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CHAPTER XXIIThat in God Existence and Essence is the same4646That is to say, it is the same thing for God to be at all and to be exactly what He is. ‘Godhead’ and ‘this God’ are identical. No one possibly could be God save Him alone who actually is God. In God the ideal order and the actual order coincide, the order of thought (essence) and the order of being (existence).

IT has been shown above (Chap. XV, n. 4) that there is an Existence which of itself necessarily is; and that is God. If this existence, which necessarily is, is contained in some essence not identical with it, then either it is dissonant and at variance with that essence, as subsistent existence is at variance with the essence of whiteness; or it is consonant with and akin to that essence, as existence in something other than itself is consonant with whiteness. In the former case, the existence which of itself necessarily is will not attach to that essence, any more than subsistent existence will attach to whiteness. In the latter case, either such existence must depend on the essence, or both existence and essence depend on another cause, or the essence must depend on the existence. The former two suppositions are against the idea of a being which of itself necessarily is; because, if it depends on another thing, it no longer is necessarily. From the third supposition it follows that that essence is accidental and adventitious to the thing which of itself necessarily is; because all that follows upon the being of a thing is accidental to it; and thus the supposed essence will not be the essence at all. God therefore has no essence that is not His existence.

2. Everything is by its own existence. Whatever then is not its own existence does not of itself necessarily exist. But God does of Himself necessarily exist: therefore God is His own existence.

4. ‘Existence’ denotes a certain actuality: for a thing is not said to ‘be’ for what it is potentially, but for what it is actually. But everything to which there attaches an actuality, existing as something different from it, stands to the same as potentiality to actuality. If then the divine essence is something else than its own existence, it follows that essence and existence in God stand to one another as potentiality and actuality. But it has been shown that in God there is nothing of potentiality (Chap. XVI), but that He is pure actuality. Therefore God’s essence is not anything else but His existence.4747   This distinction of actuality and potentiality is the saving of philosophy. Even physical science in our day has found ‘potential’ a convenient term. The distinction is heedlessly abolished by those who put activity for being, and seem to think that the human mind itself would perish the moment it ceased to act, as though there could be no reality that was not actualised. But perfect actuality can be nothing less than God: so that if actuality alone exists without potentiality, God alone exists. Nature by the institution of sleep teaches us to distinguish the potential from the actual. If mind may be dormant and yet not cease to be, so may the objects of mind be dormant — unobserved by human sense, unpictured in human imagination, unrecalled in human memory, or even wholly out of the ken of human knowledge, — and still really and truly be, as “permanent possibilities of sensation” or of cognition. This phrase of J. S. Mill is felicitous, if we remember, as he did not, that a “permanent possibility” is something raised above nothingness. Here then we have the confutation of idealism, of Berkeley and Kant and all their tribe. Phenomena, or appearances, cannot be actual to man except as objects of sensation or other human cognition: but they may very well be and are potential, observable though unobserved, out of all human mind. Potentiality however cannot be mere potentiality: it must rest on something actual. The actuality on which potential phenomena, appearances or accidents rest, is the substance in which they inhere.
   The horns then of idealism are broken. Subject is not percipere; object is not percipi. If any one claims the liberty of using such a terminology, he must at least be brought to an admission that there is much of Mind which is not subject in his sense, and much of Matter that is not object. Mind and Matter are like sea and land, two vast potentialities. They meet on the coast-line: but the coast-line of percipere and percipi is far from being the whole reality.

5. Everything that cannot be except by the concurrence of several things is compound. But nothing in which essence is one thing, and existence 18another, can be except by the concurrence of several things, to wit, essence and existence. Therefore everything in which essence is one thing, and existence another, is compound. But God is not compound, as has been shown (Chap. XVIII). Therefore the very existence of God is His essence.

This sublime truth was taught by the Lord to Moses (Exod. iii, 13, 14) If they say to me, What is his name? what shall I say to them? Thus shalt thou say to the children of Israel: He who is hath sent me to you: showing this to be His proper name, He who is. But every name is given to show the nature or essence of some thing. Hence it remains that the very existence or being of God is His essence or nature.


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