“As we have seen, Aquinas regards the direct intuition of divine essences as beyond man’s reach.”
Over the years I have frequently been taken to task for my criticism of St. Thomas Aquinas. And yet it’s a curious thing; those who do not like my criticism have never defended Aquinas’s thought; they have just condemned me for criticizing Aquinas. One person even agreed with me about the errors in Aquinas’s thought but condemned me for having the temerity to point out the errors!
I am often tempted, particularly after reading a good topical journal such as Little Geneva Reports or Middle American News to give up writing about metaphysics and just write hard-hitting critiques of the secular, race-mixing, porn-loving society we live in. But I always come up against my own conviction that the reason we live in a secular, race-mixing, porn-loving society is because of muddled metaphysics. Therefore, it seems to me, I can’t ever abandon what the hard-hitting journalists view as “distractions” from the main issues. The metaphysical issue is the main issue.
Holding the views I do about the primacy of the spiritual or metaphysical realm, it was indeed heartening when I received a letter from a friend containing an article by an author who agreed with me on the subject of St. Thomas Aquinas. The author’s name is Philip Sherrard. I must add his name to the list which includes Richard Weaver, Karl Adam, Michael de Unamuno, Herbert Butterfield, and Vladimir Solovyev of authors who have pointed out the connection between modernity and St. Thomas.
My only criticism of Sherrard’s work is that he uses the jargon of the enemy. No-one has ever written more eloquently and correctly about religion than St. Paul, and he managed to do so without resorting to a pseudo-scientific language that is hard to read without a decoding book. Nevertheless, there is gold beneath the jargon of Sherrard’s article.
Sherrard hones in on the essential flaw in St. Thomas’s reasoning:
Unless it is admitted, first, that God is the actual immanent hypostasis, or spiritual cause, of man’s being, and second, that man possesses some faculty superior to the reason and all other natural and created faculties, through which he can ‘know’ that cause, then the idea of his deification is meaningless. For this deification proceeds from God and from man’s direct intuition of His transfiguring light. In that light, man knows, in an absolute sense, both his own divine cause, and the causal energies of all created things. If therefore, either the immanence of God in man, or the possession by man of such a faculty as that indicated, is denied, then the realization in question will be regarded as impossible; and the effect will be to shift attention from it, and to substitute for it the idea that the purpose of man’s life, and the nature of the knowledge he may possess of God, himself and other created things, are conditioned by, and proceed from, the relative and natural faculties, whether mental or sensory, which he has at his disposal.
And further on he states:
The second thing which is apparent follows naturally from the first, and is that the type of knowledge which Aquinas regards as the highest accessible to man is of quite a different order from that of the ‘gnosis’ of the Christian Fathers. As we have seen, Aquinas regards the direct intuition of divine essences as beyond man’s reach: the human intellect as it works in the earthly life can know only by turning to the material and the sensible: ‘Cognitio Dei quae ex mente humana accipi potest, non excedit illud genus cognitionis quod ex sensibilibus sumitur, cum et ipsa de seipsa cognoscat quid est, per hoc quod naturas sensibilium intelligit.’ What knowledge man can have is that which he extracts from the sensible, and this is a created, and human, intelligible knowledge, which resembles uncreated and divine intelligible knowledge only by comparison. Man’s intellect, the highest faculty he possesses or can possess, is, for Aquinas, physical and created, and there can be no direct intuition by it of what is metaphysical and uncreated. All that man can know of the latter, the limit of his knowledge of the Divine, himself, and other sensible things, amounts, after he has gathered together and meditated οn the abstractions he has derived from these things, to a mere collection of concepts which may be said to have an analogical likeness to the Divine, but nothing more.
In short, by denying man any access to God except through the material world, the material world has become everything and God has become a theoretical abstraction.
Scholars are often satisfied with a mere statement of the problem, but the non-scholar, such as me, always wants an answer to the question of “how then shall I live?” If one has come up against the Thomists and discovered, to one’s horror, that they are the unwitting (or most of the time, unwitting) tools of the devil, what is one to do? Well, when someone is trying to kill you, what do you do? You fight for your life. And if someone is trying to kill your soul, what do you do? The answer is obvious. The only question should be, “how do I fight Thomistic modernism?” and not “should I fight it?”
When the Catholic hierarchy took Thomistic theology as its own, they shut off access to God. He could not be known intuitively, intimately, as the Divine Savior; He could only be reached through abstracted reason’s contemplation of the material world. While first, second, third, and umpteen generations of Catholic clergy were still tacking God on to the end of their contemplations of the material world, there were other men, ‘enlightened’ men, who were taking Aquinas’s schema to its logical conclusion. In the Catholic Church, the logical conclusion was Vatican II. Thomists claim that the disaster called Vatican II occurred because Thomistic theology was abandoned, when in reality the Vatican Twoers were just bringing Thomism to fruition. The natural Christ, the harvest God, who stands on an equal level with Buddha and the idols of the Animists, was officially crowned at Vatican II, but his enthronement was made possible by the medieval scholastics.
And of course in the secular world, this maniacal obsession with the scientific is the result of the Thomistic separation of nature and grace. We can see the line: St. Thomas (‘Knowledge of God comes only from abstracted reason’s contemplation of the sensible world’) to Descartes (‘Human reason is supreme in and of itself without any reference to the sensible world or the supernatural order’) to Darwin (‘Reason and nature are one and the same, and they are called “science”’) to Motley Crue or whatever jungle rock band you care to mention (‘We are all apes now’).
And why, we need to ask, would someone be a Thomist? Why did the ‘angelic’ doctor conceive such a pernicious philosophy and why did it gain so many adherents? We can answer those questions if we can answer the question, why did Adam and Eve, who had an intimate, personal relationship with God, succumb to Satan’s offer? Wasn’t it because they thought there was some power in nature to which Satan was privy that would make them equal to or even more powerful than God Himself? Is that not the same temptation to which the Israelites caved in again and again when they returned to the worship of Baal? And when the Greek philosophers contemplated the natural world, was it not with the same desire as Adam and Eve, to come to a knowledge of the great mysteries of life independent from God? That impulse, that original sin, is part of our nature. It is easy to see how a man, in the name of God, could delude himself and his adherents into thinking that the satanic impulse to be like unto God could be an inspired way to know God better. Aquinas, extending and systematizing St. Augustine’s Gnostic tendencies, carved the entire natural world up into a thousand jigsaw pieces. When one took the time to put those pieces together, he saw (so Aquinas maintained) the face of God. That the completed puzzle showed us God became an article of faith in the Catholic Church despite the fact that when the puzzle was completed we did not see God – well, at least not the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and St. Paul.
Preaching a distorted notion of God cannot completely eradicate God from the hearts of those who have been exposed to the Christian revelation. As the Thomistic doctrine of God became prevalent, the Lord God still communicated with man through the human heart, where that intuitive and sympathetic communion with God takes place. But as the Church increased its zeal, the human-divine link with God became an ever-increasingly underground link. And now, in our present age, the places sure to be devoid of God’s grace are the Christian churches.
The most chilling attribute of the Thomistic god is his stoical, Buddhistic self-sufficiency: “I created the world; there it is. I can be found in the world I created; take it or leave it; it’s of no consequence to me.” Is this the God that we find in the Gospels? Is this the God of St. Paul? Is this a God we can love? Missing from Thomism is God the lover. We are created by His love. We are part of Him. He yearns for us as a father yearns for his lost children. He is always trying to break through those barriers of the material, sensible world and make contact with us. And when He can’t make contact, He weeps. “God imparts to human hearts, the blessings of his heaven.” There is no other way to God except through the human heart. If sick, distorted minds want to place Him in a giant laboratory of their own device, how can we let them?
It is ironic that Tridentine Catholicism is called ‘traditional’ Catholicism. Tridentine Catholicism is a radical revision of Christianity, a carrier of the scholastic virus that has murdered institutional Christianity. The Vatican Twoers, whom the Traditionalists hate, are like the children of liberal parents who take the liberalism of their parents to its logical conclusion and act like the members of the animal kingdom to which their parents always said mankind belonged.
Original sin left man terribly flawed, but there was still an untainted spiritual presence in his soul that yearned for God. Using St. Thomas as his instrument, the devil made a very subtle shift. He shifted the focus of man’s reason from the spiritual element inside of man to the material world outside of man. The Protestant rebellion was an attempt to reclaim man’s birthright, his integral relationship with the Lord God. Unfortunately, much of the good of that rebellion was destroyed by Calvin who re-imposed Thomistic theology on what had started out as a rebellion against Thomistic theology.
When someone has only a vague feeling that something is wrong, one is very susceptible to a man with a theory who offers to channel that vague feeling into a system. Calvin’s system still kept man away from an integral relationship with God. Like Aquinas he recognized no spiritual dimension inside of man. Unlike Aquinas however, he saw no spiritual principle in the material world either. He saw spirit only in the heavens: remote, majestic, uncaring, and unloving. C. S. Lewis brilliantly describes that God in The Pilgrim’s Regress:
And when John came into the room, there was an old man with a red, round face, who was very kind and full of jokes, so that John quite got over his fears, and they had a good talk about fishing tackle and bicycles. But just when the talk was at its best, the Steward got up and cleared his throat. He then took down a mask from the wall with a long white beard attached to it and suddenly clapped it on his face, so that his appearance was awful. And he said, ‘Now I am going to talk to you about the Landlord. The Landlord owns all the country, and it is very, very kind of him to allow us to live on it at all – very, very kind.’ He went on repeating ‘very kind’ in a queer sing-song voice so long that John would have laughed, but that now he was beginning to be frightened again. The Steward then took down from a peg a big card with small print all over it, and said, ‘Here is a list of all the things the Landlord says you must not do. You’d better look at it.’ So John took the card: but half the rules seemed to forbid things he had never heard of, and the other half forbade things he was doing every day and could not imagine not doing: and the number of the rules was so enormous that he felt he could never remember them all. ‘I hope,’ said the Steward, ‘that you have not already broken any of the rules?’ John’s heart began to thump, and his eyes bulged more and more, and he was at his wit’s end when the Steward took the mask off and looked at John with his real face and said, ‘Better tell a lie, old chap, better tell a lie. Easiest for all concerned,’ and popped the mask on his face all in a flash. John gulped and said quickly, ‘Oh, no sir.’ ‘That is just as well,’ said the Steward through the mask. ‘Because, you know, if you did break any of them and the Landlord got to know of it, do you know what he’d do to you?’ ‘No, sir,’ said John: and the Steward’s eyes seemed to be twinkling dreadfully through the holes of the mask. ‘He’d take you and shut you up for ever and ever in a black hole full of snakes and scorpions as large as lobsters – for ever and ever. And besides that, he is such a kind, good man, so very, very kind, that I am sure you would never want to displease him.’ ‘No, sir,’ said John, ‘But, please, sir…’ ‘Well,’ said the Steward. ‘Please, sir, supposing I did break one, one little one, just by accident, you know. Could nothing stop the snakes and lobsters?’ ‘Ah!…’ said the Steward; and then he sat down and talked for a long time, but John could not understand a single syllable. However, it all ended with pointing out that the Landlord was quite extraordinarily kind and good to his tenants, and would certainly torture most of them to death the moment he had the slightest pretext. ‘And you can’t blame him,’ said the Steward. ‘For after all, it is his land, and it is so very good of him to let us live here at all – people like us, you know.’ Then the Steward took off the mask and had a nice, sensible chat with John again, and gave him a cake and brought him out to his father and mother. But just as they were going he bent down and whispered in John’s ear, ‘I shouldn’t bother about it all too much if I were you.’ At the same time he slipped the card of the rules into John’s hand and told him he could keep it for his own use.
In the essentials, Calvinism and Thomism are one; both deny men access to the Christian God. They are permitted access to a majestic, remote, cruel God, but not to Christ. In practice, there is more Christianity in the Calvinists because their focus on the Bible often leads them to live a Christianity that is quite different from the one preached by John Calvin. I know this to be true because I was brought up in the Presbyterian Church. Before I had any understanding of Calvinist doctrine, I was already inoculated against it by the Gospel stories I had been told in Sunday school. The Catholic, in contrast, starts right out with the Catechism, derived from Thomistic theology, and is given less of a chance to ever have any genuine contact with the Christian God.
What we are looking at, under the guise of Tridentine Catholicism, is the gradual usurpation of the Church. The Christian Church is once again an underground church, with the added problem of an institutional church that is anti-Christian.
This pernicious doctrine that equates the rational with the spiritual and assigns an inferior and even negative role to the intuitive part of man’s being, which includes his “poor dreams” and his yearning for God, is called Thomism, but it is really Satanism. Quite possibly Satan believes it to be true. His satanic intellect has never understood the heart of God or the heart of man. Oh, yes, he understands man’s predilection for sin. But the heart of man? That he does not understand. There is a divinity buried in the human heart which the satanic intellect can never comprehend.
The glory of European civilization was that for a time satanic principles did not rule it. Man’s poor dreams were given a place above Satan’s intellect. And if Satan currently, and possibly till the end of the world, holds the reins of power, it is still possible to walk through the wardrobe and encounter the living God. So many Europeans have done it before us in spite of Thomism, a much more dangerous enemy than dungeon, fire and sword. It all depends on how we perceive God. Is He the hero of a true fairy tale or is He the answer to a syllogism? It’s the difference between heaven and hell. +