Beatific vision

Beatific vision

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The beatific vision - in Christian theology
Christian theology
- Divisions of Christian theology :There are many methods of categorizing different approaches to Christian theology. For a historical analysis, see the main article on the History of Christian theology.- Sub-disciplines :...

 is the ultimate direct self communication of God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 to the individual person
A person is a human being, or an entity that has certain capacities or attributes strongly associated with being human , for example in a particular moral or legal context...

, when she or he reaches, as a member of redeemed humanity in the communion of saints
Communion of Saints
The communion of saints , when referred to persons, is the spiritual union of the members of the Christian Church, living and the dead, those on earth, in heaven, and, for those who believe in purgatory, those also who are in that state of purification.They are all part of a single "mystical body",...

, perfect salvation in its entirety, i.e. heaven
Heaven, the Heavens or Seven Heavens, is a common religious cosmological or metaphysical term for the physical or transcendent place from which heavenly beings originate, are enthroned or inhabit...

. The notion of vision stresses the intellectual component of salvation, though it encompasses the whole of human experience of joy, happiness coming from seeing God finally face to face and not imperfectly through faith
Faith in Christianity
Faith, in Christianity, has been most commonly defined by the biblical formulation in the Letter to the Hebrews as "'the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen". Most of the definitions in the history of Christian theology have followed this biblical formulation...

 (1 Cor 13
1 Corinthians 13
Chapter 13 of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, written by Paul the apostle covers the subject of love, principally the love that Christians should have for everyone. In the original Greek, the word αγαπη agape is used throughout...


It is related to the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox belief in theosis, and is seen in most - if not all - church denominations as the reward for Christians in the afterlife.


While humans' understanding of God while alive is indirect (mediation/prayer, not actually looking at Him), the beatific vision is direct (immediate, visual), or literally, seeing God. In other words, the beatific vision means a soul is actually looking at God, as is, viewing Him without any sort of censorship
thumb|[[Book burning]] following the [[1973 Chilean coup d'état|1973 coup]] that installed the [[Military government of Chile |Pinochet regime]] in Chile...

 like that depicted by the prophet Isaiah. Furthermore, seeing God in Beatific vision does not take the viewer's life, as it would on earth.

History of the beatific vision

In Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

, the Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 teaches that This concept has been termed "the beatific vision of God" by theologians of the Catholic Church, as well as various Protestant denominations, including the Lutheran Church and the Methodist Church.

Saint Cyprian wrote of the saved seeing God in the Kingdom of Heaven.
"How great will your glory and happiness be, to be allowed to see God, to be honored with sharing the joy of salvation and eternal light with Christ your Lord and God... to delight in the joy of immortality in the Kingdom of Heaven with the righteous and God's friends" ~ St. Cyprian

Monsignor Edward A. Pace
Edward A. Pace
Monsignor Edward A. Pace was a Roman Catholic priest of the Diocese of St. Augustine, Florida. He was the first native Floridian to be ordained a diocesan priest....

 in the Catholic Encyclopedia
Catholic Encyclopedia
The Catholic Encyclopedia, also referred to as the Old Catholic Encyclopedia and the Original Catholic Encyclopedia, is an English-language encyclopedia published in the United States. The first volume appeared in March 1907 and the last three volumes appeared in 1912, followed by a master index...

(1907) defined the Beatific Vision:
The immediate knowledge of God which the angelic spirits and the souls of the just enjoy in Heaven. It is called "vision" to distinguish it from the mediate knowledge of God which the human mind may attain in the present life. And since in beholding God face to face the created intelligence finds perfect happiness, the vision is termed "beatific."

In Catholic theology, the intercession of saints
Intercession of saints
Intercession of the saints is a Christian doctrine held by Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and some Anglican churches, that deceased saints and the Blessed Virgin Mary intercede for believers, and that it is possible to ask deceased saints for their prayers...

 is valid because those who have died in the Faith are with God in Heaven and enjoy the Beatific Vision; i.e., unmediated access to God's Presence, actually in Paradise itself, seeing God.

Thomas Aquinas

Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas, O.P. , also Thomas of Aquin or Aquino, was an Italian Dominican priest of the Catholic Church, and an immensely influential philosopher and theologian in the tradition of scholasticism, known as Doctor Angelicus, Doctor Communis, or Doctor Universalis...

 defined the beatific vision as the human being's "final end" in which one attains to a perfect happiness. Thomas reasons that one is perfectly happy only when all one's desires are perfectly satisfied, to the degree that happiness could not increase and could not be lost. "Man is not perfectly happy, so long as something remains for him to desire and seek."STh I-II, q., 3, a. 8. But this kind of perfect happiness cannot be found in any physical pleasure, any amount of worldly power, any degree of temporal fame or honor, or indeed in any finite reality. It can only be found in something that is infinite and perfect -- and this is God. STh I-II, q. 2, a. 8. And since God is not a material thing but is pure spirit, we are united to God by knowing and loving him. Consequently, the most perfect union with God is the most perfect human happiness and the goal of the whole of the human life. But we cannot attain to this happiness by our own natural powers; it is a gift that must be given to us by God, who strengthens us by the "light of glory" so that we can see him as he is, without any intermediary. (Thomas quotes Psalm 35:10 on this point: "In your light we shall see light.")STh I, q. 12, a. 4. Further, since every created image or likeness of God (including even the most perfect "ideas" or "images" of God we might generate in our minds) is necessarily finite, it would thus be infinitely less than God himself.STh I, q. 12, a. 2. The only perfect and infinite good, therefore is God himself, which is why Aquinas argues that our perfect happiness and final end can only be the direct union with God himself and not with any created image of him. This union comes about by a kind of "seeing" perfectly the divine essence itself, a gift given to our intellects when God joins them directly to himself without any intermediary. And since in seeing this perfect vision of what (and who) God is, we grasp also his perfect goodness, this act of "seeing" is at the same time a perfect act of loving God as the highest and infinite goodness.

According to Aquinas, the Beatific Vision surpasses both faith
Faith is confidence or trust in a person or thing, or a belief that is not based on proof. In religion, faith is a belief in a transcendent reality, a religious teacher, a set of teachings or a Supreme Being. Generally speaking, it is offered as a means by which the truth of the proposition,...

 and reason
Reason is a term that refers to the capacity human beings have to make sense of things, to establish and verify facts, and to change or justify practices, institutions, and beliefs. It is closely associated with such characteristically human activities as philosophy, science, language, ...

. Rational knowledge does not fully satisfy humankind's innate desire to know God, since reason is primarily concerned with sensible objects, and thus can only infer its conclusions about God indirectly. Summa Theologiae

The theological virtue of faith, too, is incomplete, since Aquinas thinks that it always implies some imperfection in the understanding. The believer does not wish to remain merely on the level of faith, but to grasp directly the object of faith, who is God himself. Summa Contra Gentiles

Thus only the fullness of the Beatific Vision satisfies this fundamental desire of the human soul to know God. Quoting St Paul, Aquinas notes "We see now in a glass darkly, but then face to face" (i Cor. 13:12). The Beatific Vision is the final reward for those saints elect by God to partake in and "enjoy the same happiness wherewith God is happy, seeing Him in the way which He sees Himself" in the next life. Summa Contra Gentiles

Pope John XXII and the Beatific Vision Controversy

Pope John XXII
Pope John XXII
Pope John XXII , born Jacques Duèze , was pope from 1316 to 1334. He was the second Pope of the Avignon Papacy , elected by a conclave in Lyon assembled by Philip V of France...

 (1316 - 1334) caused a controversy involving the Beatific Vision. He said, not as Pope but as a private theologian, that the saved do not attain the Beatific Vision
Beatific vision
The beatific vision - in Christian theology is the ultimate direct self communication of God to the individual person, when she or he reaches, as a member of redeemed humanity in the communion of saints, perfect salvation in its entirety, i.e. heaven...

 until Judgment Day, a view more consistent with soul sleep.: The general understanding at the time was that the saved attained Heaven after being purified and before Judgment Day. He never proclaimed his belief as doctrine, but rather, an opinion (see ex cathedra
Ex Cathedra
Ex Cathedra is a British choir and early music ensemble based in Birmingham in the West Midlands, England. It performs choral music spanning the 15th to 21st centuries, and regularly commissions new works....


The Sacred College of Cardinals held a consistory
-Antiquity:Originally, the Latin word consistorium meant simply 'sitting together', just as the Greek synedrion ....

 on the problem in January 1334, and Pope John backed away from his novel views to the more standard understanding.

His successor, Pope Benedict XII
Pope Benedict XII
Pope Benedict XII , born Jacques Fournier, the third of the Avignon Popes, was Pope from 1334 to 1342.-Early life:...

, declared
Benedictus Deus
Benedictus Deus is a papal bill written by Pius V in 1564 which ratified all decrees and definitions of the Council of Trent. It enjoins strict obedience upon all Catholics and forbids, under pain of excommunication, all unauthorized interpretation....

 it doctrine that the saved see Heaven (and thus, God) before Judgment Day.


In the philosophy of Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

, the beatific vision is the vision of the
The Form of the Good
Plato describes "The Form of the Good" in his dialogue, the Republic, speaking through the character of Socrates. The Sun is described in a simile as the child or offspring of the Form of the Good , in that, like the sun which makes physical objects visible and generates life on earth, the Good...

. In Plato's Allegory of the cave
Allegory of the cave
The Allegory of the Cave—also known as the Analogy of the Cave, Plato's Cave, or the Parable of the Cave—is an allegory used by the Greek philosopher Plato in his work The Republic to illustrate "our nature in its education and want of education"...

, which appears in the Republic
Republic (Plato)
The Republic is a Socratic dialogue written by Plato around 380 BC concerning the definition of justice and the order and character of the just city-state and the just man...

 Book 7 (514a - 520a), he writes (speaking, as he does in many of his works, through the character of Socrates
Socrates was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher. Credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, he is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and the plays of his contemporary ...


"My opinion is that in the world of knowledge the idea of good (the Good) appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort; and, when seen, is also inferred to be the universal author of all things beautiful and right, parent of light and of the lord of light in this visible world, and the immediate source of reason and truth in the intellectual." (517b,c)

Thus, for Plato, the Good appears to correspond to God
The Christian doctrine of the Trinity defines God as three divine persons : the Father, the Son , and the Holy Spirit. The three persons are distinct yet coexist in unity, and are co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial . Put another way, the three persons of the Trinity are of one being...

 in Christian theology
Christian theology
- Divisions of Christian theology :There are many methods of categorizing different approaches to Christian theology. For a historical analysis, see the main article on the History of Christian theology.- Sub-disciplines :...


St. Augustine
Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo , also known as Augustine, St. Augustine, St. Austin, St. Augoustinos, Blessed Augustine, or St. Augustine the Blessed, was Bishop of Hippo Regius . He was a Latin-speaking philosopher and theologian who lived in the Roman Africa Province...

 expressed views similar to Plato's on this subject, and was familiar with Plato's ideas, most likely via Neoplatonist
Neoplatonism , is the modern term for a school of religious and mystical philosophy that took shape in the 3rd century AD, based on the teachings of Plato and earlier Platonists, with its earliest contributor believed to be Plotinus, and his teacher Ammonius Saccas...



The vedic concept of having a visual perception of God is generically called Darshan
or Darshan is a Sanskrit term meaning "sight" , vision, apparition, or glimpse. It is most commonly used for "visions of the divine" in Hindu worship, e.g. of a deity , or a very holy person or artifact...

. The key difference seems to be that one can also get darshans when god appears whilst the person is living.

The seeing of blue and yellow colors while in samadhi, which is a state of union with the omnipresent Brahman
In Hinduism, Brahman is the one supreme, universal Spirit that is the origin and support of the phenomenal universe. Brahman is sometimes referred to as the Absolute or Godhead which is the Divine Ground of all being...

, who is beyond all duality, is also similar to the idea of beatific vision.


Sunni Islam also has the idea of beatific vision. The Qur'an
The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

 speaks of believers seeing Allah in paradise. In chapter 75, verses 22-23, it states "On that day, faces shall be radiant, gazing upon their Lord.".

There is also a Hadith
The term Hadīth is used to denote a saying or an act or tacit approval or criticism ascribed either validly or invalidly to the Islamic prophet Muhammad....

of Muhammad which says the following:
Jarir bin `Abdullah Al-Bajali reported: We were sitting with the Messenger of Allah when he looked at the full moon and observed, "You will see your Lord in the Hereafter as you see this moon having no difficulty in seeing it." [Al-Bukhari, chapter 10 Hadith number 529]

Shia Islam, however, is against this idea. Shiites believe that it's impossible to see God because if god can be seen then god has a form. And if god has a form then god needs the form and that can't be because god is absolute.

This is also mentioned in Quran verses 153, Surahat An-Nisa:
(so indeed they demanded of Musa a greater thing than that, for they said: Show us Allah manifestly; so the lightning overtook them on account of their injustice. Then they took the calf (for a god), after clear signs had come to them, but We pardoned this; and We gave to Musa clear authority)