitutes, in the words of William Temple, ‘the
embrace of all relevant reality in a comprehensive unity.’6 Can we find at the two extremes,
from molecules on one end to transcendentals at the other, the basis for a deeper
understanding of how the realms of the physical and the intellectual reflect in their own
ways the perichoresis of the Trinity? Ultimately can we possibly connect them in what
Stanislav Grof calls the ‘zone of middle dimensions,’7 the stage wherein the human
historical, ethical, and religious drama plays out?
Association of the Trinity with philosophical and intellectual properties and processes
has been proposed from the early history of Christianity as a viable means by which to
conceive the interrelationship of the Triune Persons. In the gospel of John, for instance,
Jesus is characterized as the divine Logos, the Word or Principle of the universe,
pre-existent from all eternity. This concept became central in the ensuing speculative
theology which came to characterize Trinitarian discourse for at least the next fourteen

r The author 2009. Journal compilation r Trustees for Roman Catholic Purposes Registered 2009. Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 9600
Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.

hundred years. According to this line of philosophical thought, the Logos was the
first act of self-consciousness and of divestiture of transcendence by God who was
in essence beyond all being, rationality, and conceptuality. This Logos was termed
a hypostasis of the transcendent God and was recognized as ‘divine mind’ (nous) or ‘divine
world reason.’ In De Trinitate Augustine of Hippo suggests several models based on
the human mind by which to exemplify the unity-in-diversity which is essential to
understanding God as Trinity.8 Coupling the doctrine of the Trinity with anthropology,
Augustine reasoned that if human persons are created in the image of God, the mystery
of the Trinity could be further understood by uncovering traces of the Trinity in
human personality.
While the parameters of the discussion on transcendentals will be kept within the
frames of the western conceptual development of these notions, it is not only the
western mind that has developed theoretical schema in an attempt to understand them
more deeply. In the Hindu tradition, a full fifty such qualities are listed,9 although
closer examination of these descriptions, unless taken metaphorically, more often
than not appear to refer to beings that are physical and not spiritual. The point to be
stressed however is not any quibbling over which understanding more aptly described the
nature of the Godhead, Hindu thought or Christian,10 but rather that other systems
besides the Christian religion and Greek philosophy have developed insights into the
transcendental nature of reality’s highest order of thought and being. The important role
they potentially play in human understanding is, from a trans-cultural perspective, easier
to appreciate.


The doctrine of the Trinity is a condensation of the central Christian affirmations about
God, grounded in the religious experience of the first communities of Christians.11 As
regards vestiges of it in the Old Testament, some commentators deny any suggestion of
foreshadowing; others claim Trinitarian revelation is ‘adumbrated’, and still others that
the doctrine is implicitly present in the unity of Word and Spirit.12 Moreover, varied
opinions exist on its explicit presence as a doctrinal formulation even in the New
Testament. While scholars variously claim that the doctrine is explicitly revealed, proven,
or at least clearly contained, most only find elemental Trinitarianism in the New
Testament.13 Furthermore, it has been asserted that the gospels are ‘permeated with the
thought, now latent, now manifest, of the three Divine persons,’14 there is no specific use of
the term ‘trinity’ in the New Testament. The first known use of the word trias was by
Theophilus of Antioch circa 180 in reference to the ‘trinity of God, His Word and His
Wisdom.’15 The term trinitas was utilized by Tertullian and Origen in the third century and
its first creedal use was by Gregory Thaumaturgus in the work Ekethistes pisteos circa 265
CE.16 Nevertheless, despite the lack of such specific terminology the religious testimony of
Christianity as recorded in the New Testament clearly witnesses that God revealed Godself
to Christians significantly more than as the Creator and Judge revealed in the Hebrew
In the New Testament the person of Jesus is revealed as Christ and Lord, who lived
among human beings and was present in their midst as the Resurrected One. The Holy
Spirit was experienced as the power of new life and miraculous potency of the Kingdom of
God.17 However, because of their distinctive belief in monotheism, rooted in the Jewish

history of faith, the early Christian community struggled with the question of reconciling
the oneness of God which they professed with the threefold nature of their religious
experience. In the first two centuries different answers stood in juxtaposition, conditioned
by the experience of the person of Jesus Christ, by the formulation of the gospels, and by
the influence of Neoplatonic philosophy. While the gospel of Mark (widely considered to
be the oldest of the extant gospels18 – Matthew and Luke ‘depend on common Marcan
material’19), for example, indicates an understanding of Jesus’ sonship as that of adoption,
accomplished through baptism and the descent of the Spirit, the prologue to the gospel of
John proclaims a pre-existent divinity of person sharing equal efficacy. Moreover the
personal figures of Jesus the Christ and the Father whom he revealed were further
differentiated from the ‘power’ of the Holy Spirit which Jesus sent as his gift to his disciples
to be their advocate and guide. Given what the early church believed about the
relationship of the Word-made-flesh, the Father, and the Spirit, one can appreciate
Macquarrie’s point that

(t)he Christian [community] could not go along with a stark monotheism in which God is utterly
transcendent and sovereign, and still less with a pantheism in which God is entirely and universally
immanent; [it] could not embrace a monism in which all differences are swallowed up in the eternal
unity of God, but still less a pluralism like that of the world of polytheism with its ‘many gods and
many lords.20

What some considered had been intimated in the Jewish scriptures became explicit through
the revelations made by Jesus Christ. The basic revealed monotheism that had served as
humanity’s religious womb was to give birth to the ‘grace [that] is the self-revelation of
God unto man.’21
Beginning with the response of the Council of Nicea in 325 CE to Arianism, Trinitarian
terminology was given a more refined ‘technical precision’, especially as regards
‘consubstantiality’.22 This technical terminology would not go unchallenged in later
centuries due to its appropriation of such Hellenic philosophical concepts as homoousios
(‘of one substance’) and hypostasis. The latter term developed from prosopon, which was
poorly distinguished from ousia (and thus the Latin substantia). It came into Latin as
personae or substantia and was commonly translated—somewhat erroneously—as
‘person’. These later eventualities notwithstanding, the major contribution of the Western
or Latin formulation of Trinitarian theology and metaphysics was the work initiated by
Augustine of Hippo and further developed and systematized in the medieval period by
Thomas Aquinas.23 Augustine’s approach to formulating a theology of the Trinity of God
took its point of departure from the unity of the Divine nature as prior to the distinction of
personalities.24 To Augustine, the term Deus referred to the Trinity as a whole, not simply
to the Father. In taking this perspective, Augustine proposed to safeguard the unity of
God in opposition to tritheism and to insure the equality of Persons against the tendency
toward subordinationism. In particular, the Son and the Spirit, in conformity to their
divine origin and function, have a specific mission, a ‘going forth’ and acquisition of new
relations to creatures. The mission of the Son is the incarnation, in which he assumes
human nature. The incarnation is ordered to the redemption of humanity and the
reconciliation not only of God to humanity, but of humans to one another as well. The
mission of the Sprit is sanctification, wherein the Spirit is sent as the gift of receptivity to
the self-communication of God.25
The cumulative insights of Trinitarian theology over the first four hundred years
were eventually formulized in the Athanasian Creed (circa 500 CE) which proclaimed

the Trinitarian mystery as that of ‘una substantia, tres personae.’ With the Apostles’
and Nicene Creeds, it became a generally accepted creedal formation based on authority
and reason. This authority was grounded in the fundamental biblical revelation of
one God in threefold self-communication as Father, Son, and Spirit, and informed
by theological proposals from early church theologians, especially Augustine, as discussed
in part above.


A: Ancient Period
While intimations of the transcendental concepts existed prior to Athens’ Golden Age, it
was Plato who raised their importance as philosophical issues requiring further
development through comments made in several of the dialogues. In Lysis, for instance,
Plato asserts that ‘the good . . . is beautiful’26 and writes much in the same vein in the
Symposium27and the Greater Hippias.28 In Phaedrus29 a close affinity is made between
being and truth. A common thread that runs through the dialogues is the attempt to
explain more fully what Socrates avers is one of his (and Plato’s) fundamental
philosophical assumptions ‘the existence of absolute beauty and goodness and magnitude
and all the rest’30 and whether they are capable or ‘incapable of any blending or
participation in one another.’31 Plato is, in these sections, certainly attempting to identify
notions that Aristotle would later say are proper to what he named first philosophy
(metaphysics) and which the Stagirite characterized as ‘concerned with the universal
characteristics which belong to the system of knowable reality as such, and the principles of
its organization in their full universality.’32 (emphasis added) Granted, neither thinker ever
employed the term transcendentals to refer to such notions and the concepts denoted by
that word become more developed in the Middle Ages, ‘based on hints in Aristotle.’33 It is
on this highest level of abstraction that the mind treats of things such as being, truth,
goodness, beauty, unity, etc., in an absolute sense ‘ideas unperceived by sense, and
apprehended only by the mind’ and that of the highest of the three kinds of beings/natures
which Plato distinguishes in the Timaeus as those that are ‘uncreated and indestructible.’34
Plato was very sensitive to both the value as well as the dangers lurking in any concept
formation and no one after him could ignore his cautions and still do philosophy (and the
same would apply to theology) in a responsible manner. As to the dangers, he notes in a
conversation with Theatetus that giving birth to new ideas is more painful than childbirth
but that ‘my art has power to bring on these pangs or to allay them.’35 The aroused pangs
are the result of the human mind venturing into a realm of thought that it is not by nature
first and foremost made to deal with. Aristotle tells us that humanity’s natural area of
knowledge is with the essences or natures of material things. Understanding why this is the
case is easy enough. ‘(T)he human intellect is at the lowest level in the scale of spirits.’36
The history of thought clearly shows the myriad wrong turns taken by theories that are the
result of the trial and error process with which humans are saddled. Were the natural
world as source of immediate need fulfillments for maintaining life not humanity’s first
focus, the human race would likely not have survived. But as Maritain notes,

It is fitting that for an intelligence that makes use of senses there corresponds, as naturally
proportionate, object-essences immersed in the sensible. That is why the scholastics said that the
essences of corporeal things are the connatural object of our power of intellection.37

Even after survival has been adequately secured and a developing culture takes root, to
push forward into mathematics and metaphysics is to strain the natural tendencies
imposed on a mind that requires perceptions from the physical world as the sine-qua-non of
all knowledge and finds it difficult to think in abstract ideas without an accompanying
sensory image, no matter how inadequate a representation it might be of the concept. But
the thrust of any intellect, even one limited as is the human, is not bound to knowledge of
material being alone, but open to being-as-such and when concepts are intuited or
discerned these, as Plato put it, allay the pangs by offering a means to more deeply and
fully understand the issue under consideration and to resolve the wonder which initiated
the investigation.

B. High Medieval Period: Aquinas

One of the prepossessing questions of the middle ages focused on arguments concerning
the existence and nature of God. Since God is defined as the supreme or ultimate being,
such investigations served as an impetus for a fuller development of understanding about
being and whatever properties that could be immediately associated with it. These can be
considered in two sets, first as more immediately appropriable to each person in the Trinity
and second as reflecting the immanency of the relations of the persons to each other.
The first set is being, truth, and goodness. It is upon this set that this paper is focused. The
second which comprises among others unity, and beauty will not be considered as a result
of the constraints of this paper, although a more thorough examination of their relation to
the Trinity would be needed to complete more fully the study.
A comparison of the indices in two of St. Thomas’ major works (Summa Theologica and
De Veritate) with the Hamilton edition of The Complete Dialogues of Plato indicates a
marked difference in the references listed under the term being. In Plato they constitute less
than half a column; beautiful and beauty contain more references than being and existence.
Good/goodness is two and a quarter columns long and true/truth almost a full one. Only
unity has fewer entries than does being. In the Summa theologica and Truth there is less
disproportion among the entries under being and its qualities as the focus intelligibilis of
Thomistic thought is oriented towards esse not essentiae. Maritain notes, ‘What
distinguishes authentic Thomism . . . is precisely the primacy which (it) accords to
existence and to the intuition of existential being.’38
For Aquinas, being (esse) is the most basic of all intuitions. It is the mind’s reflection on
reality at its most abstract and irreducible. Reichman quotes Aquinas on the matter:
‘Hence it is clear that when I speak of esse, what I refer to is the actuality of all acts, and
consequently the perfection of all perfection’ [Reichman adds] Thus for Thomas esse, while wholly
internal to the existing singular thing, is the actuality of everything within the being without at the
same time contributing in any way to the manner in which that being exists.39

The notion is not itself capable of being assimilated into any higher genus concept. Being
comprises all that is or can be, all that is actual or possible.40 This is evident in the fact that
Aquinas suggests that the concept of being inspires the pre-eminent name of God. In the
Summa Theologica, when the question is posed as to God’s most proper name, Thomas
contends that ‘He who is’—that is, Being itself—’is most properly applied to God, for three
First, because of its signification. For it does not signify form, but simply existence itself.
Hence since the existence of God is His essence itself, which can be said of no other (3, 4), it is

clear that among other names this one specially denominates God, for everything is denominated
by its form. Secondly, on account of its universality. For all other names are either less universal,
or, if convertible with it, add something above it at least in idea; hence in a certain way they
inform and determine it . . . Thirdly, from its consignification, for it signifies present existence; and
this above all properly applies to God, whose existence knows not past or future, as Augustine says
(De Trini. V).41

For Aquinas, being and any of its transcendental qualities are predicated analogically to
anything that did, does, will or could exist (even though it may never come to exist in
actuality), but the degree of predication is not identical or equal in all cases. Being when
predicated of actual or possible existences is done in varying degrees of proper
proportionality,42 whereas Plato seemed to employ them either as metaphors or according
to the analogy of attribution. Predication according to proper proportionality signifies
that the perfection (being or its qualities) is formally and intrinsically realized in
each analogate according to a proportion of similarity (e.g. life as found in plants, brutes
and men).
Another difference between Plato’s and Aquinas’ understanding of how the terms relate
to each other also requires treatment. In the dialogue bearing his name, Parmenides holds
‘the one always has being, and being always has unity’ but then comes to a conclusion that
‘hence, any part always proves to be two and can never be one’ (i.e. a unity). Parmenides is
employing the terms as one would red, tall, strong, and so on, that is, as qualities which can
co-exist or not within a single subject. Aquinas does not agree with this any more so than
would his primary philosophic mentor Aristotle:
A property is a predicate which does not indicate the essence of a thing, but yet belongs to that
thing alone, and is predicated convertibly to it. Thus, it is a property of man to be capable of
learning grammar, for if A be a man, then he is capable of learning grammar, and if he is capable of
learning grammar, he is a man.43

Natural properties have the following characteristics: (a) they express an attribute not
expressed by the original concept of the being or essence; (b) the attribute is something real
and not simply imagined; (c) the attribute flows from the essence of the reality; and (4) this
property/attribute is somehow distinct from what was first known or encountered.
Awareness of this property enriches the understanding of that which was originally known
because we understand more fully the range of activities of the thing than was inferable
from the original. Now when properties are predicated of natural objects, it is understood
that they are not equated with the nature of the thing as they may or may not be actually
present but only potentially present, yet this does not diminish the essence of the thing. A
transcendental property on the other hand, would have to express something whose
extensions are equal to the other properties associated with it. To say otherwise would put
one into the same intellectual quandary that Parmenides found himself and to which Plato
was not able to find a solution. They did not understand that notions such as truth,
goodness, unity, being, or beauty were predicates that necessarily and immediately flow
from being-qua-being and are, in the human mind, only logically distinct from it. For
Aquinas, they are concepts which are co-extensive with being and that while they add
something to our fuller understanding of being they add nothing to being itself. In De
Veritate Aquinas writes:
. . . some things are said to be added over and above being in so far as they express a mode of being
which the term being does not itself express. This occurs in two ways . . . the second way so that the
mode expressed is a mode consequent to every being in general.44

The transcendental relation between being and truth can serve as an example. Reflection
shows that the structural nature of truth necessarily implies two factors; intellect (the
knower) and being (the knowable). This relationship can be looked upon either from the
relationship of the knower to the known or vice-versa. The first relationship is called
logical or formal truth and it is a property of the intellectual power. The second constitutes
a relationship of conformity of the known (being) to the intellect (knower). The
knowability of a thing is an ontological property in so far as by virtue of its existing, it is
capable of being known.
For Aquinas truth resides in the intellect because the term of cognition is found in the
knower. ‘Cognition is according as the thing known is in the knower . . . and thus . . . the
terminus of cognition, which is the true, is in the intellect itself.’45 The intellect is said to
possess truth only in so far as it is aware of its conformity with the object
(W)hen it judges that a thing corresponds to the form which it apprehends about the thing. . . .
Therefore, properly speaking, truth is found in the intellect composing and dividing (judgment act)
and not in the sense, nor in the intellect knowing what a thing is (i.e., in an act of simple

Truth, then, is the knowability of being, or put another way, being appropriable to the
intellect. In Aquinas’ words, ‘True expresses the correspondence of being to the knowing
power, for all knowing is produced by assimilation of the knower to the thing known,
so that assimilation is said to be the cause of knowledge.’47 As a hierarchy of being exists as is
evident from the different sorts of realities found in the cosmos, the more perfect the being,
the higher will be its knowability as well as its other transcendental qualities as Aquinas notes
that the Philosopher himself had observed.48 It is relatively easy to go from an appreciation of
how being and truth correlate to understanding how the same relationship exists between
being and goodness, which can be defined as the desirability of being or being as it appeals to
the appetites, whether sensory or intellectual. The human soul has both knowing and appetite
powers. ‘Good expresses the correspondence of being to the appetitive power, for, and as we
note in the Ethics, the good is that which all desire.’49
Since truth as well as goodness follow on the being of a thing, corresponding to it in some
way or other, either according to intellectual assimilation or appetitive inclination, it seems
to follow that, taken in some absolute or ideal sense they enjoy, that they are co-terminus
to one another, being neither greater nor less in comparison to each other when they are
taken or understood as concepts on the ultimate level of abstraction.50 In a relative sense
however, the observation of Aristotle that goodness or truth may be absent in certain
situations, but never being, (for even evil or untruth must be found in something that is)
holds.51 For this reason Aristotle makes being the primary one among all these notions. To
this must be appended, however, Augustine and Aquinas’ insight that the vicious forms of
the transcendentals result from an absence or privation of the degree of being that should
properly be there, given the nature of the thing or action. Yet Aristotle and Aquinas seem
of one mind as to the primacy of being with respect to the other transcendentals.


A. Being
That being is most appropriable to the Father is evident from the fact that where being ‘is
not’, so to speak, neither are the transcendental qualities that follow on it or to the degree

that being is not, the transcendental qualities are diminished accordingly. There is an
inherent creativeness, then, to our understanding of the notion that is not present, or at
least as evidently present, in the other properties. God, as Father, is prior causally (though
not temporarily) to the knowledge of himself since that which exists is knowable, and God,
as supreme existence, is supremely knowable. Such a perspective is consistent not only with
the insight of Aquinas concerning the most proper name for God, but also with the
Eastern or Greek theoretical foundation of Trinitarian theology. The principle or all-
encompassing term for God, Theos, was applied principally to the Father as the source and
origin of the intradivine relations. The Father is considered the Arche or the source of the
other Persons of the Trinity. The Son proceeds from the Father by eternal generation and
the Spirit proceeded from the Father through the Son (ex Patre per Filium) as the ‘breath
of the Son.’ Furthermore, the primacy of the Father coincides with Augustine’s conception
of the psychological analogy of the Trinity noted above. According to Augustine, ‘When
[the mind] is turned to itself by thought, there arises a trinity, in which now at length we
can discern also a word; since it is formed from thought itself, will uniting both. Here, then,
we may recognize, more than we have hitherto done, the image of which we were in
search.’52 In this analogy, God is and knows Godself. For Augustine, this perception of
God’s being and knowing is analogous to the intellectual property of memory:
The beholding of the mind is something pertaining to its nature, and is recalled to that nature when
it conceives of itself, not as if by moving through space, but by an incorporeal conversion . . . Like
one who is skilled in many branches of learning: the things which he knows are contained in his
memory, but nothing thereof is in the sight of his mind except that of which he is conceiving; while
all the rest is stored up in a kind of secret knowledge, which is called memory.53

Karl Rahner proposes a similar insight in his work The Trinity:

the degree of ‘having being’ manifest itself in the degree in which the appropriate thing which is, is
able to turn back on itself, that is, in the degree in which it is possible for it to be reflected in itself, to
be illumined by itself, and in this sense to be present to itself.54

B: Truth
What is present to itself is the knowledge that God has of Himself. The truth that the
divine intellect has of itself is so complete and so perfect as to virtually duplicate itself as an
existent as well. In Augustine’s model, God’s thought is distinct from Godself, and,
therefore, engenders an image which is living, subsistent, and interior—an image of God in
spirit and in truth.55 Truth, then, is most fittingly attributable to the Son. John’s Gospel
begins: ‘When all things began, the Word [logos] already was. The Word dwelt with God,
and what God was, the Word was.’ (John 1:1) As noted earlier in this paper, the term logos,
which is translated as word, has a more extensive connotation in the Greek original than in
its translated English counterpart such as thought, reason, idea, and so on, terms that the
human mind is easily given to associate with truth. Clearly Jesus attributes the notion to
himself in saying ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.’(John 14:6) Never before had
anyone spoken of a logos existing in God in such a fashion as did John. Neither in the
natural theology of the Greeks, in which they described the birth of the gods and of the
world, nor in the thoughts of Philo (a Jewish theologian and contemporary of Jesus Christ)
do we find a doctrine of God as ‘living’ to the extent of expressing himself in an eternal
Word, one that is taken to be a Person. St. John’s boldness, then, lay in his application to
the Son of God and the teaching that the Old Testament writers gave on the subject of the

‘word of God.’ But there it was no more than a divine act. Now the Evangelist tells us that
it is the Son of God incarnate for our salvation. Here again, St. John’s theological intuition
is equaled by that of St. Paul who identified the wisdom and image of God with the Person
of Christ himself.56 This New Testament correlation between the Logos and the
transcendental of truth echoes in the work of Augustine, ‘When the mind, then, beholds
itself in conception, it understands and cognizes itself; it begets, therefore, its own
understanding and cognition.’57
However, Augustine notes that memory and understanding of themselves are
insufficient without will, which issues forth in love.

Therefore the knowledge and science of many things are contained in two of these three, memory
and understanding; but will must be present, that we may enjoy or use them. For we enjoy things
known, in which things themselves the will finds delight for their own sake, and so reposes.58

C: Goodness
Hence, to the Holy Spirit, goodness and what follows on the awareness of the good,
namely love, is the property that is most fittingly attributable to the third person of the
Trinity. It is out of the knowledge that the Father has of the Son that the love between
them is spirated. Unlike human knowledge and love (even knowledge and love of self)
which are always imperfect, always less as intellectual phenomena than their respective
objects, the divine forms of these activities are so perfect and so complete as to engender a
hypostasis. The Father generates the Son and this, in turn, creates the procession of the
Spirit which is the love which God has for Himself. Hence, the Son proceeds from the
Father as Truth, the term of the Divine Intellect, and the Spirit proceeds as the Good or
Love, the term of the Divine Will.59 And yet these Three are not separately three, but One-
in another – One God.
The self-thinking-thought (self-knowing-known) which Aristotle was to see darkly
through pagan philosophy becomes a more clearly revealed ‘self-loving love’ as well, and
constitutes a relationship wherein creation and the sharing of the goods of creation with its
Creator becomes more understandable. There is contained within this expanded awareness
of God, given through revelation, more than a set of theoretical notions that serves to
satisfy curiosity about the inner life of the divinity and how that three-fold oneness is
reflected in other areas of creation, human psychology and human thought. It also should
set an example of the ideal that human communities are inspired to strive for in the moral
and political spheres of life, perichoresis – a term identifying the inner life of the Trinity as
community rather than the more commonly accepted notion (even among many
Christians) of a removed and solitary God as supreme being, the creator and ruler of
the universe, and, secondly, that of theosis60 – making the human as divine as possible. The
solitary, removed God is more easily given to interpretations of the stern lawgiver who will
brook no excuses and extend no sympathy to the least of sinners. Such a view is not in
keeping with the words of Jesus in John 15:15 ‘I shall no longer call you servants, because a
servant does not know the master’s business; I call you friends because I have made known
to you everything I have learnt from my Father.’ It is within the friendship that Jesus
revealed that we find what is usual to friends about each other, a more intimate knowledge
of their inner being. We are called to communion with a relational deity that places mutual
love and service to others above all else, and that is aimed at our sharing in the joys of unity

with God and with each other that result from living in accord with the inner dynamism of
the divine life itself.


1 Denis Edwards, The God of Evolution: A Trinitarian Theology (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1999), pp. 6–7.
2 Ibid., p. 24.
3 Ibid., p. 27.
4 Quoted in Jeffrey Rowell, Kenneth Stevenson, and Rowan Williams, Love’s Redeeming Work (Oxford, GB:
Oxford University Press, 2001), p. 376.
5 Bernard F. Lonergan, Insight: A Study of Human Understanding (New York, NY: Philosophical Library, Inc.,
1957), pp. 350–1.
6 Quoted in John Macquarrie, ‘Temple on Transcendence and Immanence,’ Stubborn Theological Questions
(London, GB: SCM Press, 2003), p. 29.
7 Stanislav Grof, Beyond the Brain: Birth, Death and Transcendence in Psychotherapy (Albany, NY: State
University of New York, 1985), p. 52.
8 Augustine of Hippo, ‘De Trinitate’ [‘On the Trinity’], New Advent; available from
fathers/130114.htm (accessed 17 August 2006).
9 Swami Srila Prabhupada, Nectar of Devotion (Chapter 21); Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, HDG A.C.
Bhaktivedanta; available from (accessed
May 1, 2006)
10 See Raimundo Panikkar, The Trinity and the Religious Experience of Man (New York, NY: Orbis Books, 1973),
pp. 9–41.
11 ‘Christianity: The Holy Trinity,’ Encyclopedia Britannica Online; available from
bcom/eb/article/printable/1/0,5722.00html (Accessed on August 18, 2006).
12 John McKenzie, Dictionary of the Bible, (Milwaukee WI: Bruce, 1965), p. 900.
13 Edmund J. Fortman, The Triune God: A Historical Study of the Doctrine of the Trinity (Philadelphia PA:
Westminster, 1972), p. 290.
14 Felix Klein, The Doctrine of the Trinity, trans. Daniel Sullivan (New York, NY: Kennedy, 1940), p. 54.
15 Ibid.
16 G. H. Joyce, ‘The Blessed Trinity’, New Advent; available from
(Accessed on May 1, 2006).
17 Klein, pp. 50–127.
18 Raymond F. Collins, Introduction to the New Testament (Garden City, NY: Image/Doubleday & Co., Inc.), pp.
xxi, 46, 50–51.
19 Herman Hendrickx, The Resurrection Narratives of the Synoptic Gospels (London: Geoffrey Chapman 1984), p.
20 John Macquarrie, Principles of Christian Theology (London: SCM Press, 1977), p. 191.
21 Karl Rahner, Hearers of the Word, trans. Michael Richards (New York, NY: Herder and Herder, 1969), p. 73.
22 Claude Welch, In This Name: The Trinity in Contemporary Theology (New York, NY: Scribner’s, 1952), p. 104.
23 R. R. Franks, The Doctrine of the Trinity (London: Duckworth, 1953), pp. 133–4.
24 This is in contrast with the Eastern or Greek Orthodox approach which focuses first on the three Divine Persons
as logically prior to the unity of nature. Furthermore, personality is used here in a metaphysical sense rather than a
psychological sense. Metaphysical personality is defined as a mode of being a self-existent, intellectual substance, as
opposed to psychological personality which is an empirical self with a particular historicity. See Welch, p. 110.
25 Welch, pp. 117–8.
26 Plato, ‘Lysis’, 216d, as found in The Collected Dialogues of Plato, eds. Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1961). All references to Plato’s works will be from this publication.
27 Plato, ‘Symposium’, 201c–204e.
28 Plato, ‘Greater Hyppias’, 296e.
29 Plato, ‘Phaedrus’, 248c-e.
30 Plato, ‘Phaedo’, 100b.
31 Plato, ‘Sophist’, 251d.
32 A. E. Taylor, Aristotle (New York, NY: Dover Publications, 1955), p. 18.
33 W. D. Ross, Aristotle (5th Ed) (London, GB: Metahuen and Co., Ltd. 1949), p. 154.
34 Plato, ‘Timaeus’, 51e.
35 Plato, ‘Theatetus’, 151 b.
36 Jacques Maritain, The Degrees of Knowledge, trans. Gerald B. Phelan (New York, NY: Charles Scribner &
Sons, 1957), p. 84.
37 Ibid., p. 203.
38 Ibid., p. 12.

39 James Reichman, SJ, ‘Scotus and Haecceitas, Aquinas and Esse’, American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly Vol.
80: no. 1 (Winter 2006) p. 64.
40 Aristotle, ‘Metaphysics’, 988b, as found in The Basic Works of Aristotle, ed. Richard Peter Mc Keon (New York,
NY: Modern Library (Reprint), 2001). All references to Aristotle’s works will be from this publication.
41 Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica (ST) I:13; New Advent, accessed from
summa/101311.htm (Accessed 17 August 2006).
42 Thomas Aquinas, ‘Truth’ (‘De veritate’), 2, a. 11, trans. Robert W. Mulligan, SJ (Chicago, IL: Henry Regnery
Co., 1952), p. 112. See also Karl Rahner, Hearers of the Word, trans. Michael Richards (New York, NY: Herder and
Herder, 1969), pp. 45–52.
43 Aristotle, ‘Topics’, I. 5. 102a.
44 Aquinas, ‘Truth’, Q1. a. 1
45 Aquinas, ST, I. 16a. 1; available from (Accessed 12 December
46 Ibid.
47 Aquinas, ‘Truth’, 1. a. 1.
48 Ibid., 1. A. 2 and Aristotle, ‘Metaphysics’, A.1. 993b.
49 Ibid., 1. a.1.
50 Aquinas, The Trinity and the Unicity of the Intellect, trans. Rose Emmanuella Brennan (St. Louis, MO:
B. Herder Book Co., 1946), p. 135
51 Ross, pp. 17–18.
52 Augustine, ‘On the Trinity’, New Advent; available from
(Accessed January 16, 2007).
53 Ibid.
54 Karl Rahner, The Trinity, trans. Joseph O. Doncell (New York, NY: Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997),
p. 41.
55 Welch, p. 117.
56 Bernard Piault, ‘What is the Trinity?’ The Twentieth Century Encyclopedia of Catholicism, Vol. 17 (New York,
NY: Hawthorn Books, 1959), p. 69.
57 Augustine, ‘On the Trinity’.
58 Ibid.
59 Richard Downey, The Blessed Trinity (New York, NY: Macmillan, 1930), p. 126.
60 Catherine Mowry La Cugna, God for Us: The Trinity in Christian Life (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco,
1991), p. 284.