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NPNF1-03. On the Holy Trinity; Doctrinal Treatises; Moral Treatises
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Chapter 5.—The Trinity of the Outer Man, or of External Vision, is Not an Image of God. The Likeness of God is Desired Even in Sins. In External Vision the Form of the Corporeal Thing is as It Were the Parent, Vision the Offspring; But the Will that Unites These Suggests the Holy Spirit.

8. But as, when [both] the form and species of a body have perished, the will cannot recall to it the sense of perceiving; so, when the image which memory bears is blotted out by forgetfulness, the will will be unable to force back the eye of the mind by recollection, so as to be formed thereby. But because the mind has great power to imagine not only things forgotten, but also things that it never saw, or experienced, either by increasing, or diminishing, or changing, or compounding, after its pleasure, those which have not dropped out of its remembrance, it often imagines things to be such as either it knows they are not, or does not know that they are. And in this case we have to take care, lest it either speak falsely that it may deceive, or hold an opinion so as to be deceived. And if it avoid these two evils, then imagined phantasms do not hinder it: just as sensible things experienced or retained by memory do not hinder it, if they are neither passionately sought for when pleasant, nor basely shunned when unpleasant. But when the will leaves better things, and greedily wallows in these, then it becomes unclean; and they are so thought of hurtfully, when they are present, and also more hurtfully when they are absent. And he therefore lives badly and degenerately who lives according to the trinity of the outer man; because it is the purpose of using things sensible and corporeal, that has begotten also that trinity, which although it imagines within, yet imagines things without. For no one could use those things even well, unless the images of things perceived by the senses were retained in the memory. And unless the will for the greatest part dwells in the higher and interior things, and unless that will itself, which is accommodated either to bodies without, or to the images of them within, refers whatever it receives in them to a better and truer life, and rests in that end by gazing at which it judges that those things ought to be done; what else do we do, but that which the apostle prohibits us from doing, when he says, “Be not conformed to this world”?734734    Rom. xii. 2 And therefore that trinity is not an image of God since it is produced in the mind itself through the bodily sense, from the lowest, that is, the corporeal creature, than which the mind is higher. Yet neither is it altogether dissimilar: for what is there that has not a likeness of God, in proportion to its kind and measure, seeing that God made all things very good,735735    Ecclus. xxxix. 16 and for no other reason except that He Himself is supremely good? In so far, therefore, as anything that is, is good, in so far plainly it has still some likeness of the supreme good, at however great a distance; and if a natural likeness, then certainly a right and well-ordered one; but if a faulty likeness, then certainly a debased and perverse one. For even souls in their very sins strive after nothing else but some kind of likeness of God, in a proud and preposterous, and, so to say, slavish liberty. So neither could our first parents have been persuaded to sin unless it had been said, “Ye shall be as gods.”736736    Gen. iii. 5 No doubt every thing in the creatures which is in any way like God, is not also to be called His image; but that alone than which He Himself alone is higher. For that only is in all points copied from Him, between which and Himself no nature is interposed.

9. Of that vision then; that is, of the form which is wrought in the sense of him who sees; the form of the bodily thing from which it is wrought, is, as it were, the parent. But it is not a true parent; whence neither is that a true offspring; for it is not altogether born therefrom, since something else is applied to the bodily thing in order that it may be formed from it, namely, the sense of him who sees. And for this reason, to love this is to be estranged.737737    Vid. Retract. Bk. II. c. 15, where Augustin adds that it is possible to love the bodily species to the praise of the Creator, in which case there is no “estrangement.” Therefore the will which unites both, viz. the quasi-parent and the quasi-child, is more spiritual than either of them. For that bodily thing which is discerned, is not spiritual at all. But the vision which comes into existence in the sense, has something spiritual mingled with it, since it cannot come into existence without the soul. But it is not wholly spiritual; since that which is formed is a sense of the body. Therefore the will which unites both is confessedly more spiritual, as I have said; and so it begins to suggest (insinuare), as it were, the person of the Spirit in the Trinity. But it belongs more to the sense that is formed, than to the bodily thing whence it is formed. For the sense and will of an animate being belongs to the soul, not to the stone or other bodily thing that is seen. It does not therefore proceed from that bodily thing as from a parent; yet neither does it proceed from that other as it were offspring, namely, the vision and form that is in the sense. For the will existed before the vision came to pass, which will applied the sense that was to be formed to the bodily thing that was to be discerned; but it was not yet satisfied. For how could that which was not yet seen satisfy? And satisfaction means a will that rests content. And, therefore, we can neither call the will the quasi-offspring of vision, since it existed before vision; nor the quasi-parent, since that vision was not formed and expressed from the will, but from the bodily thing that was seen.


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