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CHAPTER XCI—How Human Things are reduced to Higher Causes674674I translate this chapter, every word, as a specimen of the thought of the thirteenth century, also as a specimen of the need in which St Thomas’s work often stands of restoration and reconstruction at the hands of some modern Aquinas. It will not do simply to pile up quotations from the Angelic Doctor, adding nothing and altering nothing. St Thomas himself did not go to work in that way upon his predecessors.
FROM what has been shown above we are able to gather how human things are reducible to higher causes, and do not proceed by chance. For choices and motives of wills are arranged immediately by God: human intellectual knowledge is directed by God through the intermediate agency of angels: corporeal events, whether interior (to the human body) or exterior, that serve the need of man, are adjusted by God through the intermediate agency of angels and of the heavenly bodies.
All this arrangement proceeds upon one general axiom, which is this: ‘Everything manifold and mutable and liable to fail may be reduced to some principle uniform and immutable and unfailing.’675675So the imperfect and fickle beauties on earth are reduced to the Self-Beauty. Upon this axiom Plato constructed his theory of Ideas. And though the Ideas were exaggerated and then discarded, the axiom held its ground throughout the Middle Ages, and often appears in St Thomas. The axiom has little vogue in modern philosophy. It may be stated thus: ‘There is ever some perfect being somewhere at the back of the imperfect.’ The axiom is enforced with reference to the Old Covenant, as compared with the New, in the Epistle to the Hebrews ix and x. If I may add a criticism, I should say that the axiom is more readily apparent in exemplar causes than in efficient causes, — not that I deny it of the latter. See note, p. 238. But everything about our selves proves to be manifold, variable, and defectible. Our choices are evidently manifold, since different things are chosen by different persons in different circumstances. They are likewise mutable, as well on account of the fickleness of our mind, which is not confirmed in its last end, as also on account of changes of circumstance and environment. That they are defectible, the sins of men clearly witness. On the other hand, the will of God is uniform, because in willing one thing He wills all other things: it is also immutable 252and indefectible (B. I, Chapp. XXIII, LXXV). Therefore all motions of volition and choice must be reduced to the divine will, and not to any other cause, because God alone is the cause of our volitions and elections.
In like manner our intelligence is liable to multiplicity, inasmuch as we gather intelligible truth from many sensible objects. It is also mutable, inasmuch as it proceeds by reasoning from one point to another, passing from known to unknown. It is also defectible from the admixture of phantasy and sense, as the errors of mankind show. But the cognitions of the angels are uniform, as they receive the knowledge of truth from the one fountain of truth, God (B. II, Chapp. XCVIII, C, with notes). It is also immutable, because not by any argument from effects to causes, nor from causes to effects, but by simple intuition do they gaze upon the pure truth of things. It is also indefectible, since they discern the very natures of things, or their quiddities in themselves, about which quiddities intelligence cannot err, as neither can sense err about the primary objects of the several senses. But we learn the quiddities (essences) of things from their accidents and effects. Our intellectual knowledge then must be regulated by the knowledge of the angels.676676Is this true? Is there any intelligence, or group of intelligences, intermediate between men and God, such that man’s understanding, insufficient in itself, is dependent on this intermediary for all that it knows? If so, the ’separate intellect’ of Averroes and Avicenna, — higher than human, yet short of divine, at least according to Averroes, — is not ‘the baseless fabric of a vision’ after all, but the blurred and ill-apprehended outline of a profound truth (B. II, Chapp. LIX sq.). This would be a discovery indeed in psychology, if it could be established. It might empty all the virus of pantheism out of the doctrine of the Absolute, showing that the Absolute, while real, is not God. It might assign their true places in creation to the Arian Logos, to the Gnostic Aeons, as also to the Platonic Ideas. — Modern Psychology meanwhile is serenely oblivious of angels. Catholics still believe in them, dread the evil ones (devils), and pray to the good ones, who now see the face of God. Catholics believe that good angels are often the vehicles through which ‘actual graces,’ that is, warnings and impulses in order to salvation, descend from God to men. But that man owes his ordinary knowledge of mathematics, chemistry, sanitation, railway management, or even of religion, to any action whatsoever of angelic intelligence upon his mind, — I do not know any man living who thinks so. For all that I can tell, I should know all that I do know, just as I know it now, if if there were no angels at all. The psychological discovery of which I have spoken, remains to be made, for he discovers who proves. Yet St Thomas seems to have accepted it.
Again, about human bodies and the exterior things which men use, it is manifest that there is in them the multiplicity of mixture and contrariety; and that they do not always move in the same way, because their motions cannot be continuous; and that they are defectible by alteration and corruption. But the heavenly bodies are uniform, as being simple and made up without any contrariety of elements. Their motions also are uniform, continuous, and always executed in the same way: nor can there be in them corruption or alteration. Hence our bodies, and other things that come under our use, must necessarily be regulated by the motion of the heavenly bodies.677677We cannot exaggerate our dependence on one heavenly body, the sun. As well have no earth as no sun. To the moon we owe the tides; and to the planets it is just possible that we stand indebted for some of our weather. The fixed stars are of use to us in navigation. Otherwise, so far as we can see, Mother Earth would go her way and carry all her children safe, with no other companions than sun and moon, or, for that matter, the sun only, though all other ‘heavenly bodies’ were wiped out of existence.253
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