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CHAPTER XXIVThat all Things seek good, even Things devoid of Consciousness

AS the heavenly sphere is moved by a subsistent intelligence (Chap. XXIII), and the movement of the heavenly sphere is directed to generation in sublunary creatures, the generations and and movements of these sublunary creatures must originate in the thought of that subsistent intelligence. Now the intention of the prime agent and of the instrument is bent upon the same end. The heavenly spheres then (coelum) are the cause 201of sublunary motions by virtue of their own motion, which is impressed upon them by a spirit. It follows that the heavenly spheres are the instrument of spirit. Spirit then is the prime agent, causing and intending the forms and motions of sublunary bodies; while the heavenly spheres are the instruments of the same. But the intellectual outlines of all that is caused and intended by an intelligent agent must pre-exist in his mind, as the forms of works of art pre-exist in the mind of the artificer, and from that mind (et ex eo) those forms must pass into the things made. All the forms then that are in sublunary creatures, and all their motions, are determined by the forms that are in the mind of some subsistent intelligence, or intelligences. Therefore Boethius says that the forms which are in matter have come from forms apart from matter. In this respect the saying of Plato is verified, that forms existing apart are the originating principles of the forms that are in matter: only, Plato supposed these forms to subsist by themselves, and to be immediate causes of the forms of sensible things; we suppose them to exist in a mind, and to cause sublunary forms through the instrumentality of the motion of the heavenly spheres.

Thus it is not difficult to see how natural bodies, devoid of intelligence, move and act for an end. For they tend to their end, being directed thereto by a subsistent intelligence, in the way that an arrow tends to its end, directed by the archer: as the arrow from the impulse of the archer, so do natural bodies receive their inclination to their natural ends from natural moving causes, whence they derive their forms and virtues and motions. Hence it is plain that every work of nature is the work of a subsistent intelligence.546546Incidentally and indirectly, Sir Isaac Newton may be said to have done as much for theology and psychology as he has done directly for astronomy. He has banished from the speculations of the psychologist and the theologian all concern about the stars, all interest in corpus coeleste and primum mobile. He and his successors have wiped out for ever star-worship and astrology; and astronomy thus remaining on their hands, they have assorted it among the sciences to which it is nearest akin, namely, dynamics and chemistry, to trouble the metaphysician no more. — Of old, men worshipped the stars, as the Hebrew prophets reproached the people with adoring all the host of heaven (2 Kings xxi, 3, 5: Ezech. viii, 16: Jer xix, 13: Amos v, 26: Acts vii, 42). When they had ceased to worship, men still believed in the stars, and star-carrying crystal spheres, affecting the origin and development of planets and animals on earth, and even human thoughts and elections. From these fancies Plato is fairly free: he speaks with scant respect for the stars in Rep. vii, 529. Nor do they go for much in the genuine writings of Aristotle. It was the Oriental genius of the Neo-Platonists, and after them the Arabians, that brought in the heavenly bodies to the perturbation of mental philosophy. Albertus Magnus and St Thomas followed this lead. I may refer to the original Latin of the Contra Gentiles, B. III, Chapp. XXII, XXIII, LXXXII-LXXXVIII, CIV, CV. St Thomas speaks of the ‘heavenly bodies’ meaning thereby, not the stars, but the star-bearing crystal spheres. The corpus coeleste, ‘the heavenly body’ par excellence with him, is the tenth and outermost crystalline sphere, which by its diurnal motion from east to west controls the motion of all inferior material things, and is called the primum mobile. St Thomas argues that this outermost sphere itself is moved by some intelligence, either by a soul animating it, or by an angel, or immediately by God. Through this primum mobile, St Thomas thinks, God governs the universe and fixes the qualities of the whole material universe. So the St Thomas of the thirteenth century, but no Aquinas Modernus. We must not build our theology on a mistaken astronomy. On the whole we may do well, following Newman’s lead, to seek God certainly in the starry heavens, which are ever telling his glory (Ps. xviii), but to seek Him still more in the hearts and consciences of men, in the realm of mind rather than in the realm of matter. This, according to St Thomas, is the mode of natural cognition by which the angels know God, “through study of their own substances” (Chap. XLIX). And our soul is a spiritual substance also. The credit of an effect rests by preference with the prime mover, who guides instruments to their purpose, rather than with the instruments which he guides. Thus we find the operations of nature proceeding in due course and order to an end, like the the operations of a wise man. It is evident therefore that even agents devoid of consciousness can work for an end, and strive after good with a natural appetite, and seek the divine likeness and their own perfection. It is further evident that, the more perfect the power and the more eminent the degree of goodness, the more general is the appetite for good, and the more 202distant from self are the objects for which good is sought and unto which good is done. For imperfect beings tend solely to the good of the individual; perfect beings to the good of the species; more perfect beings to the good of the genus; and God, who is the most perfect in goodness, to the good of all being. Hence some say, not without reason, that goodness as such is diffusive of itself.


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