Knowing God by Experience

Knowing God by Experience: The Spiritual Senses in the Theology of William of Auxerre

BOYD TAYLOR COOLMAN
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 270
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt284zph
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  • Book Info
    Knowing God by Experience
    Book Description:

    This book, the first English-language monograph on William of Auxerre, traces the motif of the spiritual senses through his Summa Aurea, using it as an illuminating and unifying lens through which to appreciate his theology

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-1594-5
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-18)

    A remarkable feature of medieval scholasticism is the use by its practitioners of metaphors drawn from sense perception to characterize both theological expression and Christian experience. Scholastic authors often take up the language of the senses to differentiate theological endeavor from other modes of discourse and forms of experience. In his Summa theologica,¹ for example, “Alexander” of Hales distinguishes philosophy from theology by comparing the former to sight and the latter to taste. A half-century later and in a similar vein, Giles of Rome argues in his Expositio in Canticum canticorum that philosophical contemplation delights spiritual sight and hearing, while...

  6. PART I BEATIFIC FRUITION AS SPIRITUAL APPREHENSION
    • CHAPTER 2 A SYNAESTHETIC BEATIFIC VISION
      (pp. 21-50)

      William of auxerre’s doctrine of the spiritual senses receives its fullest elaboration in his descriptions of the beatitude experienced by the blessed in the next life (in patria). For William, beatitude is realized precisely through the activity of the spiritual senses; the doctrine, in fact, stands at the heart of his understanding of the visio Dei. Furthermore, his conception of beatitude through the spiritual senses contains the fundamental structure and constitutive components of William’s general conception of human knowledge of God and is thus paradigmatic of all such knowledge.

      William’s treatment of beatitude occurs in the fourth and final book...

  7. PART II THE OBJECTS OF SPIRITUAL APPREHENSION
    • CHAPTER 3 THE MANIFOLD EFFECTS OF THE METAPHYSICAL GOOD
      (pp. 53-71)

      As argued above, William envisions knowledge of God in patria as an apprehension of the manifold delectabilia divina through the soul’s spiritual senses. In addition, his conception of beatitude is not unrelated to the knowledge of God possible in via. In fact, the apprehension of God in patria is the culmination—literally, the fruition—of the knowledge of God begun in via. As such, it is the perfection of a kind of knowing that can be generalized to include other preliminary forms: knowledge of God, both in this life and the next, is the apprehension (cognoscere, percipere, sentire) of uncreated...

    • CHAPTER 4 THE TRINITY AS MANIFOLD DELECTABLE
      (pp. 72-90)

      In his treatise on beatitude, a central feature of William’s doctrine of the knowledge of God is the assumption that the spiritual sense(s) have multiple objects. He described these objects variously, as pulchritudo, simphonia, odor, dulcedo, and suavitas, among others, and referred to them collectively as delectabilia divina. Yet, he also emphasized the singularity of the divine object of knowledge: though encountered in manifold ways, God nevertheless remains in William’s view a single object of spiritual perception. In that treatise, William offers no justification for this “manifold singularity.” In his ex professo treatment of the divine nature in Book I...

    • CHAPTER 5 CREATION: The Manifestation of the Delectabilia Divina
      (pp. 91-108)

      For william, the possibility of knowledge of God through God’s created effects is grounded in his doctrine of exemplarity,¹ which he introduced while describing the personal properties of the Son. William’s exemplarism posits an analogy between created and uncreated reality, on the basis of which he justifies predicating of God characteristics found in created reality. To speak, as he did in discussing beatitude, of divine suavitas, dulcedo, calor, pulchrum, or symphonia as the objects of the spiritual senses is, of course, to take up language and concepts drawn from creation. William’s doctrine of exemplarity will be examined here in detail,...

  8. PART III THE VIRTUES OF SPIRITUAL APPREHENSION
    • CHAPTER 6 FAITH: Knowledge of God in a Visual Mode
      (pp. 111-138)

      As we have seen, for William beatitude is the apprehension in the next life of the Trinity, its manifold delectabilia.¹ More precisely, fruitio consists in the acts of cognitio and dilectio, and these three are the endowments of the beatified soul. Cognitio and dilectio are the perfected acts of the rational and concupiscible powers,² acts which are enabled by the virtues of faith and charity, respectively. Into this framework, William introduced his doctrine of the spiritual senses, relating their activity directly to the virtue of faith.³ In a particularly lyrical passage that bears repeating, he proposes diverse, faith-enabled acts of...

    • CHAPTER 7 CHARITY: Love of God in a Tactile Mode
      (pp. 139-158)

      For william, as noted at the outset of the preceding chapter, beatitude entails a role for dilectio, for the affectus or concupiscible power and its perfecting virtue, charity: “beatitude occurs in the concupiscible power through affectio or perfect dilectio.” At the same time, faith is primary, both in this life and the next, because charity depends upon faith: “charity does not delight in God nor does it have fruition of God except by faith.” This dependence, however, does not relegate charity’s role to insignificance. Rather, William will argue that ultimately charity consummates faith’s fruition, for charity’s act culminates in contact,...

  9. PART IV THE FORMS OF SPIRITUAL APPREHENSION
    • CHAPTER 8 SYMBOLIC THEOLOGY: Exterior Perception of God’s Effects
      (pp. 161-183)

      Creation finds its ultimate purpose as a partial, finite expression of infinite plenitude and as a fragmentary manifestation of the fullness of divine glory: this is a conviction that William shares with later scholastic thinkers.¹ In various places throughout his Summa Aurea, most notably in his treatment of the six days of creation,² he elaborates this intuition into a profound vision of creation’s capacity, not only to reflect the self-communicating goodness of the Trinity, but in so doing to be a source of knowledge of the Creator. In this regard, as with other topics, William initiates a scholastic tradition of...

    • CHAPTER 9 MYSTICAL THEOLOGY: Interior Perception of God’s Effects
      (pp. 184-217)

      A fundamental principle in William’s theology is that all knowledge of God is mediated through created things. As noted at the end of Part II, in a seminal discussion of this principle early in the Summa Aurea, William took up the Dionysian distinction between symbolic and mystical theology in order to distinguish two kinds of created effects and two corresponding forms of theology. As described in the previous chapter, symbolic theology knows God through external creatures. Mystical theology also pertains to creatures, but to those which William calls the “interior, hidden and more worthy effects” (interiores et occultos et digniores...

    • CHAPTER 10 TASTE AND SEE: The Spiritual Senses and the Eucharist
      (pp. 218-234)

      As seen throughout the preceding chapters, for William the goal of human life is an experiential apprehension of God that subsumes within itself the human capacities for spiritual cognition and perception, its intellectual and affective dimensions. In that apprehension, faith’s delight and charity’s desire collaborate to find fruition in the delectabilia divina; in that apprehension, creedal scientia is taken up through the gifts of the Holy Spirit into theological intellectus and finally into an experiential sapientia. To capture the fullness of this apprehension, William has employed the ancient doctrine of the spiritual senses of the soul. Thus, faith’s visus moves...

  10. CONCLUSION. SPIRITUAL APPREHENSION: The Spiritual Senses and the Knowledge of God
    (pp. 235-240)

    The foregoing has attempted to describe William of Auxerre’s conception of human knowledge of God from the perspective of his teaching on the spiritual senses of the soul. This teaching is, in fact, central to his theology. The beatific vision enjoyed by the blessed in the next life is realized and consummated through the spiritual senses, such that that videre is simultaneously an audire, odorari, gustare, and tangere. A crucial aspect of William’s teaching on the spiritual senses in patria is the intimate integration of spiritual sensation and conceptual cognition. This wedding of percept and concept can be summed up...

  11. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 241-248)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 249-255)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 256-256)