Sacred Texts  Classics  Index  Previous  Next 

Section 40

40. That there can be no intellection in the First will be patent to those that have had such contact; but some further confirmation is desirable, if indeed words can carry the matter; we need overwhelming persuasion.

It must be borne in mind that all intellection rises in some principle and takes cognisance of an object. But a distinction is to be made:

There is the intellection that remains within its place of origin; it has that source as substratum but becomes a sort of addition to it in that it is an activity of that source perfecting the potentiality there, not by producing anything but as being a completing power to the principle in which it inheres. There is also the intellection inbound with Being- Being's very author- and this could not remain confined to the source since there it could produce nothing; it is a power to production; it produces therefore of its own motion and its act is Real-Being and there it has its dwelling. In this mode the intellection is identical with Being; even in its self-intellection no distinction is made save the logical distinction of thinker and thought with, as we have often observed, the implication of plurality.

This is a first activity and the substance it produces is Essential Being; it is an image, but of an original so great that the very copy stands a reality. If instead of moving outward it remained with the First, it would be no more than some appurtenance of that First, not a self-standing existent.

At the earliest activity and earliest intellection, it can be preceded by no act or intellection: if we pass beyond this being and this intellection we come not to more being and more intellection but to what overpasses both, to the wonderful which has neither, asking nothing of these products and standing its unaccompanied self.

That all-transcending cannot have had an activity by which to produce this activity- acting before act existed- or have had thought in order to produce thinking- applying thought before thought exists- all intellection, even of the Good, is beneath it.

In sum, this intellection of the Good is impossible: I do not mean that it is impossible to have intellection of the Good- we may admit the possibility but there can be no intellection by The Good itself, for this would be to include the inferior with the Good.

If intellection is the lower, then it will be bound up with Being; if intellection is the higher, its object is lower. Intellection, then, does not exist in the Good; as a lesser, taking its worth through that Good, it must stand apart from it, leaving the Good unsoiled by it as by all else. Immune from intellection the Good remains incontaminably what it is, not impeded by the presence of the intellectual act which would annul its purity and unity.

Anyone making the Good at once Thinker and Thought identifies it with Being and with the Intellection vested in Being so that it must perform that act of intellection: at once it becomes necessary to find another principle, one superior to that Good: for either this act, this intellection, is a completing power of some such principle, serving as its ground, or it points, by that duality, to a prior principle having intellection as a characteristic. It is because there is something before it that it has an object of intellection; even in its self-intellection, it may be said to know its content by its vision of that prior.

What has no prior and no external accompaniment could have no intellection, either of itself or of anything else. What could it aim at, what desire? To essay its power of knowing? But this would make the power something outside itself; there would be, I mean, the power it grasped and the power by which it grasped: if there is but the one power, what is there to grasp at?

Next: Section 41