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NPNF1-03. On the Holy Trinity; Doctrinal Treatises; Moral Treatises
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Chapter 10.—Concerning the Word of the Mind, in Which We See the Word of God, as in a Glass and an Enigma.

17. But let us now speak of those things of which we think as known, and have in our knowledge even if we do not think of them; whether they belong to the contemplative knowledge, which, as I have argued, is properly to be called wisdom, or to the active which is properly to be called knowledge. For both together belong to one mind, and are one image of God. But when we treat of the lower of the two distinctly and separately, then it is not to be called an image of God, although even then, too, some likeness of that Trinity may be found in it; as we showed in the thirteenth book. We speak now, therefore, of the entire knowledge of man altogether, in which whatever is known to us is known; that, at any rate, which is true; otherwise it would not be known. For no one knows what is false, except when he knows it to be false; and if he knows this, then he knows what is true: for it is true that that is false. We treat, therefore, now of those things which we think as known, and which are known to us even if they are not being thought of. But certainly, if we would utter them in words, we can only do so by thinking them. For although there were no words spoken, at any rate, he who thinks speaks in his heart. And hence that passage in the book of Wisdom: “They said within themselves, thinking not aright.”971971    Wisd. ii. 1 For the words, “They said within themselves,” are explained by the addition of “thinking.” A like passage to this is that in the Gospel,—that certain scribes, when they heard the Lord’s words to the paralytic man, “Be of good cheer, my son, thy sins are forgiven thee,” said within themselves, “This man blasphemeth.” For how did they “say within themselves,” except by thinking? Then follows, “And when Jesus saw their thoughts, He said, Why think ye evil in your thoughts?”972972    Matt. ix. 2–4 So far Matthew. But Luke narrates the same thing thus: “The scribes and Pharisees began to think, saying, Who is this that speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone? But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, He, answering, said unto them, What think ye in your hearts?”973973    Luke v. 21, 22 That which in the book of Wisdom is, “They said, thinking,” is the same here with, “They thought, saying.” For both there and here it is declared, that they spake within themselves, and in their own heart, i.e. spake by thinking. For they “spake within themselves,” and it was said to them, “What think ye?” And the Lord Himself says of that rich man whose ground brought forth plentifully, “And he thought within himself, saying.”974974    Luke xii. 17

18. Some thoughts, then, are speeches of the heart, wherein the Lord also shows that there is a mouth, when He says, “Not that which entereth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which proceedeth out of the mouth, that defileth a man.” In one sentence He has comprised two diverse mouths of the man, one of the body, one of the heart. For assuredly, that from which they thought the man to be defiled, enters into the mouth of the body; but that from which the Lord said the man was defiled, proceedeth out of the mouth of the heart. So certainly He Himself explained what He had said. For a little after, He says also to His disciples concerning the same thing: “Are ye also yet without understanding? Do ye not understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?” Here He most certainly pointed to the mouth of the body. But in that which follows He plainly speaks of the mouth of the heart, where He says, “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts,”975975    Matt. xv. 10–20 etc. What is clearer than this explanation? And yet, when we call thoughts speeches of the heart, it does not follow that they are not also acts of sight, arising from the sight of knowledge, when they are true. For when these things are done outwardly by means of the body, then speech and sight are different things; but when we think inwardly, the two are one,—just as sight and hearing are two things mutually distinct in the bodily senses, but to see and hear are the same thing in the mind; and hence, while speech is not seen but rather heard outwardly, yet the inward speeches, i.e. thoughts, are said by the holy Gospel to have been seen, not heard, by the Lord. “They said within themselves, This man blasphemeth,” says the Gospel; and then subjoined, “And when Jesus saw their thoughts.” Therefore He saw, what they said. For by His own thought He saw their thoughts, which they supposed no one saw but themselves.

19. Whoever, then, is able to understand a word, not only before it is uttered in sound, but also before the images of its sounds are considered in thought,—for this it is which belongs to no tongue, to wit, of those which are called the tongues of nations, of which our Latin tongue is one;—whoever, I say, is able to understand this, is able now to see through this glass and in this enigma some likeness of that Word of whom it is said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”976976    John i. 1 For of necessity, when we speak what is true, i.e. speak what we know, there is born from the knowledge itself which the memory retains, a word that is altogether of the same kind with that knowledge from which it is born. For the thought that is formed by the thing which we know, is the word which we speak in the heart: which word is neither Greek nor Latin, nor of any other tongue. But when it is needful to convey this to the knowledge of those to whom we speak, then some sign is assumed whereby to signify it. And generally a sound, sometimes a nod, is exhibited, the former to the ears, the latter to the eyes, that the word which we bear in our mind may become known also by bodily signs to the bodily senses. For what is to nod or beckon, except to speak in some way to the sight? And Holy Scripture gives its testimony to this; for we read in the Gospel according to John: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. Then the disciples looked one upon another, doubting of whom He spake. Now there was leaning on Jesus’ breast one of His disciples whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter therefore beckons to him, and says to him, Who is it of whom He speaks?”977977    John xiii. 21–24 Here he spoke by beckoning what he did not venture to speak by sounds. But whereas we exhibit these and the like bodily signs either to ears or eyes of persons present to whom we speak, letters have been invented that we might be able to converse also with the absent; but these are signs of words, as words themselves are signs in our conversation of those things which we think.


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