Of God and His Creatures

That God knows Base and Mean Things*

THE stronger an active power is, to the more remote objects does it extend its action. But the power of the divine mind in knowing things is likened to active power: since the divine mind knows, not by receiving aught from things, but rather by pouring its influence upon things. Since then God's mind is of infinite power in understanding (Chap. XLIII), its knowledge must extend to the remotest objects. But the degree of nobility or baseness in all things is determined by nearness to or distance from God, who is the fulness of nobility. Therefore the very vilest things in being are known to God on account of the exceeding great power of His understanding.

2. Everything that is, in so far as it has place in the category of substance or quality, is in actuality: it is some sort of likeness of the prime actuality, and is ennobled thereby. Even potential being, from its reference to actuality shares in nobility, and so comes to have the name of 'being.' It follows that every being, considered in itself, is noble; and is only mean and vile in comparison with some other being, nobler still. But the noblest creatures are removed from God at a distance not less than that which separates the highest in the scale of creation from the lowest. If then the one distance were to bar God's knowledge, much more would the other; and the consequence would be that God would know nothing beyond Himself.

3. The good of the order of the universe is nobler than any part of the universe. If then God knows any other noble nature, most of all must He know the order of the universe. But this cannot be known without taking cognisance at once of things nobler and things baser: for in the mutual distances and relations of these things the order of the universe consists.

4. The vileness of the objects of knowledge does not of itself redound on to the knower; for it is of the essence of knowledge that the knower should contain within himself impressions of the object known according to his own mode and manner. Accidentally however the vileness of the objects known may redound upon the knower, either because in knowing base and mean things he is withdrawn from the thought of nobler things, or because from the consideration of such vile objects he is inclined to some undue affections: which cannot be the case with God.

5. A power is not judged to be small, which extends to small things, but only that which is limited to small things. A knowledge therefore that ranges alike over things noble and things mean, is not to be judged mean; but that knowledge is mean, which ranges only over mean things, as is the case with us: for we make different studies of divine and of human things, and there is a different science of each. But with God it is not so; for with the same knowledge and the same glance He views Himself and all other beings.

With this agrees what is said of the Divine Wisdom: It findeth place everywhere on account of its purity, and nothing defiled stealeth in to corrupt it (Wisdom vii, 24, 25).

1.69 : That God knows Infinite Things
1.71 : That God knows Evil Things