In Christian thought, creation “out of nothing” is not an event or a process: there is no how, when, or where in the creation of the world. How, when, and where are all internal to finite being, and more precisely to space and time: any account of creation that mentions events or things is not an account of creation, but a description of the world. Such an account says nothing (except analogically) about the relation of the world to the source and ground of its being. It is already implicit in Aristotle that there can be no explanation of the being of things, of “how” things depend on “the thought that thinks itself”, because there is no how, no relation in any common sense (as between things or events), nothing to explain: self-subsistent Intellect is not in itself a thing, and is what it thinks. To grasp the Christian understanding of creation is to grasp a non-reciprocal and non-dual “relation of dependence” between a radically contingent world (at every instant it exists) and the self-subsistent and dimension-less ground of its being (which can only be known as oneself, through a revelation prepared by the surrender of self). This chapter traces this understanding in Dante by discussing the tension between Neoplatonic emanation and “ Thomistic” creation, the meditation on unity in diversity of Paradiso 2; the relation between body and soul; and the “ birth” of time and of space in the Primo Mobile.
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