Aquinas, Chenu, Feminism, Sheldrake on Nature as Revelation

Aquinas’s respect for matter, nature and science is laid bare in this one teaching from him: ”Revelation comes in two volumes: Nature and the Bible.”  He is putting the work of the scientist on a plane equal to that of Biblical exegetes. 

Revelation of God through Nature. Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Chenu summarizes Aquinas’s teaching this way: The subtle analysis Aquinas used to vindicate the interiority of consciousness and the freedom of spirit, despite the limitations of matter, did nothing to allay suspicion. 

Aquinas paid a price for his proto-feminism and that “suspicion” got him condemned three times before he was canonized and that in turn prevented his proto-feminism from taking hold in the church. As Chenu puts it, “The delayed approval of his theology was destined to make it official rather than practically effective.”   

I ask: Until our time and the women’s movement? Our time and the evolutionary and expanding universe?  Our time and quantum mechanics? 

In his Forward to my book Sheer Joy, British scientist Rupert Sheldrake  praises Aquinas for being “a holistic thinker” who “went much further than most modern holists in recognizing the all-pervasive influence of the spiritual realm.” 

Alex Grey is masterful at painting the holiness of the human body. Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons.

He endorses Aquinas’s “amazing vista of thought” that is so much richer than the mechanical view of the world that dominates Western science. 

Aquinas compares the pervasive nature of the soul with that of God: ‘The whole human soul is in the whole body and also in every part of the body, just as God is present to the entire universe.’  This suggests to me a need to look for a connection between modern conceptions of fields and energy and aspects of God’s being.

Sheldrake makes the surprising observation that the future of biology is Aristotle.  Why?  Because Aristotle speaks of a “final cause” intrinsic to things and today’s biology is finally speaking of something parallel.

What are photons? QUESTION SPOT

Sheldrake also observes that in Aquinas’s teachings on angels, if you substitute the word “quantum” for angel you have today’s quantum mechanics.  In our book on The Physics of Angels Rupert writes how Aquinas’s “reasoning has extraordinary parallels to both quantum and relativity theories” and his description of how angels move from one place to another “is just like Einstein’s description of the movement of a photon of light.”

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality, pp. xv-xviii, 48.

Matthew Fox and Rupert Sheldrake, The Physics of Angels: Exploring the Realm where Science and Spirit, pp. 23, 42f., 96-100, 185-187.

And Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom For Hard Times, pp. 17-20, 159-166.

Banner image: Glory of God in nature. Photo by David Marcu on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

Do you agree with Aquinas that both nature and the Scriptures constitute two sources of revelation?  What follows from that?  Are there others as well?

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

The Physics of Angels: Exploring the Realm Where Science & Spirit Meet
By Matthew Fox and Rupert Sheldrake

When was the last time a scientist and a theologian discussed angels together? What are angels? Many people believe in angels, but few can define these enigmatic spirits. Now visionary theologian Matthew Fox and acclaimed biologist Rupert Sheldrake—pioneers in modern religious thinking and scientific theory—launch a groundbreaking exploration into the ancient concept of the angel and restore dignity, meaning, and joy to our time-honored belief in these heavenly beings.

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 “Aquinas, Chenu, Feminism, Sheldrake on Nature as Revelation”

  1. Avatar

    Thank you Matthew for reminding us of yours and Rupert Sheldrake’s book, “The Physics of Angels: Exploring the Realm Where Science & Spirit Meet.”
    During atleast the last thirty years there seems to be a resurgence of interest, research, books, and people experiencing the spiritual realms such as reincarnation, near death experiences (NDE), psychic mediums/channelers, energy healers, our astral energy bodies, extraterrestrials (ETs), angels/spirit guides, galactic history/civilizations, spiritual internet websites/communities, cosmic consciousness/evolution, and many other areas of our Sacred multidimensional-multiverse COSMOS… Four good websites that have gathered much of the books, human experiences, and resources/research of this integration of spirituality and science of our inner and outer spiritual dimensions are 1) ; 2) (IONS: Institute of Noetic Sciences); 3) ; and 4) a (CCRI: Consciousness & Contact Research Institute).

  2. Avatar

    “Other sources of revelation?”
    This asks, “does the Mystical Revelation (panentheism), TRULY depict a God Who is “MORE THAN/BEYOND MATTER AND TIME?”
    Biblical Mystical Revelations (in Old and New Testaments), have key Neoplatonic-Mysticism signatures. It is a distinct, recognizable Mysticism, different from pantheistic “feeling-one-with-nature/the universe” experiences.

    Neoplatonic Mysticism not only interprets its Revelation as conveying The One as radically, non-dualistically vaster and more complex than any material universe/human concept AFTER the event, (post-event analysis) but also within a context of deep gut-level, intuitive YES-ing /DIRECT EXPERIENCING of that– BEFORE and DURING the Revelation. It is a Graced AWAKENING of Soul-Truth.

    This Mystically Revealed _One/God_is NEVER LIMITED TO OR EXCLUDED FROM matter/time/human thought.


    Now, whether you BELIEVE that the Mystical Revelation is TRUE
    (as in gut level Knowledge and affirmation)
    is UP TO YOU to find out.

    May God guide your Path.

  3. Avatar

    John Ecotus Eruigenus – “Christ wears two shoes in the world- scripture and nature. Both are necessary to understand the Lord, and at no stage can creation be seen as a separation of things from God”. This seems to jive with what Aquinas said.

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