How does ‘faith seeking understanding’ frame the overall purpose of Anselm’s Proslogion

At the heart of Proslogion is the expression of the idea of ‘faith seeking understanding’. In the very first chapter Anselm implores “Lord my God, teach my heart where and how to seek You, where and how to find You. If You are not here, Lord, where shall I seek You who are absent?” (p.90) Hence, even a firm believer will have to go seek God, for it is this spiritual journey which leads to salvation. The challenges facing the seeker are obvious. Omnipresent as God might be, he is yet non-corporeal and difficult to behold – God dwells in the light inaccessible.

‘Faith Seeking Understanding’ is also linked to the concept of Original Sin. It was Adam’s ill-advised satiety that has burdened generations of Eve’s sons with repentance. In other words, “Adam burped with satiety; we sigh with hunger. He abounded; we go begging…But, alas, unhappy me, one of the other unhappy sons of Eve who are far removed from God.” (p.91) But gaining God’s grace through repentance is an arduous effort. The aspirant can expect turmoil, grief and tribulation in his striving unto God. As the seeker commonly laments, “unless You teach [me] I cannot seek You, and unless You reveal Yourself I cannot find You. Let me seek You in desiring You; let me desire You in seeking You” (p.91)

The faithful seeker will come to understand that God is that greatest entity than which nothing better can be thought. The seeker will also understand that “this Being is life itself, light, wisdom, goodness, eternal blessedness, and blessed eternity.” (p.102) Hence, whenever the aspirant sees light and truth, he is seeing God. Since all of us are conceived in darkness and born with the burden of sin, we are poorly endowed in understanding the divinity. Thence, we “all lost that which when we desire we do not know how to seek, when we seek we do not find, when we find is not what we are seeking”. (p. 105)

In these ways, Anselm idea of ‘faith seeking understanding’ frames the overall purpose of Proslogion.


Anselm of Canterbury, Proslogion, Complete Philosophical and Theological Treatises of Anselm of Canterbury, Translated by Jasper Hopkins and Herbert Richardson