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87. Man's Knowledge of Himself

1. The more a thing is freed from the limitations ofmatter, the more knowable it is. And the more independent aknowing-power is, in its being and its operation, from thehamperings of matter, the more perfect a knowing-power it is.Therefore we say, "Nonmateriality is the root of knowledge andof knowing." Since God is infinite spirit, he is whollynonmaterial; therefore God is supremely knowable, and supremelyknowing. God knows himself by his essence, by being God. The angelsare spirits, unhampered by matter; they know themselves intheir essence, for God gives them knowledge as he creates them andgives them their essence. Man's intellect knows itself, not byor in its essence, but by its operation. The mind directlyknows essences abstracted from phantasms (that is, it knows theessences of material things), and, by reflection, the mindcan know that it knows; it can know itself by knowing. Ofintellectual beings, God knows perfectly; angels less perfectly;man least perfectly.

2. Habits, in the intellectual order, are: (a) truthsacquired, retained, and ready for use in our reasoning; and (b) thepracticed facility to acquire knowledge by using these acquired andpermanently retained truths as mental equipment. Our grasp of firstprinciples (see above, 79, art. 12), whether intellectual or moral,is a habit; the intellectual first principles constitute a habitfundamental to our thinking; the moral first principles make ahabit basic to all our responsible conduct. The mind or intellectis not directly aware of habits as such; it knows them byreflection.

3. The intellect, exercising its connatural operation ofknowing the essences of material things, knows these essences inits own way, that is, in universal. And, as we have noted, theintellect can reflect, or turn its attention back upon itself; thusit can know things in singular, thus also it can know itself asoperating, and can know its operation.

4. And the intellect can know the will. Knowing itself andits operations it knows the tendency of man to follow knowledge, totend after what knowledge presents as desirable. Thus intellectknows will.

"He who wishes to be perfectly obeyed, should give but few orders."
St Philip Neri

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"When the devil has failed in making a man fall, he puts forward all his energies to create distrust between the penitent and the confessor, and so by little and little he gains his end at last."
St Philip Neri

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"Whom do you seek, friend, if you seek not God? Seek him, find him, cleave to him; bind your will to his with bands of steel and you will live always at peace in this life and in the next."
St Alphonsus de Liguori

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