October 2016

The Mystery of the Holy Trinity

Perhaps one of the strangest and most difficult mysteries to reconcile in the Christian faith is that of the Holy Trinity. How can we say that God can be singular and also the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit? Are they three separate parts of a whole? Do they have their own agency on Earth and in Heaven? Or are they, as their unity would suggest, possessed of a single mind and spiritual intent? It seems irreconcilable. You might expect such a seemingly obvious logically contradiction in the Christian mythos to have undermined the entire foundation of the church, but it actually served to strengthen it.

It is an unfortunate aspect of many of the world‘s religions that they cling dogmatically to the words and concepts of the primary text. In Islam, for example, the Holy Quran is held to be the final and unalterable word of God, thus there can be no room for debate or interpretation of its holy scripture. This is not true of the bible, however, where a wide range of view-points and opinions on the teachings of Jesus had to be looked at and examined early on. Far from being a weakness of the faith, this wealth of different viewpoints as well as the mysteries behind many of the ideas involved is what keeps the religion fresh, intriguing and revolutionary millennia after its first inception. This ever-shifting discourse spawned intellectual debate among Europeans and imbued them with a sense of curiosity about the world, its mysteries and above all their place within it.

Despite the Holy Trinity being a key belief in the Christian faith, it is often considered among scholars to be ‘unbiblical’. This is not to say that it is ‘anti-biblical’ — or against the faith — merely that no mention of the Holy Trinity appears at any point either in the New or Old Testament. But if the term itself does not appear in the bible, and if Jesus himself never made mention of it, from where does it derive its source?

In answer to this question, scholars (both Christian and secular) point to an Early Christian devotee called Valentinus. Valentinus belonged to the Gnostic school of Christianity, which believed (amongst other things) tin a plurality of deities (or angels) known as Aeons. These Aeons were different aspects of God’s soul or character. Important Aeons were those of Justice, Peace, Forbearance etc. which were capable of splitting from God’s true form to effect change on Earth. After the Council of Nicea, the teachings of Gnostics, like Valentinus, fell out of favour with the Catholic Church in Rome. However, before this important ruling took place, it is believed that one of Valentinus’s teachings i.e. that of the Holy Trinity, had already taken root within the Early Christian canon and has been promulgated ever since. Scholars mistakenly assume that the Aeon Sphere’s of the Gnostic Godhead and the Holy Trinity itself conform to a type of cleverly reworded Paganism. This, as I will later reveal, could not be further from the truth.

Following the Council of Nicea, the Gnostic monks and priests were ordered to cease from teaching their heresies and get on with the important work of promoting the newly formed Bible. Saddened by this news, many of the monks nevertheless obeyed the Holy See, but because they so beloved their manuscripts they decided not to destroy them, and instead buried them in two clay pots in a place in the desert called Nag Hammadi. Nearly two thousand years later, these two clay pots and the scrolls they contained were rediscovered. Supposedly, Valentinus had a hand in formulating some of these documents, however, the specific one in question, which deals with the concept of the Holy Trinity and is known as “On the Three Natures” (of God) is lost to time and the elements. Even so, it is believed that the word ‘Trinity’ was never used by Valentinus and that this term only comes to light in connection with his work decades later by way of Tertullian.

So what is to be said of this? Are we really to believe that one of the chief tenants of the Christian faith is some kind of throwback to a Pagan heresy? As appealing as this conspiracy theory is to many, I will show now why, far from being unbiblical, the Holy Trinity is indeed mentioned in the Holy Bible. If we look at The Book of John; 1:1; we see “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The term “Word” here is equivalent to the Greek term ‘Logos’, which in turn denotes the Holy Spirit. So the passage could just as easily read “In the beginning was the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit was with God, and the Holy Spirit was God.” Now we see that two aspects of the Holy Trinity namely of God the Father and the Holy Spirit are equated in this text and later on in John 1:14 we read “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” Thus we see that the Word (or Holy Spirit) who is God, also incarnated as Jesus in the flesh, and therefore God the Father is the Son and the Holy Ghost.

Asides from the profound nature of these words, it is remarkable that anyone —least of all Valentinus in the 4th Century— would have had the presence of mind to decrypt the true meaning of these words. It is in some ways a testament to the logical thinking of Early Christians that after linking God with the Word and the Word with his Son, that they should then conclude all three of these beings must therefore be unified together, whilst simultaneously remaining apart from one another. This conclusion, although logical from what we know of Jesus’s life and teachings still poses the question how God can be both singular and plural at the same time.

There have been many attempts to reconcile this apparent contradiction. One of these was put forward by Saint Joseph of Cupertino who once asked a visiting bishop to imagine God as a sheet (i.e. one whole) and then imagine the sheet folded into thirds. These thirds are separate and yet are formed by the continuum of the fabric itself and so the three parts of the Trinity are thought to be similarly represented in God’s continued form. This concept of ‘the folded God’ is interesting and one that I will be returning to later on.

A principle attack made against the concept of the Holy Trinity stems from that of the Islamic faith. Muslims profess to believing in the God of Abraham, but they do not believe that God became flesh or that Jesus was the Son of God. In their mind, he was merely a prophet — although clearly a very important one. Since they do not believe in Jesus’s divinity it stands to reason that they cannot believe in the Trinity, much less the Holy Spirit. One argument that they like to put forward is based on simple arithmetic i.e. how can 1+1+1 = 1, when it ought rightly equal three? An interesting rebuttal of this turns the objection on its head by stating; 1x1x1=1. This is very clever, because who says that the Trinity is to be additive? In fact given the nature of the Holy Spirit toward multiplicity this kind of operation is far more in keeping with God’s character; think the multiplying of the loaves and the fishes.

Another way of symbolising, or depicting the Holy Trinity is to imagine a triangle with the All Seeing Eye at its centre; famously used by Freemasons for their guild. The symbol of the All Seeing Eye is a symbol for God and the triangle stands for the triune nature of God. A more sophisticated representation of this symbol is the mathematical object known as the impossible triangle; or Penrose Triangle. The impossible triangle is a seemingly three dimensional object whose sides are conjoined in a manner which is not conventionally achievable in ordinary Euclidian space. In order to create this form in our three dimensional reality we either have to perform some kind of trickery; bend the sides of the triangle or bend the rules of physical space itself. By following any single edge around the impossible triangle we see that we come back to the beginning and so we see that the object can be thought of like a Mobius strip; possessed of only one side. This odd property makes the Penrose Triangle synonymous with the Holy Trinity and the existence of the latter in our own dimension is moreover to be seen as a testimony to the tendency of God towards accomplishing the impossible.

Particle physics has long been searching for the smallest or most fundamental of particle. According to the standard model of physics, this honour could be bestowed upon the humble quark. There are three quarks that are said to make up the proton which sits in the nucleus at the centre of the atom. However, a theory which is gaining some popularity suggests that the three quarks may behave as a single particle after all and therefore have the appearance of a trefoil knot. This configuration is linked to a type of object known as a hexaflexagon, which usually consists of a strip of paper folded in on itself by means of a three-fold path. Hexaflexagons were first discovered by mathematician Arthur Stone, and while they have the appearance of being an ordinary two-dimensional object, deft manipulation — produced by flipping/rotating the object through itself — reveals it to have not two but three seemingly unique sides. With a specific folding pattern (see image below) Arthur Stone was able to increase this number to a total of eighteen unique faces. The number eighteen appears to link back to the quarks states, of which there are six in the standard model; six times the three quarks per proton gives a total of eighteen. However, for some reason the geometry of the hexaflexagon is never mentioned in relation to the quark states, even though the notable quantum physicist Richard Feynman researched both subjects extensively; and produced his famous Feynman diagrams in the process, on both occasions. Perhaps Feyman himself was aware of this relationship, but rejected it on the grounds that it did not conform with experiment or with the complex juggling of QCD theory within the particle itself.

Either way, the fact that these trefoil knots have an 18-fold symmetry is interesting when we apply it back to the Holy Trinity, as it suggests that the One True God can become 3-fold and that the 3-fold Holy Trinity can become 18-fold, possibly confirming Valentinus suspicions of the Aeons reflecting different aspects of God’s innate and multifarious personality. Furthermore, I think that it is at least revealing that the fingerprint (or calling card) of God (i.e. the Holy Trinity) should be firmly stamped on the most fundamental and pivotal aspect of all matter; the trefoil proton.

Another possible way to imagine the Holy Trinity is to think of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as three aspects of a single dynamical system. In the standard model of physics, for example, we have the notion that fields (like electromagnetic and gravity fields) have force carrying particles associated with them that act upon matter causing that material to interact reciprocally with the field. So in the case of the electromagnetic force, its field is mediated via the force carrying particle known as ‘photon’. Likewise gravitic force is believed to be mediated by a hypothetical particle; the ‘graviton’. We can make use of this same principle to describe the Holy Trinity as an interaction between an incorporeal omni-present field entity (God) with a temporal/corporeal entity (Jesus), via a force/information carrying relay, which —in this model— is described by the Holy Spirit.

This makes perfect sense from a scriptural viewpoint, where it is stated that the Holy Ghost alights onto Jesus and imparts upon him the will and the grace of the Most High. Subsequent appearances of the Holy Spirit in the bible text also show it to be something which alights upon people’s heads from on high and effects an immediate and complete conversion.

Another possible analogy, is that God is like your internet wifi signal. It contains all of the information stored inside an EM field, but it is not directly compatible with the human form and so needs a mediator (the computer/router). This mediator comes in the form of the Holy Ghost. But what exactly is the Holy Ghost anyway? This is a question that always bothered me and one which I never felt was fully explained. Often times the Holy Spirit is depicted as a dove. In other passages of the bible it is shown to be a giant sheet. It is my opinion (from reading the works of others; notably Philip K. Dick) that the Holy Spirit is a shapeshifting entity of some kind, capable of taking on any and every form in existence. God is non-temporal and non-spatial; which means that God does not exist in a material sense. He is pure mind and as the Eastern philosophers would say; when we bring our full attention to bear upon the mind we find ‘nothing’. Man, on the other hand, is bound by temporal and spatial laws and is therefor a ‘thing’ and can be said to exist in the material sense. In order to bridge this existential gap between something (Man) and Nothing (God), the Almighty IAM had to create the Holy Spirit which could be anything and everything. This gives us the following set of concordances;

God: Nothing Man: Something Holy Spirit: Everything

In this way the Holy Spirit is the opposite side of the coin to God or His counterpoint in reality. While God is always still; the Spirit is always in motion, while God remains hidden behind the veil, the Spirit is always hiding in plain sight. The Holy Spirit is therefore the agent of God’s will on the Earth and the material manifestation of the New Covenant that Jesus came to instil upon the world. As such the importance of the Holy Ghost should not be underestimated or understated. It is only via the word of Jesus and the Holy Spirit which still dwells amongst that us we can return to the Lord God and to salvation. If we only worship or give thanks to one or two aspects of God and neglect the other then we aren’t really loving the totality of God. It should also be noted that God tells us to love him with all our mind, all of our being and all our soul i.e. we are to love him with every aspect of our own triune nature and to then project this love at all three aspects of his nature so that total parity and unity is achieved.

Christopher O'Neill

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