It inspires me to be meditating on the importance of the whole, the cosmos, creation, nature, and realize how central this awareness is to human consciousness—which is what is triggered when we undergo profound ruptures as shamans do.
People we have cited like David Paladin, Emily Dickinson, Alexander Humbolt, Jane Goodall, Scott Russell Sanders, Thomas Aquinas, and Rabbi Heschel bear witness to this reality. This wisdom, an experience of the whole, is central to indigenous spirituality and is what our hearts and minds yearn for. It is psyche meeting up with cosmos or, as Heschel put it in defining awe, “the mind confronting the universe.”
Aquinas brings this lesson home again and again. We have seen how he said that our greatness as humans is that we are capable of the universe; and how we are here to “get drunk on God’s house, i.e. the universe”; and how the infinite is within us all as to love and knowledge (“infinite” was Emily Dickinson’s favorite word for the divine). Aquinas also tells us that
“Revelation comes in two volumes: Nature and the Bible.”
Aquinas insists that all people should study nature and that meditation on nature opens up the divine to us. “One meditates on creation in order to view and marvel at divine wisdom”. Citing the psalmist who sings, “I meditate on all your works, I muse on the work of your hands” (Ps 143:5),
Aquinas comments: “Meditation is indispensable for well-instructed faith.” Since “all creatures confess that they are made by God,” it is our job as humans to examine creatures for the revelation of the divine that they carry within them.
If all things are “God’s works of art,” then to examine the art is to get to know the Artist;
Jesus teaches us to avoid anxiety by considering the birds of the sky, since there is wisdom from them. Also in Job we read, ‘Ask the cattle and they will teach you’ (Job 12:7).
Birds and cattle can be our teachers. All of creation is eager to reveal the divine mystery, thus “there can be no question that to study creatures is to build up one’s Christian faith.” To run from science or put science down is an affront to authentic faith:
The opinion is false of those who assert that it makes no difference to the truth of the faith what anyone holds about creatures, so long as one thinks rightly about God. For error about creatures spills over into false opinion about God, and take peoples’ minds away from God, to whom faith seeks to lead them.
That both nature and the Bible are sources of revelation appears to be stunning news, given the fundamentalism and bibliolatry of so much of what passes as Christianity today as well as the anthropocentrism that seizes so much of our secular daily discourse. But Aquinas says bluntly: The Bible is not enough! And never has been. However, he also warns, Humans are not the whole picture.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times, pp. 17-20.
See also: Matthew Fox, Sheer Joy: Conversations on Creation Spirituality, pp. 59, 78, 80f., 75.
Banner Image: A gift of physical and spiritual nourishment to the next generation: a self-sustaining food forest. Photographer unknown; from Appropedia
Do you learn about divine things from birds and cattle and other creatures and the cosmos? How important is that to your spiritual practice? How important is Awe to your spiritual practice?
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
Matthew Fox offers an online Lecture and Q&A – Does Humanity Have a Future on Planet Earth? – marking the 15th anniversary of the Centre Terre Sacrée, Thursday, 6/3 4:00pm-6:00pm PT (GMT/UTC-7). Learn more HERE.