--------------- MAN AND GOD by Xavier Zubiri ------------------------------------ Chapter 4 (179-193) ---------------





At first glance, it might appear that what was said in the previous chapter would suffice to solve the problem of man’s access to God. And to be sure, it is in the reality of God where the key to His access resides. However, this access presents certain peculiar problems of its own, which we must consider:

§ 1. What do we understand by access of man to God?
§ 2. God as accessible reality.
§ 3. What are the characteristics of this access to God?
§ 4. What is the precise and formal root of this access?
§ 5. God, accessed reality.


§ 1


1. On the basis of everything said thus far we have discovered that the absolutely absolute reality, God, in His absolute concretion is formally and constitutively present in real things as their fontanally transcendent fundament, and manifested in them as deity of the power of the real. But strictly speaking this is not formally the access of man to God. It would rather be access of God to the world, because, that the world may be accessible to God is not something immediately obvious. The Theós of Aristotle lives thinking and desiring nothing but his own reality; the Theós neither knows the world nor acts upon it. Classical theology insists on the presence of God in created things. For Saint Thomas God is in things by means of three concepts. First, because all things are in His hands. God has power over all of them. Therefore, He is present in things through His power. In addition, all things are present to the intelligence of God, who is in them due to His own presence. Finally, God is in things through essence, because all are a participation in the entity of God. Nevertheless, Who could fail to observe that this leaves the question that concerns us here intact? Let us admit without question, for the time being, that God is in things according to that triple concept: through essence, presence, and power. But what we ask is not how God is in things, but rather how one thing, man, has access to God. If it is not obvious that God has {181} access to the world, neither is it obvious that man may have access to God. A God absolutely ignored and unknown due to his own characteristics, would be real, but not accessible to man. The access in question is, above all, an access not in the sense that the reality of things is in God, and God in the reality of things, but in the sense that there are acts that man may perform through which he has access to God.

2. Still, this is not enough, because having justified the reality of God intellectually, it is certainly clear that God is known by man in some way. But, to understand a reality does not mean that we have access to it simply on that account. The act or acts of access to God by man are not those which are formally intellectual, but rather those acts which physically and really take us to Him, insofar as He is absolutely absolute reality.

3. Clearly, all these acts are moments or aspects of the unique act in which the life of man formally consists: the constitution and configuration of his relatively absolute being, of his I. The question then becomes, What would it be to have access to God in the radical act of the constitution of the I? It is an access in the order not of human reality, but of my being. This is a problem, which is connected in an essential way with the one posited in the last chapter, when dealing with what I called the function of God in life. There, we were concerned primarily with what God does, in and with man, in the constitution of his I. On the other hand, we now ask ourselves about what it is that man does to access God, when living as an I. Certainly, what we said there is not extraneous to what we may have to say here, indeed, just the opposite. This is why I warned that {182} some repetitions are inevitable and may become tedious.

Therefore, it is along these lines that we ask ourselves in what the access to God consists.

A) In the first place, because man is a substantive reality provided with intelligence, he is an essence constitutively open to its own characteristic reality. Human reality not only has certain properties according to which man acts, just like any other reality; but differently from all others, man acts from and by his own character of reality. In other words, he is an essence open to itself as reality, and which acts openly. That to which this essence is open in the order of its activity is the constitution of the figure of its relatively absolute being, of its I.

B) The structure of that openness has, with respect to this radical act of the essence, a very precise structure: the open essence is formally religated. Its openness is therefore a religated openness. Open to what? To the fundamentality of its life, to the power of the real as ultimate, possibilitating and impelling. In this dimension of religated openness, man is hurled from the power of the real “towards” that upon which this power is founded, towards God. It is not the case that God is going to be “in front” of us. The access to God is not an “encounter" in itself, but a “remission”. Thus far the reality of God is a reality in the mode of “towards”, in real things themselves, which are real precisely “in” God. Because of this, man, velis nolis, while making his own I with real things qua real, is making his I in God (ultimateness), with God (possibilitating), and by God (impelling). This “towards” {183} takes place in a dynamic theological tension “between” man and God, a tension at the same time personal and historical.

C) But this is not yet formally the access to God. Because as we have just indicated, that to which man formally directs himself is towards real things; one might even say, towards “the” reality. It is true that God is formally and constitutively in the reality of real things; and this is why when things give me their own reality, they are giving me God in that reality itself. However, if this were all, man would be moving in God by the mere fact of being and moving in reality, which is true for any man, whether he knows it or not. In this sense we all have an access to God. But then, that to which man directs himself is towards real things. And therefore the access, strictly and formally put, would be an access to things, but not to God, who, if one wishes to employ an expressive scholastic term, would be accessed per accidens, i.e., that to which man has access in itself would be real things, and would only reach God because it so happens that God is in things. Man would reach God without intending to do it. However, this is not the case. Because, as we have already seen, God is formally present in things, but without being identical to them: this is the transcendence of God. Whence it follows that in the access to real things, man is hurled “towards” his own transcendent font “in” them. And this transcendence is the one that strictly poses our question. Because then man, when accessing things, would be hurled in them themselves towards his own transcendent fundament. In that case, God would not be accessed per accidens, but per se, for Himself, since He has access to things, which are real “in” God. And thus, the system of acts, which apprehend {184} God for Himself in things, transcendent, but formally present in them, is what constitutes the access we are searching for. It is the case of having access to God not without knowing it or per accidens, but expressly and formally, i.e., directed towards God qua God.

This does not mean that we are searching for acts through which we may “find” God, because then the reality of God would always be a reality as “towards”. We do not find God in things, but rather we find ourselves “remitted” to Him. Our intelligence has discovered the reality of God in things, and man exercises some acts formally and precisely directed “towards” that God. This only means that if we were able to reach the terminus of this "towards”, then yes, we would find a God, which would justify the road taken.

Finally, in the achievement and configuration of my relatively absolute being, the reality of God already justified would have to be the terminus of acts directed formally and expressly towards Him, not in a supererogatory fashion, but as necessary terminus for the constitution of my I. This is what we understand by “access”. Does this access really exist? The first thing that has to be investigated precisely is whether God is something accessible in this manner. That is the second question.


§ 2


Accessibility is a characteristic (let us put it this way), which concerns not man, but God. If God were a reality beyond everything real, the great absent and alien, He would be a reality inaccessible in itself. That is not the case: God is constitutively accessible. It is necessary to demonstrate this on the basis of characteristics of His own reality. This accessibility is expressed in four concepts, which made their appearance before, but which must be repeated now. They are concepts, which refer to God Himself, but that face of God, which opens onto real things. I insist on this point, to preclude the error of thinking we are speaking about man. No, we are speaking about God. We shall speak about man in the paragraphs, which follow these.

1. God by His own characteristics is formally present in things without being identical to them; this is what we have called “fontanal transcendence” of God. Real things are real “in” God; and because of this His presence in them is formal. But this God is, as we have seen, a reality of absolute concretion: He is a personal reality (and this is why He is alive, intelligent and volitional). And in this, His absolute formal concretion is how He is in things as their formal constituent. When we say, therefore, that real things give us God in themselves when they give us their own reality, we must add that they give us a personal reality absolutely absolute. What things give me is God as person. God is not a personal reality {186} beyond things, but is personally present in them formally constituting their reality. Because of this He is constitutively accessible in real things themselves. Never, not even in the most sublime access of the great mystics, is God accessed without things or outside of them. Real things are the personal presence of God. And precisely because of this, He is constitutively accessible. God is accessible in and through the world. The turning towards God is not extra-, but inter-worldly. Things are not only real in God, but in the person, which God is. Real things are in themselves the concretion of the personal accessibility of God. God is accessible in Himself and the form of this accessibility is the constituting fundamentality of things.

2. God does not have the same type of presence or constitutionality in all things. In all of them He is, certainly, their formal personal constituent. But the manner of presence of God in something will be in accordance with the nature of its reality and the way He is constituting its reality at the moment. The types of reality are, to my way of thinking, two: closed essences and open essences. In closed essences, i.e., in those essences, which are only de suyo what they are, God is constituting them, constituting their “in themselves”. It is a personal presence only “in-themselving” (ensimismante), so to speak. The case is very different with the open essences. The open essences are not only de suyo, but are “their-own”. Because of this they are persons, which have a relatively absolute being. Hence, God is in the open essences, if I may be permitted the expression, “making-them-their-own” (suificándolas); His presence is “own-making” (suificante). Therefore, the fontanal presence of God in the reality of the human spirit is an inter-personal transcendence. God is {187} accessible to man precisely and formally because man is a person. In order to avoid any anthropomorphism when speaking about the personal reality of God, I have emphasized that this does not mean that God is a kind of spirit subjacent to every real thing; it means only that God is absolutely His-own and is absolute “His-ownness”. And by virtue of being such, He is intrinsically accessible to any relatively absolute person. Real things give us in their own reality the absolute His-ownness in which God consists. And thus, since this relatively absolute person is precisely the I, it is easy to tend to think that the absolutely absolute person is a kind of exceptional “you”; i.e., one tends to think that the inter-personal accessibility is a relation from I to You. This is another form of anthropomorphism. That man address God calling Him You, is inevitable in a human being who wishes to designate with the You a personal reality different from one’s own. But God is transcendent to any You. He is in the I, making it be I, and yet is not formally a You, because He is not an I: this is the inter-personal transcendence of God. Furthermore, the possibility itself of addressing ourselves to God as a You is founded precisely on something previous: on the inter-personal presence of God in man. God is not inter-personal because He is a You, but on the contrary (within the limits indicated) His possible “You-ness” is but the human expression of inter-personal presence. This presence is not inter-personal because it is the relation “I-You”, but is “I-You” because it is an inter-personal presence.

As such, the fontanal presence of God in man acquires a very unique character. We have already seen that in the case of man, the fontanal presence of God in all of reality is converted into a dynamic tension. Therefore, {188} the concrete form of this tension is to be inter-personal tension, that tension between two absolutes, through which the foundational is making the founded to be absolute. By reason of this mode of presence of God in man, God is intrinsically accessible by Himself. Human persons are, qua persons, the concrete accessibility of the absolute person qua person. Only in and for human persons is God formally accessible qua person.

3. In this inter-personal tension, God is a manifestative personal reality. Let us be clear about this, I am here talking about what God is, not that man is simply apprehending that manifestation as such; our problem at the moment is just the accessibility of God. Therefore, God is accessible because His inter-personal presence is not only real, but manifestative. What kind of manifestation is it?

Any manifestation is an unveiling of the manifestant. But there are several ways of unveiling. Ordinarily we tend to think that when something is manifest it means it is immediately present “in front of" our eyes. But human intelligence is sentient, and senses reality intellectively according to all the possible types of sensing and not just according to the sense of sight. If I perceive a sound, the sound as such is immediately present to hearing, but the sonorous thing is not. With sight, the form or color of the thing is not only present, but we believe that the thing itself is. With hearing, on the other hand, the sonorous thing is not immediately included in the sound itself, but the latter remits to the former. This remitting is not a relation consequent upon the sound, but belongs to its own formal characteristic: the formal characteristic of a sound {189} consists in remitting to the sonorous thing. If in sight the unveiling consists on a “formal presentation” of the thing, in hearing the unveiling consists in “remitting”. By virtue of this, sound is what makes a thing be a notum; in this etymological sense, sound does not give us the thing, but is an “announcement” of the thing. Sound unveils or manifests the thing in the form of an “announcing remission”. Now, things are real “in” God, in God as person, and God is in them constituting them formally. But God is “in” them as something transcendent. By virtue of this, He unveils or manifests Himself (in the things in which He is) in a “remitting” way; real things are, qua real, “announcement” of the personal reality of God. God is in things, but without being them themselves: this is what I understand by transcendence of God. Correlatively, things qua real, are “remitting” us to their own intrinsic and formal transcendent fundament in which they are sustained as real. This is the reason why the proper way for the transcendent to manifest itself as transcendent is as an announcing remission, a manifestation of the “auditive” type.

In man, as we pointed out, transcendence has a special characteristic: it is an inter-personal tension. And there is, of course, announcing remission. But there is something else, because God is present more than personally: He is present inter-personally. Then the tension in which God unveils or manifests Himself has a unique characteristic. God is not “in front of” my eyes, but has a certain type of presence, which we might call immediate. In hearing God is announced by means of His announcement, the real thing. But in the inter-personal tension, God is announcing His presence in a type of manifestation more proper to touch than to hearing. In touch we have more than {190} announcement, but less than the formal presentation of the thing: we have a “naked presence” in which reality itself is apprehended through “probing” without being seen. This is the apprehension of naked presence by probing. It is as if God in His dynamic tension were not letting us see Him, but making us feel immediately His naked presence with a kind of calling with His knuckles at the door of man. If the proper way of manifestation of simply fontanal personal transcendence is “announcement”, the proper mode of manifestation of the inter-personal transcendence in tension is “probing”. Man may be able to ignore that these internal impulses belong to God present in him. But this is another question, because, I repeat, I am speaking not of man, but about God insofar as He is accessible. God is accessible because He manifests Himself in those kind of dynamic tension jolts.

Religation, I pointed out, is a manifestative experience of the power of the real. And this experience throws us experientially towards its fundament in things themselves, towards God in them. And this God is manifestative in an audio-tactile way, i.e., at one and the same time as announcement and naked presence through probing.

4. But, What is manifest about this God qua manifest? Qua manifest, God is truth. That is, God is manifestative of His truth. This is the concept in which the accessibility of God culminates. What is this truth?

Truth does not mean here the presumed “conformity of thought with things”, but is a characteristic of reality itself, that characteristic according to which we say of something real that it is a “true reality”. What is truth in this sense? Clearly it is the actuality of the very reality of the thing in the intelligence; because of this, I have usually called it “real truth”.

{191} It is real because it is the actuality of reality; it is truth because it is the actuality of that reality. Now, the capacity (let us put it this way) of a real thing for this actualization has three dimensions. According to a first dimension, we say of a real thing that it is a true reality when in each one of its notes the real thing itself is patent. Thus, a hard thing is truly hard when that which is actualized in the hardness is the very reality of the thing, i.e., when it is a “hard-thing”. Real truth is then the patency of reality in all the richness of its notes. In the second place, we say of a real thing that it is true, if it corresponds to what it offers to me in its notes, i.e., when I can rely on the characteristics it presents. In the case of men, for example, someone is a true friend when he is faithful to the friendship he offers. According to this, truth is actuality in its dimension of firmness. Finally, we say of something that it is a true reality when it is “physically” real in actu exercito, so to speak. The actuality of reality according to this dimension is the effectiveness of being now in existence. Patency of richness, firmness of its reality, and effectivity of this reality are three con-generic and simultaneous dimensions of the real truth, and therefore belong to reality itself as a capacity to be actualized in the intelligence. It is in accordance with this capacity that we measure reality in its character as true.

Now, God, absolute person, as fundament of reality, and consequently of its capacity of intellective actualization, is absolutely true reality according to this triple dimension. Because God is absolutely absolute reality, it follows that all of Him is actualized in the {192} unfathomable constitutive richness of His reality. By virtue of being absolutely real reality, He is essentially the firmness itself of that which His richness offers. By virtue of being essentially real reality, He is essential effectivity. God, then, is the absolute real truth. Indeed, it is in accordance with this triple dimension, that He manifests Himself in things, because it is due to this triple characteristic that He is their fundament. And to fundament, to be the foundation, is to self-give. What God self-gives (in the aspect we are studying) is reality. Due to this, reality is donation. Here, this does not mean a free or gratuitous donation, but rather that “donation” is only the noun form of the self-giving. And since the donating “self” is absolute His-ownness and therefore personal, His donation is essentially an absolutely personal donation. Whence it follows that real things, insofar as they make their richness patent, are maintained with firmness and have effectivity, i.e., insofar as they are true reality, they are the very concretion of the truth of God as donor, and therefore, are eo ipso the accessibility of the true reality in which God consists. God is supremely and formally accessible because He is a personal donor in accordance with His true reality.

In the case of man, the accessibility of God as true reality necessarily has its own unique characteristic, just as the presence of God in the depths of man has its own unique characteristic. It is not just a mere personal presence, as in other things, but an inter-personal presence. This presence is realized in a dynamic tension. In that tension is how God self-gives the being of the human person, his I; i.e., it is through the dynamic tension that man makes from himself his own relative absolute being. God gives me that I may be I and make my own I with all its richness, with all its firmness, with all its effectivity, {193} i.e., in its whole real truth. This is God as donation of the real truth of my I. The donation of God in inter-personal tension is a thrust towards perfection, towards security, and towards effectivity. Because of this God is constitutively accessible in His true reality: the true reality of man (and of all things) is the concrete form of the accessibility of God in His truth.

In conclusion, God is essentially accessible through His personal presence in all real things, through His inter-personal presence in man, and through His manifestation by notification and naked presence, all of which constitutes the foundation of the richness, the firmness, and the effectivity of things and especially of man. This founding is a personal self-giving. And in this characteristic, the four concepts we have studied are fused. In addition, since in this donation God is transcendent in things, it is evident that in them He is accessible as Himself, precisely and formally by being the donor of reality. If God did nothing else, but simply be in things, His accessibility would merely be per accidens. But since the personal presence of God is donating transcendence, it follows that God is accessible in things, but by Himself, although in the form of announcement and naked presence. Therefore, God is accessible in Himself and by Himself, not in an unrecognizable type of mystical action, extra-worldly or trans-worldly, but purely and simply because by His being in things He is self-giving them their reality. The personal transcendence of God in things is His accessibility itself.

This accessibility is a characteristic incumbent upon God, but not man. Therefore, it leaves outstanding the question of whether and how man can have access to this God, and how can he access to this God who is accessible in Himself.

--- Next section: Chapter 4 (194-208) ---