One of the primary requirements in developing a relationship with God is to acquire knowledge about God. As an old saying goes, you can’t love what you don’t know.
In that case, when seeking for the knowledge of God, there is a spiritual danger that can lead to our ruin, instead of leading to salvation.
According to Fr. Lorenzo Scupoli an Italian priest explained this pitfall in his spiritual classic called The Spiritual Combat, which was published in 1589. He wrote, “Be sober and humble even in desiring to understand heavenly things, desiring to know nothing but the crucified Jesus, His life, His death, and what He requires of thee.”
You will avoid many dangers by following the instructions; for when the wily serpent sees the desire of those who are aiming at the spiritual life to be strong and resolute, he attacks their understanding, so that he may master both the one and the other.
The devil recognizes our will for knowledge, which is a good desire, but then, he tries to pervert it. Instead of the devil to allow us to pursue knowledge of God in order to love God more closely, he instead tempts us to use that knowledge in a prideful and self-seeking way.
Frequently, the devil infuses lofty and curious speculations into our minds, especially if we are of an acute and intellectual order, and easily inflated with pride; and he does this in order that we may busy ourselves in the enjoyment and discussion of such subjects, wherein, as we falsely persuade ourselves, we enjoy God, and meanwhile neglect to purify our hearts.
Therefore, falling into the snare of pride, we make an idol of our own understanding.
What will happens next is that we perceive ourselves as great possessors of truth and refuse to take the advice of others, even when it is good and holy.
Fr. Scupoli warns heavily about the perils of this path, writing, “For how, or by whom, can he be cured, who obstinately believes that his own opinion is worth more than that of others? How shall he submit to the judgement of other men, which he accounts to be far inferior to his own!”
An excellent disposition to have is the disposition that St. Thomas Aquinas had during his life. Undoubtedly, St. Thomas Aquinas was one of the greatest minds in the whole history of Christianity and he knew far more than most about the nature of God.
Still, towards the end of his life Aquinas had a spiritual vision that led him to declare that, “Everything that I have written seems like straw to me when compared to those things that I have seen and have been revealed to me.”
St. Aquinas furthermore, realized that even though he wrote the truth, he was not the source of truth. He had this holy humility that kept him recognizing his place in the universe and his utter dependence on God.
When pursuing knowledge of God, try to recognize this fundamental truth and avoid the pitfall of pride. We may have a good deal of knowledge, but in the end, it’s seen as “straw” compared to the source of all truth