Traditionalism, Wolfgang Smith

Wolfgang Smith: Modern Science & Guenonian Critique

Wolfgang Smith on Scientistic IdolatryIn the previous article examining the thought of Wolfgang Smith, three modern paradigms through which reality is interpreted were identified. These paradigms were the Newtonian, the Darwinian, and the Copernican. It is important to recall that while Smith is critical of the paradigms, he is willing to recognize legitimate scientific discoveries made despite the faulty lenses interpreting these findings. For example, Smith is highly critical of the mechanistic metaphysical framework of the Newtonian paradigm, while simultaneously acknowledging discoveries made through its application. This is relevant because Smith’s essay, Modern Science and Guenonian Critique, begins by saying, “Reading Rene Guenon’s discourse on modern science more than half a century after it was written, one is struck not only by the depth of its penetration, but also, to a lesser degree, by its glaring insufficiencies.”[1] In the previous article, Smith disassociates what he believes to be faulty philosophical analysis applied to the various fields of science, and in this essay, he disassociates what he believes to be an overzealous philosophical critique of legitimate scientific discovery.

Smith recognizes in the Guenonian critique a penetrating metaphysical analysis of modernity and its scientistic reduction of reality to that which is merely quantifiable. This hyper-reductionism is leading our modern world toward an ongoing “descent to the lowest point.”[2] Smith agrees, and referencing Guenon, argues that if our modern contemporaries knew where ‘the reign of quantity’ was leading society, “the modern world would at once cease to exist as such.”[3] But this is where Smith’s agreement with the Guenonian critique ends. He says,

“However, along with such major recognitions – which I find unprecedented and indeed definitive – there are aspects of the Guenonian doctrine that strike me as less felicitous. I charge that these questionable tenets are not only gratuitous – that is to say, uncalled for on the basis of Guenon’s central contentions – but demonstrably false. What primarily invalidates the Guenonian critique, as it pertains to physics in particular, is the failure to recognize that in the midst of what is admittedly a ‘scientific mythology,’ there stands nonetheless a ‘hard science,’ a science capable of an actual knowing, ‘partial’ though it be. As I have argued repeatedly, the one thing most needful for a just appraisal of modern science is the distinction between ‘scientific knowledge’ and ‘scientistic belief,’ that is to say, between science, properly so called, and scientism. Yet it appears that nowhere does Guenon draw that crucial distinction, apparently for the simple reason that he does not credit contemporary science with any bona fide knowledge at all. Admittedly, science and scientism are invariably joined in practice, and prove indeed to be de facto inseparable; whosoever has moved in scientific circles will have no doubt on that score. It can even be argued that scientistic belief plays a vital role in the process of scientific discovery, that in fact it constitutes a pivotal element in the scientific quest. Yet, even so, I maintain that the two faces of the coin are as different as night and day, and need to be sharply distinguished.”[4]

It is important to take a moment to reflect on what it is Smith is looking to accomplish overall in his argumentation. Smith’s general criticism of the modern scientistic ideology is that bad philosophy has been illegitimately united to good science. The flawed paradigms have lead to supposed discoveries of scientific paradoxes, but in truth, they are the result of erroneous philosophical interpretations of reality. Identifying these paradigms, the anti-myths, which lend credence to the contemporary mechanistic cataract by which modern man views the world is the first step toward resolving these “paradoxes.” Following their identification – the Newtonian, the Darwinian, and the Copernican – they must be stripped away from the legitimate scientific discoveries being made in the hard sciences so that they might be reinterpreted by the corrective traditions of the perennial metaphysical and ontological understanding of an organically united natural world. However, it is important to guard against what Smith is criticizing in this essay, which is, to refrain from throwing the scientific ‘baby’ out with the dirty metaphysical ‘bathwater.’ Smith is walking the tightrope between these two extreme positions, that of ideological scientism and metaphysical fundamentalism. To successfully walk this line, Smith unites scientific discovery to the ancient wisdom of the perennial philosophical traditions.

The Guenonian critique, then, can be expressed by two basic principles – ‘solidification’ and ‘dissolution.’ And if I am understanding Smith’s analysis, he would maintain that these two principles correlate to the Cartesian bifurcation of reality, the eradication of essences and substance from modern metaphysics, and the institutionalization of these philosophical dogmas within the ‘scientific’ worldview.[5]

Following the introductory analysis of the Guenonian critique, Smith proceeds to argue that the discoveries of quantum mechanics opens interesting pathways towards reconciling traditional metaphysics and ontology to these findings. In order to accomplish this, Smith argues that, “the very possibility of mathematical physics is based upon the fact that every corporeal object X is associated with a corresponding physical object SX, which in the final count reduces to an aggregate of quantum particles.”[6] This distinction is made so that it can be recognized that X and SX are not identical, and that they belong to differing ontological planes pertaining to reality.[7] Moreover, Smith identifies the rule that, “SX determines the quantitative properties of X; and this is the reason, of course, why there can be a mathematical physics.”[8] According to Smith, moving in this direction points toward accepting the fact that contemporary physics can only be appropriately discerned from a distinctly metaphysical point of view.[9] Admitting the need for a viable metaphysical and ontological interpretation of the quantum realm, and following a brief examination of the importance of measurement and probability, Smith says this,

“It turns out, quite unexpectedly, the physicist is catching a glimpse of materia, of the Aristotelian hyle. Not in itself – not as a ‘pure potency’ or a mere possibility – but as a weighted possibility: as a probability, to be exact. Whether he realizes it or not the quantum physicist is looking in – through a keyhole, as it were – at the mysteries of cosmogenesis: not in the bogus sense of big bang theory, but ontologically, in the here and now. By way of quantum theory he has entered upon an ontological domain ‘prior’ to the union of matter and form: onto a sub-existential plane which presumably has never before been accessed by man.[10]

When reality has been correctly interpreted by properly uniting the authentic discoveries of science to that of a superior and traditional metaphysical world picture, the corporeal and physical domains become uniquely seated in their hierarchically cogent ontological planes. So construed, the Guenonian critique of modern science is appropriately corrected to include spheres of knowledge discovered by the exceptional methodological powers of the hard sciences.

 

– Lucas G. Westman


[1] Science & Myth, Pg. 25

[2] Ibid, Pg. 26

[3] Ibid, Pg. 26

[4] Ibid, Pg. 26, 27

[5] “The decisive event in the evolution of modern thought was no doubt the exclusion of essences effected by Galileo and Descartes, and the concomitant adoption of a bifurcationist epistemology which relegates perceptible qualities to the subjective domain. These metaphysical and epistemological infractions, however, do not in themselves invalidate the modus operandi of a science concerned exclusively with the quantitative aspects of reality. From a methodological point of view, the exclusion of essences constitutes simply the delimitation that defines and thus constitutes the domain of physical science; and it is by no means paradoxical that the science in question owes its prowess precisely to that very reduction of its scope; as Goethe has wisely observed…Let us note, at the same time, that since the logic of contemporary physics is positivistic or operational, as the prevailing philosophies of science aver, that science has nothing to do – on a technical plane! – with the Cartesian premises; and if it happens that contemporary physicists, in their scientistic beliefs, remain affected by a residual Cartesianism, this does nothing to invalidate the positive findings of physics as such. The knowledge in question may be miniscule by comparison to higher modes, and may indeed conduce to dissolution, as Gueonon avers, but constitutes, even so, a bona fide though partial mode of knowing.

On the other hand, Gueonon’s failure to distinguish between science and what he terms ‘scientific mythology’ does not invalidate his perception of the scientific enterprise as the dominant factor driving contemporary humanity ‘downwards’ to the end-point of its cycle. He broaches the question by pointing out that the public at large is prone to accept ‘these illusory theories’ blindly as veritable dogmas ‘by virtue of the fact that they call themselves ‘scientific,’ and goes on to note that the term ‘dogma’ is indeed appropriate, ‘for it is a question of something which, in accordance with the anti-traditional modern spirit, must oppose and be substituted for religious dogmas.’ What follows, in The Reign of Quantity, is an elaborate analysis of the modern and indeed postmodern world, which has rarely, if ever, been equaled either in depth or in breadth.

It is of major importance to recall that Guenon distinguishes two principal phases in the ongoing descent, which he designates by the terms ‘solidification’ and ‘dissolution’; and it is of interest to note that he enunciated this distinction at a time when physics was just entering the second aforesaid phase through the discovery of quantum mechanics. Although Guenon displayed no more interest in the new physics (which came to birth between 1925 and 1927) than in its Newtonian predecessor, and seems hardly to take not of the quantum revolution, it is clear that the advent of quantum theory does indeed mark the de-solidification of the physical universe. Not only, however, does this development – which came as a complete surprise and major shock to the scientific community – accord with the principles of the Guenonian analysis, but as I will show in the sequel, that analysis provides in fact the key to a metaphysical understanding of quantum theory, and thus of contemporary physics at large: they very science, that is, the existence of which Guenon never recognized!” Ibid, Pg. 30, 31

[6] Ibid, Pg. 34

[7] Ibid, Pg. 34

[8] Ibid, Pg. 34

[9] Ibid, Pg. 34

[10] Ibid, Pg. 37, 38

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Saint Bonaventure, Saints, Theology

The Seraphic Doctor

Saint Bonaventure PrayingThe Seraphic Doctor

The title by which St. Bonaventure is most readily known was given him while he was still alive. And it is apt for several reasons. His thought is entwined with love; it quickly springs to seraphic or angelic heights. As a teacher, he gives intellectual expression to the life of the Seraphic Saint, St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis pursued a way of life that kept reaching out to God with the fullness of an ardent nature, the sternness and intensity of a logic that looked at things reduced to ultimate simplicity, and the color of a rich emotion. Everything spoke to St. Francis of God because its very nature is made by Him. Everything pointed to the Sacred Humanity of Christ, and in return the Sacred Humanity shed its glow on everything.

St. Bonaventure saw all created things as flowing in a necessary way from God: not that creation is or was necessary, but creation, once decided upon, had to mirror the perfections of God. Each part of creation according to its dignity is either a shadow, a trace, an image or a similitude of God.

Since in Christ all the stages of creation are contained as in a perfect exemplar, there is no true knowledge, understanding or wisdom if He is left out. “In Christ are contained all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge of the hidden God, and He is the medium for all knowledge.”

To St. Bonaventure Christ is therefore necessary for any full philosophy. There is no such thing as a philosophy based completely on reason. Faith has to enter in and present Christ as the Supreme Exemplar of all creation. If you leave out this centerpiece of creation, then not only would theology be empty, but philosophy would be weakest where it should be strongest. St. Bonaventure’s philosophy rests squarely on faith and on reason.

St. Bonaventure was by no means opposed to the arts. He has, however, said that you cannot judge them rightly unless you look at them in the light of higher values. St. Bonaventure therefore turns to the Incarnate Word “as the touchstone at which to measure the human enterprise.”

The great value of this system is that learning can proceed in the spirit of devotion. In this way, there is less chance for reason to drop into the pitfalls of rationalism, to run to the extremes of empty intellectualism. The proud spirit of man is kept more humble as it learns by tasting “in the darkness of faith” as well as by seeing in the light of reason.

“Taste and see that the Lord is sweet.” This is the invitation of St. Bonaventure to all who would delve into the secrets of the universe. You can taste “in the darkness of faith” and come to a surer knowledge than by seeing in the light of reason. When it comes to ultimate, important truths, you cannot judge by reason any more surely than you can tell whether an object is sweet or bitter by looking at it. You must taste it.

St. Bonaventure “made every truth a prayer to God and a praise of God.” He has been called “the totally religious soul.” “Multifarious, infinitely diverse and subtly shaded, his thought is but an ever-active charity, whose whole movement strives toward objects which escape our view or toward unknown aspects of those things we do in part perceive.”

Sometimes we read in the lives of holy people that they had a knowledge of natural science and of human nature that amazed learned men. The usual assumption is that this knowledge was preternaturally infused. Perhaps this knowledge was not so much infused as naturally developed from using the system of St. Bonaventure, letting faith and reason work together.

It has been said that St. Bonaventure rejected Aristotelianism. It may be more true to say that he used it as part of his eclectic system. He used it as far as he could, and then passed beyond it. He could see no sense in riding in the buggy of pure philosophy when he had the strong chariot of Christian wisdom to carry him faster and further forward – a wisdom already refined through centuries of thought. To St. Bonaventure, philosophy is a good as far as it goes, but it is too obscure on the most important questions.

St. Bonaventure has been placed on an equal footing with St. Thomas Aquinas by two different Popes. Yet he has not found general acceptance even among Catholic philosophers. Compared to St. Thomas, he remains practically unknown as a philosopher. In the future this may be different.

“What the Seraphic Doctor’s ultimate ranking as a Christian philosopher is to be, must be left to a generation which will again experience the speculative and pragmatic necessity of Christ as the center of philosophy.”

“The oft-repeated phrase is well-known: ‘Thomas is the Christian Aristotle; Bonaventure, the second Augustine.’ But this difference must not be stressed, for the two complement each other in an admirable way: Thomas is the angel of the schools, Bonaventure the master of the practical life; Thomas enlightens the intellect, Bonaventure elevates the heart. Sixtus V justly places both side by side, and grants Bonaventure the same ecclesiastical honors as Pius V granted Thomas. ‘They are,’ he says, ‘the two olive trees and the two shining lights in the house of God, who by the plenitude of their love and the light of their erudition illumine the entire Church. By the special providence of God, they are similar to two stars appearing at the same time. During their earthly pilgrimage they were intimately united by the bond of a true friendship and by the intercourse of holy labors. With equal step did both hasten toward their heavenly fatherland, that both might at the same time enter the joys of Heaven.”

– The 35 Doctors of the Church – 


 

– Lucas G. Westman

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Catechism, Saint Robert Bellarmine, Saints, Theology

Catechism of St. Robert Bellarmine: Chapter III – Part II

Saint Robert Bellarmine & CrucifixExplanation of the Creed, that is, the twelve articles 

Explanation of the Second Article 

S. Tell me now about the second article, namely, “And in Jesus Christ, His Son, Our Lord.”

T. God Almighty, about Whom the first article treats, has a true and natural Son, Whom we call Jesus Christ. So that you might understand how God begot this Son, take the similitude of a mirror. When someone gazes into a mirror, an image is immediately produced that is so like him that he cannot discover any difference, in as much as it not only reflects his countenance, but even represents individual movements, so that the image moves exactly in the way the man does. Such an image is so like the man without any labor, without time, without instrument yet it is formed suddenly and in a moment in the flash of an eye. Consider in the same arrangement that when God gazes upon the mirror of the God head with the eye of the intellect, immediately He forms an image similar to Himself, and because God directs His whole essence and nature to this image (which we cannot do by gazing), therefore this image is the true Son of God, even if our own image which we behold in the mirror is not our son. For that reason you have to gather how the Son of God is God, in the same way as the Father is God and the same God with God, because He is/has the same substance with the Father. Next, the Son is not younger than the Father, but was always just as the Father always was. Accordingly, He advanced from the only vision of God, and God always saw and regarded Himself at length, the Son of God was not begotten in time from the cooperation of a woman, nor from the vicious lust, or from other related imperfections, but only by God, only, as was said, from his vision and by the most pure eye of the Divine Intellect.

S. Why is the Son of God called Jesus Christ?

T. The name of Jesus means Savior, while Christ, because it is the last name, means High Priest and King of Kings, as we touched upon the explanation of the sign of the Cross, that the Son of God became man to redeem us in His blood and to restore us to eternal salvation. Therefore, after He became man, He took this name of Savior to himself, to show that He came to save man. He was also given the title of High Priest and Supreme King by the Father, all of which this name Christ designates, and by such a name we are called Christians.

S. Why do we remove our hat or genuflect whenever the name of Jesus is said, but we do not do this after we hear the name “God”?

T. The reason is because this name is proper to the Son of God, since all the rest are common; likewise, we are taught by this name how God, by becoming man for our sake, humbled Himself. Furthermore, we genuflect in an Act of Thanksgiving when we hear this name. Not only do we men genuflect, but even the angels of God in heaven, and the demons in hell, on account of this name the former from voluntary love, the latter are compelled by fear. God also willed that all rational creatures should genuflect in the presence of His Son, seeing that He Himself so bent Himself and humbled Himself even to death of the Cross.

S. Why is Jesus Christ called Our Lord?

T. Because He, together with the Father, created us, therefore He is our Patron and Lord just as the Father. More to the point, He freed us from the power and Captivity of the devil by bitter torments and His Passion, which we will speak of in a little while.

The Catechism of St. Robert Bellarmine: Chapter I

The Catechism of St. Robert Bellarmine: Chapter II

The Catechism of St. Robert Bellarmine: Chapter III – Part I

 

– Lucas G. Westman

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Natural Theology, Philosophy, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saints, Scholasticism, Theology, Thomism

Natural Theology & the Thomistic Synthesis

RGL on Thomism

Natural Theology

That which is, is more than that which can be, more than that which is on the road to be. This principle led Aristotle and Aquinas to find, at the summit of all reality, pure act, understanding of understanding, sovereign and good. But Aquinas rises above Aristotle and Leibnitz, for whom the world is a necessary consequence of God. St. Thomas shows, on the contrary, the reason why we must say with revelation that God is sovereignly free, to create or not to create, to create in time rather than from eternity. The reason lies in God’s infinite plenitude of being, truth, and goodness, which creatures can do noting to increase. After creation, there are more beings, it is true, but not more being, not more perfection, wisdom, or love. “God is none the greater for having created the universe.” God alone, He who is, can say, not merely “I have being, truth, and life,” but rather “I am being itself, truth itself, life itself.”

Hence the supreme truth of Christian philosophy is this: In God alone is essence identified with existence. The creature is only a capability to exist, it is created and preserved by Him who is. Further, the creature, not being its own existence, is not its own action, and cannot pass from potency to act, either in the order of nature or in that of grace, except by divine causality.

We have thus shown how Thomism is an elevated synthesis, which, while it rejects unfounded denials, assimilates the positive tendencies of current philosophical and theological conceptions. This synthesis recognizes that reality itself is incomparably more rich than our ideas of that reality. In a word, Thomism is characterized by a sense of mystery, which is the source of contemplation. God’s truth, beauty, and holiness are continually recognized as transcending all philosophy, theology, and mysticism, as uncreated richness to be attained only by the beatific vision, and even under that vision, however clearly understood, as something which only God Himself can comprehend in all its infinite fullness. Thomism thus keeps ever awake our natural, conditional, and inefficacious desire to see God as He is. Thus we grow in appreciation of the gifts of grace and charity, which move us, efficaciously, to desire and to merit the divine vision.

This power of assimilation is therefore a genuine criterion whereby to appraise the validity and scope of Thomism, from the lowest material elements up to God’s own inner life. Economy demands that any system have one mother-idea, as radiating center. The mother-idea of Thomism is that of God as pure act, in whom alone is essence identified with existence. This principle, the keystone of Christian philosophy, enables us to explain, as far as can be done here below, what revelation teaches of the mysteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation, the unity of existence in the three divine persons, the unity of existence in Christ. It explains likewise the mystery of grace. All that is good in our free acts comes from God as first cause, just as it comes from us as second causes. And when we freely obey, when we accept rather than resist grace, all that is good in that act comes from the source of all good. Nothing escapes that divine and universal cause, who without violence actualizes human freedom, just as connaturally as He actualizes the tree to bloom and bear fruit.

Let Thomism then be judged by its principles, necessary and universal, all subordinated to one keystone principle, not a restricted principle as is that of human freedom, but by the uncreated principle of Him who is, on whom everything depends, in the order of being and activity, in the order of grace and nature. This is the system which, in the judgment of the Church, most nearly approaches the ideal of theology, the supreme branch of knowledge.

– Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, Reality: A Synthesis of Thomistic Thought


 

– Lucas G. Westman

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Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saints, Scholasticism, Theology, Thomism

Catholic Theology & Philosophical Foundations

Saint Thomas Aquinas the Angelic Doctor Background“As we will see, Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical Fides et ratio strenuously upholds the tradition of giving priority to faith in the question of the relationship between faith and reason. To do otherwise, of course, would be to flirt with rationalism. Faith, however, must be understood; it is always, to borrow from St. Anselm, “seeking understanding,” What rational tools will one use to understand one’s Christian faith? Of the many philosophies that human culture knows and has known, which one ought to be chosen to aid in the comprehension of faith? Is every philosophy equal to this task?

As is well-known, St. Thomas chose the philosophy of Aristotle for this task. He found that Aristotle’s thought served the faith well; he found, most precisely, that the metaphysics of Aristotle provided a strong foundation upon with to “think the faith.” In light of this, and in light of Pope Leo XIII’s Thomistic revival, theologians began to ask if Catholic theology must be forever wedded to the philosophy of Aristotle. Many said no and attempted to change the philosophical foundations of Catholic theology – none with great success.

The University of Fribourg’s eminent philosopher, I.M. Bochenski, sets the stage for an answer as to why this was so. He explains that modern philosophy, that is, philosophy during the time between 1600 and 1900,

“came into being with the decline of scholastic philosophy. Characteristic of scholasticism is its pluralism (assuming the plurality of really different beings and levels of being), personalism (acknowledging the preeminent value of the human person), its organic conception of reality, as well as its theocentric attitude – God the Creator as its center of vision. Detailed logical analysis of individual problems is characteristic of scholastic method. Modern philosophy opposes every one of these tenets. Its fundamental principles are mechanism, which eliminates the conception of being as integral and hierarchical, and subjectivism, which diverts man from his previous concentration of God and substitutes the subject as the center. In point of method modern philosophy turned its back on formal logic. With some notable exceptions, it was characterized by the development of great systems and by the neglect of analysis.”

The mechanistic and subjectivist a prioris of modern philosophy, along with a whole set of reductionisms in contemporary philosophy, simply do not provide a solid enough grounding for Christian faith.”

 

– Lucas G. Westman


*Taken From The Sacred Monster of Thomism

 

 

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Philosophy, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Scholasticism, Theology, Thomism, Traditionalism

The Sacred Monster of Strict-Observance Thomism

RGL PhotoStrict-Observance Thomism

The first chapter of Helen James John’s The Thomist Spectrum is entitled “Garrigou-Lagrange and Strict-Observance Thomism.” She notes that the qualifier “strict-observance” was coined in “a half-joking fashion many years ago, but has now become a standard way of speaking about the Thomism taught in the Roman universities up to the Second Vatican Council”; it is a double-entendre – playing on the strict-observance faction present in many religious orders. In her judgment, St. Pius X’s condemnation of Modernism in Pascendi was the single-most important factor to highlight for the explanation of this type of Thomism because, in its wake, “the reaction against Modernism became the leit-motif for a total interpretation of the thought of St. Thomas.” Garrigou-Lagrange would become the leading proponent of Strict-Observance Thomism; and with the Sacred Congregation for Studies’ publication of its “Decree of Approval of Some Theses Contained in the Doctrine of St. Thomas Aquinas and Proposed to the Teachers of Philosophy” on 27 July 1914, this version of Thomism “found a quasi-official formulation.”

To simply a host of issues, Strict-Observance Thomism is at great pains to protect the metaphysical foundations of Catholic theology; part and parcel of this ‘protection’ is a demonstration that the Aristotelian heritage in metaphysics has neither been transcended nor shown to be seriously wanting. In this section, we will examine the philosophical underpinnings of Strict-Observance Thomism; we will see that many of the issues that we explored in reference to Garrigou’s disputes with the philosophes of Henri Bergson and Maurice Blondel will come into clearer focus. Since Strict-Observance Thomism is most interested in combatting Modernism, the following insight is helpful in setting the stage for understanding Garrigou’s passionate engagement with the question:

“The philosophical aspect of Modernism lay in the position that the doctrines of faith must be regarded not as stable truths of the speculative order, but as ‘symbolic’ expressions of man’s religious needs, whose content required radical reformulation to adapt it to the changed circumstances of successive eras of Christianity. The import of this position, which retained the traditional expressions of faith while denying their truth, has been aptly, if flippantly, summed up in the proposition that ‘There is no God and the Blessed Virgin is His Mother.’”

Of utmost importance is that Strict-Observance Thomism holds that the truths of Christian faith are expressions of realities that transcend the religious longings of the human person. These truths are held to have been revealed by God: they are not accounted for by a mere inspection of the workings of the human heart. This point must be insisted upon: Strict-Observance Thomism, while employing what might today strike many as obscure philosophical concepts, places its priority squarely on revelation. There is no equivocation in its doctrine that God has revealed certain truths and that these truths cannot be known apart from the gratuity of divine revelation. While it is true that these truths can be rationally analyzed and can be shown to be ‘reasonable’ and can even be shown to respond to the deepest needs of the human person, they cannot be accounted for without reference to the God who has deigned to reveal them.”

 

– Lucas G. Westman


*Taken from The Sacred Monster of Thomism, Pg. 119 – 121

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Apologetics, Metaphysics, Philosophy, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saints, Theology, Thomism

Pope Leo XIII on Saint Thomas Aquinas – Aeterni Patris

Taken From the Encyclical – Aeterni Patris:

St Thomas Aquinas Framed and Labeled TSC17. Among the Scholastic Doctors, the chief and master of all towers Thomas Aquinas, who, as Cajetan observes, because “he most venerated the ancient Doctors of the Church, in a certain way seems to have inherited the intellect of all.”[34] The doctrines of those illustrious men, like the scattered members of a body, Thomas collected together and cemented, distributed in wonderful order, and so increased with important additions that he is rightly and deservedly esteemed the special bulwark and glory of the Catholic faith. With his spirit at once humble and swift, his memory ready and tenacious, his life spotless throughout, a lover of truth for its own sake, richly endowed with human and divine science, like the sun he heated the world with the warmth of his virtues and filled it with the splendor of his teaching. Philosophy has no part which he did not touch finely at once and thoroughly; on the laws of reasoning, on God and incorporeal substances, on man and other sensible things, on human actions and their principles, he reasoned in such a manner that in him there is wanting neither a full array of questions, nor an apt disposal of the various parts, nor the best method of proceeding, nor soundness of principles or strength of argument, nor clearness and elegance of style, nor a facility for explaining what is abstruse.

18. Moreover, the Angelic Doctor pushed his philosophic inquiry into the reasons and principles of things, which because they are most comprehensive and contain in their bosom, so to say, the seeds of almost infinite truths, were to be unfolded in good time by later masters and with a goodly yield. And as he also used this philosophic method in the refutation of error, he won this title to distinction for himself: that, single-handed, he victoriously combated the errors of former times, and supplied invincible arms to put those to rout which might in after-times spring up. Again, clearly distinguishing, as is fitting, reason from faith, while happily associating the one with the other, he both preserved the rights and had regard for the dignity of each; so much so, indeed, that reason borne on the wings of Thomas to its human height, can scarcely rise higher, while faith could scarcely expect more or stronger aids from reason than those which she has already obtained through Thomas.

19. For these reasons most learned men, in former ages especially, of the highest repute in theology and philosophy, after mastering with infinite pains the immortal works of Thomas, gave themselves up not so much to be instructed in his angelic wisdom as to be nourished upon it. It is known that nearly all the founders and lawgivers of the religious orders commanded their members to study and religiously adhere to the teachings of St. Thomas, fearful least any of them should swerve even in the slightest degree from the footsteps of so great a man. To say nothing of the family of St. Dominic, which rightly claims this great teacher for its own glory, the statutes of the Benedictines, the Carmelites, the Augustinians, the Society of Jesus, and many others all testify that they are bound by this law.

 

– Lucas G. Westman

 

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Culture, Philosophy, Traditionalism

The Beauty of Tradition & An Important Lesson in Humility

Jesus & the ApostlesMy diocese recently endorsed the idea that local parish communities should form teams of street evangelists. I was very excited when I heard this news because street evangelization is something I have been very interested in ever since becoming Catholic. Without hesitation I volunteered to go and receive training to be a fisher of men. During the training session, God showed me something that humbled me to the core. While I was listening the speaker give his lecture on the importance of street evangelization, and how badly people need the healing power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, God showed me patterns of sinful pride in my intellectual habits. Then it dawned on me in a powerful way that God doesn’t need me to come up with great ideas or devise a grand vision for my life, and he definitely doesn’t need my personality, which can be annoying even for myself at times.

God doesn’t need my personality, my ideas, or my vision. I know, big breakthrough, right? Well, it can be an important corrective that God reveals to us in case we start to puff ourselves up in any way, thinking we are more important than we actually are. It is very easy to start believing that the Church needs original ideas, renewed creativity, or glowing personalities. The desire for renewal with “fresh ideas” is a ruse. The Church needs none of this, but I had fallen into the trap of thinking that I could bring something important to the Church. Now, I would never explicitly believe for a moment that God needs me. I am totally dependent upon His loving grace, and it is I who needs Him above all things. And while I have never intentionally pursued these kinds of thought patterns, that God might need me, the self-important prideful mentality can quite easily become actualized if humility is not energetically pursued each and every day. To properly fight against the sin of pride we have to fight to remain humble. Pride is an unfortunate potentiality of our fallen nature expressed through the patterns of concupiscence.

Being confronted by these truths, tears began to well up in my eyes as I realized how arrogant, selfish, and prideful I can be. It is truly a foolish mentality to think that God needs anything from us when the fact is that whatever we do have is a gift received from our Creator. As I wiped away my tears, embarrassed of my immaturity, God pressed upon me what it is He desires of me. It is as beautiful as it is simple.

I am called to love God and love my neighbor.

Be faithful to God, to Jesus Christ the only begotten Son of God, and to the deposit of faith given to the Church. Trust in the wisdom of the Church guaranteed by the Holy Spirit. Focus on leading my family through the sacramental vocation of marriage. Work to building up my local Parish in any way that I can. This is what God desires of me; that by loving Him I might love those around me, and by loving those around me in the name of Jesus Christ, God is glorified.

And here is what all of this means for someone like me who lives quite a bit inside my own head – I am never going to come up with something better than or something that adds to the genius of the Thomistic tradition of thought. I will never be smarter, more creative, or more original than the Sacred Tradition I have inherited from those who came before me. I am blessed to have the opportunity to participate in these traditions, to articulate its wisdom against the enemies of the Church, and by the grace of God to bring people into its inheritance so that they might also know Christ, His Most Holy Mother Mary, and the sacramental life of the Church. Admitting this of my prideful self exposes the futility of pursuing “new ideas” or creating “new movements” in the Church to spark emotional excitement about her teachings. If Catholics cannot get excited about what is ancient in the Church, then the new will fade away just as quickly for it is the Gospel itself that is ancient, and we should never tire from hearing of its truth, its beauty, and its goodness.

The bottom line is that I, nor will anyone else, ever outsmart or outdo the wisdom of Sacred Tradition and the fiery trials of concrete historical experiences. And as a self-avowed traditionalist, a healthy amount of shame consumes me to even admit that this “renewal” mentality crept into my thinking.

Instead of renewal, the contemporary Church needs to be awakened to her traditions.

The Church, full of the Holy Spirit and by the authority of Christ the King proclaimed the New Covenant.

The Church, by her divine authority defined the Incarnation, the Blessed and Holy Trinity, and gave us the canon of the Sacred Page.

The Church broke through centuries of violent persecution to evangelize the world and develop an organic Christian society called Christendom.

The Church, in the tradition of Christian Wisdom synthesized the ancient philosophies with Patristic devotion, leaving us with the Scholastic heritage of theology and philosophy.

The Church, to guard against revolutionaries, gave us the Council of Trent and showed us the way to defend the Church with the thought of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Universal and Angelic Doctor.

The Church, lead by many courageous Popes, provided encyclicals exposing the enemies of the faith and armed us with the spiritual weapons needed to defeat these diabolical foes.

The Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, has provided the soldiers of the Church Militant with an apostolic wisdom powerful enough to convert the nations.

It is our job now, as good soldiers loyal to the King of kings, to take this wisdom and baptize the nations through the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Church and her traditions do not need renewal, they need to be awakened so that the world may be renewed by her.

 

– Lucas G. Westman

 

 

 

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