The Lives of Philosophers

There must have been a window of seconds, after he was seized by his vision of the unknown but before he was awed into silence, when Thomas Aquinas would have been capable of describing what he had seen. He was working alone in his cell when it happened—drafting a sermon on the four cardinal virtues, maybe, or a commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle. A tallow candle was burning on his desk. The candles at the friary were not perfumed, so the odor of animal fat must have lingered in the air, but Aquinas would not have noticed that. He paused to blot the ink from his quill. Perhaps he heard the wind filtering through a crack in the shutters. Then he turned his head to follow the quivering motion of a cobweb and was filled with the white light of revelation.

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