QUESTION 92: OF THE VISION OF THE DIVINE ESSENCE IN REFERENCE TO THE BLESSED
In the next place we must consider matters concerning the blessed after
the general judgment. We shall consider: (1) Their vision of the Divine
essence, wherein their bliss consists chiefly; (2) Their bliss and their
mansions; (3) Their relations with the damned; (4) Their gifts, which are
contained in their bliss; (5) The crowns which perfect and adorn their
Under the first head there are three points of inquiry:
(1) Whether the saints will see God in His essence?
(2) Whether they will see Him with the eyes of the body?
(3) Whether in seeing God they will see all that God sees?
Article 1: Whether the human intellect can attain to the vision of God in His essence?
Objection 1: It would seem that the human intellect cannot attain to the
vision of God in His essence. For it is written (Jn. 1:18): "No man hath
seen God at any time"; and Chrysostom in his commentary says (Hom. xiv in
Joan.) that "not even the heavenly essences, namely the Cherubim and
Seraphim, have ever been able to see Him as He is." Now, only equality
with the angels is promised to men (Mt. 22:30): "They . . . shall be as
the angels of God in heaven." Therefore neither will the saints in heaven
see God in His essence.
Objection 2: Further, Dionysius argues thus (Div. Nom. i): "Knowledge is only
of existing things." Now whatever exists is finite, since it is confined
to a certain genus: and therefore God, since He is infinite, is above all
existing things. Therefore there is no knowledge of Him, and He is above
Objection 3: Further, Dionysius (De Myst. Theol. i) shows that the most
perfect way in which our intellect can be united to God is when it is
united to Him as to something unknown. Now that which is seen in its
essence is not unknown. Therefore it is impossible for our intellect to
see God in His essence.
Objection 4: Further, Dionysius says (Ep. ad Caium Monach.) that "the
darkness"---for thus he calls the abundance of light---"which screens God
is impervious to all illuminations, and hidden from all knowledge: and if
anyone in seeing God understood what he saw, he saw not God Himself, but
one of those things that are His." Therefore no created intellect will be
able to see God in His essence.
Objection 5: Further, according to Dionysius (Ep. ad Hieroth.) "God is
invisible on account of His surpassing glory." Now His glory surpasses
the human intellect in heaven even as on the way. Therefore since He is
invisible on the way, so will He be in heaven.
Objection 6: Further, since the intelligible object is the perfection of the
intellect, there must needs be proportion between intelligible and
intellect, as between the visible object and the sight. But there is no
possible proportion between our intellect and the Divine essence, since
an infinite distance separates them. Therefore our intellect will be
unable to attain to the vision of the Divine essence.
Objection 7: Further, God is more distant from our intellect than the created
intelligible is from our senses. But the senses can nowise attain to the
sight of a spiritual creature. Therefore neither will our intellect be
able to attain to the vision of the Divine essence.
Objection 8: Further, whenever the intellect understands something actually it
needs to be informed with the likeness of the object understood, which
likeness is the principle of the intellectual operation terminating in
that object, even as heat is the principle of heating. Accordingly if our
intellect understands God, this must be by means of some likeness
informing the intellect itself. Now this cannot be the very essence of
God, since form and thing informed must needs have one being, while the
Divine essence differs from our intellect in essence and being. Therefore
the form whereby our intellect is informed in understanding God must
needs be a likeness impressed by God on our intellect. But this likeness,
being something created, cannot lead to the knowledge of God except as an
effect leads to the knowledge of its cause. Therefore it is impossible
for our intellect to see God except through His effect. But to see God
through His effect is not to see Him in His essence. Therefore our
intellect will be unable to see God in His essence.
Objection 9: Further, the Divine essence is more distant from our intellect
than any angel or intelligence. Now according to Avicenna (Metaph. iii),
"the existence of an intelligence in our intellect does not imply that
its essence is in our intellect," because in that case our knowledge of
the intelligence would be a substance and not an accident, "but that its
likeness is impressed on our intellect." Therefore neither is God in our
intellect, to be understood by us, except in so far as an impression of
Him is in our intellect. But this impression cannot lead to the knowledge
of the Divine essence, for since it is infinitely distant from the Divine
essence, it degenerates to another image much more than if the image of a
white thing were to degenerate to the image of a black thing. Therefore,
just as a person in whose sight the image of a white thing degenerates to
the image of a black thing, on account of an indisposition in the organ,
is not said to see a white thing, so neither will our intellect be able
to see God in His essence, since it understands God only by means of this
Objection 1:: Further, "In things devoid of matter that which understands is
the same as that which is understood" (De Anima iii). Now God is
supremely devoid of matter. Since then our intellect, which is created,
cannot attain to be an uncreated essence, it is impossible for our
intellect to see God in His essence.
Objection 1:: Further, whatever is seen in its essence is known as to what it
is. But our intellect cannot know of God what He is, but only what He is
not as Dionysius (Coel. Hier. ii) and Damascene (De Fide Orth. i)
declare. Therefore our intellect will be unable to see God in His essence.
Objection 1:: Further, every infinite thing, as such, is unknown. But God is
in every way infinite. Therefore He is altogether unknown. Therefore it
will be impossible for Him to be seen in His essence by a created
Objection 1:: Further, Augustine says (De Videndo Deo: Ep. cxlvii): "God is by
nature invisible." Now that which is in God by nature cannot be
otherwise. Therefore it is impossible for Him to be seen in His essence.
Objection 1:: Further, whatever is in one way and is seen in another way is
not seen as it is. Now God is in one way and will be seen in another way
by the saints in heaven: for He according to His own mode, but will be
seen by the saints according to their mode. Therefore He will not be seen
by the saints as He is, and thus will not be seen in His essence.
Objection 1:: Further, that which is seen through a medium is not seen in its
essence. Now God will be seen in heaven through a medium which is the
light of glory, according to Ps. 35:10, "In Thy light we shall see
light." Therefore He will not be seen in His essence.
Objection 1:: Further, in heaven God will be seen face to face, according to 1
Cor. 13:12. Now when we see a man face to face, we see him through his
likeness. Therefore in heaven God will be seen through His likeness, and
consequently not in His essence.
On the contrary, It is written (1 Cor. 13:12): "We see now through a
glass in a dark manner, but then face to face." Now that which is seen
face to face is seen in its essence. Therefore God will be seen in His
essence by the saints in heaven.
Further, it is written (1 Jn. 3:2): "When He shall appear we shall be
like to Him, because we shall see Him as He is." Therefore we shall see
Him in His essence.
Further, a gloss on 1 Cor. 15:24, "When He shall have delivered up the
kingdom to God and the Father," says: "Where," i.e. in heaven, "the
essence of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost shall be seen: this is given to
the clean of heart alone and is the highest bliss." Therefore the blessed
will see God in His essence.
Further, it is written (Jn. 14:21): "He that loveth Me shall be loved of
My Father; and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him." Now
that which is manifested is seen in its essence. Therefore God will be
seen in His essence by the saints in heaven.
Further, Gregory commenting (Moral. xviii) on the words of Ex. 33:20,
"Man shall not see Me and live," disapproves of the opinion of those who
said that "in this abode of bliss God can be seen in His glory but not in
His nature; for His glory differs not from His nature." But His nature is
His essence. Therefore He will be seen in His essence.
Further, the desire of the saints cannot be altogether frustrated. Now
the common desire of the saints is to see God in His essence, according
to Ex. 33:13, "Show me Thy glory"; Ps. 79:20, "Show Thy face and we shall
be saved"; and Jn. 14:8, "Show us the Father and it is enough for us."
Therefore the saints will see God in His essence.
I answer that, Even as we hold by faith that the last end of man's life
is to see God, so the philosophers maintained that man's ultimate
happiness is to understand immaterial substances according to their
being. Hence in reference to this question we find that philosophers and
theologians encounter the same difficulty and the same difference of
opinion. For some philosophers held that our passive intellect can never
come to understand separate substances. thus Alfarabius expresses himself
at the end of his Ethics, although he says the contrary in his book On
the Intelligence, as the Commentator attests (De Anima iii). In like
manner certain theologians held that the human intellect can never attain
to the vision of God in His essence. on either side they were moved by
the distance which separates our intellect from the Divine essence and
from separate substances. For since the intellect in act is somewhat one
with the intelligible object in act, it would seem difficult to
understand how the created intellect is made to be an uncreated essence.
Wherefore Chrysostom says (Hom. xiv in Joan.): "How can the creature see
the uncreated?" Those who hold the passive intellect to be the subject of
generation and corruption, as being a power dependent on the body,
encounter a still greater difficulty not only as regards the vision of
God but also as regards the vision of any separate substances. But this
opinion is altogether untenable. First, because it is in contradiction to
the authority of canonical scripture, as Augustine declares (De Videndo
Deo: Ep. cxlvii). Secondly, because, since understanding is an operation
most proper to man, it follows that his happiness must be held to consist
in that operation when perfected in him. Now since the perfection of an
intelligent being as such is the intelligible object, if in the most
perfect operation of his intellect man does not attain to the vision of
the Divine essence, but to something else, we shall be forced to conclude
that something other than God is the object of man's happiness: and since
the ultimate perfection of a thing consists in its being united to its
principle, it follows that something other than God is the effective
principle of man, which is absurd, according to us, and also according to
the philosophers who maintain that our souls emanate from the separate
substances, so that finally we may be able to understand these
substances. Consequently, according to us, it must be asserted that our
intellect will at length attain to the vision of the Divine essence, and
according to the philosophers, that it will attain to the vision of
It remains, then, to examine how this may come about. For some, like
Alfarabius and Avempace, held that from the very fact that our intellect
understands any intelligible objects whatever, it attains to the vision
of a separate substance. To prove this they employ two arguments. The
first is that just as the specific nature is not diversified in various
individuals, except as united to various individuating principles, so the
idea understood is not diversified in me and you, except in so far as it
is united to various imaginary forms: and consequently when the intellect
separates the idea understood from the imaginary forms, there remains a
quiddity understood, which is one and the same in the various persons
understanding it, and such is the quiddity of a separate substance.
Hence, when our intellect attains to the supreme abstraction of any
intelligible quiddity, it thereby understands the quiddity of the
separate substance that is similar to it. The second argument is that our
intellect has a natural aptitude to abstract the quiddity from all
intelligible objects having a quiddity. If, then, the quiddity which it
abstracts from some particular individual be a quiddity without a
quiddity, the intellect by understanding it understands the quiddity of
the separate substance which has a like disposition, since separate
substances are subsisting quiddities without quiddities; for the quiddity
of a simple thing is the simple thing itself, as Avicenna says (Met.
iii). On the other hand if the quiddity abstracted from this particular
sensible be a quiddity that has a quiddity, it follows that the intellect
has a natural aptitude to abstract this quiddity, and consequently since
we cannot go on indefinitely, we shall come to some quiddity without a
quiddity, and this is what we understand by a separate quiddity [*Cf. FP,
Question , Article ].
But this reasoning is seemingly inconclusive. First, because the
quiddity of the material substance, which the intellect abstracts, is not
of the same nature as the quiddity of the separate substances, and
consequently from the fact that our intellect abstracts the quiddities of
material substances and knows them, it does not follow that it knows the
quiddity of a separate substance, especially of the Divine essence, which
more than any other is of a different nature from any created quiddity.
Secondly, because granted that it be of the same nature, nevertheless the
knowledge of a composite thing would not lead to the knowledge of a
separate substance, except in the point of the most remote genus, namely
substance: and such a knowledge is imperfect unless it reach to the
properties of a thing. For to know a man only as an animal is to know him
only in a restricted sense and potentially: and much less is it to know
only the nature of substance in him. Hence to know God thus, or other
separate substances, is not to see the essence of God or the quiddity of
a separate substance, but to know Him in His effect and in a mirror as it
were. For this reason Avicenna in his Metaphysics. propounds another way
of understanding separate substances, to wit that separate substances are
understood by us by means of intentions of their quiddities, such
intentions being images of their substances, not indeed abstracted
therefrom, since they are immaterial, but impressed thereby on our souls.
But this way also seems inadequate to the Divine vision which we seek.
For it is agreed that "whatever is received into any thing is therein
after the mode of the recipient": and consequently the likeness of the
Divine essence impressed on our intellect will be according to the mode
of our intellect: and the mode of our intellect falls short of a perfect
reception of the Divine likeness. Now the lack of perfect likeness may
occur in as many ways, as unlikeness may occur. For in one way there is a
deficient likeness, when the form is participated according to the same
specific nature, but not in the same measure of perfection: such is the
defective likeness in a subject that has little whiteness in comparison
with one that has much. In another way the likeness is yet more
defective, when it does not attain to the same specific nature but only
to the same generic nature: such is the likeness of an orange-colored or
yellowish object in comparison with a white one. In another way, still
more defective is the likeness when it does not attain to the same
generic nature, but only to a certain analogy or proportion: such is the
likeness of whiteness to man, in that each is a being: and in this way
every likeness received into a creature is defective in comparison with
the Divine essence. Now in order that the sight know whiteness, it is
necessary for it to receive the likeness of whiteness according to its
specific nature, although not according to the same manner of being
because the form has a manner of being in the sense other from that which
it has in the thing outside the soul: for if the form of yellowness were
received into the eye, the eye would not be said to see whiteness. In
like manner in order that the intellect understand a quiddity, it is
necessary for it to receive its likeness according to the same specific
nature, although there may possibly not be the same manner of being on
either side: for the form which is in the intellect or sense is not the
principle of knowledge according to its manner of being on both sides,
but according to its common ratio with the external object. Hence it is
clear that by no likeness received in the created intellect can God be
understood, so that His essence be seen immediately. And for this reason
those who held the Divine essence to be seen in this way alone, said that
the essence itself will not be seen, but a certain brightness, as it were
a radiance thereof. Consequently neither does this way suffice for the
Divine vision that we seek.
Therefore we must take the other way, which also certain philosophers
held, namely Alexander and Averroes (De Anima iii.). For since in every
knowledge some form is required whereby the object is known or seen, this
form by which the intellect is perfected so as to see separate substances
is neither a quiddity abstracted by the intellect from composite things,
as the first opinion maintained, nor an impression left on our intellect
by the separate substance, as the second opinion affirmed; but the
separate substance itself united to our intellect as its form, so as to
be both that which is understood, and that whereby it is understood. And
whatever may be the case with other separate substances, we must
nevertheless allow this to be our way of seeing God in His essence,
because by whatever other form our intellect were informed, it could not
be led thereby to the Divine essence. This, however, must not be
understood as though the Divine essence were in reality the form of our
intellect, or as though from its conjunction with our intellect there
resulted one being simply, as in natural things from the natural form and
matter: but the meaning is that the proportion of the Divine essence to
our intellect is as the proportion of form to matter. For whenever two
things, one of which is the perfection of the other, are received into
the same recipient, the proportion of one to the other, namely of the
more perfect to the less perfect, is as the proportion of form to matter:
thus light and color are received into a transparent object, light being
to color as form to matter. When therefore intellectual light is received
into the soul, together with the indwelling Divine essence, though they
are not received in the same way, the Divine essence will be to the
intellect as form to matter: and that this suffices for the intellect to
be able to see the Divine essence by the Divine essence itself may be
shown as follows.
As from the natural form (whereby a thing has being) and matter, there
results one thing simply, so from the form whereby the intellect
understands, and the intellect itself, there results one thing
intelligibly. Now in natural things a self-subsistent thing cannot be the
form of any matter, if that thing has matter as one of its parts, since
it is impossible for matter to be the form of a thing. But if this
self-subsistent thing be a mere form, nothing hinders it from being the
form of some matter and becoming that whereby the composite itself is
[*Literally,---and becoming the 'whereby-it-is' of the composite itself]
as instanced in the soul. Now in the intellect we must take the intellect
itself in potentiality as matter, and the intelligible species as form;
so that the intellect actually understanding will be the composite as it
were resulting from both. Hence if there be a self-subsistent thing, that
has nothing in itself besides that which is intelligible, such a thing
can by itself be the form whereby the intellect understands. Now a thing
is intelligible in respect of its actuality and not of its potentiality
(Met. ix): in proof of which an intelligible form needs to be abstracted
from matter and from all the properties of matter. Therefore, since the
Divine essence is pure act, it will be possible for it to be the form
whereby the intellect understands: and this will be the beatific vision.
Hence the Master says (Sent. ii, D, 1) that the union of the body with
the soul is an illustration of the blissful union of the spirit with God.
Reply to Objection 1: The words quoted can be explained in three ways, according
to Augustine (De Videndo Deo: Ep. cxlvii). In one way as excluding
corporeal vision, whereby no one ever saw or will see God in His essence;
secondly, as excluding intellectual vision of God in His essence from
those who dwell in this mortal flesh; thirdly, as excluding the vision of
comprehension from a created intellect. It is thus that Chrysostom
understands the saying wherefore he adds: "By seeing, the evangelist
means a most clear perception, and such a comprehension as the Father has
of the Son." This also is the meaning of the evangelist, since he adds:
"The Only-begotten Son Who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath
declared Him": his intention being to prove the Son to be God from His
Reply to Objection 2: Just as God, by His infinite essence, surpasses all
existing things which have a determinate being, so His knowledge, whereby
He knows, is above all knowledge. Wherefore as our knowledge is to our
created essence, so is the Divine knowledge to His infinite essence. Now
two things contribute to knowledge, to wit, the knower and the thing
known. Again, the vision whereby we shall see God in His essence is the
same whereby God sees Himself, as regards that whereby He is seen,
because as He sees Himself in His essence so shall we also see Him. But
as regards the knower there is the difference that is between the Divine
intellect and ours. Now in the order of knowledge the object known
follows the form by which we know, since by the form of a stone we see a
stone: whereas the efficacy of knowledge follows the power of the knower:
thus he who has stronger sight sees more clearly. Consequently in that
vision we shall see the same thing that God sees, namely His essence, but
not so effectively.
Reply to Objection 3: Dionysius is speaking there of the knowledge whereby
wayfarers know God by a created form, whereby our intellect is informed
so as to see God. But as Augustine says (De Videndo Deo: Ep. cxlvii),
"God evades every form of our intellect," because whatever form our
intellect conceive, that form is out of proportion to the Divine essence.
Hence He cannot be fathomed by our intellect: but our most perfect
knowledge of Him as wayfarers is to know that He is above all that our
intellect can conceive, and thus we are united to Him as to something
unknown. In heaven, however, we shall see Him by a form which is His
essence, and we shall be united to Him as to something known.
Reply to Objection 4: God is light (Jn. 1:9). Now illumination is the impression
of light on an illuminated object. And since the Divine essence is of a
different mode from any likeness thereof impressed on the intellect, he
(Dionysius) says that the "Divine darkness is impervious to all
illumination," because, to wit, the Divine essence, which he calls
"darkness" on account of its surpassing brightness, remains
undemonstrated by the impression on our intellect, and consequently is
"hidden from all knowledge." Therefore if anyone in seeing God conceives
something in his mind, this is not God but one of God's effects.
Reply to Objection 5: Although the glory of God surpasses any form by which our
intellect is informed now, it does not surpass the Divine essence, which
will be the form of our intellect in heaven: and therefore although it is
invisible now, it will be visible then.
Reply to Objection 6: Although there can be no proportion between finite and
infinite, since the excess of the infinite over the finite is
indeterminate, there can be proportionateness or a likeness to proportion
between them: for as a finite thing is equal to some finite thing, so is
an infinite thing equal to an infinite thing. Now in order that a thing
be known totally, it is sometimes necessary that there be proportion
between knower and known, because the power of the knower needs to be
adequate to the knowableness of the thing known, and equality is a kind
of proportion. Sometimes, however, the knowableness of the thing
surpasses the power of the knower, as when we know God, or conversely
when He knows creatures: and then there is no need for proportion between
knower and known, but only for proportionateness; so that, to wit, as the
knower is to the knowable object, so is the knowable object to the fact
of its being known: and this proportionateness suffices for the infinite
to be known by the finite, or conversely.
We may also reply that proportion according to the strict sense in
which it is employed signifies a ratio of quantity to quantity based on a
certain fixed excess or equality; but is further transferred to denote
any ratio of any one thing to another; and in this sense we say that
matter should be proportionate to its form. In this sense nothing hinders
our intellect, although finite, being described as proportionate to the
vision of the Divine essence; but not to the comprehension thereof, on
account of its immensity.
Reply to Objection 7: Likeness and distance are twofold. One is according to
agreement in nature; and thus God is more distant from the created
intellect than the created intelligible is from the sense. The other is
according to proportionateness; and thus it is the other way about, for
sense is not proportionate to the knowledge of the immaterial, as the
intellect is proportionate to the knowledge of any immaterial object
whatsoever. It is this likeness and not the former that is requisite for
knowledge, for it is clear that the intellect understanding a stone is
not like it in its natural being; thus also the sight apprehends red
honey and red gall, though it does not apprehend sweet honey, for the
redness of gall is more becoming to honey as visible, than the sweetness
of honey to honey.
Reply to Objection 8: In the vision wherein God will be seen in His essence, the
Divine essence itself will be the form, as it were, of the intellect, by
which it will understand: nor is it necessary for them to become one in
being, but only to become one as regards the act of understanding.
Reply to Objection 9: We do not uphold the saying of Avicenna as regards the
point at issue, for in this other philosophers also disagree with him.
Unless perhaps we might say that Avicenna refers to the knowledge of
separate substances, in so far as they are known by the habits of
speculative sciences and the likeness of other things. Hence he makes
this statement in order to prove that in us knowledge is not a substance
but an accident. Nevertheless, although the Divine essence is more
distant, as to the property of its nature, from our intellect, than is
the substance of an angel, it surpasses it in the point of
intelligibility, since it is pure act without any admixture of
potentiality, which is not the case with other separate substances. Nor
will that knowledge whereby we shall see God in His essence be in the
genus of accident as regards that whereby He will be seen, but only as
regards the act of the one who understands Him, for this act will not be
the very substance either of the person understanding or of the thing
Reply to Objection 1:: A substance that is separate from matter understands both
itself and other things; and in both cases the authority quoted can be
verified. For since the very essence of a separate substance is of itself
intelligible and actual, through being separate from matter, it is clear
that when a separate substance understands itself, that which understands
and that which is understood are absolutely identical, for it does not
understand itself by an intention abstracted from itself, as we
understand material objects. And this is apparently the meaning of the
Philosopher (De Anima iii.) as indicated by the Commentator (De Anima
iii). But when it understands other things, the object actually
understood becomes one with the intellect in act, in so far as the form
of the object understood becomes the form of the intellect, for as much
as the intellect is in act; not that it becomes identified with the
essence of the intellect, as Avicenna proves (De Natural. vi.), because
the essence of the intellect remains one under two forms whereby it
understands two things in succession, in the same way as primary matter
remains one under various forms. Hence also the Commentator (De Anima
iii.) compares the passive intellect, in this respect, to primary matter.
Thus it by no means follows that our intellect in seeing God becomes the
very essence of God, but that the latter is compared to it as its
perfection or form.
Reply to Objection 1:: These and all like authorities must be understood to refer
to the knowledge whereby we know God on the way, for the reason given
Reply to Objection 1:: The infinite is unknown if we take it in the privative
sense, as such, because it indicates removal of completion whence
knowledge of a thing is derived. Wherefore the infinite amounts to the
same as matter subject to privation, as stated in Phys. iii. But if we
take the infinite in the negative sense, it indicates the absence of
limiting matter, since even a form is somewhat limited by its matter.
Hence the infinite in this sense is of itself most knowable; and it is in
this way that God is infinite.
Reply to Objection 1:: Augustine is speaking of bodily vision, by which God will
never be seen. This is evident from what precedes: "For no man hath seen
God at any time, nor can any man see Him as these things which we call
visible are seen: in this way He is by nature invisible even as He is
incorruptible." As, however, He is by nature supremely being, so He is in
Himself supremely intelligible. But that He be for a time not understood
by us is owing to our defect: wherefore that He be seen by us after being
unseen is owing to a change not in Him but in us.
Reply to Objection 1:: In heaven God will be seen by the saints as He is, if this
be referred to the mode of the object seen, for the saints will see that
God has the mode which He has. But if we refer the mode to the knower, He
will not be seen as He is, because the created intellect will not have so
great an efficacy in seeing, as the Divine essence has to the effect of
Reply to Objection 1:: There is a threefold medium both in bodily and in
intellectual vision. The first is the medium "under which" the object is
seen, and this is something perfecting the sight so as to see in general,
without determining the sight to any particular object. Such is bodily
light in relation to bodily vision; and the light of the active intellect
in relation to the passive intellect, in so far as this light is a
medium. The second is the light "by which" the object is seen, and this
is the visible form whereby either sight is determined to a special
object, for instance by the form of a stone to know a stone. The third is
the medium "in which" it is seen; and this is something by gazing on
which the sight is led to something else: thus by looking in a mirror it
is led to see the things reflected in the mirror, and by looking at an
image it is led to the thing represented by the image. In this way, too,
the intellect from knowing an effect is led to the cause, or conversely.
Accordingly in the heavenly vision there will be no third medium, so
that, to wit, God be known by the images of other things, as He is known
now, for which reason we are said to see now in a glass: nor will there
be the second medium, because the essence itself of God will be that
whereby our intellect will see God. But there will only be the first
medium, which will upraise our intellect so that it will be possible for
it to be united to the uncreated substance in the aforesaid manner. Yet
this medium will not cause that knowledge to be mediate, because it does
not come in between the knower and the thing known, but is that which
gives the knower the power to know [*Cf. FP, Question , Article ].
Reply to Objection 1:: Corporeal creatures are not said to be seen immediately,
except when that which in them is capable of being brought into
conjunction with the sight is in conjunction therewith. Now they are not
capable of being in conjunction with the sight of their essence on
account of their materiality: hence they are seen immediately when their
image is in conjunction with the sight. But God is able to be united to
the intellect by His essence: wherefore He would not be seen immediately,
unless His essence were united to the intellect: and this vision, which
is effected immediately, is called "vision of face." Moreover the
likeness of the corporeal object is received into the sight according to
the same ratio as it is in the object, although not according to the same
mode of being. Wherefore this likeness leads to the object directly:
whereas no likeness can lead our intellect in this way to God, as shown
above: and for this reason the comparison fails.
Article 2: Whether after the resurrection the saints will see God with the eyes of the body? [*Cf. FP, Question , Article ]
Objection 1: It would seem that after the resurrection the saints will see God
with the eyes of the body. Because the glorified eye has greater power
than one that is not glorified. Now the blessed Job saw God with his eyes
(Job 42:5): "With the hearing of the ear, I have heard Thee, but now my
eye seeth Thee." Much more therefore will the glorified eye be able to
see God in His essence.
Objection 2: Further, it is written (Job 19:26): "In my flesh I shall see God
my Saviour [Vulg.: 'my God']." Therefore in heaven God will be seen with
the eyes of the body.
Objection 3: Further. Augustine, speaking of the sight of the glorified eyes,
expresses himself as follows (De Civ. Dei xxii): "A greater power will be
in those eyes, not to see more keenly, as certain serpents or eagles are
reported to see (for whatever acuteness of vision is possessed by these
animals they can see only corporeal things), but to see even incorporeal
things." Now any power that is capable of knowing incorporeal things can
be upraised to see God. Therefore the glorified eyes will be able to see
Objection 4: Further, the disparity of corporeal to incorporeal things is the
same as of incorporeal to corporeal. Now the incorporeal eye can see
corporeal things. Therefore the corporeal eye can see the incorporeal:
and consequently the same conclusion follows.
Objection 5: Further, Gregory, commenting on Job 4:16, "There stood one whose
countenance I knew not," says (Moral. v): "Man who, had he been willing
to obey the command, would have been spiritual in the flesh, became, by
sinning, carnal even in mind." Now through becoming carnal in mind, "he
thinks only of those things which he draws to his soul by the images of
bodies" (Moral. v). Therefore when he will be spiritual in the flesh
(which is promised to the saints after the resurrection), he will be able
even in the flesh to see spiritual things. Therefore the same conclusion
Objection 6: Further, man can be beatified by God alone. Now he will be
beatified not only in soul but also in body. Therefore God will be
visible not only to his intellect but also to his flesh.
Objection 7: Further, even as God is present to the intellect by His essence,
so will He be to the senses, because He will be "all in all" (1 Cor. 15:28). Now He will be seen by the intellect through the union of His
essence therewith. Therefore He will also be visible to the sense.
On the contrary, Ambrose, commenting on Lk. 1:2, "There appeared to him
an angel," says: "God is not sought with the eyes of the body, nor
surveyed by the sight, nor clasped by the touch." Therefore God will by
no means be visible to the bodily sense.
Further, Jerome, commenting on Is. 6:1, "I saw the Lord sitting," says:
"The Godhead not only of the Father, but also of the Son and of the Holy
Ghost is visible, not to carnal eyes, but only to the eyes of the mind,
of which it is said: Blessed are the pure in heart."
Further, Jerome says again (as quoted by Augustine, Ep. cxlvii): "An
incorporeal thing is invisible to a corporeal eye." But God is supremely
incorporeal. Therefore, etc.
Further, Augustine says (De Videndo Deo, Ep. cxlvii): "No man hath seen
God as He is at any time, neither in this life, nor in the angelic life,
in the same way as these visible things which are seen with the corporeal
sight." Now the angelic life is the life of the blessed, wherein they
will live after the resurrection. Therefore, etc.
Further, according to Augustine (De Trin. xiv.), "man is said to be made
to God's image inasmuch as he is able to see God." But man is in God's
image as regards his mind, and not as regards his flesh. Therefore he
will see God with his mind and not with his flesh.
I answer that, A thing is perceptible to the senses of the body in two
ways, directly and indirectly. A thing is perceptible directly if it can
act directly on the bodily senses. And a thing can act directly either on
sense as such or on a particular sense as such. That which acts directly
in this second way on a sense is called a proper sensible, for instance
color in relation to the sight, and sound in relation to the hearing. But
as sense as such makes use of a bodily organ, nothing can be received
therein except corporeally, since whatever is received into a thing is
therein after the mode of the recipient. Hence all sensibles act on the
sense as such, according to their magnitude: and consequently magnitude
and all its consequences, such as movement, rest, number, and the like,
are called common sensibles, and yet they are direct objects of sense.
An indirect object of sense is that which does not act on the sense,
neither as sense nor as a particular sense, but is annexed to those
things that act on sense directly: for instance Socrates; the son of
Diares; a friend and the like which are the direct object of the
intellect's knowledge in the universal, and in the particular are the
object of the cogitative power in man, and of the estimative power in
other animals. The external sense is said to perceive things of this
kind, although indirectly, when the apprehensive power (whose province it
is to know directly this thing known), from that which is sensed
directly, apprehends them at once and without any doubt or discourse
(thus we see that a person is alive from the fact that he speaks):
otherwise the sense is not said to perceive it even indirectly.
I say then that God can nowise be seen with the eyes of the body, or
perceived by any of the senses, as that which is seen directly, neither
here, nor in heaven: for if that which belongs to sense as such be
removed from sense, there will be no sense, and in like manner if that
which belongs to sight as sight be removed therefrom, there will be no
sight. Accordingly seeing that sense as sense perceives magnitude, and
sight as such a sense perceives color, it is impossible for the sight to
perceive that which is neither color nor magnitude, unless we call it a
sense equivocally. Since then sight and sense will be specifically the
same in the glorified body, as in a non-glorified body, it will be
impossible for it to see the Divine essence as an object of direct
vision; yet it will see it as an object of indirect vision, because on
the one hand the bodily sight will see so great a glory of God in bodies,
especially in the glorified bodies and most of all in the body of Christ,
and, on the other hand, the intellect will see God so clearly, that God
will be perceived in things seen with the eye of the body, even as life
is perceived in speech. For although our intellect will not then see God
from seeing His creatures, yet it will see God in His creatures seen
corporeally. This manner of seeing God corporeally is indicated by
Augustine (De Civ. Dei xxii), as is clear if we take note of his words,
for he says: "It is very credible that we shall so see the mundane bodies
of the new heaven and the new earth, as to see most clearly God
everywhere present, governing all corporeal things, not as we now see the
invisible things of God as understood by those that are made, but as when
we see men . . . we do not believe but see that they live."
Reply to Objection 1: This saying of Job refers to the spiritual eye, of which
the Apostle says (Eph. 1:18): "The eyes of our [Vulg.: 'your'] heart
Reply to Objection 2: The passage quoted does not mean that we are to see God
with the eyes of the flesh, but that, in the flesh, we shall see God.
Reply to Objection 3: In these words Augustine speaks as one inquiring and
conditionally. This appears from what he had said before: "Therefore they
will have an altogether different power, if they shall see that
incorporeal nature": and then he goes on to say: "Accordingly a greater
power," etc., and afterwards he explains himself.
Reply to Objection 4: All knowledge results from some kind of abstraction from
matter. Wherefore the more a corporeal form is abstracted from matter,
the more is it a principle of knowledge. Hence it is that a form existing
in matter is in no way a principle of knowledge, while a form existing in
the senses is somewhat a principle of knowledge, in so far as it is
abstracted from matter, and a form existing in the intellect is still
better a principle of knowledge. Therefore the spiritual eye, whence the
obstacle to knowledge is removed, can see a corporeal object: but it does
not follow that the corporeal eye, in which the cognitive power is
deficient as participating in matter, be able to know perfectly
incorporeal objects of knowledge.
Reply to Objection 5: Although the mind that has become carnal cannot think but
of things received from the senses, it thinks of them immaterially. In
like manner whatever the sight apprehends it must always apprehend it
corporeally: wherefore it cannot know things which cannot be apprehended
Reply to Objection 6: Beatitude is the perfection of man as man. And since man is
man not through his body but through his soul, and the body is essential
to man, in so far as it is perfected by the soul: it follows that man's
beatitude does not consist chiefly otherwise than in an act of the soul,
and passes from the soul on to the body by a kind of overflow, as
explained above (Question , Article ). Yet our body will have a certain beatitude
from seeing God in sensible creatures: and especially in Christ's body.
Reply to Objection 7: The intellect can perceive spiritual things, whereas the
eyes of the body cannot: wherefore the intellect will be able to know the
Divine essence united to it, but the eyes of the body will not.
Article 3: Whether the saints, seeing God, see all that God sees?
Objection 1: It would seem that the saints, seeing God in His essence, see all
that God sees in Himself. For as Isidore says (De Sum. Bon. 1.): "The
angels know all things in the World of God, before they happen." Now the
saints will be equal to the angels of God (Mt. 22:30). Therefore the
saints also in seeing God see all things.
Objection 2: Further, Gregory says (Dial. iv.): "Since all see God there with
equal clearness, what do they not know, who know Him Who knows all
things?" and he refers to the blessed who see God in His essence.
Therefore those who see God in His essence know all things.
Objection 3: Further, it is stated in De Anima (iii, text. 7), that "when an
intellect understands the greatest things, it is all the more able to
understand the least things." Now God is the greatest of intelligible
things. Therefore the power of the intellect is greatly increased by
understanding Him. Therefore the intellect seeing Him understands all
Objection 4: Further, the intellect is not hindered from understanding a thing
except by this surpassing it. Now no creature surpasses the intellect
that understands God, since, as Gregory says (Dial. ii.), "to the soul
which sees its Creator all creatures are small." Therefore those who see
God in His essence know all things.
Objection 5: Further, every passive power that is not reduced to act is
imperfect. Now the passive intellect of the human soul is a power that is
passive as it were to the knowledge of all things, since "the passive
intellect is in which all are in potentiality" (De Anima iii, text. 18).
If then in that beatitude it were not to understand all things, it would
remain imperfect, which is absurd.
Objection 6: Further, whoever sees a mirror sees the things reflected in the
mirror. Now all things are reflected in the Word of God as in a mirror,
because He is the type and image of all. Therefore the saints who see the
Word in its essence see all created things.
Objection 7: Further, according to Prov. 10:24, "to the just their desire
shall be given." Now the just desire to know all things, since "all men
desire naturally to know," and nature is not done away by glory.
Therefore God will grant them to know all things.
Objection 8: Further, ignorance is one of the penalties of the present life
[*Cf. FS, Question , Article ]. Now all penalty will be removed from the saints
by glory. Therefore all ignorance will be removed: and consequently they
will know all.
Objection 9: Further, the beatitude of the saints is in their soul before
being in their body. Now the bodies of the saints will be reformed in
glory to the likeness of Christ's body (Phil. 3:21). Therefore their
souls will be perfected in likeness to the soul of Christ. Now Christ's
soul sees all things in the Word. Therefore all the souls of the saints
will also see all things in the Word.
Objection 1:: Further, the intellect, like the senses, knows all the things
with the image of which it is informed. Now the Divine essence shows a
thing forth more clearly than any other image thereof. Therefore since in
that blessed vision the Divine essence becomes the form as it were of our
intellect, it would seem that the saints seeing God see all.
Objection 1:: Further, the Commentator says (De Anima iii), that "if the
active intellect were the form of the passive intellect, we should
understand all things." Now the Divine essence represents all things more
clearly than the active intellect. Therefore the intellect that sees God
in His essence knows all things.
Objection 1:: Further, the lower angels are enlightened by the higher about
the things they are ignorant of, for the reason that they know not all
things. Now after the day of judgment, one angel will not enlighten
another; for then all superiority will cease, as a gloss observes on 1
Cor. 15:24, "When He shall have brought to nought," etc. Therefore the
lower angels will then know all things, and for the same reason all the
other saints who will see God in His essence.
On the contrary, Dionysius says (Hier. Eccles. vi): "The higher angels
cleanse the lower angels from ignorance." Now the lower angels see the
Divine essence. Therefore an angel while seeing the Divine essence may be
ignorant of certain things. But the soul will not see God more perfectly
than an angel. Therefore the souls seeing God will not necessarily see
Further, Christ alone has the spirit not "by measure" (Jn. 3:34). Now it
becomes Christ, as having the spirit without measure, to know all things
in the Word: wherefore it is stated in the same place (Jn. 3:35) that
"the Father . . . hath given all things into His hand." Therefore none
but Christ is competent to know all things in the Word.
Further, the more perfectly a principle is known, the more of its
effects are known thereby. Now some of those who see God in His essence
will know God more perfectly than others. Therefore some will know more
things than others, and consequently every one will not know all.
I answer that, God by seeing his essence knows all things whatsoever
that are, shall be, or have been: and He is said to know these things by
His "knowledge of vision," because He knows them as though they were
present in likeness to corporeal vision. Moreover by seeing this essence
He knows all that He can do, although He never did them, nor ever will:
else He would not know His power perfectly; since a power cannot be known
unless its objects be known: and this is called His "science" or
"knowledge of simple intelligence." Now it is impossible for a created
intellect, by seeing the Divine essence, to know all that God can do,
because the more perfectly a principle is known, the more things are
known in it; thus in one principle of demonstration one who is quick of
intelligence sees more conclusions than one who is slow of intelligence.
Since then the extent of the Divine power is measured according to what
it can do, if an intellect were to see in the Divine essence all that God
can do, its perfection in understanding would equal in extent the Divine
power in producing its effects, and thus it would comprehend the Divine
power, which is impossible for any created intellect to do. Yet there is
a created intellect, namely the soul of Christ [*Cf. TP, Question , Article ],
which knows in the Word all that God knows by the knowledge of vision.
But regarding others who see the Divine essence there are two opinions.
For some say that all who see God in His essence see all that God sees by
His knowledge of vision. This, however, is contrary to the sayings of
holy men, who hold that angels are ignorant of some things; and yet it is
clear that according to faith all the angels see God in His essence.
Wherefore others say that others than Christ, although they see God in
His essence, do not see all that God sees because they do not comprehend
the Divine essence. For it is not necessary that he who knows a cause
should know all its effects, unless he comprehend the cause: and this is
not in the competency of a created intellect. Consequently of those who
see God in His essence, each one sees in His essence so much the more
things according as he sees the Divine essence the more clearly: and
hence it is that one is able to instruct another concerning these things.
Thus the knowledge of the angels and of the souls of the saints can go on
increasing until the day of judgment, even as other things pertaining to
the accidental reward. But afterwards it will increase no more, because
then will be the final state of things, and in that state it is possible
that all will know everything that God knows by the knowledge of vision.
Reply to Objection 1: The saying of Isidore, that "the angels know in the Word
all things before they happen," cannot refer to those things which God
knows only by the knowledge of simple intelligence, because those things
will never happen; but it must refer to those things which God knows only
by the knowledge of vision. Even of these he does not say that all the
angels know them all, but that perhaps some do; and that even those who
know do not know all perfectly. For in one and the same thing there are
many intelligible aspects to be considered, such as its various
properties and relations to other things: and it is possible that while
one thing is known in common by two persons, one of them perceives more
aspects, and that the one learns these aspects from the other. Hence
Dionysius says (Div. Nom. iv) that "the lower angels learn from the
higher angels the intelligible aspects of things." Wherefore it does not
follow that even the angels who know all creatures are able to see all
that can be understood in them.
Reply to Objection 2: It follows from this saying of Gregory that this blessed
vision suffices for the seeing of all things on the part of the Divine
essence, which is the medium by which one sees, and whereby God sees all
things. That all things, however, are not seen is owing to the deficiency
of the created intellect which does not comprehend the Divine essence.
Reply to Objection 3: The created intellect sees the Divine essence not according
to the mode of that same essence, but according to its own mode which is
finite. Hence its efficacy in knowing would need to be infinitely
increased by reason of that vision in order for it to know all things.
Reply to Objection 4: Defective knowledge results not only from excess and
deficiency of the knowable object in relation to the intellect, but also
from the fact that the aspect of knowableness is not united to the
intellect: thus sometimes the sight sees not a stone, through the image
of the stone not being united to it. And although the Divine essence
which is the type of all things is united to the intellect of one who
sees God, it is united thereto not as the type of all things, but as the
type of some and of so much the more according as one sees the Divine
essence more fully.
Reply to Objection 5: When a passive power is perceptible by several perfections
in order, if it be perfected with its ultimate perfection, it is not said
to be imperfect, even though it lack some of the preceding dispositions.
Now all knowledge by which the created intellect is perfected is directed
to the knowledge of God as its end. Wherefore he who sees God in His
essence, even though he know nothing else, would have a perfect
intellect: nor is his intellect more perfect through knowing something
else besides Him, except in so far as it sees Him more fully. Hence
Augustine says (Confess. v.): "Unhappy is he who knoweth all these"
(namely, creatures), "and knoweth not Thee: but happy whoso knoweth Thee,
though he know not these. And whoso knoweth both Thee and them is not the
happier for them but for Thee only."
Reply to Objection 6: This mirror has a will: and even as He will show Himself to
whom He will, so will He show in Himself whatsoever He will. Nor does the
comparison with a material mirror hold, for it is not in its power to be
seen or not to be seen.
We may also reply that in a material mirror both object and mirror are
seen under their proper image; although the mirror be seen through an
image received from the thing itself, whereas the stone is seen through
its proper image reflected in some other thing, where the reason for
seeing the one is the reason for seeing the other. But in the uncreated
mirror a thing is seen through the form of the mirror, just as an effect
is seen through the image of its cause and conversely. Consequently it
does not follow that whoever sees the eternal mirror sees all that is
reflected in that mirror: since he who sees the cause does not of
necessity see all its effects, unless he comprehend the cause.
Reply to Objection 7: The desire of the saints to know all things will be
fulfilled by the mere fact of their seeing God: just as their desire to
possess all good things will be fulfilled by their possessing God. For as
God suffices the affections in that He has perfect goodness, and by
possessing Him we possess all goods as it were, so does the vision of Him
suffice the intellect: "Lord, show us the Father and it is enough for us"
Reply to Objection 8: Ignorance properly so called denotes a privation and thus
it is a punishment: for in this way ignorance is nescience of things, the
knowledge of which is a duty or a necessity. Now the saints in heaven
will not be ignorant of any of these things. Sometimes, however,
ignorance is taken in a broad sense of any kind of nescience: and thus
the angels and saints in heaven will be ignorant of certain things. Hence
Dionysius says (Div. Nom. iv) that "the angels will be cleansed from
their ignorance." In this sense ignorance is not a penalty but a defect.
Nor is it necessary for all such defects to be done away by glory: for
thus we might say that it was a defect in Pope Linus that he did not
attain to the glory of Peter.
Reply to Objection 9: Our body will be conformed to the body of Christ in glory,
in likeness but not in equality, for it will be endowed with clarity even
as Christ's body, but not equally. In like manner our soul will have
glory in likeness to the soul of Christ, but not in equality thereto:
thus it will have knowledge even as Christ's soul, but not so great, so
as to know all as Christ's soul does.
Reply to Objection 1:: Although the Divine essence is the type of all things
knowable it will not be united to each created intellect according as it
is the type of all. Hence the objection proves nothing.
Reply to Objection 1:: The active intellect is a form proportionate to the
passive intellect; even as the passive power of matter is proportionate
to the power of the natural agent, so that whatsoever is in the passive
power of matter or the passive intellect is in the active power of the
active intellect or of the natural agent. Consequently if the active
intellect become the form of the passive intellect, the latter must of
necessity know all those things to which the power of the active
intellect extends. But the Divine essence is not a form proportionate to
our intellect in this sense. Hence the comparison fails.
Reply to Objection 1:: Nothing hinders us from saying that after the judgment
day, when the glory of men and angels will be consummated once for all,
all the blessed will know all that God knows by the knowledge of vision,
yet so that not all will see all in the Divine essence. Christ's soul,
however, will see clearly all things therein, even as it sees them now;
while others will see therein a greater or lesser number of things
according to the degree of clearness wherewith they will know God: and
thus Christ's soul will enlighten all other souls concerning those things
which it sees in the Word better than others. Hence it is written (Apoc. 21:23): "The glory of God shall enlighten the city of Jerusalem [*Vulg.:
'hath enlightened it'], and the Lamb is the lamp thereof." In like manner
the higher souls will enlighten the lower (not indeed with a new
enlightening, so as to increase the knowledge of the lower), but with a
kind of continued enlightenment; thus we might understand the sun to
enlighten the atmosphere while at a standstill. Wherefore it is written
(Dan. 12:3): "They that instruct many to justice" shall shine "as stars
for all eternity." The statement that the superiority of the orders will
cease refers to their present ordinate ministry in our regard, as is
clear from the same gloss.