In an apologetic work, Talks of a Skeptic and a Believer on the Orthodoxy of the Eastern Church, Saint Filaret of Moscow anticipated my interpretation of Augustine’s Pneumatology in On the Trinity. He would be similar to Saints Gregory Palamas and Gennnadios Scholarios, both of which realized that the psychological trinities that Augustine posed can only be interpreted as teaching the single procession of the Spirit from the Father alone. I will post the whole passage as follows. (Special thanks to this Twitter thread.)

If one is really lazy and does not want to actually understand precisely the context of Filaret’s comments, just scroll down to the emboldened text.


S[keptic]. — I have been told that Blessed Augustine explains ingeniously the mystery of the Holy Trinity, by comparing the hypostases of the Divinity to the faculties of the human soul. Don’t you know where in his works he talks about it?

C [i.e. “the Believer”]. — This passage is found in Book XV Of the Trinity (de Trinitate), chap. 27. I will translate these words for you. At the end of his work, Augustine addresses his soul and says:

“You have seen many true things, not with those eyes which perceive colored objects, but with the eyes which the prophet asked, saying: ‘Let my eyes look to justice.’ (Ps. xvi, 2.)

You have seen many true things, and you have distinguished them from the light in which you have seen them. Lift up your eyes to the very light and fix them on it if you can. Because thus you will see what is the distance which is between the birth of the word of God and the procession of the Spirit of God; this is why the only-begotten Son did not say that the Holy Spirit is born of the Father (otherwise the Holy Spirit would be his brother), but that he proceeds from the Father. Thus, because there is a consubstantial communion between the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of both, and not (let it not happen!) the Son of both. But you cannot fix your gaze on this mystery, for the contemplate in a clear and distinct manner; I know, you can’t. I tell the truth; I say to myself: I know what is beyond my reach. However, the divine light makes you see in yourself three things in which you can recognize the image of the Most Holy Trinity, of this Trinity which you cannot yet contemplate with fixed eyes. It shows you that a true word is born in you from your science, as soon as it is there; that is to say, we speak within ourselves what we know, although we utter and have in thought no sound which has any meaning in the language of any people; but our thought (cogitatio) is formed from what we know, and it is, in the mind of him who thinks, the most faithful image of knowledge (cognitio) that was in memory; and these two things, which are like a father and his son, are united to each other by a third thing, by will or love (dilectio), although this will also proceeds from knowledge (cognitio), because no one wants what he does not know at all and of which he knows nothing; but the will is not the image of knowledge (cognitio). Thus these faculties of the soul, easy to understand, make us glimpse that there is some difference (distantia) between birth and procession; because to contemplate by thought is not the same as to desire or to love (perfrui) by will, as everyone can see and distinguish for himself.” 

These are the very words of Blessed Augustine . Let us take from them the principal ideas which correspond reciprocally, and put them one vis-à-vis the other.

Knowledge or knowledge is the Father.

The word or the thought is the Son.

The will or love is the Holy Spirit.

Will comes from knowledge.

The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father.

S. — But why not also say that the will comes from knowledge and thought?

C. — You wanted to know how Augustine explains the mystery of the procession of the Holy Spirit, and I showed it to you. But it’s another question why he explains it this way and not another. I do not undertake to be his interpreter in a case where he seeks to explain what is inexplicable and incomprehensible.

S. — He explains a supernatural and incomprehensible object by a natural and comprehensible thing.

C. — But I don’t know if the natural and understandable thing he has chosen really corresponds to the supernatural and incomprehensible thing he sets out to explain. He claims that the hypostasis of the Holy Spirit is in God what will or love is in man. But I find in the word of God that love is not the attribute of a single person of the Trinity, but of the divine nature in general, as the holy apostle John said: “God is love”; I see that love is attributed in many places to God the Father; that the Son of God himself, in explaining to the apostles the nature of the Holy Spirit, calls him “the Spirit of truth ,” and as to particular gifts, the Holy Spirit is called “the Spirit of wisdom and intelligence, the Spirit of counsel and of strength, the Spirit of knowledge, of godliness and of the fear of the Lord.”

S. — Let us leave this analogy between the hypostasis of the Holy Spirit and the will or love: it is only a very personal supposition of Blessed Augustine. In any case, why not say that love comes from knowledge and thought?

C. — It seems to me that it is not at all difficult to explain. Let us examine knowledge, thought and love in a given case. For example, do you know your father?…

S. — Without doubt.

C.—Are you thinking of him?


C.—Do you like him?

S. — No one could doubt it.

C.—Well, do you love your father because you think of him, or do you think of him because you love him?

S.—I don’t know what to say: I love my father because I think of him as a father, and I think of him because I love him.

C. — That’s enough. So you cannot positively say that your love for your father comes from thought. But tell me, do you love your father even when you don’t think of him?

S.—I think my heart loves him even when I don’t think of him positively.

C. — But if you had no knowledge of your father, as a father?…

S. — Then I wouldn’t have any love for him ; because, as Blessed Augustine said again, “no one wants or loves what he does not know at all and of which he knows nothing.”

C. — Therefore, can you not admit without any doubt that love comes from knowledge?

S. — I admit it without the slightest hesitation.

C. — Do you not see then that Blessed Augustine is right in maintaining, as a clear and just thing, that, just as the will proceeds from knowledge, so the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father?

S. — I see now that this explanation is entirely in conformity with the doctrine of the Eastern Church. However, I had been told about it in a completely different way.

C. — I know why we did it! If you are not afraid of fatigue, you can yourself examine which of me and of the other interpreters have most faithfully rendered the thoughts of Blessed Augustine. I have quoted his words to you as they are found in almost all the manuscripts, and particularly in the older ones; the others have communicated them to you from the editions printed by the partisans of the Western Church.

C. — In the writings of Blessed Augustine alone, Adam Zernicaw and Theophane Procopowiez have found more than fifty passages where the dogma of the procession of the Holy Spirit is professed as the Eastern Church teaches it to this day. Among these passages there are some whose authenticity is [not?] doubted by anyone. Such is, for example, the following passage from the book Contra sermonem Arianorum, ch. 23 [the following appears to be a misquotation of the latter part of the first paragraph in the chapter, though it is possible there are differences in the Latin manuscript tradition not acknowledged in PL 42:700].

“Let no one think that the Holy Spirit is from Him (that is, from the Son), just as He (the Son) is from the Father; on the contrary, both are of the Father, this one is born, that one proceeds; but these two acts are, no doubt, very difficult to distinguish in the depth of this (divine) nature.”

Among the great number of analogous testimonies which are met with among the writers of the East and of the West, I will cite for you that of Pope Damasus and of the whole Council of Rome. The authenticity of this testimony cannot be called into doubt, for Augustine and Theodoret, the first in Africa, the last in Asia, reported it, one in Latin, the other in Greek, in the same way and almost at the same time, and certainly without copying each other. At the Council of Rome, Pope Damasus, in concert with several bishops, issued a profession of faith, in which are found, among others, these words quoted by Augustine and Theodoret:

“If anyone does not say that the Holy Spirit is really and truly of the Father, as the Son is of the substance of God and is himself God, the word of God, let him be anathema!”