Was Augustine a Filioquist in the sense that the Council of Florence defines Pneumatology? Some say “yes,” but they are depending upon a surface level understanding of some hard-to-interpret words of Augustine’s. Ironically, Augustine anticipated his words would be misused:

I expect, indeed, that some, who are more dull of understanding, will imagine that in some parts of my books I have held sentiments which I have not held, or have not held those which I have. But their error, as none can be ignorant, ought not to be attributed to me, if they have deviated into false doctrine through following my steps without apprehending me (Book 1, Par 6).

To thoroughly answer the question of whether Augustine’s Pneumatology was Orthodox, it is absolutely necessary to unpack all 15 books of On the Trinity. By understanding these books’ illustrations and consistent arguments, it is possible to get a firm handle on Augustine’s Pneumatology.

In this article we cover Books 9 through 10.

This is perhaps the most important article in the series, because we are going to seriously unpack Augustine’s illustrations. In Book IX, Augustine begins his discussion of mundane trinities, specifically trinities of the mind, vision, and love. If we understand these illustrations, we can correctly interpret what Augustine means by the Filioque.

Concerning the mind:

For why does the mind beget its knowledge when it knows itself, and not beget its love when it loves itself? [Note: This is a rhetorical question.] For if it [the Mind i.e. Father] is the cause of its own knowing [i.e. Knowledge, the Son], for the reason that it is knowable, it [the Mind i.e. Father] is also the cause of its own love [i.e. Spirit] because it [the Mind] is lovable…why the Holy Spirit is not also to be either believed or understood to be begotten by God the Father, so that He also may be called a Son? And this question we are endeavoring in some way to investigate in the human mind, in order that from a lower image, in which our own nature itself as it were answers, upon being questioned, in a way more familiar to ourselves, we may be able to direct a more practised mental vision from the enlightened creature to the unchangeable light. (Par 17)

When, therefore, the mind [i.e. the Father] knows itself, it [i.e. the Father] alone is the parent of its own knowledge [i.e. the Son]; for it is itself both the thing known and the knower of it. But it was knowable to itself also before it knew itself [i.e. the Father has aseity apart from begetting the Logos], only the knowledge of itself was not in itself so long as it did not know itself [i.e. there was never a time the Logos did not exist, the Father always had the Son.] In knowing itself, then, it [the Mind i.e. the Father] begets a knowledge [i.e. the Son] of itself equal to itself… Why therefore may it not be said by loving itself [the Mind i.e. the Father] to have begotten its own love [i.e. the Spirit], as by knowing itself it has begotten its own knowledge? Is it because it is thereby indeed plainly shown that this is the principle of love [the Spirit], whence [from where] it proceeds? For it [Love i.e. the Spirit] proceeds from the mind itself [i.e. the Father], which is lovable to itself before it loves itself [i.e. the Father has aseity], and so is the principle of its own love by which it loves itself. (Par 18)

The “mind trinity” can be summed up as follows:

  • Mind=Father (Note: In Neoplatonism, “Mind” is the Logos, but Augustine equates it to the Father, as evidenced by it begetting knowledge according to Par 16-17. This shows that Augustine was not slavishly following Porphyry or other Neoplatonists, though the unlearned accuse him of this.)
  • Knowledge=Son (i.e. Logos)
  • Love=Spirit (common term for Spirit in upcoming books)

Using this key, we can interpret Augustine’s system in the following way. The Mind begets Knowledge. For the Mind to be the Mind, it “was knowable to itself before it knew itself,” meaning the Mind did not need to know something to be the Mind. 

As Augustine explains in Book XI:

[W]hen the mind seeks to know itself, it already knows that it is a mind: otherwise it knows not whether it seeks itself, and perhaps seeks one thing while intending to seek another (Par 6).

In other words, the divine essence has aseity in the Person of the Father, but nevertheless the other Persons are equally eternal nevertheless.

This seems to connect to Augustine’s thought about the Father needing the Son to be the Father and that the quality of being Father cannot exist unless He begets. (see Book VII, Par 6) In Book XI Par 6, because a Father always has the capacity to beget even if He does not, He is sort of a “potential Father” in that event.

So, according to Augustine, the Father hypostatically cannot exist without the Son’s existence. Yet, he implies the Source of the divine essence, which is the Father, has aseity. Augustine is not so neat and tidy and I will not attempt to reconcile the different ideas. It appears he found it sufficient to state the Father is the source of His own divinity, but in being such this requires the eternal existence of the Son and Spirit regardless.

Let’s continue reading Augustine in Book IX:

[T]he bringing forth of [i.e. Knowledge, aka Son, from] the mind [i.e. the Father] is preceded by some desire [i.e. the Spirit], by which, through seeking and finding what we wish to know, the offspring, viz. knowledge itself [i.e. the Son], is born. And for this reason, that desire [i.e. the Spirit] by which knowledge [ie. the Son] is conceived and brought forth, cannot rightly be called the bringing forth and the offspring; and the same desire [i.e. the Spirit] which led us to long for the knowing [i.e. the Son] of the thing, becomes the love [i.e. the Spirit] of the thing when known [i.e. the hypostasis of the Spirit is the desire of the mind when the mind’s desire is known, or in other words, the Spirit exists upon the Son’s existence], while it holds and embraces its accepted offspring, that is, knowledge [i.e. the Son], and unites it to its begetter [i.e. the Father]. And so there is a kind of image of the Trinity in the mind [i.e. the Father] itself, and the knowledge [i.e. the Son] of it, which is its offspring and its word concerning itself, and love [i.e. the Spirit] as a third, and these three are one, and one substance (Par 18).

As we can see, “the bringing forth of the mind” is not a reference to what creates the mind itself, but rather what is begotten [knowledge] and proceeds [desire/love] from the mind. This is important, because taken as an allegory of the eternal causation of the divine Persons, this means the Mind (Father) acted upon His desire to have Knowledge (the Son) and to Love (the Spirit). 

“Desire” is what precedes knowledge and love. This means, there is some sense the Spirit precedes the Son (similar to the consecration of the Eucharist and the incarnation). But how does this work in eternity past? After all, the Spirit cannot precede Himself! Because one must desire to know or love something before something is known or loved, then the Father must desire or love before what is desired and loved exists. Yet, at the same time, love does not exist unless there is something that is beloved. Hence, the desire/love only truly exists at the same moment of time when the object of that desire/love exists. This is proven from the preceding passage because “the same desire,” which leads to the begetting of the Son, “becomes Love when” the object of Love is known. Obviously, Love has its origin/cause in the Mind, but Love only manifests upon the existence of knowledge being begotten.

This is what is now called the “manifestation doctrine” of the Spirit’s procession. Or in Augustine’s words (from the above):

…the same desire which led us to long for the knowing of the thing, becomes the love of the thing when known, while it holds and embraces its accepted offspring, that is, knowledge, and unites it to its begetter.

Or in the words of the Damascene: 

[W]e believe also in one Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life: Who proceeds from the Father and rests in the Son (Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book I, Chap 8).

As we can see, when the desire of the Father “rests in” (Damascene) or “holds and embraces” (Augustine) the Son, the Spirit is manifests–and in so doing, this unites the Son to the Father. This shows that the Spirit exists before the Son “loves the Father” or “knows the Father” back–and therefore Augustine is clearly teaching Orthodox and not the Roman Catholic Pneumatological doctrine.

So, how does the word Filioque in Latin mean something Orthodox? Saint Maximus (probably giving his own gloss of Augustine) explains for us in his Letter to Marinus what the “Filioque” allegedly meant to Latin theologians in the seventh century:

[T]he Father is the only cause of the Son and the Spirit, the one by begetting and the other by procession; but [they use the expression “and the Son”] in order to manifest the Spirit’s coming-forth (προϊέναι) through Him [the Son] and, in this way, to make clear the unity and identity of the essence.

Maximus likely understood Augustine correctly, seeing that the Mind is the only cause, because “the same desire [of the Mind]…becomes Love,” but this Love comes forth “when known…it embraces…Knowledge.” So through Knowledge, Love is made manifest. Yet, this does not make Knowledge the source, origin, or cause of Love. 

This means that there is no double procession of the Spirit in Augustine’s thought, but rather a simultaneous starting point for the Son and Spirit from the Father. The Son and Spirit are caused upon “meeting” each other at the same time. This is Augustine’s system–it’s actually not complicated but fantastically misunderstood by too many.

According to Maximus, the significance of proceeding through the Son is that it reveals an “unity and identity of essence.” In other words, the way we can perceive that the Spirit is of the same essence as the Father and Son, is that His existence is through the Son

For just as the Holy Spirit by nature and according to essence exists of God the Father, so too by nature and according to essence is the Spirit of the Son, insofar as the Spirit proceeds essentially from the Father ineffably through the begotten Son, giving its own proper energies, like lamps, to the lampstand—that is, to the Church. For in the manner of a lamp that dissolves the darkness, every energy of the Spirit is of a nature to expel and drive away the manifold manifestation of sin. (Questions to Thalassius, 63.7)

Here, Maximus predates Saint Gregory Palamas by centuries when he invokes the energy-essence distinction. We can see that the Church does not partake in the essence of God (which is impossible), but rather the “energies” of God. This occurs through the temporal procession of the Spirit, which (apparently) mirrors His eternal procession “by nature and according to essence.” We know that this is true because the Spirit shares the Father’s essence (and therefore also energy) through the Son. In other words, each Person is the same divine essence and divine energy–but hypostatically different (i.e. still a different Person).  

This ties into Augustine, because when he uses the Filioque, he is using in such a sense that “manifests the Spirit’s coming forth through Him,” the Son. Relative differences between the Persons make manifest their different hypostases and their origins (or lack thereof in the case of the Father). In so doing, it is abundantly clear that the Son is not the origin/cause of the Spirit, but that the Son “has to be there” for the Spirit to complete His procession.

The Son is not some sort of medium for procession, but an end for the procession to be received–a hoop for the basketball. The Spirit proceeds through the Son, because He rests in (or the procession reaches “the end of its race” in) the Son, as the Damascene teaches. 

Maximus understood this and for this reason, did not find the Latin expression of the Filioque from his time objectionable.

How can this even work? How can the something analogous to the Spirit proceed through something, but not as if it were a medium or channel, and therefore have no relation to origins–and at the same time meet the Augustinian framework of not only proceeding through this something, but in a real sense preceding that something? 

It sounds like craziness, but it’s not.

This is tough for people to understand, so permit me an analogy. If I have a fire, the heat (kinetic energy) comes to me through infrared and visible light (if you want to be scientifically accurate) from the chemical reaction that is the fire itself. Yet, the flame cannot exist without electromagnetic radiation (i.e. light) nor kinetic energy (i.e. heat)–or it would not be a fire at all. The heat’s existence is through the light (as electromagnetic wavelengths transmit heat energy from a fire), but (similar to Augustine’s analogy) light it is preceded by the potential energy of the elements that make up a fire being converted into kinetic energy by their burning (i.e. it is the result of the chemical reaction which is a fire.) 

So, there is a sense in this analogy, that the Spirit (heat/kinetic energy) exists in a latent form (like the Mind’s desire), but also a sense that the Spirit only exists (the heat/kinetic energy is “released” from elements making up a fire, a transfer from potential to kinetic energy) upon the existence of the Son (the existence of electromagnetic radiation from the flames which makes heat transfer possible).

Cut me some slack with the above. It has been over 20 years since I have learned this! I presume there is some literal heat transfer through the physical medium of exciting air molecules, but this is an imperfect analogy. Even then, I suppose the air molecules are excited by the same electromagnetic radiation, but at this point I do not remember.

In my own above analogy, we maintain the Father as cause, the manifestation of the Spirit through the Son, but also the Augustinian (and sacramental and Biblical) aspect of the Spirit preceding the Son in some sense.

Enough of my own pontification and let’s get back to Augustine specifically. How can we visualize Augustine’s alleged Filioque? Does he match the preceding Maximusesque analogy?

Augustine offers for us an illustration of how the Persons (Knowledge and Love) relate to their origin, the Mind itself.

For visual learners, examine Illustration #2:


I think it is fair to say that the significance of the term “same desire” is that it pertains to the Spirit’s same essence with the Father and His origin from the Father. The same essence of the Son is implied by knowledge being begotten. Augustine takes it for granted that what is begotten is of the same essence as what begets it (and it is a perversion of a Law of the Universe to beget something of a different essence, hence why interbreeding and cross pollinating is forbidden by the Mosaic Law.) We see this in Augustine’s Responses to Maximinus as well.

Hence, we can see the following in Augustine’s scheme of the creation of Knowledge and Love. They share the same essence as the Mind, but their relative differences allow us to identify each Person. Further, we can also see that the Florentine doctrine of the Filioque is not borne out of the illustration, but rather the Orthodox manifestation doctrine.

In Book X, Augustine provides for us an illustration of Love. He explains:

[N]o one can love at all a thing of which he is wholly ignorant, we must carefully consider of what sort is the love of those who are studious, that is, of those who do not already know, but are still desiring to know any branch of learning. (Par 1)

For these reasons they seem to love things unknown who wish to know anything which they do not know, and who, on account of their vehement desire of inquiry, cannot be said to be without love. But how different the case really is, and that nothing at all can be loved which is not known, I think I must have persuaded every one who carefully looks upon truth (Par 4).

To understand love, we must recognize that love exists when what is loved already exists. So, we can apply this to an eternal relationship as it is not dependent upon chronology.

The soul, then, discerns this fitting and serviceable species, and knows it, and loves it. (Par 2)

What does this mean? Piecing together a “love illustration” is tough because Augustine does not give us any one liners in this book with the exception of Book XV, Par 6:

[T]he Trinity, to wit, one that loves [i.e. the Father], and that which is loved [i.e. the Son], and love [i.e. the Spirit].

From all the books, we can discern that the following is key to Augustine’s illustration of Love:

  • Lover=Mind (“this knowledge [of what is loved] is already discerned by thought,” Par 2)=Father
  • Beloved=Knowledge (“the thing being known is loved,” Par 2)=Son
  • Love=Spirit (see Book IX)

We have reason to believe that the eternal causation of love follows the exact same scheme as the eternal causation of knowledge:

[T]he desire of acquiring knowledge [see Book IX] from those things that are without, the nature of which it knows and loves…the mind draws in with itself those things which it has long thought of with love (Book X, Par 7).

And hence these things may be more lucidly set forth, even to men of duller minds, if such topics are treated of as are brought within reach of the mind in time, and happen to it in time; while it remembers [i.e. knows] what it did not remember [i.e. have knowledge of] before, and sees what it did not see before, and loves what it did not love before (Book X, Par 19).

[T]hat holy and inviolable and unchangeable Love, as the spouse of God the Father, existing as it does from Him, but not as an offspring in order to beget the Word by which all things are made. (Book XII, Par 6)

[T]he faith which is even now in our mind [i.e. the Father], as that bodily object was in place, while held, looked at, loved [the beloved object, i.e. the Son], produces a sort of trinity; but that trinity will exist no more, when this faith in the mind, like that bodily object in place, shall no longer exist. (Book XIV, Par 5)

[W]e placed in the memory [i.e. the Mind/Father] the object by which the perception of the percipient was formed [i.e. the Vision, which is Knowledge/Son]; next, the conformation, or as it were the image which is impressed thereby; lastly, love or will as that which combines the two [i.e. the desire to perceive, the Spirit—see Book XI, Par 9]. When the mind, then, beholds itself in conception, it understands and cognizes itself; it begets, therefore, this its own understanding and cognition…these two, the begetter and the begotten, are coupled together by love, as by a third, which is nothing else than will, seeking or holding fast the enjoyment of something. (Book XIV, Par 8) 

[The Mind] only remembered itself, and afterwards, when it began to think of itself, then it understood and loved itself. (Book XIV, Par 9)

[H]ow greatly even a weak and erring mind loves itself, in wrongly loving and pursuing things beneath itself. Now it could not love itself if it were altogether ignorant of itself, i.e. if it did not remember itself, nor understand itself by which image of God within itself it has such power as to be able to cleave to Him whose image it is. (Book XIV, Par 20) 

As we can see, Augustine rejects that causal priorities within the trinity of mind, knowledge, and love imply chronological relationships–as one thing always necessitates the other.  Nevertheless, because Augustine affirms causal priorities in discussing Love, we can piece together the following illustration (#3):


According to Augustine, we can see “unchangeable Love, existing as it does from Him [the Father]” (Book XII, Par 6) and not from the Son, because when “that bodily object was in place, while held, looked at, loved [the beloved object, i.e. the Son], produces a sort of trinity” (Book XIV, Par 5). 

The illustration shows us the literal point where the Beloved is loved by the Father. This “where” is “when”* Love exists.

*Of course, “when” is an anachronistic term when we speak of timeless eternity, so the part of the illustration (“where”) which shows us “when” the Spirit exists is better understood as “how” the Spirit comes into existence. In short, the Spirit exists from the Father when the Father’s Love rests in the Son. Hence, the manifestation of Love in that “point” in “non-space” and “non-time” in eternity past is how the Spirit exists.

Granted, God could not love Himself (i.e. the Holy Spirit be in the Trinity) if knowledge itself (“image of God,” i.e. Son) did not exist (Book XIV, Par 20). One cannot love what one does not know. As we can see in the illustration, the desire must be actualized for the Spirit to exist.

However, this does not mean the Son’s existence causes the Spirit, any more than an Alka-Seltzer tablet dissolves because water exists (it dissolves because it is put into water and contains within itself the potential to react to water.) 

Some may conjecture that the Son must love the Father back for the Spirit to exist. However, this is not what Augustine explicitly describes in any of His illustrations. (It should be noted that in Book XV Augustine acknowledges the beloved loves the lover back, but this is not discussed in the context of love’s causation.) 

However, allow us to make some preliminary comments:

The Spirit is defined by what the Father and Son have in common. So, with the mind and knowledge, what is in common is the desire to know and be known, which comes from the Father. The Mind desires to know, and Knowledge must share this desire or it could not “know” at all. The desire for this Knowledge, in Augustine’s own words, “is the same” as Love.  Causally, the Mind is the origin of desire, which puts into motion the existence of Knowledge and thereby Love. To those who have studied Neoplatonism, there are clear echoes of that system in Augustine’s thought. (i.e. the “One” contemplates itself and in so doing emanates the Mind, World Soul, etc.) 

In other words, when the Mind desires to know or love an object that is (to be) known or loved, it “instantly comes into” (more accurately, was always in) existence. This includes the actual desire/love itself, because it is realized at the “moment” the Mind contemplates the object. The desire of the Mind rests or settles in Knowledge, because the desire is actualized as Love for Knowledge (once realized), and Love for the Mind (once Known). Love “exists” not when the beloved loves back, but simply when the beloved is loved. 

To quote Saint Gregory Palamas:

But that Spirit of the Supreme Word is like an Ineffable Love of the Begetter towards the Ineffably Begotten Word Himself. The beloved Word and the Son of the Father also experiences this Love towards the Begetter, but He does so inasmuch as He possesses this Love as proceeding from the Father together with Him and as resting co-naturally (Consubstantially or Co-Essentially) in Him…in His Coming To Be He belongs to the Father Alone and thus He also Proceeds from Him alone in His manner of Coming To Be. (The One Hundred and Fifty Chapters, Par 36)

As it pertains to eternal causation, “loving back” is not necessary for the scheme Augustine puts forward to work. As long as the Lover’s object of Love receives said Love (i.e. rests in the Beloved), then the procession has taken place.

Love’s only cause is the Father desiring to Love His Beloved. This is because, according to Augustine, the Lover desiring to Love the Beloved produces Love. Due to the Lover/Mind’s aseity, He could have Love within Himself (just like He can have Knowledge) without there being something known or loved. Again, this is according to Augustine–there are logical difficulties with this and Augustine does not put effort into resolving it

Logically speaking, the Son indeed Loves the Father back, but this cannot be the eternal cause/origin of the Spirit’s hypostasis, otherwise the necessary relative difference dissipates. This would mean that the Spirit is love relative to two sources i.e. love can only exist if the lover and beloved both love each other. 

This is obviously false. God loves Israel, a prostitute like Gomer, who does not love Him back. When Israel does love Him back, as a wife ought to such as in Eph 5, we have a participation in a persistent Trinitarian reality–but not in a Trinitarian cause. The logical priorities of love do not require reciprocation for its cause, otherwise God never loved those who do not love Him, which is an absurdity. Hell, an eternity of free willing entities refusing to love God back, could not exist if that were true. 

To the contrary, because love is caused/initiated by someone “loving first” (see 1 John 3:15), the illustration of the Spirit being “Love” exchanged from Father to Son, ultimately resting in the Son, is justified Biblically (Christ’s incarnation and baptism), liturgically (the epiclesis, see Book III, Par 10), sacramentally (specifically, in baptism the Holy Spirit is called down into the waters and henceforth one is baptized into Christ) and in Augustine’s illustrations of the Mind and Love. Reciprocation is irrelevant.

One may respond, “If the Holy Spirit is what the Father and Son have in common, then the Spirit’s cause requires the Father and Son to share the same exact thing.”

This is incorrect for two reasons. 

First, Augustine will specify in Book XV that the relationships, as they pertain to Father/Spirit and Son/Spirit, are not exactly the same. The Spirit proceeds principally from the Father and communitively from (lit. “of the community”) the Son. The Orthodox reading of this is that principle procession is causal while communitive pertains to what is shared from the Father to the Son. This would be the desire from the Father that is actualized upon the Holy Spirit resting in the Son. After all, this is what Augustine’s illustrations literally show.

So, if the Lover’s Love rests in the Beloved, the Son loving the Father back is the default because Love is of each Person’s essence—“God is Love.” Only relative differences in how each Person is Love tell us about how the Spirit is caused. And these differences are obvious: One is the Lover, one is the Beloved, and the other is Love. 

While Roman Catholics can legitimately argue “communiter” in Latin refers to a joint action, in light of the illustration, I find it is most consistent interpretation is that what is joint is the bestowing of Love. After all, at least two parties are required for this to work–a sender and a receiver. You need a Lover and a Beloved.

However, this cannot be confused as two ingredients needed for a cause, because the Lover is the cause of Love between Himself and the Beloved. We will cover this when we discuss Book XV. 

Second, the Father and Son are holy. The Father is the cause of the Son’s holiness. The Holy Spirit, being He is what the Father and Son have in common (according to Augustine), is named according to the holiness of each Person—but the way each Person is holy is relatively different. The Father is the source of holiness and the Son receives it from the Father through being begotten according to the Holy desire of the Father, which is the Spirit. Hence, the Spirit is Holy because the Father has a Holy desire to beget a Son and when this occurs, the desire comes into being.

To make it where the Father and the Son jointly cause the Spirit, the Spirit would merely be bestowed the holiness of two Persons equally in the same way, which annihilates the relative differences that Augustine draws between each Person. This is how we can immediately identify that such an interpretation of Augustine is not properly Augustinian.

Understanding this system is key. If the Father has a desire to love, know, or as we shall see in the next article, have “vision” and this desire is “the same” as the Holy Spirit–then the cause of the Spirit is literally the actualization of the Father’s desire. There are clearly delineated relative differences in such a system between the Father, Son, and Spirit. They share the same essential property, but in relationally/relatively different ways.

Pneumotologically, when the Mind desires to Know, the Lover desires to Love the Beloved, or the Mind desires Vision, the Spirit’s existence is caused by the desire of the Father directed towards the Son. 

Granted, the Spirit’s existence must be contingent upon the Son’s. The object of desire to be actualized must exist for the desire to be actualized. This much is obvious.

But, according to Augustine, the Father’s eternal paternity is likewise contingent upon the Son existing (cf Book VII, Par 6). This does not make the Son the cause of the Father!

A necessary contingency for existence is different from a cause. However, to proceed communitively requires that the Son exist as a necessary contingency. We can begin to see that Augustine uses the Filioque to communicate something true–but its not what later Roman Catholic interpreters think it is. It is, ironically, what Saint Gregory Palamas understood Augustine to mean.  


One need look no further than the illustration of love and see that the desire to Love is Love and that there is a sense where this precedes the Beloved if we spoke with the flawed concepts of time. But, because Love requires an Object, we know that this is not (chronologically) the case. 

If we are honest about what love is, Augustine can never mean what Florence says, inasmuch he understands “one principle” of the Father and Son as denoting the manifestation, through the “intermediary” (more like passive receiving) of the Son, who the Spirit proceeds to as an endpoint. Love does not have two causes, or principles, working together to be a single cause—as Florence requires us to believe as it explicitly states that the word principle means cause. 

This becomes increasingly clear when we look at Augustine’s final illustration in the next article.

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