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  Frithjof Schuon on Christianity Back to the List of Slideshows
The Trinity,
from a French medieval illumination
slide 5 of 17

The Christian understanding of the Incarnation is itself based on the Trinity. Schuon’s teachings on this subject are complex and it is impossible to survey them adequately here. From one perspective, the hypostases of the Trinity are Relative:
God is the Absolute; He is the single Essence, whereas the three Persons are the first Relativities…they actualize the indivisible characteristics of the Essence. (from “Evidence and Mystery”, p. 117)
But from another perspective, the Father is Absolute and the Son and Spirit Relative:
The Father is Beyond-Being, the Son is Being, and the Spirit is Beatitude and Manifestation.…(from “Some Observations”, p. 39)
From a certain perspective, they are Absolute:
The Persons are eminently present in pure Atma; otherwise they could not actualize themselves within Maya. In this sense the hypostatic Persons are above Relativity; they are intrinsic aspects of the Absolute.… (from “Appendix: A Sampling of Letters and Other Unpublished Materials”, p. 168)
Hence the ambiguity of the relationship of the Father to the Son: the Son is both equal and subordinate, depending on perspective:
The Gospels show…that the Son is at once subordinate and equal to the Father, and it is precisely this antinomy that opens up for us in an indicative manner the mystery of Relativity in divinis. (from “Evidence and Mystery”, p. 122)

The hypostases are not “relative” inasmuch as they are “contained” in the Essence…they are relative inasmuch as they “emanate” from Him; if they were not “contained” in Him, they could not “emanate”.…At the level of essentiality…they coincide with the Absolute purely and simply. (from “Appendix: A Sampling of Letters and Other Unpublished Materials”, p. 176)
At the highest plane of understanding the Trinity is multiplicity in divinis—multiplicity that is not other than the Absolute unity from which nothing is absent. The Absolute transcends the distinction between simplex and complex; it is neither and both. The doctrine of the Trinity is esoteric and metaphysical:
Any normal man can conceive of the divine Unity to some extent…[but] the Trinity can be understood only by those who…are able…to move…in the metaphysical dimension.… (from “The Particular Nature and Universality of the Christian Tradition”, p. 13)
Schuon approaches the issue of the Trinity from several perspectives, but even this does not exhaust this mystery, as he remarks,
We are here at the limit of what can be expressed; it is no one’s fault if…there remain questions without an answer, and perhaps without any possible answer, at least at the dialectical level.…The science of the heart is not subject to discussion. (from “Appendix: A Sampling of Letters and Other Unpublished Materials”, p. 176)
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