Sunday, 12 February 2012

Traherne's argument from desire


From Thomas Traherne - Centuries of Meditations


Two things in perfect Felicity I saw to be requisite and that Felicity must be perfect, or not Felicity. The first was the perfection of its objects, in nature, serviceableness, number, and excellency. The second was the perfection of the manner wherein they are enjoyed, for sweetness, measure, and duration.

And unless in these I could be satisfied, I should never be contented: Especially about the latter. For the manner is always more excellent than the thing.

And it far more concerneth us that the manner wherein we enjoy be complete and perfect, than that the matter which we enjoy be complete and perfect. For the manner, as we contemplate its excellency, is itself a great part of the matter of our enjoyment.


In discovering the matter or objects to be enjoyed, I was greatly aided by remembering that we were made in God's Image.

For thereupon it must of necessity follow that God's Treasures be our Treasures, and His joys our joys. So that by enquiring what were God's, I found the objects of our Felicity, God's Treasures being ours. For we were made in His Image that we might live in His similitude.

And herein I was mightily confirmed by the Apostle's blaming the Gentiles, and charging it upon them as a very great fault that they were alienated from the life of God, for hereby I perceived that we were to live the life of God, when we lived the true life of nature according to knowledge: and that by, blindness and corruption we had strayed from it.

Now God's Treasures are His own perfections, and all His creatures.


The Image of God implanted in us, guided me to the manner wherein we were to enjoy. For since we were made in the similitude of God, we were made to enjoy after His similitude.

Now to enjoy the treasures of God in the similitude of God, is the most perfect blessedness God could devise. For the treasures of God are the most perfect treasures, and the manner of God is the most perfect manner.

To enjoy therefore the treasures of God after the similitude of God is to enjoy the most perfect treasures in the most perfect manner. Upon which I was most infinitely satisfied in God, and knew there was a Deity because I was satisfied.

For in exerting Himself wholly in achieving thus an infinite Felicity He was infinitely delightful, great and glorious, and my desires so august and insatiable that nothing less than a Deity could satisfy them.


This spectacle once seen, will never be forgotten. It is a great part of the beatific vision. A sight of Happiness is Happiness.

It transforms the Soul and makes it Heavenly, it powerfully calls us to communion with God, and weans us from the customs of this world. It puts a lustre upon God and all His creatures and makes us to see them in a Divine and Eternal Light. I no sooner discerned this but I was (as Plato saith, In summâ Rationis arce quies habitat) seated in a throne of repose and perfect rest. All things were well in their proper places, I alone was out of frame and had need to be mended.

For all things were God's treasures in their proper places, and I was to be restored to God's Image. Whereupon you will not believe, how I was withdrawn from all endeavours of altering and mending outward things. They lay so well, methought, they could not be mended: but I must be mended to enjoy them.


The Image of God is the most perfect creature.

Since there cannot be two Gods the utmost endeavour of Almighty Power is the Image of God. It is no blasphemy to say that God cannot make a God: the greatest thing that He can make is His Image: a most perfect creature, to enjoy the most perfect treasures, in the most perfect manner.

A creature endued with the most divine and perfect powers, for measure, kind, number, duration, and excellency is the most perfect creature: able to see all eternity with all its objects, and as a mirror to contain all that it seeth : able to love all it contains, and as a Sun to shine upon its caves: able by shining to communicate itself in beams of affection and to illustrate all it illuminates with beauty and glory: able to be wise, holy, glorious, blessed in itself, as God is; being adorned inwardly with the same kind of beauty, and outwardly superior to all creatures.


From Thomas Traherne - Centuries of Meditations, Third Century


This is the same argument as oft used by CS Lewis - especially in Surprised by Joy; and by JRR Tolkien - especially in On Fairy Stories and The Marring of Men