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[LSKY-1] NOTES ON VLADIMIR LOSSKY

The category that serves as Lossky's window into his subject is spirituality, a category that other
Orthodox theologians have found problematic [See Mantzaridis, Orthodox Spiritual Life, p. ?].
Lossky's Mystical Theology starts not from an analysis of the psychology of individual ascetics, nor
from theological doctrines as such..., but only such elements of theology as are indispensable for the
understanding of a spirituality: the dogmas which constitute the foundation of mysticism in the
Eastern Orthodox Church [Mystical Theology 11].
Another preliminary of Lossky's, which is a hallmark of neopatristic theology, is his insistence that it is
not feasible to approach the question of which traditionWestern Christian or Eastern Christianis
correct from any supposedly neutral ground of scholarly objectivity: For objectivity in no wise
consists in taking one's stand outside an object but, on the contrary, in considering one's object in itself
and by itself [Mystical Theology 12].
Commenting on the fact that mystical individualism never arose in the Christian East, and only in the
1200s or so in the West, Lossky notes: It was necessary that a certain cleavage should occur between
personal experience and the common faith, between the life of the individual and the life of the Church,
that spirituality and dogma, mysticism and theology, could become two distinct spheres; and that the
souls unable to find adequate nourishment in the theological summae should turn to search greedily in
the accounts of individual mystical experience in order to reinvigorate themselves in an atmosphere of
spirituality [Mystical Theology 21]. lft pg. 21
FILIOQUE: NOTES FOR A COMPARISON WITH JPF AND JSR
For Lossky, the filioque is the sole dogmatic grounds of the separation of East and West in the sense
that all subsequent differences flow from this deviation in the doctrine of God (Lossky, Procession,
71). Though Fr. Georges Florovsky had serious reservations about this emphasis on the filioque (see
Baker article), he never explained in depth exactly why, other than emphasizing that the Papacy as the
end of a long ecclesiological development in the West was crucial to the estrangement. However,
Lossky's (and also Farrell's and Fr. John Romanides's) anti-filioquist history is designed to show forth
the interconnectedness of theology, ecclesiology and praxis in Orthodoxy, as opposed to the discordant
notes sounded by the West's filioquist and Augustinian systems of theology worship.
Though he recognized that the filioque problem was ineluctably historiographical, since church
historians (Bolotov is the example used by Lossky) used a particular view of the historical sources (that
of the Latinizing Greeks of the thirteenth century who used the quasi-filioquist formula dia Yiou) to
minimize the dogmatic importance of the filioque (ibid., 73), Lossky's essay proposes to outline the
theological basis for Orthodox triadology without enter[ing] into the controversies of the past in detail
(ibid., 74). The reasoning behind this focus seems to be that without a firm grounding in the teachings
of Orthodoxy about the Holy Trinity, we can only be misled by forays into fragmentary historical
sources. Such journeys into the Church's past tempt even the competent to fill in historical lacunae with
dangerous speculation.
The Holy Spirit, Lossky states, seems to be less precisely defined than the Father and the Son: The
Spirit has no name of His own since the divine essence is certainly both Holy and Spirit; also, the
procession of the Spirit could be viewed as more abstract and hard to fathom than the Son's
generation from the Father (ibid., 74). The procession of the Spirit presents an anonymous person,

whose hypostatic origin is presented to us negatively: it is not generation, it is other that that of the
Son (ibid., 75). Lossky concludes: ...[A]ll that we know of the Holy Spirit refers to his economy; all
that we do not know makes us venerate his Person, as we venerate the ineffable diversity of the
consubstantial Three (ibid., 75).
Ordo theologiae: In the controversy between the Latins and Greeks over the Holy Spirit in the ninth
century, the Latins endeavored to formulate the diversity of Persons in the Trinity on the basis of the
term homoousios, starting from natural identity. The [Greeks], more conscious of the Trinitarian
antinomy of ousia and hypostasis, while taking into account consubstantiality, stressed the monarchy of
the Father... (ibid., 75).
The Latins sought to define the mode of origin of the Holy Spirit (ibid., 76). Lossky cites Thomas
Aquinas's Summa Theologica (I, question 36, a. 1) where the latter is quoting Saint Augustine's De
Trinitate (1.11) (ibid., 75). Lossky offers the following analysis of Aquinas's (and Saint Augustine's)
filioquism: Since the term 'Holy Spirit' is, in some sense, common to the Father and the Son (both are
Holy and both are Spirit), it should denote a person related to the Father and the Son in respect of what
they have in common.' Even when the matter at hand is the procession, taken as the mode of origin of
the Third Person, the term 'procession'which in itself does not signify any mode of origin
distinguishable from generationshould denote a relation to the Father and the Son together, to serve
as the basis for a Third Person, distinct from the other two. Since a 'relation of opposition' can only be
established between two terms, the Holy Spirit should proceed from the Father and the Son, inasmuch
as they represent a unity. This is the meaning of the formula according to which the Holy Spirit is said
to proceed from the Father and the Son as from one principle of spiration (ibid., 76). Here Lossky
notes that, for Aquinas, relation is opposition (Summa I, question 28, a. 3); thus, we are justified in
speaking about relations of opposition between Persons of the Trinity.
The filioquist logic seeks to base hypostatic diversity on the principle of relations of
opposition (ibid., 76). Inter-Trinitarian relations are the basis of the hypostases, which define
themselves by their mutual opposition, the first to the second, and these two together to the third
(ibid., 77). These relational hypostatic oppositions are not based upon the Monarchy of the Father, as in
Orthodoxy, but are presented by the Latins as non-personal since the opposition of the Spirit to the
Father-Son is a derivation of a more fundamental and personal opposition, that is Father to Son. Lossky
concludes that this logic of non-personal opposition points to the one [divine] essence, which is
differentiated by its internal relations as the origin of the Trinitarian Persons (ibid., 77).
The Orthodox conceive of the diversity of the Three Persons to be absolute (ibid., 77). Thus, no
relation of origin which opposes the Holy Spirit to the Father and the Son taken as a single principle
is possible (ibid.). A person cannot be combined with another person to serve as a term or entity
opposed to another person.
Lossky cites the words of Theodore de Rgnon in his tudes de thologie positive sur la Sainte Trinit,
volume 1 (Paris, 1892), p. 309: In fact all these [filioquist considerations] presuppose that, in the order
of concepts, nature is anterior to person and that the latter represents a kind of efflorescence of the
former (ibid., 78, in footnote 10).
The very principle of relations of opposition is unacceptable to Orthodox triadology... (ibid., 78).
Monarchy: ...community of origin in no way affects the absolute diversity between the Son and the
Spirit (ibid., 79). Words not glorification (my term, but derived from JSR, romanity website, Neurobio
book, part 3 I think): The relations only serve to express the hypostatic diversity of the Three; they are

not the basis of it (ibid., 79). Orthodox triadology apophatic in this sense: It is the absolute diversity
of the three hypostases which determines their differing relations to one another, not vice versa. Here
thought stands still, confronted by the impossibility of defining a personal existence in its absolute
difference from any other, and must adopt a negative approach to proclaim that the FatherHe who is
without beginning (anarchos)is not the Son or the Holy Spirit, that the begotten Son is neither the
Holy Spirit nor the Father, that the Holy Spirit, 'who proceeds from the Father,' is neither the Father nor
the Son. Here we cannot speak of relations of opposition but only of relations of diversity. To follow
here the positive approach, and to envisage the relations of origin otherwise than as signs of the
inexpressible diversity of the persons, is to suppress the absolute quality of this personal diversity, i.e.
to relativize the Trinity and in some sense to depersonalize it (ibid., 79).
The Orthodox apophatic approach to the Trinity is based upon spirituality, upon the truth about how
man encounters God: It places us face to face with the primordial antinomy of absolute identity and
no less absolute diversity in God, does not seek to conceal this antinomy but to express it fittingly, so
that the mystery of the Trinity might make us transcend the philosophical mode of thinking and that the
Truth might make us free from our human limitations, by altering our means of understanding (ibid.,
80). In an intentional inversion of the Augustinian I believe in order to understand, Lossky puts forth
an Orthodox version. For the Orthodox seeker understanding seeks the realities of faith, in order to
be transformed, by becoming more and more open to the mysteries of revelation (ibid., 80). The
divergence on the point of the nature of the Trinity determines...the whole character of theological
thought (ibid., 80).
Three (primordial) theological categories: ...[P]ersonal diversity in God presents itself as a
primordial fact, not to be deduced from any other principle or based on any other idea... (ibid., 80). So,
Lossky is concerned that the conception of hypostatic diversity is not made un-hypostatic, not
catophatically reduced to relations within a simple non-personal essence. The expression of hypostatic
characteristics, of the Father as Monarch and the Son and Spirit as being generated and spirated from
the Father, are as much expressions of the unity of the persons in the essence as they are proclamations
of the absolute diversity of persons. Thus, the ordo theologiae, if understood properly, concerns itself
first with Persons who are of the same essence, then goes on to consider attributes, and finally
considers the essence. But in what sense?
...[S]ince consubstantiality is the non-hypostatic identity of the Three, in that they have (or rather are)
a common essence, the unity of the three hypostases is inconceivable apart from the monarchy of the
Father, who is the principle of the common possession of the same one essence. Otherwise we should
be concerned with a simple essence, differentiated by relationships (ibid., 81).
Just as relations of origin mean something different from relations of opposition, so causality is
nothing but a somewhat defective image, which tries to express the personal unity which determines
the origins of the Son and the Holy Spirit. This unique cause is not prior to his effects, for in the Trinity
there is no priority and posteriority. He is not superior to his effects, for the perfect cause cannot
produce inferior effects. He is thus the cause of their equality with himself. The causality ascribed to
the person of the Father, who eternally begets the Son and eternally causes the Holy Spirit to proceed,
expresses the same idea as the monarchy of the Father: that the Father is the personal principle of unity
of the Three, the source of their common possession of the same content, of the same essence (ibid.,
82).
Monarchy of the Father as the starting-point of Orthodox theology: Orthodox theology, while taking
as its starting-point the initial antinomy of essence and hypostasis, avoids personal relativism by

attributing causality to the Father alone. The monarchy of the Father thus sets up irreversible
relationships, which enable us to distinguish the two other hypostases from the Father, and yet to relate
them to the Father, as a concrete principle of unity in the Trinity. There is not only unity of the same
one nature in the Three, but also unity of the Three Persons of the same one nature
(ibid., 84).
Beginning of Orthodox theology: the absolute...diversity of...persons (p. 85), or the primordial
person/essence antinomy, which implies a primordial essence/energies antinomy: The dyad is always
an opposition of two terms, and, in that sense, it cannot signify an absolute diversity (ibid., 84).
The procession of the Holy Spirit is an infinite / passage beyond the dyad, which consecrates the
absolute (as opposed to the relative) diversity of the persons. (-) ...[T]he Triad suffices to denote the
Living God of revelation (ibid., 85).
Trinitarian dialectic of oppostion, or dialectic of monad-dyad-monad: The procession of the Holy
Spirit ab utroque does not signify passage beyond the dyad but rather re-absorption of the dyad in the
monad, the return of the monad upon itself. It is a dialectic of the monad opening out into the dyad and
closing again into its simplicity. On the other hand, procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father alone,
by emphasizing the monarchy of the Father as the concrete principle of the unity of the Three, passes
beyond the dyad without a return to primordial unity, without the necessity of God retiring into the
simplicity of the essence (ibid., 85).
P. 86: No analogy of trinitarian love from God to creation based on hypostatic properties or relations.
P. 86: inter-trinitarian willings of relation are based on Augustine, though Lossky does not name him,
but cites Augustine's idea of hypostatic properties as self-consciousness, self-knowledge, and self love
(see JSR, Dogmatics, ).
"The monad is set in motion on account of its richness; the dyad is surpassed, because Divinity is
beyond matter and form; perfection is reached in the triad, the first to surpass the composite quality of
the dyad, so that the Divinity neither remains constrained nor expands to infinity." St. Gregory
of Nazianzus, Or. 23 (De pau 3), 8; P.G. 35, col. 116OC, cit. in Lossky, Procession, pg. 86, footnote.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Vladimir Lossky, The Procession of the Holy Spirit in Orthodox Trinitarian Doctrine, 71-96 in In the
Image and Likeness of God, edited by John H. Erickson and Thomas E. Bird (Crestwood, NY:
St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1974). [At sl. 69]