ERASMUS. I have heard you say, Theophilus, that God is a
cause of all things, and, at the same time, that he
can be no other than an Immanent cause. Now, if he is an
immanent cause of all things, how then can you
call him a remote [N1] cause? For, that is impossible in the
case of an Immanent cause.
[Note N1]: B: prior.
THEOPHILUS. When I said that God is a remote [N1] cause,
I only said it with reference to the things [which God has
produced mediately, and not with reference to those] which
God (without any other conditions beyond his mere
existence) has produced immediately; but on no account did
I mean to call him a remote cause absolutely: as you might
also have clearly gathered from my remarks. For, I also
said that in some respects we can call him a remote cause.
[Note N1]: B: prior.
ERASMUS. I understand now adequately what you want
to say; but I note also that you have said, that the
effect of the [N1] immanent cause remains united
with its cause in such a way that together
they constitute a whole. Now, if this is so, then,
methinks, God cannot be an immanent cause. For, if he
and that which is produced by him together form a whole,
then you ascribe to God at one time more essence than at
another time. I pray you, remove these doubts for me.
[Note N1]: B: an.
THEOPHILUS If, Erasmus, you want to extricate
yourself from this confusion, then mark well what I am
going to tell you now. The essence of a thing does not
increase through its union with another thing with which
it constitutes a whole; on the contrary, the first remains
unchanged. I will give you an illustration, so that you may
understand me the better. An image-carver has made from
wood various forms after the likeness of the parts of the
human body; he takes one of these, which has the form of a
human breast, joins it to another, which has the form of a
human head, and of these two he makes a whole, which
represents the upper part of a human body; would you
therefore say that the essence of the head has increased
because it has been joined to the breast? That would be
erroneous, because it is the
same that it was before. For the sake of greater
clearness let me give you another illustration, namely, an
idea that I have of a triangle, and another resulting
from an extension of one of the angles, which extended
or extending angle is necessarily equal to the two
interior opposite angles, and so forth. These, I say,
have produced a new idea, namely, that the three angles
of the triangle are equal to two right angles. This idea
is so connected with the first, that it can neither be, nor
be conceived without the same. [N1] Mark well now that
although the new idea is joined to the preceding one,
the essence of the preceding idea does not undergo any
change in consequence; on the contrary, it remains
without the slightest change. The same you may also observe
in every idea which produces love in itself: this love
in no way adds to the essence of the idea. But why
multiply illustrations? since you can see it clearly in
the subject which I have been illustrating and which
we are discussing now. I have distinctly stated that all
attributes, which depend on no other cause, and whose
definition requires no genus pertain to the essence of
God; and since the created things are not competent
to establish an attribute, they do not increase the essence
of God, however intimately they become united to him.
Add to this, that "whole" is but a
thing of reason, and
does not differ from the general except in this alone that
the general results from various Disconnected
individuals, the Whole, from various United individuals;
also in this, that the General only comprises parts of
the same kind, but the Whole, parts both the same and
different in kind. [N2]
[Note N1]: A continues: And of all ideas which any one has
we make a whole, or (which is the same) a
thing of reason,
which we call Understanding.
[Note N2]: B: ... the general results from various unconnected
individuals of the same kind; but the whole from various connected
individuals different as well as the same in kind.
ERASMUS. So far as this is concerned you have
satisfied me. But, in addition to this, you have also said, that
the effect of the [N1] inner cause cannot perish so long as its
cause lasts; this, I well see, is certainly true, but [N2] if this
is so, then how can God be an inner cause of all things,
seeing that many things perish? After your previous
distinction you will say, that God is really a cause
of the effects which he has produced
immediately, without any other conditions
except his attributes alone; and that these
cannot perish so long as their cause endures;
but that you do not call God an inner cause
of the effects whose existence does not
depend on him immediately, but which have
come into being through some other thing,
except in so far as their causes do not
operate, and cannot operate, without God, nor
also outside him,[N3] and that for this reason also, since
they are not produced immediately by God, they can perish.
But this does not satisfy me. For I see that you conclude,
that the human understanding is immortal, because it is a
product which God has produced in himself. Now it is
impossible that more than the attributes of God should have
been necessary in order to produce such an understanding;
for, in order to be a being of such supreme perfection, it
must have been created from eternity, just like all other
things which depend immediately on God. And I have heard
you say so, if I am not mistaken. And this being so, how
will you reconcile [N4] this without leaving over any difficulties?
[Note N1]: B: an.
[Note N2]: B: this, I see, is not true, because if...
[Note N3]: B: without and outside him.
[Note N4]: B: explain.
THEOPHILUS. It is true, Erasmus, that the things (for
the existence of which no other thing is required, except the
attributes of God) which have been created immediately by
him have been created from eternity. It is to be remarked,
however, that although in order that a thing may exist
there is required a special modification and [N1] a thing beside
the attributes of God, for all that, God does not cease to be
able to produce a thing immediately. For, of the necessary
things which are required to bring things [N2] into existence,
some are there in order that they should produce the thing, and others
in order that the thing should be capable of being
produced. For example, I want to have light in a certain
room; I kindle a light, and this lights up the room through
itself; or I open a window [shutter], now this act of opening
does not itself give light, but still it brings it about that the
light can enter the room. [N3] Likewise in order to set a body in
motion another body is required that shall have all the
motion that is to pass from it to the other. But in order to
produce in us an idea of God there is no need for another
special thing that shall have what is to be produced in us,
but only such a body in Nature whose idea is necessary
in order to represent God immediately. This you could also
have gathered from my remarks: for I said that God is only
known through himself, and not through something else.
However, I tell you this, that so long as we have not such a
clear idea of God as shall unite us with him in such a way
that it will not let us love anything beside him, we cannot
truly say that we are united with God, so as to depend
immediately on him. If there is still anything that you may
have to ask, leave it for another time; just now
circumstances require me to attend to other matters.
[Note N1]: B: of.
[Note N2]: B: a thing.
[Note N3]: B: I kindle this [light], or I open a window, whereupon the room
becomes light; now the act of kindling, or of opening the room does not
produce the light, but prepares the way for the light to be able to
light up the room, or to enter it.
ERASMUS. Nothing at present, but I shall ponder what
you have just told me till the next opportunity. God be with