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CHAPTER LXIIIHow in that Final Happiness every Desire of Man is fulfilled

FROM what has been said it evidently appears that in that final happiness which comes of the vision of God every human desire is fulfilled, according to the text: Who filleth thy desire with good things (Ps. cii, 5). And every human endeavour there finds its final good: as may be seen by discussing the several heads. — I. As man is an intelligent being, there is in him a desire of investigating truth, which desire men follow out in the pursuit of a contemplative life. And this will manifestly be fulfilled in that vision, since by the sight of the first and highest truth all things that man naturally desires to know will become known to him (Chap. L).

2. There is also a desire which a man has in keeping with his rational 234faculty of managing and disposing of inferior things: which desire men prosecute in the pursuit of an active and civil life. And the chief scope and purpose of this desire is the laying out of man’s whole life according to reason, which means living virtuously.626626Hence the Aristotelian maxim, that the end of government is to make the citizens virtuous, up to a certain measure of human and social virtue. Or we may say it is to ‘rationalise’ the community, that is, to form them into a whole regulated by reason. The civil ruler, as such, is a living public reasonableness. This desire will then be altogether fulfilled when reason shall be in the height of its vigour, being enlightened by divine light that it may not fall away from what is right.

3. Upon civil life there follow certain goods which a man needs for his social and political activities. Thus there is honour and high estate, the inordinate desire of which makes men intriguing627627Superflui which seems to be some translation of περιττοί, περίεργοι. and ambitious. But that vision elevates men to the supreme height of honour, uniting them with God; and therefore, as God is the king of ages (1 Tim. i, 17), so the Blessed united with Him are said to reign: They shall reign with Christ (Apoc. xx, 6).

4. Another object of desire following upon civil life is celebrity of fame, by inordinate desire of which men are said to be covetous of vain glory. By that divine vision the blessed become celebrated, not before men, who may deceive and be deceived, but in the most true knowledge of God and of all their companions in bliss. And therefore that happiness is very frequently termed ‘glory’ in Holy Scripture, as in Ps. cxliv, 5: The saints shall exult in glory.

5. There is also another thing desirable in civil society, namely, riches, by inordinate craving and love for which men become illiberal and unjust. But in that blissful state there is sufficiency of all good things, inasmuch as the Blessed enjoy Him who comprises the perfection of them: wherefore it is said: All good things came to me with her (Wisdom vii, 11); and, Glory and wealth is in this house (Ps. cxi, 3).

6. There is also a third desire in man, common to him with other animals, the desire of pleasurable enjoyments, which men pursue in the life of pleasure, and thereby become intemperate and incontinent.628628Intemperati et incontinentes, the Aristotelian ἀκόλαστοι καὶ ἀκρατεῖς. “In the intemperate man the will is inclined to sin by its own choice, that proceeds from a habit acquired by custom: whereas in the incontinent man the will is inclined to sin by some passion. And because passion quickly passes off; whereas a habit is a quality difficult to change, it follows that the incontinent man repents at once, when the fit of passion is over, which happens not with the intemperate man: nay, the latter is even glad to have sinned, because the act of sin by habit has become connatural to him” (Sum. Theol. 2a 2ae, q. 156, art. 3: Aquinas Ethicus, II, 339: I, 170, 171). But in the happiness of the sight of God there is perfect delight, all the more perfect than the pleasure of sense, which brute animals also can enjoy, as intellect is higher than sense; all the more perfect as (quanto) the good in which we shall take delight is greater than any sensible good, and comes more home to us, and is more continually delightful; all the more perfect again as the delight is more pure and free from all admixture of sadness or harassing solicitude; and of this it is said: They shall be inebriated by the plenty of thy house, and thou wilt make them drink of the torrent of thy pleasure (Ps. xxxv, 9).

7. There is also a natural desire common to all things, in that they all desire self-preservation, so far as possible; by the immoderation of which desire men are rendered timid and spare themselves too much from labours. This desire also shall be perfectly fulfilled when the Blessed attain to perfect everlasting duration, secure from all hurt, according to the text: They shall not hunger nor thirst any more, neither shall the sun fall upon them, nor any heat (Isa. xlix, 10; Apoc. vii, 16).

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Thus it appears that by the vision of God subsistent intelligences gain true happiness, in which every desire is wholly laid to rest, and in which there is abundant sufficiency of all good things, which Aristotle considers a requisite of happiness.629629“There will be need too of external prosperity, while man is man: for his nature is not self-sufficient for contemplation, but needs a healthy body, food and other comforts” (Nic. Eth., X, ix, 1). The laying to rest of all desire reminds us rather of Asiatic conceptions of happiness, involving the removal of work and worry and of the consequences of sin, the most accessible side of the concept of felicity, mortalibus aegris. But to the Thomist and the Christian, desire is appeased by full intensity of life (contemplatio, θεωρία): to the Asiatic by an intellectual stillness verging on anaesthesia (nirvâna). We pray for requiem aeternam, likewise for lux perpetua; but to the perfect Buddhist nirvâna is simply extinction. Buddhism is the antithesis of the scholastic thesis, ens est bonum. Nothing in this life is so like this final and perfect happiness as the life of them who contemplate truth so far as possible. For the contemplation of truth begins in this life, but will be consummated in the life to come, whereas the life of action and the political life do not transcend the bounds of this present.


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