and the Nicene Creed
Santayana's love for Catholic tradition is well known. Although he did not
believe in the church's dogmas, he felt that much human wisdom is embodied
in its teachings and institutions. Christian charity and forgiveness, and the
whole story of Jesus, are for him admirable examples of spirituality. It is the
spiritual discipline of Christianity which he admires; and, at one point, he says
that this is the only part of Catholicism which he respects.1
Santayana suggests, in a "General Review" at the end of Realms of Being, a
close relation between his ontology and Christian theology:
Yet, seen in another light, religiously rather than cosmologically, my treatment of
these four realms of being may be regarded as a reduction of Christian theology
and spiritual discipline to their secret interior source. In particular my analysis
transposes the doctrine of the Trinity into terms of pure ontology and moral
This suggested transposition is natural and readily granted, in the case of the
father and the holy ghost, which correspond to the realms of matter and spirit.
He calls the realm of matter "the assault of reality, in the force of whatsoever
exists or happens"; but evidendy, "this power is signified by the First Person of
the Trinity, the Father, almighty creature of heaven and earth, and of all things
visible and invisible" . Likewise the realm of spirit can be identified with
the holy ghost: "it is the Holy Ghost that speaks to us through the prophets,
vivifies us, and tells us all we know about the Son and the Father" .
The transposition suggested by Santayana raises a number of doubts,
however, in the case of the second part of the trinity: to the son of God he
assigns the realm of essence. According to this assignment, the son represents
form or essence, and is essential to all creation, in that the raw power exhibited
by God must always adopt some form for each earthly event or thing:
Yet all things, according to the Nicene creed, were perforce created through
the Son; and this dogma which might seem unintelligible, becomes clear if we
consider that power could not possibly produce anything unless it borrowed some
form from the realm of essence and imposed that form on itself and on its works.
Power would be annulled before it began to exert itself unless externally distinct
and recognizable in its character. The Son is thus an indispensable partner and
1 The incidental esoteric discipline, which is all that I respect in Catholicism, terminates in the
same inner discipline and peace that ancient sages attained under all religions or under none." See
page 425 of the new edition of Persons and Places: Fragments of Autobiography, edited by William G.
Holzberger and Herman J. Saatkamp, Jr., (MIT Press, Boston, 1986).
2 See the final chapter, "General Review," of The Realm of Spirit, page 845 of Realms of Being, one-
volume edition, (Scribner's, New York, 1942). Unaccompanied page references are all to this text.