Aquinas on Nature as Carrier of Wisdom and Truth

Aquinas celebrates how the Holy Spirit is alive and active, inspiring us as we in bring forth truths in our work and professions and relationships.  He speaks of our relationship with other species because they, too, speak truth to us. They too are logos, the word of God, and all beings are another Christ, a Cosmic Christ.

In this episode of BBC Earth’s Wild Files, we get an intimate glimpse at elephants’ wisdom, social ties and unique culture.

Thus, our 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 that 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.

Birds and cattle he recognizes as carriers of wisdom: “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).”  

Wild honeyguide birds and the Yao people of Mozambique have a unique, freely cooperative relationship. Video by bbsrcmedia.

All of creation is eager to reveal the divine mystery. It follows that “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 because

…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.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times, pp. 17f. 

See also, Matthew Fox, Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas, pp. 59, 78, 80f., 75.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner image: “Eagle Vision Quest” Image by Linda Rain 714 on Flickr.

Queries for Contemplation

Do you experience birds and cattle as carriers of wisdom and therefore of the divine?  What other beings do you experience as carriers of wisdom and “words of God”?

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

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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7 thoughts on “Aquinas on Nature as Carrier of Wisdom and Truth”

  1. Avatar

    The line in today’s DM, “it is our job as humans to examine creatures for the revelation of the Divine that they carry within them,” I really relate to. In my own personal experience of doing just this, I have received wisdom that has indeed taught me and helped me in my daily life.

    While on a break during a very challenging work day, when people weren’t working well together, my attention was drawn to two ants whom were trying to move a large piece of bread. The first ant took the lead, and all they did was spin around clockwise. Then the second ant took the lead and all they did was spin around counter-clockwise. Then there was a pause, as if they were communicating with one another. Suddenly they began working more cooperatively together, each one taking turns moving a little, then the other moving a little. As they supported one another in their shared task, they moved forward, quite efficiently with the bread.

    As I observed all of this, it changed my attitude and approach to my co-workers and the work we were sharing in that day, and it shifted our collective energy. This is just one little story of the many revelations of wisdom that I have been blessed to receive, engaging with what Aquinas calls God’s other Bible, creation itself.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Jeanette, It seems that you were able to learn something from the ants that you saw that helped you in how you looked at your co-workers! Meister Eckhart said much the same about a caterpillar–that it was so filled with God that he would never have to prepare another sermon. I on the other hand, have been dealing with little moths that we have in our home and can’t seem to get rid of. They are a source of irritation to me, but I know there’s a lesson there too…

  2. Avatar

    I always remember paintings of the Garden of Eden where animals, big and small, are pictured laying peacefully around humans. We lived in the city. We always had a birdbath. My mother would feed the birds and any other beings who wanted the feed daily. I took up my mother’s tradition. I found out firsthand how God’s love works through Nature or is Nature. I had a fenced-in backyard that was a great Nature sanctuary for nine years. A birdbath was right outside the back door. Saintly statues were around the yard. I put feed out for whoever wanted it daily. Birds, squirrels, rabbits, and chipmunks were part of me. I would sit outside practicing meditation. The other beings knew that I was one of them. Birds would fly by close to me. Rabbits would lay on the ground just a few feet from me. Squirrels and chipmunks would come close and beg on their hind legs like dogs and also casually move by me. We existed in harmony. We loved each other.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Gary, you sound like your some kind of St. Francis with how the “Birds, squirrels, rabbits, and chipmunks were part of [you]” and how “The other beings knew that [you were] one of them. Birds would fly by close to [you]. Rabbits would lay on the ground just a few feet from [you]. Squirrels and chipmunks would come close and beg on their hind legs like dogs and also casually move by [you]. [You all] existed in harmony. [You] loved each other.”

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