Cultural critic bell hooks is in agreement with Aquinas who, as we saw yesterday, says that truth and justice lie in the heart. hooks tells us that “the heart of justice is truth telling.” One cannot build justice on falsehoods. Those who are engaged in lies cannot also be engaged in justice-making.
The current election in America is very much about the “Big Lie” and the many implications of it including the 400+ laws to curtail voting for the disenfranchised to supposedly combat election fraud that never happened.
Our culture seems to be going through a truth crisis with “fake news,” incendiary news, denial of facts like climate change, very often cold indifference to the truth and excitement over crazy conspiracy theories.
There must be a reason why Satan is called “the father of lies.”
Why does Aquinas say that truth and justice reside primarily in the heart?
This underscores how biblical a thinker Aquinas is, for in Jewish thought the intellect is in the heart, not the head. It is a distinctly modern consciousness that has abandoned such understanding and instead rationalized all cognition—as if we don’t learn from our guts and heart as well as our heads. Descartes’s definition of truth as “clear and distinct ideas” is a good example of this modern philosophical bias.
Of course if we live in a myth (as the modern era did) of a “value-free” approach to truth, then the idea that the truth is in the brain alone buttresses such an empty concept of “value.” Science and the HeartMath movement are learning today that the brain is not restricted to the head, but actually operates within the heart itself.
For instance, the heart sends more signals to the brain than the brain sends to the heart. The heart, therefore, directly influences emotional processing and higher cognitive faculties such as attention, perception, memory, and problem-solving.
For Aquinas, moral decision-making resides not in the will but in the passions! This was a very controversial position by Aquinas in the Middle Ages, and it is still controversial today, but it parallels Rabbi Heschel’s teaching on the central role that passions play in the prophetic consciousness. It also explains the emphasis Aquinas puts on compassion as when he says “compassion is the fire that Jesus came to set on the earth.” Compassion, after all, is a kind of passion. It also supports Aquinas’s thinking on anger, that moral outrage is an energy that can be put to very good use.
That truth and justice reside in the heart therefore is biblical, as Aquinas knew well.
Do they also reside in our voting decisions? The mid-term elections may give us answers to that question.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times, pp.101-108, 112-116, 131-136.
Also see bell hooks, All About Love: New Visions (Love Song to the Nation #1) (NY: HarperCollins, 2001), pp. 40ff.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner Image: A Section of Plate 3 from the Papyrus of Ani (c. 1250 BCE) depicting the weighing of the deceased’s heart against the feather of Ma’at, goddess of order, truth and justice. Wikimedia Commons.
Queries for Contemplation
Is there room for moral outrage in your spirituality? And for compassion? And for truth and justice? How are you putting it all to work in this election season?
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