We are considering how resurrection and waking up in this life time are about an expansion of consciousness and how one way to expand consciousness is to reach out to the universe for its wonders and stories of awe that lead to a renewed sense of reverence and gratitude.  How this kind of transformation often accompanies shamanic breakthroughs. 

Symphony of Science – ‘We Are All Connected’- quotes from interviews with Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman, Neil deGrasse Tyson & Bill Nye, set to music by melodysheep.

We see such an awareness in Thomas Aquinas who said that we are here to get “drunk on the universe.”  He also said:

The greatness of the human person consists in this: that we are capable of the universe.

The proof that Aquinas is a premodern thinker who has much in common with indigenous wisdom is that he celebrates, first and foremost, our relationship to the cosmos, which, as we have seen, elicits ecstasy and drunkenness. Indeed, that cosmos is more excellent than human beings. God has produced a work in which the likeness of God is clearly reflected—that is, the world itself.  Our greatness as a species, he declares, is that we are “capax universi, capable of the universe.”

Sir David Attenborough explains how humans can work together to preserve life on Earth. Video by WWF International.

What an eye-opener and game-changer this is!  Aquinas is urging humans to get beyond our own hurts and wounds and petty agendas and tribalisms to look at the big picture. He recognized that the universe is our mother and, therefore, ought not be neglected in the way we look at the world.

Aquinas marvels that we are capable of such a reach at all.

Other beings take only a limited part in being. But the spiritual being is capable of grasping the whole of being (and) embracing the whole of being.

“Innocence.” Photo by Helena Lopes from Pexels

It is true that my dog seems to be completely at home on mother earth and is not busy asking many questions about the universe itself.  She is living out what the universe has bestowed on her—the Earth to which she is extremely close and extremely well suited to sniff and to live on.  She is content.

But we humans stretch much further and this may be the origin of our discontent.  Aquinas names our vast capacity to know this way:

There is nothing that the human mind cannot understand potentially. It is capable of knowing all things.  

We have “a power extending to the infinite,” he declares, and our “intellectual natures have a closer relationship to a whole than do other natures.” We “may comprehend the entirety of being through our intellect” and “our intellect never understands so many things that it could not understand more.”

“Cosmic Eyes.” Image by JimmyMac210 on Flickr.

Aquinas is talking about what we today call consciousness:

There is something that relates to the totality of existing things. The soul is such a being that it is in some way all things.

Our bigness of mind, our vastness of intellect and imagination, all urge us to look out into a world so much larger than ourselves.  It is not enough to live in the worlds we make. We must consider the world that makes us.


Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times, pp. 21-23. 

See also Matthew Fox, Sheer Joy: Conversation with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality, pp. 138, 158, 142.

Banner Image: “Gentleness: ‘If your eyes were open to all the beauty in the world, you would be overwhelmed with joy'” – Marianne Williamson. Image by Alice Popkorn on Flickr.

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Do you agree with Aquinas that other species take a more limited view of being than do humans?  And with me, that maybe this is why they often appear to be more content that ourselves?  And that it is important to connect deeply to the world that makes us?

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

Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality

Matthew Fox renders Thomas Aquinas accessible by interviewing him and thus descholasticizing him.  He also translated many of his works such as Biblical commentaries never before in English (or Italian or German of French).  He  gives Aquinas a forum so that he can be heard in our own time. He presents Thomas Aquinas entirely in his own words, but in a form designed to allow late 20th-century minds and hearts to hear him in a fresh way. 
“The teaching of Aquinas comes through will a fullness and an insight that has never been present in English before and [with] a vital message for the world today.” ~ Fr. Bede Griffiths (Afterword).
Foreword by Rupert Sheldrake

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9 thoughts on “Aquinas on Expanding Human Consciousness”

  1. Avatar

    I have always loved the Joseph Campbell quote that says, “We are the consciousness of the earth.” The Image and Likeness of Christians’ and the Atman of Hindus’ and other traditions say that this is God inside of us. We are part of God. Matt has been pointing out that we resurrect God (the Holy Spirit) inside of us by Purging our illusions. Purging our illusions Illuminates us while we are Purging. This process is also leading us back to the innocent Union with God/Nature that we had as children. Purging/Illumination/Union is really the ongoing correction process that leads us back to the innocence of children and the dog that is shown in this meditation. Purging/Illumination/Union is really an “all in one” ongoing process that “inches” us past our intellect to our intuitive or mystical Union with the Cosmos (most of us just do not grasp this) that Matt has pointed out many times. I am just talking. The mystical understanding of the above painting of the monk, deer, tree, sky, etc. depicts our Cosmic Consciousness. The painting says/shows that we are part of the Cosmos or “are the Cosmos,” and in Campbell’s description, “We are the consciousness of the earth.”

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Gary, thank you for your thoughtful comment. Plotinus and Proculus’ three paths of: Purgation, Illumination and Union is a process that takes years of focused practice which the “common folk” can’t afford to do. Nor is it any reflection of how life in our world naturally unfolds. On the other hand Creation Spirituality holds the four paths of: the Via Positiva, the Via Negativa, the Via Creativa and the Via Transformativa. These four paths are not liner with some kind of forward progression like the three paths, but move in and out of one another–sometimes walking all four paths in a single day! And they are accessible to ALL people. In fact, even the people who have never even heard these paths, and never have set out to walk them with any intention–whether they know it or not, they are all walking these paths, and so are we…

  2. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    The words connect deeply to the world that makes us….It is these words that resonate today, especially connect deeply. My sense in general is that often humanity struggles in knowing how to connect deeply. We also in general often self -impose limitations on deeply connecting…not only in the ways we connect, but also with whom and with what we connect. Often in this we turn mostly to the human world that makes us, rather than expanding and embracing the sacredness, wholeness and holiness of the all and the everything of creation that also is apart of making us. The indigenous people, the mystics like Aquinas and Hildegard, the prophet poets like Thorreau and Whittman and many others offer to help us remember our truly deep connections to the all and the everything, awakening us to that inherent goodness, beauty and unique diversity…that we too may embrace deeply all our relations and our connections to one another… in the simplicity of being still and knowing that I am…which makes us all Oned with.

  3. Avatar

    In the magical, mystical movie, “The Secret Garden,” there is a scene in which the young girl is telling the bed-ridden boy what it’s like when one ‘awakens’ to discovering the marvelous and blessed universe we live in. She says something like, it’s like “we’ve swallowed the universe, and it’s living – whole – inside of us.” I have always felt she was describing a mystical experience [of ‘universal’ truth].

  4. Avatar

    Sadly, those famous scientists (Symphony of Science) were/are all afraid to acknowledge (God) in the truths they know, unlike Polkinghorne and yes, my own son Dr. Kyle Watters, oh, and Einstein too.

    }:- a.m.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Patrick, I too feel it is sad that so many scientists do not believe in God–and those who do are often ridiculed as if they were deluded and incapable of reaching the intellectual heights of atheistic scientists. And may God bless your own Dr. Kyle Watters !!!

  5. Avatar
    Margaret Nuccio

    Ecstasy and drunkenness Matthew, yes indeed!
    I wrote a few lines, several years ago after a trip to the ocean-
    I still can see the rocks and sand
    And smell the foamy brine.
    I can feel the blue cold spray
    And I’m drunk with ocean wine!

    M

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