Three arguments why immanent processions are one with their source

In explaining how God can both proceed from God and also be entirely indivisible, St. Thomas responds that the divine procession is in the mode of an immanent procession, and that the more perfect an immanent procession is, the more unified it is with its source. I agree with Lonergan that  if it is given that the divine persons proceed, this principle is the solution to all the fundamental problems of the Trinity. But how to explain it?

-One account is from comparing transitive to immanent operations. Transitive operations, like building, lifting, inflating, etc. are finished when something other than the maker is complete – when the house is built, the obelisk is set upright, or the tire is filled. The action is understood by a division between the maker and the made. But immanent operations negate this division, and the negation of division is unity. And so the unity of immanent operations with their acts follows from the ratio of such actions, and the definition of unity.

Notice also that while we talk of the immanent action completing or perfecting the thing which acts and not something else, it is not right to say that it perfects the source of the action as such. All agents act so far as they are in act and not so far as they are in potency to the operation. An operation perfects an agent only qua subject; in a source of being that lacked all potency and subjectivity, the resultant act would not be a perfection of the subject, even though it would be one with it.

-St. Thomas’s reason is more properly from the unity of the knower and known. As Cajetan, following Avicenna, explains the unity of knower and known by pointing out how it is a greater unity than a physical subject can achieve with a form that determines it. Though a physical subject and its determining form make a single, undivided material entity, nevertheless the matter (physical subject) never becomes the form. The cognitive subject, on the other hand, does become the thing known in the intentional order. This is simply what “being objective” entails. Intelligible (and thus spiritual) action is thus understood as resulting in a greater unity than the physical action generating a physical thing, and, by way of eminence and extrapolation, the divine action results in absolute unity.

-Experientially, those of us who write can understand the unity of the operation and the source in those rare moments when we manage to say exactly what we wanted to say, i.e. when the source of the expression (the thing we need to say) and the expression are perfectly one, as opposed to coming out in one of the thousand ways an expression can be lame or stillborn. As a related example of the same thing, there are also those times when someone else manages to say exactly what we wanted to say – when we can see the very thoughts we could not expressed as expressed in their words (when this happens perfectly immanently, there is the perfect clarity of thought, and vice-versa).


  1. brucem123 said,

    April 29, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    Could you please define an immanent procession?
    As orthodox and philosophical as I think I am, I realize I have not the foggiest.

    • brucem123 said,

      April 29, 2013 at 8:31 pm

      Ok, I suppose the examples ought to be good enough here. But really?

    • April 29, 2013 at 8:54 pm

      Procession is the origin of one thing from another.

      Immanent action, as opposed to transitive action, involves generating a perfection that remains in the generator.

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