God as Trinity: A Meditation on the God of the Name and the Breath
To begin, I have to clarify that this is less “scholarly” than my usual write-ups. I will not name most of my sources, they are scattered all over this blog. I will leave it to the reader to guess if he wants to. A more “scholarly” argument will come later. This is just me, or whoever speaks through me, revealing something I’ve been searching for a while now, and perhaps I have finally found. May the God reveal the one intuition through the many proceeding words, Amen.
The most popular understandings of the Trinity make use of a formula known in Platonism as the “intelligible triad”, perhaps read as “Being, Life, Intellect” and its many variations. My problem with these triads, especially as someone who thinks Neoplatonism offers a robust philosophical framework for theology, is that such triads seem to me to be indirect analogies. A very similar triad in Vedantic metaphysics is “Being, Consciousness, Bliss”, with another similar triad in certain sections of Islam. The problem, as Frithjof Schuon noticed, was that the Muslim, much less the Hindu, would not see these triads as describing anything more than three connected names for one “individual” God. There is an ambiguity in assigning each to one of the trinitarian hypostases. Is Christ “Life” or “Intellect”? Victorinus differs from several others on this. I’m sure this can be answered with some vigour, and so I don’t think this is the centre of the problem. My main objection has to do with what the first principle is supposed to be. Putting aside the polytheist and monotheist interpretations and simply focusing on the One as One God, the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic God (even if it can be argued that it is not exclusively One God), the One is beyond the intelligible Triad, even if it contains it within itself. Whether you are a Porphyryian, who thinks the One has an aspect of Being or the usual Neoplatonist, it is agreed that the One as such transcends the relations immanent in Being. The One has no relations. And I have to say I agree. The One is the very condition of relation, including those of Being. The One, the Unit, the God (which will be the name used from now in) has within itself Being, Life, Intellect. The God has “Being, Consciousness, and Bliss” within themself. But, it does not have it within itself relationally in the manner of manifest beings. How then is it present? What exactly is the more primordial Trinity? I think the answer is best found in the Triad of the Speaker, the Name, and the Breath.
The God, absolutely prior — absolutely and positively unique to such an extent that it entails absolute negation and negation of negation — is never without His name. The apophatic and yet absolutely positive nature of the Divine unity is such that there is within the God, room for a distinction, or several distinctions. This unity was best explained by Guenon, who explained that the absolute denial of all things of God is the absolute affirmation of said God. To deny things of God is to deny their limitations. Their limitations are negations. The negation of a negation is an absolute positive. This is the mystery of the apophatic. For Plotinus, the absolute negativity of the One is in fact its very power to emanate all things. Absolute kenotic self-gift is simultaneously the absolute affirmation of the existence of the self-giver. This is the Father.
The Father gives it all, and this is his name. For the Father to retain and hide his name is for the Kenosis not to be complete, and for the Father not to be absolute, for he has a wall, a separation, a limitation. He is what He gives, what he reveals. What he does not give does not exist. If it did, it would make Him a creature, a thing separate from others, a creature. Therefore, He gives it all, even His name. But, this name is not one thing among others, but the very “peculiarity”, the very idiotes, of who He is. So, there is the Father who gives His name that is separate from Him, for He gives it, and united with Him, for it is His name. This name is the Son.
Thirdly, there is the breath with which the name is said. Just as you cannot speak without the air, the life of your body, so the Father does not speak his name without his breath, the “Life” of the God. This breath is the Spirit.
What is the sound that the Father makes with his name and breath, if not Being, the seed of creation that unfolds into indefinite multiplicity? For just as the sound and the word or name are inseparable in speech, so too the Son and the world are inseparable in the Father’s gift. But, again, just as the sound and word or name are distinct, so too the Son and the world are distinct. It is expedient that we explain the manner of this distinction. The distinction is the distinction between person and nature, as is understood by such luminary Christian theologians as St Maximus Confessor, and in a different way by holy pagan prophets such as Proclus. The name is the hypostasis of the Son, who unites the natures/physis of God and man in one hypostasis, through the Spirit who is the link of consubstantiality between Father and Son and the power by which the Son is two natures, as the breath is the power that unites word and sound, speaker and word.
The one word of the God, one in name and person, distinct in natures, is the “monad of being”, the “centre”, the Logos by incarnation, for what is Logos but being as a principle? Yes, just as St Maximus has declared in many more words, creation is incarnation, and the creation for the Neoplatonist begins with the monad of being, where God and the creation are one hypostasis, from which all else unfolds in glorious complexity, and in whom the intelligible Triad manifests analogies of the Trinity in being. It is in this way the lamb is “slain before the foundation of the world”, the one-being becomes many, for being is the beginning and end of incarnation, the pure and pristine “lamb” that is “slain” into the many he creates and nourishes with its Limit-body and Unlimited-blood, and yet is alive, whole and real forevermore. Here is the Gospel in metaphysics, the universal Gospel told in so many places in many ways with many Gods. Look upon Him and marvel. See him and tremble, for he takes no prisoners. Thou shalt be slain. Thou must be slain, for thou must resurrect into his presence, into the communion of being that, in manifesting his person, participates in the Trinitarian God, not by nature, but by grace, the grace that is in fact His person. Here is the primordial Trinity, the very ground of the intelligible triad. May The Father and His Name be praised with the Breath of living, Amen.