Friday, September 26, 2008

Hermetic Esotericism

Mr Jones and his commenter Fr Maximus have discovered our secrets at last. Re my latest:

"If there ever was sophistry, this is it. . . . A non sequitur, which contradicts his earlier statement that person and essence are not distinct. There is an evil force pushing this system forward into a total denial of the Trinity, and Aquinas can resist it only by abandoning his own logic at the last moment in order to presrve the Trinity in name, if not if fact. The result is total confusion and blatant contradition."
"I’m afraid so, which is why I’m ready to start looking at the very esoteric aspects to the filioque. I believe this dogma was to ensure the survival of Hermeticism and “sacred science” and its methods under the cover of religion."
"It is very telling that Mike Liccione and company have named their new blog “Philosophia Perennis.” Virtually every attempt of man to come to an intellectual understanding with religion has resulted in something close to the same doctrine of God: there is not much difference between Neo-Platonism and Hinduism, and all modern religions of east and west are intellectually offshoots of one or the other. . ."

What is especially impressive is that our friends have penetrated our inner sancta without, so far as I can tell, having actually read with understanding a single work of Latin theology. They must, somehow, have become initiates some other way. Perhaps they took the Hidden Path into our gnosis:

"I would say that the ideal reader . . . would be a Rosicrucian adept, and therefore an expert in magiam, in necromantiam, in astrologiam, in geomantiam, in pyromantiam, in hydormantiam, in chaomantiam, in medicinam adeptam, to quote the book of Azoth, which, as the Raptus philosophorum explains, was given to Staurophorus by a mysterious maiden. But the knowledge of the adept embraces other fields, such as physiognosis, which deals with occult physics, the static, the dynamic, and the kinematic, or astrology and esoteric biology, the study of the spirits of nature, hermetic zoology. I could add cosmognosis, which studies the heavens from the astronomical, cosmological, physiological, and ontological points of view, and anthropognosis, which studies human anatomy, and the sciences of divination, psychurgy, social astrology, hermetic history. Then there is qualitative mathematics, arithmology . . . But the fundamentals are the cosmography of the invisible, magnetism, auras, fluid, psychometry, and clairvoyance, and in general the study of the five hyperphysical senses--not to mention horoscopic astrology (which, of course, becomes a mere mockery of learning when not conductd with the proper precautions), as well as physiognomics, mind reading, and the predictive arts (tarots, dream books), ranging to the highest levels, such as prophecy and ecstasy. Sufficient information would be required on alchemy, spagyrics, telepathy, exorcism, ceremonial and evocatory magic, basic theurgy. As for genuine occultism, I would advise exploration of the fields of the early cabala, Brahmanism, gymnosophy, Memphis hieroglyphics--"
"Templar phenomonology" . . .
"Absolutely . . ."

Cum insanis non est arguendum.

St Thomas on Existence/Essence and Identity

Mr Jones at Energetic Processions offers the following from St Thomas:

“Therefore that thing, whose existence differs from its essence, must have its existence caused by another. But this cannot be true of God; because we call God the first efficient cause. Therefore it is impossible that in God His existence should differ from His essence.” - ST Ia. Q.3 A.4

“Therefore “suppositum” and nature in them are identified. Since God then is not composed of matter and form, He must be His own Godhead, His own Life, and whatever else is thus predicated of Him.” - ST Ia. Q.3 A.3

“The truth of this question is quite clear if we consider the divine simplicity. For it was shown above (Question 3, Article 3) that the divine simplicity requires that in God essence is the same as “suppositum,” which in intellectual substances is nothing else than person. But a difficulty seems to arise from the fact that while the divine persons are multiplied, the essence nevertheless retains its unity. And because, as Boethius says (De Trin. i), “relation multiplies the Trinity of persons,” some have thought that in God essence and person differ, forasmuch as they held the relations to be “adjacent”; considering only in the relations the idea of “reference to another,” and not the relations as realities. But as it was shown above (Question 28, Article 2) in creatures relations are accidental, whereas in God they are the divine essence itself. Thence it follows that in God essence is not really distinct from person; and yet that the persons are really distinguished from each other. For person, as above stated (29, 4), signifies relation as subsisting in the divine nature. But relation as referred to the essence does not differ therefrom really, but only in our way of thinking; while as referred to an opposite relation, it has a real distinction by virtue of that opposition. Thus there are one essence and three persons.” - ST Ia. Q.39 A.1

He doesn't here actually make an argument, but the implications, he thinks, are clear. In his comments he writes:

The whole thomistic tradition says that the persons of the trinity are identical to the divine essence. What does that amount to? Chicken scratch? Goody for you if you can prove that some Franciscans don’t make this mistake, bad for you that you commune with heretics that do. . . . Oh so when Aquinas says that essence and existence are identical in God it means they are not something other but actually the same thing, but when he says that one of the person’s of the trinity is identical to the essence that use of identity means something different. Okay…more Roman Catholic sophistry to document.

Respondeo: Yes, the identity of essence and existence in God and the identity of person and nature in God are not exactly the same. The quotes in Mr Jones' latest post show this clearly.

The identity of essence and existence, due to God's simplicity, is such as to make each of God's essential attributes really identical with each other and only notionally distinct (for Thomas, let's be clear, not for me). God's existence, goodness, eternity, are all really one and the same "item".

The identity of the persons with the essence is not the same. They are identical in the sense that there is in one sense one "item" and in another sense three "items". In no sense are there four "items": essence, Father, Son, and Spirit, such as there would be if any or all of the divine Persons were *really* distinct from the essence in any way. This is in fact precisely Thomas' denial of E.P.'s "God in general" accusation--the divine essence is not a universal property to which is added an individuating difference, i.e. Divinity+Paternity=God the Father. Thomas denies this. Rather, the Person who has God's Paternity=God. In that sense, God the Father (the supposit) is the same "thing" or "reality" (rem) as the divine existence/essence. There is no actually existing reality in God other than the divine ousia--God the Father is not something other than God, more, less, or different. There is no composition of personal properties with nature in God which would produce an additional something.

BUT the divine existence/essence and God the Father are NOT identical in the sense that referring to the single divine nature refers to a single divine supposit or person. God the Father is God (the existence/essence, ousia), God the Son is God, but God the Father is not God the Son. The Persons are really distinct from one another, not notionally. Because of this we have to say that the identity of the persons with the nature is not the identity of the = sign, as is the case (for Thomas) with God's essence and existence and essential properties.

God the Father cannot be really distinct from the divine essence because he is wholly God and in no way something other than God. There is no reality in God the Father which is not God. Nevertheless, it is not the case that, simply, Divinity=Paternity, the way that Divine Immensity=Divine Eternity, because God the Son is God, he has all Divinity, but he has no Paternity. There are two related but distinct senses of identity in play. All three Persons are identical with the essence (and with each other) in the sense that there is only one SOMETHING. There are, however, really three SOMEONES. All three persons are really distinct from each other, because the Father is not the Son is not the Spirit. To the extent, then, that Father/=Son, or Paternity/=Filiation, and yet Father=God and Son=God, there is a difference between the *kind* of identity Thomas postulates between the Person(s) and the essence and that between the existence and the essence/attributes.

I think this is clear enough in Thomas, although it could be clearer. And it is not my position--I don't think Thomas has the conceptual tools to adequately express the different kinds of identity he has in mind, which makes him a bit confusing and occasionally sounds almost contradictory--but I don't think it's heretical and I don't think it falls prey to Mr Jones' objections. Rather, I think he misunderstands and misconstrues Thomas, because he gives him the least possible sympathetic reading. He's looking for heresy and so he finds it. But everyone should know how easy it is to apply the same trick to any of the Fathers.

In any case, it's easy to call something sophistry when one makes no attempt to understand it on its own terms and shows no inclination or ability to think through difficult distinctions.

This will be my last response to Mr Jones.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Feigned Erudition

"Many men" (saith Seneca) "had been without question wise, had they not had an opinion that they had attained to perfection of knowledge already, even before they had gone half-way," too forward, too ripe, praeproperi, too quick and ready, cito prudentes, cito pii, cito mariti, cito patres, cito sacerdotes, cito omnis officii capaces et curiosi, they had too good a conceit of themselves, and that marred all; of their worth, valour, skill, art, learning, judgment, eloquence, their good parts; all their geese are swans, and that manifestly proves them to be no better than fools. In former times they had but seven wise men, now you can scarce find so many fools. Thales sent the golden tripos, which the fishermen found and oracle commanded to be "given to the wisest," to Bias, Bias to Solon, etc. If such a thing were now found, we should all fight for it, as the three goddesses did for that golden apple, we are so wise: we have women politicians, children metaphysicians; every silly fellow can square a circle, make perpetual motions, find the philosopher's stone, interpret Apocalypsis, make new theorics, a new system of the world, new logic, new philosophy, etc. Notra utique regio, saith Petronius, "our country is so full of deified spirits, divine souls, that you may sooner find a god than a man amongst us," we think so well of ourselves; and that is an ample testimony of much folly.

--Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Photian Argument

Photius negat posse dari quid notionale commune duabus personis, sed ait quidquid non est commune tribus personis esse personale, et proprium unius tantum personae.

Gratis id negat, neque ullum est principium theologicum in quo fundari possit haec negatio. Praeterea etiam admittit Photius missionem Spiritus Sancti esse communem Patri et Filio, unde Patres cum Scriptura dicunt Spiritum esse proprium utriusque.

--Dalmau, De Deo Uno et Trino, sec.420.

All that the Father has which is not Paternity he gives to the Son. This includes the act of spiration, which cannot be identical to the divine essence, since the Spirit Himself does not spirate.

That the principle in question--that whatever is not shared by all three persons is a personal property--is false may be proved by the fact that the Son and the Spirit have in common originating from the Father, while the Father alone is unoriginate.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Authority of the (Thomistic) Manuels

What do you all think about this?

"...the unanimous teaching of the scholastic theologians in any area relating to faith or morals is the teaching of the ordinary and universal magisterium of the Church."


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Bonaventure on the Distinction between Person and Nature

In III Sententiarum d.5 a.2 q.2:

"In hunc autem errorem pessimum decidit Nestorius, ut dicit Boethius, pro eo quod nescivit distinguere inter personam et naturam. Pro eo enim quod vidit in Christo duplicem esse naturam, intellexit duplicem esse personam. Eutyches vero ex eadem causa erravit, sed non eodem modo. Quia enim nescivit discernere inter personam et naturam et vidit quod in Christo non poterat esse nisi una persona, ex hoc compulsus est ponere quod in Christo non est nisi una natura. Et ideo sicut duo fuerunt errores in divinis, scilicet Arii et Sabellii, pro eo quod nesciverunt distinguere inter naturam et personam, sic duo fuerunt errores circa incarnationem Christi, videlicet Eutychis et Nestorii. Catholica vero Ecclesia per medium istorum errorum pertransiit, dicens in deitate plures esse personas et unam naturam, et in Christo plures naturas et unam personam. Et ideo simpliciter concedit personam assumsisse naturam et negat personam assumsisse personam, sicut Magister dicit in littera."

Nestorius fell into this worst error, as Boethius says, becuase he did not know to distinguish between person and nature. For because of the fact that he saw in Christ a double nature, he understood there to be a double person. Eutyches erred for the same reason, but not in the same way; for because he did not know to distinguish between nature and person and saw that in Christ there could only be one person he was compelled to claim that in Christ there was only one nature. And therefore just as tehre were two errors in divine matters, namely of Arius and Sabellius, because they did not know to distinguish between nature and person, so there were two errors about the incarnation of Christ, namely of Eutychis and Nestorius. But the Catholic Church passes through the middle of those errors saying that there are many persons and one nature in deity, and in Christ manynatures and one person. And therefore she grants unqualifiedly that a person has assumed a nature and denies that a person has assumed a person, just as the Master says in the text.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

In honorem Ioannis Duns Scoti

by Fray Angelico chavez of New Mexico, written ca. 1925-1932

O Maria Immaculata,
Scoti tu victoria,
Sic concepta sicque nata
Es Minorum gloria.

Quando de Conceptione,
Matris disputatio fit,
Summa Dei ratione
Ait Scotus: Potuit.

Dixit: Pater cum coelorum
Genitum monuerit
Homo fiat, templum purum
Praeparari decuit

Tandem Scotus cantem jecit
Congaudente Filio:
Deus Matrem ergo fecit
Sine labe in utero.


"...a nation's civilization and refinement depends on the superiority of the philosophy which is practised there."

-Descartes, Preface to the French edition of the Principia philosophiae

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bonaventure on the Difference between Nature and Essence

In III Sententiarum, d.5 a.2 q.1 ad 4: "In hoc enim differt essentia a natura, quia essentia nominat rei formam in quadam abstractione, natura eam nominat entem in motu et materia ut naturalium operationum principium. Et ideo doctores catholici magis isto verbo uti voluerunt 'Deus assumsit humanam naturam', quam hoc 'Deus assumsit humanam essentiam', quamvis utraque sit vera; ista enim est magis propria."

In this essence differs from nature, that essence names the form of a thing in a certain abstraction, nautre names a being in motion and in matter as a principle of natural operations. And therefore the catholic doctors more mean to use "God assumed human nature," than this "God assumed a human essence", although each is true; for that one is more proper.

Somewhat obvious you may say, but distinctions are important, or so the Scotist in me says. We should be clear about such basic notions when we discuss more complicated issues, as I've found in recent discussions about the Eucharist, if we want to avoid simply talking past each other.

For long time fans, compare this to the bit I once posted from Peter Thomae's Questio de distinctione predicamentorum, who elaborates a whole series of different types of distinctions with their corresponding types of identity.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Bonaventura Pius

Been busy with the dissertation and the Logica Scoti, but will try to post more for our hordes of adoring fans.

Here's some nice, pious comments from St. Bonaventure on the Blessed Virgin. In this question, he twice refers to John Damascene as the "verus doctor".

In III Sententiarum d.4 a.3 q.3: "Dicendum quod verba fidem christianam exprimentia debent esse ab errore longinqua est devotioni approximantia, maxime illa in quibus est sermo de Virgine Maria. Ipsa enim cunctas haereses interemit in universo mundo, Veritatem ex se ipsa concipiendo et pariendo; ipsa enim reconciliationem toti generi humano promeruit: et ideo erga eam ardere debet omnis Christianorum devotio"

It must be said that the words expressing the Christian faith ought to be far from error and drawing close to devotion, most of all those in which there is speech of the Virgin Mary. For she destoryes all the heresies in the whole world by conceiving and giving birth to the Truth from herself, for she merited the reconciliation of the whole human race. And so all devotion of Christians ought to burn toward her.

Scotus is Not For Children

Multis amara sunt grammatices praecepta: Aristotelis ethice non est apta peueris: theologia Scoti minus; ne viris quidem admodum utilis ad parandam bonam mentem: et plurimum habet momenti, gustum optimarum rerum protinus insevisse teneris animis.

--Erasmus, De utilitate colloquiorum ad lectorem

Monday, September 1, 2008

A Glimpse of Spiritual Matter in the Fourteenth Century

For Michael, an interesting snippet from the Carmelite theologian Guido Terrena's (died ca. 1340) Quaestiones ordinarie q.2:

"Et ideo alii dicunt quod suppositum dicit compositum ex materia et forma; natura autem dicit formam. Sed istud est falsum, quia materia est de quidditate, natura rerum naturalium. Unde nihil differt per materiam. Item cum secundum communiorem opinionem et secundum philosophiam in angelo non est materia, tunc in angelo natura praedicatur de supposito, quod non est verum."