Saturday, July 12, 2014

What the Blessed See in God


1.  Next he asks whether those who see the essence of God will see everything in God.  He gives four objections.  The first is from a line in the Dialogues of St. Gregory the Great.  The second is from the idea of God as a mirror of creation.  The third from the fact that to know God is to know God’s power, which extends to all things.  The fourth is that the natural desire to know won’t be satisfied until it knows all things, so unless those who see God see everything in him, the beatific vision won’t make them happy.

2.  For the Sed Contra he cites Denys, who says that the inferior angels do not know all things.  He also points out that the angels can’t know future contingent things or the thoughts of the heart, since only God knows these things.

3.  The argument given in the Corpus is fairly simple: creatures exist in God the way an effect exists in its cause.  The more perfectly the cause is known, the more perfectly its effects will be known, so the limit of the knowledge of creatures to be gained through the direct apprehension of God is proportionate to the perfection of the creature’s vision of God.  And since no creature can know God comprehensively, as established in the previous article, no creature can know everything in God to the fullest extent, but only to the extent granted by the share of glory given to it.

4.  In response to the first objection he explains that Gregory means only to indicate that seeing God is sufficient to see all things, because all things pre-exist in him by his power, not that in knowing God all things are comprehended in him, which is impossible.

5.  To the second, he says that the analogy to the mirror only applies if one’s vision comprehends the entire mirror, which is not the case with the creature’s vision of God.

6.  The third is answered more or less in the Corpus: once the greater principle is known, the lesser effects of the principle are also known from it, but the knowledge of the effects is proportioned to the knowledge of the principle, and so as long as the knowledge of the principle remains short of comprehension, the knowledge of the effects need not be exhaustive.

7.  To the fourth he explains that the perfection of the intellect lies in receiving all the abstract forms of things: their species and genera and aspects (rationes), but not in the knowledge of individuals that belong to them.  So for the satisfaction of the natural desire of rational creatures, it suffices to know the former in God, and not every particular.  But over and above this, the knowledge of God in itself is enough to satisfy human nature, since the goodness of God and the perfection that belongs to the vision of him in glory so far outstrip any other possible perfection that a creature could not fail to be happy in that state, even if other things were lacking.


- Gregory seems to say so.
- We see everything in God as we would see everything in a mirror.
- Whoever understands the greater can understand the lesser which follows from it.
- Unless the rational creature knows all things, its natural inclination will be unsatisfied.

- Just as it is impossible for a creature to know God perfectly, so it is possible to know his effects perfectly.

- Gregory does not mean to imply that those who see God comprehend his power and effects.
- We only see everything in a mirror if our vision of the mirror is comprehensive.
- Whoever understands the greater can understand the lesser, insofar as he understands the greater.
- The knowledge of species, genera, and aspects suffices, but even short of this the vision of God is enough for any creature’s happiness.

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