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And yet, simply re-establishing this simultaneity of cause and effect had important consequences for me. I found the demonstration and proof of the argument in the unity of the three distinct Persons of the Christian Trinity. I opened myself up to Hoyack and told him that I had spoken of this to certain friends who were priests and that I had asked them what we ought to think about the Trinity: ‘Can you explain the Trinity to me’, I asked them, ‘this God in three persons whose Unity is unimpaired?’ The replies were always the same: ‘It is a mystery beyond our strength; we must believe what we are commanded by the Church.’ ‘Are you sure that there is nothing but mystery in the Trinity? Don’t you think rather that this mystery could be a sort of reward for profitable effort? God gave us intelligence and reason. Logos means reason; surely we are meant to use them. The terms in which the Trinity is clothed - father, son, spirit - are so simple and general that they seem to me to invite us - not just scholars but, most importantly, all men of good will - to engage in an effort of understanding. Christian esotericism is like a mist in a river, crossed by all the fires of a Summer morning’s sun. It disperses in a few seconds. The Trinity is transcendental in the eye of God, absolute, ineffable. But for us, in its expressions, in its key words, it is His image, if only we would understand.’ My priestly friends looked at me with suspicion, a little afraid, although they were used to my outbursts. ‘I believe in the efficacy of Christian doctrine; which is to say that I believe it to be as practical as it is true. To live as a Christian, then, implies a teaching; this teaching is part of the doctrine. To bear fruit, it must be heard, understood, assimilated; that is what Revelation means. I think that this word is badly used. It is yet another of those key words whose meaning has to be recovered. We have given it a meaning which puts it into a hopeless opposition to reason and therefore contradicts the Word, the Logos, which is reason. How many scholars and intellectuals have lost their religion or turned against religion only because they were persuaded that Revelation can never be reconciled with reason, even less transcend its limits. The Catholic clergy, and the clergy of the other denominations, seem to me to have done little or nothing to enlighten them in this regard. Could it be that they themselves are mistaken to the point of adopting this error? In an age such as ours, when the falling away from Christianity is an evil that is making disturbing inroads, should we not try the impossible to remedy this state of affairs as a matter of urgency? The renovation of the key-words is the first act to be accomplished. The Trinity rightly understood could be the remedy to be applied to everything. It is the Catholic panacea. Through it, we quickly begin to understand that there is no contradiction between faith and reason, between Revelation and reason.’

What does the Trinity tell us? First, that it is made up of three hypostases: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Next, that the Father and the Son are consubstantial and co-eternal, and that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the one and from the other. Finally, that these three distinct Persons are One. If we re-establish the words in their original meaning, linked to the object and not to the subject, the divine Trinity does not in any way contradict its human image. And using our reason to show it is no more a sacrilege than using that same reason to understand what is meant by this admirable statement: ‘God made man in his image and resemblance’. For, if man is the image of God, there can be no objection to his being an image of the Trinity, which is God. St Augustine himself has said it.

Looking at the three hypostases attentively, the meanings of the words by which they are named, their relations and their positions, and turning towards ourselves, or towards what surrounds us in the course of our daily lives, we find no reason to object to what those who are wiser than we have told us about the Trinity. We can easily see that Jack’s father and Jack are of the same flesh and blood; father and son are certainly consubstantial as, we are told, are the Father and Son of the Most Holy Trinity. Are they co-eternal? That is to say, is there any relation of time between them? Is the one before or after the other? Did Jack’s father have any existence prior to his son, Jack? To reply to these questions we have to give to the words ‘father’ and ‘son’ their real meaning, their meaning in action, consequently their objective meaning. What is a father? It is a man who has a son. What is a son? It is a man who has a father. No son, no father; no father, no son. No time separates them in their nature as father or son; for the very instant of the appearance of Jack is the instant when his father appears. So long as Jack was but a virtuality, the father too was only virtual. Jack’s birth and the father’s appearance were simultaneous. Now, is it possible to situate, exactly, absolutely, in time, this phenomenon that is at once double and unique? We may call upon our cleverest mathematicians, we may use the most wonderful instruments perfected with a view to cutting seconds into infinite numbers of nths, but we will never reach anything other than an approximation. As far as the absolute is concerned, there is no difference between the result of this refined calculation and the approximate instant which is all that is needed by the civil registry office. What do we deduce from this? That all simultaneity of cause and effect is produced outside space and time. We, miserable creatures whose natures are differentiated, we only know what comes to us from eternity in the world of space and time, based as it is on the principle of succession. Every birth comes from Eternity (3), even our own, even those that we ourselves provoke in those true acts of our life in which the cause cannot be mistaken for the motive. The glassmaker is the cause of the glass.

(3) Lao-Tze would say; ‘From the permanence that is not without movement.’ Impermanence is the result of our natures that are differentiated, divided into space and time. All our sciences and philosophies are founded on space and time uniquely. That is why they can get nowhere as far as knowledge is concerned - Note by Gleizes.

Now let us return to the Spirit which, according to what the Most Holy Trinity tells us, proceeds from the Father and from the Son. Is it the same in the case of Jack and his father? Exactly. Who is the Spirit? Ineffable love. The father’s love for his son, Jack, is reciprocated in the love of Jack for his father; that is part of the normal, elementary order. And it is that love that was the determining factor in the ‘creation of the father’ and the ’begetting of the son’. For it is well said that ‘the Father is created’ (4) when ‘the Son is begotten’. Again we can find its image in and around us. What was Jack’s father before Jack was born? A son, quite simply, who, at a certain moment in his life, wanted to beget a son, through love for his son, through love for himself. When Jack was born, the son who begot him thus created himself as a father, renouncing the son that he was to find him again in Jack. No-one has ever seen the birth of a father; but we always see the birth of a son. Fatherhood is an auto-creation, sonship the result of a conception.

(4) The word 'created' here is awkward. The doctrine of the Christian Trinity emphasises that the three Persons of the Trinity are uncreated. But since the Son is coeternal with the Father there is, contrary to an earthly father, never a moment when God the Father wasn't a father. Translator's note.   

From what has been said, we may conclude that we cannot grasp the Most Holy Trinity intelligibly in its transcendental nature, which is eternity, any more than we can grasp the one God, though the Trinity nonetheless expresses His creative gesture with regard to the creation. But we are still the image and resemblance of the Trinity, as we are of God, from Whom the Trinity is inseparable. And, intelligibly, we are not only allowed, we are positively ordered to become aware of this image. I have said that the mystery is a reward for our effort. Where does it lie? Precisely in this revelation of Eternity which we feel in the simultaneity without location of the creative act, even when it is only done by the image, a question of cause and effect. That is the nature of the creative act which, tirelessly and ceaselessly, we repeat all the length of our earthly pilgrimage, which brings us the life of Eternity which we derive from the Most Holy Trinity; the three distinct persons who are one can be found in everybody - each man being son and father by the flesh or by vocation, being begotten and creating himself; each man being a vessel of love proceeding from the son that he was when he was born to the father he can be if he knows how to avoid mistaking object and subject, cause and motive. Let us add, if he is taught by good masters or if, being touched by grace, his real experience teaches him about himself.

The consequences of the teaching of good masters who know the adorable teaching of the Most Holy Trinity are immediate and they give a community basic principles that are indestructible. Each of its members can experience its good effects. Through it, everyone’s work recovers its sacred nature. In the humblest act, realised under the authority of the object, in which cause and effect have primacy over motives, reasons, fantasies, a light that comes from God Himself, from the absolute, from eternal life, can be seen and shines on the worker and his work. For twelve centuries the Christian Church had ’overseers’ who were good teachers. They maintained the divine instruction in the communities under their care. They prevented any confusion between the object and the subject. They knew how to put the great lesson embodied in the Most Holy Trinity within everyone’s reach. I have spoken of work. It was understood as something holy, as the act which allows us to ‘gain your life by the sweat of your brow’, according to the word that redeems and saves. ‘Gain your life’, understood objectively, actively, which is to say: ‘to go in the direction of life’. ‘By the sweat of your brow’, which is equally to be understood objectively, actively: ‘by an effort of the spirit’. Work for man was an integration, a participation, a prayer. It was the human act in the image of the Act of Creation, in which cause and effect reflect each other; it was the image of the realisation in unity of each of the operations of the Persons of the Trinity. That is what, beyond its utilitarian and social nature, explains the action of the Church on the work of men; that is what explains the quality, which nowadays we find astonishing, with which the works of the craftsmanship of those times, no matter how modest, are marked, each stamped with the seal of beauty. Those productions which, by their nature, have left no trace must equally have been ‘overseen’, since all came from the same authority, that of the Most Holy Trinity, in action everywhere. All the ‘acts’ which have come down to us and which slumber in the archives always begin with ‘In the name of the Most Holy Trinity’. The statutes of corporations, works that were reserved for people called to a particular craft - such as Cennino Cennini’s Treatise on Painting, dating from the fourteenth century (which shows a faithfulness to tradition among the craftsmen which was lacking on the part of the pure intellectuals) - always repeat, before giving up their secrets; ‘In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ or ‘In the name of the Most Holy Trinity’. These are not just pious formulae without effect. They are professions of faith, active, objective, guarantees of the obedience and submission of the writers.


Since I have just recalled the Treatise on Painting by Cennino Cennini, a painter, I will retain the notion of ‘the painter’ to justify this reference to the Most Holy Trinity. We will recognise the same relations, the same positions as those which exist in the Trinity, in its letter and in its spirit: Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

The painter, who is the cause of the painting understood as work, is the father of the painting, which is his son, or his daughter. (5) The consubstantiality is clear: since a painter must be recognised in his nature as a painter, his flesh is the painting itself. That is what we can see in the painted work. The co-eternity of the painter and the painted work is of the same order as that of the father and son: no painting, no painter; no painter, no painting - a relation of cause to effect, simultaneity of the agent and of the act. Nothing before the other, nothing after the other. Impossibility of situating the precise time of the phenomenon which is thus produced and which, by reason of our distinct natures, we experience in space and time. A little thought, and we understand that it is produced outside space and time and thus ... Eternity, divine prerogative which may be felt even when the act is only in the image and resemblance. God is more faithful to us than we are to Him. Revelation, mystery. The Holy Spirit too can be found proceeding from the painter and from the painted work, in the painter’s love for the painting, and in the painting which reflects the painter’s love. Love that was the determining factor of the ‘creation of the painting’ and ‘the conception of the painted work’. For no-one has ever seen the birth of a painter, but we always see the birth of a painting. The painter is an auto-creation, the painting a production ...

(5) In the original, the ‘painting’ (feminine in French) is characterised as the painter’s ‘daughter’. - Translator's note.

In this example, and in others that we could choose indifferently from all the crafts and activities to which men devote themselves, can you see what benefits the Holy Trinity, rightly understood, can confer on the community? The order that it brings? The control it imposes on everyone’s work and on the quality of the gestures by which it is performed? The critical perception it conveys by which the good grain and the chaff, the good work and the bad, can immediately be distinguished? The protection it gives to the individual? The obstacle it poses to heresies whose tendency is to undermine life itself? Cause confused with motive, the principal with the accessory, authority and slavery. Work is a blessing and not, as it has become today, a curse. Work is not a matter of economics, a waste of time engaged in to obtain a salary that gives a poor guarantee of a precarious existence; it isn’t just any old subterfuge for obtaining a more or less legitimate profit; it isn’t an obligation imposed by confused circumstances, a servitude to which most of us are constrained by social injustice, an affliction from which we are destined to be released by the progress of machines. Work understood in its objective meaning and not diverted into the subject is, for man, image of his creator, the grace that is given to him for his redemption and salvation. That is where he finds his dignity, his greatness, his confidence and his immortality. And this is true for all kinds of work, whether it is apparently modest or spectacular, so long as it is conditioned by love. Not all of us have exceptional gifts or faculties, but we all have the capacity for love, to be employed in the first instance on ourselves. The Holy Spirit is immanent in us. It is only a matter of our being enabled to know it. That is the rôle of the overseers. It was the rôle of the overseers for the first twelve centuries of the history of the Church.

[ ... ]


Only the Church is in a position to preserve or transmit these fundamental principles that are not changed by space or time. But a Church that has been the first to be willing to die to be reborn to life. Not a Church, however worthy of respect it may still be, which, and we must recognise this as a fact, was the first to depart from those life-giving principles, to turn away from sovereign Authority, to be attached to dangerous particularities, to turn towards reasons that are interchangeable. Even when I felt more than I understood, I declared myself astonished to see no fundamental difference between the instruction given in religious establishments and that given in schools and colleges. It seemed to me that there were certain distinctions that ought to be drawn.

A religious formation is something other than instruction in the catechism, which, however indispensable it may be, is usually only addressed to the memory, never to the spirit which needs to be awakened. What is the instruction in the seminaries worth? You only have to see the inadequacies of so many priests with regard to religious questions to be able to form a judgment. In the Catholic universities, the teachers, even when they are teaching theology, only teach the philosophy of the secular university. And these teachers boast of degrees, of diplomas, of doctorates obtained from the Alma Mater. How many the Princes of the Church who have come from its schools! How many the religious orders, Jesuit and Dominican, burdened with intellectuals taken from this secular formation, whose fatal error is that it is in total opposition to the traditional religious formation, just as the subject is to the object.

When I understood the importance of these distinctions, I was able to measure the harm done by this evil, and I understood that the Church, by distancing itself from what is specific to it - the initiation into origins - had itself given the first impulse to this rush towards death, the end of all material things. It was, then, normal that its highest authorities should be subjected to a lay instruction, tortuous, glittering, since the other, authentically religious, was only a letter and all we had to do with it was to believe it blindly - reason being the property of the University, and faith an article in contradiction with intelligence and criticism. Once they were engaged in these blind alleys, it is easy to understand how this clergy, which has lost the gift of tongues and all the other gifts of the Holy Spirit, are so mistaken as to the nature of culture and how they came to break their links with the people, links which cannot be formed in the schools but only in the workshops and in the fields. Only a culture of this kind, I say it yet again, is an objective culture, the only culture that answers to what has been said: ‘God made man in His image and resemblance’, since the Creator is not intellectual but active. And His only Son, Jesus Christ, when He assumed human shape, passed thirty years of His earthly existence, without saying a word, in the workshop of His earthly father, the holy carpenter, and that is where He learnt the teaching that He was to spread for three years to the deaf, the blind, the paralysed so as to unblock their ears, open their eyes, and set them in movement once again. ‘I am the Bread of Life ...’ That is what, some day, the Church, risen again from the grave, will oppose to the expedients that the Prince of Shadows, the intellectual prince, suggests these days to men who are in pain and who, for a long time yet to come, will live under the evil charm of ‘progress’.

The resurrection of the power of key words! We have indicated some of them. They have that creative force which, starting from the seed, is revealed in the fulfilment of everything that bears witness to burgeoning life - the opposite to those words that are like so many diseases, that exhaust, that sterilise and kill. Look at the difference between the potter who, with a little clay, realises the form of a pot, and the physicist, who cuts and chisels his way into a body, reducing it to dust in an effort to surprise the life that is in it. On the one hand, the simplicity that enables us to understand every real beginning; on the other hand, complications that cannot even account for the dissipation and loss of consciousness they themselves induce. With our scientific methods, supposedly founded on facts, on observation and analysis, how can we explain the pot without referring to the potter? Unable to understand it simply as a pot, the physicist will break it, reduce it to particles, study its reactions to different stimuli. Then what will be his conclusion at the end of it all? The demand that impotence always makes. He will ask for judgment to be deferred.