insights of the Summa so far
Aquinas and his "Theory of Everything" is amazing for
its sweet and coherent take on reality. It is also both refreshing
and surprising, at least to this cradle Catholic with sixteen
years of Catholic education under her belt. Where have they been
keeping this guy?
To me, the key insights in the Summa so far are as follows:
Existence is a mystery. We use our senses to look out onto
a world we didn't create and give the name God to the mysterious
cause of the universe. This mysterious cause is one we cannot
know, but we can figure out that it exists apart, different,
and independent from everything associated with space, time,
The world is such that we can use our minds to get to God.
At the heart of life is mystery, so there is a boundary past
which reason will not do us much good, past where pure experience
takes over. But we should ride reason as far as it can go and
not worry that it will conflict with faith. Truth cannot contradict
truth; both reason and mystery have their proper place. It is
up to thinking creatures to continually explore and move the
boundary outward in our growth towards the divine.
The basic state of the universe is flux and the desire to flourish
is woven into the fabric of existence. All things (including
the universe itself) are naturally good and are drawn to be
even better as they grow into what they are inherently meant
to become. This unfolding and flourishing is the business of
the universe, and that includes us.
The Trinity represents states that describe the nature of God's
delighted self-awareness. The Father represents God, the Son
God's self-knowledge and self-awareness, and the Holy Spirit
the loving and happy relationship between the two.
The purpose of religion is to show us how to be happy. Humans
are built to experience wonder and delight, and that is the
main purpose of our lives and the reason for our existence.
When we allow ourselves to take in the full presence of our
world, because the mystery of existence is present in all existence,
we also get a divine whiff of God. This makes us happy because
world and God are good, and when we possess this good, we are
happy. It is our ultimate purpose in life to be self-aware and
yet happy, to find and stay in beatitudo, the Trinity-like,
graced state of happiness.
Let's see how Aquinas tells us to act in a way that produces
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
"Thus, in different ways, man can come to know that there
exists a reality which is the first cause and final end of all
things, a reality 'that everyone calls God'." - Article 34
"Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith
has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot
deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth. Consequently,
methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it
is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override
moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things
of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God."
- Article 159
"Creation has its own goodness and proper perfection, but
it did not spring forth complete from the hands of the creator.
The universe was created 'in a state of journeying' (in statu
viae) toward an ultimate perfection yet to be attained, to which
God has destined it." - Article 302
"The ultimate end of the whole divine economy is the entry
of God's creatures into the perfect unity of the Blessed Trinity."
- Article 260
"We all want to live happily; in the whole human race there
is no one who does not assent to this proposition ..."
"This desire is of divine origin: God has placed it in the
human heart in order to draw man to the One who alone can fulfill
- Article 1718