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Rapture to the «third heaven». Thomas Aquinas on mystical experience

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ID: <oai:bibliotekanauki.pl:1048176>·DOI: <10.14746/fc.2019.16.2>


The author of the present paper tackles the questions related to mystical experience in St. Thomas’ Aquinas writings. He demonstrates that according to the medieval thinker, assuming the belief of impossibility of experiencing vision of the divine essence in this life, mystical experience of Moses and St. Paul (raptus) should be considered as temporary and transient, that only happens once. Such experience transcendshuman natural powers since it is God who takes the initiative in rapture. It also remains passive in itself as it occupies only human intellect which is the one to see the divine essence, while the body remains in dormant state. What is more, this experience is limited because someone who experiences rupture is unable to communicate accurately what exactly had happened to him. Therefore, mystical experience in this life was not of primary importance for St. Thomas. He was more attracted by the direct visual perception of God promised in the Holy Scripture, its implication being that in the supernatural domain the eternal act of knowing God and communion with Him persists. During the visio the object of cognition is more active than its subject. By the infusion of divine light (lumen gloriae) human cognitive abilities are intensifi ed until raptus becomes able to see the divine essence. Naturally, the bestowed grace of seeing God and its intensity depends on experienced intensity of love (caritas) and desire of receiving such grace. It results from the above that saints do not have the same knowledge of God and do not reach the same level of happiness. The chosen can reach it in accordance with their merits and God’s will. However, in the state of salvation the nature of human cognition will not change, since the same human being strives for happiness on earth and reaches it in heaven, realising at the same time his non-self-suffi ciency in reaching this state. This problem lies at the core of Thomas’ inquiry into visio beatifi cans.

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