Infused knowledge is that knowledge that is not acquired by personal effort nor by the instruction of others, but rather is produced directly in a created mind by some angelic or divine illumination. Its distinguishing characteristic is its mode of acquisition and not its subject matter, which can be either natural or supernatural truths. Infused knowledge should also be distinguished from connatural knowledge, such as the angels are sometimes presumed to possess, in that infused knowledge is not necessarily or inseparably associated with the intellect endowed with it.
Whatever is to be said of an angel's ability to infuse knowledge into other minds, there is no doubt that God can do so. To what extent He actually does so is more difficult to determine. Theologians plausibly assume some infusion of knowledge is involved in the initial revelation of supernatural truths such as that given to Adam, the Patriarchs, the Prophets, and so on. Though Scripture often describes God or His angelic messengers as speaking audibly, or appearing in some physical guise, to man (Gn3.8–9; 4.6; 18.1; 22.11, 15–19; Ex 3.4), it also mentions internal communications of God, or an angel, coming "in a dream by night" (Gn 20.3; Mt 1.20; 2.13, 22). In such instances God could "speak internally" or work directly upon the mind (cf. 2 Cor 12.1–4). Even if God imparted knowledge by audible sounds, some inner illumination would be required to make the recipient certain that God Himself is speaking.
Theologians commonly teach not only that Christ's human soul enjoyed the beatific vision from the first moment of its creation but also that Christ's human mind was infused with the highest possible degree of natural and supernatural knowledge. Texts like that of Luke 2.52 are referred either to the external manifestation of this knowledge or to Christ's experimental knowledge, viz, that acquired through the medium of His mental faculties and bodily senses.
Before human evolution came to be widely accepted, Adam was generally cited as another instance where natural knowledge was infused. Created in the full bloom of manhood, so the argument went, he must be endowed with such knowledge as befitted his status as head of the human race. This would include not only the primitive supernatural revelation but also at least such natural knowledge as a mature man would require. But if man is viewed in an evolutionary context, the need for infused natural knowledge is less apparent. Since man's mental development, however, is ordinarily linguistically conditioned, where no previous language existed some infused knowledge would still seem to be required.
Infused knowledge frequently figures in the rich and varied speculations of scholastic philosophers and theologians as to how angelic spirits or departed souls communicate with one another or acquire new knowledge, particularly about the material universe.
Bibliography: a. michel, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 1903–50; Tables générales 1951– ) 1.1:371; 8.2:2028; 14.2:1653–57. thomas aquinas, Studia theologiae, 3a, 11. Sacrae theologiae summa, ed. Fathers of the Society of Jesus, Professors of the Theological Faculties in Spain, 4 v. (Madrid), v. 1 (5th ed. 1962), v. 2 (3d ed. 1958), v. 3 (4th ed. 1961), v. 4 (4th ed. 1962); Biblioteca de autores cristianos (Madrid 1945– ) 3:1, 265–304.
[a. b. wolter]