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 part of Book 15.

Augustine begins reviewing everything we have learned so far. We will only concern ourselves with additional insights that come up along the way. For example:

[W]e behold both Him as it were speaking, and His Word, i.e. the Father and the Son; and then, proceeding thence, the love common to both, namely, the Holy Spirit? These trinities that pertain to our senses or to our mind, do we rather see than believe them, but rather believe than see that God is a trinity? (Par 10)

Someone reading out of context zeros in of the Spirit proceeding from “the Father and the Son,” but as we saw earlier, what is being invoked is the concept that the Spirit is what the Father and Son have in common. Love is common to both, but it comes from the Lover to the Beloved. So, the origin or cause is the Lover deigning to Love. Love only proceeds as from both inasmuch as the Lover’s Love rests in the Beloved, and the Beloved authentically is of the same essence of the Lover and therefore Loves back. The Beloved is clearly not the origin of the Love.

This parsing of Lover, Beloved, and Love is not out of context. Paragraphs before, Augustine invoked this order of priorities: “[T]o discern the Trinity, to wit, one that loves, and that which is loved, and love.” (Book XV, Par 5)

On the same note, Augustine appears to take for granted that the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, provided we understand the Father is properly Wisdom, and the Son is Wisdom begotten from Wisdom:

For if therein the Son alone understands both for Himself and for the Father and for the Holy Spirit, we have returned to the old absurdity, that the Father is not wise from Himself, but from the Son, and that Wisdom has not begotten Wisdom, but that the Father is said to be wise by that wisdom which He begot…[T]he Holy Spirit also is wisdom proceeding from Wisdom [contextually, the Father], He too has not the Father for a memory, and the Son for an understanding, and Himself for love: for He [the Spirit] would not be Wisdom if another remembered for Him, and yet another understood for Him, and He only loved for Himself; but Himself has all three things, and has them in such way that they are Himself. But that He [the Spirit] is so [Love] comes to Him [the Sprit] thence [from], whence [where] He [the Spirit] proceeds [the Father]. (Par 12)

Par 12 important (much like Par 50, as we shall see,) because Augustine affirms that his illustrations explain his Pneumotological doctrine. All of his examples express “all three things,” that being, the origin of Knowledge, the origin of Love, and the origin of Vision. Hence, we cannot understand the illustrations from the previous two articles any other way than that they are all supposed to be portraying the same relational differences between the Persons. We must henceforward understand all his comments as consistent with the said illustrations.

All three illustrations show how from the Father a desire comes forth pertaining to the Son, and “whence” the desire “proceeds” is from the Father. This desire is the Holy Spirit:

…and the same desire [of the Father] which led us to long for the knowing of the thing [the Son], becomes the love [the Spirit] of the thing when known. (Book IX, Par 18)

Therefore, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father as it pertains to His origins.

Augustine later describes how everything properly belongs to the Father in Par 22, because the Persons’ relationally have certain properties because they partake in the Father’s essence:

For He [the Father] was not ignorant of what He was about to create; therefore He created because He knew; He did not know because He created…the knowledge of God is itself also His wisdom, and His wisdom is itself His essence or substance. Because in the marvellous simplicity of that nature, it is not one thing to be wise and another to be, but to be wise is to be…Therefore, as our knowledge is unlike that knowledge of God, so is our word also, which is born from our knowledge, unlike that Word of God which is born from the essence of the Father. And this is as if I should say, born from the Father’s knowledge, from the Father’s wisdom; or still more exactly, from the Father who is knowledge, from the Father who is wisdom. 

The preceding is equivalent to the Father not being ignorant of what He loved “before” He loved the Beloved. These concepts are important, because they show that the Father is the origin of divine essence and He properly had what He begot and proceeded in His own mind “before” (granted, there is chronologically no “before”) He did this. Hence, the origin of Love is the intent of the Father, but this intent is eternally expressed (i.e. manifested) so the Beloved is eternal and always was. Therefore, the cause/principle/origin of Love is the Father alone. Let’s continue onto a difficult passage, as on the surface it appears Filioquist:

[T]he Holy Spirit, according to the Holy Scriptures, is neither of the Father alone, nor of the Son alone, but of both; and so intimates to us a mutual love, wherewith the Father and the Son reciprocally love one another… The Scriptures, accordingly, have not said, The Holy Spirit is Love. If they had said so, they would have done away with no small part of this inquiry. But they have said, God is love; so that it is uncertain and remains to be inquired whether God the Father is love, or God the Son, or God the Holy Ghost, or the Trinity itself which is God…it is said thus, God is love, as it is said, God is a Spirit. And he who does not discern this, must ask understanding from the Lord, not an explanation from us; for we cannot say anything more clearly. (Par 27)

Roman Catholics may emphasize the first sentence, invoking mutual love, over against everything else Augustine has written upon to this point. They will argue that mutual love causes the Spirit, even though the preceding passage does not say this. In fact, such interpreters forget that according to Augustine the Spirit is not “from” the Son but rather “the Father is the beginning (principium) of the whole divinity” (Book IV, Par 29) and that the Spirit comes from the “Mind [i.e Father] alone” (lit. solius animi in Book XI, Par 2). 

So, how is the Holy Spirit “of both” the Father and Son, but not “from” the Son? How is He “of both” the Father and Son” but “alone” from the Father?

This poses Roman Catholic interpreters with unsavory options: Augustine either contradicts himself and uses illustrations to no avail that mean absolutely nothing—or, they are not interpreting Augustine correctly. While the first two options are theoretically possible, the third is most desirable provided we have a good, alternate explanations of what Augustine means in these Filioquist passages. We should always presume that we are interpreting something wrong before we accuse the saint of contradiction.

Do we have a reasonable explanation for Book XV, Par 27 which does not contradict Book IV, Par 29 and Book XI, Par 2? I believe we do.

Par 27 is not a discussion of causation. We already know from Book IV that the Spirit is of the Father and Son, but (according to Augustine himself) “of” does not mean “from.” “Of” pertains to the Spirit sharing the essence of both. We have already established earlier that the Spirit is what the Father and Son have in common. This is the communitive procession, which is what is shared, or communicated, from Father to Son. 

Definitionally, according to Augustine, the Spirit is the sharing of divine essence which takes place upon the generation of the Son from the Father. That is, the Father desires the Son to be Holy, the Son is Holy, so the Spirit is Holy upon the generation of the Son. The Father is spirit according to essence, the Son is spirit likewise, so the Spirit is therefore Spirit upon the generation of the Son. The Spirit is whatever God is because the Spirit shares in the one essence of God entirely, which is communicated from the Father to the Son by His desire that the Son share everything He has. This is what Augustine’s illustrations portray to us. 

As one can see, if we go on to read the Par 28, Augustine invokes his illustrations in order to explain himself:

[T]he Father should be the memory of all three, and the Son the understanding of all three, and the Holy Spirit the love of all three…all and each have all three each in His own nature. Nor that these things should differ in them, as in us memory is one thing, understanding another, love or charity another, but should be some one thing that is equivalent to all, as wisdom itself; and should be so contained in the nature of each, as that He who has it is that which He has, as being an unchangeable and simple substance. (Par 28)

As said previously, all three illustrations are intended to demonstrate the same exact thing. That is, the Spirit is whatever God is because the Spirit shares in the one essence of God entirely, which is communicated from the Father to the Son by His desire that the Son share everything He has. Augustine continues:

I know not why both the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit should not be called Love, and all together one love, just as both the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit is called Wisdom, and all together not three, but one wisdom. For so also both the Father is God, and the Son God, and the Holy Ghost God, and all three together one God (Par 28).

Augustine warns us not to read too much into the fact that the Son is called Wisdom, but all three Persons are properly Wisdom. By this logic, we are probably being warned not to press too hard when criticizing Augustine for ascribing “Love” to the Spirit, when all three Persons are in fact Love. As best Augustine can tell, the differences in names are meant to communicate relative, but not essential/substantial, differences.

The difference between relationship and essence/substance is important. Damascene stated, “[W]e in no wise understand” the nature of the difference “between generation and procession” (Exposition, Book I, Chap 8). This is because we can grasp what the Persons share, but not fully grasp how they are relationally different when functionally they are identical due to essence. Using the lens of Augustine, only perceived relational differences allow us to infer the differences between generation and procession—one which apparently the Apostles had left no tradition of. 

And so, I think Augustine and Damascene are referring to the same thing, though Augustine’s thought experiments provide us with a logic to venture an answer that both saints admit is beyond human understanding. The probable answer, using Augustine’s logic, is that each Name is a simile (the “God is” statements pertaining to Light, Love, Spirit, etcetera) pertaining to essence. Other names for God pertain to relationship—Father, Son, and even Holy Spirit as the joining of what Father and Son share–are relational names that cannot be interchanged. 

The names based on similes are true of each Person, because of their shared essence. So, the Trinity is “El Shaddai,” “El,” “El Alyon,” and other generic appellations for God. However, the preceding is also true of terms like “Spirit,” “Life,” “Light,” and “Love” if we are not referring to relational differences. When words like the preceding and apply the terms to how they are manifested in the life of the Godhead, the relational differences determine name assignment. 

For example, the Lover loves the Beloved, so the shared Spiritual Love must pertain to the Spirit alone. The key word is “shared.” Each contain love, but the way it is expressed interpersonally differs—one from expressing, the other from receiving, and the last the manifestation of the expression between the two. 

This appears to be a principle similar to a concept invoked by the Damascene’s where “all the qualities the Father has are the Son’s, save that the Father is unbegotten , and this exception involves no difference in essence nor dignity, but only a different mode of coming into existence” (Exposition, Book I, Chap 8). Damascene points this out to prove that “the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father” in a way that “is not generative in character but processional,…a different mode of existence, alike incomprehensible and unknown, just as is the generation of the Son” (Ibid.). 

So, the idea is that each Person shares everything other than their means of origination, as this is the only relational difference there is between the Persons. 

It plays out as follows: The Father is the Father in that there is no means of origination, the Son in that He is begotten of the Father, and the Spirit in that He proceeds from the Father. 

The reason we know the preceding is the right “key” to understand Augustine, because we can apply his logic to invent new names that work. 

All Persons can be called “Light” for “God is Light.” However, if we were to call Christ “Light of Light,” this can double as a name because it is relationally true as it pertains to His generation. So, the Father can be aptly called “Light,” the Son “Light of Light,” and the Spirit “Radiance from Light” (Ibid., c.f. Council of Blachernae, Anathema 4). Christ, the perfect “Icon of the invisible God” the Father (Col 1:15) and “reflection* of God’s glory” (Heb 1:3) is Light because He receives Light and reflects it from the Father. The Holy Spirit is the radiance that comes from Light itself—which is from the Father. Radiating from a reflection is not the origin of radiance. Radiance comes from Light, which is from the Father, and it continues to radiate when it reflects from the Son. Being that light was understood to be instantaneous when these metaphors were written, it was nonsensical to assert that the Holy Spirit did not radiate from both at the same time, even though the Father was His origin. 

*I recommend readers to consult a lexicon if they want to be extremely critical of words employed in translation. I believe the choices here are legitimate and conceptually make sense with Augustine, Blachernae, and etcetera. 

We must be careful not to take these metaphors too literally. For example, Jesus is a reflection according to Heb 1:3, but He also has “all the fullness of the Deity” (Col 2:9). Obviously, a reflection of the sun’s light is not literally all the light of the sun, so we must understand Heb 1:3 as relational, and not literal. 

Thanks to the preceding, we can answer our conundrum from an earlier article where it appeared that Augustine contradicted both the Scriptures and his own teacher Ambrose when he said that “the Spirit is not the Life” in Tractate 99. We can now see he was speaking relationally. The Father is Life, the Son is Life of Life, and the Spirit is “not the Life” (i.e. the Father), but rather “gives Life” from the Father (John 6:63 and 2 Cor 3:6; cf Job 33:4, Rom 8:2-10) to the Son. This action can only occur upon “resting” in the Life of Life. For, no one can live apart from the Life (i.e. participation in the grace) of God and so it follows Life does not exist within the Godhead without it both being given and then actualized among the receiving party. Hence, both the Life and Life of Life are necessary, but the Life of Life relationally needs the One who “gives Life,” the Spirit. This is the conncection between the eternal and temporal processions.

Other saints predate Augustine in understanding that the relation between names connote interpersonal Trinitatian differences. In Saint Gregory of Nyssa’s On the Holy Spirit, Against the Macedonians, he provides for us a naming scheme revolving around God being “Power:”

For neither did the Universal God make the universe through the Son, as needing any help, nor does the Only-begotten God work all things by the Holy Spirit, as having a power that comes short of His design; but the fountain of power is the Father, and the power of the Father is the Son, and the spirit of that power is the Holy Spirit; and Creation entirely, in all its visible and spiritual extent, is the finished work of that Divine power. And seeing that no toil can be thought of in the composition of anything connected with the Divine Being (for performance being bound to the moment of willing, the Plan at once becomes a Reality), we should be justified in calling all that Nature which came into existence by creation a movement of Will, an impulse of Design, a transmission of Power, beginning from the Father, advancing through the Son, and completed in the Holy Spirit. (Par 13)

Likewise, Saint Gregory Nanzianzus’ Oration 23 predates Augustine in understanding what the internal logic of naming the Persons of God. Additionally, he literally invokes the Mind, Love (i.e. “spirit”]), Knowledge (i.e. “word”) schema decades before Augustine:

Our minds and human condition are such that a knowledge of the relationship and disposition of these members with regard to one another is reserved for the Holy Trinity itself alone and those purified souls to whom the Trinity may make revelation either now or in the future. We, on the other hand, may know the nature of divinity is one and the same, characterized by lack of source, generation, and procession (these correspond to mind, word, and spirit in humans, at least insofar as one can compare spiritual things perceptible and things that are very great with those that are small, for no comparison ever represent the true picture exactly); a nature that is in internal agreement with itself [i.e. God] is ever the same, ever perfect, without quality or quantity, independent of time, uncreated, incomprehensible, never self-deficient nor ever so to be, lives [the Son and Spirit**] and life [the Father*], lights [the Son and Spirit**] and light [the Father*], goods[**] and good [*], glories [**] and glory [*], true [the Father], the truth [the Son cf John 14:6], and the Spirit of truth [the Spirit], holies [**] and holiness itself [*]; each one God, if contemplated separately, because the mind can divide the indivisible; the three God, if contemplated collectively, because their activity and nature are the same…This is the meaning of our great mystery, this, our faith and rebirth in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and in our common name, our rejection of godlessness and our confession of the Godhead. This is the meaning of our common name. (Par 11-12)

Similar to the preceding, Augustine’s metaphors specifically require that the Spirit’s name necessarily pertains to the shared divine properties between Father and Son in reference to the Son’s generation. It always presumes the Father as cause. Hence, Mind>Love>Knowledge; Lover>Love>Beloved; Mind>Soul>Vision. We can use these names, because they maintain the integrity of the causal relationship they imply exists.

Hence, using the preceding key, as long as we always presuppose the Father as the very source of “X” (such as Light or Love in “God is X” statements the Scriptures provude,) we can make reasonable names. Hence, one must follow the Orthodox Pneumatology for Augustine’s naming system to work. If we try to work with two principles being one principle/cause, as Florence presumes upon, the naming system no longer works. 

Following Florence, we would get absurd names for the Spirit such as “Radiance from the Light of Light and Light,” as if Light can both originate from a reflection and its source. The source alone is the origin of radiance. Let’s try Love: “Love from Lover’s love of Beloved and from Beloved’s love of Lover.” In the name itself, we can accurately infer that it’s inaccurate as the origin and cause of love—Lover. Love should exist from the Lover to the Beloved. Reciprocation does not pertain to origin, because to love back requires Love to already exist. 

How about Saint Gregory of Nyssa’s “the fountain of power is the Father, and the power of the Father is the Son, and the spirit of that power is the Holy Spirit?” For Florence to be true, the Spirit can be named “the Spirit from the fountain of power and the power of the Father,” which is a self-refuting statement, as we are literally stating the Spirit comes from the Father twice. For Florence to work, we would need to have the spirit of that power caused by the power that came from the fountain of power, implying the power itself was not spiritual until it proceeded from both the fountain and the additional power of the Son–which is absurd. We know this is absurd, because the power from the fountain is Spiritual. God is Spirit. Florence requires that we fundamentally misunderstand what God’s essence even is.

Let’s try Saint Gregory Nanzianzus’ “the true, the truth, and the Spirit of truth.” Does the Spiritual aspect of truth come from both truth and what’s true? Of course not! Otherwise, the “Spirit of the truth” would be called something else, that being the “Spirit from trueness and truth.” Correct, Orthodox, naming presumes 1. The Father as the Source of Truth being He is what is True and 2. The difference between the Truth and the Spirit of truth is dictated by the exact same interpersonal relationships that Augustine perceived. The Truth is begotten from what is True and the Holy Spirit is what the True and Truth share, the very essence of veracity. That’s why He can be called both the Spirit of Truth and Spirit of the True, but not Spirit from Truth.

As we can see, the Florentine Filioque (where the Father and Son are two principles which combine to form a single principle) does not allow us to partake in the Augustinian naming scheme (nor the naming scheme of other saints for what it is worth). Therefore, Florence is not actually Augustinian at all and misappropriates Pneumatological verbiage of On the Trinity.

To sum up the preceding into something more practical, Augustine’s speculation is that the Spirit’s procession (when it pertains to both Father and Son) is His coming into existence because the Father expresses a desire towards the Son. So, the Father is the cause, but the Spirit is manifested/communicated through His love for the Son, or in other words, “communicated through the Son” according to the Greeks or “and the Son” according to Augustine.

The above speculation is proved to be correct, because Augustine in the next paragraph concludes that the relation in names pertains to relational differences’ roles in hypostatic causation:

[I]t is not to no purpose that in this Trinity the Son and none other is called the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit and none other the Gift of God, and God the Father alone is He from whom the Word is born, and from whom the Holy Spirit principally proceeds (Par 29).

We can see that Augustine uses the word “principally” to speak of the Spirit’s procession from the Father. If we employ the logic of the entire book, the meaning of principally is not that the Spirit proceeds first from the Father and then from the Son, making both a single principle or cause as Florence states—but rather that the Father is literally the principle of the Spirit’s causation and the Son is secondary in that the Spirit shares in the Son’s essence and He exists because of the Father’s relationship with the Son. In less words, the Spirit shares the Father and Son’s essence and exists because He is the manifestation, in essence, of the relationship between those two Persons. 

For the sake of space, we will conclude our treatment of Book XV in the next article.

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