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The Essence of God

by Robert G. Waldvogel

It is both ironical and paradoxical that we were all created by the Divine Force and therefore should be most like Him. Yet the earthly journey, sometimes paved with pain, suffering, strife, and sin, both separate us from and distort our view of Him, leaving us to search for our own origins. This article seeks to shed light on God’s true essence.

Tenets of Understanding:

Understanding God and eternity requires several shifts in perspective.

God, as Creator, first and foremost, can be considered the first effective cause, and everything He created from His sheer word can be considered His effects. Cause, in this case, will always be higher and first in order than any of its effects.

All souls were created by God. Since He is spiritual and eternal, so, too, are they, despite their temporary, physical form pause.

Because they are eternal, which is a state devoid of all matter, energy, space, and time, as known and experienced in the finite, physical world, they harness time to separate events, yet all of them, despite utter illogic, occur simultaneously.

Any understanding of God requires a shift from the physical brain, with its inherent restrictions, to the soul, with its lack of them. Interpretation can therefore only be enhanced by relinquishing literal understanding in human form.

Finally, understanding requires the imagined separation of the soul from the physical body in which it is housed—that is, from a human being to a spiritual being.

“We must conclude…,” according to Anton C. Pegis, ed., in the Introduction to St. Thomas Aquinas (Random House, 1948, p. 284), “that the human soul, which is called intellect or mind, is something incorporeal and subsistent.”

Existence and God:

For many, God’s very existence may be questioned. Yet His existence can be demonstrated by the cause-and-effect model. Because people, the effects, are better known, it may be easier to understand His existence, since they can be traced to the cause, God himself.

“If,” according to Pegis (ibid, p. 24), “the effect exists, the cause must pre-exist. Hence, the existence of God, in so far as it is not self-evident, can be demonstrated from those of His effects, which are known to us.”


Simplicity implies a lack of parts or composition of elements. God, the initial eternal being and the Source to whom everything can be traced, whether it be the souls or the physical manifestations that support their temporal life, is both absolute from and absolute being, devoid of any composite aspects or elements. In this respect, He is simple.

He is strength and not comprised of anything weak. He is light and not comprised of anything dark. Since He is not a composition or combination of form and matter, he is not comprised of any quantitative parts. His essence does not differ from His being.

As the first being, He is not the effect of himself as cause. Only man falls into this category.


Although the concept of goodness may have numerous meanings and measurements on the earthly plane, its definition in reference to God hinges upon beingness, connection to Him, and therefore similarity. Goodness and being are the same, but only differ in idea.

“…Every creature of God is good, and God is the greatest good,” according to Pegis (ibid, p. 38). “Therefore, everything is good.”

Since the world seems overabundant with “bad” and evil, it may be wondered from where they came and who or what created them. But the answer here is the relativity and likeness to God, who is only good, and the bad or evil that separation causes.

If there were only a single, original temperature, such as warmth, it could be said that cold is the absence and opposite of it. Similarly, bad is the absence or opposite of good, which is God, and results from separation from Him, through sin, channeled through the use of free will.

“No being is said to be evil…, but only so far as it lacks being,” advises Pegis.

Because God is good, seeking Him indicates that desire to be like and ultimately return to the One who created.

“…Everything seeks after its own perfection, and the perfection and form of an effect (the person) consist in a certain likeness to the agent (God), since every agent makes its like,” according to Pegis (ibid, p. 46).

God only created those who are like Him, not unlike Him, and the degree of their seamless connection with Him increases that likeness through beingness.


Although it is difficult, if not impossible, to truly understand the concept of infinity in finite form, God is, nevertheless, boundless and eternal. Further complicating this concept, perhaps, but evident in every physical creation, is the fact that something infinite can become finite in form. That that form is additionally temporary, only proves that something finite is ultimately infinite, as it returns to its original state.

“Matter is made finite by form inasmuch as matter, before it receives its form, is in potentiality to many forms; but, on receiving its form, it is terminated by that one,” Pegis explains (ibid, p. 54).

Clay, to use an analogy, can be molded into an innumerable number of forms, from pottery to tools, but becomes finite in the form it eventually assumes. If the item is then rolled back up and placed in the amorphous lump from which it came, it returns to its state of infinite potential.


Despite the obstacle of understanding, the unseen—that is, God and the souls He created—and the seen, such as physical matter, there is unity in all, because of the Source or origin they share. Limited human logic and reasoning render it difficult to understand this reality. Then again, God’s ability to create by his sheer word was not given, as a capability, to man.

God is One:

That God is one can be concluded from three aspects.

1). His simplicity.

2). The infinity of His perfection.

3). The world’s unity.

Toward this last aspect, St. Thomas Aquinas offers two thoughts.

1). “For all things that exist are seen to be ordered to each other, since some serve others,” (Pegis, ibid, p. 67).

2). “Since…what is first is most perfect, and is so per se and not accidentally, it must be that the first which reduces all into one order should be only one. And this is God,” (Pegis, ibid, p. 67).

Robert G. Waldvogel has earned the Interdisciplinary Certificate in Behavioral Health for Late Adolescence and the Emerging Adult and a Postgraduate Certificate in the Fundamentals of Cognitive Behavioral Treatment at Adelphi University’s School of Social Work. He has led Twelve-Step support groups on Long Island for the past decade, and created the Adult Child Recovery-through-Writing, and the Strengthening Our Spirituality Programs taught at the Thrive Recovery Community and Outreach Center in Westbury.

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