I think the words “Father,” “Son,” and “Holy Spirit,” are a symbolic metaphysical formula that is trying to convey something fundamental about the nature of reality. And I don’t think it is only Christianity that has tried to express this. It seems to show up in many other philosophies, theologies, and even modern science.
I’ve begun a spreadsheet where I’ve started correlating various concepts of these various philosophies throughout history. I suggest that they are not actually pointing to completely different things, but are merely different terms that we use to point to nearly the same things, or slight variations of the same things in nature or reality. This is an exploration of how many different metaphysical ideas about reality may interrelate to each other.
This is clearly far from perfect. Not all the correlations line up perfectly, and some terms obviously have some connotations that don’t perfectly harmonize with what traditional Christianity says about the Trinity. This is especially the case since in nondual approaches of the Father and Son, these are really just two different aspects of the very same One (God), the Spirit being a kind of continuum or connection between them, like the two sides of a single coin connected by the stuff in-between. The same superpositions between items on this list may apply; they may not be either-or, but both-and.
I may update this spreadsheet occasionally, as I think of more correlations, make adjustments or corrections, or as others offer their ideas to me to add to it.
What other ways might we express these same relations in other philosophies, spiritual traditions, or science? Please let me know in the comments.
6 thoughts on “Trinitarian Symbolism in terms of other Metaphysical Philosophy, Theology, and Science”
Interesting. I especially like the notion of Brahman/Atman/Prana as a trinity.
Bryce, I think that a better comparison of the Christian Trinity and Buddhist Trikaya would be:
Nirmanakaya is the Buddha in human form (Jesus)
Sambhogakaya is celestial Buddha (God the Father)
Dharmakaya is the formless essence (Holy Spirit)
Ron, I just watched a video where Ken Wilber made the same associations I did in the Trikaya, where the Sambhogakaya is similar to the “Holy Spirit,” and Dharmakaya with the highest Ultimate Reality or Eternal Truth. See here starting at about minute 11:30,
For me, two strong expressions of this are Truth, Beauty, and Goodness and Ken Wilber’s God in the First Person, Second Person, and Third Person – which is a streamlined version of his four quadrants model. This bridges to the Four Yogas of Action, Devotion, Meditation, and Knowledge. This connects to Peter Tufts RIchardson’s book on the Four Spiritualities – based on Meyers Briggs methods. Tom Owen-Towle has a book about Unitarian Universalists as free-thinking mystics with hands. To me, there is some correlation to our triune brain and to the three main neurological complexes in the body – brain, heart, and gut.
Great comparisons! I particularly like the triune Truth, Beauty, Goodness.