CHAPTER IV — THE VISION OF GOD
End of the myth of man’s omniscience
NOT so many years ago the very learned man got up from his breakfast and turned to his researches as joyously as a child hurrying to play with the toys Christmas showered on him. It seemed that the world and all its secrets had been handed to men as castles, towers, cranes and bridges are handed to a child in the gift of a structural toy; all that was necessary was that men work patiently piecing things together and eventually they would know all things knowable. Surely no one would be mean enough to give them such a toy with some of the pieces missing; it was entirely incredible that not all the mysteries could be reconstructed from this shiny array of unlimited possibilities. So the very learned labored happily in their play-rooms; and, saturated with their own contentment, they were very polite to all the rest of the poor ignorant men who still talked of the inscrutable knowledge of God, the mystery of the supernatural, the intangible, spiritual truths of philosophy.
Since then some one has told these happy creatures that there is no Santa Claus. Their naive world is crumbling about their ears; and it becomes more evident, day by day, that some of the pieces were missing, countless pieces. Today we are not quite so sure of the sweep of our own knowledge, not at all certain that we know it all. The mechanism of the nineteenth century, the happy theory that made the gears of the world and the metallic clanking of laws almost audible, has definitely broken down; with its collapse came wholesale confusion among the better educated. Today that confusion has not been lessened by the progress of the sciences, it has been immeasurably increased; while physics and biology seem to point more and more in the direction of the purposive and the idealistic, the modern psychologies look more and more to the purposeless, the irrational, the mechanical.
Laymen and this fact
Such conflicting results have given pause to the brash confidence of our fathers; they have humbled us a little, slowed up our process of conclusion considerably. We are proceeding with the caution of the spoiled child after his first week in a public school. The confusion and humiliation have been good for us. A tragic note in the whole affair is that the ordinary man and woman have been completely deprived of a proper share in this confusion and humiliation. Their ordinary sources of information proceed on the old mechanistic basis as if nothing had happened, as if, somehow, they had been water-proofed against the seepage of such scandalous uncertainty from the higher levels; to the layman, the implications of the old mechanism are still established facts, he is polite or pitying to those who are not scientifically up to date, and his life is aimed earnestly at grotesque goals that enjoy a macabre existence now that the mind that sponsored them has retracted.
Philosophers and this fact
The layman need not feel too lonely in his ignorance; hordes of modern philosophers are right at his side patronizing the rest of men for their unscientific neglect of the new truths that are already decrepit. At least this confusion of the mechanistic basis of life has not produced any great clarity of thought among modern philosophers. They still retain that frigid politeness and bored tolerance, characteristic of nineteenth century scholarship, in the face of such problems as the knowledge of God, of the soul, of absolute morality and all the rest of the things outside the reach of science. Perhaps the one outstanding evidence of the crash of mechanism has been a slightly more sympathetic attitude towards other explanations; that and a bewildering variety of answers to all the questions that matter.
Negative answers: The lazy answer — Agnosticism
Take, for instance, the question of God’s knowledge. The modern agnostic evades the problem by shrugging his shoulders and confessing a complete ignorance, a complete inability to know the answer. Such tactics may conserve his intellectual energy, but only at the price of a flat contradiction of the facts; for surely we can know the existence, and something of the nature, of a cause from its effects, we can form some idea of the knowledge of a poet from his poem, the knowledge of an engineer from his bridge. It is not too much of an effort to raise the mind from the poem to the poet, from the bridge to the engineer, from the world to God.
The timid answer — Naturalism
Certainly the naturalist is not lazy. He hustles along the road of knowledge like a boy hurrying past a cemetery at night, whistling to prove he is not afraid. But he is afraid, afraid to go beyond what his hands cannot touch. He states that science and the experimental method are the only sources of truth. In either form he is contradicting the facts that he himself must live by, every day facts like our knowledge of love, of justice, of friendship, which are slippery things to slide under a microscope.
The cowardly answer — Psychological mechanism
At least naturalism tries to put up a bold front. Mechanistic psychology has quit the fight altogether; it has given up the task of facing human life with all its possibilities of failure and defeat, with all its burden of responsibilities. It is willing to surrender all man’s claims to humanity, to bury his head in sub-human muck. Of course it will have nothing to do with the problem of God’s knowledge.
The proud answer — Idealism
The idealist is not a bluffer, neither is he a coward; he is blind. He cannot see the world, let alone raise the eyes of his mind to the cause of the world. As far as he is concerned, man can know only what is in his own mind; he can know of God only in so far as he is a part of God, or is God. He invites all men and women, not to share his blindness, but to set up havens of darkness of their own where, with no truth intruding to interrupt the game, they can play at being God, or a part of God.
All of these people agree that we can know nothing of the knowledge of God. If their particular explanations are not appealing, a man might try, without stepping outside the boundaries of a negative answer, the despair of the evolutionist’s answer — that men are the only part of the life process enjoying intelligence, our knowledge is all there is. Or he might embrace the narrow provincialism of the pragmatist, the humanitarian and the humanist — the men who have little time for God because of their consuming interest in men, or who have time enough only to agree that, whatever God knows, He certainly does not know all things.
All of these opinions might be summed up in terms of the last chapter, where we saw that the world today gives us a choice between a human and an inhuman god, whereas the facts demand a divine God. For these men the question of God’s knowledge is reduced to this: what can a human or a less than human god know? Obviously such a god cannot have divine knowledge.
The affirmative answer to the question of God’s omniscience is not, as has been alleged, a dream wish, the urging of the unconscious or the surging of a dumb life force; it is not made up of the sentimentalities of subjectivism; it is not mere poetry, though it surpasses the beauty and nobility of great poetry. It is not vague, hesitant, theoretic. Above all it is not a denial of the facts. It is objectively valid, proceeding from the solidly proved fact of the existence of a first mover, a first cause, a necessary being, a perfect being, a supreme intelligence; it is simply the admission of the implications that necessarily flow from these proved truths. To admit such implications means no more than to refuse to deny the facts themselves.
The Knowledge of God: He knows Himself
Obviously we cannot deny God knowledge of Himself without making Him less than divine. A man who knows nothing about himself needs medical attention and rest; plainly he is sick, a victim of amnesia. A man who gets himself mixed up with someone else, who imagines, for instance, that he is Napoleon or the archangel Gabriel, is evidently insane. If God is not sick or insane, He knows Himself; if, as has been shown, He is completely perfect, then He knows Himself perfectly, for ignorance of self is certainly an imperfection.
The manner of this knowledge
To put this truth more philosophically, we may point out that knowledge is the result of a union between the knower and the thing known. No matter how tempting the intellectual fare served by a teacher, the pupils remain immune to knowledge until such a time as their intellects touch this intellectual food. Knowledge cannot be poured into a student’s head; if, as the fathers of modern philosophy maintained, there is an unbridgeable chasm between the world and the intellect, then knowledge is forever impossible. We have already proved that God is supreme intelligence; for knowledge of Himself, then, all that is necessary is that He be present to His own intellect — a condition which His divine simplicity makes it impossible to avoid. He is supremely real, therefore supremely intelligible; He is supreme intelligence, therefore supremely intelligent; He is utterly simple, so that the union of intelligible and intelligence is absolute, complete.
He knows everything else: Actual and possible things.
An obvious difficulty presents itself from the fact that we do not leave our intellects at home when we go for a walk; we are certainly present to ourselves, yet we pick up the facts about ourselves like spectators. The fact is that our mere physical existence does not make us present to our intellects in the only way things can be in our intellects, that is, not physically but intelligibly, intentionally. We are potentially, not actually, intelligible to ourselves; we must judge of ourselves, as we do of other men, by the activities we see ourselves engaging in. Perhaps we could sum up both the question of knowledge and of intelligibility by pointing out that all determination is a limitation both of the degree of knowledge and of intelligibility. Because the eye is determined to no one color It can see them all; if, through the instrumentality of green glasses, we determine our eyes to one color, then we can see nothing else. If a being is absolutely determined to one form, as is a plant to its own form, then it can have no knowledge whatever; if it is indetermined in the sense of being able to receive the forms of other things through sense images, as is the animal, then it can have sense knowledge; if it is free of determination to such an extent as to be able to receive all forms as intellectual concepts, then the wide horizons of the intellectual knowledge of men and angels are opened up; while if there is no determination, no limitation, whatever, as in God, there we have supreme intelligence and supreme intelligibility. There is much more to be known about an animal than there is about a plant, for the animal is less determined, less limited; there is more to be known about man than about animals, much more to be known about angels than about men. As for God, well, in the unending act of our vision of God we shall never be finished learning what there is to be known about His absolutely unlimited reality.
The frightened penitent, after his first disastrous bout with passion, can say with real honesty, “I don’t know what made me do it; I never do such things.” Our mask of nonchalant complacency often hides real astonishment as the thought runs through our minds, “I didn’t know I had it in me.” We can and do surprise ourselves, for better or for worse. But if we picture God as gazing in astonishment at the ludicrous results of His creation we’ve entirely missed the comprehensive character of the knowledge of God; God cannot surprise Himself, He cannot be ignorant of anything about Himself without being imperfect and He cannot be imperfect without ceasing to be God.
That God should know all about Himself seems fair enough. That He should know all about everything else, particularly about ourselves, is an altogether different and decidedly disconcerting thing. Still, we make no objection to an architect’s knowledge of a house he has designed nor to a poet’s knowledge of his poem. God is the architect of the universe; He needs no instruction on the product of His creative act. He is the cause of everything of course He knows all that is.
Nor is this knowledge gathered by His peering out a window of Heaven. He needs only to look at Himself. The puzzle in this is, not that it should be so, but that we should be puzzled by its being so. The mystery of a weekend guest finding his way to the kitchen in the dark is cleared up as soon as we discover that he is the architect who designed the house. We are not at all surprised that the poet is able to explain the thought of his poem without a glance at it. Why, then, should God have to grub about the corners of the world or employ an intelligence staff to keep informed of what is going on? He knows Himself perfectly, so He knows how far His powers extend, how far they have been exercised, how far they will be exercised; all that is is His product. Everything that exists was made according to the plan of the divine architect, made to the scale laid down by the mind of God; a sinner’s rupture of diplomatic relations with divinity does not deprive God of a source of information. God sees men and women as they walk down the street, not by waiting for them to turn His corner, but as they and their every step exist in the divine mind. Nor is this an indirect or vague knowledge. Every instant of existence, every bit of reality is immediately dependent on the divine cause; moreover, every item of perfection in the universe is an imperfect mirroring of the unblemished perfection of divinity. Knowing the perfect perfectly, God knows immediately all the shades of imperfection, of limited sharing of that perfection; otherwise His very knowledge of Himself is imperfect.
This all embracing divine knowledge is the cause of all existing things, past, present and future, for they exist because of the model in the mind of the divine architect joined to the divine decree which called them from nothingness. As we have seen, in the second chapter of this book, there is no other explanation of the world about us. God’s knowledge of existing things, then, is not had by reasoning closely from a principle to a conclusion. He does not forecast them as an astronomer foretells an eclipse of the moon; God is eternal, the divine model is eternal, the divine decree is eternal and this eternity encompasses time like a cloak thrown about it. In one glance at His divine self, everything is naked and open to the eyes of God.
To say that God knows all possible things, things that could have been but will not be, is only to insist on God’s knowledge of the extent of His power, His comprehensive knowledge of His own perfection; for unless He knows in how many ways His perfections can be shared, imitated. mirrored by creation, He does not fully know Himself. There is absolutely nothing that can escape the mind of God. The thoughts of men and angels run the length of an endless road with a speed beyond measure; but the road is not long enough, nor the speed great enough to outdistance the divine mind upon which every thought, like every other reality, depends intimately, ceaselessly, ultimately. Evil is a gaping hole in reality; unless that hole be known, reality itself is not perfectly known. Obviously we do not know a man’s face if we do not know the hole in the middle of it, we do not know a fence unless we are also cognizant of the boards missing from it here and there. Evil is a defect, a privation of good; God’s perfect knowledge of good necessarily includes a knowledge of the way in which good can be or is defective.
Future conditioned things
Even the knowledge of those future conditioned things that might happen but do not is at the fingertips of God. The debutante of five years ago has had her mind made up for years to devote herself to marriage, if someone asked her; as the years go on, with the condition still unfulfilled, hope does not die in God’s heart. He has not been on tenterhooks all this time; the very condition which hides in the halls of the future depends upon the first cause of all that is or can be, not only upon its own proximate causes.
The unvarying character of this knowledge
If God is completely above all change, as He certainly is, then He does not forget things, His knowledge does not ebb and flow, He does not acquire new knowledge by keeping His eyes open, through long periods of concentration, or by eavesdropping. In a sense there are many ideas in the mind of God, in the sense, that is, that God knows many, indeed, all things; but He knows these things through His own divinely simple essence, not through a multitude of concepts. More accurately, He is His intelligence. His knowledge; and He is the immutable first.
We can sum up all this doctrine on the knowledge of God in the one profound statement: God is truth. For truth is in an intellect when that intellect knows a thing as it really is; truth is in a thing, when it measures up to the intellect which caused it; God’s essence not only measures up to His intellect, it is His intellect; God’s intellect not only knows His essence, it is His essence. This is the immutable first truth, the foundation of all other truths. Every other truth participates in this first truth or ceases to be truth: the world of reality as it measures up to the divine exemplar; created minds when, measuring up to the world of reality, they get a glimpse of the divine exemplar. When we touch upon truth we are in the shadow of divinity; when we embrace it, we are ennobled by the contact to a degree easily recognizable by all men. In the world of reason, love of truth produces the philosopher; in the world of affairs it produces the gentleman; in the world of grace it produces the saint. The respect given these men is the spontaneous tribute given to divine messengers. Humanity doffs its cap or makes its curtsey and goes its way with renewed hope; God is truth.
Some sources of modern difficulties
Thus far, in exploring the divine knowledge, we have used only the compasses and guide books of philosophy. All that has been said is an inevitable implication of the proof for the existence of God. The mind of man can go thus far unaided, though there is authority at hand to help those who are prevented by circumstance from following the philosophical argument. Yet the contrast between the modern philosophical limitation or denial of divine knowledge and the all including sweep of divine knowledge we have portrayed is so great as to be a little ludicrous. Even more striking is the determined, and patent, resistance against the acceptance of a really divine knowledge in God. If reason can come to grasp the fact of this divine knowledge, why does the reason of so many highly trained men make such a desperate fight against this truth of reason?
The thing is puzzling. Certainly we cannot uncover reasons to justify this modern stand, for there are no valid arguments to justify an attack on truth. We may, however, be able to understand it to some extent by seeing something of the very human weaknesses that creep in to color the thoughts of men. There are a great number of these, perhaps for the most part not fully realized. Thus, for example, an understandable conceit or intellectual pride may move a man to blind boasting about the human mind, as when he insists that the mind of man, as the peak of evolution, is the measuring stick of all knowledge, thc supreme rule which simply cannot admit a superior; on the other hand, the same pride may be at the root of a pathetic eagerness to deny all intellectuality, all validity of the intellectual efforts of man. In this last case, the evident weakness of our best efforts has so discouraged the modern thinker that he indulges in the petty gesture of despair that strives to chain man down to the world of animals; at least here he can be the biggest frog in the pond. Surely some of this resistance to truth can be traced to a timid snobbery evident in the mob fear of obstructing the wheels of progress, of not paying the full meed of worship to the scientific method, of being old-fashioned. Certainly fear plays its part. We like to have a few dark corners in which to stow away the unpleasant litter of life; human life, without a basement or an attic where things can be hidden away and forgotten, is a fearful thing. To have to stand up, in the clear light of our own knowledge and the much clearer light of another’s perfect knowledge, and face the responsibilities of all our actions every minute of every day, admit they clang out in the halls of eternity for all time — this is a bit too much to demand of human courage.
Perhaps the most seductive element in this resistance is the apparent comfort, the alluring softness of the doctrines of psychological mechanism, evolution and positivism; they assure us that we are as free as a bird, which is to say that we are not free at all. We are offered escape from responsibility at the cost of our humanity. The subjective sentimentalities of the various forms of humanism are the deceptive resemblances of a decadent nobility; their superficial interest in man has the appearance of nobility, but without nobility’s mind and heart. For communal groupings of men and their aspirations which leave the individual out of consideration, losing him in a fog or crushing him in a crowd, have no solid claim to the respect of men; the individual must not, cannot, be lost, not even a hair of his head is unimportant enough not to be numbered. To attack the truth of God in the name of man on this basis may be sentimentally attractive in some strange way; but the attraction is a soft, decadent, effeminate thing, repulsive to the touch.
Man’s knowledge of God: The effects of God
God knows us inside and out because He made us. What do we know of God? In attacking this question, we can safely put aside the modern aberrations of a man-made, a human or an inhuman god and honestly face the facts; after all, these things have been sufficiently refuted in the second chapter of this book. In the light of the facts and the proofs already offered, it must be clear that we can know God from the world as we know an author from his book, as we know any cause from its effects. This is the sole knowledge we have been using thus far in our discussion on the nature and attributes of God. We have seen that it necessarily involves the removal of the limitation or imperfection of the creature from our concept of the perfections of God; it means the tracing of every perfection in the universe to God, but understanding these perfections to be analogically in God, in an eminent fashion, somewhat as the beauty of a poem is in a poet. This is rock bottom knowledge. It is absolutely dependable; it starts from the most indisputable of facts and goes no farther than those facts allow, or rather than those facts insist upon.
From what this solidly certain knowledge has told us of God, it is immediately evident that God can tell us things about Himself. We have seen Him as supremely intelligent, knowing Himself perfectly, the first truth. Obviously then, He cannot deceive Himself. Clearly God cannot be guilty of silly boasting or a downright lie; He is truth itself. He can tell us things about Himself; and those things will always be true. This is the knowledge of God which comes to us by way of revelation.
Direct vision of God
There is yet another possibility. Can man know God, not indirectly through his effects, not darkly through faith in revelation, but clearly, openly, directly, face to face, through the immediate union of his intellect to the divine essence? The very question itself is a refutation of the idea that God is a fictional sop given in kindly pity to the little weak ones unable to munch the solid food of truth; it is not the weak, the defeated, the cowardly who advance boldly to peer at divinity itself, it is the violent who storm the kingdom of heaven for a direct vision of the beauty of God.
Possibility of this vision
Quite frankly, this idea of seeing God face to face is so high and bold that it probably would never have occurred to the mind of a man left to himself. The solid basis of the affirmative answer to the question is not the facts of the sensible world, not the firm steps of intellectual proof, but simply and solely the authority of God, the word of Him Who can neither deceive nor be deceived. (1) The supernatural is not to be reached by the instrumentality of any created thing; it is utterly, wholly above nature, the proper field of God.
From our side, once the possibility has been revealed to us, we can readily see how beautifully the vision harmonizes, perfects, completes our nature. For here is the ultimate quenching of our thirst to get at the cause of things, here the ultimate answer to our perpetual “why,” here is the ultimate peace for that intellectual restlessness that refuses to be satisfied with anything the world of nature has to offer. Here is a fulfillment of our potentialities for all truth, a fulfillment so great that its abundance can be accommodated only by the gift of still greater potentialities within us. In this vision is the goal of our searching, the home for our wandering feet, the quiet for our clamoring heart; only God can offer us these things, and only by this vision can we directly, immediately come home to God.
Coming down to particulars and attempting to be objective about the question, we take John Jones as the average man. How is he going to see God? He has a fine, sharp pair of eyes, but they will be of no help to him; God is not a body and so not to be seen with bodily eyes. John Jones has a good enough mind when he can whip up the energy to use it; but again, this is not sufficient. How can God be seen through any image or concept? What finite concept can show us the infinite God as He is in Himself? Before this infinite essence all the natural powers of our intellect are as helpless as the eyes of an owl in the midday sun; this light is too bright to be seen in its undiminished brilliance by the eyes of our minds. What is known is in the mind of the knower in the way that is peculiarly proper to him. So a man can know sand and sugar; in a sense these are in his mind, not scratching or scarring it but ennobled by it, lifted up to its immaterial, universal level. In the same way a man must know all other things; what is beneath him must be lifted up to his level, what is above him must be dragged down to his level and taken apart that it might be carried through the narrow door of a human mind. God, brought down to the level of the human mind, is not God seen as He is in himself. For this, the human mind must be lifted to a higher level as a child is hoisted up to see over a crowd; our mind must be lifted up to the heights of divinity and by the strength of One Who is divine. That supernatural help given to the mind of man in order that it might see God is called by theologians “the light of glory.”
Object of this vision: The divine essence and all formally contained in it.
Perched thus on the shoulder of God, head and shoulders over the world, we look at a sight that opens our eyes wide with awe — and which will keep them so for all of eternity. By this vision we see the unveiled beauty of God; not just a shining part of it, not an unending succession of its splendors, but all of it at once. It can be no other way, for God is simple; you must see all of Him or see Him not at all. The magnificence of that beauty is eternity’s secret; the eye has not seen, nor has the ear heard, nor has it entered the mind of man to conceive it. Some faint shadow of it is thrown across our lives, however, in the glimpses we get into the gallantry of courage, the splendor of love, the sincerity of sacrifice. In the knowledge of what these faint, distorted images of divinity can do to our heart we have a foretaste of the rapture of the blessed in heaven. There it will not be the image but the original; we shall see all of it, though our finite minds, even with divine help, will never be able to exhaust, to comprehend the infinitude of that divine perfection.
The perfections of creatures
As a matter of fact, we shall see a great deal we missed on earth for in heaven our insight into the perfections of creatures will not be limited to territory of a few squares in a city, of a few miles in a country or of a few years of life. God has in Himself all the perfections of creatures: the full story of the thoughts, hopes, and struggles of those closest to our heart, a detailed account of the complicated laws of the universe. All these we shall see: not exhaustively, for that would be to comprehend the plans of God; not equally, but in proportion to the degree of that supernatural help which is the light of glory; not by images or concepts, but as God sees them, in His very essence. And we shall see them, not bit by bit, day by day, year by year, but all at once. This, however, is the work of heaven and the proper material of the second and fourth volumes of this work.
The achievement of this vision
Earlier in this chapter it was said that the contrast between the affirmative and negative answers to the question of God’s knowledge was so great as to be ludicrous. When we turn to the implications of these two answers for the living of human life, the contrast is utterly tragic, so tragic, indeed, that the choice made by the modern thinker numbs the mind with its horror. Only a kind of madness could lead men into even a moment’s hesitation between the two answers.
Freedom and slavery
The one answer sets a man free; the other enslaves him. In the divine knowledge, as we have portrayed it, we have an invitation to enjoy the utmost limits of our possibilities. We are not only privileged to wander up and down the highways of the universe finding knowledge where we can, our mind is given wings to soar to heights undreamed of by any mind in nature. The modern philosopher limits our possibilities of knowledge to the sense level of a high grade animal; he not only puts the mind in the limited area of nature’s jail, forbidding its flight to the heights of divinity, he builds a partition across the cell, further narrowing the space. There we can pace back and forth until we have driven ourselves insane.
Inspiration and despair
The one answer to the question of divine knowledge is an inspiration; the other is a condemnation to despair. The one throws open the gates of all desire, putting no limits to what we can desire because it puts no limits to what we can know. It offers us the completion of our human nature, its fulfillment; it assigns reasons for individual dignity, for individual self-respect, for a personal goal and so for a life with a distinctive personal meaning. The other offers us the opposite of all these things. We are counselled to lose ourselves in a mass, a process, a group; to strive for an impersonal goal, to live a meaningless life of bitter, hopeless striving to inevitable defeat and oblivion.
Humility and conceit
The one answer confers on us the nobility of humility’s truth; the other wraps us about with the pettiness of conceit. The one demands a recognition of our responsibilities, our privileges, our possibilities, our realities; yes, and of our failures, our defeats, our dangers, the battle we must face. But it also sees the possibility of success and of a victory well worth all the danger, the struggle, all the intermediate failures. The other invites us to eat our meals by candle light in order to create the theatrical air of romance, to destroy the mirrors about the house that we might the better hug the illusion of our peerless beauty, to close our eyes that we might contemplate only the illusion of our beauty and might the better deny perfection to everything else.
Courage and fear
The one is a courageous answer. Only a brave man can face his life knowing how open every detail of it is to the eyes of God. Only a very brave man, with a full knowledge of his own defects, could aim at a direct vision of God. Bravery is not without its compensations, particularly in this matter. For the brave answer does give a meaning to things, does bring the assurance that an intelligence is directing the world and all in it. This brave man knows what it is all about, where he is going, and why and how. The other answer is so timid an answer as to be despairing. The man who has made this answer his own faces the terror of the unknown, a terror increased by the conviction that this unknown is unknowable, or even is devoid of all meaning. The world he faces has all the terror of darkness where light would reveal worse horror, the terror of blind, resistless force, of being hopelessly at the mercy of the unfeeling sweep of the elements or of a god gone mad.
The vision of God and life
There is much truth in the statement that man cannot see God and live. Surely he cannot know God and merely plod through the bare routine of existence; he cannot know God and not have his heart moved to high things by the vision of the horizons of hope, of courage, of golden goals such knowledge opens up to him. He cannot know God and miss the greatness of man. It is even more profoundly true that man cannot live without seeing God, for he cannot see man in the vague twilight of a godless world, he cannot see a goal towards which life can advance, he cannot see an instrument of action that will not crumble in his hands. Perhaps the greatest horror of this murky world is not what cannot be seen, but what can be seen, for it is a world divorced from the first truth and so devoid of all truth.
(1) Sacred Scripture gives explicit testimony to this direct vision: I John, ch. 3, v. 2: “We shall see him as he is.” Matt. ch. 5, v. 8: “Blessed are the clean of heart for they shall see God.” Cf. Matt. ch. 18, v. 10; I Cor. ch. 13, v. 12.
The definitions of the Church are no less explicit: thus the Constitution Benedictus Deus of Benedict XII (Denzinger, Enchiridion Symbolorum, #530): “. . . they (the dead) see the divine essence by an intuitive vision, face to face, without the medium of any other creature; but the divine essence shows itself immediately to them, nakedly, clearly, openly….” Cf. Council of Florence (Ibid., #693).