A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Three in One Oil

Today is Trinity Sunday, a Solemnity. The concept it one of great bemusement and wonder to all. How can this be? How can three be one? How can one be three?

Well, it's not as simple as arithmetic; nor even as simple as a triangle, which is One precisely because it is Three. The sides (or angles) are not themselves the triangle, any more than the leaves are the shamrock. Nor, for that matter, that TOF the Father seen by his children, TOF the Son seen by his parents, and TOF the Lover seen by his wife actually comprise One TOF. These are all what we call "analogies" back when analogic was taught in schools.¹ Like all analogies, they are incomplete and thus subject to attack by the quasi-literate,² who suppose them to be exact equivalences.³ Like similes and metaphors in literature, the analogy can be illuminating and give us a handle on something we don't quite get. For example: "The action of gravity is like the solution to the equation F=GMm/d²."
Notae bene:
1. analogic. How analogy was dropped from standardized tests is a scandal, but one which TOF cannot openly discuss, since it derives from proprietary client information back in consulting days.
2. quasi-literate. For example, those who insist that the plural of octopus is octopi. (It's actually octopî, pron. ahk-to-pee.) But they never say "The girl saw the octopum."
3. exact equivalences. Electrical engineers used to use (and still may for all TOF knows) hydraulic analogies to construct models of electrical circuits on sand tables: current = current; voltage = waterfall; resistance = obstructions; etc. But no engineer was so foolish as to plug his toaster into the faucet.
2. d². It's an exponent this time, not a footnote.

As regards the Trinity, one supposes some prior conclusions. If man is made in "the image of God" and Adelard of Bath wrote that "it is through reason that we are human," then we must conclude as Berengar of Tours did that it is "by virtue of reason man¹ was made in the image of God." Hence, there must be in God something that is analogous to reason in humans; that is, to intellect and will.
1. man. Do we need to go through this every time? "Man/men" from *men- a thinking being; hence: mental, mind, etc. The term was not used to refer to adult males until the 1000s. Before that, AS used wer and wif.

Thomas Aquinas explored this in the following manner.

Intellect and will are both acts of the intellect. Intellect is a knowing and is ordered to the Truth. Will is a desire or appetite for the products of the intellect -- that is, for Truth -- and is ordered to the Good. (No one ever desires what is not good. He may be mistaken about what is good, but he never desires what he himself sees as evil.

Each act is a predicate having a subject and an object. The subject of both -- the Knower (or Conceiver) and the Lover -- is God and in this manner he is the Father.

Now, the Father knows himself and since the product of the intellect is a conception, as the object of the predicate he is called the Son, the Only-Conceived. Since humans express conceptions with words, we call the Only-Conceived "the Word" or "the Truth."

Since the Father loves the Truth as being Good, his love proceeds outward and returns to him with that love. As the object of the predicate of desire, we call him the Spirit and say he "proceeds from the Father."

Since intellect has no other predicates, there are no other processions than these two, whose objects together with the subject comprise three distinct persons. One also sees that since there is no compounding in God, his Intellect and Will are one and the same thing: the Truth is the Love. So God is Love, and God is Truth

However, since Aquinas had previously shown that there are no potencies in God, and that God is simple and undivided, these three must be one. If for example the Word was different in being (substance) from the Father, there would be some power or attribute possessed by the Word that was not possessed by the Father, and the Father would be in potency toward that power or attribute, which contradicts both the simplicity and the actuality of the Father. Hence, they are consubstantial. And so on.

Aquinas did not claim complete understanding from these little theorems of his -- he later said that they were only a little straw -- he desired only to show that such beliefs were reasonable. How the three Persons could be distinct in person while one is being is a mystery. But then there are lots of things about people that amoebae do not understand, and the gulf here is unimaginably greater.

For details, see Compendium theologiae, ch. 27 et seq.
Contra gentiles Book 4, ch. 1-26
Summa theologica Book I, Q.27 et seq.


  1. Your picture has the Spirit proceeding for the Father alone. Are you backsliding on filioquism!?

    1. Nah, that's just as Aquinas described his reasoning. But if God is Truth and the Truth is the Conception of the Intellect -- i.e., the Son and the Father are One -- then the Spirit obviously proceeds from the Father and the Son. To Greek ears, this sounded a bit like the Spirit was being demoted to a subordinate position vis a vis the other two and so they resisted the formulation. Why not say the Son was conceived by the Spirit as well?

      (East and West contended with different heresies and their defenses against them tended to push them rhetorically apart from each other. IIRC, the Greeks started with the Persons and then had to figure out the unity of God; while the Latins started with the Unity of God and had to figure our the Persons.)

    2. Language translation is never a perfect thing.

      To a Latin speaker, the Filioque has always been understood as an emphasis on the consubstantiality of the Father and the Son. Remember, the West (through the Germans) was the last group to have to deal with the Arians.

      The translation could be, in English, "proceeds...through the Son," but "procedit...per Filio," in Latin couldn't .

      Of course, the East complains that, even if the Filioque is orthodox, it shouldn't be in the Creed because no additions should be added without a Council. I'm more sympathetic with this claim.

      Christi pax.

  2. God is a sealed class with three interfaces. Problem solved.

  3. For those who wondered, the plural of "octopus" "octopuses", actually, but if we want to be highfalutin, it's "octopodes". It parses as "octo" + "p(o)us", third declension Greek, not "oct" + "op" with a Latin nominative ending (besides which, the only Latin word that would give you "op + us", is a third-declension neuter noun—its plural would be "octopera", and it would mean "with eight works" not "with eight feet").

    Likewise the plural of "platypus" is "platypodes", except that it's actually "platypuses", in English.


      The Wiki seems to denounce "octopi" on the same grounds. However, Oxford seems to think "octopuses," "octopi," and "octopodes" are all valid.

      Christi pax.

  4. So I have to stop talking about the 16 tentacles of the octoperum?

  5. Here's some great analogies on the Trinity on the the Summa of St. John of Damascus, who wrote Summas before they were cool ;-)

    "And so, let the faithful adore God with a mind that is not overcurious. And believe that He is God in three hypostases, although the manner in which He is so is beyond manner, for God is incomprehensible. Do not ask how the Trinity is Trinity, for the Trinity is inscrutable.

    But, if you are curious about God, first tell me of yourself and the things that pertain to you. How does your soul have existence? How is your mind set in motion? How do you produce your mental concepts? How is it that you are both mortal and immortal? But, if you are ignorant of these things which are within you, then why do you not shudder at the thought of investigating the sublime things of heaven?

    Think of the Father as a spring of life begetting the Son like a river and the Holy Ghost like a sea, for the spring and the river and sea are all one nature.

    Think of the Father as a root, and of the Son as a branch, and the Spirit as a fruit, for the substance in these three is one.

    The Father is a sun with the Son as rays and the Holy Ghost as heat.

    The Holy Trinity transcends by far every similitude and figure. So, when you hear of an offspring of the Father, do not think of a corporeal offspring. And when you hear that there is a Word, do not suppose Him to be a corporeal word. And when you hear of the Spirit of God, do not think of wind and breath. Rather, hold you persuasion with a simple faith alone. For the concept of the Creator is arrived at by analogy from His creatures."


    The whole text can be found here:

    Christi pax.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. A lovely explanation. I may steal it.

    1. It belongs to Aquinas. Ask him.

    2. Do you know of miracles that have been attributed to St. Thomas?

      Christi pax.

    3. I found this, anyway.

      While he was alive, the figure of Christ came down off a Crucifix and praised the job Aquinas was doing writing about something, I forget if it's the Incarnation or Transsubstantiation. Aquinas tried to hush it up.


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