JMC : The Knowableness of God / by Matthew Schumacher, CSC


The existence of God found as the result of the five proofs advanced by St. Thomas does not give us all we can know about Him, and thus it is, the work of elaboration just begins at this point. We repeat, that what follows is implicitly contained in the proofs, but its detailed exposition is the outcome of deduction and analysis. The same principle -- that of causality -- which proved there was a God now goes further, and shows to what extent we can know the nature of God. The position of St. Thomas and Spencer offer a great contrast on this point, and it will be well to show in what way. Both admit a Pirst Cause as the inevitable conclusion of a consideration of causality in the world, both admit manifestations of this Frst Cause; but here the agreement ends. Spencer says God is unknowable, though He manifests Himself -- "the Power which the Universe manifests to us is utterly inscrutable{1} --, St. Thomas says, God is knowable because of His manifestations -- "whence we know God's relations to creatures because He is the Cause of all, and how He differs from creatures since He is none of those things He has caused."{2} This divergence is emphasized at various points, and we shall note them as occasion demands "Each assertion respecting the nature, acts, or motives of that power which the Universe manifests to us, has been repeatedly called in question, and proved to be inconsistent with itself; or with accompanying assertions. Yet each of them has been age after age insisted on, in spite of a secret consciousness that it would not bear examination."{3} For Aquinas, notwithstanding, God is knowable He is knowable in Himself; and He is knowable relatively to us in a given manner and to a certain extent.

We do not know God in himself we do not know Him comprehensively, nor intuitively, yet we know Him really, to a certain extent. The proofs have given us some idea of God; they have shown Him to be an existent Something, a Being of some sort. We have shown that being is the prime and adequate object of the intellect, hence God as being is knowable to the human intellect. But the proportionate object of our intellect is not being as such, but the essence of material things, hence our knowledge of God must be based on a consideration of material things. A thing is knowable in se and it is knowable in relation to us. "Every real existence has two sides, being-for-itself and being-for-others."{4} This distinction in our present question brings to view two of the general principles of knowledge: Immateriality, which determines the degrees of the knowableness of an object in se considered; and, all that is known, is known according to the nature of the knower, all our knowledge is in terms of our own intellect.

God in Himself is infininely knowable, because He is supremely actual. "Because God is the opposite extreme of matter, because He is entirely immune from all potentiality, it follows that He knows and is knowable in the highest degree."{5} The role of immateriality in knowledge has already been discussed; the proofs give us God as Actus Purus, Pure Actuality, and thus He is knowable in Himself as infiinitely as He knows Himself. "Since God is most immaterial, it follows that He is in the height of cognition" In addition to what has been said previously, we shall refer to the question of matter and form when presenting the ideas contained in the attributes of Infinity and Omniscience.

The phrase "God in Himself" has been criticised by Prof. Flint as meaningless, but it has a real significance as we find it in the works of Aquinas. "We can not know the 'God in Himself' of sundry sages and divines, for the simple but sufficient reason that there is no such God to know."{6} He calls this "God in Himself" as vain as Kant's "thing-in-itself". When he states what He considers the only intelligible use of the phrase, he simply presents what was clear to the mind of Aquinas and those who follow him in this question. "There is no God without powers, affections, attributes, relationships; and when viewed in these -- in His omnipotence and omniscience, His holiness and love, His Creatorship, Fatherhood, or Sovereignty -- He is viewed "in Himself", in the only true and reasonable sense, -- that is, as distinct not from His own characteristics, but from other beings."{7} This is the idea of God derived from created things, of which St. Thomas says: "We can know God's relation to creatures, because He is the cause of all; we can know how He differs from creatures because He is none of those things He has caused, and He is none of them, not through defect on His part but through supereminence."{8} The knowledge of God in se, of God in Himself, is unattainable by us, is an extent beyond us, of which St. Thomas says -- "to show the ignorance of this sublime knowledge it is said of Moses that 'he approached to the darkness in which God was'."{9} We know God only by His manifestations, as Prof. Flint says, but this does not preclude other means of knowledge, means not given us in our present condition.

When we come to consider our actual knowledge of God, we see it is neither comprehensive nor intuitive. We comprehend a thing when "we know it as far as it is knowable."{10} "To comprehend a power or capacity is to know its complete extension."{11} There is nothing that can exhaust the divine nature or mirror it perfectly, because -- and this is the sole and oft-repeated answer -- there is no effect that adequates the power of the Cause, no creature is a full copy of its Creator, no creature is God. "It is impossible for any created likeness to totally represent God. There is something which each and all creatures leave unexpressed, and yet this is a something which is contained in the conception God in Himself. God is as truly incomprehensible as He is truly knowable. "God is knowable but not to the extent that His essence is comprehended, because the knower has a knowledge of the object known not according to the nature of the object but according to his own nature. But the nature of no creature attains to the height of the Divine Majesty Itself. Whence it follows, no creature knows Him perfectly as He perfectly knows Himself."{12} We do not know God comprehensively, but we are ever getting a clearer and a wider knowledge of Him, conscious, however, that there will always be a limit -- the necessary distance between uncreated and created existence. "Through effects we know God's existence, that He is the Cause of others, above others, and distinct from all. This is the limit and most perfect stage of our knowledge in this life, whence, as Dionysius says, we are united to a God as it were unknown. This is true even when we know what God is not, for what He is remains entirely unknown."{13}

This last thought seems a discouraging conclusion, and apparently renders further quest useless. Did St. Thomas confound a simple, partial knowledge with a comprehensive one as do Agnostics, he would be forced to stop with Spencer at the mere existence of God and declare Him unknowable beyond this point. Before we detail the actual knowledge that man can attain of God's nature, we must show that Intuitionism and Ontologism are not the means of acquiring this knowledge.

Ontologism, or the immediate vision of God, held by Malebranche, Gioberti, and Rosmini, is practically identical with the Innate-idea view when there is a question of our knowledge of God. In general, it brings God and the human mind in immediate conscious contact; it does away with all intermediate ideas between God and the human soul; it considers God the first object of our thought and the first object that we know; it holds that we see God immediately, and from this intuition, as origin and source, arises all our intellectual knowledge.

According to Malebranche, we see our ideas or universals in God. Sensation for him does not constitute the first stage of knowledge; in fact, it has no direct function in knowledge. He maintains that we know all things in their ideas, that these ideas are particular determinations of the idea of being in general, and this idea of indeterminate being is the idea of God. For Gioberti, God is the first object that we know, and we know him immediately; He is both the primum ontologicum and the primum logicum -- the first existence, and the first known. His formula, Ens Creat Existentias -- Being creates existences -- details this immediate intuition. We know Being -- the self-existing Divinity, we know It as creative, and we know the result of this creative action, viz., existences. For him, then, our "first intellectual act is an intuition of God creating the world." Gioberti distinguishes direct and reflex knowledge, and is followed in this matter by subsequent Ontologists. The first or direct intuition of God, who is the first object known, is obscure and indeterminate, but by means of sensation and intercourse with men, this intuition becomes clear, determined, and then we have reflex knowledge. Rosmini's theory, that the idea of being is innate in us has made him an Ontologist, for this idea is the "idea of God, the creative cause of finite beings."{14}

The view of Ontologism is in opposition to the theory of Aquinas. All our ideas arise from material things; the essence of material things is the first and proper object of the intellect, and it is only by the resemblance and contrasts of these sensible objects that we come to a knowledge of spiritual things, and of God. "Since the human intellect, according to our present condition in life, cannot understand created immaterial substances, much less can it understand the essence of an uncreated substance. Therefore we must simply say that God is not the primum known by us, but rather we come to a knowledge of God through creatures . . . But the first object of our knowledge in this life is the quiddity of a material thing, which is the object of our intellect, as has been said so often."{15} Our manner of knowing which must be in accordance with our nature -- for the object known is in the knower according to the nature of the knower -- renders it impossible that God should be immediately known to us, or be the first object of our knowledge. Though every mind is concerned with all being, yet it is not being in general which is the specific or immediate object of every knower, but being under the condition that corresponds most nearly with the nature of the knower. Thus man who is a composite of soul and body can not know spirit immediately or primarily, for it does not correspond the most readily to his nature; he can only form a direct concept of those things which are proportioned to his nature. We have sensible and intellectual powers of knowledge, and our knowledge comes through the senses; thus it is impossible that we should have an immediate vision of God.

St. Thomas rejects Ontologism in express words. "Some have said that the first thing which is known by the human mind in this life is God Himself, who is the first truth, and that through this all other things are known. But this is manifestly false, for to know God through His essence is the beatitude of man, whence it would follow that every man is happy."{16} The seeing of God in His essence is logically contained in Ontologism, though its supporters explicitly assert we do not thus see God. In God all things are one, there are no distinctions -- "one is the first of beings possessing the full perfection of all being, which we call God."{17} If Ontologism were true, it would follow that no one could err -- "since in the Divine Essence all things that are said of it are one, no one could err in those matters which are spoken of God; experience proves this to be evidently false."{18} Experience proves that we have no immediate vision of God, and the very concept we have is the result of a process far from intuitive, or identical with immediate knowledge. "Moreover, what is first in intellectual knowledge ought to be most certain {19} but the very discussion and divergence of opinion regarding the concept and nature of God show that we have no immediate vision of Him.

We are now ready to present the treatment that Aquinas has given the nature of God, in the light of our knowledge. If we consider the proofs of God's existence simply in their formal character, regard only the explicit ideas they contain, we see at once we have nothing like a satisfactory or complete concept of God. How indefinite the designation at the close of each line of evidence! The words, ens or aliquid, being or something, are as close as we are admitted to gaze at the object of our search. Though it is true there is specification to the extent of saying this ens or something is Prime Mover, First Cause, Necessary Being, Perfect Being, Intelligent Being, yet there is not the confidence of assertion that we look for in a final statement of the greatest, most interesting, and most far-reaching of problems. Again, he simply says, and this we call God. There is, however, a great deal implied in these statements, or more correctly in the underlying thought of the proofs, and this admits of an explicit unfolding, at the end of which we shall have our concept as complete as it left the hands of Aquinas, and, to our mind, as satisfying as we can hope to make our concept of God in this life.

The basic thought of the proofs, the idea that contains in itself the various predications that an analysis of it makes clear, has been given us by St. Thomas himself; and the method used in developing it is plainly stated and thoroughly carried out. The proofs have shown, says Aquinas, "that there is some primum ens which we call God. We must consider its attributes,"{20} we must analyze it. This is the general idea, and the method used in specifying it is the method of remotion or elimination. In the same chapter we have another phrase for the primum ens: "In proceeding in our knowledge by the method of remotion, we shall accept the principle (which was demonstrated in the proofs) that God is omnino immobilis (omnino immutabilis)."{21}

By deduction and analysis, by the a priori method, St. Thomas analyses the primum ens of the proofs to see what further knowledge we can have of God. He realizes fully the difficulty of the present operation, for there may be error at each step. In a few introductory sentences to the third question of the first part of the Summa Theologica, he maps out his position very well, saying, we shall rather consider what God is not than seek to know what He is. The same attitude is shown at the opening of the analysis of the idea in his Contra Gentes. "It is the way of remotion, the process of elimination, that we are to use in considering the Divine Nature. For the Divine Substance by its immensity exceeds every form which our intellect attains. And thus we cannot apprehend it by knowing what it is, but we have some knowledge of it by knowing what it is not."{22} True to the theory of knowledge, this question is pursued in terms of the constitution of our minds, it is what our intellect can attain through a consideration of things about us. What is this method of remotion? What part does it play in our knowledge? It is one of the three ways employed by St. Thomas in discussing what attributes can be applied to God, to find out what is contained in the primum ens. The other two ways are called ways of causality and eminence. Causality is the most universal, since the whole question of God is discussed in its terms; eminence implies that all predications of God have a meaning beyond or more extensive than the words themselves denote when applied to creatures, or our understanding of them contains -- in God their full connotation is reached. The way of remotion, however, is characteristic of the process under consideration, since, as Aquinas says, we are rather seeking to know what God is not than what He is. We repeat, it is included under the way of causality.

The method of remotion might be likened to the work of the active intellect, as already suggested. We saw that the active intellect was engaged in rendering the phantasma or image intelligible, by removing from it the material conditions that prevent it from being known by the intellect proper; it eliminated the elements that forbade the union of the knower and the known, it brought to view the essence, the real nature of the object, which alone is knowable directly by the intellect. In our present question, the process is negative, but the result is positive, as St. Thomas takes care to point out. "The more we can remove from an object by our intellect the nearer we approach to a knowledge of it; the more differences we see in an object in comparison with other things, the more perfectly we know it, for everything has a specific being distinct from all others."{23} This specific being is reached by knowing the genus under which it is included, and "by the differences by which it is distinguished from other things."

In the case of God, there is no genus under which He can be placed, "nor can we distinguish Him from other things by affirmative differences, but only through negative ones."{24} Every difference, whether affirmative or negative, contracts or limits the object, and allows us "to approach nearer to a complete designation of the object." This method is thus applied: "If we say that God is not accident, we distinguish Him from all accidents; then if we add that He is not body, we mark Him off from some substances. And thus we might, through negations of this nature, separate Him, step by step, from all that is not Himself. This will indeed give us a specific view of His substance, since He will be known as distinct from all, yet our knowledge will not be perfect, we shall not know what He is in Himself."{25} Spencer declares God unthinkable, because we can find no marks or characters that distinguish Him from objects we know. He lays down the canon: "Whence it is manifest that a thing is perfectly known only when it is in all respects like certain things previously observed; that in proportion to the number of respects in which it is unlike them, is the extent to which it is unknown; and that hence when it has absolutely no attribute in common with anything else, it must be absolutely beyond the bounds of knowledge."{26} This sounds very much like the statement of St. Thomas just quoted, but when Spencer applies these principles to God by way of corollary the agreement is at an end.

"A thought involves relation, difference, likeness. Whatever does not present each of these does not admit of cognition. And hence we may say that the Unconditioned as presenting none of them, is trebly unthinkable."{27} For Aquinas, the Unconditioned or God presents all three of them in some way, and thus is trebly thinkable. We have just shown how God is known on the principle of remotion, by differences; relation and likeness will be considered soon.

The method of remotion or elimination is but one of three, as already remarked; these three supplement each other to such an extent that they are practically inseparable. The three conditions of thought laid down by Spencer are fulfilled in this three-fold method, and thus make the Agnostic unknowable knowable. When we ascribe an attribute to God which means knowledge of God to the extent of the attribute, we rest on the fact that God, as everything else, can only be known by what He manifests of Himself. His manifestations appealing "to our intellects leads us to know what we are able to know of Him. God is known to us from creatures by the relation of cause, by way of eminence, and remotion."{28} We name an object as it is known to our intellect, for names or "words are referred to what they signify by means of an intellectual conception."{29} How does God manifest Himself? Through creatures, through the objects in the world about us. A consideration of these objects leads us to an ultimate explanation of them, to their cause -- God. If we are to know more of this Cause, we must learn from all our experiences, for we can name Him. only as these make Him known.

We can not, however, rise at once from a consideration of a given class of objects to an attribute appropriate to God. The knowledge we derive from creation does not lift us immediately to a knowledge of the final Object, Source, and End of all. St. Thomas lays down certain rules which are to guide us in this matter -- they have been called Canons of Attribution. They safeguard the separate existence of God, and also, as Caldecott points out, ward off the imputation of Anthropomorphism. God, for Aquinas, is infinite perfection, hence we can apply no name to Him that will derogate from this character.{30} Every name that implies perfection without connoting imperfection, is applied to God in the proper and the full sense of the word; this name, however, is applied to Him in an eminent way, which is not at all applicable to creatures; finally, words connoting imperfection may be applied to God metaphorically. We have here the ideas of God as Cause, all else as effects, and the relation between the two. We can compare God and creatures because they are similar in some way, but the result of our comparison can only be expressed analogically.

When we discussed the question of causality in general, we saw that there was some similarity between the cause and the result of its operation, based on the axiom -- omne agens agit sibi simile. This similarity may be one of quality or one of proportion; in the former there is specific or generic likeness, in the latter there is an analogical likeness. We also saw that the cause is known by the effect it produces, and this is the only way we know it -- thus we know it by its actual exercise. The activity of an agent is its forma, and this is simply the divine likeness in things; "for since the form is that which gives being or existence to a thing, but each thing, in as far as it has being, approaches to the likeness of God who is simple Being itself, it is necessary that the form be nothing else than the divine likeness participated in things."{31} The common element of likeness, then, between God and creatures is that of Being. There is no generic or specific agreement, but one "according to some analogy, as being is common to all. In this manner those things which are of God, as First and Universal Cause of all being, are likened to Him in as far as they are beings."{32} The idea of relation is closely connected with similarity in this question of analogy. We have seen that knowledge implies a relation or union of knower and known. When we come to seek a knowledge of God, how is this relation to be understood? If God or the Absolute is defined as the unrelated, then we are at a standstill in our discussion; and Spencer truly remarks -- "It is impossible to put the Absolute in the category with anything relative so long as the Absolute is defined as that of which no necessary relation can be predicated."{33} St. Thomas discusses this point by means of a distinction. He says there are two kinds of relation -- real or actual, and conceptual. In a relation there are two terms or extremes, the subject and the object, and the foundation or basis that connects them both -- the reason why one is referred to or related to the other. If both terms are real, the relation is real -- this real relation exists in things independently of the operation of the intellect. The relation is conceptual or relatio rationis when one term is real and the other only a concept -- this relation depends on the consideration of our mind. On the basis of this distinction, we know how far we can attribute to God what we see in creatures. The real relation contains the idea of something in both terms, each term contributing something to the relation, as the relation of mover and moved. In the conceptual, there is the idea of unchangeableness in one term and change only in the other. St. Thomas says, to determine whether an animal is on the left or on the right side of a column does not depend on any change in the column but on the changed position of the animal. This element of fixedness he applies to God -- "Since God, therefore, is beyond the whole order of creatures, and all creatures are ordained to Him and not conversely, it is manifest that creatures are related to God Himself, but there is no real relation of God to creatures, but one of concept only, in so far as creatures are related to Him."{34} Thus, whatever names we apply to God are not based on "any change in Him, but on change in creatures." Strictly speaking then, we cannot say that God is like creatures, though the reverse is true; and this rests on the fact that God in no way depends on creatures, He receives absolutely nothing from them. God is like a standard that measures the perfections of all objects, and as we speak of objects resembling their standard more or less closely, but not of the standard resembling the objects -- though they have points that are common to a certain degree -- so God is not spoken of as similar to creatures, but conversely.

The contradiction that Spencer, quoting Mansel, finds in the ideas of Cause and Absolute and Infinite, are not born of a proper understanding of the terms. If the meaning he gives them were true, then we certainly could not know the Absolute. Ladd justly remarks: "All philosophy or attempt at philosophy. even the most agnostic, necessarily assumes some sort of conscious mental relation of man to the Absolute; but on the other hand, all philosophy or attempt at philosophy, however dogmatic, is forced to acknowledge some sort of a limit beyond which any such relation as can properly be called 'knowledge' can not be claimed to extend." He gives certain definitions of the Absolute which of their very nature render knowledge of It out of the question. If the Absolute is designated as the totally unrelated there is no knowledge to be had of it. The Absolute must have some content, can not be an abstraction -- "That which has no positive characteristics that are presentable or representable in consciousness, can not be known." Another unknowable form -- "You can not know, or know about, the Absolute, if by this term you mean to designate the negation of all positive or particular characteristics." While we agree with these statements, there is one aspect we can not endorse -- "Nor is knowledge of the Absolute possible if this word must be identified with the unchanging, -- with that which is absolved from all alterations of its own states or of the relations in which those states stand to human consciousness."{35} In addition to what has already been said, the further presentation of the view of Aquinas will show that our knowledge of the Absolute does not require change in the Absolute. We can apply certain attributes to Him, derived from a consideration of His manifestations. Are these attributes the same in kind in God and creatures, or is it a matter of degree only? The general answer is obvious. God who is independent and self-existent Being, and creatures who are essentially dependent and caused can not be classed together, as Spencer justly remarks. "Between the creating and the created there must be a distinction transcending any of the distinctions existing between different divisions of the created."{36} And here Spencer finds another reason for calling God unknowable: knowledge implies classification, but God can not be classed with the created, and hence we can not know Him. St. Thomas has the same distinction "between the creating and the created," but by analogy and eminence, he finds that God is knowable in some way. "We can not know the truth of divine things," says Aquinas, "according to their nature, hence it must be known according to our own nature. But it is connatural to us to arrive at the intelligible from the sensible . . . that from those things that we know, the soul may rise to the unknown. We know more truly what God is not than what He is . . . hence what we say of God is not to be understood as proper to Him in the same manner as it is found in creatures, but through some manner of imitation and likeness. The eminence of God is more expressly shown by removing from Him what is most manifest to us, material things ."{37} The likeness is not a "participation of the same form . . . but it is a certain likeness of proportion, which consists in the same relation of proportions, as when we say eight is to four as six is to three, and the mayor is to the city what a pilot is to a ship.

The attributes applied to God and creatures have a relation of proportion -- we do not grasp their full expression in the Divine Being, though we seem to do so when they are found in creatures. "When the name wise is applied to a man, it in a way circumscribes and comprehends the thing signified, but not so in the case of God, where the thing signified still remains as uncomprehended and exceeding the signification of the name."{39} "Since God is His being which no creature is," His relation to being and all attributes differs from that of creatures, "for what is in God simply and immaterially is in the creature materially and manifoldly."{40} "It then follows that attributes are applied to God and creatures according to analogy, that is proportion . . . And thus whatever is said of God and creatures is said as there is some relation of the creature to God as to a principle and cause, in which preexist excellently all the perfections of things . . . In those things which are said analogically, there is not one concept as in univocals, but the name which is used manifoidly signifies diverse proportions to one thing."{41} This proportion or relation of objects in the analogical sense is not, as St. Thomas points out, based on an agreement to something distinct from the two objects related, and which "must be something prior to both, to which both are related," but is reference based on something found in each, "where the one is prior to the other." In God and creatures the basis of analogy is the relation of cause and effect -- "nothing is prior to God, and He is prior to the creature." There is then a reason for saying that "good and other qualities are predicated commonly of God and creatures," and that is, because "the divine essence is the superexcellent likeness of all things."{42}

God as First Cause contains in absolute perfection the shadowings of Himself, yet St. Thomas remarks that the unchangeableness of God is not affected by this: for He is wise and good and the like, antecedently and independently of the existence of these qualities in creatures. These predications are not simply a matter of degree, nor yet do they wholly differ in kind; still we can see that we have a peculiar case here in the relation of creatures to God. God occupies a position that nothing else can occupy, as regards what is known to us, and consequently we are on solid ground while we mount from human considerations to a knowledge of the Divine. it is not hard for us -- if it is not rather a necessity -- to admit that our feeble utterances find a realization in God much beyond anything we can see here in creation, and that the phrase, God is all this eminently, is happily and suggestively chosen. On the strength of the view of Aquinas just presented, the questions of J. S. Mill may be understood at their true value. "To say that God's goodness may be different in kind from man's goodness, what is it but saying, with a slight change of phraseology, that God may possibly not be good?" And again, "I will call no Being good, who is not what I mean when I apply that epithet to my fellow creatures."{43} God is all that creatures are and eminently more; this method of eminence leads us as near to a proper or quiddative concept of God as we can reach.

We have then a right to attribute to God certain qualities on the basis of creatures, because there is some similarity between the effects and their causes. The effects are many, and thus offer various ways of approach to a specification of our Idea of God. Moreover, the nature of our intelligence is such that we can not grasp the essence of anything at once, but it is only by degrees that we arrive at a complete knowledge of it, in so far as it is knowable to us. This is all the more true in our dealings with the nature of God -- we stammer rather than speak. Yet we must not forget, that though our Conception of God is a human concept, as all our concepts must be, yet it is a true Concept of God, as far as we can attain it. St. Thomas thus expresses this matter: "Our intellect apprehends divine perfections in the manner in which they exist in creatures, and it names them as it apprehends them. In the names, therefore, that we give to God we must consider two things -- the perfections themselves that are signified, as gooodness, life, and so on, and the manner of signifying them." The perfections themselves as perfections "are properly applied to God, even more properly than to creatures, and are predicated of Him with priority,"{44} since He is the Cause; but the manner of predication depends on the nature of our mind. This distinction seems to answer fully the misgivings of Prof. Royce about the adequacy of the treatment of St. Thomas regarding the divine attributes.{45} "Our intellect since it knows God from creatures, to understand God, forms conceptions proportioned to the perfections proceeding from God to creatures. These perfections preexist in God unitedly and simply, in creatures they are divided and manifold. . . To the various and multiple conceptions of our intellect, there is but one principle, altogether simple, imperfectly understood by those conceptions."{46} This sounds like Anthropomorphism.

In one sense, as so many Theists have pointed out, all our knowledge is anthropomorphic, for the simple reason that we must think as anthropoi, as men. Martineau writes: "In every doctrine therefore, it is still from our microcosm that we have to interpret the macrocosm; and from the type of our humanity as presented in self knowledge, there is no more escape for the pantheist or materialist than for the theist. Modify them as you may, all causal conceptions are born from within, as reflections or reductions of our personal, animal, or physical activity: and the severest science is in this sense, just as anthropomorphic as the most ideal theology."{47} Balfour, contrasting Theology and Science, says, "for controversial purposes it has been found convenient to dwell on the circumstance that our idea of the Deity is to a certain extent necessarily anthropomorphic while the no less certain, if somewhat less obvious, truth that an idea of the external world is also anthropomorphic, does not supply any ready argumentative weapon."{48} In this sense, our idea of God must be anthropomorphic, and no one should be surprised thereat. When, however, it is said we transfer to God simply and without any modification what we perceive in all experience, then Anthropomorphism ceases to be tenable.

Spencer finds a gradually diminishing Anthropomorphism in the history of religion, though, to his mind, it is still very prominent. "Indeed it seems somewhat strange," he says, "that men should suppose the highest worship to lie in assimilating the object of their worship to themselves. Not in asserting a transcendant difference, but in asserting a certain likeness, consists the element of their creed which they think essential."{49} We have already discussed the nature of likeness or similarity. He goes on to say, "It is still thought not only proper but imperative to ascribe (to God) the most abstract qualities of our nature. To think of the Creative Power as in all respects anthropomorphous, is now considered impious by men who yet hold themselves bound to think of the Creative Power as in some respects anthropomorphous, and who do not see that the one proceeding is but an evanescent form of the other."{50} This objection of Spencer is fully met by the Canons of Attribution laid down by St. Thomas, and especially, if we remember, that Aquinas considers our knowledge, and chiefly the principle of causality, as objective and universal.

We certainly do ascribe to God "the most abstract qualities of our nature", but we do this in a way that removes all suspicion that our Concept of God is not worthy of Him, according to His manifestations to us. In brief, by causality, we recognize God as containing all the perfections that we perceive in His works, by remotion or negation, we eliminate all imperfections as found in their human expression and arrive at a positive perfection, and then we ascribe this perfection to God in an eminent way -- we say, it finds its realization in Him in a manner proper to a self-existent Being. This method avoids the charge of Anthropomorphism which has been justly made to those who have neglected it. "The omission of careful treatment of the method of application in the writings of many Englishmen who belong to the Demonstrative School has laid them fairly open to the charge of anthropomorphism."{51} No true Theist would admit that his Conception of God is anthropomorphic, nothing is further from his mind than to conceive God in this way; he must then seek a form of presentation that will adequately express the view he holds. All Theists, in a way, betray signs of a proper conception, and if one ventures to question the insufficiency or incompleteness of their position by pointing out lacunae, they immediately ieply, what you suggest is contained in my treatment. This attitude was emphasized in the discussion that followed Prof. Royce's lecture on The Conception of God, at the University of California. God was discussed under the Attribute of Omniscience. The criticism offered was, that other and essential attributes of God were ignored; Prof. Royce, in his reply, stated, that these were implied. This is but an illustration of the tendency to contract the Infinite and fit It into a mould that will contain any idea we choose to form of It. The desire for unity, for an all-embracing unity is a worthy one, but must not run counter to actual conditions.{52} We do not wish to say that one can not confine one's self to the discussion of a single attribute, but one should not seek a rounded concept in this way. It is contrary to the nature of our mind, and it is unfair to the subject.

Prof. Royce at the end of his argument claims that his position is essentially that of St. Thomas. The method, I think, is the same, granting the basis on which it rests, but the completed Concept is entirely different. As far as the single attribute Omniscience is concerned, from the author's premises, no fault is to be found with it, and, though rigorously speaking, it contains the other attributes, it is not satisfying to rest in it as there set forth. We propose, therefore, to present briefly the most important and essential attributes of God as found in Aquinas, and show how his Theory of Knowledge and Canons of Attribution are made use of in attaining these, and the result will be the rounded Concept of God according to St. Thomas.

{1} First Principles, p. 46.

{2} Unde cognoscimus de ipso habitudinem ipsius ad creaturam, quod scilicet omnium est causa; et differentiam creaturarum ab ipso, quod scilicet ipse non est aliquid eorum quae ab eo causantur Sum Theol., I, q. 12, a. 12.

{3} Spencer, Ibid. p. 101.

{4} A. Seth, Some Epistemological Conclusions, Phil. Rev., v. 3, p. 57.

{5} De Veri., q. 2, a. 2. Sum. Theol., 1, q. 14, a. 1.

{6} Flint, Agnosticism, p. 580.

{7} Ibid., p. 582.

{8} Sum. Theol. i., I, q. 12, a. 12

{9} Ad hujus sublimissimae cognitionis ignorantiam demonstrandam, de Moyse dicitur (Exod., 20: 21) quod accessit ad caliginem in qua erat Deus. C.G., l. 8, c. 49.

{10} "Omne autem quod comprehenditur ab aliquo cognoscente, cognoscitur ab ea ita perfecte sicut cognoscibile est. C.G., l. 3, c. 35.

{11} "Idem igitur est cognoscere omnia in quae potest aliqua virtus, et ipsam virtutem comprehendere. C.G., l. 3, c. 56.

{12} Deus cognoscibilis est non autem ita cognoscibilis, ut essentia sua comprehendatur. Quia omne cognoscens habet cognitionem de re cognita, non per motum rei cognita sed per modum cognoscentis. Modus autem nullius creaturae attingit ad altitudinem divinae majestatis. Unde apartet quod a nullo perfecte cognoscatur, sicut ipse seipsum perfecte cognoscit. Com, an Lomb., I, Dis. 3, q. 1, a. 1.

{13} C.G., l. 3, c, 49.

{14} Boedder, Natural Theology, p. 14.

{15} Cum intellectus humanus secundum statum praesentis vitae non possit intelligere substantias immateriales creatas, multo minus potest intelligere essentiam substantiae increatae. Unde simpliciter dicendum est, quod Deus non est primum a nobis, cognoscitur; sed magis per creaturas in Dei cognitionem pervenimus . . . Primum autem quod intelligitur a nobis secundum statum praesentis vitae, est quidditas rei materialis, quae est nostri intellectus objectum, ut multoties supra dictum est. Sum. Theol., I, q. 87, a. 3.

{16} Quidam dixerunt quod primum quod a mente humana cognoscitur etiam in hac vita, est ipse Deus qui est veritas prima, et per hunc omnia alia cognoscuntur. Sed hoc aperte est falsum: quia cognoscere Deum per essentiam est hominis beatitudo, unde sequeretur omnem hominem beatum esse. Super Boetium De Trinitate, c. 1, ad 3. (Opusculum 68).

{17} Unum est primum entium, totius esse perfectionem plenam possidens quod Deum dicimus. C.G., l. 3, c. 1.

{18} Cum in divina essentia omnia quae dicuntur de ipsa sint unum, nullus erraret circa ea, quae de Deo dicuntur, quod experimento patet esse falsum. Opus. 68.

{19} Iterum ea, quae sunt prima in cognitione intellectus oportet esse certissima. Opus. 68.

{20} Ostenso igitur, quod est aliquod primum ens, quod Deum dicimus, oportet ejus conditiones investigare. C.G., l. 1, c. 14.

{21} Ad procedendum, igitur circa Dei cognitionem per viam remotionis, accipiamus principium (id, quod ex superioribus jam monstratum est), scilicet quod Deus sit omnino immobilis. C.G., l. 1, c. 14.

{22} Est autem via remotionis utendum, praecipue in consideratione divinae substantiae. Nam divina substantia omnem formam, quam intellectus foster attingit, sua immensitate excedit; et sic ipsam apprehendere non possumus cognoscendo quid est, sed aliqualem ejus habemus notitiam cognoscendo quid non est. C.G., l. 1, c. 14.

{23} Tanto enim ejus notitiae magis appropinquamus, quanto plura per intellectum nostrum ab eo poterimus removere; tanto enim unumquodque perfectius cognoscimus, quanto differentias ejus alia plenius intuemur; habet enim res unaquaeque in seipsa esse proprium ab omnibus aliis distinctum. C.G., l. 1, c. 14.

{24} Nec distinctionem ejus aliis rebus per affirmativas differentias accipere possumus, oportet eam accipere per differentias negativas. Ibid.

{25} Si dicimus Deum non accidens, per hoc quod ab omnibus accidentibus distinguitur. Deinde, si addamus ipsum non esse corpus, distinguemus ipsum etiam in aliquibus substantiis; et sic per ordinem, ab omni eo quod est praeter ipsum, per negationes hujusmodi, distinguetur; et tunc de substantia ejus erit propria consideratio, quum cognoscetur ut ab omnibus distinctus. Non tamen erit perfecta cognitio, quia non cognoscitur quid in se sit. Ibid.

{26} First Prin. p 80.

{27} Spencer, Ibid., p. 82. Fiske repeats the same idea. "Upon what grounds did we assert the unknowableness of Deity? We were driven to the conclusion that Deity is unknowable, because that which exists independently of intelligence and out of relation to it, which presents neither likeness, difference, nor relation, cannot be cognized. Outlines of Cosmic Phil., v. 2, p. 418.

{28} Deus cognoscitur a nobis ex creaturis secundum habitudinem principii, et modum excellentiae et remotionis. Sum. Theol., I, q. 13, a. 1.

{29} Voces referuntur ad res significandas mediante conceptione intellectus. ibid.

{30} God is infinite perfection, since as Cause of all things, He contains in Himself in some way all effects. Cfr. Sum. Theol., I, q. 4, a. 2. {31} Cum enim forma sit secundum quam res habet esse: res autem quaelibet, secundum quod habet esse, accedat ad similitudinem Dei, qui est ipsum suum esse simplex; necesse est quod forma nihil est aliud quam divina similitudo participata in rebus. C.G., l. 3, c. 97.

{32} Si igitur sit aliquod agens, quod non in genere contineatur, effectus ejus adhuc magis remote accedat ad similitudinem formae agentis: non tamen ita quod participet similitudinem formae agentis secundum eamdem rationem speciei aut generis, sed secundum aliqualem analogiam; sicut ipsum esse est commune omnibus. Et hoc modo illa quae sunt a Deo, assimilantur ei, inquantum sunt entia, et primo et universali principio totius est. Sum. Theol., I, q. 4, a. 3.

{33} First Prin., p. 81. Cfr. Bowne, Metaphysics, p. 116.

{34} Cum igitur Deus sit extra totum ordinem creaturae, et omnes creaturae ordinentur ad ipsum, et non e converso manifestum est quod creaturae realiter referuntur ad ipsum Deum; sed in Deo non est aliqua realis relatio ejus ad creaturas; sed secundum rationem tantum, inquantum, creaturae referuntur ad ipsum. Sum. Theol., I, q. 13, a. 7. {35} Phil. of Knowledge, pp. 593, 594, 595, 596, 597.

{36} First Prin. p. 81.

{37} Non possumus veritatem divinorum secundum modum suum capere; et ideo oportet quod nobis secundum modum nostrum proponatur. Est autem nobis connaturale a sensibilibus in intelligibilia venire . . ut ex his quae novimus ad incognita animus surgat . . . De Deo verius cognoscimus quid non est, quam quid est. Et ideo com de omnibus quae de Deo dicimus, intelligendum sit quod non eodem modo sibi conveniunt, sicut in creaturis inveniuntur, sed per aliquem modum imitationis et similitudinis; expressius ostendebatur hujusmodi eminentia Dei, per ea quae sunt magis manifesta ab ipso removeri. Haec autem sunt corporalia. Com. on Lomb., I, Dis. 34, q. 3, a. 1.

{38} Quaedam similitudo enim est per participationem ejusdem formae; et talis similitudo non est corporalium ad divina. Est etiam quaedam similitudo proportionalitatis: sicut se habent octo ad quattuor, ita sex ad tria et sicut se habet gubernator ad navem. Ibid. ad 2.

{39} Cum hoc nomen, sapiens, de homine dicitur, quodammodo circumscribit et comprehendit rem significatam; non autem cum dicitur de Deo; sed relinquit rem significatam ut incomprehensam et excedentem nominis significatam. Sum. Theol., I, q. 13, a. 5.

{40} Deus autem alio modo se habet ad esse quam aliqua alia creatura; nam ipse est suum esse, quod nulli alii creaturae competit. Cum quod in Deo est immaterialiter et simpliciter, in creaturis sit materialiter et multipliciter. Pot., q. 7, a. 7.

{41} Dicendum est igitur quod hujusmodi nomina dicuntur de Deo et creaturis, secundum analogiam, id est proportionem. . . Et sic quidquid dicitur de Deo et creaturis, dicitur secundum quod est aliquis ordo creaturae ad Deum, ut ad principium ad causam, in quae praeexistunt excellenter omnes rerum perfectiones. . . Neque enim in his quae analogice dicuntur, est una ratio, sicut est in univocis . . . sed nomen quod sic multipliciter dicitur, siguificat diversas proportiones ad aliquid unum. Sum. Theol., q. 13, a. 5.

{42} Divina essentia est omnium rerum similitudo superexcellens. Et ex hoc modo similitudinis contingit quod bonum et hujusmodi praedicantur communiter Deo et creaturis. Pot., q. 7, a. 7 ad 6.

{43} Quoted by Fiske, Outlines of Cosmic Phil., v. 2, p. 407.

{44} Intellectus autem noster eo modo apprehendit eas secundum quod sunt in creaturis; et secundum quod apprehendit, ita significat per nomina. In nominibus igitur quae Deo attribuimus, est duo considerare scilicet perfectiones ipsas significatas, ut bonitatem, vitam et hujusmodi; et modum significandi. Quantum igitur ad id quod significant hujusmodi nomina proprie competunt Deo, et magis proprie quam ipsis creaturis; et per prius dicuntur de eo. Sum. Theol., I. q. 13, a. 3.

{45} Cfr. pp. 30, 31.

{46} Sum. Theol., I. q. 13, a. 3.

{47} A Study of Rehgion, v. 1, p. 336.

{48} Defence of Philosophic Doubt, c. 12, p. 244.

{49} First Prin., p. 109.

{50} Ibid., p. 110.

{51} Caldecott. The Phil. of Rel., p. 60. St. Thomas belongs to the Demonstrative School.

{52} Cfr. St. Thomas and Modern Thought, E. A. Pace, Cath. Univ. Bulletin, v. 2.

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