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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, and matter.

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 this outcome.

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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 it."
- Article 1718


 
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