God, Intuition of

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The intuition of God refers to an immediate apprehension of God as He is in Himself. Since God is a spirit, this intuition cannot be a sense perception, but must be an act of the intellect knowing God directly, immediately, as object.

Some modern philosophers speak of an obscure intuition of God in that primordial intuition of self as contingent being (being-with-nothingness) and as part of a larger whole that is also being-with-nothingness. This whole demands as sufficient reason for its existing, the existence of another being, who is being-without-nothingness, Absolute Being. This is not a direct apprehension of God as object, however, but rather an intuitive experience of the contingency of being-with-nothingness, which leads the mind to recognize the necessary existence of Absolute Being.

The mystics speak of an intuition of God in infused contemplation, but all admit that this supernatural experience of God as He is in Himself is given in the darkness of faith and is not an immediate, direct apprehension of the divine essence. If this is so, is intuition of God possible for a created intellect?

Revelation. Man's vocation to the intimacy of friendship with God is found in the OT. The full revelation that those who love God will so share in His life and beatitude that they will "see" Him in His Godhead is not given until the coming of the word into the world as God-Man, and the special mission of the Holy Spirit to the New Israel. The intuition of God, in the strict sense, is realized only in this supernatural intellectual vision of God as He is in Himself, known as the beatific vision, because it gives its possessor a created share in God's own happiness. This immediate and intimate knowledge of the triune God and of the Word Incarnate is, in fact, the fullness of eternal life (cf. Jn 17.3; 1 Jn 3.2). Except for Christ [ see jesus christ, iii (special questions), 1,6], the God-Man, this vision is reserved to the next life and is given only to those who die in the friendship of God and after their purification, should they need such purification (cf. 1 Cor 13.12; Mt 5.8; Heb 12.14).

Development. The Church's faith in the beatific vision as the ultimate end of all who die in Christ was firm from the beginning. In the development of this doctrine, she became fully aware that since the Ascension of Christ into heaven, the beatific vision is given to souls who die in grace as soon as they have been purified and before their resurrection. In his definition of the immediacy of the beatific vision, since the Passion and death of Christ, for all who die in grace (including those who died before the Incarnation), Pope Benedict XII declared that even before the resumption of their bodies and the general judgment, these souls "have beheld and do behold the divine essence with intuitive and face-to-face vision, with no creature mediating in the manner of object seen, but the divine essence immediately showing itself to them plainly, clearly, and openly, and seeing in this way, they have full enjoyment of that same divine essence." Moreover, this "intuitive, face-to-face vision and enjoyment exists continuously without any interruption to the last judgment and from then on forever" (H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum, ed. A. Schönmetzer [32d ed. Freiburg 1963] 100001). The Council of Florence gave further precision to this doctrine by defining that these souls "see clearly the triune and one God Himself, just as He is, yet one more perfectly than another, according to the diversity of merits" (Enchiridion symbolorum 130405).

Theology. All knowledge requires a union of knower and known on the ontological level of the knower, but no created idea of God can be God known as He is in Himself. Therefore, for a created intellect to know the divine essence, that intellect must be united directly to God so that the divine essence itself, as the object understood, actuates the intellect to the act of knowing. For such an act of knowing, the knower must be assimilated supernaturally to the triune God. Now all created gifts of grace are effected in the soul by God both as the consequence of, and the disposition for, His gift of Himself to His intellectual creature. Grace and charity are a beginning of assimilation to the Godhead and have as their finality the beatific vision. For this vision, however, the intellect must be further strengthened and perfected by the light of glory, that supernatural actuation of the created intellect which disposes it for the act of seeing God and for immediate union with God seen. Although only God can know Himself as much as He is knowable, all the blessed know God as He is in Himself, but some more perfectly than others. Those who love God more, share more in the light of glory, and so have a greater power of knowing Him (cf. Council of Vienne, Enchiridion symbolorum 895; Summa theologiae 1a, 12; 2a2ae, 2328; 3a Suppl., 92, 93; C. gent. 3.52, 53; Comp. theol. 2.810).

See Also: benedictus deus; created actuation by uncreated act; destiny, supernatural; elevation of man; glorified body; ontologism; resurrection of the dead.

Bibliography: a. michel, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique 7.2:235194. r. schnackenburg and k. forster, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d new ed. Freiburg 195765) 1:583591. m. j. scheeben, The Mysteries of Christianity, tr. c. vollert (St. Louis 1946). m. de la taille, The Hypostatic Union and Created Actuation by Uncreated Act (West Baden, Ind. 1952). k. rahner, "Some Implications of the Scholastic Concept of Uncreated Grace," Theological Investigations, tr. c. ernst (Baltimore 1961) 1:319346.

[m. j. redle]