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Category: SAMT

A tour through Saint Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Contra Gentiles.

December 9, 2018 | No comments

Summary Against Modern Thought: Instantaneous Knowledge of God

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More clues about how God fattens our intellects. Not through our reason, but by gifts, as it were.


1 Now that we have shown that the created intellect, seeing the divine substance, understands all the species of things in God’s very substance, and that whatever things are seen by one species must be seen at once and by one vision, since a vision corresponds to the principle of the vision, it necessarily follows that the intellect which sees the divine substance contemplates all things at once and not in succession.

2 Again, the highest and perfect felicity of intellectual nature consists in the vision of God, as we showed above. But felicity is not a matter of habit but of act, since it is the ultimate perfection and the ultimate end. So, of the things that are seen through the vision of the divine substance, whereby we are made blessed, all are seen actually. Therefore, one is not first and then another later.

Notes Sounds like induction-intuition, eh? Which is better than reason, which has to work things our step by step. See paragraph 4 especially.

3 Besides, when each thing reaches its ultimate end it rests, for all motion is in order to attain an end. Now, the ultimate end of the intellect is the vision of the divine substance as we showed above. So, the intellect seeing the divine substance is not moved from one intelligible object to another. Therefore, it considers actually at once all the things that it knows through this vision.

4 Moreover, the intellect knows all the species of things in the divine substance, as is clear from what has been said. Now in some genera there are infinite species, for example, of numbers, figures, and proportions. So, the intellect sees an infinity of things in the divine substance. But it could not see all of these unless it saw them at once, for it is impossible to pass through an infinity of things. Therefore, all that the intellect sees in the divine substance must be seen at once.

5 Hence, what Augustine says, in Book XV of The Trinity: “Our thoughts will not then be fleeting, going to and fro from some things to others, but we shall see all our knowledge in one single glance.”

December 2, 2018 | 1 Comment

Summary Against Modern Thought: How Much You Can See Of God

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The last note is the most important.


1 Since the vision of the divine substance is the ultimate end of every intellectual substance, as is evident from what we have said, and since the natural appetite of everything comes to rest when the thing reaches its ultimate end, the natural appetite of an intellectual substance must come to rest completely when it sees the divine substance. Now, the natural appetite of the intellect is to know the genera and species and powers of all things, and the whole order of the universe; human investigation of each of the aforementioned items indicates this. Therefore, each one who sees the divine substance knows all the things mentioned above.

2 Again, the intellect and the senses differ on this point as is clear from Book III of On the Soul [4: 429a 14], the power to sense is destroyed, or weakened, by the more striking sense objects, so that later it is unable to perceive weaker objects; but the intellect, not being corrupted or hindered by its object but only perfected, after understanding a greater object of the intellect, is not less able to understand other intelligibles but more able. Now, the highest object in the genus of intelligible objects is the divine substance. So, the intellect which is elevated by divine light in order to see God’s substance is much more perfected by this same light, so that it may understand all other objects which exist in the nature of things.

Notes Again, the better you study the better you are!

3 Besides, intelligible being is not of lesser scope than natural being, but perhaps it is more extensive; indeed, intellect is from its origin capable of understanding all things existing in reality, and it also understands things that have no natural being, such as negations and privations. So, whatever things are needed for the perfection of natural being are also needed for the perfection of intelligible being, and even more. But the perfection of intelligible being is present when the intellect reaches its ultimate end, just as the perfection of natural being consists in the very establishment of things in actual being. Therefore, God shows the intellect that is seeing Him all the things which He has produced for the perfection of the universe.

4 Moreover, although one of the intellects seeing God may see Him more perfectly than another, as we have shown, each one sees Him so perfectly that its whole natural capacity is fulfilled. Or, rather, this vision exceeds all natural capacity, as we have shown. So, each one seeing the divine substance knows in this divine substance all the things to which its natural capacity extends. But the natural capacity of every intellect extends to the knowing of all genera and species and orders of things. Therefore, each one who sees God will know these things in the divine substance.

5 Hence it is that the Lord replies to Moses, when he asks for the vision of the divine substance: “I will show thee all good” (Exod, 33:19). And Gregory says: “What do they not know, who know Him Who knows all things?”

6 Moreover, if the foregoing statements are carefully considered, it becomes clear that, in a way, those who see the divine substance do see all things; whereas, in another way, they do not.

Indeed, if the word all means whatever things pertain to the perfection of the universe, it is obvious from what has been said that those who see the divine substance do see all things, as the arguments that have just been advanced show. For, since the intellect is in some way all things, whatever things belong to the perfection of nature belong also in their entirety to the perfection of intelligible being. For this reason, according to Augustine’s Literal Commentary on Genesis, whatever things have been made by the Word of God to subsist in their proper nature have also come to be in the angelic understanding, so that they might be understood by the angels.

Now, within the perfection of natural being belong the nature of species and their properties and powers, for the inclination of nature is drawn to the natures of species, since individuals are for the sake of the species. So, it is pertinent to the perfection of intellectual substance to know the natures of all species and their powers and proper accidents. Therefore, this will be obtained in the final beatitude through the vision of the divine essence. Moreover, through the cognition of natural species the individuals existing under these species are known by the intellect that sees God, as can be made evident from what has been said above on the knowledge appropriate to God and the angels.

7 However, if the term all means all the things that God knows in seeing His own essence, then no created intellect sees all things in God’s substance, as we have showed above.

8 But this can be considered under several points. First, in regard to those things which God can make but has not made, nor will ever make. Indeed, all things of this kind cannot be known unless His power is comprehended, and this is not possible for any intellectual creature, as we showed above. Hence, the statement in Job 11 [7ff]: “Do you think you can understand the steps of God, and find out the Almighty perfectly? He is higher than heaven, and what will you do? He is deeper than hell, and how will you know? His measure is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea” Indeed, these things are not said as though God were great in quantitative dimensions, but because His power is not limited to all things which are seen to be great, for, on the contrary, He can make even greater things.

9 Secondly, let us consider it in regard to the reasons for the things that have been made: the intellect cannot know all of these unless it comprehend the divine goodness. For, the reason for everything that has been made is derived from the end which its maker intended. But the end of all things made by God is divine goodness. Therefore, the reason for the things that have been made is so that the divine goodness might be diffused among things. And so, one would know all the reasons for things created if he knew all the goods which could come about in created things in accord with the order of divine wisdom. This would be to comprehend divine goodness And wisdom, something no created intellect can do. Hence it is said: “I understand that man can find no reason of all those works of God” (Eccle. 8:17).

10 Thirdly, we may consider the point in regard to those things which depend on the will of God alone: for instance, predestination, election, justification, and other similar things which pertain to the sanctification of the creature. On this matter, it is said: “No man knows the things of a man, but the spirit of man that is in him. So the things also that are of God, no man knows, but the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:11).

Notes This is only a tease. Angels are non-material and purely intellectual creatures, and even our own intellects are non-material. So how does our intellect expand, as it were? What does it expand into? Angels, and our intellects, are not material, therefore don’t exist in physical space; yet they do exist. Where? All these we will tackle in time!

November 25, 2018 | 1 Comment

Summary Against Modern Thought: Some Know More About God Than Others

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The obvious joke is that it pays to study.


1 Since the mode of operation results from the form which is the principle of operation, and since the principle of the vision in which the created intellect sees the divine substance is the aforementioned light, as is clear from what we have said, the mode of the divine vision must be in accord with the mode of this light.

Now, it is possible for there to be different degrees of participation in this light, and so one intellect may be more perfectly illuminated than another. Therefore, it is possible that one of those who see God may see Him more perfectly than another, even though both see His substance.

2 Again, whenever there is a highest member which surpasses others in a genus, we also find that there are degrees of more and less, depending on the greater proximity to, or distance from, this highest member. For instance, certain things are more or less hot depending on whether they are more or less near to fire, which is the highest type of hot thing. But God sees His own substance most perfectly, being the only One Who comprehends it, as we showed above. And so, of those who see Him, one may see His substance more or less than another, depending on whether one is more or less near to Him.

3 Besides, the light of glory elevates to the divine vision due to the fact that it is a certain likeness of the divine intellect, as we have already stated. Now, it is possible for a thing to become more or less like God. Therefore, it is possible for one to see the divine substance more or less perfectly.

4 Furthermore, because the end is related in a proportional way to the things which are directed to the end, these things must participate in the end differently, depending on the different ways in which they are disposed toward the end. But the vision of the divine substance is the ultimate end of every intellectual substance, as is clear from what we have said. Now, not all intellectual substances are disposed with equal perfection to the end; some, in fact, are more virtuous and others less, and virtue is the road to felicity. So, there must be diversity within the divine vision: some seeing the divine substance more perfectly; others, less perfectly.

5 Thus it is that, in order to indicate the variation in this felicity, the Lord says: “In My Father’s house there are many mansions” (John 14:2).

Notes Another way to state this is that Equality is false. As the next point emphasizes.

6 On this basis, then, the error of those who say that all rewards are equal is refuted.

7 Moreover, just as the different degrees of glory among the blessed are evident from the mode of this vision, so from the side of the object that is seen the glory appears to be the same, for the felicity of each person is due to his seeing God’s substance, as we proved. Therefore, it is the same being that makes all blessed; yet they do not all grasp happiness therefrom in equal degree.

8 Hence, there is no contradiction between the foregoing and what our Lord teaches (Matt. 20:10), that to all who labor in the vineyard, though they may not do equal work, there is paid nevertheless the same reward, namely, a penny, because it is the same reward that is given to all, to be seen and enjoyed, namely, God.

9 On this point we must also take into consideration the fact that the order of corporeal movements is somewhat contrary to that of spiritual movements. For there is numerically the same first subject for all corporeal motions, but the ends are different. While there are, on the other hand, different first subjects for spiritual movements, that is to say, for acts of intellectual apprehension and of willing, their end is, however, numerically the same.

November 18, 2018 | 2 Comments

Summary Against Modern Thought: You Can Know Some About God

Summary Against Modern Thought: Limits Of Our Knowledge Of God

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Last few weeks we learned there are limits to how well we can know God. This week we learn that having an intellect means knowing a small part of God.


1 Since the created intellect is exalted to the vision of the divine substance by a certain supernatural light, as is evident from what has been said, there is no created intellect so low in its nature that it cannot be elevated to this vision.

2 It has been shown, in fact, that this light cannot be connatural with any creature, but, that it surpasses every created nature in its power. But what is done by supernatural power is not hindered by a diversity of nature, since divine power is infinite. And so, in the case of the healing of an afflicted person, accomplished miraculously, it makes no difference whether the person is much or little afflicted. Therefore, the varying level of the intellectual nature does not hinder the lowest member of such a nature from being able to be brought to this vision by the aforementioned light.

3 Again, the gap between the intellect, at its highest natural level, and God is infinite in perfection and goodness. But the distance from the highest to the lowest intellect is finite, for there cannot be an infinite distance between one finite being and another. So, the distance which lies between the lowest created intellect and the highest one is like nothing in comparison to the gap which lies between the highest created intellect and God.

Now, that which is practically nothing cannot make a noticeable difference; thus, the distance between the center of the earth and our level of vision is like nothing in comparison with the distance that lies between our eye level and the eighth sphere, in regard to which sphere the whole earth takes the place of a point; this is why no noticeable variation results from the fact that astronomers in their demonstrations use our eye level of sight as the center of the earth. Therefore, it makes no difference what level of intellect it is that is elevated to the vision of God by the aforementioned light: it may be the highest, the lowest, or one in the middle.

Notes Again we have a kind of mathematical proof about infinities by our good saint!

4 Besides, it was proved above that every intellect naturally desires the vision of the divine substance, but natural desire cannot be incapable of fulfillment. Therefore, any created intellect whatever can attain to the vision of the divine substance, and the inferiority of its nature is no impediment.

Notes This means atheists, too.

5 Hence it is that the Lord promises men the glory of the angels: “They shall be,” He says, speaking of men, “like the angels of God in heaven” (Matt. 22:30). And also it is said that there is “the same measure for man and for angel” (Apoc. 21:3-7). For this reason, too, almost everywhere in Sacred Scripture angels are described in the shape of men: either wholly, as is evident of the angels who appeared to Abraham in the likeness of men (Gen. 18:2); or partially, as is the case of the animals of whom it is said that “they had the hands of a man under their wings” (Ez. 1:8).

Notes Something to look forward to. Or to be fearful of, if you end up on the wrong side of the empyrean.

6 By this conclusion we refute the error of those who have said that the human soul, no matter how much it be elevated, cannot attain equality with the higher intellects.