The western progression

by Andrea Elizabeth

Before moving on to energeia in the East, I’ll jot down some quotes that somewhat subtly, in my mind, point to the emergence of Absolute Divine Simplicity and the filioque in the West.

Ultimately both Father and Son are esse and operari (or agere). The difference is that the Father is originally and purely esse, and agere in only a hidden and inward manner; the Son is esse in a secondary and derivative way, and principally and manifestly agere. Victorinus makes this commonality the basis for his central contention that the Father and Son are consubstantial, although distinct. (p. 111,112)

Victorinus’ more considered view is that the self-intellection of the Father has a kind of triadic structure involving life as well as intelligence, and that properly speaking it is the Holy Spirit who is intellegere while the Son is vivere. Commenting on John 16:14, where Christ says of the Spirit, “He shall glorify me, for He shall receive of me and shall announce it unto you,” Victorinus writes:

He says “He shall receive of me” because Christ and the Holy Spirit are one movement, that is, act which acts (actio agens). First there is vivere and from that which is vivere there is also intellegere; indeed, Christ is vivere and the Spirit is intellegere. Therefore the Spirit receives from Christ, Christ Himself from the Father. (p. 114)

As a footnote to the researches of Hadot, we may note one other way in which Boethius serves as a bridge between the Neoplatonism of Victorinus and medieval scholasticism. Near the end of De Hebdomadibus he states that “in Him (God) esse and agere are the same … But for us esse and agere are not the same, for we are not simple.” Although the simplicity of God was by the time of Boethius a firmly established point of Christian theology, Boethius seems to have been the first to explain that simplicity in terms of the identity in God of being and activity. In doing so he was merely extending to the Godhead a point Victorinus had established in relation to the Father and the Son. The identity of esse and agere in God became an integral aspect of the doctrine of divine simplicity in the Middle Ages. (Aristotle East and West, p. 117)