Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol I:
Early Church Fathers
JUSTIN MARTYR: Chapter IV.—The soul of itself...
Chapter IV.—The soul of itself cannot see God.
“ Is there then, says he, such and so great power in our mind? Or can a man not perceive by sense sooner? Will the mind of man see God at any time, if it is uninstructed by the Holy Spirit?
“ Plato indeed says, replied I, that the minds eye is of such a nature, and has been given for this end, that we may see that very Being when the mind is pure itself, who is the cause of all discerned by the mind, having no colour, no form, no greatness—nothing, indeed, which the bodily eye looks upon; but It is something of this sort, he goes on to say, that is beyond all essence, unutterable and inexplicable, but alone honourable and good, coming suddenly into souls well-dispositioned, on account of their affinity to and desire of seeing Him.
“ What affinity, then, replied he, is there between us and God? Is the soul also divine and immortal, and a part of that very regal mind? And even as that sees God, so also is it attainable by us to conceive of the Deity in our mind, and thence to become happy?
“ Assuredly, I said.
“ And do all the souls of all living beings comprehend Him? he asked; or are the souls of men of one kind and the souls of horses and of asses of another kind?
“ No; but the souls which are in all are similar, I answered.
“ Then, says he, shall both horses and asses see, or have they seen at some time or other, God?
“ No, I said; for the majority of men will not, saving such as shall live justly, purified by righteousness, and by every other virtue.
“ It is not, therefore, said he, on account of his affinity, that a man sees God, nor because he has a mind, but because he is temperate and righteous?
“ Yes, said I; and because he has that whereby he perceives God.
“ What then? Do goats or sheep injure any one?
“ No one in any respect, I said.
“ Therefore these animals will see [God] according to your account, says he.
p. 197 “ No; for their body being of such a nature, is an obstacle to them.
“He rejoined, If these animals could assume speech, be well assured that they would with greater reason ridicule our body; but let us now dismiss this subject, and let it be conceded to you as you say. Tell me, however, this: Does the soul see [God] so long as it is in the body, or after it has been removed from it?
“ So long as it is in the form of a man, it is possible for it, I continue, to attain to this by means of the mind; but especially when it has been set free from the body, and being apart by itself, it gets possession of that which it was wont continually and wholly to love.
“ Does it remember this, then [the sight of God], when it is again in the man?
“ It does not appear to me so, I said.
“ What, then, is the advantage to those who have seen [God]? or what has he who has seen more than he who has not seen, unless he remember this fact, that he has seen?
“ I cannot tell, I answered.
“ And what do those suffer who are judged to be unworthy of this spectacle? said he.
“ They are imprisoned in the bodies of certain wild beasts, and this is their punishment.
“ Do they know, then, that it is for this reason they are in such forms, and that they have committed some sin?
“ I do not think so.
“ Then these reap no advantage from their punishment, as it seems: moreover, I would say that they are not punished unless they are conscious of the punishment.
“ No indeed.
“ Therefore souls neither see God nor transmigrate into other bodies; for they would know that so they are punished, and they would be afraid to commit even the most trivial sin afterwards. But that they can perceive that God exists, and that righteousness and piety are honourable, I also quite agree with you, said he.
“ You are right, I replied.
Next: Chapter V.—The soul is not in its...