Friday, March 16, 2012

The Book of the Three Dwelling-Places, Chapter 5

Book of the Three Dwelling-Places
By Saint Patrick

Chapter Five.
All things are present to God, without any prejudgment against human freedom. The discourse and praise of God. His existence before time. True evil is worse than false evil. The vision of God which is conferred upon the blessed. The eternity of God. The knowledge of God.

From this, we know that God does not see the day of judgment, and he does not see the first day of the ages, but he sees both. God's foreknowledge does not lead anyone towards sinning, as many mistaken people say. For if, they say, God knew ahead of time that Adam would become a sinner, it would have been impossible for Adam to avoid sinning. From this error is born the idea that God is the cause of sin, which is monstrous to say. And those people who say these things are tripped up by their own words. For if the things God has foreknowledge of have to occur, out of necessity, then man sinned by means of his own free will, and not out of any necessity, because in the foreknowledge of God man sinned by a free and voluntary decision, not led by necessity. Therefore, if the foreknowledge of God is unable to avoided, humans are unable to sin through anything other than free will; they are led by no other power, because God foreknows they will sin in this way. Therefore, if the decision to sin is voluntary, it is not forced. For if mankind is not forced to sin, then without a doubt, humans are able to avoid sin if they wish; and for that reason--because they willingly chose to sin--humans have deserved punishment for their sins. Otherwise, the punishment of death would not have been taken up by God.

God's discourse is hidden inspiration, which is how he invisibly shows his will and his love to minds; perceiving this discourse, the Angels obey God through everything. God's praise will be extolled by the elect, and the manifestation by his elect will show forth goodness to all people; therefore, perpetual praise by the elect will honor him; everlasting is his marvelousness. His wonderful measures do not come before the world and time, because there was no space of hours before the world, and in this way, God will always be without beginning. For there was no time before time existed, but rather, time was co-created with the world. If time began to run at the same time as the world, then time was not made before the world. And therefore, as we said earlier, there was no time before time that God existed, and there was no time before the world that God existed, because time and his world are of the same age, for it was through God's motion that they both began to run. Whatever is moved exists before its own motion. And God existed before the world in infallible eternity, not in time. God's time was not before the world.

God's light dispels the darkness of ignorance, and it is through His light that we know that some portion of all these things which we say is true and certain. Through the same light, we see that truth is better than falsehood; and further, we see that evil discourse or true sin is worse than false evil or false sin, not on account of its truth, but on account of the fact that it is evil and sin. For something else cannot be evil or sin, unless it is true evil or sin; for false evil is not evil, just like how false silver is not silver. Some people say that evil or sin comes from truth, and it is done in truth; in this way, they make evil out to be the work of truth, which is entirely false. For all that is true rises from the truth, and all that is true is also good, to the extent that it is true. Consequently, a true thing comes from truth, so that if evil or sin exists, it does not exist in and of itself; in order to exist, that evil depends on another thing, a thing which is good and true. So, whatever is evil is not itself good, but nonetheless, it is true and good, in that it exists. For evil does not exist by itself, without the existence of good; in no way would God allow that to be done. Of course, the All-Powerful One makes many good things out of bad things, such as when he forms good from the adultery of men, and he makes them human again. This and all other things which we know about God are known through some portion of God's light, poured forth as if into a narrow crack in the ground; and if we know these things to be true, how much and what sort of knowledge and wisdom will be brought to light in Heaven, where we will see that sun of truth face to face, that is, where we will know true and certain wisdom? God's presence makes the people who are near him become more like him; God's absence makes the people who are apart from him become less like him in every way. For true wisdom, true beauty and true eternity are close to God; therefore, the person who is also close to God will assuredly be wise and beautiful and eternal.

God's eternity is without beginning and without end (for if there was time when time didn't exist, who created it?); because he himself is the only God, and before him, there was no other god, there is no other god and there will be none other. Not by chance did he create himself, and with nothing, he created himself; for by what power could he have made himself, when all powers besides himself were entirely non-existent? Therefore, the only option left is to say that everything which is made is not God. Therefore, God was made without any means, without beginning, before all things were. For whatever is made has a beginning, and whatever has a beginning, without a doubt, is made, not made by someone other than God, but rather, God makes all things.

God's knowledge is without any variety of thought, and his mind does not wander here and there, as he contemplates the innumerable truth of all creatures: angels, humans, stars (Hebrews 11:12), sands (Genesis 13:16), hair (Matthew 10:30), words (Psalm 139:4), thoughts, all moments. He perceives and understands them all at the same time and at once. Therefore, God is the fount and origin of knowledge; how much a person thirsts for this fountain will be how much he drinks from it (John 4:13-14).


1) In this chapter, there is a sentence which discusses the fact that true sin is bad, not because it is true (as opposed to false), but because it is sin. The sentence reads:

"Through the same light, we see that truth is better than falsehood; and further, we see that evil discourse or true sin is worse than false evil or false sin, not on account of its truth, but on account of the fact that it is evil and sin."

Some manuscripts add "but then, it is evil and sin, because it is true evil and sin" at the end of this sentence.

2) The section on God's knowledge starts with the sentence "God's knowledge is without any variety of thought." One manuscript does not include the Latin word for "of thought".

3) There are four variations of the sentence which explains that, unlike humans, whose minds tend to wander here and there when thinking about something, God's mind does not wander. The original texts have four variations on that sentence.

1. et sine ullo cursu huc et illuc...
2. et sine usu cursu huc et illuc...
3. et sine visu cursu huc et illuc...
4. et sine nisu cursu huc et illuc...

The literal translation is "and without ____ wandering here and there". In English, the four variants look like this:

1. And without any wandering here and there...
2. And without having to wander here and there...
3. And without sight, wandering here and there...
4. And without effort, wandering here and there...

I translated "cursu" as "wandering", because in English, we say that minds wander. However, in Latin, "cursu" is a more generic term for movement, which can mean wandering, wander, course, path, journey, etc.

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