Whether God can be Loved Immediately in this Life
We proceed to the fourth article thus:
1. It seems that God cannot be loved immediately in this life. Augustine says (10 De Trin.1, 2): |what is unknown cannot be loved.| In this life we do not know God immediately, since |now we see through a glass, darkly| (I Cor.13:12). Neither then do we love him immediately.
2. Again, if we cannot do what is less, we cannot do what is more. Now to love God is more than to know him, since I Cor.6:17 says: |he who is joined unto the Lord [that is, by love] is one spirit| with him. But we cannot know God immediately. Much less, then, can we love God immediately.
3. Again, according to Isa.59:2: |your iniquities have separated between you and your God,| we are separated from God through sin. But sin is greater in the will than in the intellect. We are therefore less able to love God immediately than we are to know him immediately.
On the other hand: our knowledge of God is said to be dark because it is mediate, and it is evident from I Cor.13 that it will vanish away in heaven. But the same passage says that the charity of the way does not fail. Hence the charity of the way adheres immediately to God.
I answer: we said in Pt. I, Q.82, Art.2, and Q.84, Art.7 that the act of the cognitive power is complete when the thing known is in him who knows, and that the act of an appetitive power is complete when the appetite is inclined to the thing itself. The movement by which an appetitive power inclines to things is therefore in accordance with the order of things themselves, whereas the action of the cognitive power is in accordance with the manner of the knower. The order of things themselves is such that God can be both known and loved in and through himself. For God is essentially existent truth and goodness, by which other things are known and loved. But since our knowledge begins from sense, things which are nearer to sense are known first, and the term of knowledge is in that which is furthest removed from sense.
Now love is the act of an appetitive power. We must therefore say that even in this life it tends first of all to God, and is thence turned towards other things. Hence charity loves God immediately, and loves other things through God as medium. With knowledge, however, this order is reversed. For we know God through other things, as we know a cause through its effect, whether we know him by the way of eminence or by the way of negation, as Dionysius says (4 Div. Nom., lects.2, 3).
On the first point: the unknown cannot be loved. But the order of knowing and the order of love need not be the same. Love is the terminus of knowledge, and may therefore begin at the very point where knowledge comes to an end, that is, in the thing itself which is known through other things.
On the second point: love of God is more than knowledge of him, especially in this life, and therefore presupposes knowledge of him. But while knowledge seeks higher things through the medium of created things in which it cannot rest, love begins with higher things, and turns from them to other things by a kind of rotation. Knowledge begins with creatures and tends towards God. Love begins with God as its final end, and turns towards creatures.
On the third point: turning away from God is cured by charity, not by knowledge alone, and charity joins the soul to God immediately in a bond of spiritual union.