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God is not in Place or Time but All Things are in Him


Proslogion, cc. 18-22

18.  Behold, once more confusion, once more sorrow and grief stand in my way as I seek joy and happiness! Even now my soul hoped for fulfilment, and, lo, once again it is overwhelmed by neediness! Even now I sought to have my fill, and, lo, I hunger the more! I strove to ascend to God’s light and I have fallen back into my own darkness. Indeed, not only have I fallen back into it, but I feel myself enclosed within it. I fell before ‘my mother conceived me’ [Ps. 50: 7]. In that darkness indeed ‘I was conceived’ [ibid.] and I was born under its shadow. We all, in fact, at one time fell in him ‘in whom all of us’ sinned [Rom. 5: 12]. In him (who easily possessed and wickedly lost it for himself and for us), we all lost that which, when we wish to look for it, we do not know; that which, when we look for it, we do not find; that which, when we find it, is not what we are looking for. Help me ‘because of Your goodness, Lord’ [Ps. 24: 7]. ‘I sought Your countenance, Your countenance I will seek, O Lord; do not turn Your face away from me’ [Ps. 26: 8]. Raise me up from my own self to You. Purify, heal, make sharp, ‘illumine’ the eye of my soul so that it may see You [Ps. 12: 4]. Let my soul gather its strength again and with all its understanding strive once more towards You, Lord.

What are You, Lord, what are You; what shall my heart understand You to be? You are, assuredly, life, You are wisdom, You are truth, You are goodness, You are blessedness, You are eternity, and You are every true good. These are many things, and my limited understanding cannot see them all in one single glance so as to delight in all at once. How then, Lord, are You all these things? Are they parts of You, or rather, is each one of these wholly what You are? For whatever is made up of parts is not absolutely one, but in a sense many and other than itself, and it can be broken up either actually or by the mind—all of which things are foreign to You, than whom nothing better can be thought. Therefore there are no parts in You, Lord; neither are You many, but You are so much one and the same with Yourself that in nothing are You dissimilar with Yourself. Indeed You are unity itself not divisible by any mind. Life and wisdom and the other [attributes], then, are not parts of You, but all are one and each one of them is wholly what You are and what all the others are. Since, then, neither You nor Your eternity which You are have parts, no part of You or of Your eternity is anywhere or at any time, but You exist as a whole everywhere and Your eternity exists as a whole always.

19. But if through Your eternity You have been and are and will be, and if to have been is not to be in the future, and to be present is not to have been or to be in the future—how does Your eternity exist as a whole always?

Or is there nothing past in Your eternity,  so that  it is now no longer; nor anything future, as though it were not already? You were not, therefore, yesterday, nor will You be tomorrow, but yesterday and today and tomorrow You are. Indeed You exist neither yesterday nor today nor tomorrow but are absolutely outside all time. For yes- terday and today and tomorrow are completely in time; however, You, though nothing can be without You, are nevertheless not in place or time but all things are in You. For nothing contains You, but You contain all things.

20. You therefore permeate and embrace all things; You are before and beyond all things. You are before all things of course since, before they came to be, You already are. But how are You beyond all things? For in what way are You beyond those things that will never have an end?

Is it because these things can in no way exist without You, though You do not exist any the less even if they return to nothingness? For in this way, in a sense, You are beyond them. Or is it also that they can be thought to have an end while You cannot in any way? For in this way, in a sense, they do indeed have an end, but You do not in any sense. And assuredly that which does not have an end in any way at all is beyond that which does come to an end in some way. Is it also in this way that You surpass even all eternal things, since Your eternity and theirs is wholly present to You, though they do not have the part of their eternity which is yet to come just as they do not now have what is past? In this way, indeed, are You always beyond those things, because You are always present at that point (or because it is always present to You) which they have not yet reached.

21. Is this, then, the "age of the age’ or the ‘ages of the ages’? For just as an age of time contains all temporal things, so Your eternity contains also the very ages of time. Indeed this [eternity] is an ‘age’ because of its indivisible unity, but ‘ages’ because of its immensity without limit. And although You are so great, Lord, that all things are filled with You and are in You, yet You exist without any spatial extension so that there is neither a middle nor half nor any part in You. 22. You alone then, Lord, are what You are and You are who You are. For what is one thing as a whole and another as to its parts, and has in it something mutable, is not altogether what it is. And what began [to exist] from non-existence, and can be thought not to exist, and returns to non-existence unless it subsists through some other; and what has had a past existence but does not now exist, and a future existence but does not yet exist—such a thing does not exist in a strict and absolute sense. But You are what You are, for whatever You are at any time or in any way this You are wholly and forever.

And You are the being who exists in a strict and absolute sense because You have neither past nor future existence but only present existence; nor can You be thought not to exist at any time. And You are life and light and wisdom and blessedness and eternity and many suchlike good things;  and yet You are nothing  save the  one and supreme good, You who are completely sufficient unto Yourself, needing nothing, but rather He whom all things need in order that they may have being and well-being.

Anselm of Canterbury, The major Works, edited with an Introduction by B. Davies and G. R. Evans (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 126-129