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Francisco de Goya: The Name of God, detail from the ceiling fresco of the Basílica del Pilar (1772)
Symbol of the different aspects of the Trinity (blue: Threefoldness, turquoise: Triunity, green: monotheism)
With a three-leaf clover, Wikipedia:Saint Patrick is said to have explained the Trinity to the Irish
A basic equilateral triangular version of the Shield of the Trinity or Scutum Fidei (Latin for "shield of faith"). It is a traditional Christian visual symbol which expresses many aspects of the doctrine of the Trinity, summarizing the first part of the Athanasian Creed in a compact diagram.

From the divine Trinity (also Triunity or Threefoldness), which in theosophical literature is also called the Three Logoi - Father, Son or Word (Christ) and Holy Spirit - which form a unity of being, i.e. three persons or hypostases, but not three underlying different substances[1], spring the plans for each new world system, which are then handed over to the spiritual beings of the first hierarchy for further elaboration.

The Christian Trinity is often erroneously referred to as the Triad or Triad of Gods. According to the understanding of the Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant churches, however, the Trinity is a higher view than the Triad, which does not emphasise the consubstantiality or unity of the three divine persons already established in the 325 Nicene Creed.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit

According to Origen, knowledge of the Father is only communicated through the revelation of the Son in the Holy Spirit:

„For all knowledge of the Father is communicated only through the revelation of the Son in the Holy Spirit, so that these two, whom the prophet calls living beings, are the ground of knowledge of God the Father.“

Origen: De principiis I,4:3

In pre-Christian times, the Father-God worked unconsciously in the body shells of man. Only the initiated were able to raise this work to consciousness and could then say: The Father lives in me. And they felt his being as the divine I, as "I am the I Am" (Exodus 3:1–22):

„Before the Mystery of Golgotha, therefore, the full I-consciousness did not yet live on earth in human beings themselves. But there were people who had already developed this full I-consciousness, who developed it through the mystery act. These were the initiates. We have already spoken in various ways about what happened within the old mystery places to those who underwent initiation and ascended to this fully conscious I, while it was the general nature of man not yet to have a fully conscious I. But the old initiate was able to develop the full consciousness of the I through the initiation. But the old initiate could only ascend to this fully conscious I through the sacred action of the Mysteries, when something entered into him which, within all ancient cultures and civilisations, was felt to be the eternal Father of the Cosmos. And the myste of the ancient Mysteries, the initiate, had this experience, when he had reached a certain point of his initiation, that he said to himself: The Father lives in me.

If we were to imagine such an initiate within the ancient Hebrew culture, we would have to say: This initiate characterised what had happened to himself through initiation in the following way. He said: "The common humanity has this as its peculiarity, that the Father sustains and carries it, but that the Father does not enter into the consciousness and does not kindle the consciousness to the I. The Father merely gives the ordinary human being the spirit of breath; he breathes into him the breath, and that is the living soul. But the initiate felt that in addition to what was breathed into him as the living soul, a special spiritual, the living Father principle of the cosmos, entered into the human being. And then, when this divine Father-principle had moved into this old initiate of the Hebrew world and the human being had become conscious of it, then this human being uttered with full right what "I" meant with him: I am who I am.“ (Lit.:GA 214, p. 61f)

„This divine father principle had poured itself into the initiates. Through this, the I was kindled in the initiates in addition to the physical body, the etheric body and the astral body. Those alone, as I have already said, were allowed to express the I, which was actually the ineffable name of God Himself, into whom the Divine Father had moved.

But now there were people in the middle of the time of earthly development who began to say I to themselves, who raised the I up into consciousness. In such a human being, who was Jesus of Nazareth, the principle which is the Son principle, the Christ principle, entered. This Christ-principle therefore entered into the I. Whereas before we had the Father principle moving into the physical body, the etheric body, the astral body, now we have the Christ principle moving into the human being who had developed further.“ (S. 63)

„And these initiates knew that the Christ had entered humanity as the Healer, as the Great Healer, as the One who prevents the human body from suffering damage by becoming brittle through the drawing in of the I. For what would have happened if the Christ had not appeared as the Healer? If the Christ had not appeared as the Healer, then, when men die, when they lay down their decaying bodies, through the laying down of the decaying bodies the symptoms of decay would radiate back into their souls, which they unfold after death. The dead would be disturbed and tormented by what the decaying physical body represented in their earthly existence. They would have to see, these souls who had passed through death, how the earth itself suffers damage by having to receive a decaying body. And the old initiates, like those who call themselves Christians in the right sense of the word, who penetrate to the inner fulfilment with the Christ-principle, knew how they could now look down on their body, which had been taken from them in death, in such a way that they could say: Through our indwelling of the Christ, while we were children of the earth, we have healed this physical body so far that it can be sunk into the earth without being a principle of decay for the earth itself.“ (S. 66)

If it had only remained so, man would not have been able to attain freedom:

„But if it would only remain so, then those who know their bodies saved, they would now have to carry the Christ, as the entity working in them, the entity also working in them bodily, in them. And with that, people could not become free beings again. If this had remained the case - at the time when freedom emerged in the 14th century - people would have developed in such a way that they could have taken the Christ into themselves to calm their souls after death, so that these souls could have looked down upon the earth in the way I have now described to you; but people would not have been able to become free. If they had wanted to become good, they would have had to let the Christ work in them as the Father had worked in ancient times in people who were not initiates. At that time, people became free by developing the I in them. The initiated became free people in ancient times, the others were unfree because the Father lived unconsciously in them. If the Christians had been conscious beings of the Christ in themselves, they would have had to extinguish their I-consciousness at any time if they had wanted to become good, in order to awaken the Christ by extinguishing this I-consciousness in themselves. Not they themselves could have been good, but only the Christ in them could have been good.“ (S. 67f)

Only through the Holy Spirit could people become free:

„For this it was necessary that the Christ as such disappeared from the direct sight of men, that he remained united with earthly existence, but disappeared from the direct sight of men. To him was applied the expression which was also customary in the old places of initiation for such a thing: When a being which is physically visible, which can be followed by men who have their view in the physical world, ceases to be visible, then it is said that it has held its ascension. It has just entered those regions in which physical visibility no longer takes place. This is how the Christ held his ascension, this is how he became invisible. For in a certain way he would have retained his full visibility if he had indwelt men and extinguished the I, so that they could only have become good by the Christ actually acting in them.

The way in which the Christ was still visible to the apostles, to the disciples even after his resurrection, this way disappeared: the Christ held his ascension. But he sent to men that divine entity which does not extinguish the consciousness of the I, to which one rises not in sight but precisely in the unseen spirit. He sent the Holy Spirit to man.

Thus the Holy Spirit is actually that which should be sent by the Christ, so that man may retain his I-consciousness and the Christ may unconsciously indwell man. So that when man, in the full sense of the word, brings before his soul what kind of being he really is, he must say: When I look back to what the old initiates knew, I see that in me lives the Father principle which fills the cosmos, which appeared in these old initiates and unfolded the I in them. This is the principle that lived with us before we descended into the physical world. - Through the indwelling of this Father Principle, the old initiates remembered with complete clarity the way they lived before they descended into the physical world. There they sought the divine in the pre-natal, in the pre-existent: Ex deo nascimur.

After the Mystery of Golgotha, it was not possible for man to say: "I see the Christ", for then he could not have become good through himself, only the Christ in him could have been good. Only this could come over man: In Christo morimur. He could die in the Christ; he could unite the Christ with that which is the principle of death in him. But his new consciousness could be awakened by the entity which the Christ sent him, by the entity of the Holy Spirit: Per spiritum sanctum reviviscimus.“ (S. 68ff)

„By sending the Holy Spirit to humanity, the Christ enabled it to rise from the intellectual to the understanding of the spiritual. In the Gospel, too, it is clearly indicated to those who only want to see, who only want to read, that it is a revelation itself, that man, through his indwelling spirit, if he only leans towards the Christ, can comprehend the supersensible. That is why we are told that at the baptism of Christ the Holy Spirit appeared. And in the appearance of the Holy Spirit the words resound through the cosmos: "This is my much beloved Son, today I have begotten him." Therefore, it was an ancient dogma that the Father is the begetting Unbegotten, that the Son is the begotten of the Father, that the Holy Spirit is the one communicated to humanity by the Father and the Son. This is not merely an arbitrarily established dogma, but the initiatory wisdom of the first Christian centuries, and it was only later buried, just as the trichotomy and the Trinity were buried in general.“ (S. 70f)

The Rosicrucian saying

The well-known Rosicrucian saying "Ex deo nascimur - In Christo morimur - Per spiritum sanctum reviviscimus" (Out of the God we are born - In the Christ we die - By the Holy Spirit we shall rise again) reflects the Trinity and the different effects of the three divine persons. The Father-God works in the law-regulated natural forces of the sensual world, especially in the blood that runs through the generations, i.e. in the hereditary current. The forces of birth work through him. The Son-God, on the other hand, lives in the soul-spirit of man and leads him after death into the supersensible world.

„The Father-God lives in the blood. The Son-God lives in the soul-spirit of man. The Father-God introduces man into the material life: Ex deo nascimur. The Son-God in turn leads man out of material life. The Father-God leads man from the supersensible into the sensual, the Son-God from the sensual again into the supersensible: In Christo morimur.“ (Lit.:GA 209, p. 170)

The Holy Spirit, as a third principle, leads beyond birth and death to the resurrection of the spirit.

„But of equal value are the divine Father, who brings about the transition from the supersensible to the sensible: Ex deo nascimur, and the divine Son, who effects the transition from the sensual into the supersensual: In Christo morimur. - And above both, above being born and dying, there is a third principle which proceeds from both, which in turn is equally connected with both, with the divine Father and the divine Son: the Spirit, the Holy Spirit. So that in the human being the transition from the supersensible into the sensual can be recognised: Ex deo nascimur, the transition from the sensual into the supersensual: In Christo morimur, and the union of the two, the union with that in which neither birth nor death have any more an essence, the resurrection through the Spirit: Per spiritum sanctum reviviscimus.“ (Lit.:GA 209, p. 172)

The Essential Unity of the Three Divine Persons

John Flaxman: De l'alto lume parvemi tre giri,
Di tre colori e d'una continenza...

(Three circles were in the light manifestation
drawn by God's clear beingness
three colours, yet only one roundness...)
Paradiso 33

At the end of his Divine Comedy, in the 33rd canto of the Paradiso, Dante compares the three divine persons to three circles that overlap in a perfectly congruent manner and are distinguished from one another only by their shades of colour.

115 Three circles were in the light manifestation
       drawn by God's clear beingness
       three colours, yet only one roundness.
118 Two shone reflectively like two rainbows,
       but the third was a ring of fire,
       drawing life force from the others.

From the perspective of the physical world, a distinction must be made between the Father-God, Son-God and Spirit-God. The more the gaze is directed towards the higher worlds, the more the three divine persons flow together into the undivided Trinity.

„When placed in the physical world, however, the image results in three persons, and a distinction must be made between the Father-God, who underlies all facts of nature, including those that have an effect on human nature, the Son-God, who has to do with everything that leads into the freedom of the soul's experience, and the Spirit-God, who lives in an order remote from nature, alien to nature, precisely in a spiritual-cosmic order. The three persons of the Godhead appear so sharply contoured here on the physical plane.

While man, when he crosses the threshold to the spiritual world, enters a state which I have described in my book "How does one attain knowledge of the higher worlds?", where he is, as it were, divided into three beings, so that thinking, feeling, willing are then there with a certain independence, we see, as we proceed from the physical plane to the higher worlds, the Triune Godhead confronting us more and more as a unity. This, of course, is precisely what the Apocalypse must be read for. One must not, with reference to the physical world, distinguish directly between the Father-God, the Son-God, the Spirit-God.“ (Lit.:GA 346, p. 141f)

Divine and Human Trinity

There is both a divine and a human Trinity. This correspondence between human and divine Trinity can be heard well in the following words of Steiner:

„As a Trinity, then, the Godhead confronts us in the creeds of religion, where it is called: Father, Word and Holy Spirit - Isis, Osiris, Horus - Atma, Buddhi, Manas. Everywhere we now find the Trinity in the religions. And we have recognised the reason for it. It appears to us in images or words in Asia, in Egypt among the priests, but also in the Greco-Roman world, in Augustine, then in the Middle Ages, where one finds, as if hinting at it, a corresponding primordial tone that emerged perfectly clearly in the past, as the primordial ground from which man emerged. This has developed into what it is today, and now strives from the centre of its self towards the future. The ancient spiritual researchers perceived this as the trinity in man. When we have matured towards a greater perfection in the future, then that power to which we owe our existence and which today works in us as the hidden primal ground of being, will have emerged in a formative way. This was felt to be the divine, the ineffable of man, which is like the first essential component of the threefold world. And then that which now lives in man, that which strives for this highest, was perceived as the Word working in the present, the Son, who arose from the Father, who rests inexpressibly in him: Out of the Father has come forth the Son-man. As truly as this Father forms the future, more perfect man, so truly has he created the developing Son-man, the Buddhi, the second human member, which is not yet perfect, but is the reason that we strive towards perfection. That is the second entity. But also in the past this world ground has worked. Just as the sensuous human being was created in the past by the primordial world-ground, so also that which has already taken shape and radiated in him today has something that likewise emerged from the primordial world-ground in the past and has now already taken shape. Let us look out into the universe, as it makes itself perceptible in colours, sounds, smells and tactile sensations: it has emerged from the ineffable primal ground. In this respect, we can call this source, which appears to us, the creatures, spirit, also in the Christian sense. But the world is not created to the end. The germ is the world, something that has soul in itself, something that has the drive towards the future in itself. That is the Son. That is why this striving was called: the Word, Veda, Edda. The third is that which is in us today as a force, which will become perceptible in us in the future: the Father Ground of all being, which lies deep in all our souls.“ (Lit.:GA 54, p. 174f)

The distinction between Father and Son

Rudolf Steiner repeatedly emphasised that the clear distinction between Father and Son is essential for understanding Christianity. He often criticised the Protestant theologian Adolf von Harnack (1851-1930) for lacking any understanding of this distinction. He answered a question in this regard in a lecture on Christian religious work for the prospective priests of the Christian Community:

Rudolf Steiner: [...] I have expressly said: Where Harnack has the word "Christ", simply put "God" for it, then you will get the right thing. This person has a strong religious life; I will never deny that such people can have a strong religious life and feeling, but they are not Christians. If one wants to be a Christian, one must profess the Christ. And isn't it true that Harnack says that the Easter faith started in the Garden of Gethsemane, but what really happened there is none of our business. - That is not possible. Namely, precisely what is present in Harnack is a misapplication of the word "Christ". That is what I said.

A participant: People do not have a differentiated feeling.

Rudolf Steiner: They have no differentiated feeling. But one must be clear about that. One can say: Christianity is antiquated, we don't need to distinguish the Christ from the Father, we can go back to a mere monotheism that does not distinguish between Father and Son - , then one can hold the position, but then one must not make the claim in intellectualism to be a Christian.

One participant: We have a strong aversion to the view that says: a person can be whatever he wants if he is only a believer.

Rudolf Steiner: Then we can also let Christianity go, then we don't need Christianity, we introduce Brahmanism or Buddhism. Christianity makes it necessary to have the differentiation between the Father and the Son. If you go to the East to the Russians, you have a strong experience: Father and Son are differentiated. It will never occur to the Russian to fall into the Kantian error, that is, to speak about God from the point of view of ontology. Up to Scotus Eriugena, one still had this experience of the differentiation between Father and Son, then the whole history of the proofs of God begins in the first place. The moment you start to prove God, you no longer have him. In Scotus Eriugena there are still [differentiated] views, there is no mention at all - that is, in the time up to the 10th century - of this undifferentiated feeling of the Father and the Son. But today, what do people think about all this when they discuss whether the Son should be of the same essence as the Father or not? The real original concepts, the elementary concepts, seem to me to no longer exist in Western or Central European civilisation. Read philosophy ...[2], there you have a sphere where one's conception has stopped at what was there up to Scotus Eriugena, a differentiation is still there. But if you take the view that you don't need differentiation, then you can be a good Protestant, but not a Christian. I would like to discuss this in another context.

A participant: I think father and son are one?

Rudolf Steiner: You can say that quite well about the relationship of yourself and your father with the relationship, let us say, to the whole family. If it is a question of something being common in relation to the wider circle of your family, then you can say: I and my father are one, and what I do or what I bring to bear is also done by my father. - Therefore, you will not be able to say that you can throw the two individualities, you and your father, together.

A participant: That is not meant substantially?

Rudolf Steiner: No, no.

A participant: I wanted to ask: What is a special Christ-experience apart from the Father-experience? Because it seems to me that we can only experience Christ in the Mass; but how do we experience God the Father again?

Rudolf Steiner: That is something that should be mentioned in connection with sacramentalism. It is already contained in what I have said, but I want to go into it in connection, because, as I have said, the two, Father and Son, must be there specifically as two not numerically identical sensations. The sensation towards the Father must not be numerically identical with the sensation towards the Son.“ (Lit.:GA 343a, p. 454ff)

See also


Steiner big.jpg
References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
Email: URL:
Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
A complete list by Volume Number and a full list of known English translations you may also find at Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works
Rudolf Steiner Archive - The largest online collection of Rudolf Steiner's books, lectures and articles in English (by Steiner Online Library).
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold - Anthroposophic Press Inc. (USA)
Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.


  1. Just as comparatively the one substance water can appear in three forms, namely as vapour, as liquid and as ice.
  2. The stenographer's transcript has a gap here. The name "Solowjew" was inserted in the copy of the Christian Community.