These are solely mere ramblings for my own sake ; and I'll probably endure a lambasting from those more educated and informed than I could ever hope to be.
I was questioning a specific phrase a friend had written in an
essay for the Faith Magazine the other day - now ostensibly and
peripherally it seemed a perfectly feasible, tenable and appropriate
point to make ; and I am certain my friend used it in this light ; but
if taken apart and scrutinised it worried me somewhat in that it seemed
to be implying something very different - and then I realised this was
the main place that Aquinas and Duns Scotus differed in perspectives -
the existence of matter without form rather than nothing existing which
wasn't either formed matter or spirit ; the haecceity [unique
'this'ness] within individuation rather than the shared communal
contiguity of aspects of the created image of the Godhead , and the
attribution of universal predicates to both God and man, rather than the
analogy that Aquinas insists upon [God is always beyond our
understanding- not merely according to degrees of our
perception/ability/predication ]- and on each of these I always end up
siding with Aquinas.
? Because even though I see where Duns Scotus is coming from ; I find
distinct problems when we come to all manner of things :
a] the efficacy of prayer
b] both sacramentals and the sacraments
d] the very nature of the creation of the cosmos and its relationship to/with the Holy Spirit
e] the nature of sin and its effects upon creation
I'm certain Duns Scotus never encroached upon it ; I worry that if
taken to its natural ends this leads to a kind of 'Deism with subsequent
pseudo-interventionism' subsuming all the other considerations - an
over-distinction between God and creation - God less a Creator but more a
sculptor in clay ; forever adding pieces/re-shaping - an artist who can
not leave well alone - an intervening God rather than an immanent
constancy irrespective of the 'apeironic' transcendency - I don't think
I'm being very clear.
I'm not suggesting our response should be a
reversion to a stoical metaphysics , or a Spinozan panentheism warped
into a chardinian/meister eckhardtian [as described somewhat tenuously
by Matthew Fox] - type 'creation is an inseparable part of God' - But
what I am saying is that I worry when we move away from the principle
that it is the Holy Spirit in whom we live move and have our being and
rather have the Holy Spirit as an animating force - like electricity in
an already prepared automaton....
I used the example of Jesus walking on water - how did it occur ? did
Our Lord make Himself and St Peter light or the water strong enough to
support their weight [which I think is the scotist view] or was none of
this necessary whatsoever as the nature of everything involved is
reliant upon the Holy Spirit [the Thomist] ?
something added to holy water to make it holy [Scotist - implying
predication] or is this unnecessary as it is reliant upon its very being
as well as nature by the power of the Holy Spirit?
I remember a sermon by Fr Benedict Groeschel where he speaks of the
bread and wine being the only things in the universe that are ever
annihilated when they are consecrated - and I think this is very much a
Scotist approach - and almost a kind of 'reverse consubstantiationalism'
where instead of the body and blood 'cohabiting' ; the bread and wine's
form merely vacates - 'leaves the building' i.e. 'it is no longer held
in being' - and I feel compelled to ask 'is this at all necessary'?
because we always seem to be imagining God as someone who
removes,replaces, re-installs, repairs, cleans or eradicates...always
like a builder, engineer, potter, craftsman, repairman - rather than a
creator....surely transubstantiation can mean what it says and not
involve all this ontological refurbishment ?
I sometimes envision [and I may be utterly wrong in this] the Scotist
view of things as redolent of a chess game where spatio-temporality
affects the liberty or volition of the pieces within the game ; or an
agatha christie 'whodunnit' where only the final page explains all ; or a
whitehall farce where all the characters are rushing across the stage ,
impersonating others , misunderstanding everything ,hiding in
wardrobes,slamming doors behind them....nothing really makes sense
during the participation until the final scene/denouement.
the Thomist is more like a great novel by Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky or
Flaubert , or a Play by Chekhov ; or a game of Go [Wei chi] which could
be halted at any instant during its course and still have enough
intrinsic worth and value to be an entire 'thing in itself' without the
necessity of a final act , a denouement or a stalemate/checkmate....
I think [and yet again I may be utterly incorrect in this] Scotism is
playing a game towards an end - towards a fulfillment ; whereas Thomism
is playing a game for the sake of playing a game as the game is of equal
if not more import than the completion - the fulfillment is linked to
that which occurs during it [even though much greater is to come]....of
course it's a question of perspective and approach - but it's like
Scotus is imagining us all like soloists in the orchestra combining in
harmonies to make the music and discover who we are; in Thomism we play
hoping we can find and reflect the music of the spheres and angels and
uncover what we always were....I don't know , but it feels that way....
I think the problem with this is we go too far along the [albeit very
necessary Scotist way] we're perceiving God as pure Actor rather than
An 'environer' [what a horrible word??] rather
than an actuating sustainer...almost like He was a butler or genie
providing our every necessity rather than giving us everything we are
and ever will be - it's a very subtle difference regarding the nature of
I sometimes think that contemporary theologians who adopt this scotist
view of things have watched a little too much 'Jason and the Argonauts'
where the omnipotent Zeus watches everything from on high playing with
the toy models - only he being aware of how things will end... but
always moving his playing pieces around the board; rather than
everything already being pre-ordained and self-corrected to always
accommodate our volition [which after all is really our actions towards
the imbued graces of freed will] - I think I'm trying to say 'God
doesn't need to tweak the knobs of Creation' - take for instance the
effects of prayer affecting reality - does it alter reality [Scotist] or
merely make reality more real [Thomist] ?
Now I find this distinctly [and poignantly] ironic because of all our
great Theologians throughout the history of the church - it's Duns
Scotus who is the most ardent advocate of the Immaculate conception -
whereas Aquinas is somewhat reticent - but their metaphysical approaches
should lead to the reverse positions....unless Duns Scotus is implying
an unnecessary 'interventionism' where Thomism would see it as merely a
natural consequence devoid of any necessary 'change of the way things
before I'd ever read His Holiness or von Balthasar I had
always presumed that the immaculate conception was a very Thomistic-type
of concept in that it is an 'Anticipatory' extra-temporal effect of our
redemption on calvary - akin to the consecration at the last supper.
Whereas it's the Scotist approach which sees that which St Thomas could
not...horses for courses I suppose?
weird...I should shut up...before the veritable Fathers on these blogs
beat me about the head regarding my obtuse ignorance on anything
pertaining to the man....I doubt if the clerical lecturer-bloggers ever
speak to me again - maybe it would have been better to have kept my
mouth shut and made others presume i was a fool rather than opening it
and thus confirming it ? throughout all this thinking I had one thing
at the fore of my mind ; it's in Augustine:
in tempora dissilui...donec in Te confluam purgatus et liquidus igne
amoris Tui. Et stabo atque consolidabor in Te, in forma mea... [Aug: de
conf XI 29-30]But I am scattered in times whose order I
do not understand...until that day when, purified and molten by the fire
of your love, I flow together to merge into you. then I shall find
stability and solidity in you, in your truth which imparts form to me...
[St Augustine's 'Confessions']
have hunted high and low for a way to express what I'm thinking at the
moment; and by happenstance came across this - perhaps it will help...
That strangeness of things, which is the light in all poetry, and
indeed in all art, is really connected with their otherness; or what is
called their objectivity. What is subjective must be stale; it is
exactly what is objective that is in this imaginative manner strange. In
this the great contemplative is the complete contrary of that false
contemplative, the mystic who looks only into his own soul, the selfish
artist who shrinks from the world and lives only in his own mind.
According to St. Thomas, the mind acts freely of itself, but its freedom
exactly consists in finding a way out to liberty and the light of day;
to reality and the land of the living. In the subjectivist, the pressure
of the world forces the imagination inwards. In the Thomist, the energy
of the mind forces the imagination outwards, but because the images it
seeks are real things.
All their romance and glamour, so to speak, lies in the fact that they
are real things; things not to be found by staring inwards at the mind.
The flower is a vision because it is not only a vision. Or, if you will,
it is a vision because it is not a dream. This is for the poet the
strangeness of stones and trees and solid things; they are strange
because they are solid. I am putting it first in the poetical manner,
and indeed it needs much more technical subtlety to put it in the
philosophical manner. According to Aquinas, the object becomes a part of
the mind; nay, according to Aquinas, the mind actually becomes the
object. But, as one commentator acutely puts it, it only becomes the
object and does not create the object. In other words, the object is an
object; it can and does exist outside the mind, or in the absence of the
mind. And therefore it enlarges the mind of which it becomes a part.
mind conquers a new province like an emperor; but only because the mind
has answered the bell like a servant. The mind has opened the doors and
windows, because it is the natural activity of what is inside the house
to find out what is outside the house. If the mind is sufficient to
itself, it is insufficient for itself. For this feeding upon fact is
itself; as an organ it has an object which is objective; this eating of
the strange strong meat of reality.
Note how this view avoids both pitfalls; the alternative abysses of
impotence. The mind is not merely receptive, in the sense that it
absorbs sensations like so much blotting-paper; on that sort of softness
has been based all that cowardly materialism, which conceives man as
wholly servile to his environment. On the other hand, the mind is not
purely creative, in the sense that it paints pictures on the windows and
then mistakes them for a landscape outside. But the mind is active, and
its activity consists in following, so far as the will chooses to
follow, the light outside that does really shine upon real landscapes.
is what gives the indefinably virile and even adventurous quality to
this view of life; as compared with that which holds that material
inferences pour in upon an utterly helpless mind, or that which holds
that psychological influences pour out and create an entirely baseless
phantasmagoria. In other words, the essence of the Thomist common sense
is that two agencies are at work; reality and the recognition of
reality; and their meeting is a sort of marriage. Indeed it is very
truly a marriage, because it is fruitful; the only philosophy now in the
world that really is fruitful. It produces practical results, precisely
because it is the combination of an adventurous mind and a strange