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St Thomas Aquinas on Knowing God

We hope you have enjoyed our introduction to St. Thomas Aquinas throughout January’s Verbum Monthly Sale!

Let’s close with a few of Aquinas’ thoughts on knowing God, from the beginning of his masterpiece, Summa contra Gentiles:

That certain divine truths wholly surpass the capability of human reason, is most clearly evident. For since the principle of all the knowledge which the reason acquires about a thing, is the understanding of that thing’s essence, because according to the Philosopher’s teaching the principle of a demonstration is what a thing is, it follows that our knowledge about a thing will be in proportion to our understanding of its essence. Wherefore, if the human intellect comprehends the essence of a particular thing, for instance a stone or a triangle, no truth about that thing will surpass the capability of human reason.

But this does not happen to us in relation to God, because the human intellect is incapable by its natural power of attaining to the comprehension of His essence: since our intellect’s knowledge, according to the mode of the present life, originates from the senses: so that things which are not objects of sense cannot be comprehended by the human intellect, except in so far as knowledge of them is gathered from [the senses]. Now [things we grasp from the physical senses] cannot lead our intellect to see in them what God is, because they are effects unequal to the power of their cause. And yet our intellect is led by [sense experiences] to the divine knowledge so as to know about God that He is, and other such truths. Accordingly some divine truths are attainable by human reason, while others altogether surpass the power of human reason ( 1, 5).

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Jacobs Ladder by Jacques Stella, 1650.

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