Aquinas sees all creation carrying the mark of creativity, because “things were made like God not only in being but also in acting.” Furthermore, “the dignity of causality is imparted even to creatures.”

Former NASA engineer Mark Rober spent a month of COVID home time affectionately matching his creative guile against that of his backyard squirrels (the squirrels won).

Yes! And to a special degree, the human creature has been blessed with this “dignity of causality.” Do we feel such dignity? Or do we take it for granted, wallowing instead in feelings of powerlessness or victimhood?

In my book Creativity: Where the Divine and the Human Meet, I propose that creativity is the very definition employed by anthropologists for our species. We are bipeds who make things. Our languages and music and more are profoundly creative and diverse. 

According to Aquinas, the human intellect can “conceive an infinite number of things in order to make for ourselves an infinite number of instruments.” We make an “infinite variety” of meals, modes of transportation, communication, entertainment, weapons, clothing, and other necessities of life because we are endowed “with both reason and our hands.”

National Geographic offers a mini-feature on the development and mission of the James Webb Space Telescope.

Our intellects are vast and open and free—they have a form that is not determined to one thing alone, as is the case with a stone, but have a capacity for all forms.  It is amazing that Aquinas repeats the word infinite so readily when he is describing who we are. We are almost infinite in our creative capacities.

Unfortunately, we must be on guard, for our powers of choice and creativity can also bring evil into the world. We are not pre-programmed to do the good. We must work at that.  The unjust person is worse than injustice and the evil person worse than a brute, because an evil person can do ten thousand times more harm than a beast, because we can use our reason to devise many diverse evils.

J. Robert Oppenheimer reflects on the atomic bomb in the light of Vishnu’s words in the Bhagavad-Gita: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” Plenilune Pictures

Thus our creativity is a double-edged sword. We can do wonderful and awesome things with it—and we can do evil and awful things. The choice is ours to make. That choice is the very meaning of morality.

At this time in human history—and surely in American history—we need to be especially on guard about the dangers of religious hypocrisy and domination politics, the rising popularity of authoritarianism, and our powers for wrecking Earth, God’s “special work of art.” 

Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times, pp. 52-55.

See also: Fox, Creativity: Where the Divine and the Human Meet.

And Fox, Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality, pp. 255, 259f., 261, 245-382.

Banner Image: Ron Finley, the Gangsta Gardener (or Guerrilla Gardener) of South Central L.A., creates temporary art works in the form of public food gardens as an activist for sustainability, food security and food justice. Photo by the New Zealand Embassy on Wikimedia Commons.

Queries for Contemplation

What does it feel to you to hear about humans and other creatures sharing in the divine “dignity of causality”?  What does that phrase mean to you, “the dignity of causality”?

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

Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet

Because creativity is the key to both our genius and beauty as a species but also to our capacity for evil, we need to teach creativity and to teach ways of steering this God-like power in directions that promote love of life (biophilia) and not love of death (necrophilia). Pushing well beyond the bounds of conventional Christian doctrine, Fox’s focus on creativity attempts nothing less than to shape a new ethic.
“Matt Fox is a pilgrim who seeks a path into the church of tomorrow.  Countless numbers will be happy to follow his lead.” –Bishop John Shelby Spong, author, Rescuing the Bible from FundamentalismLiving in Sin

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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2 thoughts on “Aquinas and the Via Creativa, continued”

  1. Avatar

    Excerpt –

    “Aquinas sees all creation carrying the mark of creativity, because “things were made like God not only in being but also in acting.” [cause] Furthermore, “the dignity of causality is imparted even to creatures.” ……. “We are not pre-programmed to do the good.” [effect?] ————

    Comment – If we believe the first statement above to be true, are we not also saying that ‘We are made in the image and likeness of God’ ”. This is ‘cause’. To say then that “We are not pre-programmed to do the good.” as ‘effect’ would not necessarily hold true.

    Would it be better to say that “We, with free will, are not inherently dispositioned to do good’ ? [effect].

    — BB.

  2. Avatar

    Divine “dignity of causality” means to me that we are All Consciously Part of the DIVINE LOVING FLOW in the Sacredness of the ETERNAL PRESENT MOMENT, each of Us in our own Unique Way, which gives our lives meaning/freedom through being an essential Sacred part of Our CO-CREATOR~SOURCE’S Sacred Evolutionary Plan of LOVING BEAUTIFUL DIVERSE ONENESS in our Sacred multidimensional-multiverse EVOLVING COSMOS… COSMIC CHRIST CONSCIOUSNESS….

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