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The Trinity

"Say not there are three Gods, God is but One God."--(Koran.)

The doctrine of the Trinity is the highest and most mysterious doctrine
of the Christian church. It declares that there are three persons in
the Godhead or divine nature--the Father, the Son, and the Holy
Ghost--and that "these three are one true, eternal God, the same in
substance, equal in power and glory, although distinguished by their
personal propensities." The most celebrated statement of the doctrine is
to be found in the Athanasian creed,[368:1] which asserts that:

"The Catholic[368:2] faith is this: That we worship One God
as Trinity, and Trinity in Unity--neither confounding the
persons, nor dividing the substance--for there is One person
of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy
Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, and of the Son, and of
the Holy Ghost is all one; the glory equal, the majesty

As M. Reville remarks:

"The dogma of the Trinity displayed its contradictions with
true bravery. The Deity divided into three divine persons,
and yet these three persons forming only One God; of
these three the first only being self-existent, the two
others deriving their existence from the first, and yet
these three persons being considered as perfectly equal;
each having his special, distinct character, his individual
qualities, wanting in the other two, and yet each one of the
three being supposed to possess the fullness of
perfection--here, it must be confessed, we have the
deification of the contradictory."[368:3]

We shall now see that this very peculiar doctrine of three in one, and
one in three, is of heathen origin, and that it must fall with all the
other dogmas of the Christian religion.

The number three is sacred in all theories derived from oriental
sources. Deity is always a trinity of some kind, or the successive
emanations proceeded in threes.[369:1]

If we turn to India we shall find that one of the most prominent
features in the Indian theology is the doctrine of a divine triad,
governing all things. This triad is called Tri-murti--from the
Sanscrit word tri (three) and murti (form)--and consists of Brahma,
Vishnu, and Siva. It is an inseparable unity, though three in

"When the universal and infinite being Brahma--the only really existing
entity, wholly without form, and unbound and unaffected by the three
Gunas or by qualities of any kind--wished to create for his own
entertainment the phenomena of the universe, he assumed the quality of
activity and became a male person, as Brahma the creator. Next, in the
progress of still further self-evolution, he willed to invest himself
with the second quality of goodness, as Vishnu the preserver, and with
the third quality of darkness, as Siva the destroyer. This development
of the doctrine of triple manifestation (tri-murti), which appears
first in the Brahmanized version of the Indian Epics, had already been
adumbrated in the Veda in the triple form of fire, and in the triad of
gods, Agni, Surya, and Indra; and in other ways."[369:3]

This divine Tri-murti--says the Brahmans and the sacred books--is
indivisible in essence, and indivisible in action; mystery profound!
which is explained in the following manner:

Brahma represents the creative principle, the unreflected or
unevolved protogoneus state of divinity--the Father.

Vishnu represents the protecting and preserving principle, the
evolved or reflected state of divinity--the Son.[369:4]

Siva is the principle that presides at destruction and
re-construction--the Holy Spirit.[369:5]

The third person was the Destroyer, or, in his good capacity, the
Regenerator. The dove was the emblem of the Regenerator. As the
spiritus was the passive cause (brooding on the face of the waters) by
which all things sprang into life, the dove became the emblem of the
Spirit, or Holy Ghost, the third person.

These three gods are the first and the highest manifestations of the
Eternal Essence, and are typified by the three letters composing the
mystic syllable OM or AUM. They constitute the well known Trimurti or
Triad of divine forms which characterizes Hindooism. It is usual to
describe these three gods as Creator, Preserver and Destroyer, but this
gives a very inadequate idea of their complex characters. Nor does the
conception of their relationship to each other become clearer when it is
ascertained that their functions are constantly interchangeable, and
that each may take the place of the other, according to the sentiment
expressed by the greatest of Indian poets, Kalidasa (Kumara-sambhava,
Griffith, vii. 44):

"In those three persons the One God was shown--
Each first in place, each last--not one alone;
Of Siva, Vishnu, Brahma, each may be
First, second, third, among the blessed three."

A devout person called Attencin, becoming convinced that he should
worship but one deity, thus addressed Brahma, Vishnu and Siva:

"O you three Lords; know that I recognize only One God;
inform me therefore, which of you is the true divinity, that
I may address to him alone my vows and adorations."

The three gods became manifest to him, and replied:

"Learn, O devotee, that there is no real distinction between
us; what to you appears such is only by semblance; the
Single Being appears under three forms, but he is

Sir William Jones says:

"Very respectable natives have assured me, that one or two
missionaries have been absurd enough in their zeal for the
conversion of the Gentiles, to urge that the Hindoos were even
now almost Christians; because their Brahma, Vishnou, and
Mahesa (Siva), were no other than the Christian

Thomas Maurice, in his "Indian Antiquities," describes a magnificent
piece of Indian sculpture, of exquisite workmanship, and of stupendous
antiquity, namely:

"A bust composed of three heads, united to one body,
adorned with the oldest symbols of the Indian theology, and
thus expressly fabricated according to the unanimous
confession of the sacred sacerdotal tribe of India, to
indicate the Creator, the Preserver, and the
Regenerator, of mankind; which establishes the solemn fact,
that from the remotest eras, the Indian nations had adored a
triune deity."[371:1]

Fig. No. 34 is a representation of an Indian sculpture, intended to
represent the Triune God,[371:2] evidently similar to the one described
above by Mr. Maurice. It is taken from "a very ancient granite" in the
museum at the "Indian House," and was dug from the ruins of a temple in
the island of Bombay.

The Buddhists, as well as the Brahmans, have had their Trinity from a
very early period.

Mr. Faber, in his "Origin of Heathen Idolatry," says:

"Among the Hindoos, we have the Triad of Brahma, Vishnu,
and Siva; so, among the votaries of Buddha, we find the
self-triplicated Buddha declared to be the same as the Hindoo
Trimurti. Among the Buddhist sect of the Jainists, we have the
triple Jiva, in whom the Trimurti is similarly declared to be

In this Trinity Vajrapani answers to Brahma, or Jehovah, the
"All-father," Manjusri is the "deified teacher," the counterpart of
Crishna or Jesus, and Avalokitesvara is the "Holy Spirit."

Buddha was believed by his followers to be, not only an incarnation of
the deity, but "God himself in human form"--as the followers of Crishna
believed him to be--and therefore "three gods in one." This is clearly
illustrated by the following address delivered to Buddha by a devotee
called Amora:

"Reverence be unto thee, O God, in the form of