“The mind cannot penetrate to a vision of God’s essence”

God is progressively better known to the extent that he is known as further removed from everything that appears in his effects. That is why Dionysius says in The Divine Names that he is known as the cause of all things, by placing him above them, and by denying them of him. For this advance in knowledge the human mind receives its greatest help when its natural light is strengthened by a new illumination, such as the light of faith, of the gift of wisdom, and of the gift of understanding, thanks to which, as has been said, the mind is raised above itself in contemplation, knowing that God is above everything it can naturally comprehend. But the mind cannot penetrate to a vision of God’s essence. It is also said that the mind is, as it were, driven back upon itself by the brightness of that light. That is why Gregory, glossing the passage of Genesis (32:30), where Jacob says ‘I have seen God face to face,’ observes that ‘When the eye of the soul turns to God it recoils at the flash of his immensity.’

St Thomas Aquinas

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