Beatific vision  

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"Thomas Aquinas is convinced that the highest good, the summum bonum of the ancient philosophers, cannot be attained by reason alone. The visio beatifica, the mystical vision of God remains the absolute goal — and this goal always depends upon a free gift of divine grace. But man himself must begin the work and prepare for this event. The divine right does not abrogate the human right which originates in reason. "Grace does not destroy nature; it perfects nature (Gratia non tollit naturam, sed perficit)"." --The Myth of the State (1946) by Ernst Cassirer

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In Christian theology, the beatific vision (visio beatifica) is the eternal and direct visual perception of God.

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 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, the Bible teaches that {{cquote|God "dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has even seen or can see" (1 Timothy 6:16), but when God reveals Himself to us in heaven we will then see Him face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12; Matthew 5:8; Psalm 17:15). 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 in the Catholic Encyclopedia (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 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 defined the beatific vision as the ultimate end of human existence after physical death. Aquinas's formulation of beholding God in Heaven parallels Plato's description of one beholding the Good in the world of knowledge.

In the 13th century, the philosopher-theologian Thomas Aquinas described the ultimate end of a human life as consisting in the intellectual Beatific Vision of God's essence after death. see Summa Theologiae

According to Aquinas, the Beatific Vision surpasses both faith and reason. 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 understand what is believed. 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 (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 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).

The Sacred College of Cardinals held a consistory 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, declared it doctrine that the saved see Heaven (and thus, God) before Judgment Day.


In the philosophy of Plato, the beatific vision is the vision of the Good. In Plato's Allegory of the cave, which appears in the Republic Book 7 (514a - 520a), he writes (speaking, as he does in many of his works, through the character of Socrates):

"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 in Christian theology.

St. Augustine expressed views similar to Plato's on this subject, and was familiar with Plato's ideas, most likely via Neoplatonist writings.


The vedic concept of having a visual perception of God is generically called Darshan. <request someone to elaborate further>. 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, 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 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 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)

See also

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