Chapter IV -- 20
With respect to those aspects of anthropology and psychology that are important for bioethics, there are no real differences between St Thomas’ model of man and the Orthodox model of man: the differences that there are, are minor, the reflections of different philosophical orientations, and those differences are easily accounted for. The only unusual aspect of St Thomas’ anthropology is his doctrine of the succession of souls in the conceptus, a doctrine that the Roman Catholic Church does not seem ever to have accepted at its face value.
Of course, this is not to say that St Thomas’ moral theology is the same as Orthodox moral theology, but that is another matter.
With regard to the articulation of a theology of bioethics there is an aspect of St Thomas’ system, one we have not discussed, which sets Roman Catholic moral theology apart from the Orthodox tradition. This is the different uses that the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches make of the concept of ‘natural law’. St Thomas reduces the concept of natural law to the Stoic concept of the conformance of an action with reason, understood as always to be ratiocination. Moreover, this Stoic concept of the conformance of an act with reason is injected by St Thomas into a naturalistic ethic based both on Aristotle’s psychology and ethics, and on a strictly Aristotelian metaphysic which includes the four causes, including the final cause or natural purpose of an act. Hence, in moral theology the Roman Catholic Church takes a rather more rigidly rationalistic, Aristotelian approach to the concept of natural law than does the Orthodox Church. While the concept of natural law is certainly not absent from Orthodox Patristic theology—expressed normally in the form ‘according to nature – contrary to nature’—what is very characteristic of St Thomas is his extremely systematizing and systematic application to moral theology of his concept of the natural law.
Moreover, although we did not have the interest to pursue St Thomas’ moral theology, its air is very legalistic, much more than we ourselves thought probable. Hence, the extreme rationalism of
It might be remarked that St Augustine is far less rationalistic on the natural law than is St Thomas, even though St Thomas has derived much of the formal content of his doctrine from St Augustine. For in St Augustine, the precepts of the natural law are ‘rules’ or ‘lights’ that are taught to the mind (pensée) by the ‘interior Master (Maître intérieur)’, or ‘unveiled to the sight of the soul by the true light which enlightens every man who comes into the world’. These are ‘the true and immutable rules of wisdom, evident to the mind (pensée) which turns itself to them, and common to all’.
The ‘eternal law’ of St Augustine is by Gilson made equivalent to the natural law, perhaps reasonably. In the case of St Thomas Aquinas, St Thomas’ discussion of law starts with the eternal law, and considers the natural law to be the projection of the eternal law into the realm of human reason. According to Gilson’s presentation, however, in St Augustine the ‘natural law’ is the injection into our own conscience (‘transcription in our soul’) of the precepts of the eternal law, where those precepts have the same character as the eternal reasons in the Mind of God.
As Gilson further states:
…Just as our truth is nothing more than a participation in the Truth, and our beatitude a participation in Beatitude, so also each man does not become virtuous except in conforming his soul to the immutable rules and to the lights of the Virtues, which live eternally in the Truth and in the Wisdom common to all men. The four cardinal virtues of prudence, strength (force), temperance and justice have no other origin; inversely the common origin of the vices is the movement of a will which, turning itself from these intelligible realities which are common to all, turns itself towards the bodies so as to appropriate those bodies. What are the functions of these four fundamental virtues?
Temperance restrains the carnal desires and prevents them from dominating the mind (pensée); it therefore prepares the ways for the acquisition of wisdom, by preventing us from desiring contrary to the spirit, but it does no more than prepare those ways, for no one here below is wise to the point of having overcome perfectly all conflict between the flesh and the spirit. Prudence discerns the good from the evil and it avoids for us every error in the choice of that which must be done or avoided; it is that which teaches us, for example, that it is bad to consent to sin and good not to give way to the enticement of desire. Justice has for its function to give to each one that which pertains to him; by it there is established in man a sort of order, in virtue of which the body is submitted to the soul and the soul to God.
St Augustine is much closer to the spirituality of the Philokalia.
Let us now turn to issues in the anthropology and psychology of St Thomas Aquinas which have a bearing on the spirituality of the Philokalia.
What is in question is the possibility for man in this life intuitively to apprehend intelligible realities and, in particular, the possibility in this life of the mystical experience of God. St Thomas’ system provides in some fashion for mystical experience. St Thomas writes this:
[Contrary Assertion:] But the matter is the contrary; it is what the Apostle says in 1 Cor. 15, 46: ‘What is spiritual is not first, but what is animal.’ For to see God in essence is most spiritual. Therefore, the first man, being in the first condition of the life of the [rational] animal, did not see God in essence.
[Body of Article:] I reply to what is said, that the first man did not see God in essence according to the common condition of his life, except perhaps if it be said that he saw in rapture (raptu), as when ‘God put a sleep into Adam,’ as Gen. 2, 21 says. And the reason for this is that, since the divine essence is itself beatitude, the intellect of him who sees the divine essence is in the same mode in respect of God that any man is in respect of beatitude. It is manifest, however, that no man can by his will turn aside from beatitude; for naturally and out of necessity man wishes beatitude and flees misery. Whence, no one seeing God in essence is able voluntarily to turn aside from God, which very thing is sin.
Let us interrupt here. We see here two aspects of St Thomas’ mystical psychology: The Beatific Vision (beatitude) is a vision of the essence of God and it can only be known after death, for the simple reason that if a man knew it before death—even in the case of the first man, Adam, in Paradise before the Fall—then he would never be able to sin: ‘naturally and out of necessity man wishes beatitude and flees misery’. In other words, once one participates in the Beatific Vision, one is ‘locked’ into it by the metaphysical nature of his will, which, according to St Thomas, is a hunger and thirst after that very Beatific Vision. Man, once he attains to the Beatific Vision, cannot do otherwise on account of the nature of his will than remain in the Beatific Vision.
We are somewhat puzzled by St Thomas’ doctrine that the will is an appetite that ‘naturally and out of necessity’ wishes the good, and in particular the Beatific Vision. We do not know what to make of this doctrine of the will as a necessary tendency to the Beatific Vision, which doctrine we have not encountered among the Greek Fathers. Certainly St John of Damascus, following Aristotle, has a doctrine that the will is an appetite, just as we have seen in the extended passage on will and action from the Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith that we quoted above. However, St Thomas has taken the idea much further.
For the purposes of comparison with St Thomas’ own system, let us remark that Evagrius Pontikos posits in his own heretical cosmological system that all the minds (noes) after their creation at first engaged in the Beatific Vision—Evagrius does not use this term but surely his sense is equivalent—and then, in an act of ‘negligence’ initiated by the Devil, turned away from the Beatific Vision. St Thomas is saying that this negligence would have been impossible on account of the very nature of the human will.
Let us continue with the passage from the Summa where we left off:
And on account of this, all those who see God in essence are thus established in the love of God so that they are not able to sin in eternity. Therefore, since Adam sinned, it is manifest that he had not seen God in essence. However, he knew God with a certain sort of knowledge (cognitione) higher than that with which we now know God. And thus in some way his knowledge was intermediate between the knowledge proper to the present condition [i.e. of man after the Fall] and the knowledge proper to the fatherland [i.e. Heaven], where God is seen in essence. Towards the demonstration of this, it must be considered that the vision of God in essence is distinguished from the vision of God in his creature. However, by as much as the creature is higher and more similar to God, by that much more can God clearly be seen in that creature, just as a man is more perfectly seen in the mirror in which his image is more expressly formed. And thus it follows that God is seen much more clearly in [his] intelligible effects than in [his] sensible and corporeal effects. However, man is impeded in the present [post-Fall] condition [of life] from a full and clear consideration of intelligible effects in that he is distracted by sensible things and occupied around them. But, just as it is said in Eccl. 7, 29, ‘God made man upright.’ However, this was the rectitude of man by divine institution so that the inferior [powers of the soul—the desire, the temper and the vegetative power—; also the body] were subject to the superior [powers of the soul—the intellect and the will] and the superior [powers of the soul] were not impeded by the inferior [powers of the soul and the body]. Whence, the first man was not impeded by external things from a clear and stable contemplation of intelligible effects, which he perceived by an irradiation of the First Truth, either by natural knowledge or by grace (gratuita). Whence,
says in Super Gen. ad lit. 11, 33, that: ‘Most probably, God previously spoke with the first men just as he speaks with the angels, illumining their minds with his unchanging truth, but with not so great a participation in the divine essence as the angels receive.’ Therefore by the intelligible effects of God of this sort, he [the first man, Adam,] knew God more clearly than by the mode we ourselves know [him]. St Augustine
The first point we need to make is that because of St Thomas’ doctrine of the Beatific Vision as the vision of God in his essence, it is somewhat difficult to map St Thomas’ categories of thought directly onto the categories of thought of St John of Damascus, with whom we shall deal to a certain extent just below and more extensively in Chapter V. For the concept of the vision of the essence of God, the Beatific Vision, seems to be a peculiarly Western doctrine deriving from
The next point is that St Thomas’ doctrine of the distinction between the vision of God in his essence and the vision of God in his creature corresponds quite closely to the distinction that Evagrius Pontikos makes between Theology, the vision of God himself, and natural contemplation, the vision of God in his creature.
St Thomas’ description of the vision of God in his creature, and his remark that the more elevated the creature is, the more it reflects God, corresponds to the distinction that Evagrius makes between the second and first natural contemplations. Second natural contemplation is the contemplation of the reasons (logoi) of material objects created by God; first natural contemplation is the contemplation of the angels themselves. Evagrius would wholeheartedly agree with St Thomas’ remarks: first, that the higher the creature, the more clearly God is seen in that creature; and, second, that God is more clearly seen in his intelligible effects than in his corporeal effects. (Evagrius also clearly asserts that it is the wisdom of God that is seen in natural contemplation, not his nature—that is, not his essence.) For in Evagrius, the principle of the mystical ascent is for the ascetic who has attained to dispassion (apatheia) to ascend to God through the second and first natural contemplations, which contemplations successively purify his mind (nous) by raising it from material realities to intelligible realities, and thence to God.
In the passage just quoted, St Thomas, despite his extremely rationalistic theory of human cognition, does rather strikingly express a doctrine of the capacity of the human mind to cognize intelligible realities intuitively. The views expressed in this article are so striking that we wonder to what extent St Thomas’ remarks in it are integrated into his doctrine that in this life man’s mind or intellect works naturally only by ratiocination.
St Thomas does exclude the possibility that Adam before the Fall contemplated the angels in essence, reiterating his doctrine that man in this life, even before the Fall, naturally and properly cognizes intelligible realities only on the basis of the abstraction of concepts from the perceptions of objects of sense. However, he does concede that Adam and Eve before the Fall had a much more perfect knowledge of the angels than we after the Fall have of them. But the contemplation of angels is first natural contemplation, although Evagrius himself never discusses whether in first natural contemplation the angels are contemplated in essence.
St Thomas goes on to say, referring explicitly to St Dionysios the Areopagite, On the Divine Names, Chapter IV, that man has three degrees of knowledge: First, a knowledge of exterior things, which St Thomas himself assimilates to his doctrine of the abstraction of concepts from sense-perception. Second, that knowledge to which the soul attains when it ascends to that which unites it to the superior virtues, that is to say, to the angels. This, according to St Thomas, is an imperfect knowledge. Third, that knowledge to which the human soul attains when it is led further, to the Good which is above all goods, to God himself. According to St Thomas, the knowledge to which the soul attains at this stage is even more imperfect than in the second stage. In St Thomas’ interpretation, when the human soul attains to the higher virtues—that is, to the angels—and thence to God, it attains to a knowledge of these higher realities that is imperfect precisely because of the limitation of natural human cognition to abstraction from the data of sense-perception, even in the case of Adam and Eve before the Fall. However, St Thomas says, because Adam and Eve’s bodies were perfectly submitted to their reason, their knowledge of these higher realities was much more perfect than that which man enjoys after the Fall.
This doctrine of St Dionysios the Areopagite of the three stages of knowledge seems very similar to Evagrius’ own doctrine of the three stages of the spiritual ascent. For in Evagrius’ system, when the ascetic puts off the passions of the passionate part of the soul in attaining to dispassion (apatheia), he simultaneously attains to the virtues of that part of the soul. Moreover, the attainment to dispassion (apatheia) also brings about the ascetical separation of the soul from the body, in the sense that the soul becomes autonomous of the body. In Evagrius’ system, then, once the ascetic has attained to dispassion (apatheia), he commences an upward ascent through second natural contemplation and first natural contemplation to Theology, the contemplation of God himself. And, of course, in the Evagrian system, this ascent through second and first natural contemplation to the contemplation of God is an ascent of knowledge—gnosis. This seems very similar to what St Thomas has taken from St Dionysios.
The reason for this similarity between the doctrine of Evagrius and the doctrine of the three degrees of knowledge that St Thomas has taken from St Dionysios might be due to the fact that St Dionysios—that is, the pseudonymous author of the works attributed to St Dionysios the Areopagite—was familiar with the works of Evagrius.
However, there is a problem with all this: If the reference in our edition of the Summa to Chapter IV of On the Divine Names be correct, then the only passage that can be found there that addresses the knowledge of the human soul is Chapter IV, 9. However, reference both to the English translation and to the text of Migne demonstrates that while St Dionysios refers in the passage to three types of knowledge, there is a mediocre fit between his text and St Thomas’ text.
In the passage concerned, St Dionysios refers to three ways to ascend to God: the first, the spiritual gathering of oneself into oneself which grants one a unitary inner condition that unites him to the angels and then leads him by the hand to God; the second, the illumination by God in discursive reason; the third, the way of being led by means of all things which are external to the soul, as by symbols, towards ‘simple and united contemplations’. The first way corresponds well to the final two degrees of knowledge that St Thomas Aquinas lists; the last way reinterpreted according to St Thomas’ theory of cognition does service for the first degree. The second way of St Dionysios is ignored by St Thomas. Is it that St Thomas has read into St Dionysios a mediæval Scholastic schema of the three stages of the mystical life, a schema deriving ultimately from Evagrius by way of St John Cassian?
St Dionysios does have embedded in his works a doctrine of the three stages of knowledge—purification, illumination and perfection—although it is not clearly expressed in the place cited by St Thomas. These three stages of St Dionysios are similar to the three stages of spiritual ascent in Evagrius, the practical life (praktike), natural contemplation and Theology.
St Thomas seems to be adapting a doctrine of mystical ascent that he cannot ignore to his own psychology that he has grounded in the rationalistic Aristotelianism that we have already encountered in the Summa. That this is so can be seen in St Thomas’ treatment of the eternal reasons in the Mind of God: St Thomas, quoting St Augustine, accepts the doctrine that the soul knows all things in the eternal reasons which exist in the Divine mind. However, St Thomas reinterprets this Neoplatonic doctrine. For he says that we know all things in the eternal reasons in the Mind of God in the same sense that we see material things by the light of the sun: the created intellectual light of our soul is a participation in and image of the Uncreated Light in which the eternal reasons are contained. But in this life, St Thomas says, we cannot know the eternal reasons themselves, only after death, when we enjoy the Beatific Vision. We discussed this matter earlier.
St Thomas seems to be faced with a problem: he cannot dismiss the Platonic or Neoplatonic tradition deriving from St Augustine and St Dionysios the Areopagite; it is too important and too well-established in Roman Catholic theology for that. However, it really does not fit into his Aristotelianizing philosophy. So how does he proceed? He reinterprets the Neoplatonic doctrines. For the plain sense of what St Augustine was teaching is not what St Thomas is saying.
Earlier, we discussed the connection between St Augustine’s doctrine of the eternal reasons and Evagrius Pontikos’ doctrine of the reasons (logoi) of created things. Suffice it to say here that a fundamental structural component of the mystical ascent in Evagrius, the outline of which St Hesychios accepts, is the contemplation of the reasons (logoi) of created things in second natural contemplation.
St Thomas has foreclosed the spirituality of the Philokalia in asserting that the contemplation of the reasons (logoi) of created objects is possible only after death in the Beatific Vision. As we have already remarked, part of the problem is the different placement of the reasons by St Augustine and by Evagrius: St Augustine places them in the Mind of God, making the contemplation of the eternal reasons a very high contemplation, whereas Evagrius places them in the wisdom of God expressed in creation, making second natural contemplation a contemplation for the imperfect mind (nous). However, the fundamental reason that St Thomas Aquinas excludes from this life the contemplation of the eternal reasons in the Mind of God is that his cognitive psychology does not allow for it. A person following the ascetical tradition of Evagrius found in the Philokalia would remark that what St Thomas asserts is true for the perfection of the second natural contemplation: only after death in Heaven would the ascetic see the reasons (logoi) of created things in their fullness—although even in Heaven the ascetic would still be ever ignorant and ever learning. But such a follower of the Philokalia would not on philosophical grounds exclude the second natural contemplation from life on this earth.
To return to the quotation on the state of Adam in Paradise before the Fall and on his conditions of knowledge, the ‘intelligible effects’ of God to which St Thomas refers are to be understood to be considered by him to be created effects, although we are struck by the phrase ‘by an irradiation of the First Truth’, which refers to how Adam, the first man, intuitively cognized the intelligible effects of God. For we have already seen St Augustine’s doctrine of the divine light which shines on intelligibles to make them visible to the intelligence, the power of the soul of intuitive cognition; and that is the most obvious interpretation of what St Thomas is saying here: it is clear that St Thomas is dependent on St Augustine in the article of the Summa under consideration. This doctrine of intuitive cognition ‘by an irradiation of the First Truth’ seems very close to the Orthodox doctrine of the uncreated operations (aktistes energeies) of God. This ‘irradiation of the First Truth’ St Thomas clearly attaches to the intuitive cognition by the first man of the intelligible effects of God—what we, using Evagrius’ terminology, would call natural contemplation—but it is in the sense of ‘an irradiation of the First Truth’ that St Gregory Palamas taught us that God can be known by his uncreated operations (aktistes energeies) in the Uncreated Light. Moreover, it would seem that St Augustine viewed the divine light which illumined man to be God himself. There are rather striking parallels between the doctrine of the Philokalia and the doctrines of St Augustine.
The next point in our discussion concerns St Thomas’ remark that ‘man is impeded in the present [post-Fall] condition [of life] from a full and clear consideration of intelligible effects in that he is distracted by sensible things, and is occupied around them’. This is to be contrasted with the condition of Adam in Paradise. In the passage under consideration, St Thomas himself refers both to the uprightness of Adam as he was created and to the complete subjection of Adam’s body to his soul in Paradise. These were doctrines of St Augustine.
Now on the basis of the passage under consideration, it seems to us that St Thomas is saying this absolutely: this distraction by sensible things is in man in this life after the Fall an insurmountable barrier to the contemplation of ‘intelligible effects’—the created intelligible effects of God. This would accord with St Thomas’ insistence that in our post-Fall condition of life our natural mode of apprehension is by means of ratiocination working with propositions based on concepts abstracted from sense-perception. It is not at all probable that St Thomas means that man can in this post-Fall condition of life regain the state of Adam in Paradise with regard to the contemplation of God by means of God’s ‘intelligible effects’ in his creatures.
However, this is precisely the point of the ascetical psychology of Evagrius Pontikos, St Mark the Ascetic and St Hesychios: by following their ascetical program, we can by grace attain to the state of Adam in
Moreover, St Hesychios quotes St Athanasios the Great from the Life of Anthony on the matter, in passages that refer to the uprightness of man as he was created and to the restoration of the spiritual part of the soul to its condition according to nature, as man was created: ‘For the soul to be upright—this is the mental part (to noeron) in it according to nature as it was created.’ Moreover, it is clear that St Athanasios is putting St Anthony forward as a type of the ascetic who has attained to this degree of sanctification, as a model for all Christians.
If we understand
Moreover, St Thomas is saying that a partial knowledge of God in God’s creatures by means of God’s ‘intelligible effects’, due to an ‘irradiation of the First Truth’, was enjoyed by Adam in Paradise before the Fall, but cannot naturally be attained by man after the Fall. We take these ‘intelligible effects’ of God to be more or less parallel to the second stage of knowledge that St Thomas has drawn from St Dionysios the Areopagite. We think that St Thomas would therefore concede the possibility of a certain imperfect knowledge by man in this life of God in his ‘intelligible effects’, or even in his angels. However, we think that he is excluding the fullness of the first natural contemplation, the contemplation of the angels, as that contemplation is taught by Evagrius.
Finally, we understand by implication that St Thomas is teaching that only by supernatural grace can a man attain to intuitive knowledge of intelligible realities and of God. It is in this sense that we should understand St Thomas’ reference in the passage under consideration to a possible rapture (raptus) of Adam in Paradise, by which Adam would have seen the essence of God. It seems to us that the concept of ‘rapture (raptus)’ that St Thomas uses is taken from St Augustine, possibly also the notion that in the ‘rapture (raptus)’ man can see the divine essence itself.
Gilson discusses the concept of rapture (raptus) in St Augustine. Gilson himself in discussing St Augustine’s mystical doctrine distinguishes among the vision of God’s substance, the vision of the light of God and the vision of the eternal reasons, all in Gilson’s reading of St Augustine being possible in mystical ecstasy—rapture (raptus)—in this life.
It seems to us that St Thomas’ emphasis in his cognitive psychology on ratiocination and his exclusion of a natural capacity of man for intuitive cognition, such as even St Augustine taught, causes a very sharp disjunction in his theology between the natural conditions of knowledge of man in this life—those being based on the Aristotelian doctrine of ratiocination working with propositions based on concepts abstracted from sense-perception—and the supernatural conditions of mystical experience for man in this life. Since there is in St Thomas’ doctrine no natural capacity of man in this life to cognize intelligible realities intuitively, there must be a very sharp break between a man’s natural cognition in ordinary affairs and his supernatural cognition in mystical experience. This sharp break between man’s natural capacity for intuitive cognition—limited to the intuitive apprehension of the first principles such as the law of the excluded middle—and man’s supernatural cognition in mystical experience leads in our view to an emphasis on the role in mystical experience of rapture (raptus) or ecstasy. For the man must somehow pass from the ordinary conditions of rational or empirical cognition to a supernatural state of mystical, intuitive cognition.
In discussing this matter, we are emphasizing the sharp disjunction between the natural and supernatural modes of knowledge in St Thomas, but that should not mislead our readers into thinking that we are minimizing the role of Grace in the spiritual ascent of the Christian. What we are doing is pointing out that a doctrine, such as underlies the Philokalia, which accepts that man has a natural capacity intuitively to cognize intelligible realities, necessarily has a different orientation to mystical experience than a doctrine in which man has no such natural capacity in this life for intuitive cognition and in which mystical experience is solely by means of a supernatural intervention of grace in rapture (raptus). In this, St Augustine’s psychology is closer to that of the Philokalia than is the psychology of St Thomas.
We understand this to be the basis of the emphasis on ‘rapture (raptus)’ in later Roman Catholic mysticism.
If this is the proper interpretation of St Thomas’ thought, then there is a basic difference between the theology of St Thomas and the mystical theology underlying the Philokalia.
For the mystical path with which we shall in Volume III culminate this study, the method of sobriety of St Hesychios, a key figure in the earliest strata of the Philokalia, is based quite extensively and directly on the mystical psychology of Evagrius, which itself teaches us clearly that man can ascend through natural contemplation to the vision of God himself. Moreover, there is not the sharp break between the natural capacities of man and the supernatural grace for mystical experience that is required in St Thomas’ system by its exclusion of the natural capacity in this life of the intellect to cognize intelligible realities intuitively.
Moreover, as we have already remarked, Evagrius Pontikos explicitly teaches the divestiture by the ascetic of sense impressions and of the recollections of sense impressions so that the ascetic might ascend in natural contemplation to the intuitive cognition of the ‘intelligible effects’ of God, to use St Thomas’ language; and thence to the intuitive cognition of God.
The key passage is Chapter 40 of On the Thoughts by Evagrius, which discusses how the ascetic can pass from ordinary perceptions of the objects of sense to intuitive apprehensions of intelligible realities and thence to the mystical apprehension of God. Moreover, Chapter 40 of On the Thoughts is substantially quoted, with approval, by St Hesychios in Chapter 89 of On Sobriety.
But Chapter 40 of On the Thoughts is clearly based on the premise that the mind (nous) of man really has the possibility intuitively to cognize not only basic epistemological principles such as the law of the excluded middle and the axiom that the whole is greater than the part—as St Thomas asserts is the mind’s only natural mode of intuitive cognition in this life—but also intelligible realities such as the reasons (logoi) of created beings, angels themselves, and, finally, God himself. This is not to exclude the role of Grace in the mystical ascent but to emphasize that the ascetical psychology underlying the Philokalia has a more open attitude towards the natural ability of man in this life intuitively to cognize intelligible realities.
Of course, St Gregory Palamas, that Father of the Orthodox Church, taught us that we do not ever see the essence of God but that we are illumined by his uncreated operations (aktistes energeies). On the one hand, the Orthodox doctrine differs from that of St Thomas in its rejection of the notion of the vision of the essence of God. On the other hand it differs from St Thomas in teaching that we can be illumined even in this life by the uncreated operations (aktistes energeies) of God, and not merely by his created effects or even his intelligible created effects. Moreover, in Orthodox doctrine, the uncreated operations of God are experienced in mystical illumination as light: the Uncreated Light. Significantly, St Gregory Palamas, in Huper ton Hieros Hesuchazonton (In Defence of Those Keeping Stillness in a Holy Manner), quotes Chapter 39 of On the Thoughts—attributing it of course to St Neilos the Ascetic—as a proof text for the possibility of cognizing God in this way: that chapter of Evagrius explicitly addresses the vision of God, and that as light. Moreover, much of the refutation of Barlaam in this work of St Gregory is dedicated to proofs that God can be known in this way.
Of course, there is an apophatic element in this intuitive cognition, and, because of the limitations of the created human intellect in the body, the intuition is never a full cognition of the intelligible reality or, especially, of God himself.
What is taught by Evagrius Pontikos in his mystical psychology is close to what St Thomas Aquinas seems to imply in the passage that we have been discussing: were we only able to divest ourselves of sensible distractions, then we too would be able to cognize the ‘intelligible effects’ of God. The difference is that Evagrius asserts that this is indeed possible, whereas St Thomas denies it. Moreover, Evagrius provides an ascetical psychology which includes a method for accomplishing this divestiture. And St Hesychios follows him on the matter. We are here at a basic stratum of the spirituality of the Philokalia.
The question becomes this: In St Thomas’ psychology of cognition, how is his insistence on the primacy of ratiocination and his limitation of the human mind’s power of intuitive cognition to the first principles of reason to be reconciled with his notion that Adam in Paradise cognized God by God’s ‘intelligible effects’ in the same way that an angel is illumined by God? For St Thomas said this:
Whence, the first man was not impeded by external things from a clear and stable contemplation of intelligible effects, which he perceived by an irradiation of the First Truth, either by natural knowledge or by grace (gratuita). Whence,
This seems to be far beyond the intuitive cognition of the first principles of reason. One might have thought that St Thomas means that supernaturally, by grace, the first man, Adam, was enabled to cognize these ‘intelligible effects’ of God, but the passage clearly indicates that St Thomas does not limit himself to grace, holding the possibility open that a natural power of man’s intellect was involved. But this seems to fly in the face of St Thomas’ cognitive psychology. Is the answer that
This seems to be the case, for St Thomas also states that before the Fall, the inferior (in our terminology, the passionate) part of the soul and the body were completely subject to the superior part of the soul, so that the superior part of the soul was not impeded in its apprehension of the ‘intelligible effects’ of God. The program of the Philokalia, however, is precisely to bring the inferior part of the soul, the passions, and the body, into complete subjection and harmony with the superior part of the soul in dispassion (apatheia), and thence to proceed to the contemplation of the reasons (logoi) of created things, the contemplation of angels and thence to the contemplation of God himself.
St Thomas’ identification of the ‘superior reason’, that which pertains to spiritual things, with the ‘inferior reason’, that which pertains to temporal things, in such a way as to make the natural mode of cognition for man in this life ratiocination has also foreclosed the mystical path of the Philokalia. Perhaps that is why Roman Catholic commentators on Hesychasm—including Barlaam, St Gregory Palamas’ great opponent in the Fourteenth Century—were either bemused or scandalized by Hesychasm: they had been taught not only by St Thomas Aquinas but by other Western philosophers and theologians that an intuitive apprehension of intelligible realities, including of God himself, was naturally impossible in this life and that the proper way to proceed was by the way of propositional knowledge. Perhaps the notion of bringing the mind into the heart (‘gazing at the belly button’) as a preliminary to an ascetical ascent towards the intuitive apprehension of intelligible realities seemed to them preposterous: in this life, they had been taught, man proceeds by reason based on concepts abstracted from sense-perception, not by intuitive cognition. That this was Barlaam’s own probable point of view can be discerned in Huper ton Hieros Hesuchazonton, in St Gregory Palamas’ references to Barlaam’s proposed system of education: it was essentially a mediæval program of higher studies based on the philosophical principle that one can only proceed by reason to propositions of a higher and higher philosophical and theological import.
Would a Thomistically-trained monk be able to practise the spirituality of the Philokalia? For since the Thomistically-trained monk is prevented by the cognitive psychology of St Thomas from pursuing intuitive cognitions of intelligible realities, how would he understand the repetition of the Jesus Prayer? As we shall see in Volume III, in St Hesychios—and even in St Diadochos of Photike, writing at a very early time, about 450—the repetition of the Jesus Prayer is intimately connected to an ascetical ascent to the intuitive apprehension of intelligible realities, including the intuitive apprehension of God himself. Would not the Thomistically-trained monk be inclined to view the repetition of the Prayer of Jesus as some sort of mechanical procedure to concentrate the mind, a mechanical procedure working on the body, working on the lower faculties of the soul that depend on the body, working on the sensitive appetite and sensitive powers of the soul? While the Prayer certainly has the effect of concentrating the mind (nous), it is not merely a mechanical method for recollecting the mind from dispersion: it is a method of concentrating the mind in the heart, and then, by fighting the immaterial war against the thoughts, of ascending by the active divestiture of sense-perceptions and recollections of sense-perceptions, and by the grace of the Holy Spirit, to an intuitive cognition of intelligible realities, including an intuitive cognition of God himself.
It is sometimes remarked that Roman Catholic spirituality places a great emphasis on the imagination (in the ordinary acceptation of the word). Is not the reason precisely this, that Thomist psychology makes no provision for another approach? For in St Thomas’ cognitive psychology, the intellect is restricted to the reason and cannot, except for first principles such as the law of the excluded middle, attain to intuitive apprehensions of intelligible realities. That leaves the sensitive powers of the soul (the common sense, the fantasy, the memorative power and the particular judgement) and the sensitive appetite (the temper and the desire: the emotions) as the powers of the soul that can be cultivated by the monk who wishes to approach God by a road other than that of reason. The monk is left, in St Thomas’ system, with the fantasy and the powers and passions of the sensitive appetite (i.e. the temper and the desire) as the tools with which he can work spiritually.
Is not imagination taken as a spiritual method the directed use of the power of fantasy? The directed use of the power of fantasy is completely foreign to the spirituality of the Philokalia. In the tradition of the spirituality of the Philokalia, fantasy is the primary means for a demon to sow a temptation; and the goal of the ascetic is to reject temptation by rejecting every fantasy at the instant of its inception as an image in his field of consciousness: this is the immaterial war of the thoughts. Moreover, the whole thrust of the Philokalia being the divestiture of sense-perceptions and recollections of sense-perceptions, so that the ascetic might attain to intuitive apprehensions of intelligible realities, it is impossible for a monk following the road of the Philokalia to engage in the directed use of the power of fantasy.
Is not the foreclosure of the road of intuitive cognition by St Thomas’ cognitive psychology also the reason the Thomistically-trained monk engages in sentimental forms of spirituality? Of course, it would be naïve of us to suggest that there have been no non-Thomistically-trained monks in the history of the Orders of the Roman Catholic Church, or to suggest that there have never been Thomistically-trained mystics in the Roman Catholic Church, or to suggest that all Roman Catholic monks engage in sentimental spirituality. But the question remains: to the extent that the cognitive psychology of St Thomas here being discussed teaches that the human being in this life cannot naturally attain to intuitive apprehensions of intelligible and divine realities, how is the Thomistically-trained monk going to proceed?
Is not sentimentality as a spiritual method the directed use of the passions—the movements of the sensitive appetite in St Thomas Aquinas’ terminology? Of course, in Volume III we shall see that the desire operating according to nature and the temper operating according to nature are attached by the ascetic to the repetition of the Prayer of Jesus, which in any event is prayed ‘from the heart’ or ‘in a heartfelt way’. However, these things are done in the context of a strict and severe sobriety based both on the repetition of the Prayer of Jesus and on the prosecution of the immaterial war against the thoughts: the use of sentiment is controlled by and subordinated to the noetic aspect of the method of spiritual ascesis. And, of course, the use that the ascetic makes of the various parts of his soul—or, if we wish, of the various powers of his simple, not complex, soul—is assisted and transfigured by the grace of the Holy Spirit.
If we are correct, then the fundamental problem for the Thomistically-trained monk in approaching the Jesus Prayer is in the exclusion by St Thomas’ cognitive psychology of the possibility of natural intuitive apprehensions in this life of intelligible realities, including God. To the extent however, that the Thomistically-trained monk accepts ST Ia, 94, 1, quoted above, as expressing St Thomas’ true thoughts, then it becomes a matter of his accepting that it is possible in this life, even after the Fall of Adam, for him to divest himself of sense-perceptions which distract him from the intuitive perception of the ‘intelligible effects’ of God so that he might ascend through the second and first natural contemplations to the contemplation of God himself; that at the heart of the Philokalia is a method for doing this; and that the Jesus Prayer is a part of this method.
For the doctrine of the Orthodox Church is the return even in this life through divinization (theosis) to the state of Adam and Eve before the Fall, and, through the Ascension of Christ, even to surpass that state of Adam and Eve before the Fall.
Moreover, in the spirituality of the Philokalia, the ascent to the intuitive apprehension of God himself is not seen as the cultivation or expectation of a state of ecstasy or rapture (Latin: raptus), such as St Thomas holds was the only possibility for Adam in Paradise to know God in essence. For while the grace of God is certainly necessary for an intuitive apprehension of God, and while raptures of the mind (Greek: arpages tou nou) do occur on the mystical journey, the way of the Philokalia does not exclude the natural ability of man to apprehend intelligible realities intuitively: Orthodox theology and psychology have not foreclosed the possibility for man in this life—through ascesis, certainly; and with the grace of God, certainly—naturally to know intelligible realities intuitively, including the reasons (logoi) of created objects, angels and God himself. In the Orthodox tradition of the Philokalia, there is not the sharp disjunction between the natural capacities of man and the supernatural graces of mystical illumination that is implied by St Thomas’ doctrine that the natural mode of cognition for man in this life is by the abstraction of concepts from the data of sense-perception.
We shall see in Chapter V that St John of Damascus, in the Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, explicitly makes provision for the intuitive apprehension of God in this life when he remarks that before the Fall the food of Adam and Eve in Paradise was the contemplation of God, Adam and Eve being nourished by the contemplation of God as if they were angels. For
However, St John speaks clearly of the contemplation of God himself and not of the contemplation of the ‘intelligible effects of God’, although he does refer to an ascent to the contemplation of God through the contemplation of God’s creatures. We ourselves understand St John to mean by that, that the ascetic’s mind is raised to the contemplation of God by means of the contemplation of his creatures: the ascetic does not remain in the contemplation of creatures but proceeds—ascends—through the contemplation of creatures to the contemplation of God. We take this contemplation of creatures to be the contemplation of God in his ‘intelligible effects’ that St Thomas speaks of, and we identify it with the natural contemplation of Evagrius. Moreover, following St Gregory Palamas, we gloss St John to say that these ‘intelligible effects’ reflect the uncreated operations (aktistes energeies) of God—that ‘irradiation of the First Truth’ that St Thomas himself speaks of, following St Augustine. This seems to be largely the sense of the passage from
It might be remarked that the contemplation of God in
Moreover, we are also asserting that while there is most likely not a simple correspondence between St Thomas’ ‘vision of God in essence’, the Beatific Vision, and St John of Damascus’ ‘contemplation of God in Paradise before the Fall’, the fact that St Thomas distinguishes the contemplation of God in essence from the contemplation of God in his creatures, whereas the Greek tradition distinguishes the contemplation of God himself from the contemplation of God in his creatures suggests that St Thomas’ vision of God in essence indeed is to be understood as structurally equivalent to St John of Damascus’ contemplation of God. We say ‘structurally equivalent’ to indicate that ultimately the same concept is involved, although the formal content of the concept might not be the same in each writer.
In conclusion, we can discern two aspects of St Thomas’ system that are of relevance to us. First, in regard to those basic aspects of anthropology which are of relevance to bioethics, St Thomas adheres closely to the Roman Catholic tradition deriving from St Augustine, which tradition is very similar to the tradition of the Orthodox Church: man is composed of body and soul; the soul is a separately existing substance which can subsist outside the body although it is naturally made to subsist within the body.
With regard to bioethics, however, the different uses that the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches make of the notion of natural law sets Roman Catholic Church moral theology somewhat apart from the Orthodox tradition. Moreover, St Thomas’ moral theology is very legalistic.
The second aspect of St Thomas’ system which is of relevance to us is his psychology as it affects the practice of the spirituality of the Philokalia. As we have seen, St Thomas’ cognitive psychology is incompatible with the spirituality of the Philokalia. We hope that we have assisted the Roman Catholic reader interested in the Philokalia to assess the differences between the two psychologies. We think that the psychology of St Augustine is closer to the psychology of the Philokalia, although we doubt that a monk trained in St Augustine would be interested in the Philokalia.
We think that St Thomas’ theory of action is too rationalistic to be valid.
An aspect of St Thomas’ psychology that is far beyond the scope of this work is the nature of that psychology with regard to those subtle aspects of it which would influence pastoral care. We have suggested that this psychology has three important aspects: its rationalism and its naturalism and its legalism. St Thomas’ psychology would, it seems to us, give the pastor a different understanding of human nature than would Orthodox psychology. The pastor would evaluate his charge’s actions and motivations differently. He would have a different view of the nature of human drives and human behaviour. He would give different pastoral direction for the same situation and the same condition of his charge. This is a very subtle matter.
In the next chapter we will discuss the vocation of man, beginning with St John of Damascus’ description of the way of life of Adam and Eve in Paradise.
 See Gilson Aug p. 165.
 Cf. ibid. pp. 167–8.
 Cf. De Civit. Dei XIX, 4, 3.
 Ibid. p. 169.
 A key passage is ST Ia, 94, 1. It is of such basic importance to our discussion that we here present the contrary assertion and the body of the article in full.
 Under ST Ia IIae, 15, 1.
 See Section 2 of Chapter III.
 We will discuss Evagrius’ doctrines of Theology and natural contemplation in Volume II; we have already discussed them above in Section 5, ‘The Evagrian Doctrine of the Minds (Noes)’, in Chapter III.
 ST Ia, 94, 2.
 In ST Ia, 94, 2.
 On this see Golitzin, Chapter VIII, especially Section C. ‘Summary and Discussion: Evagrius and Areopagitica’.
 Dionysios p. 78.
 Migne 3, col. 705A–B.
 Cf. Golitzin VIII, B, 2, p. 329.
 In the two articles, ST Ia, 94, 1 and 2.
 ST Ia, 84, 5.
 In discussing ST Ia, 84, 5.
 Gilson Aug p. 193.
 Volume III: On Sobriety, Chapter 179.
 Life of Anthony, Chapter 20, 7—Anthony, p. 190, ll. 25–6.
 Gilson Aug p. 127.
 Volume II.
 Volume III.
 Palamas Triad 1, 3, 6, p. 415.
 In the manuscript tradition this is a common misattribution for On the Thoughts.
 ST Ia, 94, 1.
 In ST Ia, 79, 9.
 A discussion of Barlaam’s theory of knowledge from the point of view of an Orthodox can be found in J. Meyendorff’s A Study of Gregory Palamas: Part One, Chapter III, ‘Barlaam and the Councils of 1341’, pp. 42–7 (historical treatment) and Part Two, Chapter I, ‘Opposition to Profane Hellenism: Man Deprived of Grace’, pp. 116–18 (theological treatment) (Meyendorff). Meyendorff describes Barlaam as a ‘nominalist humanist’, although he also refers to Barlaam’s Platonizing tendencies, surely something incompatible with being a nominalist. A discussion of Barlaam’s theory of knowledge from the point of view of a Roman Catholic can be found in R. E. Sinkewicz’ article, ‘Gregory Palamas’, Section III, ‘Theology’, in La Théologie Byzantine et sa Tradition, pp. 155–7 (Conticello). The nature of the courses of studies in the Western mediæval universities, the various editions of Aristotle that were popular and their content, and the uses made of the works of Aristotle by students and scholars in the mediæval universities are all treated in historical depth in Chapters I, II and III of the Cambridge History of Later Medieval Philosophy (Medieval).
 We will discuss this further in Chapter V.
 Gilson Aug pp. 24–5.
 See Skemmata 22 in Appendix 3 of Volume II; the passage is quoted and discussed in Volume II in the commentary on On the Thoughts 40.
 See Section 3, Chapter III.