More Feminism and Deep Ecumenism and Science from Aquinas

Further evidence of the proto-feminism of Thomas Aquinas includes his reminding his readers on several occasions that the word “Spirit” in Hebrew is feminine (ruah). 

A doctor counsels a young mother in a busy Cambodian clinic. Photo by ReSurge International on Flickr.

He also says, Christ is “like a mother”—which no doubt impacted Julian of Norwich who developed that concept more richly than any theologian until the late 20th century. That and Aquinas’s insistence on compassion as central to Christian faith as when he said, “compassion is the fire that Jesus came to set on the earth” and “compassion is the imitation of God” who is both “Compassion and Justice.”(Julian says compassion is central to motherhood.)

Aquinas had an immense impact on Mechtild of Magdeburg, a contemporary of his, who was a Beguine or member of the women’s movement of the Middle Ages.

As for Deep Ecumenism, Aquinas’s devotion to Aristotle who was a “pagan” and not from the Biblical tradition was a scandal to many.  He wrote entire commentaries on Aristotle’s books on Physics, Psychology, Ethics, Politics, Metaphysics and more.  He adds that “the old pagan virtues were from God” and “revelation has been made to many pagans.”

Fr. Dominic Legge, O.P., a Dominican friar from the Province of St. Joseph, explores how God is the source of what science studies. The Thomistic Institute.

His defense of his deep ecumenism, that “Truth—whoever utters it—comes from the Holy Spirit”–lays bare the very essence of deep ecumenism: Humanity’s search for truth is never done and never found in only one place.

Aquinas studied and interacted with the great Jewish scholar Moses Maimonides as well as Muslim philosophers such as Averroes and Avicenna. 

Science was primary for Aquinas—which is why he studied Aristotle so profoundly.  Aquinas insists that “a mistake about creation results in a mistake about God.”  He was voracious in studying the universe and said, “God has produced a work in which the likeness of God is clearly reflected—that is, the world itself.” 

“The Creation.” Zapopan, Mexico. Photo by Humberto Arellano on Unsplash

And: In this life we cannot know God directly without first knowing something else….We do not know God by seeing the divine essence, but we do know God from the order of the whole universe.  For the universe of creatures is itself presented to us by God so that through it we may know God insofar as it possess certain images and likenesses—albeit imperfect—of divine things.  These images are compared to divine ones as primary models to their images.

How central cosmology is to Aquinas’s theology! 

To be continued.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality, pp. 31, 382, 37-48, 158, 202.

See also: Fox, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic—and Beyond, pp. 45-58, 102f.

See also: Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times.

Banner Image: “Veni, Creator Spiritus: Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.” Detail from a window by Douglas Strachan in Edinburgh’s St Giles Catheral. Photo by Lawrence O.P. on Flickr.

Queries for Contemplation

“We do know God from the order of the whole universe.”  Do you sense that today’s new cosmology from science as well as Webb Telescope have the potential to deepen our God-knowledge?  How so?

Recommended Reading

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

Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic–and Beyond

Julian of Norwich lived through the dreadful bubonic plague that killed close to 50% of Europeans. Being an anchoress, she ‘sheltered in place’ and developed a deep wisdom that she shared in her book, Showings, which was the first book in English by a woman. A theologian way ahead of her time, Julian develops a feminist understanding of God as mother at the heart of nature’s goodness. Fox shares her teachings in this powerful and timely and inspiring book.
“What an utterly magnificent book. The work of Julian of Norwich, lovingly supported by the genius of Matthew Fox, is a roadmap into the heart of the eco-spiritual truth that all life breathes together.”  –Caroline Myss
Now also available as an audiobook HERE.

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

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3 thoughts on “More Feminism and Deep Ecumenism and Science from Aquinas”

  1. Avatar

    New information, including new cosmology, will change us only if we change our ‘filters’ first. As the New Testament saying goes in Luke 5:37-39 NKJV “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved. And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.”

    “We, You, Me, Fail to See God’s Immanence in All Created Things”

    We, you, me, fail to see God’s Immanence in all created things. We will intellectually say we know, but we do not necessarily ‘experientially know’. Jesus recognizes and bows down to the Divinity of others when ‘foot washing. We, in the Western religions, have been trained to only recognize a distant and 3rd party God and are forbidden to recognize all else, such as a cow or a blade of grass, lest it be some form of idol worship. Is it any wonder then that we ‘don’t see’, recognize, and acknowledge, God’s immanence in all of creation? — BB.

  2. Avatar

    It is my belief and understanding that humanity is on the verge of the chrysalis becoming the butterfly about all of these things, yet there is nothing new to this far greater Divine Cosmic Realization. The opening lines of The Golden Verses of the Pythagoreans wonderfully states “Pay honor first to the Immortal Gods as Order has established Their Choirs”. The Universe is not just infinite, it is multi-dimensional, conscious, and divinely ordered; nothing random. I recommend a book, “The Twelve Blessings” for those who wish to know more about this. It changed my life forty years ago and defines the Cosmic Christ.

  3. Avatar

    Yes, we’re learning more about God through our increasing understanding of our Source~Creator’s vastness of outer Creation as revealed by the growing Cosmology of science.
    Another very important area of God’s Creation and Transcendence in Our COSMOS which has been neglected in human history up to our present times, except by our mystics, saints, artists, and indigenous peoples/shamans, is our inner spiritual realms and dimensions. Potentially it’s there within all of us to personally explore, discover, heal, evolve, and transform us compassionately with one another, mainly through the daily spiritual discipline of silent meditation/prayer in Faith, towards LOVING Diverse ONENESS… COSMIC CHRIST CONSCIOUSNESS….

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