Friday, July 22, 2005

Zubizantine Theology: Person and Being In Trinity (Part 3)

Continuing now with Zubiri's discussion of the concept of person and being in the Trinity, I remind everyone that I will be using Joaquin Redondo's material, and I bring your attention to the following copyright notice:

© 2001-2005 by Joaquín Redondo
Permission to republish in any form is hereby granted, provided that source is acknowledged.

Zubiri begins his discussion of personhood in the Trinity with a reminder of his concept of personhood:

As I have insisted in my seminars and written works, man, an intelligent and volitional reality, is an essence open to his own reality, to his own characteristic of reality. Because of this, the properties belonging to man are there not only de suyo as a substantive reality (being real consists in having them de suyo), but in addition, precisely because he has an intellective characteristic, he is open to his own reality. Consequently, man not only has properties that are “de suyo”, but they are also formally and reduplicatingly “his”. Man is a person precisely in the measure in which he is “his-own”. Relatively “his-own” because man is not an infinite being. And I have said that this relatively absolute reality demands the existence of an absolutely absolute reality2. Be that as it may, we now encounter that what formally constitutes the characteristic of being a person is this moment (using a somewhat forced term) of “his-ownness” (Sp. suidad). Someone is a person precisely when it has that characteristic by virtue of which we say he is his own self, that he belongs to himself, i.e., that he is a his-ownness.

However, someone might object that his-ownness is not clearer than subsistence. Perhaps not, but it seems to me it is less obscure {124} than subsistence, and in addition it is the root of subsistence. I can say I am subsistent inasmuch as I am my own. Subsistence is founded on his-owness. Formally the Father and the Son are his-ownnesses (Sp. suidades). Naturally this his-ownness has a special characteristic. While in the case of man, or of any created person, his-ownness is something consequent to certain properties and characteristics that man has, in the case of God it is formally identical to that, which God is.

This is not more obscure than the idea of subsistent relation in classical theology. There is an identity between his-ownness and essence, which is at the very root of the mystery. His-ownness does not add any property to reality; that is why it can be identified with it without making it a “composite”. However, it is clear that for the human mind this identity is always an identification, i.e., they are two different concepts. They are considered identified by the fact they converge in a mystery. And yet, to say that the essence is his-ownness is not the same as saying that his-ownness is essential. They are two completely different points of view. While Latin theology and even the Greek, but primarily the Latin, took its starting point from essence as the principle of the Trinity, and has attempted to see how this essence has subsistences (his-ownesses in our language), it seems to me that the case is just the opposite. It is necessary to start precisely from his-ownness and then try to see what the divine essence might be. The radical primacy belongs to his-ownness.

Zubiri then goes on to criticize the Latin notion of procession as operation, which takes as a presumption the absolute simplicity of God's being. Rather than viewing procession as an operation performed by a subject, Zubiri reminds us that self-giving is itself reality as such, not an operation performed by reality (based on the erroneous view of reality as subject). From that perspective, then, procession need not be viewed in terms of a separate operation performed by God. This critique in turn rebukes the fundamental notion of divine simplicity that plagues Latin theology, itself being based on a fundamentally erroneous notion of reality as being:

However, it cannot be denied that this conception [of procession as operation] starts from a supposition that is more than debatable. In both of these cases of procession as operation, and procession as something operated, the starting point is the notion that the activity is a performed operation. Is this true philosophically? Is it necessary to admit this? Because it might turn out that the situation is quite different. That every reality by the mere fact of being real and because it is real is indeed active, not only in itself, but by itself. In that case, obviously, the activity is not an operation, and we must provide it with a name. I have decided to call it “self-giving” (Sp. “dar de sí”). Self-giving not by a subsequent activity, but precisely by being real. This self-giving is an active mode by reason of its own reality, {127} the fullness of that which constitutes the selfsame reality. Inasmuch as a reality is formally a self-giving of what it is in itself and by itself, the activity is not a moment consequent to the reality, but something formally constitutive of the reality as such.

Therefore, in this sense, from my point of view, we should not exclude God from procession. Not because of the distinction between the one operating, and the one operated upon, but simply because activity is procession. This maintains the integrity of a moment which is essential for the conception of the Trinitarian life. The life of God, with all the immutability and simplicity one may wish to consider, is not the simplicity and immutability of a mathematical singularity, but is the unfathomable unity and simplicity of a real and effective activity. That is what the very divine activity is, which is not determined by the operations it “performs”, but is the infinite plenitude of the reality it formally is, insofar as active in itself and by itself.

Zubiri then proceeds to the discussion of procession itself. He first reaffirms the necessity of beginning with the radically personal reality of the Father, contra Latin theology:

Latin theology, with its idea of this terrible dialectic of the one and the three, has always started from the divine essence. And it has asked how that divine essence has three persons, that I would call his-ownnesses. I believe it would be preferable to start from something that already is an integral part of the revealed text, at least in its expression. Precisely, that the principle of the Trinity is the Father. Therefore, our point of departure should be the Father, not the essence.

From the monarchy of the Father and the revelation of Him as absolutely absolute reality, then, Zubiri can maintain:

Yet, I indicated that the only possible way for an absolutely absolute reality to have his-ownness is by being intelligent and volitional.... From this we can deduce and it evidently follows that the absolutely absolute reality with a his-ownness of Father is necessarily intelligent and volitional. The point I wish to clearly emphasize is the fact that God, who is Father, although intelligent and volitional, is not the principle of procession, but just the opposite. In a certain way it is a result. Precisely because He is his-own, he is intelligent and volitional. He is not his-own because He is intelligent and volitional. In other words, the primacy radically belongs to the his-ownness, {130} indeed, to the “who”. And obviously, the “what” in which the Father consists is intelligence and will.

Based on the analogy of the intellective mind itself, then, Zubiri constructs his notion of the generation of the Son as the truth matching reality, recognizing the inherent limitations of such an analogy:

As I was saying, the first thing is that the his-ownness of the Father constitutes the intelligent and volitive reality. And by virtue of this, now {132} (and here is the mystery) there is a second his-ownness, the his-ownness of truth. That which for us is purely an aspect of intellection, in a mysterious manner is, in God, a real and proper his-ownness, different than the his-ownness of the Father, by virtue of which his reality is fully absolutely absolute. But this other one is a different his-ownness, the his-ownness of truth qua truth. The Son, St. Irenæus said, is the divine “definition” of the Father1.
What is radical is that the Father gives of himself a second his-ownness and this second his-ownness (the truth) is realized in the same essence than the one in which the his-ownness of the Father is realized. That the Father may give of himself this second his-ownness qua his-ownness is the mystery. To my way of thinking this procession is not founded in the essence of the Father, but is directly and formally a procession from person (Father) to person (Son).

Notable is that Zubiri recognizes that hypostatic origin is an entirely personal property. He also clarifies that the term "generation" ought not be thought of cause in the sense of a subject performing an operation that produces another thing, but simply in terms of what is given in the Son's "his-ownness":

In the same way that that which the Father is, and the Son is, in a certain way is that in which the his-ownness of {135} the Father and the his-owness of the Son is realized, analogously, the generational characteristic simply means that that in which the “content” of the procession is realized, is precisely the trasmission or communication of an identical nature starting from the first term of the procession. And in this sense it is generation. Consequently, generation is generation because there is procession of the Word, not that there is procession of the Word because there is generation.

Going back to the analogy of the human mind, Zubiri identifies the Holy Spirit with the identification of truth and reality in mind, the "ratification" of truth:

The Father as absolutely absolute reality is the his-ownness of reality as principle. Actualized in the real truth which his Son constitutes is the his-ownness of reality qua truth. And this real truth expresses through identity the radical and primary reality, the “archic” (Sp. “árquica”, fr. arché) reality that constitutes the reality of the Father. This identity is precisely the Spirit of Truth. And is, from the point of view of faith, a third his-ownness: the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit as his-ownness is the actuality of the identity of truth and reality. Because of this St. Bonaventure could say in another context that the Father is inchoatio Trinitatis and that the Holy Spirit is completio Trinitatis3. The Holy Spirit is the completion of the Trinity.

But this is where Zubiri's thought becomes surpassingly clever in a way that I have never seen before. He reasons from the difference in terms "generation" and "procession," relating to the "who" of the Trinity, to the substantive procession of the Trinity, the "what." Thus, Zubiri actually derives from his analogy to sentient intelligence (the image of God in man) the correct explanation of the filioque as procession according to ousia! Zubiri explains:

And why is the procession of the Holy Spirit not a generation? For a not very simple reason, but obvious in a certain way. In order to have generation of the his-ownness, even though it may be in the most analogical and resultant sense, there has to be a communication of a reality, of a nature, even by way of identity. Only then we have a generation. However, this cannot occur with the Holy Spirit {137} because all reality is precisely already given in the real truth that constitutes the Son, and therefore, there is nothing to communicate. The only thing that can be done is to “ratify” the identity of the communicated reality with the naked truth which the starting point constitutes. Consequently, this is no generation it is a ratification.
The Spirit of Truth, which consists in the identity of truth and the first reality “proceeds” (and that is the terminus) as second processional moment of those two termini I have identified. That is precisely the provenance of the Holy Spirit of the Father through the Son. Latin theology rendered this with its famous formula, from the Father “and” the Son (Filioque). The formula has its limitations4. At any rate, the Holy Spirit is of the Father through the Son. And the Holy Spirit, consequently, has the unity of a principle of spiration, which is precisely the unitary reality, which is arché reality in the Father, and real truth in the Son. Because of that, because the “what” of God is not given to the Holy Spirit, but rather this ratification occurs upon a “what” given to the Son, is the reason why it is not generation.

I confess my admiration for this strategy, as it takes legitimate analogical knowledge (the image of God in man and the two revealed terms "generation" and "procession"), and reasons directly to the necessity of procession according to being. While I have seen numerous instances of affirming energetic procession as a revealed truth (from perichoresis), I have never before seen a piece of natural theology that derived the necessity on a metaphysical basis simply taking the analogical truth of revelations as assumptions. Indeed, it seems that Zubiri's metaphysical system is even superior to Byzantine theology in this respect. For these reasons, I believe that Zubiri has accomplished what he has claimed:

In such fashion we have presented, perhaps not concepts, but through some not completely unintelligible terms what the unfathomable mystery of the Trinity is. An absolutely absolute his-ownness, the Father, who gives of himself his-ownness as actuality of his real truth (that is the Son), and ratifies in his-ownness the identity of that real truth with the principle from which it proceeds. In that ratification is what the Spirit of Truth consists, the Holy Spirit. A Spirit who is Spirit of Truth and precisely by being such is the reason for being principle of love.