Anselm of Canterbury

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Therefore, lord ... we believe that you are something than which nothing greater can be thought.

Anselm of Canterbury (1033April 21 1109) was an Italian-born prelate and scholastic theologian, who moved first to Normandy and then to England. He was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1093 until his death.


  • But since it is better to have perception or to have omnipotence, to be pitiful or to be without passions, than not to have these attributes; how hast Thou perception, if Thou art not a body? or omnipotence, if Thou canst not do everything? or how art Thou at one and the same time pitiful and without passions? For if only bodily things have perception, since the senses with which we perceive belong and attach to the body; how canst Thou have perception, since Thou art not a body but the Supreme Spirit, which is higher than a body can be? But if perception is only knowledge or a means towards knowledge; since he who perceives, has knowledge thereby, according to the special character of the senses, by sight of colours, by taste of savours and so forth: then whatsoever has knowledge in whatsoever manner may be said without impropriety in some sense to perceive. Therefore, O Lord, although Thou art not a body, yet of a truth Thou hast in this sense perception in the highest degree, since Thou knowest all things in the highest degree; but not in the sense wherein an animal that has knowledge by means of bodily feeling is said to have perception.
    • Proslogion, chapter 5 by Anselm of Canterbury, translated by Clement C. J. Webb (1903).
  • Ergo domine...credimus te esse aliquid quo nihil maius cogitari possit.
    • Therefore, lord...we believe that you are something than which nothing greater can be thought.
    • Proslogion, ch. 2; Gregory Schufreider Confessions of a Rational Mystic: Anselm's Early Writings (West Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University Press, 1994) pp. 324-5.
  • God often works more by the life of the illiterate seeking the things that are God's, than by the ability of the learned seeking the things that are their own.
    • Reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 123.
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