Catechist Theologian: Recently, we spoke at length about the mind's immortality and the logical necessity of a Governor of the world. If you continue to be so satisfying, I will have no trouble in teaching you. Now there awaits us the thorny consideration of God's justice, for nothing is used more often or so speciously to refute Providence than the disorder of things. Set about solving this with proper reasoning and refine it to my liking, so that when I reveal the light of revelations, it will be reflected in your ideas.
Catechumen Philosopher: This seems like a good arrangement, and fruitful for both sides. Begin asking!
Theologian: Then let's get to the point: do you believe God to be just?
Philosopher: I do indeed believe it, or rather, I know it.
Theologian: What do you call "God"?
Philosopher: An all-knowing and all-powerful essence.
Theologian: What is "to be just"?
Philosopher: He who loves everyone is just.
Theologian: But what is "to love"?
Philosopher: To delight in another's happiness.
Theologian: What is "to delight"?
Philosopher: To experience harmony.
Theologian: What then is "harmony"?
Philosopher: Similarity in diversity, or diversity compensated by unity.
Theologian: Given your definitions, God must love everyone, if he is to be just.
Philosopher: Certainly so.
Theologian: But you know that many people have denied this.
Philosopher: Several great men have denied it, but also sometimes affirmed it, by changing the sense of certain words.
Theologian: Perhaps we will get to that later; now I wish to see what argument you will use concerning God's justice.
Philosopher: It will be formulated from the answers which you and I allow. Is it not generally agreed that God is all-knowing?
Theologian: What then?
Philosopher: Then God is always aware of the harmony in every thinkable thing.
Philosopher: Moreover, every happiness is harmonious, or beautiful.
Theologian: I admit that.
Philosopher: I'll prove it, so that others won't deny it. Happiness exists only in the mind.
Theologian: Right, since no one is happy without knowing it. (You know that old saying: How blessed are they that know their own blessings!) Whatever is conscious of its own condition is a mind. Therefore, only a mind can be happy.
Philosopher: Well argued! But at any rate, happiness is the state of mind most pleasing to the mind itself; yet in truth, the mind is most pleased by harmony.
Theologian: True enough, especially since we just agreed that "to delight" meant "to experience harmony".
Philosopher: Therefore, happiness is the most harmonious state of mind. Moreover, since the mind's nature is to consider, the harmony of the mind lies in considering harmony. Hence the greatest harmony of the mind, i.e. happiness, lies in the contemplation of the universal harmony (i.e. God) in the mind.
Theologian: Excellent: for the happiness of the mind and the contemplation of God are likewise shown to be the same.
Philosopher: Then I surpassed what I was trying to prove, namely that every happiness is harmonious.
Theologian: Now it is time for you to show that God loves everyone.
Philosopher: Consider it already done. If everyone's happiness is harmonious (as just proven) and if God is aware of every harmony (by the definition of "God") and if every experience of harmony is delightful (by the definition of "delight") then it follows that everyone's happiness is pleasing to God. Therefore, by the definition of "love" given before, God loves everyone, and therefore God is just, from the definition of "just".
Theologian: I would almost say that you had proven it. And I'm sure that none of those who deny universal grace could even argue with anything you've said, provided that they used the words in the same senses as you have, not departing from their usual meanings.
Philosopher: I believe my conclusion can be derived from their own way of thinking. For when they claim that God only loves the chosen, they like to point out that He loves some more than others (by the definition of "choose") and also that not everyone can be saved, on account of the universal harmony, just as a picture is set off with shadows, or a consonance emphasized by surrounding dissonance. God allows the others who are less beloved to be rejected, which He does not desire (for God does not want the sinner's death), but which the nature of things entails. So when it is said that God loved one and hated another, the meaning is that he loved the other less and therefore let him be rejected, since not everyone can be chosen. But when a lesser good is regarded like a condemnation, so a lesser love is made to seem like hatred when the two loves are compared, although hatred and condemnation are not appropriate words. But we oughtn't really go into why God loves one more than another.
Theologian: But wait, that's where we run into our biggest difficulties: see that you handle those as well.
Philosopher: To what difficulties are you referring?
Theologian: Here are the main ones: If God delights in everyone's happiness, why doesn't He make everyone happy? If He loves everyone, why does He damn so many? If God is just, why does He seem so unfair, making out of the same clay (as it were) some vessels for honour and others for shame? And if God knowingly allows and tolerates sin in the world, when He could eliminate it, isn't He then responsible for the sin? Indeed, isn't God the instigator of all sin, since He created everything such that sin would result? And what of free will, given the necessity of sin, and what of the justice of punishment, if free will doesn't exist? What of the justice of rewards, if grace alone distinguishes the damned from the blessed? Lastly, if God is ultimately responsible for everything, what can we ascribe to people and devils?
Philosopher: I feel buried under this avalanche of questions!
Theologian: So let's take them one at a time. Don't you agree, above all, that everything has a reason?
Philosopher: I agree with that so strongly that I think it can be proven that it is possible (at least for an all-knowing being) to give a sufficient reason for everything, i.e. explain why each thing exists rather than not and why it is so-and-so and not otherwise. Whoever denies this overthrows the dividing line between what is and what is not. Whatever exists has at least everything needed for existence; and everything needed for existence, taken together, constitute a sufficient reason for existence. Therefore, whatever exists has a sufficient reason for existence.
Theologian: I have nothing against this proof, or rather, this supposition of the human race, or even against its practical application. For all men, when they experience something, particularly if it is unusual, ask "why?"; that is, they demand a reason for it, and either the immediate cause, or the originator's intention, if the originator is a rational being. From the word "why?" [cur] come the words "concern" [cura] and "curiosity" [curiositas], just as the word "to ask" [quaerere] comes from the words "who?" [quis] and "what?" [quae]. And when given its reason, if they have time and the trouble seems worth it, people seek the reason for the given reason, and so on, until (on the one hand) philosophers run into something self-evident, something necessary which is its own reason, or (on the other hand) ordinary people run into something familiar and commonplace, at which point they stop.
Philosopher: There must be a sufficient reason for everything; otherwise, the foundations of the sciences would be overthrown. For just as arithmetic and geometry (the sciences of quantities) have the first principle "The whole is greater than a part", so "Everything has a reason." is the fundamental principle of physics and ethics, the sciences of qualities, or said another way, the sciences of action, thinking and motion, since a quality is a potential for changing and being changed. And surely you will admit that even the most trivial theorem of physics and ethics cannot be proven without assuming this proposition; moreover, the proof of God's existence rests on this postulate.
Theologian: OK, so you admit that everything has a reason.
Philosopher: Well, why shouldn't I, although I don't see where the tedious proof of this obvious statement is leading.
Theologian: Pay attention for a minute and you'll see what knotty problems derive from it. Now consider: Judas was damned.
Philosopher: Who doesn't know that?
Theologian: Wasn't it also for a reason?
Philosopher: Don't ask me things which you know I agreed to long ago.
Theologian: Then what was the reason?
Philosopher: I think the reason was the condition of the dying man, namely the burning hatred of God in which he died, and of which the nature of despair consists. But that is enough to be damned. For since the soul is not open to new, external sensations after death, after its body has been returned, the soul sticks to its last thoughts. These do not change but are intensified in death. But hating God, who is the Most Happy, leads to the greatest pain, since "to hate" is to be pained by the hated one's happiness, just as "to love" is to delight in the beloved's happiness. Therefore, if God's happiness is the greatest, so is Judas' pain. The greatest pain is wretchedness, or rather damnation; therefore, he who hates God in death, damns himself.
Theologian: But where does his hatred for God come from, or rather his desire to cause God harm?
Philosopher: From the assumption that God hates him, or bears him ill-will. For it is so astonishingly arranged by Providence that God in the end only harms those who fear Him like a slave, or rather, who take for granted that He will harm them; whereas whoever constantly believes himself preferred by God, makes himself so, because he loves God constantly.
Theologian: But why did Judas believe that God bore him ill-will?
Philosopher: Because he knew himself to be a rebel, he believed God to be a tyrant; knowing himself to be fallen, he believed God would not forgive him; knowing himself to be malicious, he believed God to be cruel; knowing himself barren of good things, he believed God unjust.
Theologian: You could've said it more succinctly: Judas was both penitent and despairing at the same time. But how did his soul come to this sorry state?
Philosopher: I can tell you will never stop questioning me! Judas was penitent because he knew himself, and despairing, because he was ignorant of God. He knew that he had sinned, and he believed that God would punish him; because God made him a rational being, he knew that he had sinned, for it was true. He had sinned in betraying his Teacher because he had been able to and because he had wanted to. God provided that Judas had been able to sin; and Judas had wanted to because it seemed good.
Theologian: But why did he think something evil was good? Likewise, after seeing his mistake, why did he despair?
Philosopher: Here we must look into the reasons for Judas' beliefs, since even despair is a belief about something. Every belief has two causes: the disposition of the believer and the nature of the subject of his belief. I do not take other pre-existing beliefs into account, since they can be considered as belonging to either the believer's disposition or to the subject of the belief, i.e. the state of the individual believer and the circumstances of things. Therefore, one cannot give the exact reason for Judas' misguided beliefs without detailing all the states of his mind, unaffected by objects, all the way back to his first disposition at birth.
Theologian: Aha! This is where I bring you up short. Sin comes from the ability to sin and the desire to sin. The ability is provided by God, whereas the desire comes from a belief about something and this belief comes from the disposition of the believer and the nature of the subject of the belief. But both of these last two elements come from God as well, so everything responsible for sin comes from God. Therefore, God is ultimately responsible for sin and damnation, just as for everything else. You see what follows from that axiom "Everything has a reason." Of course, you have prudently said that everything which is its own reason for existence cannot be further resolved into a reason and a reason for that reason, etc. such as can be done for every sin and damnation. In the end, however, all these reasons resolve into that which is its own reason, i.e. self-subsistent existence, or God. This proof corresponds to the proof of God's existence.
Philosopher: I see the problem; just give me a minute to catch my breath.
Theologian: Time to begin! Have you discovered something at last, my friend? Your suddenly unfurrowed brow promises something joyful and exciting, I don't know what.
Philosopher: Please forgive my delay; it was fruitful. For if I have learned anything with certainty in today's discussion, it is that if one turns to God, or rather withdraws from the senses and leads the mind back into itself (which is really the same thing), if one tries to find the truth with sincere disposition, then the shadows are parted as if by a blast of unexpected light, and in the middle of the night, through dense fog, the way is shown.
Theologian: You sound like one who has been initiated into mysteries.
Philosopher: You will be the judge of what I have to say. I cannot deny that God is ultimately responsible for everything, and consequently is the driving force behind sin.
Theologian: If you concede that, you concede everything.
Philosopher: Not so fast! No, I say, I cannot deny it, because it is certain. Take away God, and you take away this whole chain of events; establish Him, and you likewise establish it. This chain of events includes all the creatures which have been and will be, their good and evil actions and hence, their sins. Nevertheless, I deny that God wills those sins.
Theologian: So you propose that sins occur, not because God wills them, but because He exists.
Philosopher: You have hit the nail on the head! For although God has caused sins to happen, He is certainly not their originator. If it may be permitted to speak so scholastically, the ultimate physical cause of sins, as of everything, lies in God, but the moral cause lies in the sinner. I believe this is what was meant by those who said that the substance of the deed comes from God, but not the evil, even if they couldn't explain how the evil did not follow from the deed. More correctly, they should have said: God contributes everything to sin except the desire to sin, and consequently He does not sin. Thus, I feel that sins are not due to the divine Will, but rather to divine Reason, or to the eternal ideas of things, which are the same thing. These eternal ideas constitute the nature of everything, so one should not foolishly imagine that there are two basic elements of things and two gods, hateful to each other, one good, one bad.
Theologian: What you're saying is astonishing.
Philosopher: But I will make it so that you agree it's true. Here's an example which will make my point clearer and more believable. Why does three times three equal nine? Do we believe that it is because God wills it so? Or that the square root of two is an irrational number, should we conclude that God has willed it thus?
Theologian: I think not, if we are wise; for nine and three and the square root of two are numbers which can be clearly grasped; they are not just names with no idea behind them.
Philosopher: Thus, these theorems of the nature of things, these ideas like "nine" and the "square root of two" should be ascribed to the divine Reason, where the ideas of things have rested for eternity. In other words, these theorems are true because God reasoned them from the ideas of things, not because God willed them. Moreover, these ideas follow from God's existence, for if God were nothing, everything would be simply impossible and ideas like "nine" and the "square root of two" would share the common nothingness. Thus, some things owe their existence to God's existence, but not to His Will.
Theologian: I see that, but what does this have to do with sins? I await your answer with desire and wonder.
Philosopher: You perceive that I have not digressed in vain. For just as "three times three equals nine" owes its truth to God's existence and not to His Will, so "the ratio of three to nine equals the ratio of four to twelve" also follows from His existence. Indeed, every ratio, proportion, analogy and proportionality arises not from God's Will, but from His nature, or from the Ideas of things, which are the same thing.
Theologian: And then what follows?
Philosopher: Well, if this is true for ratios and proportions, then it is also true for harmony and discord. For they consist of the ratio of unity to diversity; harmony is unity among many things and is proportional to the diversity of the things being unified. The greatest harmony brings seemingly chaotic things unexpectedly into the greatest consonance.
Theologian: Now I see what you're driving at. It is the universal harmony which causes sins, since light must be set off with shadows. However, the universal harmony stems not from God's Will, but from His Reason, or rather from the Ideas (or nature) of things. Therefore the existence of sins must be ascribed to God's reason; consequently, sins follow from God's existence and not from His Will.
Philosopher: You guessed it! For the whole chain of events would be completely changed if sins didn't exist. But the chain of events follows directly from God's existence, and cannot be otherwise. For to say that many different effects could follow from one complete and sufficient cause (as God is for the universe) is just as absurd as saying that one thing is many things. Plainly, if you add and subtract the same quantity from a number, the original number always comes out. But the chain of events is nothing but the addition and subtraction of ideas. If anyone still opposes this notion, a ready proof will overcome his stubbornness. If God is the sufficient reason for things, or rather, the self-sufficient existence and the first cause, then this chain of events follows necessarily from God's existence. Otherwise, God would not be the sufficient reason, but something other than God would have a hand in establishing this chain of events; there would be two Gods (as the Manichaeans believed) or at least God would not be the sole self-sufficient existence and first cause, both of which I hold to be false. Therefore, this chain of events follows from God's existence. Now it is well-known from the laws of logic that if the proposition "A implies B" is true, then so is the proposition, "The absence of B implies the absence of A." Therefore, since we have just proven that God's existence implies this chain of events, which includes sins, then one cannot remove the sins without removing God, which we wished to prove. So, sins and the whole chain of events follow logically from the ideas of things themselves, or rather from God's existence: establish His existence, and these sins are established; remove the sins, and one must also remove God's existence.
Theologian: I admit the proof is adamantine, nor can it be attacked by any rational mortal, no more than the proof of God's existence. But doesn't it also follow that everything, good things as well as sins, can be ascribed not to His will, but to God's existence, or rather to the harmony of things, which amounts to the same thing? And doesn't it follow that sins are necessary?
Philosopher: Let me hurry to answer the first question, and the second will be dealt with more easily. Why does God will something? It certainly isn't arbitrary, since no one, least of all God, desires something for no reason, but because he thinks it beneficial somehow. God desires something because of the nature of things, which is of course contained in their own ideas, i.e. in the essence of God. But there are two reasons why God does something, just like everyone else: because He desires to do it and because He can do it. But God neither desires sins nor does them, since He doesn't find them good in themselves. But God finds that sins mingle in the universal harmony, since He has chosen it to be the most harmonious; their presence in the whole chain of events is compensated by greater harmony. For this reason, God tolerates, or rather allows sins, although He would eliminate them, if He could craft another, better chain of events without them. But God does not merely allow the whole chain of events; He desires it and even the sins that come with it, insofar as they are not seen distinctly by themselves, but as part of the whole chain of events. God delights in the whole harmonious chain of events, but not in all of its individual parts. But wouldn't God delight more in a chain of events without sin? On the contrary! He would delight less, because the delight of the universal harmony comes from being peppered with dissonances and from the exquisite balance of its elements.
Theologian: Your argument pleases me well, for you have shown beyond doubt that God is responsible for all that exists, and yet only desires those things which are good in themselves. But please address my second question. Doesn't it follow that sins are necessary? For God's existence is necessary, and the chain of events and sins follow from His existence, or equivalently, from the ideas of things; therefore, sins are also necessary. For whatever follows from something necessary is itself necessary.
Philosopher: By the same argument, you could have inferred that everything is necessary, even that I am speaking and you are listening, since these things are also included in the chain of events. Indeed, you could have inferred even that nothing occurs by chance, except in the colloquial way used by the whole human race.
Theologian: But a Stoic might well admit that, or some other proponent of destiny and fate.
Philosopher: That should not be admitted; an abuse of language has given rise to this misconception, although it might be amended by adding an explanation. Even Christ says: "Offences will occur", i.e. they are necessary. But offences are reckoned as sins, for the passage continues, "woe to him, who brings them to pass." Thus, if offences are necessary, then this woe, i.e. damnation, is also necessary. But when speaking colloquially, one must be careful in expressing these conclusions. For a philosophical argument using everyday words like "necessary" can confuse those who don't know their technical definitions.
Theologian: But what's your reply to this question?
Philosopher: The whole trouble springs from mis-using words; sloppy terminology makes our foundations shaky and leads us into impossible labyrinths. In particular, the words "necessary", "possible", "impossible", "desire", "cause" and others have so many different meanings in every language, it's a kind of global sophistry. I'm not just saying this to be evasive, I'll show you plainly. Leave out all those troublesome words in this discussion (for I think that if these words had been forbidden by decree, people could still give expression to their soul without them), and as often as you need to, substitute their technical definitions. I'll bet you anything that all the obscurities will immediately disappear; like exorcising a demon or turning on a light, every bogey-monster and spectre of difficulty will vanish into thin air. Look, this is not some trivial trick, but a wonderful method for clearing up errors, abuses and offences, a formula better than any doctor could prescribe. Urbanius Regius has written a whole book on methods for speaking wisely and diplomatically, but almost every rule is contained in this one clever rule-of-thumb.
Theologian: Come on: how can something so difficult be settled so easily?
Philosopher: Call me a prophet. There are certain words which are just vexing, annoying, irritating, aggravating and even torturing. If I were to say, "Sir, you are asserting something injurious to me, which you know is not so," I don't think you would be greatly offended, but would lightly overlook my presumption. But if I were to shout, "You're a liar!", immortal God, what a fuss you would raise, although "a liar" is just someone who asserts something false which is injurious or unjust. Thus if someone says, "Sins are necessary, God is responsible for sin, it was impossible for Judas to avoid damnation, etc." everyone gets up in arms! However, we may say more diplomatically (but equivalently) that God is ultimately responsible for everything, i.e. He is the sufficient reason for the universe. This sufficient reason produces the most rational universe, which is equivalent to the universe of highest beauty and harmony. Yet the most perfect harmony is that which brings the most chaotic discord unexpectedly into order, just as a beautiful painting is composed of very light and dark patches wonderfully arranged, or as beautiful music is composed of a wonderful arrangement of consonances and dissonances. This universal harmony also arranges that the true punishment for a sin is simply the logical consequence of the sin itself. Therefore, it follows that sins and their punishment result from God's existence. But to say that sins are logically necessary, or that God created or desired sin to exist, is unwise and poorly reasoned, as can be seen by anyone logical.
Theologian: You have revealed a truly marvelous insight, which resolves so many difficulties, and there seems no real reason to continue. Nevertheless, if it is possible, prove that which you did before, still using the words you find to be poorly defined and abused.
Philosopher: Were it in my power, I would make it so that people never used words for anything except that which concerned the honour of God and their own peace.
Theologian: Please try to prove it nevertheless.
Philosopher: I will attempt it, but only on the condition that whatever I say about those words which I have shown we can do without, will be thought superfluous and not binding or deceiving at all.
Theologian: I agree to this condition.
Philosopher: Ok, let me make some definitions. I call necessary something whose opposite involves a contradiction or cannot be conceived. For example, it is necessary that three times three equals nine, but it is not necessary that I speak or sin. For I can imagine myself as not speaking or not sinning, but to imagine that three times three does not equal nine involves a contradiction in the definitions of three, nine and "to multiply". Everything which is not necessary is called contingent. This pair of opposites (necessary/contingent) is not the same as the pair (possible/impossible). Possible things are those things whose non-existence is not necessary; impossible is defined as everything which is not possible. More succinctly, "possible" describes everything which can be conceived, regardless of whether it's necessary or contingent. The two pairs of definitions are related: something is necessary if its opposite is impossible, whereas something is contingent if its opposite is possible. To desire something is to delight in its existence. To abhor something is to suffer from its existence or to delight in its non-existence. To tolerate something is to be aware of something and yet neither desire nor abhor it. To instigate something means that one's desire was the cause of its cause. Given these definitions, I dare to claim that not a single one of their consequences will wrest any honour from divine justice, even by torture.
Theologian: So how do you reply to the argument we cited above, that the existence of God is necessary and is the cause of the chain of events, and thus of sins as well. Therefore, sins are necessary, since the logical consequences of something necessary is also necessary.
Philosopher: Actually, it is not true that whatever follows from something necessary is also necessary in itself. For something contingent, i.e. something whose opposite is conceivable, can also follow from something necessary, just as particulars can follow from purely universal truths. But let me finish this proof with the definition of necessity. Something is necessary if its opposite is self-contradictory or cannot be conceived. Thus, the necessity of something is determined by its definition, not by its cause. In other words, something is necessary only by virtue of itself, by containing within itself its own reason for existence and for its truth, like the truths of geometry. Yet of all existing things, only God is necessary; everything else is contingent, although they follow from the existence of God, or rather from the established chain of events. These things are, so to speak, only "accidentally" necessary, although nothing happens by chance; Providence has established this chain of events and everything which exists is determined. Likewise, something can be possible, even if it doesn't exist and never will, e.g. the unicorn. By our definition, anything which can be conceived is possible, even if it goes against existing things, the universal harmony or the existence of God, which would preclude its existence. In such cases, it is "accidentally" impossible, but not impossible in itself. Therefore, it is a big mistake to call absolutely impossible that which has neither been, nor is, nor ever will be.
Theologian: But isn't that true? Won't everything which will be, be absolutely necessary, just as whatever was, was necessary and whatever is, is necessary?
Philosopher: No, that's completely wrong, unless we add a qualification to these statements, which people generally omit. The correct version is "Everything which is, is necessary, if it exists." In other words, the existence of something is necessary only if we postulate its existence; then its non-existence leads to a contradiction, as required by the definition of "necessary". However if the postulating qualifier "if it exists" is left out, the statement is false, because anything which now exists can be imagined not to exist. Similarly, it can be imagined that anything which did happen, actually did not happen. This is the province of fine poets, who invent false stories, but nonetheless plausible ones. For example, Medea is a possible person, i.e. she can be imagined clearly and distinctly, but it certain that she never lived, and to my mind, will never live, unless one is of the heresy that every possibility will eventually come to pass in the infinite time remaining, so that every fairy-tale that can be dreamed will one day occur. Even if we were to grant that, the fact remains that Medea is possible, even though she has never existed. Those who think otherwise necessarily remove the division between possibility and truth, between necessary and contingent things; and by distorting the meanings of words, they run counter to the everyday usage of those words. Therefore, sins, damnations and other contingent things of this chain of events are not necessary, although they follow from something necessary, namely the existence of God and the harmony of things. Thus, even things which never have been and never will be and even things which are inconsistent with the universal harmony, all these things are possible, in that they can be imagined. Thus, it was possible for Judas to be saved, since it can be imagined without self-contradiction, although this chain of events (and thus the universal harmony) determined that his salvation would never come.
Theologian: Yet this usage has crept up on all peoples and into their languages and has grown strong by the general ambiguity, so that everything which actually exists, or has existed or will exist is called necessary, while everything which does not, has not and never will exist, are called impossible.
Philosopher: But as I have shown, this is due to the omission of the qualifying phrase, which sounds like a repetition, to which everyone is prone, since saying the same thing twice is boring.
Theologian: Perhaps we ought to seek the true reason and solution to a lazy sophism, which has spread over all the Earth. For a long time now, Islamic philosophers have proposed something of great value to rulers facing the danger of war or pestilence: that resistance is futile, nothing can be done to help, since fate cannot be avoided. Things denied by heaven cannot be won by striving, and things granted by heaven can be gotten by the idle.
Philosopher: What you say is true. For this argument, so dreadful and firmly implanted in some spirits, is a mere sophism, which relies on leaving out the hypothetical nature of the cause and of what exists. It is true that everything which will be, will truly be, but it is not necessary, not logically necessary, nor is what you do or not do. For an effect is not necessary unless the cause is postulated.
Theologian: I usually rebuke those who are so dangerously delusional with these words: You moron, if Fate has decreed that you cannot avoid evil, perhaps your stupidity is fated, too, so that you're not careful enough to avoid it! No one's destiny is worked without a means, be it diligence or opportunities. One must trust in this alone, and take advantage of opportunities as they occur. But you ask, isn't whatever God foresees certain? Whatever will be, will be. I admit that is so, but it requires a means and for the most part, it only occurs with your actions. For good fortune rarely heaps itself on a sleeper and laws are written for the watchful. Therefore, since you are unsure whether to believe in your free will or not, act as though you did, i.e. act as if nothing were decreed by fate, although you cannot really act on something completely unknown. Thus, if you carry out your task, whatever may happen by fate, or rather the harmony of things, will not be held against you by God. The whole debate over foresight, Fate, predestination and death doesn't help in leading a life. Everything ought to be done in the same way, as if w didn't think about these matters. If someone loves God constantly, then by that deed, he shows himself to have been predestined for salvation. Therefore, we can be saved if we desire it (and what more can we ask?) although it is by grace that we desire it.
Philosopher: How very true! If only our debating scholars could be persuaded!
Theologian: The question remains whether God desires sins or not. At first glance, it seems that God does not abhor sin. God is not grieved by anything which exists, for He cannot be grieved whatsoever. So the existence of sins does not grieve God, either. But he who is not grieved by something cannot abhor it. Therefore, God only abhors that which doesn't exist; its non-existence is pleasing to God. These conclusions follow from your own definitions.
Philosopher: You have reached the right conclusion. As long as these sins are not considered by themselves, God does not abhor them. God tolerates sins which the universal harmony brings to pass, i.e. He neither desires them nor abhors them.
Theologian: I beg your pardon, but it seems that God does desire those sins. For the universal harmony is pleasing to God, and those sins are part and parcel of the universal harmony. And by your definition, we desire something if we are delighted by its existence. Therefore, God desires those sins.
Philosopher: This line of reasoning is deceptive. Even if the whole harmony is pleasing, that doesn't mean that all of its parts are pleasing, too. It is not as though every part must be pleasing if the whole is to be pleasing. For example, good music contains dissonances which may be jarring by themselves, but which are blended with consonances to create a beautiful whole. The dissonances serve to create balance; the harmony tolerates these dissonances. But only the whole is pleasing; only the whole is harmonious. Likewise, the happiness of the saved delights God, while the happiness lacking in the damned does not grieve Him, since He is not grieved by anything. The sorrow is erased by the balance of the universal harmony.
Theologian: You have indeed laid the greatest difficulty to rest, which is more than I hoped. You have shown (which hardly anyone has shown, to this day) that is reasonable to say that God neither desires nor abhors the sins which occur, but rather tolerates them.
Philosopher: So you have no objections?
Theologian: I can already see what you're going to say about God being the instigator of sins.
Philosopher: Namely, that it is not God who desires sins, but rather the sinners and the devil; they alone delight in the sin itself.
Theologian: Exactly: those who delight in the sin are its true instigators. For otherwise, it could be argued that people or the devil merely tolerate sins as well. It cannot be said of someone who commits a mortal sin that he was only doing what he had to and that he injured others out of necessity. Rather, it must be said that he hates God, i.e. the universal good and therefore delights in sin and contrariness. But what of someone who commits a venial sin out of ignorance, not out of malevolence? Shouldn't we say that he merely tolerates his sin?
Philosopher: We may not even say this. By its definition, "to tolerate" is to neither desire nor abhor. But this definition also requires that one be aware of the sin, which is not the case for this sinner. He desires that which makes up the sin, i.e. the deed; but he neither desires the sin itself nor tolerates it, since he is ignorant of it. God tolerates sins because He knows that those things which He permits are not contrary to the common good, but that this dissonance is compensated in another way. Someone who commits a mortal sin knows that what he is doing is contrary to the common good, as far as he can judge, which cannot be reconciled except by his punishment. He hates this, and yet he desires the deed. He must hate the common good or God's rule of the world, and insofar as he hates these, he sins mortally.
Theologian: You have completely satisfied me, and excellently acquitted God of desiring sins. Let me summarize your argument. We commit sins because we are able to and because we want to. Our ability to sin stems not only from what we were born with, but also from things we have picked up. Since the former come from our parents, and the latter from our environment, our ability to sin is caused by external things. Likewise, our desire to sin is caused by our beliefs about the sin, which in turn results from our perception of the sin, which itself derives from the sin itself. So both our ability and desire to sin are caused by external things, i.e. by the present state of things. But the present state of things was caused by the preceding state, which was caused by the one preceding that, and so on. So the present state of things is the result of the chain of events, which comes from the universal harmony, which in turn is the consequence of eternal and unchanging ideas. These ideas are contained in God's mind and stem from themselves, not from God's will; God did not conceive these ideas because He desired them, but because He exists. Therefore, although sins are not pleasing in themselves, sins are tolerated by God's will because of the universal harmony which could not be established without them.
Philosopher: So what do you still object to?
Theologian: Actually, quite a bit; we certainly haven't resolved all the difficulties. For what does it matter if we reconcile sins with divine goodness, if sins cannot be reconciled with our freedom? What good does it do to acquit God, if the guilty are acquitted with Him? How do we profit, if in releasing the divine will, we render every will powerless? For I ask you, what is human freedom, if everything we are is the result of external things, if all our desires are determined by them, if a predestined logical sequence rules over our thoughts, the mere by-product of interacting atoms?
Philosopher: Please don't get worked up over an idea which is widely mis-understood and poorly expressed. We agreed before, as you yourself proposed, that everything had a sufficient reason; so of course, every act of desiring something also has its sufficient reason. This sufficient reason must either be external to the act itself, or it must lie in the act itself; however, in the latter case, that would make the act of desiring a self-sufficient existence, which is only true of God. Therefore, the sufficient reason for desiring something is external. To discover what the sufficient reason is, we must consider what "to desire" is. What does it mean to desire something?
Theologian: To delight in its existence, as you prudently defined it before, whether we think it exists or whether we just imagine its existence.
Philosopher: But to delight is to experience harmony, as we said before; therefore, everything we desire seems harmonious somehow. But whether something appears harmonious depends on the nature of the perceiver, the object and the medium between them. So although we can do whatever we desire, our desires are not arbitrary; we only desire things which we believe to be good or pleasing. But our beliefs are not arbitrary, either; no one has ever managed to make himself disbelieve something he knows to be true, no matter how much he wished otherwise. Therefore, since beliefs do not result from desires, neither do desires result from desires. And even if we could make ourselves wish something merely because we wanted to, what causes our desire to wish it? Is it because of yet another desire, and so on to an infinite series of desires; or is it completely random, i.e. for no reason at all?
Theologian: I cannot answer your reasoning, but I don't see you answering my objection that our free will is lost, either.
Philosopher: I admit it, if you define free will the way some people do: that it is the ability to act or not act, given everything necessary, both externally and internally, for the deed.
Theologian: Is that definition wrong?
Philosopher: In a word, yes -- if no explanation is given. Saying that something (in this case, an action) does not exist while all of its requirements exist is like saying that a word can still be undefined even after its definition has been given, or even like saying that something exists and does not exist. If something does not exist, one of its requirements must be missing, because everything is determined by all of the requirements for its existence.
Theologian: Then the correct definition is: Free will is the ability to act or not to act, given all the external things necessary for the deed.
Philosopher: In other words, by this definition, I can forego an action if I do not desire it, even if everything external is conducive to it. Nothing is more true, or in more perfect agreement with my philosophy. Even Aristotle defines an action to be "spontaneous", when its cause lies within the agent, and to be "free", when it is spontaneous by choice. Thus, the more spontaneous someone is, the more his actions flow from his nature, and the less he is influenced by external things. In the same way, a person is more free, the more capable of choice he is, i.e. the more he perceives things with a clear and quiet mind. Spontaneity comes from one's ability, whereas freedom comes from knowledge. But given that we have a good opinion of something, we cannot help but desire it; likewise, we cannot help but do something, if we desire it and recognize the opportunity. Nothing is more strange than to mutate the idea of free will into the incredible, even absurd, ability to act for no reason whatsoever. The privilege of free will consists of standing at the crossroads of life and only doing what we desire; and we can only desire what we consider good. But since we can find out what is good for us by using our reason, we shouldn't find fault with Nature, that she should've given us a weird ability of a certain "rational irrationality".
Theologian: But there are some who claim they have such freedom, that they can do something or not, knowingly and with forethought, but for no reason whatsoever.
Philosopher: I say this is just a matter of deceive or be deceived. These people don't like to think that their desires result from external things; and the pleasure they get from defying that idea motivates them. But their desires do not derive from themselves.
Theologian: But suppose that I were about to make a hand gesture; can't I move it this way or that?
Philosopher: You can move your hand however you want.
Theologian: So why do I move it to the right, and not to the left, as you see?
Philosopher: Subtle reasons are undoubtedly at the bottom of it. Perhaps it came to your head first, because you saw it first. Perhaps your hand is accustomed to that direction, or perhaps the movement is more troublesome in the other direction. Such an act results from all sorts of little circumstances, so many that no one could ever write them all down.
Theologian: But if you, or an angel, or even God were to predict in which direction I were to move it, then I would move it in the opposite direction and assert my freedom, though the prophet were unwilling.
Philosopher: But you wouldn't be more free because of that, for now the pleasure of contradiction has caused your desire. You see, if you always do the opposite of what's predicted, an infallible prophet could predict that as well, as long as he never told you beforehand. He could either foresee it silently, or tell it to a third party without your knowledge.
Theologian: So he can't tell me the truth beforehand? But why not, if he has foreseen the truth: for everyone who knows something true can tell it to every listener. But I will do the opposite of whatever he says; therefore, he does not foresee what I will do, which is contrary to the hypothesis. So either foresight or free will must be eliminated.
Philosopher: This argument is subtle insofar as it concludes that if a certain mind always does the opposite of what is predicted of it, no matter by whom, then such a mind contradicts the existence of an all-knowing being, or rather, the harmony of things. Therefore, such a mind has never existed, does not exist and will not exist.
Theologian: But what do you have to say about the well-known verse: "I see what is good, and I approve it, but still I choose to do the more evil."
Philosopher: This verse is absurd given our definitions, so it should be interpreted. Medea, who says these words according to Ovid, means to say that she sees the injustice of butchering her own children, but nevertheless, the pleasure of revenge on their father prevails over the horror of the crime, just as a greater good may prevail over evil. In other words, Medea sins against her conscience. "Good" and "evil" in this verse stand for "just" and "shameful"; no one should conclude from this verse that anyone ever deliberately chooses that which he considers altogether worse. Whoever thinks the opposite overturns all ethical principles and can't even say what "to desire" means.
Theologian: You have just about convinced me.
Philosopher: We human beings are so stupid; we ask for self-contradictory chimeras, despising the privileges of nature and God, not contenting ourselves with the use of our reason, the true root of all freedom. Unless we're given the power of unreasonableness, we never consider ourselves free enough! As if it were not the highest freedom to use our reason and desires as best as possible, with circumstances causing our reason to recognize truly good things, and our reason causing our desires to reach for them. Then truths would not be resisted; by their reason, people would see things as they are. For if passions are absent, it is just as impossible for us to knowingly make a mistake or willfully commit a sin, as it would be for a person with healthy eyes to not see an elephant. Certainly God's freedom is the greatest, although even He cannot make a mistake in choosing the best; the freedom of angels is next best, provided that they don't fall. In short, freedom comes from using one's reason; in this chain of events, we either walk like kings along the path of our responsibilities, or we stagger along untrodden paths, according to whether our reason is clear or cloudy.
Theologian: Thus, every sin follows from an error.
Theologian: Then all sins ought to be forgiven.
Philosopher: Not in the least, for just as in the middle of dark room, light may leak in through a crack, we have the power to evade sin, if we only desire to use it.
Theologian: But why do some desire to use it, and others not?
Philosopher: Because it doesn't occur to them that they could profit by it. Or rather, such people seem to lack thoughtfulness and attention, for they see, but do not observe; they hear but do not listen. This brings the refusal of grace, or as the holy scriptures say, the beginnings of a hardened heart. Everyone among us has heard a thousand times, "Tell me why you are doing this!" or "Consider the outcome!" or else "Think about your actions!" And yet, if only one of these thoughts were properly understood and always borne in mind, everyone would be immediately changed, becoming infallible, wise and happy. When fully appreciated, such thoughts have more power than all the paradoxes of the Stoics' wise man.
Theologian: So, in the end, oughtn't all evil people be considered unfortunate, since they don't perceive the way to their own happiness, which is (apparently) so easy and straightforward?
Theologian: And oughtn't they be pitied as well?
Theologian: And isn't their misfortune responsible for their evil?
Philosopher: It is clear that their own desire isn't responsible for what they desire. As we just proved, the chain of events -- or rather, the universal harmony -- is responsible for their desires, as for everything else.
Theologian: So aren't they like insane people?
Philosopher: That is almost true, but not quite. For like drunken or sleeping people, insane people cannot ask themselves "Why am I doing this?" (in which all wisdom is contained). Even if it did occur to them, they could never keep it in their heads. But stupid, mistaken and malicious people use their wits, albeit not towards the highest goal. Insane people are confused by a sickness which infects their nerves and spirits. But stupid and malicious people are motivated by a different rationale, one which warps reason and makes the better seem worse, a rationale which is inculcated by temperment, education and habit. Angels surely regard evil people just as dumb as we consider retarded people.
Theologian: At least they are like those born on the fourth day after a new moon, or who were poorly educated, seduced by bad company, ruined by sex or made savage by adversity. They cannot deny that they are wicked, but they have reason to blame fortune and other people.
Philosopher: That's generally so; or rather, it must be. For no one makes himself evil by choice; otherwise, he'd be already evil.
Theologian: But now we need spirit and a strong heart, for we have reached the greatest difficulty without even realizing it. If your luck holds even here, you will be triumphant. Here is the problem, one which we can't avoid. There seems to be some justice to the claims of the damned, that they could not help but sin, given the way they were born, the way they were brought up, and the times and people and opportunities they happened upon. They cry that corrupting thoughts engaged their minds too early, that circumstances nurtured evil and goaded them to sin; or that the circumstances which would've freed them and held them back from sin were lacking, as though Fate had conspired to destroy them. Certain helpful warnings can awaken us if we grasp them correctly, like "Why are you doing this?" or "Consider the consequences!" But if the damned heard such warnings, they still lacked the needed thoughtfulness and attention, the wisdom which is the greatest gift of grace. How unfair it is that, although all people sleep, only a few are awakened and others are left to be destroyed! Even if it were necessary that so many creatures should be lost, that the chain of events could not be otherwise, at least one should let off the unfortunate sinners.
Philosopher: Well, the situation is the same regardless of whether things happen by chance, by deadly Fate or by the universal harmony.
Theologian: Please don't interrupt until I'm finished. How cruel it is for someone to look unfeelingly upon the suffering which he created! It is like a bad father who has children and gives them the worst education, and then punishes them, although he ought to be punished himself. The damned curse the nature of things, since it causes other beings to prosper from their damnation; the damned curse God, since He rejoices at their expense; and they curse themselves, because they know that they can never find oblivion. They curse the universal chain of events, which entangled them in sin. Lastly, they curse the eternal and unchangeable ideas which determine the universal harmony, and with it, their existence and their sins. They curse these ideas, because they brought forth a universe which uses their misery to set off the happiness of others.
Philosopher: The complaint is tragic enough, but not equally just. I'll prove this to you not only with sure signs, but also with solid reasoning, provided God (whom this debate concerns) gives me strength and spirit. This complaint is truly empty, even if you appraise it knowing that it only one of the damned could make it. It should be noted that this complaint cannot be made by someone not yet damned but damnable, i.e. one who might be damned in the future. Imagine to yourself a damnable person, and place before his eyes and soul the horrors and depths of hell, point out his little corner which will be his for all eternity, destined for his torments, if he acts damnably. Can anyone living see all this and afterwards complain about the causes of his damnation, and God and the nature of things?
Theologian: Well, at least he won't be able to then, because one could immediately reply that he could yet save himself, if he only wanted to.
Philosopher: That's exactly what I wanted to hear! Let's assume that, despite his foreknowledge of hell, this person continues on his way and is accordingly damned. Will he be able to repeat his complaints with any justice whatsoever? Will he be able to impute his misery to anything except his own desire?
Theologian: You've overwhelmed me more than persuaded me.
Philosopher: I will make it so that you will be persuaded as well, once you have clearly understood my argument.
Theologian: I concede that this sinner will impute his sins to his own desires, but he will also impute those desires to fortune, i.e. God, or at least, as you like to say, to the nature of things.
Philosopher: I've told you already that the opposite implies a contradiction; no one willingly makes himself evil, else he were already evil. No one is the ultimate cause of their own desires, for whatever one desires to desire, one desires already, just as having the ability to do something also involves having the ability of having the ability, as our legal textbooks put it. But if this excuse is accepted, then punishment ought to be eliminated from the nature of things: no one is evil, no one ought to be punished, for everyone has this excuse.
Theologian: So, what now?
Philosopher: Well, in judicial matters, the only requirement for inflicting punishment is the determination that the criminal acted with a deliberate, malicious will. Yet those who fault the divine justice seem to be demanding more for punishment than the determination of the sinner's desire, which seems ridiculous.
Theologian: You have convinced me that not the least shadow of an excuse is left for sinners. They have nothing to find fault with, but they still have reason to be indignant. Or rather, they have cause to complain, but nothing to complain about, like a dog angered by a stone, or an inept gambler at his bad luck, or a desperate man against himself. These seem like good models of the anger of the damned against the universal harmony, the nature of things, the eternal ideas which brought about this particular chain of events. It is truly a stupid anger, like one who makes an adding mistake and who discovers upon checking his work that it doesn't agree, and then flies into a rage against arithmetic and not against himself, regretting that three times three actually equals nine instead of ten. But the universal harmony arises from such fundamental, unchangeable ideas like three and nine. Thus, such people have an anger with no object, suffering from which they cannot escape, and a complaint that they can neither get rid of nor make acceptable to themselves. Truly, these are enormous additions to the raging wretchedness with which damnation is mainly seasoned.
Philosopher: Excellent! Their suffering has no escape, which is, if one may express it so, perversely almost pleasing to them, although they cannot make their complaints acceptable to themselves. This was the conclusion with which I wanted to convince you. However, I add that no one is ever actually damned from all eternity; rather they are always damnable; they are always able to be freed, but they never desire it. Therefore, since their own conscience protested in their sins, they are contradictory if they fault with the nature of things.
Theologian: Now you are talking in riddles.
Philosopher: Or in paradoxes, as some might say.
Theologian: It doesn't matter which -- we're alone, put your cards on the table.
Philosopher: If you had been observant, you would've noticed that I have already put them on the table. You remember how a little while ago, we talked about the nature of a mortal sin and about the reason for damnation.
Theologian: Please remind me and show how it applies here.
Philosopher: You don't remember what I replied when you asked for the reason of Judas' damnation? Those enlightening words bear repeating. You asked me, "What was the reason for his damnation?" to which I replied, "The reason was the condition of the dying man, namely the burning hatred of God in which he died." For since the soul is not open to new, external sensations after death (when the body is returned) the soul sticks to its last thoughts. These do not change, but are intensified in death. But hating God, Who is the happiest being, leads to the greatest pain, since hatred means to suffer pain because of the hated one's happiness, just as love means to rejoice in the beloved's happiness. Since God's happiness is the greatest of all, so is Judas' pain; and the greatest pain is damnation. Therefore, a dying person who hates God, damns himself by his own hatred. I think this is pretty close to a proof, for it renders the magnitude of the wretchedness equal to the magnitude of the hatred, which in turn equals the magnitude of the thing hated.
Theologian: But now you have broadened the scope of your argument: for now you're saying that evil people are never damned, but are always damnable.
Philosopher: I understand that to mean that whatever changes cannot stay the same. So also evil people are never damned, for they can stop being damnable whenever they desire it. In other words, they damn themselves from moment to moment.
Theologian: I'd like to see that proved.
Philosopher: It's pretty easy! The hatred of God is what damns someone; thus, by continuing or intensifying his hatred, he continues or intensifies his own damnation. Likewise, the blessed, once they have been accepted into God, i.e. the highest reason, and have perceived the universal harmony all at once, may still increase their joy by reflecting more precisely on the elements of their joy; for thought and desire would come to a standstill without constant novelty and progression. So it is also with the damned, the furious haters of the nature of things: the more they learn of the nature of things, the more enraged they become with new indignation, hatred, envy and in a word, with insanity.
Theologian: You illustrate your hypotheses clearly, but let me ask you two questions.
Philosopher: Ask me a hundred if you wish.
Theologian: One of the questions is merely incidental, but the other is fundamental. You say that happiness, like unhappiness, grows continuously. But I don't understand how the vision of the divine Essence can grow. For if it is the Essence, then it is exactly that and unchanging, and hence cannot grow.
Philosopher: Even a complete conception can grow, not by adding to it, but by reflecting on it more deeply. For example, if you can grasp nine ones, you have grasped the essence of "nine" exactly. But that does not include all of its properties. That is, you can understand nine without realizing that it is three times three, or four plus five, and an infinity of other combinations. This analogy with nine is perhaps not apt, since it introduces other numbers, whereas God has nothing outside Himself with which He could be compared. A better example might be the circle, which is something finite with an infinity of properties within itself. For example, if you know that all lines from the center to the circumference have an equal length, then I'd say you had grasped the essence of the circle. But you have not exhausted all the properties of the circle. For example, there is an infinity of regular figures which can be drawn within the circle, which are fertile ground for new geometrical theorems.
Theologian: I must admit, I have often wondered what kind of pleasure lies in the blessed Vision, where the mind is astounded and forever maintains one unmoving gaze. Happily you have taken away the clouds and reconciled completeness with continual novelty. But this question was only incidental. The question I really wanted to ask was: where does this division of spirits come from? Why do some burn in love for God, while others are driven towards a hatred deadly to themselves? Where do they part ways, and what is, so to speak, the root of the divergence? For we often believe the damnable to be so similar to the savable that we confuse them.
Philosopher: What you ask of me is great, my friend, and even Philosophy itself might not be equal to the task.
Theologian: But try it anyway. For reason may progress as long as it provides itself with support. After all, up to this point in our whole discussion, you have not touched Revelation with profane hands, since you haven't been initiated yet.
Philosopher: I have meditated much on this subject, with the following results. You must realize that there are two kinds of people in the world, just as there are in every nation: those who are satisfied with the present situation and those who hate it. Now the contented and neutral people go to work every day, seek to profit, to gather and increase their fortunes, friends, power, pleasures and fame; otherwise, they would be numb rather than satisfied. However, if their success is prevented by the laws of the state, they don't transfer their hatred to those laws nor do they suddenly desire to change things. Rather, they make new plans with a tranquil mind, no more upset than if they had missed a fly they had tried to swat. This frame of mind distinguishes good citizens from the bad ones, and is even more appropriate when discussing the universal state, whose governor is God.
Theologian: That's certainly so, for even in the ideal state, whose fulfillment is beyond the dreams of men, one cannot prevent that its laws will occasionally limit the success of some of its citizens, or even bring misfortune on them. It is just for them to contemplate change, since it is necessary for them. But in the universal state, whose ruler is God, the only miserable ones are those who want to be.
Philosopher: Therefore, in this world, no indignation at past offences is ever just; every disposition of the mind towards the past except tranquillity is in some way criminal. Thus, to want to suffer when you are denied something is a sin and a kind of hidden anger towards God and towards the present state of things, which depends on the chain of events and the universal harmony.
Theologian: But it's impossible not to be disappointed, when something is denied you.
Philosopher: Predilections of the mind are similar to urges of the body. But there are two types of urges: those which overcome all resistance and those which can be opposed by other drives. If you want to go from east to west, but also wants just as badly to go from west to east, then you will simply stand still. The first desire is not eliminated, but is neutralized by the opposing second drive. Thus, he whose desire has been frustrated cannot help feeling upset for a moment, but if he is satisfied with the overall direction of the world, he won't persevere in his suffering. For he will recognize that everything is for the best, not only overall but also for him specifically; so everything turns to good for those who love God. Likewise one can assume that everyone hates God who are not pleased with His governing of the world, to whom it seems that God could've improved things, including those who argue for atheism from the disorder of the things. Thus, it seems that even atheists hate God; for whatever they may say or believe, if they are upset by the present state of things, they hate God by that very fact, even if they don't call what they hate "God".
Theologian: If this is our philosophy, then it is not lawful to work to improve things.
Philosopher: Wrong indeed! It is not only lawful and just, but also necessary; otherwise, we would lapse into the fatalism we discussed above. Everyone who loves God, i.e. the universal harmony, ought to be contented with the past; since it cannot be undone, it was desired by God and was therefore for the best. But as for the future, nothing has been decided as far as we're concerned, so there is still a place for conscience, industry and deliberation. When a lover of God is considering eliminating or correcting some evil situation, whether his own or another's, whether public or private, his plans focus on correcting it in the future, not the past, say tomorrow. Tomorrow may pass without his plans succeeding, but this failure will not blunt or quench his desire for change. It is not for us to set deadlines for God; only those who persevere will be crowned with victory. In short, a lover of God should always consider the past good, but still strive to improve the future. Whoever is so disposed will achieve finally a tranquillity of the mind (which serious philosophers urge) and a complete surrender to God (which mystical theologians urge). Whoever thinks differently neither knows God (not recognizing that He is responsible for everything) nor loves Him, even if he uses the words like "faith", "love", "neighbour" and "God". Moreover, no one ignorant of God can really love Him, although he can hate God nonetheless, by hating the nature of the world and the chain of events, since he who wishes to change these also wishes that God were different. Those who die dissatisfied, die hating God. The newly dead soul rushes headlong in the direction he began with after death, since nothing external holds him back; his senses are closed. He feeds his own soul with what he has within, with his own hatred of things, and with his own misery, disgust, indignation, envy, dissatisfaction, all of which ever increases. Then even were he reunited with his body, he would find new grounds for contempt, disapproval and anger. Indeed, the less he could check the rushing torrent of events displeasing him, the more he would be tormented. But such suffering almost becomes a perverse pleasure; the wretched almost delight to find that they are tormented. Even among the living, the unhappy slander the blessed whom they envy, for no other reason than to be indignant that such inept people (in their opinion) should possess so many good things. But thus they make their own torments more abundant and their pain more wild; they also distort their envy to make it seem more reasonable. Somehow, in a remarkable way, envy, indignation and dissatisfaction of this kind are bound up with the pleasure of suffering. For since they are pleased to think of themselves as wise, they suffer all the more keenly that they lack the power which they feel is their due; and what power they have, they feel is beneath their dignity. So there you have an explanation for an amazing paradox. I maintain, not only is no one damned unless they desire it, but also that no one remains damned unless they desire it. For no one is damned unless they damn themselves; the damned are never wholly damned, but always remain damnable. They are damned by such a stubbornness and perversion of their desires, such a turning away from God, that their greatest delight is in having something which makes them suffer. They are always looking for a reason to become angry. They seem to have the madness of fury, but which is desired, despairing, uncurable and eternal. Therefore, the damned neither could nor would make the complaints which we ascribed to them before, i.e. that they would accuse nature, the universal harmony and God of being co-conspirators in creating their misery.
Theologian: Immortal God! You have turned this paradox into a job well done! I can tell that this sort of explanation is consistent with the Holy Fathers. I know of a simple, but wise fable, which nearly encompasses the intrinsic character of the damned. Once upon a time, there was a hermit, I'm not sure which one, who was almost intoxicated with profound contemplation. And one day, this hermit began to suffer gravely because so many creatures had to be damned. He approached God with his request, and demonstrating his sincerity, he asked, "O Father, how can You contemplate the destruction of so many of Your children with no sorrow? Oh, receive those miserable demons back into grace, those demons who drag so many souls down into the lower world with themselves." Then the heavens and the tempests were calmed, and the Almighty One answered serenely, "My son, I see the simplicity of your heart; I understand well the exuberance of your good will, and I would gladly do it. I will forgive everyone who asks for forgiveness." Then the adoring hermit said, "May You be blessed, Father of all mercy, inexhaustible Fountain of grace! And now, with Your permission, I will pay a visit to Old Nick and those other wretched ones, and tell them of this happy day." The hermit went to the Prince of Devils, with whom he was well acquainted, interrupted him in the middle of a conversation, and said, "Boy, this is your lucky day! The doors of salvation have been thrown open to welcome you, the doors which have been closed since almost the beginning of the world! Now try to complain about the cruelty of God, Who was moved by the entreaty of a poor hermit, where the rebellions of so many ages failed!" But the Demon-Prince, outraged and menacing, said, "Excuse me, who made you our attorney? Who suckered you into believing in such stupid mercy? Listen, you moron, we don't need your intercession or God's pardon."
Hermit: What stubborn blindness! Please stop and let me speak to you.
Beelzebub: You're obviously trying to lecture me.
Hermit: How much will it cost you to listen for a few minutes to a small man who just wants the best for everyone?
Beelzebub: So what do you want?
Hermit: Listen, I have been dealing with God for your salvation.
Beelzebub: You?? With God?? O shame of the heavens, infamy of the world, indignation of the universe! He Who rules over everything! How can He ask that His angels tremble before an Authority which has bowed before the worms of the earth? I'm about to explode with fury.
Hermit: Oh, refrain from these curses on the threshold of reconciliation.
Beelzebub: I am beside myself.
Hermit: You will return to yourself, when you realize with what fatherly tenderness the heart of God awaits the return of a son.
Beelzebub: Is it really possible that He Who has provoked us so often really wants reconciliation? That He Who has injured us so often has reconsidered? That He Who likes to be thought of as omniscient admits His mistake? That He Who likes to be thought of as omnipotent abjects Himself?
Hey, you! How much is this "peace" going to cost?
Hermit: A single entreaty will extinguish the anger, bury the hatred, and drown the memory of the past itself in the deep.
Beelzebub: Announce that I am ready to be friends on this condition.
Beelzebub: Don't doubt it!
Hermit: Don't delude me!
Beelzebub: So go and close the deal...
Hermit: Oh, I am so happy! What a beautiful day! O you who taste freedom, O you blessed God!
God: Why all this dancing?
Hermit: The bargain has been struck, O Father! Now may our God and His Anointed have rule, and power, and salvation, and strength, and honour and glory! For the devil who used to accuse us daily and clamour day and night for our ruin has been converted.
God: Did you mention the requirement of the entreaty?
Hermit: He agreed to it.
God: Watch out that you're not being deceived!
Hermit: I'll bring him here to fulfill it.
God: Wait, before you go, let's establish the wording of the entreaty.
Hermit: I'll write it down.
God: Tell all those who wish to be received into grace, that they should appear before My throne and say the following words: "I admit with my mouth and acknowledge in my heart that my own malice has caused my unhappiness, which would have continued eternally, had not You shattered my stupidity with Your ineffable mercy. Now that my peaceful mind can tell the difference between light and darkness, I would rather endure the worst than return to my former state by repeating my offence, for nothing would be so foul in all nature."
Hermit: I've written it down, and now I will go, or rather I will fly...
Beelzebub: You think you got wings or something?
Hermit: My mood makes me swift. Here are the words of the entreaty.
Beelzebub: I like what I'm reading. But when will the entreaty be made?
Hermit: Whenever you want.
Beelzebub: As if I were the cause of the delay!
Hermit: So let's get going to the throne of God!
Beelzebub: Are you crazy, or what? Shouldn't He be coming to me, and not the other way around?
Hermit: This is no time for joking!
Beelzebub: He who is making the entreaty should be going.
Hermit: So let's go!
Beelzebub: You're nuts!
Hermit: Aren't you going to make the entreaty?
Beelzebub: Did you promise that, or something?
Hermit: Who would dream of anything else?
Beelzebub: I, the injured party? I should entreat that Tyrant? What a cute intercession this is! Oh, the pestilence of human beings! What a perfect example of a traitorous attorney!
Hermit: Oh, what are you doing?
Beelzebub: Poison enters all my limbs, and
Every fury rages through my veins!
Crimes accumulate on crime's head:
That's how we're atoned for.
The only sacrifice for one who rages
Is the sacrificial slaughter of his enemy.
I delight in ripping him alive into pieces,
Shredding him into a thousand parts and
Scattering them to the winds, to make
Him truly feel my suffering,
To peel away his flesh, even when the
Trumpets themselves call the resurrected.
Hermit: God save me!
Beelzebub: The dark jaws of Avernus, and you lakes of Taenarum --
Hermit: He is gone, I can breathe again. With his last words, the wretched one said where he was going. O devil despaired of! O enemy of God, of the universe, of yourself! May your curses depart and keep their deliberate insanity to themselves. But praise, honour and glory to You, my God, that You have deigned to reveal radiantly Your mercy and justice to Your servant, and that You have removed all shadows of doubt that tried to portray You as unjust or powerless. Now my soul is quiet, and with inexhaustible delight, suns itself in the light of Your beauty.
Theologian: Our hermit said these things and I agree with him.
Philosopher: With this delightful little story, you have brightened the severity of our argument, or rather, signed and sealed it with an epilogue. Now I think we can safely quit.
Theologian: Let me ask one more question. I acknowledge that you have proven that the damned cannot complain about God, the world or anything else, and that they don't even want to be able. But it is still apparent that God is doing a favour to the minds which are amazed by His unfathomable judgment, and even to Himself. I could probably figure this out for myself from everything we've established, but I'd prefer to have you summarize it.
Philosopher: So what's left to complain about? If the chain of events were not so, neither God nor a blessed soul could be blessed, or even exist, since the chain of events follows from God's existence.
Theologian: I admit, no one can complain, but many might wonder about two things: first, why the system of the world was set up with damnations, and secondly, why one soul makes itself, even chooses to make itself more unhappy than another.
Philosopher: The first question is the easiest and the most difficult at the same time. It is the easiest, if you agree with my assertion that this world-system is the best possible, and that it agrees with the universal harmony. Scholastically speaking, this can be proven a posteriori, from the fact that it has happened. For it is undeniable that everything which exists is the best possible, or rather the most harmonious possible. The proof is that the first and only cause of what exists is God's mind, since the goal of any mind is harmony and God's mind is the most perfect and harmonious. But if anyone is still unsatisfied with this line of reasoning, I cannot answer him; if he wants an a priori proof of this universal harmony, then he asks for something too difficult for a man who has not yet seen the secret vision of God.
Theologian: Would that the world were persuaded of what you have proven so irrefutably: if one views the universe as a whole, then whatever does exist is seen to be the best. If everyone believed this, we would surely have fewer sins, and if everyone bore it in mind, we would have none at all. Everyone would love the Creator and the mouth of atheists would be stopped. Those short-sighted critics of Providence would have to hold their tongues, they who rush to judge the whole melody based on a few notes. They don't realize that, given the near infinity of things, or so to speak, in the reduplication of worlds within worlds (for space is infinitely divisible), no impure mortal can grasp the whole universe. They do not see that the interspersed dissonances make the consonance of the universe all the more exquisite, just as adding two odd numbers produces an even one. They do not grasp that it is the very essence of harmony to unify diverse elements wonderfully into an unexpectedly beautiful whole. Musical composers are not the only artists to practice this; so do the authors of stories intended to amuse, which we call novels. Nevertheless, there is still the question: since souls are initially all identical (before birth), and only become different through the external impressions which they receive, how does the initial choice occur? If they are all the same, why is one soul chosen to be exposed to corrupting influences, and another not? More generally but equivalently, why are identical souls placed in differing times and places and circumstances?
Philosopher: This question seems difficult, but that's more because of the warped way you asked it and less because it's so problematic. Here we touch upon the extremely thorny discussion of the principle of individuation, that is, the problem of telling the difference between identical objects, i.e. objects which differ in location alone. For example, two eggs could be so similar that not even an angel could distinguish them (assuming they were perfectly alike) but who can deny that they are different eggs? At least they differ in that one egg is this egg here and the other is that egg there. Thus we distinguish them by specifying one egg as "this one" and the other as "that one"; in other words, they are different because they can be assigned different numbers (indexed). Counting is just specifying one object after another; so there is no difference whether we count "One, two, three, ..." or whether we say "This one, and this one, and this one, ..." This specification is equivalent to specifying the time and place of the egg. We could specify it by its motion relative to some object (like ourselves) or by a motion of our own, like pointing at it. Therefore, the specification of identical objects depends on something external and not on the identical things themselves. The only difference that an angel, or I daresay God Himself, could find between our two hypothetical eggs is that one is in position A and the other in position B. Now say you want to distinguish these eggs forever, given that you can't paint them, or label them, or make any mark on them whatsoever: how could you do it? First, you could try keeping them motionless forever, so that the first egg would always be in position A and the other in position B. Secondly, you could fix them in a solid box, so that they would always keep the same orientation. Then by marking the box, you could track them. Lastly, if you let them go wherever they will, you would have to follow every single motion of theirs with your eyes, hands or some other form of contact.
Theologian: You are saying astounding things, which I believe none of of our scholars would even dream of, but which seems undeniable and taken straight from everyday life. Men do exactly as you say when they are trying to distinguish identical objects. But what can we conclude about souls from this discussion?
Philosopher: We can conclude that souls, or as I like to call them, minds, are distinguished initially only by time and position, like our hypothetical eggs. If this is conceded, the whole problem disappears. For to ask why this soul and no other was dropped into these circumstances, into this time and place (which determines that soul's life and death, including its salvation and damnation) is to ask why this soul is this soul. For if all souls are initially identical, then it makes no difference to substitute one soul for another. That soul is equivalent to this soul. If a farmer's son is indignant that he was not born the King's son, then he is indignant in vain. For even if their souls had been switched before birth, everything would've turned out exactly the same: the farmer's son would still envy the king's son! This is what I reply to those who are indignant that God didn't immediately replace Adam and Eve with better people after they fell, so that their original sin wouldn't taint all their children. I admonish them, "If God had eliminated that sin, a completely different chain of events would have followed. There would have been completely different people, circumstances and marriages, and thus a completely different human race. So we would not even exist if that sin were removed." Therefore, they have no reason to become indignant over Adam and Eve's sin, and even less over God's toleration of sin, since this is what brought about their existence in the first place. You see how people vex themselves with pointless questions. It's like some half-blood nobleman becoming angry that his father married a peasant girl, without stopping to consider that had his father married another, he would not have been born, but some other person. Of course people get upset over things even more stupid than this.
Theologian: I have nothing left to ask, criticize or object to. I am just amazed at the unexpected clarity of the whole matter. I would commend you more, did I not fear that people would think that we had some secret understanding.
Philosopher: So let other people be the judge, as long as they are careful and intelligent and pay attention, as long as they employ our definitions and don't bring in new ones, as long as they don't twist my arguments into conclusions I would never dream of, and as long as they eschew malicious quibbling, which is the sign of a disturbed soul. Lastly, they should sincerely want to educate people and defend God's glory.
Theologian: But even if you have made a mistake, it is enough that calumny and envy will never make anything heretical of it. They could never prove that someone who speaks, believes and even dies in this way, is damnable and not to be held as a son of the mother community the Church, or equivalently, as a brother.
Philosopher: I believe that with certainty and supported by that hope, I commend myself to the Universal One, to the Church, to the Christian State, to the wisdom of antiquity and to the accepted way of thinking of our age, and lastly to everyone who reaches a correct conclusion. I cannot help being attacked, but I hope that my critics will not be prejudiced. For I hope that if one considers my arguments carefully and attentively, he will be convinced that my conclusions should be universally recognized as true. But I presume that he will dispense with verbal tricks to muddy the waters and confuse people more than the arguments themselves. Everything ought to be presented as simply as possible. Now I have said nothing of Christ's benefits, of the help of the Holy Spirit and of the extraordinary cooperation of the divine Grace, since these are all matters of divine revelation. For we agreed among ourselves that I as a catechumen would expound first the theology of philosophers, and you would then introduce me to the mysteries of the revelation of Christian wisdom. This was to help you, Theophilus, as a teacher in recognizing what I already believe and acknowledge, and also to clarify the agreement between faith and reason. We showed how unreasonable are those people who sneer at religion because they are puffed up with knowledge, and also those who, made haughty by revelations, despise philosophy because it reveals their ignorance.
Theologian: I praise your modesty, and I appreciate how much I've profited from our conversation. I rejoice to glean sound arguments from you to stuff in the mouths of people of exceeding impudence, who are not moved by reverence for the sacred scriptures, nor by the consensus, authority and good example of the Holy Fathers. These people who make themselves stubborn for some reason are foolish, as you have shown more clearly than the noonday sun. The time will come (I foresee it and pray for it) when you will be even better prepared for greater tasks, once you have studied the principles of our faith. The light of your reason will exorcise all the shadows and spectres of utterly vain difficulties, which confuse the soul and lead it astray. Farewell.