Maret on the Necessity of Divine Revelation, Pt I
[From Brownson’s Quarterly Review for 1857-8]
M. Maret is dean of the Theological Faculty of Paris and a professor of the Sorbonne. He is favorable known as the author of an Essay on Pantheism in Modern Society, published in 1840, and a more recent work entitled Theodicee. Chretienne, a work, however, which we have not seen. The volume before us is the first volume of a great work on Philosophy and Religion, intended to be completed in six volumes. It is in the form of lectures, and occasionally recalls by its language, its thoughts and its method of exposition the philosophical lectures of the eloquent and brilliant cousin, really, with all his errors, one of the greatest philosophers France has hitherto produced, Inferior to Cousin in power and originality of genius, in vigor and freshness of thought, he is superior to him in the soundness o his judgment and the justness of his views. He has evidently profited largely by the labors of the Eclectic School, especially in the history of philosophical systems, and follows it more closely in some respects than we could wish; but he is, after all a truer Eclectic than Cousin, and really has a doctrine which solves all systems and reintegrates their several elements of truth in a higher unity. He steers clear in his principles alike of modern psychologism and the ontologism principles alike of modern psycholoism and the ontologism of the heterodox Germans, and avoids the exaggerations of the Traditionalists on the one hand, and of the Rationalists on the other. We know no work of the sort that upon the whole, we can more conscientiously recommend to our young students of philosophy.
The present volume, though really introductory to those which are to follow, is complete in itself. It is devoted to the discussion of the Dignity of human Reason against the Skeptics and the Traditionalists, and the insufficiency of reason and the necessity of Divine Revelation against the Rationalists and those who assert the sufficiency of nature. The first part is chiefly taken up with the assertion and vindication of the prerogatives of reason, and an exposition and criticism of the several philosophical systems which have obtained from Plato down to Cousin. In the history and exposition of systems, the author falls into the error, as we regard it, of explaining them by their dominant psychological principle, and of classifying them according to their respective views of the origin of human knowledge, rather than according to their respective manners of viewing and explaining reality, and therefore of making philosophy a doctrine of science, rather than the science of things and their causes, human or divine. It is only since Descartes science, a miserable psycholigism. With the ancients it was the science of things, and sought to explain reality. Plato’s problem was not. “How, or by what faculty do we know? But, what must we know in order to have real science or knowledge?” His purpose was not to prove that we have a faculty of knowing the non-sensible, but that all real knowledge consists in knowing the non-sensible, ideas, or itelligibles, which according to him, are the essences of things, the real things or existences themselves.
We should also, differ from M. Maret and others as to the true historical starting-point of philosophy. He supposes, as do many others, that philosophy, properly so called, originated with the Greeks, and had its first feeble beginnings in the crude speculations of the Ionian school. We are unable to believe this, and could as easily believe that modern philosophy began with materialism or the last century, and that there were no philosophers, properly so called, before Locke and Condillac. Truth is older than error, and men begin in the true, not the false. Philosophy did not begin with the Greeks, comparatively a modern people. Plato draws from an older school than that of Socrates, older even than the school of Pythagoras, or that of Thales, and is to be regarded as a restorer of the ancient wisdom, rather than an original inventor. His great master was Pythagoras, and both he and his master traveled in the mysterious East, and drew from a learning which flourished long ages before either of them was born. M. Maret, though teaching a philosophy quite new in relation to the reigning French school of the last century, does nothing in reality but continue the tradition of sound philosophy in all times, from which the greater part of Gentile philosophy, as well as modern Cartesianism and its psychologic offspring, was a departure.
We agree for the most part, with the learned author in his estimate of the several systems he analyzes, with the exception of the Cartesian. It may be all our fault, but we fear it is not in the power of mortal man to persuade us that Descartes deserved even to be named among philosophers. He was what Pere Gratry salls a Sophist. Even as expounded by M. Mater, his system is nothing but a modified conceptualism, resting entirely on thought regarded as a purely psychological fact. We see in its author no indications of a true metaphysical genius, and no respectable philosophical erudition. There are no doubt true things in his system, from its inconsequence and inconsistencies, and it is the pure subjective Idealism of Kant, or the the pure Egoism of Fichte. He places all evidence in ideas and makes all ideas when consistent whit himself, pure conceptions; and conceptions, as he defines them are modes or affections of the subject. M. Maret has affinities with Pere Malebranche, but he has, in reality, none with Descartes. He is in his system,-perhaps not always in his method or manner of explaining himself,-an intuitionist, therefore a realist, holding that the mind has and can have no pure conceptions. We were sorry to find Balmes forming a favorable estimate of Descartes, and we cannot excuse Pere Gratry’s excessive admiration of this shallow sophist. Pere Malebranche we respect as a philosopher. He was infinitely superior to Descartes, and ought never to be reckoned as a Cartesian. He retained, indeed, grave errors from Cartesianism, but his own philosophy is of another order, rests on a different basis, and follows a different method. But these dissidences,-as well as some others, we shall express before we close,-from our truly learned and philosophic author, are of no great importance, and detract nothing from the substantial merits of his work. His philosophy, at bottom, is what we ourselves hold, and have defended-for years.
M. Maret’s great merit, and a great merit it is, consists in his maintaining, after Plato, the objectivity of ideas, and after St. Augustine, the identity of ideas, objectively taken, with the Divine Intelligence, and in adopting and defending the intuitive method, which requires us to treat the dialectic and syllogistic methods as secondary, or as simple two forms of reasoning operating on intuitive, data and never transcending them. The syllogism, or method of deduction, is simply analysis, and can give only the contents of the subject analyzed. It cannot itself furnish premises or advance science, as to its mater, beyond the premises from which it operates. It distinguishes, clears up, or draws forth the matter contained in them, and renders explicit what before was implicit, but it can do nothing more. Dialects we pass from the consideration of particulars to that of universals, cannot itself any more than the syllogism, furnish premises, Pere Gratry to the contrary notwithstanding, not given intuitively along with the particulars. Both processes are legitimate, are necessary in their place; but both are secondary, both are in the reflective order, and dependent on intuition without or beyond which neither of them can operate.
According to a recent decision of the Congregation of the Index against the Traditionalists, or in the question between them and the Rationalists, the existence of God may be proved with certainty by natural reason. This decision, in our judgment, imposes upon us the necessity of adopting and defending the intuitive method, for without intuition of God, or of that which ontologically is God, we cannot in any possible way prove or demonstrate by natural reason that God exists. The syllogistic, deductive, or analytic process is that by which from universals we deduce or descend to particulars; but we cannot deduce or descend to particulars from a universal not given in intuition, or any particulars not contained in the universal. God cannot be deduced from a universal, given or not given, for he is not a particular, since he is himself universal, the universal of universals. Dialects or induction, defined to be the process of ascending from particulars to the universal, and therefore called the synthetic method, cannot enable us to ascend to a universal not intuitively given along with the particulars. A universal not so given, or formed from the intuition of only particulars, would be only a generalization or a classification, a pure mental conception, an abstraction, and no objective reality at all, as we proved at length in our criticism of Pere Gratry’s Logic.
Here is the difficulty. Neither deduction nor induction can give us any objective reality not intuitively presented. Balmes feels the difficulty, but afraid to say that we have intuition of real and necessary being, for that would imply that we have intuition of God, confesses, though aware that the conception of real and necessary being underlies all our conception that he does not know how to answer it, and thus leaves the fundamental problem of science unsolved, with an intimation that it cannot be solved. Some of our psychological friends in happy unconsciousness of any difficulty in the case, restrict all intuition to particulars, to the finite and the contingent. But they would oblige us, if they would explain how it is possible to prove, inductively or deductively, the existence of a reality which transcends the finite and contingent, and which is in no form or manner intuitively presented to the mind; for we very frankly confess that we have and can conceive no process of reasoning that is possible without intuitive data, or by which we can attain to a reality which is not, either synthetically or analytically, contained in them. If God is not given in the intuitive data, we can neither rise nor descend from them to him; if he is given in them, we have intuition of him or intuition of them.
Many worthy persons, we are aware, hesitate to adopt the intuitive method, because they fear that it would require them to maintain that we can have the intuitive vision of God enjoyed by the Saints in Heaven by our simple natural light, which all our theologians teach is possible only by the light of glory or ens supernatural. We respect their hesitation, but their fear is unfounded. No man in his senses maintains that the intuitive vision of God enjoyed by the Blest is possible by the simple light of natural reason, or even by natural reason illumined by the supernatural light of faith. We assert by the natural intuition of God nothing of the sort. That vision is intrinsic, the view of God as he is in himself, his own interior life and essence; but our natural intuition of God is extrinsic, apprehensive, not comprehensive, and is a view of God as he is in relation to our intellect, as the principle and immediate object of our intelligence, not as he is in himself, or in his essence. We see him only as the Idea, the Intelligible, the type and cause of creatures, and therefore as the principle and necessary element of our intelligence. This element to which is reducible what philosophers call necessary ideas, necessary truths, eternal truths, &c., is intuitively presented, for without it there is and can be no intellectual operation, and in point of fact no human intellect itself’ and hence it is that we are never able to stop with the finite and the contingent, but are obliged, as the inductive philosophers allege, to assert at every moment the infinite and the necessary, not as and abstraction, a mental conception, but as an objective reality. All the reasonings ever adopted or that ever can be adopted to prove the existence of God demand, as their principle, the conception of the infinite and the necessary, and this conception, if formed by the mind from the generalization of the finite and the contingent, without intuition of real and necessary being, is an abstraction, and like all abstractions, objectively null.
The Failure to recognize this intuition is what ruined the dialectic philosophy of the 17th century, which Pere Gratry is laboring so enutiscatically to revive, and the logical consequences of which are to be seen in the Sensism and Atheism which followed, and from which we are even now only slowly recovering. The philosophy overlook or affections of the subject. Hence the God it asserts is simply a mental conception, an abstraction, and no real, living God at all. Descartes no doubt labored hard to prove that the idea in the mind of the infinite and the necessary, respond to his industry or his good intention. Conceptions can give only conceptions, 0 x 0= 0. As a man, as a Christian, Descartes believed no doubt, in a living God; but as a philosopher he asserted only an abstract God.
Others, again, hesitate to adopt the intuitive method, because they fail to observe that nobody pretends that we can know without reflection, study or instruction, that the idea, the intelligible, the necessary entity, or real and necessary being affirmed to us in intuition, is God, or that it can be proved to be God without reasoning, both inductive and deductive, that is, without dialects and the syllogism. No one thinks of superseding the necessity of reasoning on the subject, and we certainly do not dispute, in its place and with its proper conditions, the validity of the reasoning of St. Anselm, St. Thomas, or even the Bridgewater Treatises in proof of the existence of God. We only say that to the validity of that reasoning a prior fact, tacitly assumed by it, but of which it takes no account, must be recognized namely, the intuition of the Intelligible, the infinite, the necessary, the perfect that is real and necessary being, the intelligible element of all thought and the principle of all reasoning. That must be intuitively presented, but we do not say that we do or that we must know intuitively that it is God. St. Anselm concludes the existence of God from the idea of the most perfect being, than which nothing greater can be conceived. If he stops there, he concludes only an abstract God, and offers no refutation of Atheism. St. Thomas sees this, and hence refutes and rejects St. Anselm’s argument, as he understands it. The conclusion is valid only on the condition that the idea is take to be the intuition of the most perfect or real and necessary being. Taking the idea as an intuition, the argument is conclusive; taking it as a mental conception, or as a conception formed from the intuition of the finite, the imperfect, or the contingent alone, it is not so much as an ingenious sophism. St. Anselm, Descartes, and all Pere Gratry’s dialectic philosophers, fail to recognize distinctly the fact that conceptions or ideas without intuitions are null, are abstractions, and affirm no reality beyond the human mind itself. This point Kant has for ever settled, and it is really one of the most important steps made by modern philosophy.
Aristotle, and St. Thomas after him, concludes the existence of God from the necessity of a prime-mover or of the actual to reduce the potential to act. We accept the argument, providing you concede us intuition of the principle on which it rests, namely, the necessity alleged. This necessity is, in the argument, the universal, and must itself be intuitive, or nothing can be concluded from it. But this necessity itself, what is it? Does it exist only in the mind, or does it exist out of it? If only in the mind, it is subjective, and your conclusion contains no objective reality. If out of the mind, it must be being, real and necessary being, and intuition of it is intuition of that which is God, therefore, in reality, of God himself. Either then we have intuition of real and necessary being, which is God, or his existence cannot be proved by natural reason, since every conceivable argument for his existence demands that intuition as its principle. No doubt, the judgment, real and necessary being is, and the judgment, God is, or real and necessary being is God, are formally or subjectively distinguishable; and it is precisely on this face that the conceptualists found their objections to the intuitionists. The judgment, real and necessary being is, is an intuitive judgment; the judgment, real and necessary being is God, or God is, is not an intuitive, but a reflective judgment. Hence as this formal judgment is obtained only by reflection, by reasoning, by argument, the conceptualists assert truly, from the psychological point of view, that the existence of God is not intuitively given. Not intuitively given as a conception, conceded, for no conception is inquisitive; but not really given, or given intuitively as an objective reality we deny; for objectively, in the real order, the judgment, real and necessary being is, and the judgment God is, are one and the same, since all theologians agree that God is real and necessary being-ens necessarium et reale, or ens simpliciter, as distinguished from ens secumdum quid,-creature, or created existence; and this is all that the intuitionist ever dreams of assering, when he asserts that God affirms himself to us in direct and immediate intuition. We never pretend that he affirms himself, conceptually as God, but really, as real and necessary being, as the Idea or the Intelligible. The difficulty of the conceptualists or psychologists arises from the fact that they confound intuition with conception, and will not allow that any thing is given in the intuition, which is not formally embraced in the conception. In other words they confound the intuitive order with the reflective, and the ontological with the psychological.
The conceptualists would be relieved of this and many other difficulties, if they could for once place themselves at the pint of view of the intuitionists or ontologists, or if they would take the pains to understand before attempting to refute them. Ontologists profess to speak according to the order of things, not according to the order of conceptions. When Gioberti speaks of the ideal formula, defines it to be ens create existentias, and calls it the primum phiolosphicum, he speaks of the real, intuitive formula not of the conceptual. He presents this formula as the primum formula in question is asserted as the ideal or real formula, and the real not the coneptional principle the non-empirical not the empirical element of all human thought. The formula is what Kant would call a synthetic judgment which precedes all experience, and is the necessary condition of all experience, or that which renders experience possible. It enters into all experience as its ideal principle and basis. It is at once the primum of things and the primum of science, the primum ontologicum and primum psychologicum,-ontological in that it is real and necessary being affirming itself, and psychological in that it is real and necessary being affirming itself to our intellect, which it in affirming itself creates and constitutes. It is the permanent ideal element of all our knowledge, but not therefore does it follow that every conception, every fact of experience, takes the form, Being creates existence, or existences, Perhaps the majority of men never in their whole lives conceive it distinctly, or distinguish it from the facts of experience.
The ideal formula is intended, by those who defend it, to express the intuitive principle of all our judgments, the divine judgment which all our judgments copy or imitate. As the ideal, the intelligible, it is the basis of all our knowledge, and enters into all our judgments, nor are all our judgments intuitive. It is not our judgments at all, but is precisely that in our judgment which is not ours. Our judgments demand it, presuppose but in so far as ours they are formed by reflection, by contemplation, by experience.
The conceptualists find it difficult to understand the intuitive method because they do no regard ideas as objective, or it they do, they fail to perceive their identity with the Divine Intelligence, and therefore with God himself. They regard them as affections or products of our intellect, or it may be, as something distinct from God which he implants in our minds, and therefore termed innate. They think that they sufficiently explain the matter by saying that they are furnished by the intellectus agens, or active intellect, asserted by the peripatetics. But what is this intellectus agens itself? Is it our intellect, the noetic faculty of the human soul? Then the ideas, the intelligibles, the necessary truths it furnishes, are products of the subject, the minds own products or affections, not onjects apperehended by it, and therefore introduce us to no objective reality at all. Is the intellectus agens the divine intellect, presenting us the necessary ideas in presenting itself? Then you must accept the intuitive method, and the very ideal formula you seek to cover with ridicule. You assert the very doctrine you labor to refute. Is it neither one nor the other,-the ens in genre of Rosmini, the impersonal reason of Cousin, which is Divine and yet not God? But what is neither God nor creature is not at all. Between God and creature there is and can be no middle existence, and no middle term but the creative act of God. What is not God is creature and what is not creature is God. There is no mundus logicus between them, The possible would exist only is God, and what exists in God is God himself. The world of abstractions which is sometimes talked about as if it were neither God nor creature, but something independent of both, and even governing both, is, in so far as neither rune nor the other, nothing. There are no abstractions in nature, and abstractions are simple the conceptions of our own minds operating on intuition. The scholastics, though not careful always to note this fact, do not maintain anything to the contrary, and usually take it for granted. St. Thomas, if we understand him, does not regard the intellectus agens as a created intellect, but as our participation of the divine, uncreated intellect, that is to say God himself in his relation to our intellect or as we say, God as the intelligible. It is not every man who call himself a Thomist that understands St. Thomas.
But our psychologists proceed on the supposition that in the facts of knowledge, man, supposing him to be sustained in existence, suffices for himself, and they never understand that the divine concurrence as the intelligible is as necessary in order to enable him to know, as is the divine concurrence as being in order to enable him to exist. As profoundly as many of them have investigated the conditions of knowledge on the side of the subject, they have forgotten fenerally to investigate them on the side of the object. They make all facts of knowledge purely human and leave God out of the account, and they, furthermore, make them all purely psychological, and recognize no activity in their production, but the activity of the soul itself. Here is their capital mistake, -a mistake as capital as would be that of regarding the soul as an independent existence. There can no more be a fact of knowledge without an objective activity, than there can be without a subjective activity. This is recognized by cousin, and has been proved, although abused by Pierre leroux and in proving it, he has made a contribution to modern philosophy that his wildness and extravagance in regard to other matters have prevented from being generally appreciated according to its merits. In consequence of overlooking the activity of the Intelligible in the fact of intuition, and placing all the activity on the side of the subject in intuition as well as in conception, the psychologists have failed to recognize the objectivity of ideas, which Plato had long ago clearly established, and which Aristotle really accepts, thought he rejects the term idea, and substitutes that of principle.
We are not writing for tyros in philosophy, and therefore do not deem it necessary to enumerate the ideas and principles which compose the ideal or intelligible world. Every body likely to read our philosophical articles knows that there is in some fore and in some manner present to our minds a non-sensible world, a world of necessary ideas, or eternal truths , which enters into all our intellectual operations, and is the principle and basis of all our sciences, physical, metaphysical, and ethical. We cannot speak of an effect without thinking cause, of a particular cause without thinking a universal cause; of the contingent without thinking the necessary; of the finite without thinking the infinite; of beautiful things without thinking the beauty, that by which all beautiful things are beautiful-the beautiful in itself; of all good actions without thinking goodness, that by which all good actions are good, the good in itself, and so in many other instances, which will readily occur to the reader. The question to be settled is, what are these absolute, these necessary ideas? Are they objects of the human mind, realities existing independent of it? Or are they the necessary form or conception of our understandings? The psychologists or conceptualists hold the latter, and this we regard as their fundamental error, an error held by Abelard, and opposed by guillame de champeaux and the old realists. Plato held them to be onjects of the noetic faculty of the soul really existing independently of the human mind. This was the doctrine of St. Augustine, of St. Anselm, and in reality of St. Thomas, although St. Thomas seems at times to regard them as representatives of the objective realities rather than as those realities themselves. Balmes regards them generally as representatives of the object, seldom as the object itself. He appears to have been led to take this view by the old peripatetic doctrine, that the soul knows only in itself, and therefore never sees immediately things themselves and sees them at all only through their representatives, their species and phantasms. This Peripatetic doctrine seems to have originated in the truth, not well comprehended by Aristotle and his followers, that created or contingent things are not are not intelligible in or of themselves, and hence cannot be apprehended by the mind without an intelligible medium. This we hold to be true, but not precisely in the Aristotelian sense. Reid dispelled, forever, the Peripatetic phantasms, and proved that in sensible we perceive the things themselves, not their images, phantasms, or immaterial representatives. Malebranch after Plato and St. Ausgustine and others, had previously done the same thing in regard to the non-sensible world. The things supposed to be represented by the intelligible species, or by ideas, are themselves intelligibles, and therefore cognizable or evident per se. They are all resolvable, as far as we are now considering them, into real and necessary being, and real and necessary being is intelligible by its own light. It needs only to be no room between it and our mind for representative ideas. The being itself is as intelligible as can be its idea or representation. Nothing can make it plainer, more intelligible, or bring it into close contact with the mind. In a word the realities, if realities represented by the ideas we speak of, are themselves as near and as open to the mind as the ideas or representatives. The intellectus agens, supposed to furnish the representative ideas, if not the human intellect, as St. Thomas certainly did not hold it to be, is itself the idea, and the idea is not the representative of the intelligible reality, but that reality itself. The ideas are in that intellect, and it presents them in presenting itself intuitively to our intellect, and hence the intellectus agens of Aristotle affirming himself intuitively as the Intelligible, as maintained by Gioberti, and virtually by Cousin, who represents these ideas to be constitutive of the impersonal or objective reason which he calls Divine. The only error of Cousin on this point is, first, in not sufficiently distinguishing the objective from the subjective reason, and second, in hesitating to assert the identity of the objective reason with the Divine Intelligence, and therefore with God himself. What is necessary to place philosophy on a solid basis is to explode reconcile his maxim, nihil est in intellectu, quiod prius no fuerit in sensu, with the undeniable truth in the Platonic theory, and retained by St. Thomas, in his unsuccessful attempt to harmonize Aristotle and St. Augustine.
M. Maret has discussed this whole question in a masterly manner and has once for all disposed of the representative theory as well as of the sensist theory, and that of the conceptualists. Having shown that there are present in our minds ideas which cannot be derived from the senses, he says:-
“But there are ideas, the noblest, the most beautiful, and the most pregnant, which can never be considered as simple conceptions, simple perceptions of our minds, and conceptualism or psychology is as impotent to of knowledge wholly different from the subject that knows them. Shall we say that our ideas of genus and species are only pure mental conceptions with no real foundation in the nature of things? But then, will not all our natural sciences be vain and chimerical? We have the firm conviction that these sciences reproduce, in an abridged picture, the natural world itself. They seek to retrace the plan of the Creator, and rise to the types of the various being that composes it, and these types are imperishable. Shall we say that our moral ideas are only mental conceptions? Then there will be for us to no longer a justice necessary, eternal, absolute unchangeable, perfect, and the moral order of this world will have no basis to stand upon. All our metaphysical ideas of number, magnitude, proportion beauty, perfection, participate in these same characters of necessity, eternity, immutability, universality. In find, in the most elevated region of the intelligible world, we perceive the grand idea of the infinite which enlightens and dazzles us, which overwhelms us with its greatness, and unceasingly elevates us above ourselves.
“Is it possible to see in all these ideas only simple mental conceptions? Were they only conceptions of our minds our soul would contain in itself the necessary, the absolute, the eternal, the immutable, the infinite! What the soul in its limited duration contains the eternal, in its emptiness perfection, in its limitedness the infinite! The soul is to itself its own light! I would rather place the sun all entire in the eye which it enlightens. All these necessary, absolute, eternal, immutable, universal ideas, then, exist outside of the soul, above it, independently of it, and conceptualism is reduced to silence.
“It is necessary to reason of principles as we have reasoned of ideas. Principles being the expression of the relations which exist between ideas, they participate in their nature. It would be madness to attempt to explain them by sensation. The senses and experience give us only individual facts, wanting in all the characteristics of principles. An effete is produced before me; I attribute it to a cause, for I know that there is no effect without a cause. Between this particular fact and this necessary, absolute, and universal principle, there is an abyss which reason alone can pass over. On the occurrence of the fact, reason perceives the universal truth there is no effect without a cause, which is the law of the fact. What I say of my personal experience, I affirm equally of universal experience, and of all the facts produced on the theatre of the world. The spectacle of the finite world, that is to say, of the contingent, temporal, relative, and changing world, cannot give me necessary, absolute, universal, and immutable principles. Nothing more evident.
“Psychologism is as impotent to explain these principles as sensism itself. Bear in mind however, that we are not speaking here of the abstract an logical form of principles, such as may be given them by the primitive and necessary judgments of nature. In that they are every judgments, principles are no doubt acts, operations of our minds. But every judgment is enlightened by a light of truth which gives to the principle all its value, and so little are these truth principles (verites-principes) the pure conceptions of my mind, that I recognize in them laws which bind my intellect and my conscience with an absolute authority. They were before me and will be after me. They reign over all minds. Were there no finite mind to affirm them, no world for them to govern, they would none the less exist in themselves, necessary, eternal, absolute, immutable. Principles, as ideas, are therefore wholly independent of the created mind which apprehends them, and of which they are the light and the law.
“We are forced, then, to confess that necessary ideas and principles are objects of knowledge, realties independent of our mind which knows them. But shall we therefore fall into an absurd realism, and attribute to these ideas a separate, an individual existence? The human mind has long been disabused of that error, possible only in the darkness of polytheism. Let us repeat for the last time that ideas, principle, necessary truths, exist as the conceptions and thoughts of infinite intelligence, of God himself. Being necessary, eternal, universal, immutable, they need for their support a substance which has these same characters, and this substance can be only the Divine substance, God. They are in God the types of creatures that he conceives in his infinite intelligence, the laws which he assigns them in his supreme wisdom. Living in God identical with his own essence, they are loaned to intelligent creatures and are in them without belonging to them. The world and human reason form, therefore, as it were, a mirror in which God designs to reflect some feature of his infinite perfection, some rays of his light. Then let us say with all great minds, with our masters, that the true nature of necessary ideas and principles consists in appertaining to the substance of God, in being of God, and in God. Bossuet and the greatest theologians, following St. Augustine have not hesitated to affirm that eternal truths are in a certain manner God himself.”-pp. 243.-247
This conclusion is strictly just, for what is in God is God, and God only is eternal, universal, necessary, and immutable being. St. Augustine says: “Sunt ideae principales formae quaedam, vel rationes rerum stabiles atque icommutabiles, quae ipsae formatae non sunt, ac per hoc aeternae ac simper eodem modo sese habentes, quae in divina intelligentia continentur,” and St. Thomas says : “Idea in Deo nihil est aliud quam essential Dei.” No man can be really so mad as to affirm the human mind supplies the principles of things, or even of reasoning, for it cannot operate without them. Ideas are necessarily predicated of some intelligence, and can exist only in some mind. Ideas which are the eternal types of things can exist only in the Divine intelligence, and are therefore indistinguishable, in re, from God himself. In having intuition of them we have intuition of him. The ideas being identified with the Divine intelligence, their intuitive orgin in our minds follows as a necessary consequence.
“We have proved” continues M. Marte, after some remarks which we would qualify, “that these ideas and these truths, in their true nature, are in God and appertain to his essence. They come then from God and their origin is in him.
“But here arises a grave question. How do ideas come from God? Does he form them in us? Does he deposit them as germs in our soul to be developed with them? You will recognize here the famous theory of innate ideas. In antiquity this theory was attached to that of reminiscence taught by Plato, a pure hypothesis based on mythologic data. In modern times Descartes asserted but hen pressed to explain himself, he answered that he did not pretend that the idea exists in the soul prior to its perception, and that he only maintained that we have an innate faculty of perceiving the ideas of God, or the infinite. Innate ideas were thus reduced to ideas natural to the mind, or which it has the natural power of perceiving. Leibnitz took up the question of innate ideas against Locke, and maintained that they are drawn from our own stock. I have already stated and discussed the theory of Leibnitz, and indicated the correctives which he himself has applied to it. He did well to restrict his theory, for it is absolutely false that all ideas those which if you will call innate those ideas which depend on us as their efficient cause. There is no inconvenience in that; but the ideas which play the grand part in intelligence do not belong to this category. Yet, if by innate ideas you understand only natural ideas every body will agree with you, since the ideas constitutive of intelligence must be natural to it, But in that case the question of innate ideas becomes a question of mere words.
“It can be nothing else, for there is one consideration decisive against the hypothesis. If God deposited in our souls necessary ideas as germs, it he formed them himself within us, they would be, considered in themselves, not in their subject, a real creation. But it is manifest that ideas and principles are necessary, eternal, absolute, immutable, universal truths. Truths of this kind are not and cannot be created. What is created begins and may end, byt these truths are without beginning and without end. Being the light and the law of intelligent creatures they cannot themselves be creatures, and does not all tradition of sound philosophy unanimously proclaim the uncreated character of eternal and necessary truth? We have in our previous lectures passed in review the texts which prove it, and it is unnecessary to produce them again.
“Necessary truths being uncreate are in God, come from God; nothing more certain; and the only conceivable way in which they can come from God is that they are communicated by him to us. Who can show them to us but he who possesses them? And where can we perceive them except in him in whom they reside?
“Conceive, then, that these truths are manifested by God himself to our reason, and that our intelligence, according to it capacity, is a participation in infinite truth. We pronounce with love this great word, participation, repeated by all the great masters of Christian theology. The manifestation of this truth is sort of interior natural revelation,-and the world is the light which enlightneneth every man coming into this world,-although we must not use the world revelation to designate this phenomenon, since it is consecrated by theology to a particular and distinct order of divine manifestations.
“The natural illumination of reason by a ray of eternal truth is the foundation of the Vision of God, asserted by Malebranche, divested of all system, and brought back to it legitimate sense, and as it has been held by the greatest philosophers and the greatest Christian doctors. This vision in God supposes necessarily in man the faculty of intuition and in by the divine light; and it is in the faculty of intuition that reside the power and dignity of reason.
“Such then is the origin of ideas, of principles, of necessary truths. On the side of God, the manifestation of this light; on the side of man, the faculty of receiving and reflecting it.
“Thus all absolute and necessary truths, all those which constitute the order and beauty of the world, govern reason, oblige conscience, found science and the arts; all these truths, all these laws are manifestations of God, and reveal to us something of his thoughts, something of his will. All the truths we possess, all we can acquire, make us in some manner see God, and every step in advance in the order of truth, in the order of science, is an ascension towards God. Wonderful society of our minds with God! How beautiful this participation in divine truth! Should it not be the subject of our frequent meditations, and we never think of it!”-pp. 248-251
M. Maret establishes fully the intuitive origin of ideas, but we do not quite agree that man has a faculty of intuition distinct from the general faculty of intelligence. The intuitive faculty is the faculty of intelligence itself, and conception, reflection, reasoning, judging, comparing, abstracting, &c., are only the different modes in which we apple this faculty; but intuition itself is a face, not a faculty, and it is not, like conception, primarily a psychological fact. It is not by our faculty taking the initiative that the object is beheld. The immediate intuitive object is always and every where the Intelligible, and the intuition is the Intelligible affirming itself to us, not we affirming immediately the Intelligible. In intuition it is not the human mind that by its own inherent power immediately seizes hold of the Intelligible, but the Intelligible immediately affirming itself and thereby constituting our intelligence. Hence the institution is primarily an ontological fact, though affirming simultaneously the ontological and the psychological. M. Maret does not seem to us to place this ontogical character of the fact of intuition in so clear and so strong a light as is desirable, and we seem after all to detect in his expression, if not in his thought, a reminiscence of that psychologism against which he so justly protests. The fact is, the Intelligible is God creating, and in the fact of intuition he creates our intellect, or makes it an actually existing intellect, capable of acting, of apprehending. Our intellect is created, constituted in the fact of intuition, and cannot be conceived as acting or even as existing prior to it. In like manner as we depend on God, as being, for our existence, do we depend on him, as the intelligible, for our intelligence, and he is as immanent and must be as immanent in us under the one relation as the other. This is what is implied in the scholastic doctrine of the intellectus agens, what Balmes himself really teaches, and what all the philosophers and theologians mean when they speak of reason as a participation in the Divine Reason. This is the great doctrine of St. Augustine in those remarkable words: “Praesens est eis, quantum id capere possunt, lumen rationis aeternae in quo incommutabillia vera conspiciunt.” Psychologism springs from an attempt to dispense with the creative act denied or misconceived by Aristotle still moreso than by Plato, or from over-looking the fact that the immanence of God in his creatures, or his presence in his works, which all theologians admit, is a creative immanence or presence,-is his immanence or presence in his creative act. It, if it admits God at all, relegates him from his works, regards him as a watchmaker, and man as a watch, which when once wound up will go of itself until run down.
Cousin has in his Lectures on the True, the Beautiful and the Good, or Absolute Ideas, admirably proved what he terms the objective reason, that in every fact of consciousness or of intelligence there is the active presence of an objective element, which is independent of our personal reason, above it, over it, and without which our reason is not. This is what in our old English writers is called simply reason, and what we all refer to when we say reason teaches this, reason demands that, this accords with reason, that is contrary to reason. Now reason in this sense, objective reason, is precisely what we mean by the Idea, the Intelligible. This reason operating in us, and constituting us rational beings, is precisely what we mean by the idea, or the intelligible affirming itself to us in immediate intuition. It is the intuitive presence of God in all our intellectual acts. Only by understand this presence to be strictly a creative or creating presence. It was assuming God to be immanent as being only, not also in his creative act, that led Spinoza that objective reason creates the subjective reason, that has given a pantheistic tendency to the Eclecticism of Cousin. Understand that the intelligible, the intellectus agens, the intellect, and that his immanence is his creative immanence or presence, or that his permanent affirmation of himself in intuition is his presence creating the intellect at the same time that it is its object, and you will escape pantheism and assert the principle of science, as it is in the real order. Here we may see why it is necessary to include in our principium the creative act of God, why our primum philosophicum must be a synthesis and the real synthesis of things,-Being creates existence or existences, as Gioberti asserts in his ideal formula,- a formula which so few seem to have understood, and which the odium attached to his name prevents most people from seeking to understand. M. Marte is no pantheist, but he will permit us to remark that he has hardly given sufficient prominence in his exposition to the creative act. He asserts the presence of God in our reason, but does not take care to not with sufficient distinctness that this presence is a creative presence actually creating our reason. Plato, Aristotle, most ancient and modern philosophers undertake to explain our knowledge without including the intuition of the divine creative act, the key to the whole.
M. Maret very properly represent necessary, eternal, and immutable ideas as intuitive, but he seems to regard their correlative as empirical. In the categories we have two lines. In the first, being, the infinite, the necessary, the absolute, the eternal, the immutable, the universal, the perfect, all reducible to the category of real and necessary being; in the second, existence, the finite, the contingent, the relative, the temporal, the variable, the imperfect, all reducible to the category of existence, or the contingent. The first, he unhesitatingly asserts, are intuitive, but he seems to regard the second as derived from experience. But Kant has proved that both lines, those included in the category of existence,-ens secundum quid,-as well as those alike the necessary a priori conditions of experience, without which no experience is possible. Then the distinction as to origin between the two categories is inadmissible. Consequently the category of existence as well as that of being must be intuitive, and included in our ideal formula or primum philosophicum. But as all science consists in the knowledge of the two categories in their real relations, it is necessary that the real ontological relation between them should also be given intuitively. As this relation, the order the creative act of being and existence is, in the real and creature, either then no real science, or this creative act also affirms itself in the intuition. Clearly, then, the continuation of the three terms of the ideal formula, the ideal synthesisi, or the divine judgment affirming itself immediately in all our intellectual operations, ens creat existentiam, vel existentias, as we never fail to contend. M. Maret does not deny this synthesis as the prim philosophicum; he in fact implies it, but he does not seem aware of its importance, and dwells almost exclusively on the first term. In most respects, however we agree with him, and in no respect have we found him positively teaching any thing we should be disposed to reject. Bearing in mind that we are to understand the presence of God in reason to be a creative presence, and that in the primitive intuition it is constitutive of our intelligence, the reader will find the author’s Twelfth Lecture very much to the purpose, and we take the liberty of laying liberal extracts from it before him:
“The most important character of this presence of divine truth in reason is that it is immediate and direct. Nothing is more easy than to convince ourselves of this grand fact. The proof is in the quality of truth to enlighten by itself the understanding. When we apprehend a necessary, absolute, eternal, universal, and immutable truth, what is there between it and our intelligence? Seek an intermediary, you will find none. There is only this truth, which shows itself, which enlightens you, and which your mind perceives and affirms. Every body asserts that the action of evidence on the mind is immediate and direct. Now what is evidence, but the light itself of certain ideas and of certain principles contained in the divine truth present to our minds? Undoubtedly the truth does not at first show itself isolated from the fats of consciousness and experience. In every perception of divine truth there is a deep sense of our own existence and of that of the external world; we cannot separate it totally either from ourselves or the would; but from these fats it does not follow that the existence of the would and that of ourselves are an intermediary between the divine truth and our reason. The soul is always the subject, and may become the object of knowledge, but never the intermediary between it and the object. The would may also be an object of knowledge, but not, any more than the soul, its intermediary. How is it that I pass from the personal sense of my own existence and of the world to the rational knowledge of myself and the world, if it be not by the necessary ideas and principles which are in reason? Divine truth is not then transmitted to me through the medium of the soul and the world; it does not traverse them in order to reach my reason. It enlightens my reason directly, immediately, on the occasion, and on the condition of the facts of external and internal experience…
“This immediate and direct presence of divine truth in reason leads to a consequence which at once confounds and ravishes us, which is at once formidable and consoling, worthy of our admiration, rather of our profound adoration. This consequence is that God is present to our reason in a direct and immediate manner. If Divine truth is present to our reason, God is present to it, as we have already proved at length. If it is present in a direct and immediate manner, he is present in a direct and immediate manner, in the same measure that it is present, neither greater nor less.
“This direct and immediate prescence of God in reason has been recognized by the highest philosophy and by the highest theology. St. Augustine says ‘Inter mentem nostrum qua illum itelligimus Patrem, et veritatem, id est lucem interiorem per quam illum intelligimus, nulla interposta creatura est.* Cum homo possi particeps esse sapientiae secundum interiorem himinem secundum ipsum ita est ad imaginem (Del) ut nulla natura interposita formetur; et ideo nihil sit Deo conjuctius . . . Ad imaginem (Del) mentem factam volunt, quae nulla interposita substantial, ab ipsa veritate formetur . . . Iste spritus ad imaginem Del nullo dubitante factus accipitur, in quo est intelligentia veritatis: Hoeret enim veritati nulla inerposita creatura.’*
“Notwithstanding some difficulties presented by the theory of St. Thomas, it will be impossible to see a doctrine different from St. Augustine’s in these words: ‘Omnia dicimur in Deo videre et secundum ipsum de omnibus judicare, in quantum per participationem sui luminis omnia cognoscimus et judicamus. Nam et ipsum lumen naturale rationis participation quaedam est divini luminis, sicut etiam omnia sensibilia dicimur videre et in sole, id est, per lumen solis. Unde dicit Augustinus, primo Solilquiorum, disciplinarum spectamina videri non possunt nisi aliquot velut suo sole illustrentur, videlicet Deo.’ When the sun enlightens us, it is immediately present to our eyes by its rays. The true Sun of our sols, God is a immediately present to our reason as the sun is to our bodily eyes. This, it seems, is the meaning of St. Thomas.
“Has not Bossuet also recognized this immediate and direct presence of God to natural reason? ‘We have seen’ he says, ‘that the soul which seeks and finds the truth in God, turns herself towards him to conceive it. What then is this turning herself towards God? Is it that the soul moves as a body, and changes her place? Certainly such movement has nothing in common with understanding. To begin to understand what is not understood is not to be transported from one place to another. It is not as a body the soul draws near to God who is always and every where invisibly present. The soul has him always present in herself, for it is by him that she subsists. But in order to see, it is not enough to have the light present; it is necessary to turn towards it, to open the eyes to it. The soul, also, has her manner of turning herself to that light, that is to say, to the truth, is to will to understand.’ It seems to me that it is impossible to express more explicitly the immediate and direct presence of God as truth in the soul it enlightens.”-pp. 254-258
We are not quite so certain of this in regard to Bossuet as is the learned professor. Bossuet indeed, asserts the immediate and direct presence of God in the soul, but not, what is equally important to M. Maret’s purpose, that he affirms himself in direct and immediate intuition. He makes the actual perception of this presence depend on the act of the soul turning towards him, opening the eyes of the understanding to the light which is to misconceive the intuitive fact, and to confound intuition with conception. Intuition, according to Bossuet, and we fear according to our author himself, would be seeing by looking, whereas the intuition proper is seeing without looking, without any voluntary activity on our part, prior to the affirmation of the intelligible by itself. The seeing precedes the looking, and we look because we see, that we may see more clearly, more distinctly, or that we may understand what is presented in the intuition. Nevertheless, the passage from Bossuet undoubtedly implies the immediate and direct intuition of truth, though we confess it does not expressly assert it to our understanding. But the author continues:
“Fenelon is full of this same doctrine. He declares that ‘the immediate object of all our universal cognitions is God himself.’ He terminates an admirable exposition of the idea of the infinite by the words, ‘It is therefore necessary to conclude invincibly that it is Being infinitely perfect that presents itself to my mind when I conceive the infinite. O God, O only true Being, before whom I am as if I were not! Thou showest me thyself, and nothing of all that which thou art not can be like thee. I behold thee, thyself and this ray that darts from thy countenance feasts my heart while I am waiting to behold thee in the noonday of truth.’*
“The most rigorous conclusions of logic are then borne out by the gravest authorities,-authorities equally dear to religion and to philosophy. Thus, gentlemen, in the natural order, in the intelligible and rational order, there is an immediate and direct presence of God, which itself implies a certain view of God, or rather, of the Divine truth he communicates to us.’
“But here certain difficulties are raised against us, which it is necessary to discuss. The first comes from the Kantian school, and has been revived, in 1850. by M. Haureau in his de La Philosophic Scholastique. It is pretended that to refer the truth which enlightens us to God him-self, to consider the absolute, necessary, and immutable truths of reason as thoughts or attributes of God, is to make God like man, and to fall into anthropomorphism. God, say the philosophers of this school, is the great Unknown, the mystery of mysteries, and not without sacrilege can we raise from the veil from the sanctuary in which he conceals himself from all mortal eyes. We know that he is, we know not what he is. We should be content to assert his existence, to adore his grandeur, without attributing to him modes of existence which must be wholly unworthy of him, without transferring to him the imperfections of our own ideas and cognitions.
“I confess I very much mistrust that respect towards God which would render him wholly inaccessible and deny every sort of relation or analogy between him and man. If we can form no conception of God, what reason can we have for asserting his existence? If this were so, skepticism as to his existence would be inevitable, and from skepticism to downright atheism there is but a step. As soon as we have the right to assert that God is, we have in us an idea of him, and this idea is necessarily a relation of our finite intelligence with infinite intelligence. We certainly know much more than that God is what is, although we never comprehend all that he is. But between this perfect comprehension and the absolute ignorance in which these philosophers would retain us, there is a distance. We see clearly that God must possess and does possess all the perfection diffused in creation; and without fearing to degrade him, we ascribe to him all those perfection in the infinite degree which comports with his nature. What, I find in my reason, ideas, principles, a necessary, absolute, universal, eternal, and immutable truth, and yet I am not to refer this truth to a Being, necessary, absolute, eternal, and immutable like itself? Is it forbidden me to attribute the laws of reason, of conscience, and of nature to the Supreme Legislator? You might as well forbid me to attribute to God wisdom and goodness because I find proofs of wisdom and goodness in creation and in free and intelligent creatures! In refusing thus to go out of man, to transport of him out of truth, wisdom, goodness, and to see in God their cause and substance, I degrade my own reason, and confine it within purely subjective limits, and inevitably doom myself to skepticism.
“As I would escape skepticism, I refer to God without hesitation the necessary ideas and principles I find in my reason. I know that they are from God, are in God, and, in some sense, are God; I know that it is God who manifests them to me, who gives himself to me, and renders me thus a partaker of himself. But I conceive in myself that these ideas and principles are infinitely more perfect than I conceive them. I see clearly that God know infinitely more and infinitely better than I, and between him and me I place the infinite. I attribute then, to God all the perfections I conceive, all the truths I know, but in elevating them to infinity.”-pp. 258-261
We omit the rest of the learned professor’s answer to his objection of anthropomorphism. In substance the answer is conclusive, but its form is unsatisfactory, in consequence of the authors hesitating to say plainly, what he means, that necessary ideas and principles intuitively affirmed in our reason are God, identically God as the intelligible, or in his relation to our created intelligence. He forgets that intuition is the act of the object, even more than of the subject, since it is an act creative of the human intellect, and not an act initiated by it, as we have already explained. There is then, no referring to necessary being itself. The question is not of identifying them with being, but of identifying the being they are, and are intuitively known to be with God. Even M. Maret finds it hard to get rid of prevailing psycholgism, and to understand that the idea, the intelligible is being, and that it is only on that condition that it is idea or intelligible, or that it is intuitively apprehensible or apprehended. The author is mistaken in supposing the perfection of God is the perfection of creatures copy or imitate in an imperfect manner the perfections of God; but the perfections of God are distinct from them, and are apprehended not in them and generalized from them, but intuitively as the infinite ideas, types, or exemplars they in their manner copy or imitate.
After disposing of the objection of making God man, the author answers briefly a contrary objection, that of making man God, or of confounding the subject with the object, as Cousin does by representing what he calls the impersonal reason as divine and yet representing it as that within us which knows. We know by means of that reason, objectively present in the fact of knowledge. From this objection the author proceeds to objections of another order, urged by theologians. The first of these objections is that we see God only mediately through creation and creatures,-Invisibilia Dei per ea quae facta sunt, intellecta, conspiciuntur, as St. Paul says. This objection has been so often answered in these pages, that it may seem like a sheer waste of time and space to answer it again; but it may still be acceptable to our reader to see what so reserved and judicious an author as M. Maret replies to it. From the words of St. Paul, the theologians, he says,-
“Conclude that it is not by a direct light that we know god, or at least that his existence is not the first truth in the order of knowledge. Here important distinctions become necessary. We undoubtedly raise ourselves to God by the contemplation of nature and ourselves, and thus ascend, as it were, from effect to cause. This is a process of the human mind that gives admirable proofs of the existence of God. But in all these proofs, so beautiful and so certain, is not the idea of God presupposed? Is not the idea of God anterior to the reasonings by which we prove his existence? I have in the first place, the idea of myself, the world of the finite, but at the same time I conceive myself, the world the finite. I conceive the infinite. These two ideas are primitive, contemporaneous, simultaneous in my mind. I begin not by an abstract idea of being, which would give me only an abstract being. I pass not from the finite to the infinite, nor from the infinite to the finite, which would be a contradiction. With these two primitive ideas, which I find in my mind, the other ideas and principles are necessary . . . But necessary ideas and principles although they are Divine Light, do not at first give us a reflective or reflex knowledge of the existence and perfections of God. We attain to that only by reasoning. For example, I have a certain view of necessary truth, and I see at the same time that it must be referred to (that it is) a necessary substance, and to a necessary intelligence, to which it belongs, and which manifests it. Then this intelligence, this substance exists, and therefore God is. From a certain view of God, implied in the intuition of necessary truth, I conclude his existence as from the sense of myself I conclude my own personal existence. The existence of God is not then the first truth known by us; between our reason and the affirmation of his existence, there is and intermediary, and the intermediary is at once the Divine truth the soul which it enlightens, and the world which reflects it.” –pp. 264-266
We are afraid the professor in this last sentence will be thought instead of answering the objection to have got a little confused and to have conceded it. The idea, the divine truth, is the principle or medium of the demonstration, or proof, but not of the knowledge of the existence of God, for it is God, and its existence is known immediately and directly prior to commencement of the demonstration, as it has been throughout the object of the author to prove. What he really means, however, is that the idea our own existence, and that of the world are an intermediary between the existence of God and our knowledge of his existence in the order of reflection, not in the order of intuition, and in this he is substantially correct. Intuition gives us the real order, and in the real order necessary truth or the Idea and God are identical, but we do not know intuitively that the Idea, real and necessary being, is what in the order of reflection is meant by the work God. This identity is precisely what requires to be demonstrated, and the demonstrated of this is what is meant by the demonstration of the existence of God. The process of demonstration suggested by the author, so understood, is legitimate and conclusive. He has the right to add:-
“Therefore the doctrine of the presence of God in reason in no sense enfeebles any of the proofs of the existence of God, and in no respect disturbs the ordinary method of demonstrating it. On the contrary, it explains and justifies it. It is still true to say with the Scriptures, with St. Paul and St. Thomas, that we know God, and raise ourselves to him by the spectacle of the world and the human soul.” –p. 266
The last objection the author considers is the most formidable of all in the minds of our theologians. We have briefly answered it ourselves in the beginning of the present article, but it may be well to hear the answer of the author, who is a theologian, as well as a philosopher.
“It is a principle of faith that in this life and by our natural powers we do not and cannot see the Divine essence; that the sight of this essence is disproportioned to our forces, and to our merits, that it is the essential object of supernatural grace, and that it is reserved, in its perfection, to a future life, as the recompense of faith and charity. This high doctrin is clearly taught in the sacred scriptures: ‘Deum nemo vidit unquam…videmus nune per speculum in aenigmet, tunc autem facie ad faciem…nunc cognosco ex parte, tunch atuem cognoscam sicut et cognitus sum…cum apparueit, similes ei erimus, quoniam videbimus eum sicuti est.’ The possibility and the gratuity of this vision of the divine essence is a doctrinal point attested and preserved by a unanimous tradition and established by St. Thomas in the twelfth question of the first part of his Summa, with the superiority and the power of reason.
“But it is, on the other hand, no less certain by scriptures and tradition, that divine truth, the divine word himself, is the real teacher of our souls. He is the light which enlighteneth every man coming into this world; Lux quae illuminat omnem hominem venientem in hune mundum. Before St. John the psalmist had said that God had stamped our souls with an impression of his light: Signasti super nos lumen vultus tui. This second truth has been established by us in the whole of this course. Our only object has been to prove it to conscience and reason, and to show that it is the true philosophical tradition. The point now is to reconcile these two truths, which appear, at first sight, to contradict one another. But there is no contradiction in the case. The direct view of divine truth and of God himself in this truth is not and cannot be the vision of the Divine Essence, because that vision consists in seeing God face to face and in knowing him as he sees himself. Now this natural view of divine truth is essentially distinct from this perfect, this sublime vision. In fact, the view face to face is not only a direct view, but also a perfect view, without clouds or shadows. But the natural view is very imperfect; by it we see only a few essences, a few laws, and these only dimly and with great difficulty.
“But it may, nevertheless, be objected that the supernatural and beatific vision of God differs from the natural view only in degree and then the two modes of participation and consequently the natural and the supernatural are not essentially different. This objection would indeed appear formidable, if the supernatural vision were the participation in the divine only as it is representative of creatures. But it is something more than that; it is the view of God such as he is in himself, sicuti est; cognoscam sicut et cognitus sum. A profound theology distinguishes, in fact, in the divinity two different aspects: God in himself that is to say, in his simplicity and his Trinity, his interior life and God in his relations with creation, God the archetype of creation, that is to say bearing in his intelligence the ideas and laws of real and possible creations. The divine truth which enlightens us here below recognizes rather the essence of creatures that the divine essence itself. We in no sense see that essence itself, for we do not see the relation of infinite multiplicity to infinite unity. The view of the infinite essence would show us on the contrary how the infinite multiplicity of ideas and laws which are in the divine thought, is so much as it conceives and creations, forms only one and the same perfectly simple ideas, proceeds always from a single act always immanent. We should see, as far as it is given to the creature to see, how this multiplicity is resolved into the most perfect unity, how when we rise to highest thoughts we conceive, indeed, that God sees in himself, in his perfect simplicity, an infinity of degrees of being, all of which are an image, a representation of his essence; we conceive, indeed, that he sees out of him, in real or possible creations, the limits or relations implied by this infinite multitude of copies of pure and unalterable essence; we conceive, in fine, that this multiplicity introduces no division, no composition, no limit into infinite simplicity; our reason conceives the strict necessity of this infinite perfection, but without being able to explain and comprehend it.
“The view of the Divine essence would not only unveil in part the relations of God with creation, it would also enable us, as far as give to the creature, to penetrate the mystery of the divine life itself, to see how divine substance is common to the three infinite and equal persons, who form only one and the same Divinity.”-pp. 266-270.
We see in this answer a satisfactory refutation of the objection, but the author we hope, will pardon us, if we say we also find in it some looseness of expression, and some inexactness even of thought. Will he forgive us, if we say that he does not appear to us to be fully master of the ontological method, and sometimes speaks as a conceptualist rather than as an intuitionist? The distinction of aspects in God is a distinctio rationis reticinatae, as say the theologians, not a distinction in re, in our manner of conceiving, not in the manner in which God really exists and is intuitively affirmed and possibilities of creatures, are not images or representations of the Divine Essene, but that essence itself, as St. Thomas expressly teaches, when he says: “Idea in Deo nihil est aliud quam essentia Dei.” To make them the image of the Divine Essence would, it seems to us, place them in the word or second person distinctively, and deny intelligence to the father and the Holy Ghost. Intelligence and will belong to the essence, the nature, and are, therefore, one in the three persons of the Godhead. Ideas in the divine mind are types, not of the divine essence, but of existences which God does or may create, and hence St. Thomas says St. Augustine and the Christian Fathers generally understood Plato against Aristotle and some others who pretend that Plato held ideas to be separate individual existences. The real answer to the objection is not that we do not intuitively apprehend the essence of God, for in God no distinction between his essence and his existence-his essential and his esse,-is admissible, but that we see his essence only extrinsically, only in its relation to creatures, not intrinsically, as it is in itself; and therefore we are quite willing to say that we see God only in seeing his works, as in external vision we see the light only in seeing the objects it illumines and renders visible. The ideal formula-ens creat existentias-conatins indeed the three terms of a judgment subject, predicate and copula; but the three terms are not given distinctly, in three separate intuitions; they are given as a synthesis in one the same intuition. God-Ens-is not given alone, but as the subject of the predicate. Existentias or creation. Now the view of God as the subject of the predicate creature,-a predicate joined to him by his own free voluntary act ad extra. Placing or creating it, can hardly be confounded with interior life and being enjoyed as their reward by the Saints in heaven. If the ideal formula be accepted, we see God, in natural intuition, only as the subject of the predicate, and therefore only in conjunction with the creatures placed and we understand our natural intuition of God, and it seems to us standing now that real and necessary being, thought intuitively given, is distinguished from the other two terms of the formula and proved to God, only discursively, or by reflection and reasoning, we cannot for the life of us see any reason why the discursionists should hesitate to adopt the intuitive method, or why they should wish to keep up any longer a controversy with the ontologists. Every theologian, however psychologically inclined, is obliged the very moment he comes to set forth and explain theology, natural or supernatural, to adopt the ontological method, and all great theologians, as M. Martet proves in the volume before us, have been avowedly ontologists.
We have dwelt so long on the first part of M. Maret’s volume the presence of God in reason, and the exposition and defense of the intuitive method, or the Platonic doctrine of ideas as rectified by St. Augustine and Christian theology, that we must reluctantly reserve to a future article the consideration of the still more important second part which treats of the insufficiency of reason, and the necessity of divine revelation. The necessity of divine revelation and the character of the supernatural is for our age and country the question of questions, for the real doubt we have to combat is the doubt of Christianity as to the supernatural order. The age accepts Christianity as the best expression of natural religion that has been made, but it refuses to believe in the reality of a supernatural order properly so called. M. Maret sees this, and seeks to remove the doubt of the supernatural without producing a deeper and more fatal doubt, that of the natural. In establishing the presence of God in reason as its principle and light, he has established the high prerogative of reason, indicated its dignity, and obtained a solid basis for his demonstrations. He has asserted and defended the necessary preamble to faith, and notwithstanding the few criticisms we have offered, certainly in no captious or disrespectful spirit, has given us a book of solid merit, and rendered to philosophy a service which those who best understand the subject will appreciate the highest.