Question Thirteen: Rapture
What is rapture?
Did Paul see God through His essence when he was enraptured?
Can one in this life have his understanding raised to see God through His essence without being carried out of his senses?
How great an abstraction is required for our understanding to be able to see God through His essence?
What did the Apostle know and not know about his rapture?
The question is about rapture.
In the first article we ask:
What is rapture?
[Parallel readings: De ver., 13, 2, ad 9; 2 Cor., c. 12., lect. 1; S.T., II-II, 175, 1.]
The Masters describe it in this way: “Rapture is elevation, by the power of a higher nature, from that which is according to nature to that which is contrary to nature.”
It seems that rapture is unsuitably described, for
1. Augustine says: “Man’s understanding knows God naturally.” But, in rapture, man’s understanding is raised to a knowledge of God. Therefore, it is not raised to that which is contrary to nature, but to that which is according to nature.
2. A created spirit depends more on the uncreated spirit than a lower body depends on a higher body. But impressions from higher bodies are natural to lower bodies, as the Commentator says. Therefore, elevation of the human spirit, even though it takes place in virtue of a higher nature, is only natural.
3. The Gloss on Romans(11:24), “Contrary to nature [thou] wert grafted into the good olive tree,” reads that God, the author of nature, “does nothing contrary to nature,” since that which each one receives from the source of all rule and order of nature is the nature for it. But the elevation of rapture is from God, who is the creator of human nature. Therefore, it is not against nature but according to it.
4. It was said that it is against nature because it is done in a divine manner and not in the manner of human spirit.—On the contrary, Dionysius says: “We see the justice of God in this that He distributes [His goods] to all things according to the measure of their worth.” But God cannot do anything contrary to His justice. Therefore, He does not give a thing something which is not according to its manner of being.
5. If man’s manner is changed in some respect, it is not changed in such a way that man’s proper good would be taken away. For, as Augustine says, God is not the cause of man’s deterioration. But man’s proper good is to live according to reason and to act in a voluntary way, as is clear in Dionysius. Therefore, since violence is contrary to what is voluntary and does away with the good of reason (for necessity causes sorrow since it is contrary to the will, as is said in the Metaphysics), it seems that God brings about no violent elevation in man contrary to nature. Now, this is what seems to take place in rapture, as the very name implies, and as the previously mentioned description points out in the words, “by the power of a higher nature.”
6. According to the Philosopher,” excessive intensity of sensible objects destroys the senses, but excessive intensity of intelligible objects does not destroy the understanding. Now, the senses fail of knowledge of intense sensible objects because they are destroyed by them. Therefore, the understanding can know intelligible objects naturally no matter how intense they are. Hence, no matter to what intelligible objects the mind of man is raised up, the elevation will not be contrary to nature.
7. Augustine says that angels and souls have similar natures but dissimilar duties.” Now, it is not contrary to the nature of an angel to know the things to which man is raised in rapture. Therefore, for man, the elevation of rapture is not contrary to nature.
8. If any movement is natural, arrival at the term of the movement will also be natural, since no movement is infinite. But the mind of man is naturally moved toward God. This is clear from the fact that it rests only when it has reached God. Hence, Augustine says: “You made us for Thee, Lord; and our heart is not at rest until it rests in Thee.” Therefore, the elevation by which the mind reaches God, as happens in rapture, is not contrary to nature.
9. It was said that it is not natural for the human mind to be drawn to God by reason of the mind itself, but by reason of an ordination of God. Thus, it is not natural simply.—On the contrary, a lower nature does not engage in activity or tend toward any end except by reason of a divine ordination. It is for this reason that every natural work is called a work of intelligence. Nevertheless, we say that the movements and activities of natural things are simply natural. Therefore, to be drawn toward God should also be judged simply natural if it is natural to the mind by reason of a divine ordination.
10. The soul, in so far as it exists in itself and is thus called a spirit, is prior to the soul as joined to the body and, accordingly, called a soul. But the activity of the soul as a spirit is to know God and the other separated substances. But, in so far as it is joined to the body, its activity is to know corporeal and sensible things. Therefore, the capacity of the soul to know intelligible things is prior to that to know sensible things. Since, therefore, it is natural for the soul to know sensible things, it is also natural for it to know divine intelligible things. Thus, we conclude as before.
11. The ordination of a thing to its final end is more natural than the ordination to the means, for the ordination to the means exists because of the ordination to the final end. But sensible things are the means by which we reach the knowledge of God, as we see in Romans (1:20): “For the invisible things of him... are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.” But the knowledge of sensible things is natural to man. Therefore, knowledge of intelligible things is also natural. We conclude as before.
12. Nothing that takes place by a natural power can be said to be unconditionally contrary to nature. But certain things, as herbs or stones, have natural powers to release the mind from the senses, so that wonderful visions are beheld. This is what seems to happen in rapture. Therefore, rapture is not an elevation contrary to nature.
To the Contrary
The Gloss on the passage in the second Epistle to the Corinthians (12:2), “I know a man in Christ,” says: “Rapture, that is exaltation contrary to nature...” Therefore, rapture is an elevation contrary to nature.
just as everything else has a certain activity which is natural to it in so far as it is this thing, fire or a stone, for example; so, too, man as man has a certain activity which is natural to him.
Now, in physical reality the natural activity of a thing may be modified in two ways. In one, the change arises from a deficiency of its proper power, whatever be the source of such a deficiency, whether an extrinsic or an intrinsic cause. Thus, an abnormal fetus is produced because of a lack of formative power in the seed. In the other way, the change arises from the activity of the divine power, whose will all nature obeys. This happens in miracles, as when a virgin conceives or a blind man is made to see. Similarly, man’s natural and proper activity can be modified in two ways.
Man’s proper activity, however, is to understand through the mediation of sense and imagination. For the activity by which he fixes on intellectual things alone, passing over all lower things, does not belong to man as man, but in so far as something divine exists in him, as is said in the Ethics. Moreover, the activity by means of which he grasps only sensible things apart from understanding and reasoning does not belong to him as man, but according to the nature which he has in common with the brute animals. Therefore, when man is transported out of his senses and sees things beyond sense, his natural mode of knowing is modified.
Sometimes, this change takes place because of some deficiency in man’s proper power, as happens with insane people and others who are mentally deranged. This kind of transport out of their senses is not an elevation but rather a debasing of man. Sometimes, however, such transport takes place through the divine power, and then it is properly an elevation. For, since the agent makes that which is passive like itself, the transport which takes place by the divine power, and which is above man, has an ordination to something higher than that which is natural to man.
Thus, in the foregoing description of rapture, which defines it as a movement, “elevation” gives its genus, and “by the power of a higher nature” gives the efficient cause. “From that which is according to nature to that which is contrary to nature” gives the starting point and the term of the movement.
Answers to Difficulties
1. One can know God in many ways: through His essence, through sensible things, or through intelligible effects. We have to make a similar distinction about that which is natural to man. For something is contrary to nature and according to nature for one and the same thing according to its different states, because the nature of the thing is not the same when it is in the state of becoming and when it has complete existence, as Rabbi Moses says. Thus, full stature and other things of the kind are natural to man when he has reached maturity, but it would be contrary to nature for a boy to have full stature at birth.
Thus, it must be said that to know God in some fashion is natural for the human intelligence according to any state. But in the beginning, that is, in this life, it is natural for it to know God through sensible creatures. It is also natural for it to reach the knowledge of God through Himself when it reaches its full perfection, that is, in heaven. Thus, if in this life it is raised to the knowledge of God which it will have in heaven, this will be contrary to nature, just as it would be contrary to nature for a baby boy to have a beard.
2. Nature can be taken in two ways: in particular, as proper to each thing, and in general, as embracing the whole order of natural causes. For this reason a thing is said to be according to nature or contrary to nature in two ways: in one, with reference to nature in particular; in the other, with reference to nature in general. Thus, every deficiency, decay, and the weakness of old age is contrary to nature in particular, but, according to nature in general, it is natural for everything which is composed of contraries to decay.
Therefore, since the universal order of causes is so ordained that lower things should be moved by those which are higher, all movement which takes place in lower nature because of the impressions of what is higher, whether this be in physical or in spiritual things, is natural according to universal nature, but not according to particular nature unless the impression made on the lower nature by the higher nature is such that the very impression is its nature. Thus, it is clear how the effects which God brings about in creatures can be called according to nature or contrary to nature.
3. The answer to the third difficulty is clear from this. Or else we should say that that elevation is called contrary to nature because it is contrary to the ordinary course of nature, as the Gloss explains.
4. Although God never acts contrary to justice, He sometimes does do something beyond justice. For a thing is contrary to justice when something one deserves is taken away from him. This is clear in human dealings when someone robs another. But, if out of liberality one gives what is not deserved, this is not contrary to justice, but beyond it. Accordingly, when in this life God raises a human mind above its proper level, He does not act contrary to justice, but beyond it.
5. By the very fact that a man’s work has a meritorious value it must be under the direction of reason and the will. But the good which is imparted to a work in rapture is not of this sort. Hence, it is not necessary that it proceed from the human will, but only from the divine power. Nevertheless, we cannot call it violence in every respect, unless in the sense that we say there is violent movement when a stone is thrown down faster than it would fall by its natural motion. Nevertheless, properly speaking, “that is violent in which that which is passive contributes nothing,” as is said in the Ethics.
6. Understanding and sense have this in common, that both fail of perfect perception of an excessively intense object, although both perceive something of it. The difference lies in this, that sense is destroyed by an excessively intense sensible object, so that afterwards it cannot know lesser sensibles, but understanding is strengthened through reception of an excessively intense intelligible object, so that afterwards it can know lesser intelligible objects better. Hence, the authoritative statement of the Philosopher cited above is not to the point.
7. Angels and souls are said to be equal in nature only in relation to the state of final perfection in which men will be like angels in heaven, as is said in Matthew (22:30), or in so far as they share in intellectual nature, although it is more perfect in the angels.
8. Arrival at the term of natural movement is natural, not in the beginning or middle of the movement, but at the end. Hence, the argument does not follow.
9. Activities of physical things which come from a divine ordination are said to be natural when the sources of these activities are implanted in things in the way in which their natures are. However, God does not ordain the elevation of rapture for man in this way. Hence, they are not alike in this respect.
10. That which is prior in the intention of nature is sometimes subsequent in time, as actuality relates to potentiality in the same receiving subject, for to be in act is prior in nature, although in time one and the same thing is first in potentiality before it is in actuality. In like manner, the activity of the soul, in so far as it is a spirit, is prior, relative to the intention of nature, but subsequent in time. Hence, if one activity takes place at the time for another activity, this is contrary to nature.
11. Although the ordination to the means is because of the ordination to the final end, it is only through the means that one arrives naturally at the final end. If it happens otherwise, the arrival is not natural. And it is thus in the case in question.
12. The transport out of the senses which is brought about by the power of physical things is classified with that transport which takes place because of a deficiency of the proper power. For the nature of those things is such that they can effect a transport out of the senses only in so far as they deaden the senses. Hence, it is clear that such transport from sense is foreign to rapture.
Q. 13: Rapture
In the second article we ask:
Did Paul see God through his essence when he was enraptured?
[Parallel readings: IV Sent., 49, 2, 7, ad 5; 2 Cor., c. 12, lect. 1-2; S.T., I, 12, 11, ad 2; II-II, 175,3.]
It seems that he did not, for
1. The Gloss on Ephesians (4:18), “Having their understanding darkened... “ says: “Everyone who understands is enlightened with an inner light.” Therefore, if the understanding is raised up to see God, it must be enlightened by some light proportionate to this kind of sight. But the only such light is the light of glory, of which Psalms (35:10) says: “In thy light we shall see light.” Therefore, God can be seen through His essence only by an intellect enjoying beatitude. And, since Paul was not glorified when he was enraptured, he could not see God through His essence.
2. It was said that in that state Paul did enjoy beatitude.—On the contrary, perpetuity is of the nature of beatitude, as Augustine says. But that state did not remain in Paul forever. Therefore, he did not enjoy beatitude in that state.
3. From the glory in the soul glory overflows into the body. But Paul’s body was not glorified. Therefore, neither was his mind enlightened by the light of glory. And, so, he did not see God through His essence.
4. It was said that by seeing God through His essence in that state he was made blessed, not without qualification, but only in a qualified way.—On the contrary, all that is needed for one to be blessed in all respects is the act of glory and the gift of glory, which is the principle of that act. Thus, Peter’s body would have been glorified if, along with being held up on the water, he had also had within him agility, which is the principle of this act. But splendor, the principle of the vision of God, which is the act of glory, is the gift of glory. Therefore, if Paul’s mind saw God through His essence and was enlightened by the light which is the source of this vision, he was glorified without qualification.
5. While he was enraptured, Paul had faith and hope. But these are incompatible with the vision of God through His essence, for faith concerns things that appear not, as is said in Hebrews (11:1), and: “What a man seeth, why doth he hope for? “ as is said in Romans (8:24). Therefore, he did not see God through His essence.
6. In heaven, charity is not a principle of merit. But in his rapture Paul was capable of meriting, since his soul had not yet been separated from the corruptible body, as Augustine says. Therefore, he did not have the charity proper to heaven. But where there is the vision proper to heaven, which is perfect, there also is the charity proper to heaven, which is perfect, for one loves God to the extent that he knows about God. Therefore, Paul did not see God through His essence.
7. The divine essence cannot be seen without joy, as Augustine says. Therefore, if Paul saw God through His essence, he took delight in that sight. Accordingly, he did not wish to be separated from it, nor, on the other hand, did God cut him off from it against his wishes. For, since God is most generous, He does not on His part withdraw His gifts. Therefore, Paul would never have been cut off from that state. But he was cut off. Therefore, he did not see God through His essence.
8. No one who has a good because of merit loses it without sin. Therefore, since to see God through His essence is a good which one has because of merit, no one who sees God through His essence can be cut off from this sight unless he should happen to sin. But this cannot be said of Paul, who says in Romans (8:38, 39): “For I am sure that neither death, nor life... shall... separate us...” We conclude as before.
9. When Paul is said to be enraptured, there is also question of the difference between his rapture and the deep sleep of Adam and the rapture of John the Evangelist, in which he says he “was in the spirit” (Apocalypse 1:10), and the “ecstasy of mind” which Peter had (Acts 11:5).
To the Contrary
From what Augustine says and from the Gloss” we see clearly that Paul saw God through His essence when he was enraptured.
Concerning this, some have said that Paul, when he was enraptured, did not see God through His essence, but with a vision midway between the vision had in this life and the vision had in heaven. We can take this intermediate vision to mean the kind of vision which is natural to an angel, such that he would see God, not, indeed, through His essence with natural knowledge, but through intelligible species, in so far as he considers his own essence, which is an intelligible likeness of the uncreated essence, according to the saying of The Causes that an intelligence knows what is above it in so far as it is caused by it. According to this, Paul, when enraptured, is conceived of as having seen God through the refulgence of some intelligible light in his mind. However, the knowledge of this life, which is through the mirror and obscurity of sensible creatures, is natural to man. And the knowledge of heaven, by which we see God through His essence, is natural only to God. But this opinion is contrary to what Augustine says, for he states expressly that, when Paul was enraptured, he saw God through His essence.
Nor is it likely that a minister of God to the Jews of the Old Testament would see God through His essence, as appears from Numbers (12:8): “Plainly and not by riddles and figures doth he see the Lord,” and that this would not be granted to the minister of the New Testament, the Teacher of the Gentiles. This is especially true since the Apostle himself argues in this way: “For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more the ministration of justice aboundeth in glory” (2 Cor 3:9).
Still, he did not have beatitude without qualification, but only in some respects, although his mind was enlightened with supernatural light to enable it to see God. This will become clear from the example of physical light. For, in some things, we find the light from the sun as an abiding form, as though it had become connatural to them, as in the stars, rubies, and things of this sort. But, in other things, the light from the sun is received as a passing impression, as light in the air. For the light does not become a form abiding in the air, as though connatural to it, but passes when the sun leaves.
In like fashion, also, the light of glory is infused into the mind in two ways. In one, it follows the mode of a form which becomes connatural and abiding. This makes the mind blessed without qualification, and is the manner in which it is infused in the blessed in heaven. In the other way, the mind receives the light of glory as a passing impression. It was in this way that Paul’s mind was enlightened with the light of glory when he was enraptured. The very name shows that this took place quickly (raptim) and in passing.
Hence, he was not glorified without qualification, nor did he have the gift of glory, since that splendor did not become a property in him. For this reason it did not flow down from the soul to the body, nor did he remain in this state permanently.
Answers to Difficulties
1-4. The response to the first four objections is clear from what has been said.
5. When full vision comes, faith leaves. Hence, in so far as Paul had the vision of God through His essence, he did not have faith. Now, he had the vision of God through His essence by way of act, not according to the habit of glory. Consequently, he had faith not in act but habitually, and hope likewise.
6. Although Paul was then in a state in which he could merit, he did not actually merit, for, just as he had the act of vision possessed by those in heaven, so he had the act of charity possessed by those in heaven. Nevertheless, some say that, although he had the vision of those in heaven, he did not have the act of charity of those in heaven. For, although his understanding was rapt, his affections were not. But this is clearly contrary to what the Gloss on “He was caught up into paradise” (2 Cor 12:4), says: “That is, into that tranquility which those who are in the heavenly Jerusalem enjoy.” But enjoyment takes place through love.
7. That the vision did not remain in Paul was due to the nature of the light which illumined his mind, as is clear from what has been said.
8. Although in the blessed the vision of God is due to merit, at that time it was not given to Paul as a reward of merit. Hence, the reasoning does not follow. However, it should be noted that these last two objections bring no better argument against the fact that Paul saw God through His essence than against the fact that he saw Him in any way which surpassed the common manner of sight.
9. In the Scriptures, transport of mind, ecstasy, and rapture are all used in the same sense and indicate some raising up of the mind from sensible things outside of us toward which we naturally turn our attention, to things which are above man. This takes place in two ways. For, at times, this transport from things outside is taken to refer to attention only, as when someone makes use of the external senses and things about him, but his whole attention is engaged in contemplating and loving things divine. Such is the state of anyone who contemplates and loves things divine in transport of the mind, whether ecstasy or rapture. For this reason Dionysius says: “Divine love brings about ecstasy.” And Gregory, speaking of contemplation, says: “One who is rapt in order that he may understand the things within closes his eyes to visible things.”
Ecstasy or rapture or transport of the mind take place in another way, and the names are more generally used in this sense, when one is also deprived of the use of his senses and sensible things in order to see certain things supernaturally. Now, a thing is seen supernaturally when it is seen beyond sense, understanding, and imagination, as we said in the question on prophecy.
Therefore, Augustine distinguishes” two kinds of rapture. There is one in which the mind is carried out of the senses to the vision in the imagination. This is what happened to Peter and to John the Evangelist in the Apocalypse, as Augustine says. There is another in which the mind is at once transported out of the senses and out of the imagination to an intellectual vision. This happens in two ways.
In one, the intellect understands God through certain intelligible communications, and this is proper to angels. Adam’s ecstasy was of this sort, as the Gloss on Genesis(2:21)says: “The correct interpretation of this ecstasy is that it was given so that Adam’s mind might become a member of the heavenly court and, entering into the sanctuary of God, might understand the last things.” In the other way, the understanding sees God through His essence. It was for this that Paul was enraptured, as we have said.
Q. 13: Rapture
In the third article we ask:
Can one in this life have his understanding raised to see God through his essence without being carried out of his senses?
[Parallel readings: De ver., 10, 11; IV Sent., 49, 2, 7, ad 4; Quodl., I, 1; 2 Cor., c. 12, lect. 1; S.T., II-II, 175, 4; 180, 5; In Ioan., c. 1, lect. 11.]
It seems that he can, for
1. Man’s nature is the same in this life and after the resurrection. For, if it were not specifically the same, numerically the same man would not arise. But after the resurrection the saints will see God mentally through His essence and no transport out of the senses will take place. Therefore, the same thing is possible for those in this life.
2. But it was said that, since the body of one in this life is corruptible, it weighs down the understanding so that it cannot be drawn freely to God unless it is carried out of the senses of the body. And this corruption will be gone after the resurrection.—On the contrary, nothing is hindered, just as nothing suffers, except through the activity of its contrary. But bodily corruption does not seem to be opposed to the act of understanding, since understanding is not an act of the body. Therefore, corruption of the body does not prevent the understanding from being drawn freely to God.
3. It is certain that Christ took on our mortality and the corruption which is a punishment for us. But His understanding enjoyed the sight of God continuously, although He was not always transported out of his external senses. Therefore, corruption does not make it impossible for the understanding to be drawn to God without being transported out of the senses.
4. After Paul had seen God through His essence, he remembered the things which he had seen in that vision. Otherwise, if he had not remembered them, he would not have said: “He heard secret words, which it is not granted to man to utter” (2 Cor. 12:4). Therefore, while he saw God through His essence, something was being imprinted on his memory. But memory belongs to the sensitive part of man, as the Philosopher plainly shows. Therefore, when in this life someone sees God through His essence, he is not entirely transported out of his bodily senses.
5. The sensitive powers are closer to each other than the intellective powers are to the sensitive powers. But the imagination, which is one of the sensitive powers, can actually grasp any of its objects whatever without being cut off from the external senses. Therefore, the understanding, too, can actually see God without being cut off from the sensitive powers.
6. That which is according to nature does not require for its existence anything which is contrary to nature. But it is natural for the human understanding to see God through His essence, since it was created for this. Therefore, since transport out of the senses is contrary to nature for man, inasmuch as sensitive cognition is natural to him, it seems that he does not require transport from the senses as a prerequisite to see God through His essence.
7. Only those things which are joined together can be cut off from each other. But intelligence, whose object is God, as is said in Spirit and Soul, does not seem to be joined to the bodily senses but rather seems extremely distant from them. Therefore, for man to see God through His essence by means of intelligence he does not need to be cut off from the senses.
8. Paul seems to have been raised up to the sight of God so that there would be a witness of the glory which is promised to the saints. Hence, Augustine says: “Why should we not believe that it was God’s wish to show to this great Apostle, the Teacher of the Gentiles, that life which is to be lived forever after this life? [God did this] while Paul was raised in rapture to that most lofty sight.”But, after the resurrection, in that vision of the saints which will be given to those who see God in the next life, there will be no transport out of the bodily senses. Therefore, it seems that this kind of transport did not take place in Paul either, when he saw God through His essence.
9. During their sufferings and torments the martyrs inwardly perceived something of the divine glory. Hence, Vincent says: “Behold, I am already raised on high, and from above the world I look down on all your distinguished men, O tyrant.”And in other records of the sufferings of the saints we read many passages which seem to have the same tenor. But it is obvious that there was no withdrawal from the senses in these people. Otherwise, they would not have felt the pain. Therefore, there is no transport out of the senses in order for one to share in the glory by which God is seen through His essence.
10. The practical understanding is closer than the speculative understanding to the activity which has sensible things as its object. But, as Avicenna says,, it is not necessary for the practical understanding always to pay attention to manis operations which are concerned with sensible objects. Otherwise, the best harpist Would seem to be the worst if it Were necessary for him to give artistic reflection to each stroke of the strings. For, in such a case, there would be too much interruption of the sounds, which would hurt the proper melody. Therefore, it is far less necessary for the speculative understanding to pay attention to man’s operations which concern sensible things. Thus, it remains free to be drawn to any act of understanding, even to the divine essence itself, while the sense powers are engaged in sensible activities.
11. While Paul saw God through His essence, he still had faith. But it belongs to faith to see darkly through a mirror. Therefore, while Paul saw God through His essence, at the same time he saw darkly through a mirror. But this obscure knowledge is through a mirror and through sensible things. Therefore, while he saw God through His essence, he also gave his attention to sensible things. The conclusion is the same as before.
To the Contrary
1. As Augustine says, and is quoted in the Gloss on the second Epistle to the Corinthians(12:2): “No man who sees God, as He is in Himself, lives the mortal life which we live in the bodily senses. But unless one in some way dies to this life, either leaving the body completely, or so turning away and cutting himself off from the bodily senses that with good reason he does not know whether he is in the body or outside of it, he is not enraptured and transported to that vision.”
2. The Gloss on the second Epistle to the Corinthians (5:13), “Whether we be transported in mind, it is to God,” says: “He calls ecstasy that by which the mind is raised to an understanding of heavenly things, so that in some sense lower things drop from the memory. All the saints to whom secrets of God which surpass this world have been revealed were in this ecstasy.”Therefore, it is necessary for everyone who sees God through His essence to be withdrawn from the consideration of lower things, and, consequently, also from the use of the senses with which we see only lower things.
3.The Gloss on Psalms (67:28), “There is Benjamin, a youth in ecstasy of mind,” says: “Benjamin, (that is, Paul), in ecstasy, that is, with his mind unconscious of the bodily senses, as when he was carried up into the third heaven.” But the third heaven means vision of God through His essence, as Augustine says. Therefore, the vision of God through His essence requires loss of consciousness of the bodily senses.
4. The activity of an understanding which is raised to see the essence of God is more effective than any activity of the imagination. But, sometimes, a man is transported out of the bodily senses because of the intensity of the activity of the imagination. Therefore, he should be transported out of them with much greater reason when he is lifted up to the vision of God.
5. Bernard says: “Divine consolation is sensitive and will not be given to those who admit any other.” So, for the same reason, the divine vision does not tolerate sight of anything else along with it. Therefore, neither does it tolerate the use of the senses along with it.
6. The greatest cleanness of heart is needed to see God through His essence, according to Matthew (5:8): “Blessed are the clean of heart.” But the heart is sullied in two ways, namely, by the contamination of sin, and by phantasies of material things. This is clear from what Dionysius says: “Those [celestial essences] should be considered pure, not in the sense that they are free of unclean stains and defilements (in which he refers to uncleanness because of guilt, which never existed in the blessed angels), nor in the sense that they are receptive of phantasies of material things” (in which is included the uncleanness which comes through phantasies, as is clear from Hugh of St. Victor.) Therefore, the mind of one who sees God through His essence must be transported not only out of the external senses, but also out of the internal phantasms.
7. In the first Epistle to the Corinthians (13:10) we read: “When that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be put away.” But, here, “perfect” refers to the vision of God through His essence, and “imperfect” refers to vision through a mirror darkly, which is through sensible things. Therefore, when one is raised to the vision of God through His essence, he must be deprived of the vision of sensible things.
As is clear from the authoritative statement of Augustine, a man living in this mortal body cannot see God through His essence, unless he is made unconscious of the bodily senses. We can see the reason for this from two things. First, from that which is common to the understanding and the other powers of the soul, for with all the powers of the soul we find that, when the act of one power becomes intense, the act of another is either weakened or entirely suppressed. Thus, it is clear that, when one is giving very close attention to the activity of sight, his hearing does not perceive the things which are being said, unless, perhaps, their force attracts the sense of the hearer to them.
The reason for this, as Augustine proves, is that attention is needed for the act of any cognoscitive power. Moreover, one’s attention cannot be given to many things at once, unless they are related to one another in such a way that they can be taken as one, just as the motion or activity of a thing cannot have two termini not related to each other. Hence, since there is one soul, in which all cognoscitive powers are rooted, the attention of one and the same soul is needed for the acts of all the cognoscitive powers. Therefore, when the soul gives complete attention to the act of one power, the man is cut off from the act of another power.
But for the understanding to be raised up to the vision of the divine essence, the whole attention must be concentrated on this vision, since this is the most intensely intelligible object, and the understanding can reach it only by striving for it with a total effort. Therefore, it is necessary to have complete abstraction from the bodily senses when the mind is raised to the vision of God.
Second, we can find a reason for this in that which is proper to the understanding. For, since we know things in so far as they are in act, and not in so far as they are in potency, as is said in the Metaphysics, the understanding, which holds the highest place in knowledge, properly deals with immaterial things, which are most in act. Hence, every intelligible thing is either free from matter or separated from it by the activity of the understanding. Therefore, the freer the understanding is of contact, as it were, with material things, the more perfect it is.
For this reason, the human understanding, which reaches material things by considering phantasms; from which it abstracts intelligible species, has less efficacy than the angelic understanding, which always considers purely immaterial forms. Nevertheless, in so far as the purity of intellectual knowledge is not wholly obscured in human understanding, as happens in the senses whose knowledge cannot go beyond material things, it has the power to consider things which are purely immaterial by the very fact that it retains some purity.
Therefore, if it is ever raised beyond its ordinary level to see the highest of immaterial things, namely, the divine essence, it must be wholly cut off from the sight of material things at least during that act. Hence, since the sensitive powers can deal only with material things, one cannot be raised to vision of the divine essence unless he is wholly deprived of the use of the bodily senses.
Answers to Difficulties
1. After the resurrection the beatified soul will be joined to the body in a different way from that in which it is now united to it. For, in the resurrection, the body will be entirely subject to the spirit to such an extent that the properties of glory will overflow from the spirit into the body. Hence, they will be called spiritual bodies.
Moreover, when two things are united and one of them has complete control over the other, there is no mixture there, since the one falls completely under the power of the other which rules it. Thus, if one drop of water is poured into a thousand jars of wine, the purity of the wine is not at all impaired. Therefore, in the resurrection there will be no defilement of the understanding and its power will not be weakened in any way by any union whatsoever with the body. Hence, even without transport out of the bodily senses, it will contemplate the divine essence. However, the body is not now subject to the spirit in this way, and, therefore, the reasoning does not have the same force.
2. Our body is corruptible because it is not fully subject to the soul. For, if it were fully subject to the soul, immortality would also overflow into the body from the immortality of the soul, as will happen after the resurrection. It is for this reason that the corruption of the body oppresses the understanding. Although in itself it is not directly opposed to the understanding, its cause impairs the purity of the understanding.
3. From the fact that Christ was God and man, He had full power over all the parts of His soul and over His body. Hence, as Damascene says,by the power of the Godhead He permitted each power of the soul to do that which is proper to it in so far as it fitted in with our redemption. Thus, it was not necessary for Him to have an overflow from one power to another, nor for one power to be deprived of its act because of the intensity of the act of another power. Consequently, the fact that His understanding saw God did not necessitate any transport out of the bodily senses. However, it is different with other men, in whom redundance or interference of one power with another necessarily follows from the intimate connection of the powers of the soul with one another.
4. After Paul had stopped seeing God through His essence, he remembered what he had known in that vision by means of certain species which remained in his understanding and were relics, so to speak, of the previous vision. For, although he saw the very Word of God through His essence, and from the vision of that essence knew many truths, (and thus neither for the Word Himself nor for the things which he saw in the Word did this vision take place through any species, but only through the essence of the Word), nevertheless, by reason of the vision of the Word, certain likenesses of the things which he saw were imprinted on his understanding. And with these likenesses he could see afterwards the things which he had previously seen through the essence of the Word. Later, by applying these intelligible species to the individual intentions or forms which were stored in his memory or imagination, he could remember the things which he had seen previously, and this even through the activity of memory, which is a sensitive power. Thus, it is not necessary to hold that in the act of seeing God something took place in his memory, which is part of the sensitive power, but only in his mind.
5. Although transport from the external senses does not arise from every act of imaginative power, the transport mentioned above does take place when the act of the imagination is very intense. Similarly, it is not necessary that transport out of the senses take place because of every act of understanding; nevertheless, it does come about through the most intense act, which is the vision of God through His essence.
6. Although it is natural for the human understanding at some time to reach the vision of God through His essence, it is not natural for it to reach this in the conditions of this life, as we have said. For this reason the conclusion does not follow.
7. Although our intelligence, with which we grasp things divine, does not combine with the senses in the process of perception, it does combine with them in the process of judging. Hence, Augustine says: “Through the light of our intelligence we judge even of the lower things and we perceive things which are neither bodies nor bear forms like those of bodies.”“ Therefore, our intelligence is said at times to abstract from the senses when it does not make judgments concerning them, but focuses its attention on the vision of heavenly things alone.
8. The essence of the beatitude of the saints consists in the vision of the divine essence. Hence, Augustine says: “Vision is the whole reward.” For this reason one could be a suitable witness of that beatitude because he had seen the divine essence. Still, it would not be necessary for him to experience all the privileges which belong to the blessed. But, from that which he did experience, he could also know the other things. For he was not enraptured to become blessed, but to be a witness of beatitude.
9. In their sufferings the martyrs perceived something of divine glory, not as if they drank it at its source, as do those who see God through His essence, but, rather, they were refreshed by a sprinkling of that glory. Hence, Augustine says: “There,” where God is seen through His essence, “the blessed life is drunk from its source. From that source some of it is sprinkled on this human life, so that in the temptations of this world that life may be lived temperately, justly, bravely, and prudently.”
10. The speculative understanding is not forced to turn its attention to the activities in which one is occupied with sensible things, but it can busy itself with other intelligible things. Moreover, the intensity of the act of speculation can be so great that it is altogether abstracted from sensible activity.
11. Although in that act Paul had the habit of faith, he did not have the act of faith.
Q. 13: Rapture
In the fourth article we ask:
How great an abstraction is required for our understanding to be able to see god through his essence?
[Parallel readings: De ver., 10, 11; Quodl., I, 1; 2 Cor., c. 12, lect. 1; S.T., I, 12, 11; II-II, 17, 5; In loan., c. 1, lect. 11.]
And it seems that there has to be an abstraction from the very union by which the soul is united to the body as its form, for
1. The powers of the vegetative soul are more material than the powers of the sensitive soul. But for our understanding to see God through His essence it must abstract from the senses, as has been said., Therefore, abstraction from the acts of the vegetative soul is much more urgently required for the purity of that vision. But this abstraction cannot take place where there is brute life as long as the soul is united to the body as its form. For, as the Philosopher says: “In animals the process of nutrition is always going on.” Therefore, for the vision of the divine essence there must be an abstraction from the union by which the soul is united to the body as its form.
7. The gloss of Augustine on Exodus (33:20), “For man shall not see me and live,” says: “This shows that God cannot appear as He is to this life of corruptible flesh. But He can in the other life, which one can live. only by dying to this life.” The gloss of Gregory reads: “He who sees the wisdom which is God dies entirely to this life.” But death is the result of the separation of the soul from the body to which it was united as its form. Therefore, there has to be a complete separation of the soul from the body in order to see God through His essence.
3 “For a living thing, its act of life is its act of existence,” as is said in The Soul. But the act of existence of a man who is alive arises from the union of his soul with his body as its form. But Exodus (33:20) says: “For man shall not see me and live.” Therefore, as long as the soul is united to the body as its form, he cannot see God through His essence.
4. The union by which the soul is united to the body as its form is stronger than that by which it is united to the body as a mover. From this latter union arise the activities of the powers and the activities which are carried on through bodily organs. But this latter union hinders the vision of the divine essence, for which there must be abstraction from the bodily senses. Therefore, the first union will interfere with it much more, and thus it will be necessary to dissolve it.
5. Since powers flow from the essence and are rooted in it they are not raised to a level higher than that of their essence. Therefore, if the essence of the soul is united to a material body as its form, it is not possible for the power of understanding to be raised to things which are altogether immaterial. We conclude as before.
6. Greater contamination results in the soul from its connection with the body than from its union with a bodily likeness. But for the mind to see God through His essence, it must be purified of bodily likenesses, which are perceived through imagination and sense, as has been said. Therefore, for the soul to see God through His essence, it must with much greater reason be separated from the body.
7. In the second Epistle to the Corinthians (5:6, 7) we read: “While we are in the body, we are absent from the Lord. (For we walk by faith, and not by sight.) “ Therefore, as long as the soul is in the body, it cannot see God as He is in Himself.
To the Contrary
1. The gloss of Gregory on the passage from Exodus (33:20), “For man shall not see me and live,” says: “The splendor of the eternal God can be seen by some who live in this flesh, but who are growing in priceless virtue.”“ But the splendor of God is His essence, as the same gloss says. Therefore, it is not necessary to have complete separation of soul from body to see the essence of God.
2. Augustine says: “The soul is enraptured not only to the vision of imagination, but also to the vision of understanding, through which the truth itself is clearly seen. Meanwhile, it has been carried out of its senses less than in death, but more than in sleep.” Therefore, to see the uncreated truth of which Augustine is speaking there is no need to dissolve the union whereby the soul is united to the body as its form.
3. The same thing is clear from these words of Augustine: “It is not beyond belief that even that lofty degree of revelation”—to see God through His essence—“was given to some holy men before they were dead and their corpses ready for burial.” Therefore, while the soul is still united to the body as its form, it can see God.
To see the divine essence, which is the most perfect act of understanding, there must be an abstraction from those things which of their nature interfere with the excessive intensity of the act of understanding and which are hindered by this same intensity. This happens in some things because of something intrinsic to the act itself, and in others merely for some extrinsic reason.
The activities of sense and understanding interfere with each other by reason of the acts themselves, inasmuch as attention is needed for both activities, and also because the understanding in some fashion enters into the sensible activities since it receives something from the phantasms. Thus, the purity of the understanding is contaminated to some extent by sense activities, as we have said. But no attention is needed for the union of the soul to the body as its form, since this union does not depend on the will of the soul, but on nature.
In the same way, the purity of the understanding is not directly contaminated by such a union. For the soul is not joined to the body as its form through the mediation of its powers, but through its essence, since nothing stands as a medium between matter and form, as is proved in the Metaphysics. Furthermore, the essence of the soul is not united to body in such a way that it follows the condition of the body completely, as other material forms, which are, as it were, completely engulfed in matter to such an extent that only material power or activity can proceed from them. Now, from the essence of the soul there proceed not only the forces and powers which are in some sense bodily, as the existent acts of the bodily organs, that is, the sensitive and vegetative powers, but also the powers of understanding, which are completely immaterial and not the existent acts of any body or part of a body, as is proved in The Soul.
From this it is clear that the powers of our understanding do not proceed from the essence of the soul in so far as it is united to the body, but, rather, in so far as it stays free of the body and is not entirely bound down to it. In this sense the union of the soul with the body does not extend to the activity of the understanding and so cannot interfere with its purity. Hence, if we consider what is intrinsic to the acts, the dissolution of the union by which the soul is united to the body as its form is not a necessary condition for the activity of the understanding, no matter how intense.
In like manner, there is no need for the suppression of the activities of the vegetative soul. For the activities of this part of the soul are really natural, as is clear from the fact that they are brought to full perfection by the power of the active and passive qualities, namely, the warm and the cold, the moist and the dry. For this reason they
obey neither reason nor will, as is clear in the Ethics. Thus, it is plain that attention is not needed for actions of this kind, and so it is not necessary to turn our attention from intellectual activity because of the acts of these qualities.
In like manner, the activity of the understanding has nothing to do with the activities of this sort, since it receives nothing from them, because they are not related to knowledge and because the understanding does not use any bodily instrument which would have to be sustained through the activities of the vegetative soul, as is the case with the organs of the sensitive powers. Thus, the purity of our understanding is in no wise impaired through the activities of the vegetative soul. From this it is clear that, if we consider merely what is intrinsic to the acts themselves, the activity of the vegetative and the activity of the intellectual soul do not hinder each other.
Nevertheless, one of these can interfere with the other for some extrinsic reason; for example, in so far as the understanding receives something from the phantasms, which are in bodily organs, which must be nourished and sustained through the activity of the vegetative soul. Thus, because of the acts of the nutritive power variation may occur in the disposition of the organs, and, consequently, in the activity of the sensitive power from which the understanding receives
something. Thus, the activity of the understanding itself is hindered for an extrinsic reason. This is plain during sleep and after eating. On the other hand, also, the activity of understanding interferes with the activity of the vegetative soul in this way, inasmuch as the activity of the power of imagination is needed for the activity of understanding.
And intensity of the imagination requires the co-operation of heat and the [animal] spirits. Thus, the act of the nutritive power is hindered by the intensity of contemplation. But this plays no part in the contemplation by which God’s essence is seen, since such contemplation does not need the activity of the imagination.
From this it is clear that abstraction from the acts of the vegetative soul or any impairment of those acts is not in any way required for the vision of God through His essence. All that is required is abstraction from the acts of the sensitive powers.
Answers to Difficulties
1. Although the powers of the vegetative soul are more material than the powers of the sensitive soul, still, along with this they are more remote from the understanding and so are less able to interfere with the intensity of the understanding or be hindered by it.
2. “To live” can be taken in two senses. In one, it means the very act of existence of that which is living, which rests on the union of the soul to the body as its form. In the other sense, “to live” is taken to mean the activity of life. Thus the Philosopher distinguishes living into understanding, sensing, and the other activities of the soul.
Similarly, since death is the loss of life, we must distinguish it in like manner. Thus, sometimes it means the loss of that union by which the soul is joined to the body as its form, and sometimes it means the loss of the vital activities. For this reason Augustine says: “One dies to this life to some extent whether he leaves the body entirely, or whether he is transported out of the senses of the body and made unconscious of them.”.Death is thus understood in the glosses which have been cited,” as is plain from the words following the quotation from the gloss of Gregory: “He who sees the wisdom which is God dies entirely to this life, so that he may not be held back by love of it.”
3. The solution to the third difficulty is clear from what has just been said.
4. Since the union by which the soul is united to the body as its form is stronger, it follows that it is less possible to withdraw from it.
5. The reasoning would conclude correctly if the essence of the soul were so united to the body that it were entirely bound down to the body. But we have already said that this is false.
6. Although the bodily likeness which is necessary for the activity of the imagination and the senses is more immaterial than the body itself, it has a closer relation to the activity of the understanding. Thus, it is more able to hinder it, as we have said.
7.What the Apostle says should be applied to our existence in the body not only by reason of the union of the soul with the body as its form, but also by reason of our use of the bodily senses.
Q. 13: Rapture
In the fifth article we ask:
What did the apostle know and not know about his rapture?
[Parallel readings: 2 Cor., c. 12, lect. 1; S.T., II-II, 175,6; 180, 5.]
It seems that he knew whether his soul was in the body, for
1. He knew this better than any of those who followed, But many commonly agree that during the rapture Paul’s soul was united to his body as its form. Therefore, with much greater reason Paul knew this.
2. In the rapture Paul knew what he saw and with what vision he saw it. This is clear from the second Epistle to the Corinthians (12:2), because he says: “I know a man... caught up to the third heaven.” Therefore, he knew what that heaven was, whether it was something corporeal or spiritual, and he knew whether he saw it spiritually or corporeally. But it follows from this that he knew whether he saw it while in the body or out of it. For bodily vision cannot take place except through the body, and the vision of understanding is always without the body. Therefore, he knew whether he was in the body or out of it.
3. As Paul himself says, he knew “a man [who was] caught up to the third heaven” (2 Cor. 12:2). But man means that which is made up of the union of the body and the soul. Therefore, he knew that the soul was united to the body.
4. He himself knew that he was enraptured, as is clear from what he says. But dead people are not said to be enraptured. Therefore, he knew that he was not dead. Therefore, he knew that his soul was joined to his body.
5. As Augustine says, in the rapture he saw God with that vision with which the saints in heaven see God. But the souls of the saints in heaven know whether they are in the body or out of it. Therefore, the Apostle also knew this.
6. Gregory says: “What is there that they do not see who see Him who sees everything?” This seems to refer especially to the things which pertain to those who are seeing. But whether it is united to the body or not has very special pertinence to the soul. Therefore, the soul of Paul knew whether it was united to the body or not.
To the Contrary
In the second Epistle to the Corinthians (12:2) it says: “I know a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, whether in the body, I know not, or out of the body, I know not; God knoweth.” Therefore, he did not know whether he was in the body or out of the body.
There are many opinions on this point. For some have understood the Apostle to say that what he did not know was not whether he was in the body or not, but whether the rapture was one of the soul and the body together, so that he was carried bodily to heaven, as we read in Daniel (14:35) that Habakkuk was transported, or whether it was a rapture of the soul alone, that is, in the visions of God, as is said in Ezechiel (40:2): “In the visions of God he brought me into the land of Israel.” And Jerome adopts this interpretation of a certain Jew when he says: “Finally, our Apostle, too, did not dare to assert that he was caught up in body, but said: “Whether in body or out of the body, I know not....”
Augustine, however, disapproves of this interpretation. For it is clear from the words of the Apostle that he himself knew that he was caught up to the third heaven. Therefore, it is clear that that heaven to which he was transported was truly heaven, and not some likeness of heaven.
For, if he had wanted to mean that, when he said he was caught up to heaven, he was transported in order to see a likeness of heaven in his imagination, he could have asserted in the same way that he was transported in the body, that is, to a likeness of this body. Thus, it would not have been necessary to distinguish between what he knew and what he did not know, since he would know both equally, that is, that he was in heaven and that he was transported in the body, that is, to a likeness of the body, as happens in dreams.
Therefore, he knew for certain that that to which he was transported was really heaven. Therefore, he knew whether it was a body or something incorporeal. For, if it was a body, he was transported to it bodily, but, if it was something incorporeal, he could not be transported to it bodily.
Therefore, it remains that the Apostle did not doubt whether he was enraptured bodily or only spiritually, but knew that he was transported to that heaven only in his understanding. However, he did have doubts whether in that rapture his soul was in his body, or not.
Some others concede this, but say that, although during the rapture the Apostle did not know this, he did, nevertheless, know it afterwards, surmising it from the vision which he had had. For in the rapture his whole mind was given over to things divine, and he did not perceive whether his soul was in his body or not. But this opinion, too, is openly opposed to what the Apostle says. For, as he distinguishes what he knew and did not know, so he distinguishes the present from the past. And he speaks of the man enraptured, as in the past, fourteen years before, but he admits, as in the present, that he knows something and does not know something. Therefore, fourteen years after that rapture he still did not know whether he was in the body or not when the rapture took place.
Hence, others have said that he did not know either during the rapture or after it whether his soul was in the body to some extent and not completely. For they say that he knew both then and afterwards that his soul was united to the body as its form, but did not know whether it was so united to it that it could receive something from the senses. Or, according to others, he did not know whether the nutritive powers exercised their activities by means of which the soul takes care of the body.
But this, too, does not seem to fit the words of the Apostle, for he said with no reservations that he did not know whether he was in the body or out of it. Furthermore, it would not seem very much to the point to say that he did not know whether the soul was in the body in this way or that way, when these did not cut the soul off entirely from the body.
Therefore, we have to say that he simply did not know whether his soul was united to the body or not. This is the conclusion which Augustine reaches after a long investigation, when he says: “Perhaps, then, we should conclude that he was ignorant of this matter: while he was transported to the third heaven, was he in the body—that is, as the soul of one awake, or asleep, or in ecstasy and completely unconscious of the bodily senses, is in the body when the body is said to be alive—or did he leave the body completely so that the body lay dead until, the vision finished, the soul returned to the dead members, and he was not as one awaking from sleep or returning to his senses from the transport of ecstasy, but as one completely dead returning to life?
Answers to Difficulties
1. As Augustine says: “The Apostle doubts whether he was in the body or out of it. Hence, if he is in doubt, which of us dares to be certain?” Thus, Augustine leaves the question undecided. When later writers take a stand on this question, they are speaking with probability rather than with certitude. For, since it could happen that one would be enraptured in the way the Apostle says he was enraptured while his soul remained united to the body, as is clear from what has been said, it is more probable that it did remain united to the body.
2. The reason given here holds against the interpretation of the words of the Apostle first given, in which he is considered to have doubted not about the state of the one enraptured, that is, whether the soul was united to the body, but of the manner of the rapture, namely, whether the rapture was bodily or only spiritual.
3. Through synecdoche, sometimes only a part of man is called man, especially the soul, which is the more noble part of man. Yet this can also be taken to mean that the one who he says was enraptured was not a man during the rapture, but was a man fourteen years later, that is, when the Apostle said this.
4. Granted that in that state the soul of the Apostle was separated from the body, that separation was not due to any natural mode of acting, but to the divine power which transported the soul out of the body, not to have it remain separated permanently, but for a time, and to this extent one can be said to be enraptured, although not every dead person can be said to be enraptured.
5. As Augustine says: “When the Apostle was carried out of the senses of the body to the third heaven and paradise, he certainly fell short of the full and perfect knowledge of things which the angels have, in so far as he did not know whether he was in the body or outside of it. And, so, this will not be lacking when this corruption puts on incorruption in the resurrection of the dead.” Thus, it is clear that his vision was to some extent more imperfect than the sight of the blessed, although in some respects it was like theirs.
6. Paul was not transported to see God in order to have beatitude without qualification, but to be a witness of the beatitude of the saints and of the divine mysteries which were revealed to him. Consequently, he saw in the vision of the Word only those things the knowledge of which the rapture was ordained to communicate. Thus, he did not see everything as the blessed do, especially after the resurrection. For, then, as Augustine adds to the words already cited: “All things will be plain, and there will be no falsity nor ignorance.”