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INASMUCH as the likenesses representative of things in the mind of a separately subsistent intelligence are more universal than in our mind, and more effectual means of knowledge, such intelligences are instructed by such likenesses of material things not only to the knowledge of material things generically or specifically, as would be the case with our mind, but also to the knowledge of individual existences.
1. The likeness or presentation of a thing in the mind of a separately subsistent intelligence is of far-reaching and universal power, so that, one as that presentation is and immaterial, it can lead to the knowledge of specific principles, and further to the knowledge of individualising or material principles. Thereby the intelligence can become cognisant, not only of the matter of genus and species, but also of that of the individual.
2. What a lower power can do, a higher power can do, but in a more excellent way. Hence where the lower power operates through many agencies, the higher power operates through one only: for the higher a power is, the more it is gathered together and unified, whereas the lower is scattered and multiplied. But the human soul, being of lower rank than the separately subsistent intelligence, takes cognisance of the universal and of the singular by two principles, sense and intellect. The higher and self-subsistent intelligence therefore is cognisant of both in a higher way by one principle, the intellect.
3. Intelligible impressions of things come to our understanding in the opposite
order to that in which they come to the understanding of the separately subsisting
intelligence. To our understanding they come by way of analysis (resolutio),
that is, by abstraction from material and individualising conditions: hence we cannot
know individual things by aid of such intelligible or universal presentations. But
to the understanding of the separately subsisting intelligence intelligible impressions
arrive by way of synthesis (compositio). Such an intelligence has its intelligible
impressions by virtue of its assimilation to the original intelligible presentation
of the divine understanding, which is not abstracted from things but productive
of things, — productive not only of the form, but also of the matter, which is
the principle of individuation. Therefore the impressions in the understanding of
a separately subsisting intelligence regard the whole object, not only the specific
but also the individualising principles. The knowledge of singular and individual
things therefore is not to be withheld from separately subsistent intelligences,
for all that our intellect cannot take cognisance of the singular and individual.504504 In the
days of the schoolmen, as in those of Aristotle, exclusive of philosophy
and theology, one speculative science alone had attained any real development, mathematics.
Philosophers therefore drew their illustrations from mathematics. Now it is true
in mathematics that a perfect comprehension of the universal carries a knowledge
of all subordinate particulars. Whoever comprehended a hexagon completely, would
know all things that ever could be affirmed of any hexagon, as such. And it is only
with the hexagon as such, that is to say with the hexagon as a form, that the mathematician
is concerned: he cares nothing about its material. But in the world of natural history,
while still only the lion, as such, or the fig, as such, is the strict matter of
science: nevertheless this scientific knowledge is only obtainable by observation
and experiment upon actual lions, or figs; and scientific men busy themselves accordingly
about the vicissitudes that do actually overtake such existing things. The most
thorough comprehension of the specific essence of a fig could not instruct a man,
— no, nor an angel either, — on the fact whether there will be a plentiful or
a poor crop of figs in Palestine in the year 1910. This fact, and indeed the whole
course of natural history, — apart from the free acts of God and man, and the effect
of those acts upon material things, is absolutely deducible from a knowledge of
the ‘universal nature’ of physical agents, joined to a knowledge (not contained
in the ‘universal’) of the primitive collocation of materials. But could even angelic
intellect make this stupendous deduction of the whole history of the physical universe
from its primary data?
We judge of angels from the analogy of the human mind. The human mind knows what is called at Oxford ‘the manifold’ of individual material things through the senses. To the intellect of man, away from sensation, this ‘manifold’ of individuals is unintelligible, as St Thomas also says it is unintelligible, because intellect always universalises. How then shall pure intelligence, apart from all faculty of sensation, know the individual? The analogy, which has been our guide, here breaks down. We cannot deny to the angel the cognition of individual things: not, I think, even with St Thomas for our guide, can we give a satisfactory account of how he has that cognition. If the schoolmen had a fault, it was that of explaining too much: though, I dare say, they considered many of their explanations merely hypothetical and tentative. See B. I, Chapp. VIII, IX.
In the Summa Theologica, I, q. 55, art. 2, St Thomas more clearly faces the difficulty of attributing to angels any knowledge of the actual facts of creation. He acknowledges (art. 1) that the mere consciousness of themselves in their own essential nature would be insufficient to afford them such knowledge. Therefore he supposes that, over and above their essential nature, there was stamped upon them at their creation a multitude of intelligible impressions, innate ideas in fact, corresponding to the facts of creation; and that by knowing themselves, as thus impressed, they know the world. Scotus disagrees with St Thomas on this point: indeed it remains a very open question. St Thomas’s words are (l.c.):
“The impressions whereby angels understand are not gathered from things but are connatural to the said angels. . . . Angels are wholly free from bodies, subsisting immaterially in intellectual being: and therefore they gain their intellectual perfection by an intellectual efflux, whereby they received from God presentations of known things along with their intellectual nature. . . . In the mind of an angel there are likenesses of creatures, not from the creatures themselves, but from God, who is the cause of creatures.”
But from this it would seem that angels ought to know all future events, a corollary rejected by St Thomas, q. 57, art. 3.
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