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CHAPTER LVThat the Created Intelligence does not comprehend the Divine Substance

THE aforesaid light is a principle of divine knowledge, since by it the created intelligence is elevated to see the divine substance. Therefore the mode of divine vision must be commensurate with the intensity of the aforesaid light. But the aforesaid light falls far short in intensity of the brightness of the divine understanding. It is impossible therefore for the divine substance to be seen by such light so perfectly as the divine understanding sees it. The divine understanding sees that substance as perfectly as it is perfectly visible: for the truth of the divine substance and the clearness of the divine understanding are equal, nay are one. It is impossible therefore for created intelligence through the aforesaid light to see the divine substance as perfectly as it is perfectly visible. But everything that is comprehended by any knowing mind is known by it as perfectly as it is knowable. Thus he who knows that a triangle has three angles equal to two right angles, taking it as a matter of opinion on probable grounds because wise men say so, does not yet comprehend that truth: he alone comprehends it, who knows it as matter of science, through the medium of a demonstration showing cause. It is impossible therefore for any created intelligence to comprehend the divine substance.

2. Finite power cannot compass in its activity an infinite object. But the divine substance is infinite in comparison with every created intellect, since every created intellect is bounded within the limits of a certain species.

When it is said that the divine substance is seen but not comprehended by created intelligence, the meaning is not that something of it is seen and something not seen, since the divine substance is absolutely simple: what is meant is that it is not seen perfectly so far as it is visible. In the same way he who holds a demonstrable conclusion as a matter of opinion, is said to know it but not to comprehend it, because he does not know it perfectly, that is, scientifically, though there is no part of it that he does not know.610610This is commonly expressed by saying that the Blessed in heaven vident Deum totum, sed non totaliter. A further illustration, suggested by Cardinal Newman’s Grammar of Assent, is the case of two men both knowing the same proposition, the one with a ‘notional,’ the other with a ‘real’ assent: only the latter can be said fully to grasp or comprehend the truth.


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