Summary Against Modern Thought: Understanding The Trinity II

Summary Against Modern Thought: Understanding The Trinity II

Previous post.

Chapter 11 is too much to do in one go. I’m splitting it up in two parts.


1 As starting point for this intention, one must take this: Following a diversity of natures, one finds a diverse manner of emanation in things, and, the higher a nature is, the more intimate to the nature is that which flows from it.

2 For, in all things, inanimate bodies have the lowest place. There can be no emanations in these except by the action of some one upon another one. For this is the way in which fire is generated by fire, when an extraneous body is changed by the fire and is brought to the quality and species of fire.

3 Among animate bodies the next place is held by the plants, and in these the emanation does proceed somewhat from what is within: to the extent, namely, that the internal humor of the plant is converted into seed and that the seed committed to the soil grows into a plant. Here, then, one has already found the first grade of life, for living things are those which move themselves to action, but those which can move only things external to them are entirely devoid of life. And in plants this is the mark of life: that which is within, them moves toward some form.

The life of plants is nevertheless imperfect; this is because, although the emanation in plants proceeds from what is within, what comes forth little by little in the emanation is, at the end, found to be entirely external. For the humor first emerging from the tree becomes a blossom, and at length a fruit distinct from the tree’s bark, yet still fastened to it. But, when the fruit is perfected, it is separated from the tree altogether; it falls to the ground and its seeding power produces another plant. If one also considers this carefully, he will see that originally this emanation comes from what is external, for the internal humor of the tree is taken through the roots from the soil from which the plant receives nourishment.

4 Beyond the life of plants one finds a higher grade of life: that of the sensitive soul. Its emanation may have an external beginning, but has an internal termination, and, the more fully the emanation proceeds, the more it reaches what is within. For the exterior sensible impresses its form on the exterior senses; from these it proceeds to the imagination and, further, to the storehouse of the memory. Nevertheless, in each step of this emanation the principle and the term refer to different things; no sensitive power reflects upon itself. This grade of life, then, is higher than the life of plants—higher to the extent that its operation takes place within the principles which are within; it is, nevertheless, not an entirely perfect life, since the emanation is always from some first to some second.

Notes The animal: “exterior sensible impresses its form on the exterior senses; from these it proceeds to the imagination and, further, to the storehouse of the memory.”

5 That, then, is the supreme and perfect grade of life which is in the intellect, for the intellect reflects upon itself and the intellect can understand itself. But even in the intellectual life one finds diverse grades. For the human intellect, although it can know itself, does indeed take the first beginning of its knowledge from without, because it cannot understand without a phantasm, as is clear from the things said before.

There is, therefore, a more perfect intellectual life in the angels. In them the intellect does not proceed to self-knowledge from anything exterior, but knows itself through itself. Nonetheless, it is not the ultimate perfection to which their life belongs. The reason is this: Although the intention understood is entirely intrinsic to them, the very intention understood is not their substance, for in them understanding is not identified with being (as is clear from the foregoing). Therefore, the ultimate perfection of life belongs to God, in whom understanding is not other than being, as has been shown; accordingly, the intention understood in God must be the divine essence itself.

Notes This seems to imply angels cannot learn in time; nevertheless, that is a subject for a different day.

6 Now, I mean by the “intention understood” what the intellect conceives in itself of the thing understood. To be sure, in us this is neither the thing which is understood nor is it the very substance of the intellect. But it is a certain likeness of the thing understood conceived in the intellect, and which the exterior words signify. So, the intention itself is named the “interior word” which is signified by the exterior word.

Indeed, that the intention aforesaid is not within us the thing understood is clear from this: It is one thing to understand a thing, and another to understand the intention itself, yet the intellect does so when it reflects on its own work; accordingly, some sciences are about things, and others are about intentions understood. Now, that the intention understood is not the very intellect within us is clear from this: The act of being of the intention understood consists in its very being understood; the being of our intellect does not so consist; its being is not its act of understanding.

7 Since in God, therefore, being and understanding are identical, the intention understood in Him is His very intellect. And because understanding in Him is the thing understood (for by understanding Himself He understands all other things, as was shown in Book I), it follows that in God, because He understands Himself, the intellect, the thing understood, and the intention understood are all identical.

8 From these considerations, then, we can somehow conceive how divine generation is to be taken. For, it is clearly impossible that divine generation is to be taken as one finds generation in inanimate things wherein the generating thing impresses its species on an exterior matter.

For, as the faith sets down, the Son begotten by the Father must have true deity and be true God. But deity is not a form inhering in matter, nor is God a form existing out of matter, as was proved in Book I. In the same way, divine generation cannot be taken in the mode of the generation one finds in plants, and even in animals which have nutritive and generative powers in common with plants. For something which was in the plant or the animal is separated from it for the generation of one like it in species, and this, at the term of generation, is entirely outside the generator.

But, since God is indivisible, nothing can be separated from Him. The very Son begotten by the Father is not outside the Father, but in Him (which is clear from the authorities cited above). Neither can one understand divine generation in the manner of emanation found in the sensitive soul. For, God does not receive from something exterior so as to able to influence some second thing, He would not then be the primary agent. Nor are the operations of the sensitive soul completed without bodily instruments. But, God is manifestly incorporeal. We are, therefore, left to understand the divine generation according to an intellectual emanation.

Notes This is a very nice build up, especially when you hear inklings even from scientists on how everything is “really” information. Ignore that, and pay strict attention to the analogy next of how you think and how God thinks.

9 This should be made clear in the following way. It is manifest, on the basis of Book I, that God understands Himself. Now, whatever is understood should, as understood, be in him who understands, for the significance of the very act of understanding is this: the grasping of that which is understood by an intellect; hence, even our intellect understanding itself is within itself, not only as identified with itself by its essence, but also as grasped by itself in the act of understanding.

God, therefore, must be in Himself as the thing understood in him who understands. But, the thing understood is in him who understands the intention understood and the word. There is, therefore, in God understanding Himself the Word of God, as it were, God understood; so the intellect’s word of the stone is the stone understood. And to this point is the saying in John (1:1) : “The Word was with God.”

Notes And the Word was God.

10 The divine intellect, of course, since it does not pass from potency to act, but is always actually existent (which was proved in Book I), must necessarily have always understood itself. And from its understanding of itself it follows that the Word of that intellect is in it; this has been shown. Therefore, His Word necessarily always existed in God. His Word, then, is co-eternal with God, and is not acquired by Him in time, as our intellect acquires in time its interiorly conceived word which is the intention understood. Hence is the saying in John (1:1): “In the beginning was the Word.”

11 Now, since the divine intellect is not only always in act, but is itself pure act, as we proved in Book I, the substance of the divine intellect must be its very act of understanding, and this is the act of the intellect. But the being of the Word interiorly conceived, or intention understood, is the very act of being understood. Therefore, the being of the divine Word is identical with that of the divine intellect and, consequently, with that of God, who is His own intellect.

The being of God, of course, is His essence or nature, which is the same as God Himself, as was shown in Book I. The Word of God, therefore, is the divine being and His essence, and is true God Himself.

Of course, such is not the case with the word of the human intellect. For, when our intellect understands itself, the being of the intellect is one being, and that of its act of understanding another, for the substance of the intellect was in potency to understanding before it actually understood. Consequently, the being of the intention understood is one being and that of the intellect itself is another being, since the being of the intention understood is the very being understood.

Necessarily, then, in a man understanding himself, the word interiorly conceived is not a true man having the natural being of man, but is only man understood, a kind of likeness, as it were, of the true man which the intellect grasps. But the Word of God, precisely because He is God understood, is true God, having the divine being naturally, because the natural being of God is not one being and that of His understanding another, as was said.

This is why it says in John (1:1): “God was the Word.” The fact that this is said absolutely shows that the Word of God must be understood to be true God. For the word of man could not be called “man” simply and absolutely, but relatively: namely, “man understood”; hence, this would be false: “ man is a word”; but this can be true: “man understood is a word.” When, therefore, this is said: “God was the Word,” this is shown: The divine Word is not merely an intention understood, as our word is, but it is also a thing existing and subsisting in nature. For God is a true subsistent thing, since His is substantial being in the highest degree.

Notes Recall we’re cutting off midstream. This point is continued in the next paragraph, presented next week.


  1. Sheri

    Can we get a translation to real language on this?

  2. Sheri

    By the way, the liberal language gobbledygook came from philosophy. Yet so many fail to see and understand this, pushing the genre and helping destroy society…..

  3. Joshua

    “Necessarily, then, in a man understanding himself, the word interiorly conceived is not a true man having the natural being of man, but is only man understood, a kind of likeness, as it were, of the true man which the intellect grasps. But the Word of God, precisely because He is God understood, is true God, having the divine being naturally, because the natural being of God is not one being and that of His understanding another, as was said.”

    If I am following correctly, this implies that only God can understand God; man’s understanding of God will always be imperfect, only a likeness.

    The technical term “intention understood” does make this harder to follow; I wonder if there are any other translations of it, or if it was explained earlier? I am picking up mid-stream, so it’s understandable if there was an explanation and I missed it.

  4. C-Marie

    Thank you, Matt!!

    “Seek ye the Lord, while he may be found: call upon him, while he is near.

    Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unjust man his thoughts, and let him return to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God: for he is bountiful to forgive.

    For my thoughts are not your thoughts: nor your ways my ways, saith the Lord.

    For as the heavens are exalted above the earth, so are my ways exalted above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts.

    And as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return no more thither, but soak the earth, and water it, and make it to spring, and give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:

    So shall my word be, which shall go forth from my mouth: it shall not return to me void, but it shall do whatsoever I please, and shall prosper in the things for which I sent it.

    For you shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall sing praise before yen, and all the trees of the country shah clap their hands.

    Instead of the shrub, shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the nettle, shall come up the myrtle tree: and the Lord shall be named for an everlasting sign, that shall not be taken away.
    Isaiah 55: 6-13.

    God bless, C-Marie

  5. C-Marie

    Jesus gave to us that which we are to have as understanding of God.
    See the Gospel of John.
    In there, Jesus tells us to know God our Father, to know Himself, Jesus, and to receive the Third Person of the Triune God, the Blessed Trinity, the Holy Spirit, for He will teach and lead us as God,wills.

    God bless, C-Marie

  6. Joy

    Sheri, you’re right about the gobbledigook.
    Pretentious, like Jazz…

  7. JOy

    The trinity is none of our business

  8. C-Marie

    Actually, the Blessed Trinity is definitely our business from the point of view that God our Father revealed the Blessed Trinity to us when He told to us that He sent His only begotten Son to redeem us from being separated forever from God, and in that Jesus Himself told us to expect the Holy Spirit to remind us of all He taught plus that the Holy Spirit would lead us into all truth. Believing the truth is much easier than to not do so.
    God bless, C-Marie

  9. Joy

    C Marie,
    In so far as the three manifestations of God are described in the Christian bible by Jesus, it needs no special explanation. Catholics make it into a Rubix cube and then pretend they’ve got thee blueprint. Which is crass as it sounds, to me

  10. C-Marie

    Thank you, Joy!! I do think that there are writings by theologians, philosophers, et al, which are filled with lots and lots of words, when God reveals Himself so succintly in The Holy Bible.

    Am thinking that you might like the wording in the Ronald Knox Bible. It is the first and maybe only Bible in which I have read the words “Play the man”.

    It is at:

    God bless, C-Marie

  11. Joy

    C Marie, I’ll have a look, Thank you for the recommendation

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