Humans gain knowledge through experience, for example, listening
to Mozart or Dave Matthews over and over again and creating the
form of Dave or Mozart in our heads. So we need stuff and experience
to create knowledge. And our knowledge is distinct from us; it
can come and go, and it is limited, based on time and events.
I now have some Italian in my head, but have almost completely
forgotton the COBOL and C programming languages I once knew. So
again, humans are caught in space-time, having beginnings and
middles and endings, and having our knowledge limited by our particular
But guess what, God's not like that; God doesn't need stuff and
experience to gain knowledge or form; after all, he's the one
we've named as the mysterious source of all stuff and experience
so he could hardly require it. And unlike us, God and his knowledge
are one and the same.
Form without words: Think of the great works of Bach or Mozart
or of visual art or sculpture, and you have form without words,
yet form containing great intellectual content. This may be something
like what Aquinas is seeing when he talks about the knowledge
But God's knowledge is not just like him watching reality and
following everything that's going on. Aquinas' idea of God's knowledge
is much more radical than that. For Aquinas, whatever mystery
creates and sustains things in being thinks in a certain way,
and because of that thought, voila, we exist. Remember God as
form, and maybe all possible forms? By God's thinking about form,
the universe exists and some out of all possible forms exist within
it. In other words, God thinks, therefore I am. We are all some
of God's neurons, firing away; we are God at play in space-time.
"Not because they are does God know all creatures ... but
they are because He knows them."
Augustine, De Trinitate, 15.13.
And Aquinas agrees:
"The knowledge of the human intellect
is in a manner caused by things ... But the divine intellect
through its knowledge is
the cause of things."