Adler On


Beatitude in Christian theology, the word "beatitude" means the eternal happiness of the blessed who achieve salvation and are in the presence of God. It is of importance philosophically by virtue of the difference between eternal and temporal happiness. In this life and in time, happiness is not attainable, for it is a normative rather than a terminal end. (See Happiness.) But those who see God are immovably in a state of heavenly rest. (See Heaven and Hell.)

It is impossible to imagine heaven or heavenly rest or give concrete meaning to the phrase "see God." However, we find ourselves using the word "rest" in a sense beyond and different from sleeping or not being actively engaged in some venture. The Book of Genesis says that God created the world in six days and on the seventh day He rested. We also know that the Sabbath is a day of rest. What does this statement mean? Certainly not that God is inactive on the seventh day, or that we should do nothing on the Sabbath.

I suggest it means contemplation and worship. On the seventh day God contemplated his creation and found it good. On the Sabbath, our being at rest involves us in prayer and worship. We are at rest then we rise above everything practical and temporal. Resting on the Sabbath is a foretaste of heavenly rest or beatitude.

Still one other temporal and secular way of understanding rest is the aesthetic experience. When we behold that which we find beautiful, we have an experience that in time is analogically like the beatitude of seeing God.

Idling and Rest
A Vision of the Future (1984), Chapter 2, fifth part

Adapted from
Adler's Philosophical Dictionary (1995)

Revised 9 February 2001