Aquinas and Spiritual Leadership, Part III

In underscoring our deep vocations to be lovers (mystics) and warriors (prophets) Aquinas is inviting us into our own deepest selves and he is empowering us.  Mystics and/or prophets are not ‘out there’ on pedestals some place.  Each of us is called to be both prophet and mystic, warrior and lover.

Tree Huggers at Huon Bush Retreats, Mount Misery, Huon Valley, Tasmania. Photo by PDinTassie on Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday we saw Aquinas reminding us of the “original goodness” of creation and our existence within creation.  And how this is the first step in our mystical and spiritual journeys.  He tells us that “Playfulness or fun, is a virtue.”  And that to forget about play and fun is to become “an ungrateful boor.”  (137-144)

In addition to those observations, he also has what may seem like a radical understanding of “salvation” when he says, on several occasions, that “the first and primary meaning of salvation is this: To preserve things in the good.”  (45-52) 

Young “Green Muslim” protestors at protest by the Muslim Action for Development and the Environment. Photo by William Barylo on “Ramadan: How a New Generation of British Muslims are Becoming More Green” on

I am particularly struck by this definition of salvation because so often one hears how we all have to be saved—but I ask: From what? 

Notice how unanthropocentric Aquinas’s definition is: it focuses not on us but on creation—”to preserve things in the good.”  Is there a more eco-conscious way to talk about salvation than that?  If there is, I have not heard about it.  In our times of eco crisis, Aquinas Stands up and Shouts out: Quit being so narcissistic!  Think about the whole, not just the (human) part if you are to solve your eco-emergency.

Owning the broader impact: Peaceful Uprising founder Tim DeChristopher and Roxbury, MA clergy lead a protest march linking a local Spectra Energy pipeline to a mass grave for victims of climate-caused heat in Pakistan. Photo by Peter Bowden on Flickr; referencing DeChristopher’s blog post “Grief and Resistance: The Mass Grave Pipeline Action

It puts the work of salvation in great part into our hands when it tells us to preserve things in the good.  Is allowing methane and co2 into the atmosphere willy nilly preserving things in the good?  Is being in denial about climate change in order to rake profits from fossil fuels preserving things in the good?

Aquinas’s teaching can apply to us also for he is saying that we are born with an original goodness and we do need to preserve that as we go through life.  Buddhists call this our original Buddhahood; and the Jewish tradition talks about our being “images of God;” the Christian tradition speaks of the Cosmic Christ who is in us all (and in all beings).  It needs to be preserved.

St. Francis birdbath featured on Martha Stewart and The Catholic Company.

Aquinas is a giant of a thinker—a lover of science as well as of the Divine.  We would do well to learn anew from him, he is one of treasures to take from the burning building of failed religion in our time.  We need to rescue him from thomists just as we need to rescue Jesus from Christianity and Jung from Jungians and Francis of Assisi from the birdbath.

We have much to learn today from our ancestors, who have much wisdom to teach us and are in fact urging us on. 

See The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times. Numbers in parentheses refer to the page numbers of that book.

Banner Image: An exercise in preserving the good – a permaculture forest garden. Photographer unknown; image on Deep Green

Queries for Contemplation

What are the implications of understanding “salvation” as preserving things in the good? How does this spur you to action?

Recommended Reading

The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times

A stunning spiritual handbook drawn from the substantive teachings of Aquinas’ mystical/prophetic genius, offering a sublime roadmap for spirituality and action.
Foreword by Ilia Delio.
“What a wonderful book!  Only Matt Fox could bring to life the wisdom and brilliance of Aquinas with so much creativity. The Tao of Thomas Aquinas is a masterpiece.”
–Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

The Coming of the Cosmic Christ: The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance

In what may be considered the most comprehensive outline of the Christian paradigm shift of our Age, Matthew Fox eloquently foreshadows the manner in which the spirit of Christ resurrects in terms of the return to an earth-based mysticism, the expression of creativity, mystical sexuality, the respect due the young, the rebirth of effective forms of worship—all of these mirroring the ongoing blessings of Mother Earth and the recovery of Eros, the feminine aspect of the Divine.
“The eighth wonder of the world…convincing proof that our Western religious tradition does indeed have the depth of imagination to reinvent its faith.” — Brian Swimme, author of The Universe Story and Journey of the Universe.

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2 thoughts on “Aquinas and Spiritual Leadership, Part III”

  1. Avatar

    Saving Francis from the birdbath gave meaning to Jesus from Christianity……thank you! Who would have thought you and Thomas (Aquinas, of course) would be my morning “coffee companions.”
    contemplata aliis tradere …. Steve

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