V. (14) At all events, he will now penetrate into “the darkness where God Was.”{4}{#ex 20:13.} That is to say, into those unapproachable and invisible conceptions which are formed of the living Do. For the great Cause of all things does not exist in time, nor at all in place, but he is superior to both time and place; for, having made all created things in subjection to himself, he is surrounded by nothing, but he is superior to everything. And being superior to, and being also external to the world that he has made, he nevertheless fills the whole world with himself; for, having by his own power extended it to its utmost limits, he has connected every portion with another portion according to the principles of harmony. (15) When, therefore, the soul that loves God seeks to know what the one living God is according to his essence, it is entertaining upon an obscure and dark subject of investigation, from which the greatest benefit that arises to it is to comprehend that God, as to his essence, is utterly incomprehensible to any being, and also to be aware that he is invisible. (16) And it appears to me that the great hierophant had attained to the comprehension of the most important point in this investigation before he commenced it, when he entreated God to become the exhibitor and expounder of his own nature to him, {5}{#ex 33:12.} for he says, “Show me thyself;” showing very plainly by this expression that no created being is competent by himself to learn the nature of God in his essence.

VI. (17) On this account too, Abraham, when he had come unto the place which God had told him of, “On the third day, looking up, saw the place afar Off.”{6}{#ge 22:4.} What kind of place? Was it the place to which he came? And how was it still afar off, if he had already come to it? (18) But perhaps the meaning which is intended under this expression may be something like this:–The wise man, being always desirous to comprehend the nature of the Ruler of the universe, when he is proceeding along the road which leads by knowledge and wisdom, previously meets with words of God, among which he rests for a while; and though he had previously determined to proceed by some other road, he now stops and hesitates; for the eyes of his mind being opened, he sees more clearly that he had entered upon a chase after a thing which was difficult to overtake, which constantly retreated before him, and was always at a distance, and which outstripped its pursuers by placing an immeasurable distance between them. (19) You think, therefore, rightly that all the speediest things which are under heaven would appear to be standing still if compared with the rapidity of the sun, and moon, and other stars. And yet the whole heaven was made by God; and the maker always goes before that which is made. So that, of necessity, not only the other things which exist among us, but also that which has the most rapid motion of all, namely, the mind, may fall short of a proper comprehension of the great cause of all things by an undescribable distance. But the stars, as they are themselves in motion, pass by all things that move; but, though it seems incredible, God, while standing still, outstrips everything. (20) And it is said that he, at the same moment, is close to us and at a great distance, touching us with his creative or his punishing powers, which are close to each individual, and yet at the same time driving away the creature to an excessive distance from his nature as existing according to its essence, so that it cannot touch him without even the unalloyed and incorporeal efforts of the intellect. (21) Therefore we sympathise in joy with those who love God and seek to understand the nature of the living do, even if they fail to discover it; for the vague investigation of what is good is sufficient by itself to cheer the heart, even if it fail to attain the end that it desires. But we participate in indignation against that lover of himself, Cain; because he has left his soul without any conception whatever of the living God, having of deliberate purpose mutilated himself of that faculty by which alone he might have been able to see him.