Brother Thomas and the Universe


The following is the prepared text of a lecture given to the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.

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Brother Thomas and the Universe

John G. Brungardt
Lecture at the DSMME Motherhouse
December 6th, 2017


Andrea_di_Bonaiuto._Santa_Maria_Novella_1366-7_fresco_0001G. K. Chesterton once gave St. Thomas the title “St. Thomas of the Creator.” However, not only God but also God’s creation were frequently on the mind of the Angelic Doctor. Discussions of “the universe” occur in hundreds of places throughout St. Thomas’s writings, and it is a bit daunting to gather even a portion of this rich harvest and try to understand what Brother Thomas thought of the universe as a whole. Chesterton also once wrote: “The nineteenth century left everything in chaos; and the importance of Thomism to the twentieth century is that it may give us back a cosmos.”1 For we who live in the 21st century, I think it is important to learn from St. Thomas so that we can contemplate a “big picture” understanding of the universe from a philosophical and theological point of view that remains true in our day.

In what follows, I have very modest aims. First, we will discuss some of the names that we give the universe and some of the analogies that St. Thomas uses to describe the universe. These are important because we often find it easier to understand the meaning of a name than the thing itself, and an analogy about something that is difficult to understand can lead us to discover something about the unknown. Second, we will analyze these images in more detail; we will talk about the beginning, middle, and end of the universe. This will allow us to see how St. Thomas describes the universe as a whole. Finally, given the season, I should like to close with a reflection on the relationship between the universe, the Incarnation, and Our Lady.

1. Names and Images of the Universe

In English, in order to describe “everything that exists” we can use the names “world,” “universe,” and “cosmos.” St. Thomas uses universus and mundus (for world) as well as caelum (for “the heavens”). The Latin universus comes from unus-verto, turned into one, combined into one whole. Thus, the “universe” is not merely “all things” but it is “all things insofar as they are made, somehow, into one thing.”

The word mundus in Latin can mean “clean,” but also “a woman’s adornment or dress,” and in a transferred sense it means the total adornment of the world; so Cicero writes: “As the Greeks call this brilliant variety a cosmos, we [Latins] call this resplendent thing the world.” In Greek, cosmos derives from the verb kosmein (κοσμεῖν), which means “to arrange” or “to order, rule” as well as “to adorn” in the sense of making beautiful, as well as “to honor.” English words such as “cosmetics” or “cosmetology” come from this word. The universe or “all that exists” is a cosmos because it is beautifully arranged in order. This is why Chesterton, in our earlier quote, opposes “chaos” to “cosmos”—the first is ugly disorder and the second is its very opposite. Thus we can see that the very name “cosmos” signifies something about “everything that exists” and the very name turns our mind to something that is difficult for our minds to grasp all at once.


St. Thomas also employs several analogies when he discusses the universe: he likens the universe to a house, to a household, and to an army.2 Let us look at each of these three in turn. He compares the universe to a house and uses this analogy to teach us four things that a universe requires in order to be a universe.3

First, the parts must come together, just as many stones out of which a house is built come together among themselves; likewise, all the parts of the universe come together insofar as they exist.

This first part of the analogy informs us that, whatever the parts of the universe are, they must “come together” in the sense that they all have something in common. They are all destined to be parts in the same whole, the same building, all at the same time.

Second, the parts, insofar as they are diverse, must be able to be joined together. For a house does not arise out of cement and stones unless they are joined together; likewise, the parts of the universe are joined together insofar as they are able to fall under one order.

This second level of the analogy tells us that the parts must not only “come together” but they must be joined together or “fit together.” The universe is not a mere heap of parts in a common place, but the parts are all joined together in a certain definite order. This idea of order in the universe is very important.

Third, one part must be aided by the others, just as the walls and the roof of a house are supported by the foundation, and the roof works together with the walls and foundation; likewise, the superior things in the universe give perfection to the inferior things, and the inferior things manifest the power of the superior things.

This third layer of the analogy is important because we are thinking about the parts of a house not merely as parts that fit together, but fit together for some function or purpose, a “working together.” The parts of the house have different roles and some are more “foundational” than others, and so also, evidently, are the parts of the real universe. We will have to discuss what these “superior” and “inferior” things are later on.

Fourth, there must be a due proportion in the parts, namely that the foundation be such so as to be congruent with the other parts, and this is […] the harmony of each thing, that is, of each part of the universe. For harmony is caused in sounds from a due numerical proportion.

This fourth and final aspect of the analogy between the universe and the house completes all that had gone before it. Not only must the parts come together in a common group, not only must they fit together in a certain order, and not only must they work together, but they must be, fit, and work together in due proportion. No part must be louder and stronger or softer and weaker than it is supposed to be. This is a type of harmony, St. Thomas notes, just like the harmonies in music. Perhaps there is another analogy for the universe here. Even though there were no symphonies in his day, there was polyphony: the universe is like a song in many parts. Notice how St. Thomas ends this passage: “The parts being thus disposed, their composition in the whole follows, insofar as from all the parts of the universe is composed one totality of things.” All four aspects are required for the universe to be a true universe or a totality of things.


St. Thomas uses a very similar image involving a house, but instead of the mere building, he compares the universe to a household, the people and family living in the building. He uses this analogy following Aristotle. He “says that all things in the universe are ordered together in some way, but not all are ordered alike, for example, sea animals, birds, and plants.4 This is how St. Thomas explains Aristotle’s analogy of the household:

That all [things in the universe] are not ordered in the same way is made clear by an example; for in an ordered household or family different ranks of members are found. For example, under the head of the family there is a first rank, namely, that of the sons, and a second rank, which is that of the servants, and a third rank, which is that of the domestic animals, as dogs and the like. For ranks of this kind have a different relation to the order of the household, which is imposed by the head of the family, who governs the household. For it is not proper for the sons to act in a haphazard and disorderly way, but all or most of the things that they do are ordered. This is not the case with the servants or domestic animals, however, because they share to a very small degree in the order which exists for the common good. But in their case we find many things which are contingent and haphazard; and this is because they have little connection with the ruler of the household, who aims at the common good of the household.5

You might be able to guess what in the universe corresponds to this analogy’s head of the household, but what about the sons (or children), the servants, and the domestic animals? For now, let us focus on a term that did not come up in the first analogy of the house: that term is the common good. The common good of the household is that good or perfection of family life in which the parents and the children share; anyone hired to help in the house or pets do not share in that good as much. The children are expected to obey the rules of the household; the hired help, once their job is done, live their own lives. Here is how St. Thomas interprets this analogy in terms of the universe:

And just as the order of the family is imposed by the law and precept of the head of the family, who is the principle of each of the things which are ordered in the household, with a view to carrying out the activities which pertain to the order of the household, in a similar fashion the nature of physical things is the principle by which each of them carries out the activity proper to it in the order of the universe. For just as any member of the household is disposed to act through the precept of the head of the family, in a similar fashion any natural being is disposed by its own nature. Now the nature of each thing is a kind of inclination implanted in it by the first mover, who directs it to its proper end.6

So, the head of the household is God. The various levels of children, servants, and pets correspond to creatures in the universe, which all have a natural law that they follow so that they contribute to the common good of the universe (just as the members of the household contribute to a harmonious family life by their behavior, even in small ways: the children go to bed at a certain time, the plumber is hired to fix the bath, the dog is not allowed on the sofa, etc.). We will have to keep this analogy in mind as we see in more detail how the universe corresponds to the household.


Let us turn to our final analogy, where St. Thomas (again following the old philosopher Aristotle) compares the universe to an army.

Now a twofold order is found in things. One kind is that of parts of a totality, that is, a group, among themselves, as the parts of a house are mutually ordered to each other. The second order is that of things to an end. This order is of greater importance than the first. For, as the Philosopher says in the Metaphysics, the order of the parts of an army among themselves exists because of the order of the whole army to the commander.7

It is interesting that the first analogy, that of the house, plays a bit part here. St. Thomas is distinguishing two kinds of order: the first is just the order of parts in a whole. An army marching into battle has this kind of order: the smaller units of men like platoons are arranged into larger units such as battalions, and they all together make up the ordered, disciplined army. The other kind of order is the order of things to an end—a purpose or goal. In the case of the army, we might expect that this end is victory. The end of the army is victory, but the reason for the order in the army is the will of the general via his various commands that the platoons and battalions array themselves in this order instead of some other order. Indeed, St. Thomas says elsewhere that, “The order of an army exists for the purpose of achieving the good of its commander, namely, his will to attain victory.”8 So we can see that in this image of the army there are two good orders at play: first, there is the good order of the army itself, and second there is the good of victory, which is the good willed by the commander, and the good order of the army is subordinated to the commander’s will. What does this all mean in terms of the universe itself? What are the well-ordered platoons, what is the victory, and who the good-willed commander? Let us turn to other wise words from St. Thomas to find some answers.


2.A: Analyzing the Images — The Beginning

Let us begin inspecting these analogies for the universe by considering the beginning of the universe. Now, I will assume that we all accept that the universe was created from nothing by God. So, let us ask, first, why would God choose to create the world at all? St. Thomas replies:

The created things which God wills … are not related to the divine will as ends but as directed to an end. [… cont’d]

That is, God does not create so as to achieve some goal by making things and thereby make up for something that He lacks. He does not make creatures like we make tools, so as to achieve some end that He desires. Rather, the things He creates themselves have their own end.

God wills creatures to exist in order that His goodness may be manifested in them, and that His goodness, which in its essence cannot be multiplied, may be poured out upon many at least by a participation through likeness.9

Here, perhaps, the analogies of the household and of the army begin to limp too much. Let us try the first analogy, that of the house: Why build a house? Perhaps the architect wants to manifest his goodness and ingenuity to those who will live in the house. He tells the inhabitants about himself in the magnificence and order of the design. However, our analogy assumes that there are customers for the architect. When applied to God, this seems very odd: if there are no creatures, then to whom is this manifestation made? Must there not be creatures first in order for there to be a manifestation to them? St. Thomas uses this kind of language elsewhere:

Thus, each creature is made as a witness to God in so far as each creature is a certain witness of the divine goodness. So, the vastness of creation is a witness to God’s power and omnipotence; and its beauty is a witness to the divine wisdom. But certain men are ordained by God in a special way, so that they bear witness to God not only naturally by their existence, but also spiritually by their good works. Hence all holy men are witnesses to God inasmuch as God is glorified among men by their good works. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Mt 5:16).10

Yet again: in order for witnesses to make sense, there must be an audience already in existence. Are we caught in a circle? That is, must God first create beings so that there will be beings to whom He can manifest his goodness by creation? Perhaps there is no circle: perhaps the very creation of intelligent beings who can know God is this manifestation. In this sense, God most of all makes creation a witness to Himself by creating angels and human beings. Thus, the end of creatures is to be the manifestation of God’s goodness by their own existence in good order, akin to the good order of the army. Insofar as they are witnesses, creatures fulfill this purpose in being related to God as an ultimate end, just as the soldiers in the army are related to the commander’s will for victory. Yet, unlike the general who desires a victory that he lacks, God does not lack something and then desires to fill that lack: “for [God] acts not from desire of, but from love of the end,11 namely, the end being his own goodness. The beginning of the universe from nothing is the act of divine self-love shared with creatures.


2.B: Analyzing the Images — The Middle

By “middle” I mean what the universe is like once it comes into being, after its beginning. What is the house like? Who lives in the house? How stands the army arrayed for battle? To answer these questions, St. Thomas speaks of the “form” of the universe. Here he means the formal cause, the nature or definition of a thing: what are the qualities or characteristics that define the universe? St. Thomas says: “The form of the universe consists in the distinction and order of its parts.”12 Let us paraphrase: the universe must have parts. These parts will have distinction, i.e., they will differ from one another; they will also possess some sort of order. Now, by the parts of the universe St. Thomas principally means kinds of beings. By distinction he means that these have different essences or come in different species. By order, he chiefly has in mind that these different kinds of creatures come in a hierarchy, an order of more and less noble from most to least noble. Now, what are the essential kinds of the universe? That is, what kinds of beings must the universe have to be complete, as a house needs foundation, walls, and a roof? St. Thomas, ever laconic, tells us: “The parts of the universe, the corruptible and incorruptible ones, are ordered to each other not accidentally but essentially.”13

Cellarius_Harmonia_Macrocosmica_-_Orbium_Planetarum_Terram_Complectentium_ScenographiaThis seems fairly simple. There are corruptible parts and there are incorruptible parts of the universe. And this order is essential: the architect designed the house that way, the parts did not merely happen to fall together into that order. Now, the “corruptible” parts of the universe are those that can come into being and then pass away (die or be destroyed), while other parts of the universe come into being but never pass away. Now, you might guess that this divides the universe into material and spiritual parts. This is close. Among the incorruptible parts of the universe St. Thomas does include angels (and devils). However, he also includes the incorruptible heavenly spheres (part of his medieval astronomy). The corruptible parts of the universe are the material parts: chemical elements and compounds, plants, animals, and human beings. However, human beings are right on the border between the spiritual and material parts of the universe: “The human soul . . . exists on the border of corporeal and incorporeal substances—on the horizon, as it were, of eternity and time. Receding from the depths, it draws near to the heights.14 St. Thomas’ universe has us standing on the border between what we usually call “the universe” (the physical part) and the invisible realm of the spiritual universe.

St. Thomas thus observes how the universe is full of all kinds of species, arranged in an order, from the lowliest material beings to the highest angel, in a harmony like a musical scale. This hierarchy is necessary, St. Thomas argues, because God creates through a plan; God creates in wisdom, and the works of wisdom are orderly and not haphazard, just as an architect or general’s plan is orderly. God would not have made a disordered universe—indeed, that would be a contradiction in terms. The universe is full of beings with diverse degrees of nobility, and none of the ranks of the universe, like the ranks of an army, are missing any members. St. Thomas even argues that creatures with intellect and will (like angels and human beings) must exist for the universe to be complete. The universe must have parts that are explicitly able to know and to love God, otherwise the universe, as God’s creation, would not bear witness or manifest God’s goodness in the most complete or perfect way possible.

probably about 1475-6Now, we must make a distinction. I have been speaking about this hierarchy from the point of view of the natural order. In this respect, the higher spiritual beings like angels outrank any human person. The perspective changes when we rise from nature to the vantage point of grace: “But the most excellent parts of the universe are God’s saints, to each of whom applies what is said in Matthew: he will set him over all his goods (Matt 25:23).”15 Grace elevates some members of the household of the universe above others. Of course, this applies only to human beings after they have been redeemed by grace—the story is different before the redemption of our race. St. Thomas discusses the plight of fallen man in the bigger picture of the universe when he comments on the parable of the lost sheep (Matt 18:12–14):

The sheep which went astray signifies the human race. And why does he signify the human race by a sheep which went astray? Because through one man all men have gone astray; for you were as sheep going astray (1 Pet 2:25). Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the mountains? . . . [T]hese ninety-nine signify angels who were left in the mountains, i.e., in the heavens; I will feed them in the mountains of Israel (Ezek 34:13). . . . If the angels are signified by the ninety-nine, and man by the sheep, the reason is plain, for man was worthy of reparation; for no where does he take hold of the angels: but of the seed of Abraham he takes hold (Heb 2:16).16

This gives us some idea of the scale of St. Thomas’s cosmos. Most of it—99%!—is spiritual. Elsewhere, St. Thomas argues that it is fitting that a vast multitude of angels exist for their manner of spiritual being is more perfect and the universe God intends to be perfect.17 Our own material universe, so vast in time and space, is but the lowest rung of an overwhelmingly angelic army of being. Recalling the image of the household, the parable likens us not even to prodigal children, but closer to an animal in comparison to the angels.


2.C: Analyzing the Images — The End

First I have to clarify what I mean by “end.” An “end” can be a place where we stop, or it can be a goal or a process. These are not the same: the end of a class might be a certain time, and the end of the class (as in its purpose) is also to learn something. Here, we will consider end in the sense of “purpose” or “goal”. (St. Thomas does speak about the stoppage of motion in the physical universe at the end of the world, but that topic must be passed over for now.)

Now an end or purpose, when achieved, is a kind of perfection. Achieving a goal is a type of completeness or consummation; we rest, satisfied, having consummated or perfected what we set out to do. Now, the very creation of the universe in being is called its “first perfection.” Yet there are two other “stages” (as it were) to the perfection of the universe: the history of the universe and its ultimate perfection. St. Thomas describes these two as follows:

The perfection of the universe is twofold: one according to the present state of mutability, the other according to the state of the future restoration.18

The present state of mutability is the mode in which we exist now. The “future restoration” is at the end of the world. There is a partial similarity between these states of mutability and restoration and the Church militant and the Church triumphant.

The_Thinker,_Auguste_RodinIn the case of this present mutability of the universe, we should note what human beings try to achieve as an end by nature. St. Thomas names this end-goal natural happiness.

Certain philosophers, paying attention to the natural end of man, said that the highest human felicity consists in this, that in the soul of a man were described the whole order of the universe.19

It is striking to imagine the inner beauty of a soul possessed of such natural wisdom that it could lay bare the whole order of the universe. Yet this ideal of some philosophers, St. Thomas notes, would not ultimately satisfy us. Contemplating the universe is not our ultimate end.

However, the universe of creatures, to which man compares as part to whole, is not the ultimate end, but the universe is ordered to God as to an ultimate end. Whence the good of the universe is not the final end of man, but God himself.20

That is, the purpose of the soldier in the well-ordered army is not merely to excel as part of the army, but to march to victory in the sight of the general. Victory and hence—by implication—peace after victory are the general’s will for his soldiers. Of course, God as the ultimate end and happiness of man is and end rooted in our nature but only fulfilled through grace. It is beyond a foot-soldier’s expectation to be received into the general’s own family after his tour of service.

This ultimate beatific rest is the topic of the following delightfully intricate passage:

The end is either an activity (as the end of the harpist is to play the harp), or it is something which is attained through activity (as the end of the builder is the house, which is made by building). However, a first perfection is the cause of a second perfection, because form is the principle of activity. Now, the final perfection, which is the end of the whole universe, is the perfect beatitude of the saints, which will be in the final consummation of the age. Yet the first perfection, which is the integrity of the universe, existed in the first institution of things. . . . The consummation which is the integrity of the parts of the universe belongs to the Sixth Day; the consummation which is the activity of the parts of the universe belongs to the seventh day.21

This is a long passage, and we should unpack it. Notice first that St. Thomas distinguishes between two kinds of ends that are goals or perfections: an end that is the very activity (as when a musician plays merely for the sake of playing) or an end-goal that is something produced through activity. Then he relates these two kinds of end to what he calls a “first perfection.” A first perfection is when something is complete in its being: think of a trained pianist. She has the skill to play the piano, but is not always playing. This first perfection (the skill of piano-playing) is the cause of the second perfection, which is the activity of piano playing for its own sake. St. Thomas also finds this first and second perfection in the universe. The first perfection of the universe occurs on “the Sixth Day” of creation, when the universe is complete in its essential parts. The second perfection is, as it were, the Seventh Day, when creation simply is and does what God intends, which will only be fully realized at the end of the time. Here we should think of the divine “rest” of which the author of the Hebrews speaks: “For in a certain place he spoke of the seventh day thus: And God rested the seventh day from all his works. And in this place again: If they shall enter into my rest.” (Heb 4:4–5) The complete history of creation terminates in a peaceful rest in God’s presence.

3. Brother Thomas and the Incarnation’s Place in the Universe

In conclusion, I would like to offer some reflections on how the universe features in St. Thomas’ thinking about the Incarnation. First, we should note that St. Thomas thinks that the Incarnation was not something necessary in the sense that God was required to become Incarnate in order to complete the universe. That is, it is entirely beyond natural expectation that God unite Himself in a hypostatic mode to a part of the universe. The universe is naturally complete; lacking that mode of supernatural union which is the grace of hypostatic union in Christ is not a lack that makes the cosmos imperfect. St. Thomas argues: “Had sin not existed, the Incarnation would not have been. And yet the power of God is not limited to this; even had sin not existed, God could have become incarnate.”22 His thinking is that revelation alone gives us any reason for the Incarnation, namely, the redemption of the human race from the fall.


Given that our first parents fell, given that there is sin in the cosmos, the universe plays a role in Brother Thomas’ thinking about the Incarnation:

It is impossible for something disordered to exist in the universe. But if penalty or satisfaction or condemnation were not applied to the fault of human nature, there would be disorder in the universe. Therefore it is necessary, if human nature is to be saved from damnation, that this happen by way of satisfaction, since fault is ordered through penalty.23

That is, the cosmos God created must on the whole be well ordered. This sort of harmony, as we have seen, is the very definition of a universe. The parts of the house must come together in harmony and due proportion. No rank or file of the army is allowed to wander astray. No member of the household may shirk his place or duty. If the cosmos becomes disordered in one of its parts, the order of the whole can only be restored through the re-ordering of that part. Note that this does not make the Incarnation necessary; it only makes punishment necessary. Hence St. Thomas says “If the human race is to be saved,” and upon this happy hypothetical, based upon that “felix culpa,” the “happy sin” of Adam, upon such a premise is our Redeemer promised.


Now I should mention providence. Providence, God’s very notion of the course of the universe, its unfolding in spiritual and physical duration, contains from all eternity the moment within human history in which a Savior was to appear. Let us consider this historical order by its revealed name: “the fulness of time.” When St. Thomas considers this time of the Incarnation, he raises this objection against himself as to whether or not it occurred at the proper time!

The time of the Incarnation is called the fullness of time: when the fulness of the time was come, God sent his Son (Gal 4:4). But fullness implies perfection. Wherefore, since the consummate perfection of the universe is on the seventh day (as is said in Genesis ch. 1), it seems that the Son of God ought to have been incarnated at that time.24

Perhaps we could work out a mistake that this objector makes, given what we heard about the universe and the sixth and seventh day, above. But let us consider what St. Thomas says in reply:

There is a threefold perfection: namely, of nature, grace, and glory. Now, the perfection of nature is what existed at the beginning of time; but the perfection of glory will exist at the end of time. And since the perfection of grace is a middle between each of these, therefore Christ, through whom grace is made, comes around the middle of time: Whence it is said: In the midst of the years thou shalt make it known (Hab 3:2).25

That is, the will of God unfolds in the course of history—this is the notion of Divine governance. The precise arrangement of history meet for the Incarnate Lord is shrouded in providential mystery—Christ comes in at “about the middle”—; the moment cannot be demonstrated with philosophy. We should consider the complete verse from Galatians (4:4:) “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.” The whole restoration of the cosmos is condensed around three points that must feature in the very history of the universe: the sending of the Son, the existence of his mother, and the institution of the law.

Allow me to close by focusing on one of those points: Our Lady. As God foresaw from all eternity the fall of the human race and determined in His mercy to save his saints through the Incarnation, that is, through Christ becoming man like us in all things but sin, then necessarily He also willed the time and place of the Savior’s birth. This further implies, among many other things, the existence, historical course, and cultural milieu of the race, country, and parents that give birth to the Mother of the Savior. Many of these arrangements can come about through the providential design of the natural order of the cosmos, but we know by reading the history of the Old Covenant that revelation and grace were operative also before the time of Our Lady. At the moment of Mary’s conception, her body and soul are preserved from the fault that disordered the universe—she is ontologically shielded from that course of fallen nature in view of a supernatural end. Her Immaculate Conception, granted in view of her future divine maternity, elevates her as the singular part of the entire created order. She becomes the maternal instrument of the restoration of the universe by her role in the advent of Christ in time, whose Flesh and Cross are instruments of our salvation. This moment of her Immaculate Conception was predestined as a moment to be both awaited and recalled throughout all time in the universe. Brother Thomas tells us that “Something can be added every day to the perfection of the universe,”26 and that day and moment of Our Lady’s conception were that point of created time when the noblest created person came into being in the entire cosmic hierarchy. Before her arrival that rank of created persons, considered as elevated in grace, stood unoccupied and thus the universe was incomplete.27 After her advent, the Church Militant could be born into history and the Church Triumphant born into eternity. With her beauty is restored. She readies the universe to be a cosmos again so that creation may rest in Beauty Itself. If the universe is like an army, who is she? We should ask with Solomon and be encouraged in our hearts: “Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array?” (Song 6:10)


1 G. K. Chesterton, St. Thomas Aquinas (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1933), p. 204. This prediction figues prominently in the peroration of Stanley L. Jaki, “Thomas and the Universe,” The Thomist 53.4 (1989): 571: “But if Thomism is to live up to that challenge, Thomists must not imitate the best 20th-century interpreters of Thomas in treating modern scientific cosmology as if it did not exist. They should try to be experts in it, or at least appreciate the crucial contributions it can make on behalf of that Thomism whose sole purpose is to serve the Catholic faith.”

2 These analogies are discussed in detail by Oliva Blanchette, The Perfection of the Universe according to Aquinas: A Teleological Cosmology (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University, 1992) 12ff.

3 See St. Thomas, In Div. Nom., c. 4, lect. 6, n. 364. This translation is my own; usually in this presentation I have used the DHS online English texts.

4 St. Thomas, In Meta., lib. 12, lect. 12, n. 2632.

5 Ibid., n. 2633.

6 Ibid., n. 2634.

7 St. Thomas, In Ethic., lib. 1, lect. 1, n. 1. See also In Meta., lib. 12, lect. 12, nn. 2629–2631; 2630–31:

“We see this, for example, in the case of an army; for the good of the army is found both in the order itself of the army and in the commander who has charge of the army. But the good of the army is found in a higher degree in its commander than in its order, because the goodness of an end takes precedence over that of the things which exist for the sake of the end. Now the order of an army exists for the purpose of achieving the good of its commander, namely, his will to attain victory. But the opposite of this is not true, i.e., that the good of the commander exists for the sake of the good of order.

“And since the formal character of things which exist for the sake of an end is derived from the end, it is therefore necessary not only that the good of the army exist for the sake of the commander, but also that the order of the army depend on the commander, since its order exists for the sake of the commander. In this way too the separate good of the universe, which is the first mover, is a greater good than the good of order which is found in the universe. For the whole order of the universe exists for the sake of the first mover inasmuch as the things contained in the mind and will of the first mover are realized in the ordered universe. Hence the whole order of the universe must depend on the first mover.”

8 Ibid.

9 St. Thomas, De Veritate, q. 23, a. 1, ad 3.

10 St. Thomas, Super Ioannis, c. 1, lect. 4, n. 116.

11 St. Thomas, De Potentia, q. 3, a. 15, ad 14.

12 St. Thomas, Summa contra Gentiles, lib. 2 cap. 39 n. 6.

13 St. Thomas, De Veritate, q. 5 a. 3 co.

14 St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa contra Gentiles, lib. 2, cap. 80, n. 13.

15 St. Thomas, Super Rom., cap. 8, l. 6. Indeed, the good of grace in one man is greater than the whole natural universe, as he notes elsewhere: Summa Theologiae, Ia-IIae, q. 113, a. 9, ad 2: “The good of the universe is greater than the good of some single particular, if both are taken in the same genus. But the good of grace of one [individual] is greater than the good of nature of the whole universe.” This makes for a striking reflection upon the fractal, dense, and superordinated richness of the supernatural dwelling within the natural order.

16 St. Thomas, Super Matt., ch. 18, lect. 2.

17 St. Thomas, Summa Theologiae, Ia, q. 50, a. 3, c: “Hence it must be said that the angels, even inasmuch as they are immaterial substances, exist in exceeding great number, far beyond all material multitude. This is what Dionysius says (Coel. Hier. xiv): ‘There are many blessed armies of the heavenly intelligences, surpassing the weak and limited reckoning of our material numbers.’ The reason whereof is this, because, since it is the perfection of the universe that God chiefly intends in the creation of things, the more perfect some things are, in so much greater an excess are they created by God. Now, as in bodies such excess is observed in regard to their magnitude, so in things incorporeal is it observed in regard to their multitude. We see, in fact, that incorruptible bodies, exceed corruptible bodies almost incomparably in magnitude; for the entire sphere of things active and passive is something very small in comparison with the heavenly bodies. Hence it is reasonable to conclude that the immaterial substances as it were incomparably exceed material substances as to multitude.”

18 St. Thomas, Super Sent., lib. 4, d. 48, q. 2, a. 5, ad 3.

19 St. Thomas, De Veritate, q. 20, a. 3, co.

20 St. Thomas, Summa Theologiae, Ia-IIae, q. 2, a. 8, ad 2.

21 St. Thomas, Summa Theologiae, Ia, q. 73, a. 1, c. & ad 2.

22 Ibid., corpus.

23 St. Thomas, Super Sent., lib. 3, d. 20, q. 1, a. 1, qc. 3, s.c. 2.

24 St. Thomas, Super Sent., lib. 3, d. 1, q. 1, a. 4, obj. 1.

25 Ibid., ad 1.

26 St. Thomas, Summa Theologiae, Ia, q. 118, a. 3, ad 2: “Something can be added every day to the perfection of the universe, as to the number of individuals, but not as to the number of species.”

27 See ibid., q. 23, a. 7, c.: “Individuals, however, which undergo corruption, are not ordained as it were chiefly for the good of the universe, but in a secondary way, inasmuch as the good of the species is preserved through them. Whence, although God knows the total number of individuals, the number of oxen, flies and such like, is not pre-ordained by God per se; but divine providence produces just so many as are sufficient for the preservation of the species. Now of all creatures the rational creature is chiefly ordained for the good of the universe, being as such incorruptible; more especially those who attain to eternal happiness, since they more immediately reach the ultimate end. Whence the number of the predestined is certain to God; not only by way of knowledge, but also by way of a principal pre-ordination.”

This presentation was produced as part of my postdoctoral research project.




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