“V.  The Consideration of the Divine Unity Through Its Primary Name Which is Being” by Bonaventure

In the first few paragraphs of this chapter (§§1-6), Bonaventure presents a series of arguments that, if you push your knowledge of reality back to its fundamental constituents, you will discover that “above” your mind is an eternal light, which we can come to understand is infinite being, the existence of which is necessary.  In effect, Bonaventure argues that we have an implicit or tacit awareness of the divine, in light of which all our understanding of finite being takes place.  Even though we do not normally notice it, in other words, the reality of God is always present to our consciousness.  [Is there a similarity here to anything we have read earlier?]

How are we to understand this “infinite being” whose light we can glimpse “above” our minds?  When ordinary believers consider what “God” is, they often express their understanding in straightforward language derived from everyday experience (e.g., God is a most powerful thing “out there” who got the world going and now watches over it and, perhaps, views it as a moral judge) or from biblical imagery (e.g., God is a mighty king sitting on his heavenly throne [Isaiah] or God is a wise old man with flowing white beard [Ezekiel]).  In the closing paragraphs of this chapter (§§7-8), Bonaventure attempts to assist his readers on their “journeys” by exploring a series of contrasting claims that are to be made of God conceived as infinite being.  The purpose of these contrasts, I would suggest, is to get us to see how even terms used appropriately of God as infinite being are quite limited and must be used carefully in relationship to each other.  He is offering us a reflective intellectual “exercise” in the appreciation of something like a “grammar” of symbolic or analogical language.  Take any two of these contrasts (e.g., absolute being is one and omnifarious or most actual and changeless) and try to explore how your own understanding of what absolute being might be like is challenged, overturned, or in some other way compelled to “advance” along an intellectual journey.