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  • Published on: 21st September 2019
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Paste your essay in here...Peter Butler

Professor Secada

Phil 1510

April 16th, 2018

The Knowledge of God

In both the “Summa Theologica” and the “Conceptions of the love of God”, there is a notion that it is possible to come to a knowledge of God. Aquinas and Teresa both lay out steps to reaching the knowledge of God, and do so in different ways. Aquinas speaks that the natural senses, the effects, and their causes can come to form an idea of God but not fully comprehend his essence. However, through thought and the interaction of our intellect with grace we can attain the vision of divine essence. Teresa of Avila puts the emphasis on knowing God through spiritual prayer and the interaction of the soul with God through action. She also emphasizes that grace is crucial is coming to love God and then understanding him. The main difference between Aquinas’s and Teresa's’ knowledge of God is that Aquinas believes through thinking and natural experiences we can come to know God while Teresa believes through spirituality and works we can love and understand God.

Saint Thomas Aquinas first points out that to recognize something as knowable is to recognize it as actual. Even though God exceeds the power of our mind to fully know him, since God is pure actuality he is knowable within himself. Aquinas makes the point early on in Question 12 that there is no proportion we can draw between God and ourselves that is logical. However, we can consider that we as God’s creatures hold something in relation to God as effects do to their causes in the natural order. This is different from being able to see God which Aquinas believes is impossible through things consisting of both form and matter. We as humans have bodily functions that are of a material form. While we can understand the nature of things through rational thought and perception, we do not have the capabilities to see the essence of God. Angels are composed of a pure form and can know things whose existence and essence are separate. However, the mind Aquinas believes transcends natural powers through its ability to form conceptions in the abstract. Therefore Aquinas believes that the mind can be elevated through the grace of God to see God’s essence in the beatific vision.  The vision we receive from the grace of God strengthening our mind is known as the divine illumination. While Aquinas agrees we can see God’s essence, he affirms that we can not come to comprehend God’s essence. Aquinas says that the grace of divine illumination strengthens our intellect but cannot allow us to comprehend God because that would involve infinite knowledge since god is unlimited. Infinite knowledge would require changing the nature of our intellect and therefore comprehension is not plausible. Aquinas in summary does believe that God can be know by natural reason, as highlighted in article 12. Aquinas says that we can know of God and certain things about him through natural reason, but that to see God’s essence and the beatific vision is not of our natural abilities. The things that our natural intelect can perceive about God are called intelligible forms.

Teresa of Avila’s knowledge of God lie in prayer and action. Her answer to the knowledge of God lies in theology and not philosophy as did Aquinas. However to reach the mystic level of prayer that allowed Teresa to see God one must first focus on following the path Jesus took. Immerse yourself in good deeds and good nature and the bond between you and the divine in prayer will strengthen. Teresa first goes down the path of prayer that advised her to rid her mind of all corporeal images. This form of quiet prayer involved no thinking or works. She had no companion or friendship with Jesus and found she needed the humanity of Jesus. Rather than looking at Jesus in whose presence she walked on the outside, she now allowed for the humanity of Jesus to fill within her. This is the more intimate relationship that Teresa was searching for. Teresa was able to reach this conversion when she saw a image of Christ on the cross suffering. It made her realize how little she thanked him for his suffering. She let herself go completely before the foot of Christ in tears and developed a greater sensitivity to God’s eternal plan of consuming evil into love. She takes part in the prayer of rapture which involves receiving communion. Teresa says that “once after receiving communion, I was given understanding of how the Father receives within our soul the most holy Body of Christ, and of how I know and have seen divine Persons are present, and of how pleasing to the Father the offering of his son is.” This understanding or knowledge is present in the soul and the communion graces Jesus’s humanity into the soul, allowing us to rejoice in eternal joy. She wishes to engage others in prayer that involves the whole-self. The way to do this is to fully imitate the love of Jesus in your daily life with grace  and then speak to him in prayer with humility and love.

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