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CHAPTER LIVThat the Divine Essence, being One, is the proper Likeness and Type of all things Intelligible106106The doctrine in this chapter should be compared with the Hegelian doctrine of the ‘background,’ which lies beyond all differences — on which all distinctions are ‘projected’ — in which all contradictions are reconciled, all opposites meet in unity.

BUT again it may seem to some difficult or impossible that one and the same simple being, as the divine essence, should be the proper type (propria ratio) and likeness of different things. For as different things are distinguished by means of their proper forms, it needs must be that what is like one thing according to its proper form should be found unlike to another.

True indeed, different things may have one point of likeness in so far as they have one common feature, as man and ass, inasmuch as they are animals. If it were by mere discernment of common features that God knew things, it would follow that He had not a particular but only a general knowledge of things (contrary to Chap. L). To return then to a proper and particular knowledge, of which there is here question.

The act of knowledge is according to the mode in which the likeness of the known object is in the knowing mind: for the likeness of the known object in the knowing mind is as the form by which that mind is set to act. If therefore God has a proper and particular knowledge of many different things, He must be the proper and particular type of each. We have to enquire how that can be.107107Knowledge is by likeness of the mental impression to the thing known. As the likeness, so the knowledge. For a knowledge at once particular and all-embracing, there must be in the mind a likeness of all and each of the things known. But God has such a particular knowledge of all and each of His creatures, as well actual as possible (Chap. L). There must then be in God a mental likeness of each and every such creature. But whatever is in God is God’s own essence, which is one and simple. How then can the one, simple essence of God be a particular likeness of each of the whole multitude of actual and possible creatures? That is the question.

As the Philosopher says, the forms of things, and the definitions which mark such forms, are like numbers, in which the addition or subtraction of unity varies the species of the number. So in definitions: one differentia subtracted or added varies the species: thus ‘sentient substance’ varies in species by the addition of ‘irrational’ or ‘rational.’ But in instances of ‘the many in one’ the condition of the understanding is not as the condition of concrete nature. The nature of a concrete being does not admit of the severance of elements, the union of which is requisite to the existence of that being: thus animal nature will not endure if the soul be removed from the body. But the understanding can sometimes take separately elements that in actual being are united, when one of them does not enter into the concept of the other; thus in ‘three’ it may consider ‘two’ only, and in ‘rational animal’ the ’sentient’ element alone. Hence the understanding may take what is inclusive of many elements for a proper specimen of many, by apprehending some of them without others. It may take ‘ten’ as a proper specimen of nine by subtraction of one unit, and absolutely as a proper specimen of all the numbers included in ‘ten.’ So also in ‘man’ it might recognise a proper type of ‘irrational animal’ as such, and of all the species of ‘irrational animal,’ unless these species involved some positive differentias.108108A positive differentia would be an attribute, which by what it was, not by what it came short of being, could not possibly have place in man. Winged might be suggested as such a differentia. Therefore a certain philosopher, named Clement, said that 40in the scale of beings the nobler are types and patterns of the less noble.109109Quoted from the pseudo-Dionysius, De div. Nom. c. 5, a writer of the fifth or sixth century, who well may be quoting Clement of Alexandria. Now the divine essence contains in itself the noble qualities of all beings, not by way of a compound but by way of a perfect being (Chap. XXXI). Every form, as well particular as general, is a perfection in so far as it posits something; and involves imperfection only in so far as it falls short of true being. The divine understanding then can comprehend whatever is proper to each in its essence, by understanding wherein each thing imitates the divine essence, and wherein it falls short of the perfection proper to that essence. Thus, by understanding its own essence as imitable in the way of life without consciousness, it gathers the proper form of a plant, by understanding the same essence as imitable in the way of consciousness without intellect, the proper form of an animal; and so of the rest. Evidently then the divine essence, inasmuch as it is absolutely perfect, may be taken as the proper type of each entity; and hence by it God may have a particular knowledge of all. But because the proper type of one is distinct from the proper type of another — and distinction is the principle of plurality — there must be observable in the divine intellect a distinction and plurality of recognised types, in so far as the content of the divine mind is the proper type of different things. And as it is in this way that God is cognisant of the special relation of likeness that each creature bears to Him, it follows that the types (rationes) of things on the divine mind are not several or distinct, except in so far as God knows things to be in several divers ways capable of assimilation to Himself.

And from this point of view Augustine says that God has made man in one plan and horse on another; and that the plans or types of things exist severally in the divine mind (De div. quaest., LXXXIII, 46). And herein also is defensible in some sort the opinion of Plato, who supposes Ideas, according to which all beings in the material world are formed.110110   This explains how God knows types, but not His knowledge of existing individuals, as John, this tree, my violin.
   Incidentally, to take a favourite thought of Newman’s, as all possible creation exists typically in the divine essence, so the Catholic faith contains all the truths, speculative and practical, of all religions and all moralities, minus their negations, in which, so far as they are false, their falsehood lies.


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