Saturday 27 September 2014 – Cynthia Bourgeault Lake Cowichan Wisdom School

In the west substance theology has been the classic way the Trinity has been approached.

The first substance theology asks is “Who are the Persons?” and then “How do they interact?”

Substance theology functions in the mind realm which perceives by differentiation. What determines identity is what makes it different from the other. For the mind to be “original” is to be not like anything else. Actually the root of “original” is the same as origin. So to be “original” is to be in alignment with what is, to be from “origin”.

The Medieval schematic for the Trinity:

the Father is God
the Son is God
the Spirit is God

the Father is not the Spirit
the Spirit is not the Son
the Son is not the Father

The problem in the Trinity for the Medieval mind is – How do you sustain the distinction of substance of identity through differentiation while remaining one?

Part of the problem with this old schematic is that the world is totally missing. It is just not necessary to the diagram.

The other problem with this Medieval vision of the Trinity is that there is no sense of motion or dynamic community.

The question for our day is – how do we release the stranglehold of substance theology? How do we find a way within the Trinity to start talking about process and relationship?

We need to see the Trinity as pure relationality; but this requires a different kind of mind than we have been accustomed to using. We need to get through the filter of mind and begin to “see” with more of ourselves.

Three theologians who will help us move beyond the stranglehold of substance theology:

Catherine LaCugna (d. 1997) – God For Us: The Trinity In Christian Life 2012.

LaCugna traces the “defeat of the doctrine of the Trinity.” She ponders the economy of God “oikonomia“. We must include in our thinking of the Trinity the on-going work of redemption and revelation in this world.

How has God made known to us his hidden purpose? How are all things brought into unity in Christ?

The west got caught up in obsessive speculation about the nature and relationship of the divine Persons. Augustine – “the Spirit is the love between the Father and the Son.” This essentially wraps the whole thing up inside itself. It neither presumes nor requires a world out there. It postulates the utter self-sufficiency of God without any intrinsic necessity for creation.

We need to think about process. We must not freeze the Trinity. The Trinity always involves movement.

Raimon Panikkar (d. 2010)

Panikkar taught us to think that every human experience is contained in every religious tradition. There are a finite number of experiences humans undergo in relationship to the divine. When you start from experience you discover commonality where previously you have only been able to see difference. When you start from doctrine and the need for agreement, you end up with disagreement.

The Trinity accurately represents the mind of Christ and allows us to enter into that doctrine. The mind of Christ is a cosmotheandric mind (world – God- man = three states in which consciousness can find itself).

There is a necessary and inevitable inter-circulation between the states. There is inter-abiding love. Everything is in everything else. Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” There is affinity with the divine, yet there is at the same time, separation. We all have a point within us in which we understand that there is a place where I stop and God begins. But we also know there is a place in our experience where we need to fall on our knees and declare “Lord have mercy.”

There is constant circulation between form and formlessness in every human being. I am one with Sour in so far as I act as source making everything I receive flow out again. I am one with Source to the extent that I act as source.

The Trinity conveys the dynamic inter-abiding of states that are bound together in a rhythm of being that allows things to flow.

The love between the Father and the Son must flow out into the world. It cannot be a curved love that falls back on itself. It is the Spirit that keeps the Trinity open. Father — Son is closed. We need three terms in order to open it up.

Beatrice BruteauGod’s Ecstasy: The Creation of a Self-Creating World, 1997.

Process and Motion are necessary to our template.

The Trinity is the symbol of symbiotic unity. Unity and differentiation are held in one. This is the very way evolution lurches forward. Autonomy is let go at one level and a massively enhanced function emerges at another level.

Agape love requires three not just two terms. Erotic love only requires two. In agape love you so interiorize the Beloved that you step forward with the Beloved living within you.

It is not enough just to love your Beloved. It is the nature of maturing love for that love to move within you so that you see the world as the Beloved sees the world. We are being invited into an I—I relationship.

The I lives in me as my deepest I, so that I flow out because that one has fused within me and the love that is the I impels me out into the world.

The three God Persons who are in relationship in the Trinity exemplify the I—I relationship.

Once you get Threeness, you have the self-projective capacity that has to move out into manifestation.

Threefoldness is by nature ecstatic. It goes out from itself. Three breaks the symmetry of two. The moment you have three-foldness, you are going to have on-going manifestation.