13. Features of the necessary Being
1. The student and the notary
One young man, just leaving a modern school, indulged himself in denying the existence of God in a meeting with friends. A notary took the floor:
- Let’s see, my friend, the universe exists. Who created it? Man? Obviously not. Has he been created by himself? Neither: a house, however modest, does not build by itself, it is required a workman gathering materials and arranging them in an orderly manner. Replied the young man:
- Allow me to say that the beings composing the world have given their existence each other. The notary insisted:
- Very well, suppose a long vertical chain from earth to heaven whose last links get lost behind the clouds. It may me wonder: who holds this chain and where it hangs from? Do you believe it will be enough to replay that the first of the links, starting from the bottom, hangs from the second, the second from the third, and so on, going up to the clouds? Do you believe that once you have arrived there it will be necessary to admit that the superior end point hangs from the clouds without anything holding it? Evidently not. It is needed a first link to be anchored into somewhere to hold the rest. In the same way a First necessary Being, surviving by himself, who owns in himself the principle of his existence, and is able to give existence to others without having received it from anyone, is needed. The young man replied:
- But if you imagine an infinite number of links, the difficulty disappears. Said the notary:
- My friend, it is clear that you are not well versed in mathematics; do not know that the infinite number is impossible? Where there is series there is number; you can say the first, the second…; where there is number, there is a principle, a starting point, which is the unity. So, ten entails nine, etc.; two entails one. The series of beings have, thus, a principle, they are not eternal.
And if you could, in spite of being impossible, go back to the infinity, it would be still necessary to reach a first Being existing by himself, because a vast number of produced beings is able to produce itself just as little as the last of the effects. Multiply zeros to infinity, and they will never worth at all: infinite zeros do not worth more than an only one. Multiply the blind to infinity, and you will not have an only sighted one. Quenched torches will never light up however large their numbers you suppose them. If any being can exist by its own nature, if anyone has in itself the principle of its existence, no being can exit. However, the being who owns in itself, in its nature, the principle of its existence, is the necessary Being, whom everybody names God. So there is a God, because something exists in this world.
The poor young man, feeling embarrassed, did not know what to say.
(Painting: Retrato de Erasmo de Roterdam escribiendo. HOLBEIN, Hans, el Joven. Museo Basle.)