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Summary Against Modern Thought: Even Angels Want To Know More

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Learning is endless. And Thank God for that.

THAT THE NATURAL DESIRE OF SEPARATE SUBSTANCES DOES NOT COME TO REST IN THE NATURAL KNOWLEDGE WHICH THEY HAVE OF GOD

1 However, it is impossible for the natural desire in separate substances to come to rest in such a knowledge of God.

2 For everything that is an imperfect member of any species desires to attain the perfection of its species. For instance, a man who has an opinion regarding something, that is, an imperfect knowledge of the thing, is thereby aroused to desire knowledge of the thing.

Now, the aforementioned knowledge which the separate substances have of God, without knowing His substance, is an imperfect species of knowledge. In fact, we do not think that we know a thing if we do not know its substance. Hence, it is most important, in knowing a thing, to know what it is. Therefore, natural desire does not come to rest as a result of this knowledge which separate substances have of God; rather, it further arouses the desire to see the divine substance.

3 Again, as a result of knowing the effects, the desire to know their cause is aroused; thus, men began to philosophize when they investigated the causes of things.

Therefore, the desire to know, which is naturally implanted in all intellectual substances, does not rest until, after they have come to know the substances of the effects, they also know the substance of the cause. The fact, then, that separate substances know that God is the cause of all things whose substances they see, does not mean that natural desire comes to rest in them, unless they also see the substance of God Himself.

Notes As we have said many times, knowledge of cause is the goal.

4 Besides, the problem of why something is so is related to the problem of whether it is so, in the same way that an inquiry as to what something is stands in regard to an inquiry as to whether it exists. For the question why looks for a means to demonstrate that something is so, for instance, that there is an eclipse of the moon; likewise, the question what is it seeks a means to demonstrate that something exists, according to the traditional teaching in Posterior Analytics II [1: 89b 22]. Now, we observe that those who see that something is so naturally desire to know why. So, too, those acquainted with the fact that something exists naturally desire to know what this thing is, and this is to understand its substance. Therefore, the natural desire to know does not rest in that knowledge of God whereby we know merely that He is.

Notes And, as our good saint said before, though in different words, the greater the mind, the greater the desire to know more.

5 Furthermore, nothing finite can fully satisfy intellectual desire. This is shown from the fact that, whenever a finite object is presented, the intellect extends its interest to something more, so that, given any finite line, it strives to apprehend a longer one; and the same thing takes place in regard to numbers. This is the reason for infinite series in numbers and in mathematical lines.

Now, the eminence and power of any created substance are finite. Therefore, the intellect of a separate substance does not come to rest simply because it knows created substances, however lofty they may be, but it still tends by natural desire toward the understanding of substance which is of infinite eminence, as we showed concerning divine substance in Book One [43].

6 Moreover, just as the natural desire to know is present in all intellectual natures, so is there present in them the natural desire to put off ignorance and lack of knowledge. Now, the separate substances know, as we have said, by the aforesaid mode of knowledge, that the substance of God is above them and above everything understood by them; consequently, they know that the divine substance is unknown to them. Therefore, their natural desire tends toward the understanding of divine substance.

7 Besides, the nearer a thing comes to its end, the greater is the desire by which it tends to the end; thus, we observe that the natural motion of bodies is increased toward the end. Now, the intellects of separate substances are nearer to the knowledge of God than our intellects are. So, they desire the knowledge of God more intensely than we do. But, no matter how fully we know that God exists, and the other things mentioned above, we do not cease our desire, but still desire to know Him through His essence. Much more, then, do the separate substances desire this naturally. Therefore, their desire does not come to rest in the aforesaid knowledge of God.

8 The conclusion from these considerations is that the ultimate felicity of separate substances does not lie in the knowledge of God, in which they know Him through their substances, for their desire still leads them on toward God’s substance.

9 Also, quite apparent in this conclusion is the fact that ultimate felicity is to be sought in nothing other than an operation of the intellect, since no desire carries on to such sublime heights as the desire to understand the truth. Indeed, all our desires for pleasure, or other things of this sort that are craved by men, can be satisfied with other things, but the aforementioned desire does not rest until it reaches God, the highest point of reference for, and the maker of, things.

This is why Wisdom appropriately states: “I dwelt in the highest places, and my throne is in a pillar of a cloud” (Sirach 24:7). And Proverbs (9:3) says that Wisdom “by her maids invites to the tower.” Let those men be ashamed, then, who seek man’s felicity in the most inferior things, when it is so highly situated.

2 thoughts on “Summary Against Modern Thought: Even Angels Want To Know More Leave a comment

  1. Good ole Tom. If his cogitations weren’t thought up and written in Latin and the translators weren’t academics in ivory towers the likes of Therese of Lisseux would have been more congruent with the lofty cogitations of intellectual giants like our Tom.

    Wanting to know the essence of perfection (in Truth) is the natural desire (yearning) of every created being except those who narcissictically assume that their vision of themselves is the pinnacle of perfection.

    That leads to an assertion of a Thomistic philosopher of my acquaintance that Heaven is not a bunch of mindless cherubs floating about in clouds plucking four-stringed harps. It’s more like an enormous laboratory where those of a scientific bent can explore the intricacies of physical reality and those of artistic bent can explore the endless possibilities of melody and harmony… and those who just love life can enrich their neighbors, and much more… any “investigation” of the infinite can never end.

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