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Dr. Farrell’s Introduction to his translation of Saint Photios, The Mystagogy of The Holy Spirit, Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1987, 17-56.

Posted September 9, 2009


A Theological Introduction to the Mystagogy of Saint Photios


Joseph P. Farrell, D.Phil. (Oxon.)



The theological analysis of the filioque contro-versy, an issue of great complexity which has re-curred throughout Christian history since the ninth century, has brought forth many different assess-ments.  These assessments have ranged the whole spectrum: from an almost overwhelming indifference to the more sobering response proffered by Saint Photios in his Mystagogy.  For some Western theologians, the statements of Alan Richardson may be used as a paradigm:

In the West it became customary to say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, because it was felt that the Spirit, though proceeding from the Father as the source of all being, was given to the world by Jesus Christ, and because the New Testament itself speaks of Him as the Spirit of Jesus as well as the Spirit of the Father. But the Eastern Church never accepted this usage, although it was mainly a matter of words and termino-logy, no vital theological issue being involved.1

Father Richardson ignores the reasons which underlie the Eastern Church’s rejection of the filioque because they are for him merely “verbal trifles.”2

But such was not at all the response of Saint Photios, the first major Eastern theologian to confront the doctrine.  His response was no less than a sweeping indictment of the filioque.  The doctrine of the double procession was for Saint Photios a sort of summation of all theological error; it said “all the rash impudence that there is to say.”3  Saint Photios saw in the filioque nothing less than a comprehensive restatement of all the ancient trinitarian problems: modalism, Arianism, Macedonianism, and even polytheism.  All these things, according to Photios, are implications of the filioque doctrine.4  In the current age it is customary to dismiss or devalue dogmatic statements; but these charges are too serious to be dismissed so lightly.  The very fact of their mention or implication in the Mystagogy indicates that the treatise itself is an historically informed response.

Well aware of these historical parallels of the filioque, Photios likewise based his reply to the double procession on earlier precedents, among them the writings of Saints Athanasios, Basil and Gregory of Nyssa.  His treatise, the Mystagogia, seen in this broad historical and dogmatic context, thus assumes the same significance vis-à-vis the filioque as the other great Patristic classics on trinitarian issues.  The Mystagogy was essentially the first reasoned response to Augustine and Augustinism from an Eastern “Cappadocian” point of view,5 and is thus of premier significance in all subsequent East-West relations, indebted as the West is to Augustine on this and other positions.  It would not be going too far to say that the Mystagogy must form the theological and historical point of departure for any Orthodox examination of Augustinism.

Our concern in this theological introduction to the Mystagogy will thus be synoptic.  We shall seek to place the Mystagogy within a broad historical context that begins with Plotinos and ends with Aquinas, a period of roughly one thousand years.  As we shall see, the work of Saint Photios was to exert a tremendous influence, not only on subsequent Ortho-dox theology, but to some extent on subsequent Western formulations.  As a consequence of our synoptic view of the filioque problem, we shall not be able to examine every text related to the subject, but will only be able to portray in very broad strokes the progress of Neoplatonic simplicity and its accompanying dialectic through the history of Western trinitarian thought.

In so doing, a particular interpretation of the history of Augustinism emerges as a consequence of our theological examination.  It is thus hoped that the reader will be able to see the uncanny logical accuracy of Saint Photios, at times predicting some conclusions which the West would only arrive at or respond to centuries later.  It is also hoped that one will be able to see the historical basis of Saint Photios’ response to the filioque, and in so seeing, realize that the strong reaction of Orthodoxy to the double procession is not a “a matter of words and terminology,” or a case of mere recalcitrance against an “inevitable dogmatic evolution,” but a response based upon a real and genuine care for the fundamentals of the Faith.  This introduction thus attempts to vindicate the sweeping indictment of Saint Photios concerning the dual procession by demonstrating that the filioque shares common philosophical structures, commitments and ancestry with the great Christological and trinitarian here-sies. That shared philosophy is Neoplatonism.


Neoplatonism and The Divine Simplicity

Neoplatonism is a relatively easy philosophy to explain and a rather difficult one to evaluate.  The whole development of Greek philosophy was from first to last a rational quest; it sought to explain reality through reason.  The painter Raphael perfectly epitomized the history of this development in his painting “The School of Athens.”  There Plato points upward, toward the ideas, the immaterial universals, and Aristotle points downward toward the material particulars.  This perfectly portrays the necessary tool for the classical philosophical mind, the dialectic of oppositions; something could be known only by some contrast to its opposite.  Reality was treated in a very modern fashion, as if it were a gigantic binary system.  The focus was always on either the heavenly and ideal or the material and the particular. Even infinity could only be infinity by opposition to the finite.   Though philosophers before Plotinos considered the infinite to be beyond the powers of reasoned inquiry, strictly speaking there was no formal reason, given their presuppositions, why such a rational investigation of the infinite could not be undertaken.  But for hundreds of years the Greek philosophers were content with exploring the problems associated with the finite side of the dialectical tension of the infinite and the finite.

Why this is so is readily apparent.  For the earlier Greeks, “perfect Being” meant precisely a finite and limited being, for only such a being could be defined.6 Even Plato had not gone beyond a plurality of finite universals to posit one, all encompassing universal, a “Universal” universal.  Nor had Aristotle posited an absolute genus in which all particulars could be comprehended.  Plotinos does both.  He posits the “Universal” universal, the absolute genus, the infinite One, and defines this infinite One as “simplicity.” Thus, with Plotinos and the advent of Neoplatonism, a monumental change in philosophy took place.  In his thought, philosophy had its first real impetus to explore the infinite in the context of a rational philosophical system.

This infinite One was simply “the not-this.”7  Quintessentially speaking, it was not any “particular finite thing.”8  It was beyond the plurality of finite beings9 as a being that was infinite, indefinite, transcendent, and utterly “simple,” having no composition.  This simplicity was described by Paul Tillich as “the abyss of everything specific.”10  This abyss, notes Tillich, is not simply “something negative; it is the most positive of all because It contains everything that is.’’11  The One is thus that being in which, by virtue of Its simplicity, being, existence, nature, activity and will are all identical.12 In other words, what It wills—Its will, what It is—Its nature, and what It does—Its activity, are all by definition “wholly indistinguishable.”13

At this stage it is necessary to make some observations.  The fact that the One is no particular finite thing means also that it is defined by opposition to those very finite things,14 and thus from a purely logical point of view, the One must always have finite things standing over against it in order to be so defined.  It must always stand in some dialectical tension to something particular and finite.  It is only One by its opposition to the many, simple and universal only by its opposition to the composite and particular, and infinite and absolute only by its opposition to the finite and relative.  Paradoxically, and almost ironically, Plotinos elevated the finite, relative and composite to the same logical status of the infinite, the very opposite (!) of what he wished to do.  In other words, the dialectic of contrasts is very flexible, and will not always do what it was intended to do.

A second observation must be made.  Because the simplicity of the One is such that it includes rather than excludes all particulars, then it follows as a logical requirement of the system that all parti-culars exist only by the action of the One.  However, this by no means affirms a creation of particulars in the Christian sense.  The One can have no control over the “creation” of finite being15 simply because such creation is imposed upon the One by its own previously defined simplicity!16  The One must always have created, be creating, and continue to create if it is to be What It is.  In a very modern phrase, the One was the ground of all existence, even of its own existence.  In practical terms, the assumption of the divine simplicity makes impossible the Christian view of a free and spontaneous creation by a God Who was not compelled to create from any internal necessity of nature or external necessity of logic.  Creation was for Neoplatonists an absolute necessity; for Christians it was, rather, characterized as a divinely free act.

Because the One was simple, any act of the One in willing to create finite particulars was also an act of Its essence, since essence, will and activity are all “wholly indistinguishable.”  Creation is but the “overflowing of the divine essence into creation.”17 There was, in theological terms, no distinction between the essence and the energies of the One, or between theology and economy.  This is an important point to remember in the ensuing discussion.

There are two finite particulars which the One creates in Plotinos’ system: the Nous (mind) and the World-soul.  The One, without any activity on its part, naturally produces the Nous.  This Nous in turn produces the World-soul in company with the agency of the One.  The Neoplatonic universe thus takes on a definitive, three-storied structural subordination.  At the pinnacle is the One, acting as the Uncaused Cause of all.  In an intermediary position comes the Nous (mind), caused by the One and, along with the One, causing the World-soul.  In the last position comes the World soul, emanating from both the Uncaused Cause and the Caused Cause.  As a study of Aristotelian logic and physics, this subordination is classic: the One has absolutely no distinctions; the Nous has one distinction, that of being caused by the One, and the World-soul, has two distinctions, those of being caused by two different types of causes.

At this point it may be asked why the One stopped creating with the Nous and the World-soul, or why the World soul in turn did not cause something subordinated to it.  And the answer is of course that there are no reasons, given the presuppositions and structure of Neoplatonism, why these suggestions could not be carried out.  Indeed, the subsequent history of Neoplatonism shows exactly this tendency to multiply the structural components of the system. Within the Nous, one of Plotinos’ disciples would distinguish three new beings.18  Iamblichos would carry the tendency much further, not only multiplying the number of beings subordinate to the One, but even making the One of Plotinos an intermediary being, and positing a further One above It.19

How are we to evaluate Neoplatonism?  Clearly the structure and dialectic underlying it are quite basic and simple.  The priority of unity over diversity, of simplicity over composition, may be unreservedly called the basic thrust of the system.20  But we may also say that there is an inherent ambiguity to the system, deriving ultimately from the definition of simplicity and the flexibility of its underlying dialectic.  This flexibility presents itself in two basic ways.  If, because of its simplicity, all acts of the One are acts of Its essence, then how are we to distinguish between Its all-encompassing simplicity and the very particulars which, by logical contrast to it, define it?  In other words, there is nothing to keep one from pantheism if the definition of simplicity is accepted as a definition of divine essence; for once any particular is asserted, it immediately collapses back into an indistinguishable unity with the One, its creator.  On the other hand, once being, causal activity, and will have been identified, because of that very simplicity, then what is to keep one from affirming the eternity of particulars and multiplying these particulars to any number of beings, each causing, with the One, the being immediately subordinate to it?  Once simplicity is asserted, It must, if It is to remain what It is, collapse into potentially infinite series of Ones, as in the system of Iamblichos.

The seemingly straightforward system of Neopla-tonism is only a deceptive appearance.  As its subse-quent history shows, it could unfold into a variety of positions, each claiming to derive logically from its presuppositions and method.  This inherent ambigu-ity is further confounded when that definition itself is made to serve as the basis of trinitarian doctrine in the theology of Saint Augustine.


The Filioque and Its Context in Augustinian Theology

The filioque doctrine is ultimately derived from the philosophical definition and logical dynamics of the system that has just been surveyed.   Each of the problems that attended that system—the identity of being and will; its consequence on an eternal divine creation; the flexibility of the logic; the definition of simplicity in collapsing into an infinite series of beings, or the tendency to erase all distinctions between particular beings; and the structural subordination of the system—all are to some extent involved in the controversy between the Carolingian West and Saint Photios over the double procession of the Holy Spirit.  Indeed, the filioque itself, through the formidable mind of Saint Augustine, combines these features of Neoplatonism in to a single and concise expression.

The doctrine of the dual procession cannot be properly understood without a correct evaluation of the impact of Saint (the Blessed) Augustine, nor can it be properly understood divorced from its context in the Augustinian program of theodicy.  It is not difficult to multiply quotations regarding the signifi-cance of Saint Augustine.  Paul Tillich wrote in no uncertain terms that “he is the foundation of every-thing the West has to say.”21  The Roman Catholic scholar, Eugene Portalie, said that “Augustine’s teaching marks a distinct epoch in the history of Christian thought, and opens a new phase in the development of the Church.”22  From Saint Augustine proceeds the entire dogmatic and ecclesiastical practice of the West: “each new crisis and each orientation of thought in the West can be traced back (to him).”23  This does not mean, of course, that Saint Augustine actually said what later Western theologians would actually say in each and every instance, but rather that he determined the questions and manner of their thought.  Broadly speaking, Augustinism is a certain way of looking at theology; it is the result of Saint Augustine’s attempt to work out a synthesis of the Orthodox faith and Neoplatonism.  As such, Augustinism is but a particular method of handling the pivotal ideas of faith and reason.24  This method stemmed from the same desire which inspired the apologists: the desire to defend the rationality of the Christian faith by seeking one common ground between the philosophers and Christianity.  Thus Saint Augustine,

seeking as he did . . . the common ground between the two doctrines (Christianity and Neoplatonism) . . . could come to believe, without basis for it, that he found Christianity in Plato or Plato in the Gospels.25

In effect, Saint Augustine was trying to state the Christian faith in terms of Neoplatonic philosophy.26 But as a consequence of his uncritical acceptance of Neoplatonism, the philosophical and theological elements of his thought often became so intimately wedded that they could not be divorced.27  By intensifying the already inherent ambiguity and flexibility of Neoplatonism, this ambiguous synthesis was to dominate the entire history of western Christianity.  Thus, Augustinism is such a crucial watershed in the history of doctrine that one either is, or is not, an Augustinian.28  As a summary of Augustinism, it could be said that the net effect of Saint Augustine’s rapprochement with Neoplatonism was to make revelation a philosophy, and philosophy a revelation.29

Saint Augustine assumed that if there could be common ground between theology and philosophy, that there could also be common definitions.  He found this common definition in the Neoplatonic simplicity of the One.30  Appropriating this definition as an understanding of the divine essence of the Christian Trinity, of the unity of the Christian God, he made it the ultimate basis of his attempted synthesis.31  Thus it is the Augustinian doctrine of God that the point of contact between revelation and philosophy, between faith and reason, occurs, and it is through its doctrine of God that Augustinism must be approached.

Saint Augustine had, in fact, made his “philosophical first principle one . . . with his religious first principle”32 to such an extent that, as one French Roman Catholic scholar observed, even his notion of divine being remained Greek, that is, ultimately pagan.33  It is at this point that the divine essence began to be abstracted from the Trinity of persons as a prolegomenon to theology.


The Divine Essence

Having assumed the simplicity of the divine essence, Augustine, and after him Augustinism, singled out the divine essence—as unity and simplicity—from all the divine “pluralities,” that is, the attributes and the persons.  The dialectic of oppositions is already in evidence in this step.  Two things occur because of it.  First, the unity of God begins to be seen in impersonal, abstract, and philosophical terms, and does not find an ultimate referent in the monarchy of the Father.  But more critical is the fact that the persons and the attributes, as pluralities opposed to the essence, are accorded the same logical status.  Speaking of the Father, Saint Augustine says that

He is called in respect to Himself both God, and great, and good, and just, and anything else of the kind; and just as to Him to be is the same as to be God, or as to be great, or as to be good, so it is the same thing to Him to be as to be a person.34

Underlying these mutual identities is the simplicity and, consequently, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that either the persons have been made attributes or the attributes have been made persons.35


The Divine Attributes

As in Neoplatonism, where the being, will and activity of the One were “wholly indistinguishable,” so it is in Saint Augustine when he considers what the definition of simplicity implies for the attributes.  The essence and attributes of God are identified: “The Godhead,” he writes, “is absolutely simple essence, and therefore to be is then the same as to be wise.”36  But Saint Augustine carries the logic beyond this to insist also on the identity of the attributes amongst themselves.  As Portalie notes, the later scholastic theologians who followed in the footsteps of Saint Augustine urged that “our ideas of the divine attributes are not formally distinct, but mutually compenetrate each other.”37  Saint Augustine is even less hesitant and expresses himself in a compact syllogism: “In regard to the essence of truth, to be true is the same as to be and to be is the same as to be great . . . therefore, to be great is the same as to be true.”38  Again we recall the words of Paul Tillich, who said that simplicity is “the abyss of everything specific.”39  Because the essence has been abstracted from the attributes, and defined as simple, the apparent plurality of attributes is only an artificial convention of theological language.  Each attribute functions merely as a semantic label, as another alternative definition of the divine essence,40 and thus each attribute can be identified with every other attribute.

There were two significant effects resulting from this identity of attributes amongst themselves and with the essence.  The first was a blurring of the distinction between theology and economy.  The second was the filioque itself.  From the definition of simplicity it was apparent to Thomas Aquinas, as it was for Plotinos, that “God’s will is not other than His essence’’41 and that “the principal object of the divine will is the divine essence.”42  As in Plotinos, this makes creation not only divine by its nature, but also eternal: a total obliteration of the distinction between theology and economy.  Even the Augustinian doctrine of predestination must be referred to this identity of attributes amongst themselves, for “to predestine is the same as to foreknow.”43  The determinism in Augustinism is thus not ultimately biblical, as much as it is philosophical and logical, since it is rooted in a particular dialectical conception of the divine essence.

So strong an influence is the definition of simplicity for Saint Augustine that he says, “to God it is not one thing to be, another to be a person, but it is absolutely the same thing . . . It is the same thing to Him to be as to be a person.”44  “God” for Saint Augustine, thus, “did not mean directly” the means to attempt to distinguish the persons from each other.  Having assumed an absolute simplicity, the persons can no longer be absolute hypostases, but are merely relative terms to each other, thus occurring on an even lower plane than the attributes proper.  “The terms (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) are used reciprocally and in relation to each other.”51 There is a subtle but, nevertheless, real play of the dialectic of oppositions here.  One no longer begins with the three persons and then moves to consider their relations, but begins with their relative quality, the relation between the persons, itself.  In other words, there is an artificial opposition of one person to the other two.  It is at this point that the flexibility of Augustine’s Neoplatonic commitment begins to surface in a more acute form.

When Saint Augustine wrote his On the Trinity, he may have done so in part to combat the Arian heresy; but he tried to use the Arian logic itself as a tool in his refutation.  The Arians define deity by confusing the hypostatic feature of the Father, causality, with the divine nature.  Having thus defined deity, the Arians could deny the full deity of Christ because He did not cause the Father. Augustine replies by arguing, for the full deity of Christ by making Him the cause of another full divine person!  “As the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself.”52 Augustine goes on to reason that one should:

understand that as the Father has in Himself that the Holy Spirit should proceed from Him so He has given to the Son that the same Spirit should proceed from Him (the Son), and both apart from time.  For if the Son has of the Father whatever He (the Father) has, then certainly He has of the Father that the Holy Spirit proceeds also from Him.53

Thus came Augustine to argue for the deity of Christ by means of the filioque; for, if the Son, acting as a cause along with the Father, causes the Spirit, then clearly the Son is God.  But underlying Augustine’s response to Arianism is his acceptance of the Arians’ own confusion of person and nature by the acceptance of the Arian definition of the divine nature in terms of the causality of the Father.

But there is a new structural element in this confusion.  It is the element of a subordination of the category of persons to that of attributes.  The Son receives His causality from the Father, not on the basis of a direct deduction from the definition of simplicity, but by a more indirect reference to the simplicity on the basis of common interchangeable attributes.  This fact sets up the ordo theologiae in which all Augustinian theology subsequently proceeds: beginning with the essence, it moves to the attributes, and only at the end considers the persons.54  On a strictly formal level of structure, there is a subordination of persons to attributes, which are in turn subordinated to the essence. Within the final level of discourse, the persons, the Holy Spirit is seen to proceed from an Uncaused Cause, the Father, and a Caused Cause, the Son, much as the Neoplatonic World-soul proceeded from both the One and the Nous.

For we cannot say that the Holy Spirit is not life, while the Father is life, and the Son is life: and hence as the Father . . . has life in Himself; so He has given to Him that life should proceed from Him, as it also proceeds from Himself.55

Here not only has the property of causality, the unique personal distinction of the Father, been exchanged with the Son on the basis of the common attribute of life, but that attribute which proceeds from the Father and the Son turns out to be the Holy Spirit.  It is precisely the Holy Spirit Who is the attribute common to both.  Thus a person has been confused with a common attribute of all three persons.56

The whole process seems to defeat itself at every turn.  Having made the Spirit proceed from the Father and the Son because the Father and the Son share common attributes, since the essence is simple, the Spirit then becomes an attribute, He defines the essence and, indeed, is the essence, the unity of the Trinity:

Because both the Father is a spirit and the Son is a spirit, and because the Father is Holy and the Son is Holy, therefore . . . since, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one God, and certainly God is Holy, and God is a spirit, the Trinity can be called also the Holy Spirit.57

That is, since the name Holy Spirit defines attributes “suitable to both the Father and the Son,”58 He becomes the new principle of unity in God, the “substantial and consubstantial love of both”59 the Father and the Son.  In short, the Holy Spirit is the very essence from which the whole process began. He does not in turn cause a new person and so on ad infinitum but, as Thomas Aquinas was to observe, “the cycle is concluded when . . . it returns to the very substance from which the proceeding began.”60 Having begun with a definition—simplicity—the process has ended with the same definition, after a dazzling display of sublime, if not confusing, dialectics.  It may be useful at this point to anticipate one argument of Saint Photios.  If the Holy Spirit is life, proceeding from the Father and the Son, then what should stop one from making the Son take His life from the Spirit, so that the “Son turns out to be the Son, not of the Father only, but also of the Holy Spirit?”61  But this is “most absurd,”62 because “being the Father is not common to them, so that they should be interchangeably Fathers to one another.”63  What makes these remarks so significant is not so much that they are arguments that Photios employs, but that they came from the lips of Saint Augustine himself.  Seeing the logic of his position, he simply repudiated it as being absurdly contradictory to the faith.  Saint Augustine, for some reason, sees the obvious implications of his theology at this point, yet for some reason fails to see it at the point of the filioque.  Had he been aware that the filioque makes the Spirit stand in the same causal relationship to the Son as the Son to the Father, he would doubtless have repudiated it as well.  But what was apparent to Saint Augustine at this point was that his triadology was breaking down at the precise point at which it occurred: the synthesis of theology with Neoplatonism.  He is clearly not comfortable with the Neoplatonic simplicity or its logical dynamic. In the words of Gilson, “the platonic frame is, so to speak, bursting under the internal pressure of its Christian contents.”64

With the dogma of the filioque we have reached the heart of the tension that is Augustinism.  With this doctrine one is always in the presence of an unceasing cycle, an anxious and tense dialectic which begins in the unity of the essence; unfolds into an artificial plurality of attributes, which then collapses back into the essence, then to unfold into the persons, thence to collapse back into the Holy Spirit, the essence, once again.  Richard Haugh adequately summarizes the effects of this approach to the trinitarian dogma:

For Augustine, existence itself is not personal, for whatever is personal in the divinity is not absolute but relative.  Person is ad se identical to the essence.  Person becomes merely another aspect of existence; for God to exist is the same as to be person,65

just as it is the same to be good, just, and wise.

In this process, the process that came to be called the “dialectic of love” in the Middle Ages, the dynamic of the one and the many, of the one unfolding itself into two and collapsing back into one, is always present. Once again, Dr. Haugh is correct:


Although Augustine’s dialectic takes many forms, there are always four basic elements:

1)   essentia—that about which the dialectic is.

2)   essentia—manifesting itself (the Fathers).

3)   essentia—as manifested (the Son).

4)   essentia—uniting that which manifests itself with that which is manifested (the Holy Spirit) or the expression of that which is itself with that which is manifested.66

By the dogma of the filioque, reason and dialectic become the very essence of the divine essence.  It should be stressed that the essential step in the dynamics of the filioque was to confuse the persons with the attributes and not directly with the essence, and then to subordinate a person to those attributes by making a divine relation dependent upon those same common attributes.

Before considering the related historical antecedents of the filioque, it will be helpful to summarize the structural dynamics of the filioque in outline form:

1. The Essence.

A. The divine essence is assumed to be simple.

B. If the divine essence is simple, then several things follow:

1. The essence is equivalent to the attributes both severally and individually.

2. The essence is equivalent to the persons, both severally and individually.

C. Like the Neoplatonic One, the simplicity of the divine essence transcends the multiplicity of the divine pluralities (attributes and persons) as unity transcends multiplicity. Several things follow.

2. The Attributes.

A. The attributes have the same logical status vis-a-vis the essence, and therefore,

B. As regards each other.

C. The attributes are all “wholly indistinguish-able.”

3. The Persons.

At the lowest level of discourse, the persons are subordinated to the attributes because the Spirit’s procession from the Father has been given to the Son, since the Father and the Son share common attributes (life, holiness, spirituality).

1.    And within this level of discourse dealing with the persons, an effective subor-dination of the Holy Spirit to the Son and Father occurs, the Father having no distinctions, the Son having that of being caused, and the Holy Spirit having two distinctions, being caused by two different classes of causes.

B. The Holy Spirit, because He proceeds from the Father and the Son, becomes the new focus of unity in the Trinity.

1. The name “Holy Spirit” thus defines the divine essence and

2. is thus capable of signifying the entire Trinity.

The significance of the structure outlined above will be entirely lost unless juxtaposed with parallel structures to be found in the ancient Christological heresies associated with Arianism, for it is the interposition of a category between the essence and persons, i.e. the attributes, which bears some significant structural similarity to the systems of Arios and Euunomios.  We must now survey the progress of Neoplatonism in the East, in Alexandria, before turning at last to the response of Saint Photios to the filioque.


Heretical Parallels to the Dynamics of Filioque

It was at the great school of Alexandria that Neoplatonism made the greatest inroads into Christian theology.  It was restated and transformed in the theological work of Origen, there to become the philosophical basis for all the great heresies. Because the Neoplatonic simplicity allowed for no distinctions in God, all divine activity was at once an act of the essence and of the will.  Likewise, Origen’s theology “also failed to distinguish between the ontological and cosmological dimensions.”67  As V.V. Bolotov observed, the problem was a specifically trinitarian problem, because “the logical link between the generation of the Son and the existence of the world was not yet broken in the speculation of Origen.”68

As with Augustine, the divine attributes were seen as definitions of the divine essence.  Thus for God to be truly Creator, He must always have been creator, just as in the same sense He always had to be the Father.69  The thrust of Origen’s theology is consequently to preserve the deity of the Son, but at the cost of making the creation itself an eternal act of God.  The distinction between the Creator and creation has not been adequately made and, in this, Origenism is a faithful reflection of the pantheistic tendencies of its parent philosophy.  “As one cannot be a father apart from a son, nor a lord apart from holding possession of a slave, so we cannot even call God Almighty it there are none over whom He can exercise His power.”70  Thus, Origen could even go so far as to affirm that the Son was begotten of the will of God.71  In an insightful summary of the problem-atic in Origenism, Fr. Georges Florovsky states that:

In any case, the controversies of the fourth century can be properly understood only in the perspective of Origen’s theology and problem-atic.  Within the system itself there were but two opposite options: to reject the eternity of the world or to contest the eternity of the Logos.72

The later option was that pursued by Arios.  Arios defined absolute deity by the personal feature of the Father, that is, as the unique source and cause of being.  What happens in the dynamics of Arianism, in other words, is that there is a sort of “Sabellian” confusion of the person of the Father with the divine essence. Thus,

Two major points were made: (A) the total dissimilarity between God and all other realities which “had beginnings,” begin-ning of any kind; (B) the “beginning” itself.  The Son has a “beginning” simply because He was a son, that isoriginated from the Father, as His arche: only God (the Father)  was anarchos in the strict sense of the word.73

The Son, as caused, thus stands as the highest of creatures, midway between the Father-Essence and the lower created order.  Structurally, the Son stands in the same relation to the Father as the Nous stood in relation to the One in Plotinos.

Saint Athanasios, replying to this structure, makes a significant comment which guided the response of Saint Photios to the filioque.  If the Son were to be truly God in the Arian system, then,

it necessarily holds that as He is begotten, so He begets, and He too becomes the Father of a son.  And again, he who is begotten from Him, begets in his turn, and so on without limit; for this is to make the begotten like Him that begat Him.74

Saint Athanasios thus concedes that if deity could be defined as causality, then God would be a parent like man and that “His Son should be father of another, and so on in succession one from another till the series they imagine grows into a multitude of gods.”75  Once again, the Neoplatonic tendency to multiply the structural components of the system is in evidence.  This same definitional logic is behind Saint Photios’ question, when he asks why the Holy Spirit is not made a grandson in the dynamics of the filioque.76

The refutation of Saint Athanasios was to deny the root of the Arian error, the simplicity, and its implication that God could be defined.  The whole tone of his argument was set by the presupposition of a “basic distinction between ‘essence’ and ‘will,’ which alone could establish the real difference in kind between ‘generation’ and ‘creation.’’’77  The absolute distinction of persons, attributes, and essence was maintained throughout the theology of Saint Athanasios, even though these categories had not yet crystallized into a set theological vocabulary. More importantly, the trinitarian being of God was given an ontological priority over His action and Will78–the precisely opposite structural order to Augustinian theology, where the attributes and essence are given a priority to the persons.  On the basis of this distinction between being and will, notes Father Florovsky, Athanasios replied that it was “an insane and extravagant idea to put ‘will’ and ‘counsel’ between the Father and the Son.”79  In this structure, the ontological priority of the category of attributes to persons was precisely the point at issue between Saint Athanasios and Arios.

Saint Gregory of Nyssa faced the same problem when confronted with Eunomianism.  Eunomios, according to Gregory, went on to declare “that a certain energy which follows upon the first Being (The Father) . . . produced the Son of God . . . Who is a work commensurate with the producing energy.”80 For Eunomios, as for Arios, there was a further category which, following upon the initial definition, was “to be conceived of as prior to the only-begotten,”81 precisely because it was the cause of the only-begotten.  Saint Gregory drives the structure to a reductio ad absurdum by asking, “Why do we go on talking of the Almighty as the Father, if it was not He, but an energy which follows Him externally, that produced the Son, and how can the Son be a Son any longer?”82  In this context, the Eunomian theology of the Holy Spirit is most significant; Saint Gregory says that Eunomios:

separates off that equality with the Father and the Son of His (the Holy Spirit’s) proper rank and connection which our Lord Himself pronounces, and numbers Him with subjects and declares Him to be a work of both persons, of the Father, as supplying the cause of His constitution, of the only-begotten, as of the artificer of His subsistence.83

The Eunomian system, having made the Son a product of an energy of the Father, then goes on to make the Spirit a work of the Father and the Son.  It would appear that once again the Neoplatonic subordination of beings occurred.  Saint Gregory calls this whole structure “blasphemy . . . plain and un-concealed.”84  For Saint Gregory, Eunomios’ system “starts from data that are not granted, and then constructs by mere logic a blasphemy upon them.”85 What are these data that “are not granted?”  The divine simplicity.86

The point of contention for Saint Gregory, as for Saint Athanasios, was the structural subordination imposed upon the divine hypostases by a definition inherently pagan.  And notably, a particularly intense controversy centers upon the presence of the logical priority of a category of energies or attributes to any of the divine persons.  Such a position was always perceived as Arianism.  The resemblance that this energy in the structure of Eunomios bears to the attributes in Augustinian triadology is more than coincidental.  Having assumed the definition of simplicity, both Eunomios and Saint Augustine were bound by that definition to produce similar theological structures, even if they were entirely at cross purposes in so doing.

It is worth mentioning that there was a minor controversy between Theodoretos of Kyros and Saint Cyril of Alexandria over the procession of the Holy Spirit.  Saint Cyril taught that the Spirit proceeded from the Father through the Son.87  In words that could be taken from Augustine, Cyril remarks “inasmuch as the Son is God and from God, by nature, since He has been truly generated from God the Father, the Spirit is His own, and He is in Him and from Him.”88  The tendency of Cyril at times to confuse the terms “persons” and “nature” is well-known.  Perhaps blessed Theodoretos understood Saint Cyril to have done this by affirming this understanding of the procession, because his response is swift and unequivocal.

If Cyril means that the Holy Spirit has his existence from or through the Son, we repudi-ate this as irreligious blasphemy.  We believe that, in the Lord’s own words, the Spirit proceeds from the Father.89

Though it may be that Saint Cyril did understand the procession of the Holy Spirit in the filioquist sense, it is more probable that he could have intended to denote the sending of the Spirit in the economy.  This would seem to correspond better with his remarks in his thirty-ninth letter to John of Antioch:

The . . . contention of the Latins . . . was reasonably considered by the Orthodox as leading to the confusion of the three hypostatic persons with the common attributes of each person, and to their manifestations and relations with the world.90

However, the significance of this little controversy between Theodoretos and Cyril should not be dismissed too lightly.  It is quite significant that Cyril, a product of Alexandrian theology, influenced as it was by Neoplatonism, is unfortunately ambiguous in his choice of words, and it is not less significant that Theodoretos, an Antiochene, and thus opposed to Alexandrian theology, reacts so strongly to this point.

This brings the survey of the background of the Mystagogy to a close.  Many topics have been dis-cussed, and it will be helpful to reiterate them before examining the reply of Saint Photios to the filioque.

1)   The Neoplatonic definition of simplicity and its dialectic produced a simple structure, fea-turing a basic subordination and gradation of a hierarchy of beings.

2)  This structure tended to do two things.  It either collapsed into an absolute unity of an almost pantheistic type, or expanded to an ever-increasing series of beings.  This was evident not only in Neoplatonism, but was also present in the Arian controversy.

3)   The definition of simplicity, tending to obscure all distinctions, made impossible a real distinction of nature, activity and will.  For both Plotinos and Aquinas, the principal act of the essence of God was also an act of the will. Creation thus becomes impossible if considered as creation ex nihilo.

4)   The structural subordination of Neoplatonism was apparent in filioquism in two forms.  In the theological model of Augustine, it occurs by beginning with the essence, then moving to consider the attributes, and finally the persons.  This structure was opposite to Saint Athanasios, whose experience of the personal was primary in his theology.  But the subordination also occurs by making the Holy Spirit proceed from two different classes of causes: from the Father, the Uncaused Cause, and from the Son, the Caused Cause, much like the Word-soul emanated from the One and the Nous.

5)  The structural subordination of persons to attributes or to the abstract category of “energy” or “will,” the structure present in Augustinian arguments for the filioque, also occurred in Arianism and Eunomianism, the difference being that in the latter two systems it is the Son and not the Spirit who is so subordinated.

6)   The confusion of nature and persons occurs in Arianism when it defines deity by the personal feature of the Father.  The same also occurs in the thought of Saint Augustine, though it is also clear that the latter is uncomfortable with this dynamic when he sees its modalistic implications.

These thoughts must be kept in mind in the examination of Saint Photios’ response to the filioque in the Mystagogy.


The Reply of Saint Photios to the Structure and Logical Dynamics of the Filioque

The uneasy tension in Saint Augustine’s own theology between his commitment to the monarch of the Father, on the one hand,91 and his philosophical definition of deity, on the other hand, had, by the time of the Carolingians, given way to an almost exclusive emphasis on the divine essence alone as the principle of deity.  The Carolingians, in so doing were entirely faithful to the logic of Saint Augustine’s position.  But they totally ignored Saint Augustine’s own discomfort with the modalist implications of his theology, and were not at all faithful to his more critical and traditional spirit.  This fact intensifies the conflict between Photios and the Carolingians.

The arguments of Saint Photios may be grouped into four broad categories.  Having ample precedent in earlier Patristic literature to guide his response, he will concentrate on either of the two poles of the dialectic of oppositions, driving the filioque into the multiplication of divine beings, polytheism, or reducing all beings to an absolute modalistic unity. These same precedents also serve as precedents against unity.  Thus, there are two other types of arguments that Photios employs, and they are both concerned with the two types of structural subordin-ationism occurring in Augustinian theology. The first of these arguments deals with the ordo theologiae of essence, attributes, and persons.  The second deals strictly with the subordination of the three persons themselves: with the Christological and pneuma-tological implications of the subordinationist struc-ture imposed upon theology by the filioque.

As we have seen, the contrast of the divine essence to the divine pluralities of attributes and persons did one of two things logically speaking.  It either made the attributes persons, or it made the persons attributes.  Responding to the first alter-native, Photios says that the Spirit should proceed from each attribute, since He is obviously of each attribute:

Is He not also the Spirit of fullness . . . Why do you frown at this?  At the gifts, the very things that He supplies and bestows?  Is it because you fight against the procession of the all-holy Spirit from each of these gifts as well?92

If this is so, says Photios, then the Latins must make each attribute a person, an “enhypostatized wisdom and truth,”93 enhypostatized, or personal-ized, because the attributes are what the persons are—causes, and as causes, definitions of deity.  But if the attributes are thus logically prior to the persons, then, says Photios (in an almost verbatim quote of Saint Gregory of Nyssa), “It is not very possible to call the Son by name in these sayings either.”94  If the attributes cause the persons, then the Father is no longer Father, and the Son is no longer Son.

Within the trinitarian structure of persons, we saw that the dual procession of the Holy Spirit gave this specifically Christian revelation such a Neoplatonic structuring that it is hard to imagine that the names Father, Son and Holy Spirit have not simply replaced the names One, Nous and World-soul.  Saint Photios detects this structure and uses it to question the definition of simplicity itself:

Is it possible to avoid the conclusion that the Spirit has been divided into two?  On the one hand, He proceeds from the Father, Who is the First cause and also unoriginate.  On the other hand, however, He proceeds from a second cause, and this cause is not underived.95

“Does it not follow,” asks Photios, “close upon this conclusion that the Spirit is, therefore, com-posite?”  If the composite Spirit has been made the consubstantial love of “both the Father and the Son,” then “how then is the Trinity simple?”96

Saint Photios notes that the Latins, by maintaining a dual procession, have lapsed into another early heresy, making the Spirit a lesser deity because the “Spirit, Who is of equal honor and dignity is deprived of the equal prerogative of an essential procession from Himself.’’97  This was, of course, nothing but “Macedonian insanity.”98  If the Spirit were to be truly God in a system where deity has been defined as cause, then, Photios says, by the same token, another person should proceed from the Spirit, and so we should have not three but four persons.  And if the fourth person is possible, then another procession is possible from that, and so on to an infinite number of processions and persons, until this doctrine is transformed into Greek polytheism.99

The force of this argument clearly recalls the Arians’ own logic recorded earlier by Saint Atha-nasios, and indicates that the structure and presuppositions underlying the Arian heresy and the filioque are one and the same: the definition of deity as causality.

It is at this precise point that the uncanny logical accuracy of Photios posed acute difficulty for the later Western theology.  The force of the previous argument was too much to ignore and some response had to be made.  The one who made it was Thomas Aquinas, writing four hundred years after Photios.  “Of course,” he says, “[the procession] does not proceed further within itself, but the cycle is concluded when . . . it returns to the very substance from which the proceeding began.”100  But this argument would only serve to make the procession a feature of the divine essence, and not of the person of the Holy Spirit.  Saint Photios is ready with a response to this aspect before Thomas ever wrote: If the dual procession were a characteristic of the divine essence and not a personal property, then all productions from the Father were features of the essence, and thus the personal procession or the Spirit from the Son, and even from the Father, was artificial and superfluous.  “If He [the Spirit] is known more fully in another procession which is proper to the essence,” asks Photios, “then what precise thing does that fashioning by another person provide?”101 In other words, if one accepts the concept of personal processions which are somehow also essential, then there can be no Trinity, and the filioque will indeed be, as Father Richardson pointed out, a matter of words!

If the procession of the Holy Spirit could be a feature of the essence, then so could the Son’s begottenness: thus why could not the Son be opposed to the Spirit and the Father, and the latter two may thus beget the Son?  At this point it is important to recall that Saint Augustine also saw this ramification, and refused to accept it.102  Indeed, asks Photios, why should one not simply tear up the Scriptures, so as to allow “the fable that the Spirit produces the Son, thereby according the same dignity to each person by allowing each person to produce the other person?”103  The deity is defined as causality, and if each person is fully God, then each must cause the others, “for reason demands equality for each person so that each person exchanges the grace of causality inndistin-guishably.”104  With the word, “indistinguishably” the mask comes off the Neoplatonic simplicity, in which being, existence, will, and activity are all “wholly indistinguishable.”  When Saint Augustine saw this implication of his trinitarian method, he simply denied it and said that the persons were “not interchangeably fathers to one another.”105  The same point is made by Photios:

For if, according to the reasonings of the ungodly, the specific properties of the persons are opposed and transferred to one another, then the Father—O depth of impiety!—comes under the property of being begotten and the Son will beget the Father.106

At this point, it is abundantly clear that the Neoplatonic structure is not only “bursting under the strain of its Christian contents,” but that it has altogether collapsed.  The simplicity is an inadequate definition of the Christian God, for ultimately everything said about Him becomes logically equivalent to everything else said about Him: by beginning with the definition of divine essence as simple, the hypostatic feature of the Father has been distributed to every person and consequently all basis of real personal distinctions has been lost in the essence.107

In a very striking sentence, Saint Photios sums up the effects of the new dogma:

On the one hand, you firmly establish the idea that there is no source—anarchy—in Him, but at the very same time you reintroduce a source and a cause, and then go on simultaneously to transfer the distinctions of each person.108

At best, the filioque made of Western triadology a futile exercise in semantic mysticism, in gnostic gymnastics, and, at worst, it contains at every step the seeds of heresy, whether subordinationist, Sabellian, or polytheistic.

At this point, all the main figures of the controversy converge.  On the one side are Saints Athanasios, Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine and Photios, who, when they see the absurd implications of this theological structure, eschew it.  On the other side are the Carolingians and the later scholastics, who, when they see the structure, uncritically accept and endorse it.  For the Fathers, God is what He is apart from logic; for the Carolingians and Thomas Aquinas, God to some extent is what He is because He is logical.  For Aquinas and the scholastic enterprise as a whole, the Spirit, because He unites the Father and the Son by His dual procession from both, becomes the divine example of the analogia entis of the Father and the Son, the expression of being common to both.  The filioque is thus a necessary component of the scholastic enterprise, for it interiorizes the whole scholastic effort within the Godhead itself, making the divine essence rationally accessible through analogy.  The whole embryo of the Graeco-pagan philosophical development has been transplanted into the doctrine of the Christian God.

This simply reiterates the tension in the doctrine inherent from the beginning.  It repeats the predicament of Plotinos, for there is a fundamental limitation that the dialectic of oppositions imposes upon trinitarian relations.  It can deal with only two terms, two polarities at any one time, and is thus wholly inadequate to deal with the Trinity.  The logic must always, somewhere, compromise the absolute status of the Trinity by compromising the absolute divinity and person of the Holy Spirit.  On the other hand, it must also compromise the simplicity of the essence, for there is always an interior dialectic within it.  The Trinity of persons is incomplete, for just at the precise moment when the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, the whole process, according to Aquinas, collapses back into the essence “from which the proceeding began.”  There is, thus, in the doctrine of the filioque an ubiquitous, nascent binitarianism,109 a tendency that Saint Photios does not hesitate to call “semi-Sabellianism.”110

In the final analysis, the filioquist triadology has no real Trinity, but only a dyad of Father-Son opposed to Essence-Spirit.111 


Implications and Conclusions

The filioque made it possible to treat, on the basis of reason, trinitarian theology without the Trinity. “Nothing could prevent [one] from applying the same method to each of the Christian dogmas.”112  The doctrinal history of the West subsequent to the Carolingian period is the history of the application of this principle and of increasing reaction against, and finally of apathy toward, the theological enterprise. Anselm made it possible to discuss the Incarnation without Christ113 and subsequent scholastic theology extended the rational explication of theology to encompass almost all aspects of Church belief and practice.  But from the broadest possible historical and ecclesiastical standpoint, it is the Augustinian doctrine of God, in which the filioque plays a prominent and pivotal role, which triggers this process.  Though “this bold ambition to procure necessary reasons for revealed dogmas had never entered the mind of Augustine . . . , it was bound to follow from a merely dialectical treatment of the Christian faith.”114  The filioque, as an example of this “dialectical treatment of the Christian faith,” is a vital crux interpretum of Augustinian theology.  Why, for example, could Anselm later attempt his “ontological proof’ of the existence of God?  Because the ontological proof was an “essentially dialectical deduction of the existence of God, whose internal necessity is that of the principle of contradiction,” or in other words, the dialectic of oppositions.115

This is the bottom line: there are two opposing and mutually contradictory views of God at work in the controversy.  The filioque would have it that God is perfectly capable of definition, that there is some degree of logical necessity in Him.  Thus,

. . . by the dogma of the filioque . . . the unknowable essence of God receives positive qualifications.  It becomes the object of natural theology.  We get a God in general, who could be the God of Descartes, or the God of Leibnitz, or to some extent the God of Voltaire and the de-Christianized Deists of the eighteenth century.116

But for Saint Photios, representing the tradition of Athanasios, and the Cappadocians, the Holy Spirit is, in characteristically Dionysian and apophatic terms, “of the essence-essence” and therefore “beyond the powers of reason.” 117

Subsequent Orthodox triadology built on the foundation that Saint Photios laid, but also accounted for the legitimate concerns of the filioque, namely, the concern for a relationship between the Son and the Spirit.  Later Byzantine theologians who followed Photios tried “to show that on the one hand a relation of origin between the Son and the Holy Spirit was not necessary, and that on the other hand, there did exist a certain relationship which distinguished Son and Holy Spirit as persons.”118  Gregory of Cyprus, the Patriarch of Constantinople from 1283-1289, described the relationship between the Son and the Spirit as one of the Spirit’s eternal abiding upon the Son.119  In this, Gregory simply elaborated upon the meaning of the word “procession.”  The word did not signify merely:

a simple going forth of someone from another, as for example in the case of being born; it means rather a setting forth from somewhere towards a definite goal; a departure from one person in order to reach another.  When the Spirit proceeds from the Father he sets out towards the Son; the Son is the goal at which He will stop.120

Gregory’s formula exposed another danger latent not only in the filioque but to some extent also in the response of Saint Photios to it.  In Gregory’s theology, it was impossible to separate the Son and the Spirit, for there was an eternal, personal relation between them.  If this were not so, and the Holy Spirit proceeded beyond the Son as from a point of origin, then important ecclesiological ramifications would result: “in that case the faithful might possess the Spirit without being in Christ, or they might possess Christ without being in the Spirit.”121  It is precisely this “abiding of the Spirit upon the Son” which affords the theological basis in the very life of the Trinity for the fact that Orthodoxy does not separate Scripture and Tradition as two, isolated, independent and opposed sources of authority. Rather, it sees them as implying and complementing each other, both having equal weight because they are related.

From Gregory of Cyprus, later Orthodox theology inherited the concept that there was a relationship between the Son and the Spirit, and that this relationship would be destroyed if the Spirit were disengaged from the Son by proceeding beyond Him as in the filioque.  Saint Gregory Palamas could thus affirm that the Spirit did not proceed in “isolation from the generation of the Son thus remaining alongside the Son, as it were, without any personal relationship to him.”122  The twentieth century Orthodox theologian Dumitru Staniloae has found in the filioque, in addition to certain ecclesiological implications, other ramifications for the pattern and structure of authority in the contemporary West.  He sees in it the theological basis for confusing the Spirit with human subjectivity: without that which constitutes the distinguishing mark of divinity in this system, causality, it becomes all too easy to equate the movements of the Spirit with the movements of the human spirit.123

We would certainly be wrong in trying to estimate Saint Photios’ stature as a saint or a theologian of the Church through a reading of the Mystagogy alone; but we would likewise err trying to do so without reading the Mystagogy.  It is chiefly for this contribution that he is remembered in both East and West.  One Roman Catholic scholar writes of his importance in no uncertain terms:

The Photian case is not merely a matter of Byzantine interest.  It concerns the history of Christianity and the world, as the appraise-ment of Photios and his work lies at the core of the controversies that separate Eastern and Western churches.124

Photios, always tolerant of divergent practices within the Church, nevertheless responds sharply to the filioque.  Yet, this response is not without cause, and has Patristic support.  Sadly, his work fell on largely deaf ears, so that all the tragic consequences of the filioque did not disappear, but rather imposed upon theology an order and method fundamentally divergent from the concerns of the tradition.  Thus, his sweeping indictment of the doctrine is not without justification; if the filioque can now only be viewed as a dispute about words, this can only indicate the absence of historical perception, or a modalist theology, or both.  This means that it is not necessary merely to insist that the filioque must be dropped from Western creeds and confessions for unity to come about, but that, as Karl Rahner has so pertinently observed, there is need for the West to return to a non-Augustinian theology.125  Indeed, this means that the Augustinian ordo theologiae itself must be shunned as being ultimately contradictory to the Christian experience of God as primarily personal and concrete and not impersonal, abstract, and philosophical.  In this most relevant of lights, it is easy to see why the doctrine was never a mere verbal trifle.  It carried implications affecting the very nature of Christian experience.  It was for Saint Photios then, and remains for us now, an issue of incalculable ecumenical, theological and spiritual urgency.



1 Alan Richardson, Creeds in the Making: A Short Introduction to the History of Christian Doctrine (Philadelphia, 1981), p. 122.

2 Ibid., p. 123.

3 St. Photios, Mystagogy, p. 16.

4 Ibid., pp. 9,32,37.

5 Richard Haugh, Photius and the Carolingians: The Trinitarian Controversy (Belmont, 1975), p. 204.

6 J. M. Rist, Plotinus: The Road to Reality (Cambridge, 1980), p. 24, citing Fr. Sweeney.

7 Ibid.,p.25.

8 Vladimir Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church (Crestwood, 1974), p. 30.  Lossky writes: “What is discarded in the negative way of Plotinos is multiplicity, and we arrive at the perfect unity which is beyond being—since being is linked to multiplicity and subsequent to the One.  The ecstasy of Dionysios is a going forth from being as such.  That of Plotinos is rather a reduction of being to absolute simplicity.”  For an excellent treatment of the dynamic of oppositions and the definition of simplicity, see Rist’s survey on pp. 21-37.

9 Rist, p. 25.

10 Paul Tillich, A History of Christian Thought (New York, 1968), p. 51.

11 Ibid.

12 Eugene Portalie, A Guide to the Thought of St. Augustine (Norwood, 1975), p. 99.

13 See Rist, pp. 66, 71, 77 for the absence of this distinction: “we shall not,” he says, “break Plotinos’ own rules by separating the existence of the One from its ‘activity.’ Rather we shall regard them as identical.”

14 Ibid., pp. 25, 35.

15 Ibid., pp. 67, 75.

16 Ibid., p. 76. “The problem of the necessity of emanation from the One must be reduced to the problem of why the One is what it is.”

17 “Neoplatonism” in The Westminster Dictionary of Church History, ed. Herald C. Bauer, p. 591.

18 Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy, vol. 1, Greece and Rome (New York, 1962), part 2, p. 216.

19 Ibid., p. 219.

20 Dom Placid Spearitt, “Neoplatonism” in A Dictionary of Christian Thought, ed. Alan Richardson, p. 227.

21 Tillich, p. 103.

22 Portalie, pp. 81-82.

23 Ibid., p. 83.

24 Vernon J. Bourke, The Essential Augustine (Indian-apolis, 1978), p. 19.

25 Portalie, p. 97.

26 Ibid., p. 96.

27 Ibid., p. 90.

28 J. M. Hussey remarks that “as far as it is possible to assign or discover a watershed, this is to be found at the end of the fourth century: on the one side is Augustine, whose writings form the basis of the Latin tradition; on the other, the Greeks who followed the Cappadocian school.” Church and Learning in the Byzantine Empire, 867-1185 (Oxford, 1937), p. 203.

29 Justo Gonzalez, A History of Christian Thought, vol. 2. From Augustine to the Eve of the Reformation (Nashville, 1971), p. 113, citing John Scotus Erigena: “Philosophy is true religion and vice versa, true religion is true philosophy.”

30 Portalie, pp. 99-100.

31 Ibid., p. 100.

32 Etienne Gilson, God and Philosophy (New York, 1962), p. 41.

33 Ibid., p.61.

34 St. Augustine, On the Trinity, 7.6.11 .

35 St. Augustine actually carries his logic much further, saying at one point, “since the three are together one God, why not also one person . . . “ (7.4.8.).  In another place he actually uses the phrase “the person of that Trinity” (2.10.18).  Richard Haugh remarks that “it is clear in which direction Augustine is inclined.” Haugh, p. 199.

36 St. Augustine, 7.1.2.

37 Portalie, p. 128.

38 St. Augustine, 8.1.2.

39 Tillich, p. 51.

40 This syllogistic treatment of attributes and essence is the very mark of deity: “Neither in the Trinity is it one thing to be and another to be God . . . “ (7.3.6). This statement is complemented by “it is the same thing for Him to be God as to be”; 7.4.9.

41 Thomas Aquinas, Summa contra Gentiles. Book One, God (Notre Dame, 1975), p. 242.

42 Ibid., p. 244. The persistence of Neoplatonic concerns is amazing.  Rist says, “The act by which the One is what it is must be allowed to be identical and indistinguishable in fact from the act by which it does what it does” (p. 71).  “In fact, the will of the One and its essence are identical” (p. 71).  Indeed, one of the main problems which the scholastics had to account for was the operation of God ad extra, a very difficult problem if the “principle object of the divine will” is its very own essence.

43 St. Augustine, Ad Romanum Expositio, 8.29, cited in Gonzalez, p. 31.

44 St. Augustine, On the Trinity, 7.6.11.

45 Portalie, pp. 130-31.

46 Ibid.,p. 132.

47 Ibid., p. 131.

48 Vladimir Lossky, “The Procession of the Holy Spirit in Orthodox Trinitarian Doctrine,” in The Image and Likeness of God (Cresttwood, 1974),p. 77.

49 St. Augustine, Trinity, 1.8.15.

50 Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, vol. 3, The Growth of Medieval Theology (600-1300) (Chicago, 1982), p. 65.

51 St. Augustine, Trinity, 6.5.6.

52 Ibid., 7.3.5.

53 Ibid., 15.27.47.

54 A word of caution should be said here about the manner in which I am using the terms ordo theo-logiae.  I do not conceive of this as a hard and fast, rigid scheme to be followed universally, but rather as a general pattern easily detectable by glancing at various systematic theologies produced by the West. In Book One of his Summa contra Gentiles, Thomas Aquinas discusses God in His essence and attributes; only in Book Four does he consider the persons of the Trinity.  Other treatises intervene in between the overall pattern of essence, attributes and persons (notably, one of them is the attribute of providence). In the early twentieth century the American Episco-palian Francis J. Hall does the same.  Volume three of his Dogmatic Theology is entitled “The Being and Attributes of God,” while volume four deals with “The Trinity.”  So entrenched is this ordo theologiae that it reaches even into the fundamentalist dispensa-tionalist works of Lewis Sperry Chafer, founder and first president of Dallas Theological Seminary. Volume one of his Systematic Theology is entitled “Prolegomena: Bibliology, Theology Proper.”  Only with volume six does he discuss the Holy Spirit. What I am suggesting is that this ordo can be modified, added to or elaborated in various ways, but that it always remains the same in its overall trinitarian scheme, and that this method of theology itself should be a matter for closer scrutiny.  It goes almost without saying that in most seminaries rarely, if ever, is a student taught to reflect upon the implications of the ordo disciplinae in which he taught theology. Indeed, this may arise unconsciously out of his philosophical commitments, and be simply taken for granted.  In this, I differ from Bernard Lonergan only in the manner in which we perceive this ordo.  For him the “ordo disciplinae that Aquinas wanted in theology books for beginners” is illustrated by the fact that “in the Scriptum super Sententias there is no separation of the treatment of God as one and of God as Trinity . . . . But in the Summa contra Gentiles a systematic separation is effected: the first book deals solely with God as one; Chapters 2 to 26 of the fourth book deal solely with God as Trinity.  In the first part of the Summa theologiae questions 2 and 26 regard God as one, while questions 27 to 43 regard the Trinity. What in the Contra Gentiles was treated in very separate books, in the Summa theologiae is united in a continuous stream.”  Lonergan, Method in Theology (New York, 1979), p. 346.  The point is that, regardless of the refinements and differences between Thomas’ two systematic works, the overall ordo of Trinitarian theology remains essentially the same.  I suggest that the filioque and this method are intimately bound up with each other.

55 St. Augustine, Trinity, 15.27.48.

56 John Karmires, A Synopsis of the Dogmatic Theology of the Orthodox Catholic Church (Scranton, 1973), p. 18.

57 St. Augustine, Trinity, 5.11.12.

58 Ibid.

59 Ibid., 15.27.50.

60 Thomas Aquinas, Summa, Book Four, Salvation, (London, 1975),p.145.

61 St. Augustine, Trinity 15.19.37.

62 Ibid.

63 Ibid., 7.4.7.

64 Etienne Gilson, Reason and Revelation in the Middle Ages (New York, 1966), p. 23.

65 Haugh, Photius, p. 199.

66 Ibid., p. 202.

67 Georges Florovsky, “St. Athanasios’ Concept of Creation,” Volume 4 of The Collective Works of Georges Florovsky: Aspects of Church History (Belmont, 1975), p. 42.

68 Cited in Florovsky, p. 42.

69 Ibid., p. 43.

70 Cited in Florovsky, p. 45.

71 Ibid., p. 46.

72 Ibid.

73 Ibid., p. 47.

74 St. Athanasios, First Discourse Against the Arians, Nicene and Post·Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, 1978), p. 319.

75 Ibid.

76 St. Photios, Mystagogy, p. 60.

77 Florovsky, p. 53.

78 Ibid., p. 52.

79 Ibid., p. 58.

80 St. Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomios, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, 1976), p. 58.

81 Ibid.

82 Ibid.

83 Ibid., p. 54.

84 Ibid., p. 53.

85 Ibid. p. 56.

86 Ibid. p. 57.  Cf. St. Gregory’s remarks concerning the simplicity on p. 58.  These are the more significant, given the well-known preoccupation of St. Gregory with other Neoplatonic theses and doctrines.

87 St. Cyril of Alexandria, “Letter 17 to Nestorios,” in The Later Christian Fathers, ed. Henry Bettenson (Oxford, 1977), p. 265.

88 Ibid. p. 266.

89 Theodoretos, “Reprehensio (12 Captium seu) anathematissmorum Cyrilli,” in Bettenson, p. 275.

90 Karmires, Synopsis, p. 18.

91 St. Augustine, Trinity, 4.20.29: “The Father is the beginning (principium) of the whole divinity.”

92 St. Photios, Mystagogy, p. 56.

93 Ibid. p. 24.

94 Ibid.. p. 57.

95 Ibid. p. 43.

96 Ibid. p. 4.

97 Ibid. p. 38.

98 Ibid. p. 32.

99 Ibid. p. 37.

100 Aquinas, Summa, Volume 4, Salvation, p. 145.

101 St. Photios, Mystagogy, p. 42.

102 St. Augustine, Trinity, 5.12.13: “We do not speak of the Son of the Holy Spirit, lest the Holy Spirit be understood to be His Father.”

103 St. Photios, Mystagogy, p. 3.

104 Ibid.

105 St. Augustine, Trinity, 7.4.7.

106 St. Photios, Mystagogy, p. 17.

107 Ibid. p. 18.

108 Ibid. p. 14.

109 Ibid. pp. 9,12, 15.

110 Ibid. p. 9.

111 In this regard, St. Photios points out that there is no hypostatic property which is shared by two persons.  Anything which can be said to be common to more than one person is said about the essence. But anything which cannot be said about all three persons therefore belongs only to one of the three persons (Mystagogy, p. 63).  In this he echoes St. Basil the Great, “Letter 33 to Gregory,” concerning the differences of ousia and hypostasis.

112 Gilson, Reason and Revelation, p. 26.

113 Anselm, Cur Deus Homo (St. Anselm: Basic Writings), trans. S. N. Deane (Chicago, 1981), p. 177. Anselm’s own succinct statement on his methodo-logy cannot be improved upon: “In fine leaving Christ out of view (as if nothing had ever been known of him), it proves, by absolute reasons, the impossi-bility that any man should be saved without him.”

114 Gilson, Reason and Revelation, p. 27.

115 Ibid., p. 25 (emphasis mine).

116 Lossky, “Procession,” p. 88.

117 St. Photios, Mystagogy, p. 6.

118 Staniloae, Theology and the Church, p. 15.

119 Ibid., pp. 20-21.

120 Ibid., p. 22.

121 Ibid., p. 26.

122 Ibid., p. 30.

123 Ibid., p. 43.

124 Francis Dvornik, The Photian Schism (Cambridge, 1970), p. 15.

125 John Meyendorff, Christ in Eastern Christian Thought (Crestwood, 1978), p. 213.  Cf. Karl Rahner, “Current Problems,” p. 188.  But this evaluation needs to be tempered with the fact that Rahner, in his book The Trinity, still employs methods and concerns (for example, the concern for the Latin idea of taxis) more or less peculiar to the Roman Church. Another important and recent contribution to the growing awareness of the problems of the filioque in the West is Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ, edited by Lukas Vischer.